Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

AGRICULTURE, in the primeval ages, was the cominon parent of traffic ; for the opulence of mankind then consisted in cattle, and the product of tillage ; which are now very essential for the promotion of trade in general, but more particularly so to such nations as are most abundant in cattle, corn, and fruits. The labour of the farmer gives employment to the manufacturer, and yields a support for the other parts of the community ; it is now the spring which sets the whole grand machine of commerce in motion ; and the sail could not be spread without the assistance of the plough. But though the farmers are of such utility in a state, we

From the Universal Visiter, for February, 1756, p. 59. Smart, the poet had a considerable hand in this Miscellany. The very first sentence, however, may convince any reader' that Dr. Johnson did not write these “ Thoughts ;” they are inserted here merely as an introduction to “ The Further Thoughts” which , follow, and which are undoubtedly his.

C.

find them in general too much disregarded among the politer kind of people in the present age; while we cannot help observing the honour that antiquity las always paid to the profession of the husbandman; which naturally leads us into some reflections upon that occasion.

Though mines of gold and silver should be exhausted, and the species made of them lost; though diamonds and pearls should remain concealed in the bowels of the earth, and the womb of the sea ; though commerce with strangers be prohibited ; though all arts, which have no other object than splendour and embellishment should be abolished ; yet the fertility of the earth alone would afford an abundant supply for the occasions of an industrious people, by furnishing subsistence for them, and such armies as should be mustered in their defence. We, therefore, ought not to be surprised, that agriculture was in so much honour among the ancients ; for it ought rather to seem wonderful that it should ever cease to be so, and that the rnost necessary and most indispensable of all professions should have fallen into any contempt.

Agriculture was in no part of the world in higher consideration than Egypt, where it was the particular object of government and policy ; nor was any country ever better peopled, richer, or more powerful. The Satrapæ, among the Assyrians and Persians, were rewarded, if the lands in their governments were well culo tivated ; but were punished if that part of their duty was neglected. Africa abounded in corn ; but the most fa. mous countries were Thrace, Sardinia, and Sicily.

Cato, the censor, has justly called Sicily the magazine and nursing mother of the Roman people, who were supplied from thence with almost all their corn, both for the use of the city, and the subsistence of her armies; though we also find in Livy, that the Romans received no inconsiderable quantities of corn from Sardinia. But, when Rome had made herself mistress of Carthage and Alexandria, Africa and Egypt became her storehouses ; for those cities sent such numerous fleets every year, freighted with corn to Rome, that Alexandria alone annually supplied twenty millions of bushels ; and, when the harvest happened to fail in one of these provinces, the other came in to its aid, and supported the metropolis of the world ; which, without this supply, would have been in danger of perishing by famine. Rome actually saw herself reduced to this condition under Augustus ; for there remained only three days provision of corn in the city ; and that prince was so full of tenderness for the people, that he had resolved to poison himself, if the ex. pected fleets did not arrive before the expiration of that time ; but they canie; and the preservation of the Ro

was attributed to the good fortune of their emperor ; but wise precautions were taken to avoid the like danger for the future.

When the seat of empire was transplanted to Constan: tinople, that city was supplied in the same manner; and when the emperor Septimus Severus died, there was corn in the public magazines for seven years, expending daily seventy five thousand bushels in bread, for six hundred thousand men.

mans

The ancients were no less industrious in the cultivation of the vine than in that fof corn, though they applied themselves to it later; for Noah planted it by order, and discovered the use that might be made of the fruit, by pressing out and preserving the juice. The vine was carried by the offspring of Noah into the several countries of the world ; but Asia was the first to experience the sweets of this gift ; from whence it was imparted to Europe and Africa. Greece and Italy, which were distinguished in so many other respects, were particularly so by the excellency of their wines. Greece was most celebrated for the wines of Cyprus, Lesbos, and Chio; the former of which is in great esteem at present ; though the cultivation of the vine has been generally suppressed in the Turkish dominions. As the Romans were indebted to the Grecians for the arts and sciences, so were they likewise for the improvement of their wines ; the best of which were produced in the country of Capua, and were called the Massick, Calenian, Formian, Cæcuban, and Falernian, so much celebrated by Hor

Domitian passed an edict for destroying all the vines, and that no more should be planted throughout the greatest part of the west ; which continued almost two hundred years afterwards, when the emperor Probus employed his soldiers in planting vines in Europe, in the same manner as Hannibal had formerly employed his troops in planting olive trees in Africa. Some of the ancients have endeavoured to prove, that the cultivation of vines is more beneficial than any other kind of VOL. II.

38

ace.

husbandry ; but, if this was thought so in the time of Columella, it is very different at present ; nor were all the ancients of his opinion, for several gave the preference to pasture lands.

The breeding of cattle has always been considered as an important part of agriculture. The riches of Abraham, Laban, and Job, consisted in their flocks and herds. We also find from Latinus in Virgil, and Ulysses in Homer, that the wealth of those princes consisted in cattle. It was likewise the same among the Romans, till the introduction of

money, which put a value upon commodities, and established a new kind of barter. Varro has not disdained to give an extensive account of all the beasts that are of any use to the country, either for tillage, breed, carriage, or other conveniencies of man. And Cato, the censor, was of opinion, that the feeding of cattle was the most certain and speedy method of enriching a country.

Luxury, avarice, injustice, violence, and ambition, take up their ordinary residence in populous cities; while the hard and laborious life of the husbandman will not admit of these vices. The honest farmer lives in a wise and happy state, which inclines him to justice, temperance, sobriety, sincerity, and every virtue that can dignify human nature. This gave room for the poets to feign, that Astræa, the goddess of Justice, had her last residence among husbandmen, before she quitted the earth. Hesiod and Virgil have brought the assistance of the muses in praise of agriculture. Kings, generals, and philosophers, have not thought it unworthy their birth, rank,

« ElőzőTovább »