« ZurückWeiter »
cal, is the only limit to the demand for agricultural produce among ourselves; and this ability can by no possibility be affected by any legislative measures directed to the immediate promotion or protection of agriculture.
And here let me suggest a distinction which, though often lost sight of, is, in this country at least, a real distinction, and not unworthy of serious attention : I mean the distinction between the promotion of agriculture, and the promotion of the immediate interests of those engaged in it. The promotion of agriculture looks obviously to an extended and an improved cultivation of the soil, to the introduction of better processes and better implements of agricultural labor, and to the consequent production of larger crops and more luxuriant harvests. But would such results be necessarily for the immediate benefit of the great body of American farmers? Would their condition, as individuals or as an aggregate class, be improved, - would their crops be enhanced in price, or stand a chance of commanding a convenient sale at any price, if the number of farmers were multiplied, if the breadth of land under cultivation were extended, and if, by the aid of greater science, of new manures, new machines, and new modes of culture, each one of them could double the yield of every acre of his land ? Is it not obvious, that, unless new and adequate markets were simultaneously opened, the only consequence would be a still greater overplus of production, a still greater diminution of agricultural profits, and a still greater depression of the individual prosperity and welfare of the farmers?
The result of both the considerations which I have thus far suggested is the same. The great agricultural want of our country is the want of consumers, and not of producers ; of mouths, and not of hands; of markets, and not of crops.
And this is a want which no government protection, like that which has been, or may be, afforded to manufactures or to commerce, can possibly supply. On the contrary, that sort of protection would only increase the difficulty, and aggravate the disease.
Indeed, the policy of our Government, in one particular at least, has already tended greatly to this result: I mean its Public Land Policy. Who can say that Government has done nothing
for the protection of agriculture, who contemplates, for an instant, the course and consequences of this gigantic system? Consider the expenditure of care and of money, at which our vast territorial possessions have been acquired! Consider the expensive negotiations, and the still more expensive wars, by which they have been purchased or conquered from foreign nations or from the Indian tribes! Consider the complicated and costly machinery of their survey and sale, and the systematic provisions which have been made for securing to every settler that first great want of an independent farmer, - a perfect title to his land! And then consider the almost nominal price at which any number of acres may be purchased !
I would not question the wisdom of this policy, for the purposes for which it was designed. It was designed to effect an early settlement and civilization of the great West; and its wisdom is justified by the existence, at so early a period after its adoption, of so many populous and prosperous States, in regions which were, seemingly but yesterday, the abodes of wild beasts or wilder
We hail those new and noble States, as they successively and rapidly advance to maturity, as the proudest products of our land, and welcome them to the privileges and the glories of a Union which we pray may be perpetual.
The influences of this policy, in some other ways, may have been of a more doubtful character. But who can say that the American Government has done nothing for agriculture, with such a policy, so long and systematically pursued, before his eyes ? What greater bounty could be contrived for the multiplication of farmers, and for the extended cultivation of the soil, than the standing offer of the best land in the world, with its title guaranteed by the strong arm of the nation, and its muniments deposited in the iron safes of the Government, at a dollar and a quarter an acre ? - unless, indeed, it be found in the absolute gift of a homestead to every settler for two or three years, or in the “ vote yourself a farm,” or “land for the landless," projects of the present day. What has the Government ever done for commerce or for manufactures, which can compare with this great bonus to agriculture ? Nay, what has the Government ever done, or ever been able to do, to counteract the constant drain upon commercial and manufacturing labor which this system has created.
No one, I suppose, can doubt that one of the great obstacles in the way of establishing and maintaining a manufacturing system, and of building up the mechanic arts, in these Eastern States, has been the constant inducement and temptation to leave home and go off to the West, which have been held out in the fertility and cheapness of the Western lands, to the young men and young women, whose hands were essential to the loom, the spindle, the lapstone, or the anvil. The absolute necessity of counteracting these inducements and temptations by an increased rate of wages at home has materially aggravated one of the greatest difficulties which we have encountered in the way of a successful competition with the manufacturers of the Old World. The influence of the luxuriant prairies and rich bottoms of Illinois, and Indiana, and Iowa, and Wisconsin, and the rest, has been similar to that of the placers and gold mines of California at the present moment; and, though less in degree, has been far more steady and durable than that is likely to be. Our young men and young women will not be long in learning, that there are more profitable diggings, in the long run, on this side of the Rocky Mountains than on the other. They will not be long in appreciating the philosophy of the cock, in the old fable of Æsop, who discovered that corn was a more reliable treasure than jewels. They will not be long in realizing, that even golden carrots may be a more certain crop than carats of gold. They will soon understand the wisdom of Franklin, in his conclusion of one of the numbers of the “ Busy Body," a little series of essays published by him in Philadelphia in 1729, and which, though among his earliest compositions, are replete with the wit and shrewdness and sterling common sense which characterized his maturer productions.
