Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; online

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being beat is the rule for him. If we nominate him upon that
ground, he will not carry a slave State, and not only so, but that
portion of our men who are high strung upon the principle we really
fight for wiU not go for him, and he won't get a single electoral vote
anywhere, except, perhaps, in the State of Maryland. There is no
use in saying to us that we are stubborn and obstinate because we
won't do some such thing as this. We cannot do it. We cannot get
our men to vote it. I speak by the card, that we cannot give the
State of Illinois in such case by fifty thousand. We would be flatter
down than the " Negro Democracy" themselves have the heart to
wish to see us.

After saying this much, let me say a little on the other side. There
are plenty of men in the slave States that are altogether good
enough for me to be either President or Vice-President, provided
they will profess their sympathy with our purpose, and will place
themselves on such ground that our men, upon principle, can vote for
them. There are scores of them — good men in their character for in-
telligence, and talent, and integrity. If such an one will place himself
upon the right ground, I am for his occupying one place upon the
next Republican or Opposition ticket. I will heartily go for him.
But unless he does so place himself, I think it is a matter of perfect
nonsense to attempt to bring about a union upon any other basis ;
that if a union be made, the elements will scatter so that there can be
no success for such a ticket, nor anything like success. The good old


maxims of the Bible are applicable, and truly applicable, to human
affairs, and in this, as in other things, we may say here that he who
is not for us is against us; he who gathereth not with us scattereth.
I should be glad to have some of the many good, and able, and noble
men of the South to place themselves where we can confer upon them
the high honor of an election upon one or the other end of our ticket.
It would do my soul good to do that thing. It would enable us to
teach them that, inasmuch as we select one of their own number to
carry out our principles, we are free from the charge that we mean
more than we say.

But, my friends, I have detained you much longer than I expected
to do. I beheve I may allow myself the compliment to say that you
have stayed and heard me with great patience, for which I return
you my most sincere thanks.

September 30, 1859. — Annual Address before the "Wisconsin
State Agricultural Society, at Milwaukee, Wis.

Members of the Agricultural Society and Citizens of Wisconsin:
Agricultural fairs are becoming an institution of the country. They
are useful in more ways than one. They bring us together, and
thereby make us better acquainted and better friends than we other-
wise would be. From the first appearance of man upon the earth
down to very recent times, the words "stranger" and "enemy" were
quite or almost synonymous. Long after civilized nations had de-
fined robbery and murder as high crimes, and had affixed severe
punishments to them, when practised among and upon their own
people respectively, it was deemed no offense, but even meritorious,
to rob and murder and enslave strangers, whether as nations or as
individuals. Even yet, this has not totally disappeared. The man
of the highest moral cultivation, in spite of aU which abstract prin-
ciple can do, likes him whom he does know much better than him
whom he does not know. To correct the evils, great and small, which
spring from want of sympathy and from positive enmity among
strangers, as nations or as individuals, is one of the highest func-
tions of civilization. To this end our agricultural fairs contribute
in no small degree. They render more pleasant, and more strong, and
more durable the bond of social and political union among us.
Again, if, as Pope declares, "happiness is our being's end and aim,"
our fairs contribute much to that end and aim, as occasions of
recreation, as holidays. Constituted as man is, he has positive need
of occasional recreation, and whatever can give him this associated
with virtue and advantage, and free from vice and disadvantage,
is a positive good. Such recreation our fairs afford. They are a
present pleasure, to be followed by no pain as a consequence; they
are a present pleasure, making the future more pleasant.

But the chief use of agricultural fairs is to aid in improving the
great calling of agriculture in aU its departments and minute divi-
sions; to make mutual exchange of agricultural discovery, informa-
tion, and knowledge ; so that, at the end, aU may know everythin}?


which may have been known to but one or to but few, at the begin-
ning ; to bring together especially all which is supposed to be not
generally known because of recent discovery or invention.

And not only to bring together and to impart all which has been
accidentally discovered and invented upon ordinary motive, but by
exciting emulation for premiums, and for the pride and honor of suc-
cess, — of triumph, in some sort, — to stimulate that discovery and
invention into extraordinary activity. In this these fairs are kin-
dred to the patent clause in the Constitution of the United States,
and to the department and practical system based upon that clause.

One feature, I believe, of every fair is a regular address. The
Agricultural Society of the young, prosperous, and soon to be great
State of Wisconsin has done me the high honor of selecting me to
make that address upon this occasion — an honor for which I make
my profound and grateful acknowledgment.

I presume I am not expected to employ the time assigned me in
the mere flattery of the farmers as a class. My opinion of them is
that, in proportion to numbers, they are neither better nor worse
than other people. In the nature of things they are more numerous
than any other class; and I believe there really are more attempts
at flattering them than any other, the reason of which I cannot per-
ceive, unless it be that they can cast more votes than any other. On
reflection, I am not quite sure that there is not cause of suspicion
against you in selecting me, in some sort a politician and in no
sort a farmer, to address you.

