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and that too without consulting the views of those most deeply interested in the education of the people, in opposition to the expressed remonstrance of the able and honored men who for so many years have guided the affairs of this association and done so much for the agricultural interests of the State; then I feel that it is high time you began to exercise the powers which of right belong to you, and that you should have a voice in dictating the character of those measures which affect so largely the interests of your children.
I have dwelt longer on this point than I at first intended, but not so long as its importance demands. The real dignity of your profession is determined not by the fact that a few great men here and there have belonged to it. It springs from its relations to the best interests of society, and from the character of the majority of those engaged in it. I plead to-day, pot for the sons of the wealthy, but for those who as farmers and mechanics are to live and serve the State by the labor of their hands. I contend that they should enjoy the highest advantages for mental culture, for a training suitable to their business, for the acquisition of an intelligence that shall make their work most effective, while it enables them to stand up in society among the foremost for real mental power. The time, the age, the progress made in other departments of life press the subject upon you; and, when once your energies shall be earnestly enlisted, there is nothing desirable in this direction which your combined efforts may not accomplish.
Permit me, now, to say a few words on another subject which at the present time is awakening deep interest among agriculturists. I refer to the question of association. The principle it involves is one of vast power. It constitutes all the difference between the rill and the river. The rill is good in its place; it does a good work; it fertilizes and blesses the land through which it flows; but, it cannot drive a mill or bear up a steamboat. Associate it with a thousand other rills and it creates the power that impels inmense masses of machinery, or carries on its bosom the commerce of a nation. One man in his place can do a good work; but there are some things which, isolated, he cannot do; and there are other things which he can do only at a great cost of time and labor. But combine his power with that of others, and there is scarcely anything of great importance, no work however grand, he may not accomplish. Popular association belongs almost exclusively to a free country It cannot live and develop itself in the arid soil of slavery. Despotism is a class association, and oppresses the masses. Whenever association appears among these it fears it; it throttles it, or allows it only a dwarfed and sickly existence. The people must not know their own power; isolated they are weak; associated they are mightier than nobles aud kings. In our country, the principle of popular association is fundamental to our success. It is the animating principle of our government. It builds churches, railroads, canals, banks, asylums. It establishes schools and colleges. It forms societies for all purposes beyond the reach of individuals. It has organized and sustained these State and county associations for the promotion of agriculture and the mechanic arts. These immense gatherings of the people; this deep and enthusiastic interest; this splendid exhibition of the products of our soil and the skill of our artificers, are due to this principle.
Now, the point to which I wish to call your attention is this: that the power of association is in favor of those who constitute the great mass of our farmers—the men of limited means, the men who depend mainly upon their own labors and that of their sons for the cultivation of their farms. In respect to the division of estates, our policy is peculiar. In Rome, during the palmiest days of the Republic, the amount of land owned by individuals was limited. But when she began to appropriate the wealth of other countries by her conquests and extortions, then these laws were abrogated. The result was that a few individuals monopolized the whole country. Slavery followed successful war, and, instead of the manly farmer, like Cincinnatus or Cato, slaves became the laborers. Agriculture declined; the fairest portions of Italy became depopulated, and the imperial city depends for her supply of breadstuffs upon the granaries of Egypt and Carthage. In England, the whole kingdom is owned by a few nobles and wealthy gentlemen. But, then, while vast tracts of country are uncultivated, yet, the absence of slavery, the principles of popular liberty and the progress of intelligence have saved her from the ruin which fell on Rome. Nowhere, probably, is there a country where agriculture has been 80 successfully systematized and reduced to a science as in England. Whatever wealth and intelligence could do, in the constitution of society, has been done. In France, the opposite principle prevails. Through the peculiar laws adopted since the revolution of 1790, estates have been divided and subdivided until, by the very minuteness of the division, progress in agriculture has been practically arrested.
In our own country, the abolition of laws of entail prevents the perpetuation of great estates, and the accumulating monopoly of land in a few families, for any long period. On the other hand, the magnificence of our domain—the inheritance of the people-prevents the minute subdivision of estates, by putting it in the power of any man with economy and enterprise to possess himself of enough for his personal use. The result is, and will be for generations to come, that, while there are a few large estates, the mass of the land will be held by the people, in quantities sufficient to enable each owner, by diligence, economy and skill, to maintain his family in honorable independence, give his children a fair education and start them successfully in life.
Now, the effect of association, when rightly organized and with respect to legitimate objects, is to place the man of limited means largely upon an equality with the man of large means. The wealth of the one enables him to purchase the finest stock and the best instruments for his work. He commands the best talent. He can systematize his work, so as to get the largest return at the smallest cost. And, in all this he has greatly the advantage. But association originates and puts into the hands of the majority a power which enables them to compete successfully with their richer neighbors. Take for instance the manufacture of cheese. The rich agriculturist, with his 500 or 1,000 acres, and his 100 or 200 cows, by a proper system, can make an article which will bear a better price in market, and at a less cost to himself, than his neighbor who owns only a dozen cows. But when, by combining together, you introduce the same system, you attain precisely the same results. Your labor goes farther and gives you a richer reward.
This principle is available in various directions. I know of no reason why it may not apply to the purchase and use of the best agricultural implements, the best mowers and reapers, and the best thrashing machines. In Wales, three centuries ago, a dozen men associated to purchase and use a single plow. In our frontier settlements, where labor is scarce and the work to be done great, it has been the custom for a whole neighborhood to assist each other in clearing the land and gathering in the harvest. We are far beyond the necessity of combination for those objects. But the advance of agricultural science has produced other necessities, which press heavily upon the small farmer in. his competition with those of large means, and which he can only meet by association with others. In the same way a company of individuals can import the finest stock in the world; and thus, in a short time, the whole land may enjoy the benefits of the best breeds of cattle and horses. Hitherto, this has been done by our wealthy and enterprising agriculturists; but there is no reason why every farmer may not possess all the material advantages he needs to give him success. The power is in your hands; you have only to apply this principle among yourselves, with your characteristic energy and wisdom, and the next twenty years will witness an advance in your profession which otherwise a century would not secure.
