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Full text of "An address delivered before the Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden Agricultural Society, at Northampton, Oct. 29, 1829. .."

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AN 



ADDRESS 



DELIVERED BEEORE 



THE HAMPSHIRE, FRANKLIN, AND HAMPDEN 



AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY, 



AT NORTHAMPTON, OCT. 29, 1829. 



BY FESTUS FOSTER. 



NORTHAMPTON : 
T. WATSON SHEPARD....PRINTER. 

1829. 



UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS 
AT AMHERST 




UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 

Special Collections & Rare Books 




ADDRESS. 



The Lord, who formed the earth, formed it to be inhabit- 
ed. What were its original soil and climate, and what its 
animal and vegetable productions, it may now be difficult to 
.determine. Thus much we know, that the whole and every 
part were such, that infinite wisdom and benevolence sur- 
veyed them with delight, and pronounced them good. 

In such a world as this were our primeval incestors plac- 
ed, and the employment assigned them was to till the ground 
and eat of its fruits. Had our race continued innocent and 
undefiled, agriculture must have been a pleasant recreation, 
rather than a toil. We might then have seen those products 
of the field, which now cost us much labor, growing sponta- 
neously or with little care ; our trees not infested with the 
canker work and the caterpillar, our wheat not choked by 
tares, nor our pastures and meadows over-run with briars 
and thistles. So harmless might have been the beasts and 
reptiles, that the figurative language of prophecy would have 
been hterally true, and we might have seen " the wolf dwell 
with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid, the 
calf and the young lion and the falling together." We might 
have seen our children, not only safely sporting with the 
lion, the leopard, and the wolf, but " playing on the hole of 
the asp, and putting their hands on the den of the cockatrice, 
and there be nothing to hurl or destroy in all the earth." 



But the earth has suffered a sad reverse. The loss of 
innocence was followed by the loss of paradise. The ground 
has been cursed for man's sake, and doomed to bring forth 
thorns and thistles, and man himself to earn his bread by 
the sweat of his brow. From that sad hour to the present 
time, agriculture has required our utmost labor and ingenu- 
ity. Useless and noxious weeds spring up spontaneously, 
and flourish in all their pomp and luxuriance, while every 
plant adapted to our sustenance or pleasure, must be nur- 
tured by our care. In our own fertile and happy land, how 
few plants are the native products of the soil ? With the 
exception of your Indian corn, your whole farms are stocked 
with vegetables of other climes. Before these could take 
root, immense forests were to be removed ; and before they 
could flourish, they must be enclosed from grazing beasts, 
or the beasts themselves exterminated. All this effected, 
your constant labor and care are requisite to defend the 
tender plant from weeds, insects, and reptiles, and to mel- 
low the earth that it may expand its roots and grow to 
maturity. 

In rearing animals, your task is not less diflicult. Those 
which are fitted to be useful, either for food, labor, or cloth- 
ing, and which you would, therefore, domesticate, are gra- 
minivorous, and must be restrained from access to such 
vegetables as you wish to preserve. They are mostly of 
foreign origin, and unable to subsist in this climate without 
your care. You must therefore provide for them food and 
shelter, during the inclement winter, and protect them from 
beasts of prey. The hawk watches for your poultry by day 
and the fox by night. The wolf in your sheep-cot, gives 
ocular demonstration that Samson was not more vaHant 
among the Philistines, nor ever wielded a jaw-bone with 
better success. 

There is another event recorded in sacred history, which 
had an effect upon the whole surface of the earthy and pro- 



bably a deleterious effect upon agriculture. I refer to the 
universal deluge. When the inspired historian tells us of 
" the waters under the earth," and that in the days of Noah 
"these fountains of the great deep were broken up," and 
the billows rolled over the land ; and at the same time 
" the windows of heaven opened," and the rain let down in 
torrents until the whole earth was inundated, there must 
have been such a convulsion of nature as to alter the surface 
of the earth, piling up mountains here, and making excava- 
tions there, if indeed the earth itself was not racked to its 
centre, and torn to fragments. Some philosophers have 
supposed that such was the fact ; and that the earth was 
thrown from its original position in the heavens so as to in- 
cline its axis to the plain of its orbit. On this theory they 
account for the longevity of the antideluvians, to whom there 
could have been no variation of seasons, and maintain that 
"seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and win- 
ter," commenced after the deluge, when the promise was 
made, that they should never cease. Some change in the 
soil or climate, not less than that contended for in the above 
theory, must have taken place, as an adequate cause for at 
once reducing human life to one tenth part of its original 
length. A change, so unpropitious to animal life, could 
hardly be otherwise than detrimental to the growth of vege- 
tables. Besides ; after the labor and experience of more 
than sixteen centuries, all was lost. Not a record, nor ves- 
tige left ; but Noah and his sons had to commence their 
labors and experiments anew, in a new world. Add to these 
considerations, the shortness of human life, so that but little 
time is left us to be active and useful, after we have arrived 
to years of discretion and gained a competent knowledge of 
agriculture, before we feel our constitution begin to decline, 
and with a palsied hand and tottering step quit the field of 
labor, and by our firesides wait our coming dissolution. 