But farmers being the most numerous class, it follows that their
interest is the largest interest. It also follows that that interest is
most worthy of all to be cherished and cultivated — that if there be
inevitable conflict between that interest and any other, that other
should yield.

Again, I suppose it is not expected of me to impart to you much
specific information on agriculture. You have no reason to believe,
and do not believe, that I possess it ; if that were what you seek in
this address, any one of your own number or class would be more
able to furnish it. You, perhaps, do expect me to give some general
interest to the occasion, and to make some general suggestions on
practical matters. I shall attempt nothing more. And in such sug-
gestions by me, quite likely very little will be new to you, and a large
part of the rest will be possibly already known to be erroneous.

My first suggestion is an inquiry as to the effect of greater
thoroughness in aU the departments of agriculture than now pre-
vails in the Northwest — perhaps I might say in America. To speak
entirely within bounds, it is known that fifty bushels of wheat, or one
hundred bushels of Indian com, can be produced from an acre. Less
than a year ago I saw it stated that a man, by extraordinary care and
labor, had produced of wheat what was equal to two hundred bushels
from an acre. But take fifty of wheat, and one hundred of corn, to
be the possibility, and compare it with the actual crops of the country.
Many years ago I saw it stated, in a patent-office report, that eighteen
bushels was the average crop throughout the United States; and
this year an intelligent farmer of Illinois assured me that he did not
Vol. I.— 37.


believe the land harvested in that State this season had yielded more
than an average of eight bushels to the acre ; much was cut, and then
abandoned as not worth threshing, and much was abandoned as not
worth cutting. As to Indian corn, and indeed, most other crops, the
case has not been much better. For the last four years I do not be-
lieve the ground planted with corn in Illinois has produced an av-
erage of twenty bushels to the acre. It is true that heretofore we
have had better crops with no better cultivation, but I believe it is
also true that the soil has never been pushed up to one half of its

What would be the effect upon the farming interest to push the
soil up to something near its full capacity ? Unquestionably it will
take more labor to produce fifty bushels from an acre than it will to
produce ten bushels from the same acre; but will it take more labor
to produce fifty bushels from one acre than from five ? Unquestion-
ably thorough cultivation will require more labor to the acre; but
will it require more to the bushel f If it should require just as much
to the bushel, there are some probable, and several certain, advan-
tages in favor of the thorough practice. It is probable it would de-
velop those unknown causes which of late years have cut down our
crops below their former average. It is almost certain, I think, that
by deeper plowing, analysis of the soils, experiments with manures
and varieties of seeds, observance of seasons, and the like, these causes
would be discovered and remedied. It is certain that thorough culti-
vation would spare half, or more than half, the cost of land, simply
because the same product would be got from half, or from less than
half, the quantity of land. This proposition is self-evident, and can
be made no plainer by repetitions or illustrations. The cost of land
is a great item, even in new countries, and it constantly grows greater
and greater, in comparison with other items, as the country grows

It also would spare the making and maintaining of inclosures for the
same, whether these inclosures should be hedges, ditches, or fences.
This again is a heavy item — heavy at first, and heavy in its continual
demand for repairs. I remember once being greatly astonished by
an apparently authentic exhibition of the proportion the cost of an
inclosure bears to all the other expenses of the farmer, though I can-
not remember exactly what that proportion was. Any farmer, if he
wUl, can ascertain it in his own case for himself.

Again, a great amount of locomotion is spared by thorough culti-
vation. Take fifty bushels of wheat ready for harvest, standing
upon a single acre, and it can be harvested in any of the known
ways with less than half the labor which would be required if it
were spread over five acres. This would be true if cut by the old
hand-sickle ; true, to a greater extent, if by the scythe and cradle ;
and to a still greater extent, if by the machines now in use. These
machines are chiefly valuable as a means of substituting animal-
power for the power of men in this branch of farm-work. In the
highest degree of perfection yet reached in applying the horse-power
to harvesting, fully nine tenths of the power is expended by the
animal in carrying himself and dragging the machine over the field,


leaving certainly not more than one tenth to be applied directly to
the only end of the whole operation — the gathering in of the grain,
and clipping of the straw. When grain is very thin on the ground,
it is always more or less intermingled with weeds, chess, and the like,
and a large part of the power is expended in cutting these. It is
plain that when the crop is very thick upon the ground, a larger
proportion of the power is directly applied to gathering in and cut-
ting it ; and the smaller to that which is totally useless as an end.
And what I have said of harvesting is true in a greater or less de-
gree of mowing, plowing, gathering in of crops generally, and in-
deed of almost aU farm-work.