“I shall conclude," said he, “with the words of my discreet friend, Agricola, of Chester County, when he gave his son a good plantation, - My son, I give thee now a valuable parcel of land. I assure thee I have found a considerable quantity of gold by digging there : thee may'st do the same; but thee must carefully observe this, - never to dig more than plough-deep.'”
The temptations of good land will last longer than those of gold mines. There is a love for acres. There is a charm in independent proprietorship. There is health, and happiness, and a sense
of freedom, in rural life and rural labor. There is a proud consciousness of virtue, and of worth, and of self-reliance, in the breast of the honest and industrious farmer, like that to which the simple shepherd of Shakspeare gave utterance, when reproached by the clown with a want of courtly manners :
Sir, I am a true laborer. I earn that I eat, get that I wear; owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness ; glad of other men's good, content with my harm; and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze, and my lambs suck.”
Feelings and instincts like these, to which no bosom is a stranger, will outweigh and outlast the temptations of the richest placers of the Pacific, and will create a yearning towards the broad fields and noble forests of the great West, in the hearts of our enterprising young men and young women, as long as a single township or a single quarter section shall remain unsold or unsettled. That whole vast domain will thus continue to operate in the future, as it has operated in the past, as a continual government bounty upon the multiplication of farmers, and the extension of agriculture.
And now, having said thus much, and the limits of this address will not allow me to say more, both in regard to what Government cannot do for American agriculture, and also as to what it actually has done in the past, I come to a brief consideration of what it can do, and what it ought to do, in the future.
In the first place, it can adopt systematic, comprehensive, and permanent measures for ascertaining from year to year, or certainly from census to census, the actual condition of our country in relation to agriculture, the quantity of land under cultivation, the proportion of cultivated land devoted to the production of different articles of food, the relation of production to population in the various States, and in the country at large, the comparative productiveness of the same crops in different parts of the Union and under different modes of culture, and generally whatever details may be included in a complete statistical account of American agriculture.
Our commercial and navigating statistics are already provided for, as incidental to our revenue system. We need similar returns both of our agriculture and our manufactures ; and I should not be sorry to have them committed to a common bureau.
One of the brief sayings, which have given a name and a perpetual fame to the Seven Wise Men of Ancient Greece, is the simple precept, “Know thyself.” And a celebrated Latin poet has not been willing to regard it as a mere saying of human origin, but has emphatically declared that it descended from heaven.
It was a saying addressed to individual man, and undoubtedly contemplated that self-examination, that searching of the heart, which is a duty of higher than human authority, and which is essential to all moral or spiritual improvement. But it is a doctrine as applicable to the outer as to the inner man, and as essential to the progress and improvement of nations as of individuals. And this country, beyond all other countries, needs to know itself, to understand its own condition, to watch closely its own progress, to keep the run of it, as we may well say, for it is always on the run, advancing and going ahead with a rapidity never before witnessed, or dreamed of. More especially should the industry of our country know itself, and realize its own condition and circumstances. American labor, in all its branches, should have a map, on which it may behold its own aggregate position, and its own individual relations, and by which it may
be enabled to see what obstructions and interferences are in the way of its prosperous progress; to see particularly where it obstructs itself, by pressing into departments already too crowded, and where it may obtain relief and elbow-room in departments not yet occupied. American agriculture, above all, should be able to look itself fairly in the face, as in a mirror, through the medium of the most detailed and exact periodical surveys, that it may discover seasonably any symptoms of over-action or of under-action, if there be any; and that it may run no risk of expending and wasting its energies in unprofitable toils.
In the next place, Government, State and National, can encourage agricultural science, and promote agricultural education.
This subject has been so nearly exhausted, during the last year or two, by President Hitchcock's report to our own Legislature, by Dr. Lee's reports to the Patent Office at Washington, and by