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ART. IX. — CRITICAL NOTICES.
1.- An Address at the Annual Cattle Shows of the Worcester,
and the Hampshire, Hampden, and Franklin Agricultural Societies, October, 1838. BY HENRY COLMAN, Commissioner for the Agricultural Survey of the State. Boston : Otis, Broaders, & Company. 8vo. pp. 23.
AGRICULTURE, the first pursuit of civilized man, has been the last to receive the direct attention and patronage of governments. Commerce, navigation, manufactories, the mechanic and fine arts, science and letters, had commanded much respect, and reached high degrees of excellence, before the cultivation of the earth, either for the purposes of profit or embellishment, found favor among the affluent and enlightened, or was deemed an object worthy of the careful consideration of statesmen and legislators. But, when nations have reached an advanced position in prosperity and refinement, and other more attractive or lucrative branches of industry have been so extended, as to employ a large portion of the population, an immensely increased amount of products is required, to meet the augmented demand of consumption ; and the necessity of rendering the earth more prolific becomes so apparent, that what had been improvidently neglected, and was, in fact, the most substantially momentous interest of the country, at last imperiously commands the most grave consideration,
As the commercial and mechanical enterprise and capacity of England began to be rapidly developed after the accession of Elizabeth to the throne, the demand for subsistence became so much greater than the domestic supply, that vast quantities of wheat were annually imported, until, by bounties, and an improved system of tillage, the wheat crops of the island were so much increased, as not only to be sufficient for the supply of all the inhabitants, but to become a staple of exportation.
Still there was not that general and strong interest excited, for advancing the science and art of agriculture, which has been so conspicuously evinced within the last fifty years, before the great land proprietors actively coöperated for collecting and diffusing intelligence throughout every portion of the kingdom ; for, although there had been several eminent writers on rural economy, from Fitzherbert, in 1534, down to the practical and admirable Tull, in 1730, whose successful
experiments and valuable treatise form an era in the history of British tillage, very few of the actual cultivators of the soil bestowed any attention on the literature of their profession, till Marshall, Young, Anderson, Bakewell, and Sinclair became distinguished, by their numerous, interesting, and invaluable publications.
But the greatest, and perpetually operating, impulse was given by the establishment of a Board of Agriculture in 1793, when Surveys of all the counties in England were immediately undertaken, in conformity to a method, which had been suggested by Marshall, several years before, to the Society of Arts in London. The reports of the several commissioners being very voluminous, as they contained exact details relating to practical operations in every department of rural economy, digests were made, to render them more available, by the indefatigable projector and collaborator in the execution of this enlarged and efficient plan for advancing the important interests of the whole country. But even in that reduced form, with the other materials which he had individually collected during a period of nearly twenty years, which had been devoted to the subject, for compiling “a Compendious System of English Agriculture,” the work consists of fourteen volumes.
The expenditures of Great Britain having rapidly and immensely increased, from the commencement and during the progress of the war which followed the French revolution, and nearly half of the whole revenue being derived from direct taxes and the excise, it became of still greater consequence to the land owners and their tenants, from whom that vast amount of income was chiefly received, to render each acre more productive, by the introduction of every possible improvement in the science and art of cultivation, which genius and skill could create or introduce, from the practice of any other age or country. Interest, knowledge, and industry were, therefore, actively and zealously united in a common cause, and the beneficial results have been truly wonderful. With a territory, whose area is not a third, and whose population is only half, that of France, and with a soil and climate not so propitious, the agricultural products of England are quadruple those of that empire. This astonishing difference is owing entirely to the superior methods of tillage, which have been so successfully extended over the whole island, and have rendered it the most perfectly cultivated, prolific, and beautifully embellished domain, in all the appropriate appendages which a refined taste in ornamental planting can devise and execute, that has existed at any period in the history of the human race ; while, in large portions of France, as well as Spain, Portugal, and many
of the Italian States, no favorable change has been introduced since the time of Virgil, and the implements, as well as the whole process of management, in rural affairs, is that described by the Roman bard. But, within fifteen or twenty years, the government of France has made highly commendable exertions to elevate the character and condition of its rustic population, by the establishment of agricultural and horticultural societies, experimental farms and gardens, the introduction of new plants, and awarding premiums for valuable experiments in all those departments of national industry.
The same enlightened and patriotic spirit, which induced many of the most intelligent and eminent men in Great Britain to combine in an application to Parliament, to aid them in. measures for facilitating their honorable efforts to render the labors of the farmer more profitable to himself and more useful to the country, was simultaneously evinced in this commonwealth, and with like happy consequences. The "Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture " was incorporated soon after that which was established in England ; and the example has been emulously followed in most of the counties throughout the State, while all have been encouraged and fistered by the seasonable and liberal endowments of the government. Much has been thus accomplished within the present century ; but, acting from a yet more enlarged and generous policy, the executive and legislature of the Commonwealth, with a munificence which reflects upon them the greatest honor, directed, two years since, an agricultural survey of each county to be made; and a gentleman was appointed, as the commissioner for performing that difficult and laborious duty, who, from his attainments, industry, ardor, and practical experience, was eminently qualified for the station.