The effect of thorough cultivation upon the farmer's own mind,
and in reaction through his mind back upon his business, is perhaps
quite equal to any other of its effects. Every man is proud of what
he does well, and no man is proud of that he does not well. With
the former his heart is in his work, and he will do twice as much of it
with less fatigue ; the latter he performs a little imperfectly, looks at
it in disgust, turns from it, and imagines himself exceedingly tired —
the little he has done comes to nothing for want of finishing.

The man who produces a good full crop will scarcely ever let any
part of it go to waste ; he will keep up the inclosure about it, and
allow neither man nor beast to trespass upon it ; he will gather it in
due season, and store it in perfect security. Thus he labors with
satisfaction, and saves himself the whole fruit of his labor. The
other, starting with no pui-pose for a fuU crop, labors less, and with
less satisfaction, allows his fences to fall, and cattle to trespass,
gathers not in due season, or not at all. Thus the labor he has per-
formed is wasted away, little by little, till in the end he derives
scarcely anything from it.

The ambition for broad acres leads to poor farming, even with
men of energy. I scarcely ever knew a mammoth farm to sustain
itself, much less to return a profit upon the outlay. I have more
than once known a man to spend a respectable fortune upon one,
fail, and leave it, and then some man of modest aims get a small
fraction of the ground, and make a good living upon it. Mammoth
farms are like tools or weapons which are too heavy to be handled ;
ere long they are thrown aside at a great loss.

• The successful application of steam-power to farm- work is a desid-
eratum — especially a steam-plow. It is not enough that a machine
operated by steam will really plow. To be successful, it must, all
things considered, plow better than can be done with animal-power.
It must do all the work as weU, and cheaper; or more rapidly, so as
to get through more perfectly in season ; or in some way afford an
advantage over plowing with animals, else it is no success. I have
never seen a machine intended for a steam-plow. Much praise and
admiration are bestowed upon some of them, and they may be, for
aught I know, already successful; but I have not perceived the
demonstration of it. I have thought a good deal, in an abstract
way, about a steam-plow. That one which shall be so contrived as
to apply the larger proportion of its power to the cutting and turn-
ing the soil, and the smallest, to the moving itself over the field,


will be the best one. A very small stationary-engine wonld draw a
large gang of plows through the -ground from a short distance to
itself; but when it is not stationary, but has to move along like
a horse, dragging the plows after it, it must have additional power
to carry itself; and the difiiculty grows by what is intended to over-
come it ; for what adds power also adds size and weight to the ma-
chine, thus increasing again the demand for power. Suppose you
construct the machine so as to cut a succession of short furrows,
say a rod in length, transversely to the course the machine is loco-
moting, something like the shuttle in weaving. In such case the
whole machine would move noi-th only the width of a furrow, while
in length the furrow would be a rod from east to west. In such
case a very large proportion of the power would be applied to the
actual plowing. But in this, too, there would be difficulty, which
would be the getting of the plow into and out of the ground, at the
end of all these short furrows.

I believe, however, ingenious men wiU, if they have not already,
overcome the difficulty I have suggested. But there is still another,
about which I am less sanguine. It is the supply of fuel, and espe-
cially water, to make steam. Such supply is clearly practicable;
but can the expense of it be borne? Steamboats live upon the
water, and find their fuel at stated places. Steam-mills and other
stationary steam-machinery have their stationary supplies of fuel
and water. Railroad-locomotives have their regular wood and wa-
ter stations. But the steam-plow is less fortunate. It does not live
upon the water, and if it be once at a water-station, it will work
away from it, and when it gets away cannot return without leav-
ing its work, at a great expense of its time and strength. It will
occur that a wagon-and-horse team might be employed- to supply it
with fuel and water; but this, too, is expensive; and the question
recurs, "Can the expense be borne?" When this is added to all
other expenses, will not plowing cost more than in the old way?

• It is to be hoped that the steam-plow will be finally successful,
and if it shall be, "thorough cultivation" — putting the soil to the
top of its capacity, producing the largest crop possible from a given
quantity of ground — will be most favorable for it. Doing a large
amount of work upon a small quantity of groiind, it will be as nearly
as possible stationary while working, and as free as possible from
locomotion, thus expending its strength as much as possible upon
its work, and as little as possible in traveling. Our thanks, and
something more substantial than thanks, are due to every man en-
gaged in the effort to produce a successful steam-plow. Even the
unsuccessful will bring something to light which, in the hands of
others, will contribute to the final success. I have not pointed out
difficulties in order to discourage, but in order that, being seen, they
may be the more readily overcome.