€f 

There is another cause which has been most detrimental 
to the interests of agriculture ; the baneful effects of which 
have been felt in every age. A great part of the bone and 
sinew of every nation has been drawn from the field to the 
camp. War, needless and unjust war, has left one country 
untilled, to spread ruin and desolation over another. Had 
the lives and treasures, wasted in war, been employed in 
cultivating the soil, and opening roads and canals from one 
section of country to another, who has imagination to con- 
ceive what must have been the present state of the world ? 
Who will venture to estimate the increased wealth and pop- 
ulation of the different nations — the facilities of communica- 
tion — the ease and plenty which would every where abound 
— and the advances which would have been made in all the 
arts, sciences, comforts, and elegancies of life ? 

Agriculture has been left to struggle with the ignorance, 
as well as to suffer from the wickedness of man. It had to 
crawl into existence under every disadvantage. The quali- 
ties of plants and the means of propagating or destroying 
them, as they were found useful or noxious, were lessons to 
be learned without an instructer. The like ignorance pre- 
vailed respecting animals. What species were proper to 
domesticate, how they could be supported, and to what 
uses they could be applied, were inquiries which could be 
solved only by experiment. When we turn to the imple- 
ments of husbandry, similar, if not greater difficulties pre- 
sent themselves. Vast forests are to be annihilated, the 
firm soil loosened that your seeds may send out their slender 
roots, and heavy burdens removed from the field to places 
of safety. What implements are necessary to effect all this, 
and how and where are they to be procured ? Who knows 
the properties of iron ? In what mountain is the ore con- 
cealed ? Who can did it up, separate the metal from the 
dross, and without tools or patterns, fashion tools for the 
farmers use ? Ages on ages must have rolled away, before 



men could have acquired such a knowledge and such im- 
plements of husbjundry as now seem necessary to a bare 
subsistence. Their food and raiment must have been scanty 
and of the coarsest kind ; their implements few and of the 
rudest form. What little science there was in the world, 
was applied to other purposes than the cultivation of the 
earth. The attention of princes was directed to objects of 
pleasure and aggrandizement, to their courtiers and their 
concubines — their wars and their conquests, while the poor 
unlettered peasant was left to grope his way in the dark, 
unaided, unpitied. Artisans, if such there were, applied 
their skill to the manufacture of swords instead of plough- 
shares — of spears instead of pruning-hooks. The cultiva- 
tion of the earth was left to the lowest and most debased of 
the people, who were alike destitute of skill, energy, and a 
laudable ambition. It was an employment in which none 
could expect to rise to distinction, and in which the ambi- 
tious and enterprising never engaged. It was accounted a 
mean and degraded occupation, and treated with neglect 
and contempt. Up to the present hour, Europe is divided 
into two gieat classes, denominated the gentlemen and the 
peasantry, or the laboring class, and those who are above 
labor. And so deeply rooted was this distinction, that our 
ancestors brought it with them to this country. Perhaps it 
may be within the recollection of some who now hear me, 
that a distinction was once made in our universities between 
the sons of our yeomanry, and the sons of our American 
gentlemen ! O, " tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the 
streets of Askelon." 

