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John Overton Choules.

The oration on the fourteenth anniversary of the American Institute online

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to effect this. We have all encouragement to persevere, when
we reflect upon what has resulted from the formation of Agri-
cultural Associations. We can tell of crops augmented in our
own state as follows :



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Wheat, from 18 bushels per acre, to 30

Corn, " 40 " " " " 70

Barley, " 25 " " " 40

Peas, " 25 " " " 45

Oats, " 40 " " " " 74-79

Potatoes, " 200 " " " " 475

Carrots, " 500 " " " " 1000

Sugar Beet, " 750 " " " " 1500
Mangel Wurzel," 600 " " " " 1200
Ruta Baga, " 500 " " " 1200
Hay, " 1^ tons " " ' 3 tons.

In New-York we have authenticated reports of 53 bushels of
wheat, 58 barley, 50 peas, 135 corn, 750 potatoes, and 5 tons of
hay to the acre.

It would ill become me to adventure instruction to men who
have long been conversant with the cultivation of the soil, from
their habits of labour, or the deep personal interest which they
have in the land which they possess. But it is proper that I
should endeavour to call up a more general attention to the
pursuits of the farmer. Here, in our cities and large towns,
there are errors in the public mind, strong prejudices, un-
concealed contempt, and above all, the most unfortunate
ignorance.

I am not in danger of contradiction when I declare, that our
community has regarded money as the chief good, and its
accumulation has been practically regarded as the chief end of
man. All the occupation and the energy of life have gone out
in this direction. To till the ground has been thought disrepu-
table, I imagine, very principally, because its profits have been
thought to be slow in their return ; there have been no wonder-
ful fortunes made in a few months no food for that preternatural
restlessness which cupidity has revelled in. What a frightful
conspiracy there has been going on for years past in our cities
and towns against the unchangeable law and ordinance of heaven,
"in the sweat of thy brow shall thou eat bread till thou be turned
again into the ground." Gen. iii. 1 9. All classes in our midst have
been affected. Lawyers, doctors, merchants and ministers
have turned their minds to the best way of getting rich without



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labour; and such was the ingenuity of this city, that in one year
we made property grow ninety-two millions !

But in accounting for this popular distaste, let me be more
particular. I believe that parents have had much to do in the
creation of this feeling. The men and women who enjoy the
honour to have been the architects of their own fortunes, seem
in many cases determined to place their children at the very
farthest distance from the line of occupation, and the principles
and methods of life, which have rendered them happy, prosperous
and respectable. No matter how many children they have, the
sons are to do with as little labour as may be, and the daughters
are to be lilies, they are neither to toil or spin. How many a
parent would feel absolutely insulted if you supposed that he
intended to put his boy to actual labour of any sort! When parents
and children come to the conclusion that the lad must obtain
his living by some exertion of his own. they put their minds to
the rack, to discover a way by which it can be done without
labour. The father, perhaps, has made every cent he possesses
by toH, yet, under the influence of the day in which we live, he
cannot endure the idea that his son should be seen in a labouring
dress, engaged in a mechanical or agricultural employment.
When will men see the folly of the opinion, that the youth who
labours on a farm or works in a shop, can be fit for nothing else!
A young man upon a farm may qualify himself not only to
pursue his calling, but to take a part in all the public concerns
of life.

It is idle to talk of the want of time or means for mental
cultivation upon an American farm. Judge Buel was correct
when he declared that a man might devote three hours out of
twenty-four to study, without infringing upon his business,
fatiguing his mind, or impairing his health, allowing eight hours
for sleep, ten for labour, and three for contingencies; and I ask
what ordinary occupation affords a larger portion of time to
the acquisition of general knowledge ? Let no man on a farm
complain of want of opportunity. How many such suffer
money to be squandered, which would purchase a capital library,
and fritter away time in taverns, idle talk, and lounging on



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winter evenings, and useless sleep in long nights, which, if
employed in reading and study, would make them able agri-
culturists, and fit them for the halls of legislation and the council
tables of the nation.

I believe, too, that parents err in placing such an estimate upon
the talents of their sons, as leads them to select the learned
professions as the only sphere in which they can have a proper
scope for exhibition. The principals of our academies and the
presidents of our colleges will testify, that at the opening of
every term, and at the annual commencements, they receive
from fond parents nothing but intellect and genius of "the first
order" and "greatest promise." Alas, that all this preeminence
so soon finds its level.