The world is agreed that labor is the source from which hiiman
wants are mainly supplied. There is no dispute upon this point.
From this point, however, men immediately diverge. Much disputa-
tion is maintained as to the best way of applying and controlling
the labor element. By some it is assumed that labor is available


only in connection with capital — that nobody labors, unless some-
body else owning capital, somehow, by the use of it, induces him to
do it. Having assumed this, they proceed to consider whether it is
best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work
by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to it, without
their consent. Having proceeded so far, they naturally conclude
that all laborers are naturally either hired laborers or slaves. They
further assume that whoever is once a hired laborer, is fatally fixed
in that condition for life ; and thence again, that his condition is as
bad as, or worse than, that of a slave. This is the " mud-sill " theory.
But another class of reasoners hold the opinion that there is no such
relation between capital and labor as assumed j that there is no
such thing as a free man being fatally fixed for life in the condition
of a hired laborer; that both these assumptions are false, and all in-
ferences from them groundless. They hold that labor is prior to, and
independent of, capital ; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and
could never have existed if labor had not first existed ; that labor can
exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed with-
out labor. Hence they hold that labor is the superior — greatly the
superior — of capital.

They do not deny that there is, and probably always will be, a re-
lation between labor and capital. The error, as they hold, is in assum-
ing that the whole labor of the world exists within that relation. A
few men own capital; and that few avoid labor themselves, and with
their capital hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large
majority belong to neither class — neither work for others, nor have
others working for them. Even in all our slave States except South
Carolina, a majority of the whole people of all colors are neither
slaves nor masters. • In these free States, a large majority are neither
hirersnorhired. Men, with their families — wives, sons, and daughters
— work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses, and in their
shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors
of capital on the one hand, nor of hirelings or slaves on the other.
It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle
their own labor with capital — that is, labor with their own hands,
and also buy slaves or hire free men to labor for them ; but this is
only a mixed, and not a distinct, class. No principle stated is dis-
turbed by the existence of this mixed class. Again, as has already
been said, the opponents of the "mud-sill" theory insist that there
is not, of necessity, any such thing as the free hired laborer be-
ing fixed to that condition for life. There is demonstration for
saying this. Many independent men in this assembly doubtless a
few years ago were hired laborers. And their case is almost, if not
quite, the general rule.

■ The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages
awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself,
then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires
another new beginner to help him. This, say its advocates, is free
labor — the just, and generous, and prosperous system, which opens
the way for all, gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and
improvement of condition to all. If any continue through life


in tlie condition of the hired laborer, it is not the fault of the system,
but because of either a dependent nature which prefers it, or im-
providence, folly, or singular misfortune. I have said this much
about the elements of labor generally, as introductory to the consid-
eration of a new phase which that element is in process of assuming.
The old general rule was that educated people did not perform man-
ual labor. They managed to eat their bread, leaving the toil of
producing it to the uneducated. This was not an insupportable evil
to the working bees, so long as the class of drones remained very small.
But now, especially in these free States, nearly all are educated —
quite too nearly all to leave the labor of the uneducated in any wise
adequate to the support of the whole. It foUows from this that
henceforth educated people must labor. Otherwise, education itself
would become a positive and intolerable evU. No country can sus-
tain in idleness more than a small percentage of its numbers. The
great majority must labor at something productive. From these
premises the problem springs, "How can labor and education be
the most satisfactorily combined ? "

By the " mud-sill " theory it is assumed that labor and education
are incompatible, and any practical combination of them impossible.
According to that theory, a blind horse upon a tread-mill is a perfect
illustration of what a laborer should be — all the better for being
blind, that he could not kick understandingly. According to that
theory, the education of laborers is not only useless but pernicious
and dangerous. In fact, it is, in some sort, deemed a misfortune
that laborers should have heads at all. Those same heads are re-
garded as explosive materials, only to be safely kept in damp places,
as far as possible from that peculiar sort of fire which ignites them.
A Yankee who could invent a strong-handed man without a head
would receive the everlasting gratitude of the " mud-siU." advocates.

But free labor says, "No." Free labor argues that as the Author
of man makes every individual with one head and one pair of hands,
it was probably intended that heads and hands should cooperate as
friends, and that that particular head should direct and control that
pair of hands. As each man has one mouth to be fed, and one pair
of hands to furnish food, it was probably intended that that particu-
lar pair of hands should feed that particular mouth — that each head
is the natural guardian, director, and protector of the hands and
mouth inseparably connected with it ; and that being so, every head
should be cultivated and improved by whatever will add to its
capacity for performing its charge. In one word, free labor insists
on universal education.

I have so far stated the opposite theories of " mud-sill " and " free
labor," without declaring any preference of my own between them.
On an occasion like this, I ought not to declare any. I suppose, how-

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 77 of 91)