This may undoubtedly with propriety and justice be considered one of the most important measures, that have been adopted since the organization of the government ; for it is immediately interesting, and must be directly beneficial, not only to every citizen who depends upon the cultivation of the earth for his support, but to the whole population, of which the farming class constitutes at least seven tenths, being, at the same time, the grand nursery and constant source of supply for filling all the other diversified occupations in society.
With a soil naturally as capable of tillage, and to as high a degree of perfection, as that of any other region, Massachusetts has been dependent on other States, for a large portion of the most indispensable products of agriculture, which are annually consumed; not from a deficiency of territory, for, compared with the population, ours is double that of England, - nor because
it is not capable of yielding a sufficient quantity to meet the demand; but mainly from an imperfect system of husbandry, and the general disinclination of the people to submit to the quiet, noiseless, apparently slow and doubtful process of acquiring an ample, independent support, by a perpetual cultivation of the earth. Besides these adverse causes, commerce, navigation, the fisheries, manufactories, the mechanical arts, and the mighty tide of emigration have made rapidly increasing drafts from the agricultural population, and thus produced a continually augmenting difference, between those who consume and those who produce, which has long since made it indispensable to expend the wealth acquired from other sources of income in procuring supplies from other parts of the Union ; and ultimately, so great became the disparity between the supply and the demand, that, as a nation, we have been compelled to resort to foreign countries for the first necessaries of life.
It is our duty, then, to make every possible exertion to avert such alarming conjunctures in future ; for no nation can be said to be truly independent, and secure in its position and institutions, which is not at all times, and under all circumstances, fully capable of furnishing food and raiment, and whatever else is requisite, for the support and comfort of the whole people.
From the first report made by Mr. Colman, there is ample testimony to warrant the assertion, that Massachusetts is capable of yielding more than triple the amount of agricultural products, which have hitherto been obtained. There is not a county, which the commissioner has visited, that has not presented examples of tillage, and experiments in all the branches of New England culture, which fully illustrate the immense advantages, that are derivable from a skilful application of science to the practical arts of husbandry. This verified and consequently most useful of all kinds of knowledge, but which has been confined within very limited and far separated circles, will hereafter be as universally possessed, through the medium of the reports on each county, as that which has been collected and published on every other subject connected with human industry ; and the whole, when completed, in the lucid, exact, and satisfactory manner, in which the first has been presented, will, allowing for the extent of territory surveyed, form the most accurate and valuable agricultural cyclopædia, which has appeared in any country. It will include the actual operations of each individual, who has best perfected that portion of rural economy to which his attention had been most exclusiveVOL. XLIX. — NO. 104.
ly directed, from the nature of the soil, and geographical position as respects a market.
Hitherto, all the publications which have appeared on agriculture, have been principally compilations from the various treatises that have been written on that all-important subject, since the period of the illustrious Columella ; and, however laborious may have been the authors, and ingenuously faithful in design, or desirous of producing a work, which might the most perfectly subserve the purposes of the region of country for which it was intended, it is notorious, to every experienced and well instructed farmer and gardener, that they have invariably failed to accomplish, what had been so confidently anticipated ; and it is evident, to even the most superficial observer, that there is no other mode of concentrating, in a really useful form, the requisite information, for the general guidance of the uninstructed as well as experienced cultivators of the earth, and of enabling them to participate in the advantages which have been derived from the most approved methods of conducting the multifarious labors of a farm, than that, which has fortunately been undertaken by the government of Massachusetts, and which, from what has already been done, we have the fullest confidence will be thoroughly executed. Each of the most skilful and enlightened experimentalists, whose results will be given in the reports of the Agricultural Commissioner, must have consulted the most celebrated authors, and to some extent taken them as guides, for directing them in their diversified operations ; and the benefits obtained will be at the command of every citizen.
The agricultural survey is but the continuation and completion of a system, which has been projected for obtaining accurate information, as to the physical geography, topography, natural history, and general statistics of the Cominonwealth. Massachusetts has been the first, of all the States in the Union, to cause a correct map to be constructed, based on the triangulation of its whole area, which involves astronomical observations for establishing the latitude and longitude of the most remarkable features and positions, and which, from the difficulties and expense to be encountered, has been applied only in France and Great Britain, to include a whole nation. Happily, however, for the navigation of the United States, the same operation is in progress, under the direction of the national government, for forming complete hydrographical charts of the coast from Passamaquoddy to the Sabine.
Connected with these important labors, a geological survey was undertaken, which has been most ably completed by Professor Hitchcock; and the other departments of natural his