I might mention other causes with which agriculture has 
had to contend ; such as the unequal distribution of land, 
the consequent custom of renting it to tenants, and the tithes, 
tribute, and taxes which have oppressed and disheartened 
the cultivator in every age. In most of the governments of 
Europe, the title to the soil is founded on conquest. The 



8 

subjugated country was parcelled out among the military 
chieftains of an invading army, and its inhabitants reduced 
to a state of vassalage. The policy of these great land- 
holders, who were to be ths future lords, barons, and no- 
blemen of the realm, has been to retain their estates in their 
own families, and rent them to the laboring poor. Hence 
the distinction of landlord and tenant has become universal. 
Where the landed property is in the hands of a few, and 
the great mass of the people poor and dependent, the rich 
landlord will impose on his tenants rents and exactions to 
the full extent of their strength. The humble laborer has 
nothing, and can acquire nothing. He has neither skill, nor 
leisure, nor means, nor motives, to make any experiments 
or improvements. A bare subsistence is all he can expect, 
and this is the goal of his highest ambition. The lords of 
the soil, instead of planning, directing, and superintending 
improvements on their estates, are off on excursions of gal- 
lantry, or at court basking in the sunshine of royalty, or at 
the banquet revelling in luxury. The extravagance and 
dissipation of the landlord, and the poverty and depression 
of the tenants, have caused " the land to mourn." 

I have glanced at the past, that by comparing the present 
state of agriculture with its low and degraded state in for- 
mer times, you may perceive how much has already been 
done under every disadvantage — that a beginning has been 
made — that many impediments have been removed — that 
stronger inducements are furnished — and that, like St. Paul, 
you have only to " thank God and take courage," to per- 
fect what is wanting. 

The general principles, necessary to be observed by the 
agriculturist, are few and simple. It is an established law 
of nature that death sustains hfe. Some species of animals 
are supported by the death of others, and some by the de- 
struction of vegetables. Animals, which have been found 
most useful to man, are wholly of the latter kind. The first 



9 



attention of the farmer, therefore, must be directed to the 
production of such vegetables as contribute to the support 
of man and such animals as he has selected for his use. In 
the production of vegetables, the same law of nature pre- 
vails-death is necessary to life. You must, therefore, seek 
that dark, loamy soil, which has been formed by the decay 
of vegetables for a series of years, and as you exhaust it by 
repeated crops, add either animal or vegetable decomposi- 
tion, and like the fabled Phenix, one crop will arise from 
the ashes of another. Excepting a fe^v tender and delicate 
plants, manures are most efficacious when applied in a state 
of fermentation. They communicate a slight degree of 
warmth and action U, the adjacent soil, salutary and even 
necessary to vegetation. Any animal or vegetable substan- 
ces, compacted in a mass and imbibing a moderate de^^ree 
of moisture, will soon pass into a state of fermentation,'' by 
which they are decomposed, and fitted to produce another 
crop. Hence every farmer may manufacture compost to 
almost any extent. The value of manure is different on 
different soils. It is productive on all, and on some indis- 
pensable. Land, once brought into a state of high cultiva- 
tion, by returning the proceeds of its crops, will not degen- 
erate. Sterile lands, and such as have been exhausted or 
neglected, may be made productive in a few years by com- 
post and the plough. 

Where different and opposite soils lie contiguous, much 
benefit may be derived by admixtion. A sandy or gravelly 
soil may be greatly improved by a covering of loam, mud, 
or clay. On the contrary, cold, wet, muddy land will be 
greatly mehorated by a coat of sand or gravel. A soil warm 
and dry, especially if sloping, may be made highly produc- 
tive by irrigation. If accompanied by an occasional top 
dressing of barn manure, the farmer will be well repaid. In 
a mountainous region, like some parts of the territory within 
the Hmits of your society, where precipitous streams abound, 

2 



10 

and whole farms lie on a declivity, I am persuaded great 
advantages might be derived from this use of water. A few 
days labor would add some tons of fine hay to your annual 
income. To the agriculturist this must be considered a 
staple article. It is the support of your animals, and the 
means of enriching your arable lands, and gathering from 
thence a golden harvest. 

Upon the culture of plants, I have time to say but a word, 
and that is, treat them not with neglect. They require 
your friendly visits, and the repeated application of the hoe. 
The garden will demand your daily attention. This may 
be a pleasant resort, when you have borne the heat and bur- 
den of the day, and the evening tide invites to meditation. 
There you may breathe the fragrant air, succor the young 
plants emerging from the earth, and watch their progress 
through all their changing forms. 