There is still one topic to which, in justice to the great interests here represented, I wish to allude before I close. We are in the midst of wara civil war—a war the most gigantic in its dimensions and issues known to history; a war remarkable for the immense armies engaged in it, the number of battles it has fought, and the vast extent of country over which it spreads; more remarkable as a contest for the integrity of the Union, for the supremacy of the Constitution; a war, not on the part of the majority to enslave, but to maintain freedom and the supremacy of the ballot box over the bayonet, and to perpetuate institutions essential to the full development of a true manhood. Yet, while this conflict is in progress, our villages, our towns and cities, exhibit an unexampled degree of prosperity; our industrial pursuits, with the exception of a single branch dependent on the cotton of the South, have received no sensible check. With the characteristic energy and power of adaptation of our people, we have rapidly adjusted our pursuits to our altered circumstances. We live, we grow, we engage in new enterprises, as men instinct with the yitality which true freedom inspires. And, while this is true of most branches of industry, it is especially true of that great interest which underlies all the rest--the interest which creates the material out of which all our wealth proceeds—the great agricultural interest. Among no class has there existed a more intense loyalty, a more steady patriotism, than among the farmers of this land. No class, in proportion to its numbers, has sent a larger representation in the field. Yet, with all this diminution of their operative force, not an acre less of land has been sown;
crops have been harvested; the work of production to supply our soldiers in the field, and our citizens at home, has gone on with even increased vigor. In this hour of trial the farmer has exhibited rare energy; he has sometimes sent forth into the field of labor his patriotic daughters, to supply the place of sons gone to the field of war; he has called to his aid, more than ever before, the unrivaled productions of our mechanics to save labor. All over the land, he is seen rising up with indomitable energy to meet the exigencies of the great occasion.
Had this branch of industry been stricken down, commerce would have languished, credit would have been shaken, our armies would have been compelled to retire from the contest; the South, supplied by the forced labor of her slaves, would have triumphed. But, instead of that, the energies of freemen, favored by a kind Providence, have filled the land with the rich products of the soil. Where, in all history, can you find another nation that, in the midst of a gigantic civil war, not only maintained all her agricultural interests, but sent forth to other nations an immense surplus; thus maintaining our national credit and sustaining our finances, while, at the same time, mindful of the dictates of humanity and religion, we freely contributed shipload after shipload of bread to feed the starving operatives of a government that, instead of sympathizing with us in our trials, has furnished the materials for a pirațical war upon our commerce, and put into the hands of our enemies the most effective weapons to sweep that commerce from the ocean.
We recognize, gratefully, that benign Providence which, for the last three years, has made the earth so productive and brought the nations of Europe to our doors for the food their own soil failed to supply. But it is fit and right that we should recognize and appreciate the energy and self-sacrifice of those who planted and reaped for us these rich harvests. The American farmer has given to the world the most illustrious examples of true patriotism. When the news of the battles of Lexington and Concord reached Gen. Putnam, he was plowing his own acres. Leaving his plow in the furrow, mounting his horse and bidding his family a hasty adieu, he hastened to draw his sword on Bunker Hill. He was the type of the patriotism of the farmers of the revolution. Their sons, inheriting their principles and their spirit, have proved themselves worthy of so illustrious a parentage. Self-reliant, independent, the monarchs of their own domains, they are ready to use the plow or the sword, in resisting the assaults of despots from abroad or traitors at home, or in building up a nation the freest and grandest in the world. The State and the nation owe to them, far more than to any other class, their material and intellectual greatness. The children of the farmer, instinct with original enterprise, are found in all positions of power and influence. They supply the waste of life and counteract the inherent tendency to degeneracy in the large towns and cities. Our ablest mechanics, lawyers, physicians, divines; our most illustrious statesmen; our most scientific teachers; our merchants who have spread our commerce round the world; our pioneers whose hands have leveled the grand old forests and made the wilderness blossom; our ablest generals-the thunderbolts of war-in the great majority of cases, were not reared in the luxury and excitement of cities. They are the children of the soil; they breathed the pure air of heaven in their childhood; their youth was nurtured and grew strong for the work of life amidst the storms and sunshine and the invigorating labors of the country. With such a country, possessed by intelligent, religious, sturdy freemen, with such institutions of religion and science and government, who can doubt that a glorious future is before us? With a country so varied in climate, so rich in mineral treasures, so productive in its soil; with its valleys and hills and mountains, its forests and prairies, its lakes and rivers; its shores washed by two oceans; where men of every temperament may develop their energies, and where all things stimulate them to progress; dotted over with colleges and schools and churches, and filled with all the elements of social progress, where in this world, if not here, should man assert his true nobility and rise to the loftiest height of greatness, and send forth his influence to civilize, evangelize and exalt the world?
I anticipate the future. I see this black cloud of war uplift and roll away, and the sun shine down upon a land impressed with the foot of neither slave nor traitor. I see this young giant, conscious of his strength, move forward in the work of civilization and humanity with irresistible power. And, as he advances, I see the bills and valleys of the North, the prairies of the great valley, the savannahs of the South, the slopes washed by the western main, filled with an intelligent, a religious, a rejoicing people—one in language, one in sympathy, one in government—the inheritors and possessors of the same institutions, the noblest development of bumanity.