The cultivation of trees is a subject to which, I think, I 
may with great propriety invite your attention. Not only 
would I recommend to every farmer, an orchard of choice 
fruit, well fenced, and well pruned, but a thrifty wood lot, 
in which no grazing animal should feed, and from which 
fuel and timber should be cut with care. We ought to hve 
not only for ourselves, but for our children, and for poster- 
ity. Situated in a region where much fuel is absolutely 
necessary to a comfortable existence, where coal mines are 
not to be found, and where the demand for lumber is in- 
creasing with the w^ealth and population of the country, 
our forests already thinned or made bare, — there is great 
reason to apprehend that in the next and succeeding gener- 
ations, the scarcity of fuel and lumber will diminish your 
population — that the expenses will absorb a great "portion 
of the income of your fertile and well cultivated farms, and 
your splendid villages and temples fall to decay. The time 
seems to have arrived when, instead of enlarging our fields, 
we must better improve them ; instead of making sti'ip and 



11 

waste in our woodlands, we must cut sparingly ; instead of 
feeding or cutting down the underwood and shoots, we must 
carefully preserve them. Greater economy must be adopt- 
ed in cooking our food and warming our houses. The all- 
devouring chimnies of our ancestors must give place to the 
stove and the furnace. Our houses must be made a better 
defence against the cold, and their materials must be taken 
from the earth rather than the forest. 

There is one species of trees entitled to your particular 
regard. It is the sugar maple. This flourishes on almost 
any soil, yields to none in cleanliness and beauty, is excel- 
lent for fuel, and furnishes sugar little inferior to that of the 
cane. One hundred of these extended on the margin of 
your fields, or set in the form of an orchard, would afford 
an ample supply of sugar and molasses for half a century or 
more, and when they began to decay, reward you with fifty 
or an hundred cords of the best fire-wood. The expenses 
of transplanting them will be but trifling, their injury to the 
land, if any, inconsiderable, and a few years will give to 
them great beauty and value. 

The value of the locusts and of the mulberry deserve 
particular notice, but they are behoved to be duly appre- 
ciated by your Society. 

In the management of your various animals, having se- 
lected the best bloods, you have only to provide for them 
warm, dry, and commodious shelters, and deal out to them 
sweet and wholesome fodder, and pure, clean water. Neat- 
ness and cleanliness in this department will contribute much 
to the health, growth, and corpulency of your stock. A 
slattern in the house is not more disgusting and unprofitable, 
than a sloven in the barn. In the treatment of those patient 
and docile animals which perform your labor, let me crave 
your mercy. Neither suffer them to moan with hunger or 
thirst, nor to be loaded or driven beyond their strength. A 
mild and generous usage will secure their attachment, excite 



12 

iheir courage and resolution, and dispose them to volunteer 
their most vigorous efforts in your service. Your interest, 
as well as the dictates of humanity, require that you abstain 
from all cruelty and abuse, and that your dominion over 
them be tempered with lenity and kindness. 

To carry into effect the objects of your association, and 
give to your occupation all the improvements of which it is 
susceptible, will require the unremitted energies of your 
mind, as well as much vigorous bodily effort. Agriculture, 
like all arts and sciences, is progressive, and must never be 
suffered to rest, or retrograde. Your observations must be 
made with accuracy, and your researches parsued with ar- 
dor. Placed in a country containing a great variety of soil, 
in a climate mild and healthful, under a government which 
can impose no burdens on you without your consent, owners 
of the land you occupy, furnished with the most approved 
implements, and having for your guide the experience of 
former ages, and the means of making new experiments 
under the most favorable circumstances, it would be strange, 
" passing strange," if you made no advances. I have said, 
that heretofore, the sciences held no fellowship with agri- 
culture. A better day has began to dawn upon that long 
neglected occupation. Men of genius and learning have 
devoted their talents to lighten the burdens of the laborer, 
and give success to his efforts. As the powers of nature 
begin to be developed, and its laws are better understood, 
difficulties diminish and experiments succeed. The sci- 
ences have already done much to aid your cause, and may 
be expected to do still more. A new era has commenced, 
in no longer confining science to the cell of the monk, and 
the chamber of the philosopher, but in communicating it to 
the world at large, and applying it to useful and practical 
purposes. The discoveries of the geologist, and the experi- 
ments of the chemist are spread before you, through the 
agency of the press. Much mutual benefit may also be ex- 



13 

pected from your Society and similar associations. They 
emphatically mark the spirit of the age, as distinct from 
that of any former period. Other nations have had their 
festivals and their fairs. The Olympic games of Greece, 
and the gladiatorial exhibitions of Rome characterize the 
age and ruling passion of each of those great empires, which 
in succession gave law to the world. But when, or where 
has public attention been excited and directed to the inter- 
est of agriculture and the mechanic arts ? When have men 
of wealth, and science, and influence, taken such a deep 
interest in the welfare of the laboring part of the commu- 
nity ? When was information upon these subjects so widely 
diffused and so eagerly sought ? These signs of the times 
indicate that a better state of things is to be expected — that 
causes are in operation which, if continued, will effect a 
mighty revolution. The united efforts of the great mass of 
intelligence cannot be fruitless. By repeated experiments 
and careful observations, from year to year, something will 
be gained. Whatever discoveries or improvements are made 
by one, will become the property of all, and never be lost. 

Agriculture and manufactures are not insulated interests. 
They are intimately connected with other arts and occupa- 
tions, with the sciences, and the laws and policy of our own 
country and of foreign nations. The prosperity of the ag- 
riculturist depends not merely upon the quantity and quality 
of his produce, but upon the readiness, certainty, facihty, 
and advantage with which he can vend the surplus, or ex- 
change it for such articles as he may need. The same 
doctrine is true in its application to the manufacturer. It is 
in vain that he produces the best wares, unless they can 
find a market ; and the easier and cheaper they can be con- 
veyed, the greater will be his profit. W^hatever, therefore, 
tends to furnish a sure and steady market, or to diminish 
the expenses and risk of transportation, or to reduce the 
price of articles to be received in exchange, is to the far- 



14 

mer and manufacturer a direct and positive benefit. In this 
view the construction of rail roads and canals through an 
extensive inland country, and improving the navigation of 
rivers, opening a free trade with such nations as will pur- 
chase our produce and manufactures, or in exchange, supply 
us with such articles as we may want, prohibiting or impos- 
ing duties on such importations as come in direct competi- 
tion with the produce of our farms and the wares of our 
work-shops, — are subjects, in which the interest of the far- 
mer and the mechanic are deeply involved. A regard to 
your interest, therefore, requires that your views be extended 
beyond the cultivation of the soil and the increase of your 
flocks. Your voice must be heard, and your influence felt 
in our state and national legislatures. The opinion of sound, 
intelligent, and practical farmers, is entitled to great consid- 
eration ; and I am happy to say, that the time has come 
when gentlemen of every profession are disposed to treat it 
with respect. By continuing to merit the esteem of your 
fellow-citizens, you will not fail to receive it ; and so far as 
legislative aid can advance your interests, you may expect 
the co-operation of a wise and patriotic legislature. 

In times like the present, of general depression in every 

branch of industry, you must expect to participate with 

your fellow-citizens. Economy, at all times commendable, 

now becomes an imperious duty. If the products of your 

labor can find no market abroad, let them, at least, supply 

your wants at home. To effect this, I place great reliance 

on the industry and ingenuity of your virtuous wives and 

daughters. They will curtail your shop bills by furnishing 

many articles of apparel of their own manufacture. Like 

the good wife described by Solomon, they " will seek wool 

and flax, and work willingly with their hands. They will 

lay their hands to the spindle, and their right hands hold of 

the distaff*; their candle goeth not out by night." Such 

merchandize is better than that brought from afar — such 

industry is above rubies. 



15 

You will not deem me to have surpassed the province 
assigned me, when I recommend to you the exercise of 
that influence and authority, which are vested in an em- 
ployer over those in his service, in suppressing all lewdness, 
profanity, intemperance, lying, gaming, pilfering, and what- 
ever is opposed to good morals, and a decent and orderly 
behavior. Your interest, your self-respect, and your duty 
to your domestics and to your country, demand this at your 
hands. When a large portion of our population shall be- 
come as debased and degraded as the great mass of the 
people in the eastern hemisphere, our elections will be a 
farce, and our political edifice will fall and bury us in its 
ruins. He, therefore, who attempts to reclaim some who 
begin to go astray, to prevent the fall of others, and to in- 
spire all with a due sense of the value of character, and to 
elevate them to a decent standing in society, performs the 
best of charities to the individuals, and is a public bene- 
factor. 

While we regard the moral deportment and welfare of 
others, may we not neglect our own. While we till the 
ground from which we were taken, and to which we must 
return, let our treasures be deposited in that " better coun- 
try," where flows " the river of hfe," where stands " the 
tree of life," and where " the light of the sun and of the 
moon" will be extinguished, in the brighter splendor of 
God's eternal day.