I have ever regarded the best carpenter in a village as a
more distinguished man than an ordinary, every day, common-
place lawyer; the best blacksmith, the ingenious, contriving
mechanic, as a more valuable and respectable character than
the half educated, conceited, lounging professional man, who
has forgotten almost all he learned in the schools, and has never
made advances in general knowledge since he commenced the
profession which his apathy and dulness- have so served to
disgrace. The president of one of our colleges remarks, " I
have long thought that our graduates mistake their path to
honour and usefulness in making choice of a learned profession,
instead of converting agriculture into one, as it ought to be."
Agriculture not a science ! Why. there is hardly a science that
is not subservient to the promotion of agriculture ; zoology,
botany, geology, chemistry in a most essential degree, mecha-
nical sciences, all are connected with it. But the great practical
problem which this country has to solve, is, to give the speediest
return to the cultivator, and of yielding the largest amount of
produce at the smallest proportionate expense ; and though the
science of theory and expensive experiments may not be
adapted to the mass of our agriculturists, yet, happily, we have
a noble class of men of education, property and public spirit,
capable of weighing the scientific speculations of the wise, and
with means, and the inclination to apply those means, to a
practical investigation of the result of theories.

3



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It is one of the happiest signs of the times, that many young
men of education and wealth are turning their attention to
husbandry; they are making a wise choice for their own
happiness and that of others. Let me quote from Lord Stanley,
at Liverpool, in relation to the magnitude and vastness of
agriculture, as affording room for investment. Speaking of
draining, " I am aware," he says, " that the process of draining
is an expensive one, which requires an outlay of capital which,
if we were to take the total of even a single county in England,
would strike every man as something marvellous and almost
appalling; and yet I am satisfied of this, that while no landlord
could expect a tenant to engage in operations so extensive
without his concurrence and assistance, and without his bearing
the principal burden of the original outlay, I am firmly persuaded
of this, that there is no bank in the whole country, no com-
mercial speculation, no investment, so safe, so sure, so profitable,
as that in which even borrowed capital may be engaged, by
investing it under the ground of your own soil."

I should not be surprised if here, as in England, farming
came to be a fashionable pursuit ; and almost every man here
may afford to be in the fashion. We may get our small farms
of fifty, eighty and one hundred acres, and almost every man
may enjoy his homestead ; nor need we for this go out into the
wilderness. We can find good land, at cheap prices, almost at
our very doors. The opening of that portion of the New- York
and Erie Rail-Road which is completed, places all the facilities
of a farm in the reach of every man who covets them. I wish
I could persuade you all to go and look at the country through
which the entire route of that road is laid. You would then be
satisfied that there are the same happy miracles of improvement
to be accomplished in the southern tier of counties, which have
blessed and civilized our state on the line of the Erie Canal.
How strange that any apathy should exist among us in reference
to this vast and important work, which brings all the produce
of the west to our doors at all seasons gives us access to
New-Orleans in nine days offers us a western business not
only in spring and autumn, but during the whole year. I am
sure that in ten years the line of that road will exhibit an appear-



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ance of culture, comfort and; opulence, worthy of the great
highway to the commercial emporium of our country.

I wish I could see in all our farmers a disposition to magnify
their calling ; but I have been grieved in many a farm-house, to
listen to lamentations over what they term their " hard lot." I
have heard the residents upon a noble farm, all paid for, talk
about drudgery, and never having their work done, and few or
no opportunities for the children ; and I have especially been
sorry to hear the females lament over the hard fate of some
promising youth of seventeen or eighteen, who was admirably
filling up his duties, and training himself for extensive useful-
ness and influence. They have made comparison between his
situation, coarsely clad and working hard, and coming in fa-
tigued, with some cousin at college, or young man who clerked
it in a city store, till at length the boy has become dissatisfied,
and begged off from his true interests and happiness. I am
conversant with no truer scenes of enjoyment than I have wit-
nessed in American farm-houses, and even log cabins, where the
father, under the influence of enlightened Christianity and sound
views of life, has gone with his family, as the world have termed
it, into the woods. The land is his own, and he has every in-
ducement to improve it; he finds a healthy employment for
himself and family, and is never at a loss for materials to occu-
py his mind. I do not think the physician has more occasion
for research than the farmer ; the proper food of vegetables
and animals will alone constitute a wide and lasting field of in-
vestigation. The daily journal of a farmer is a source of much
interest to himself and others. The record of his labours, the
expression of his hopes, the nature of his fears, the opinions of
his neighbours, the results of his experiments, the entire sum to-
tal of his operations, will prove a deep source of pleasure to any
thinking man. If the establishment of agricultural societies,
and the cattle shows of our country, should have the effect of
stimulating one farmer in every town to manage his land and
stock upon the best principles of husbandry, there would be a
wonderful and speedy alteration in the products of the earth,
because comparison would force itself upon his friends and
neighbours ; and his example would be certainly beneficial, for
prejudice itself will give way to profit.



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I know an individual who, at a great expense of money and
travel, carried, hundreds of miles, a pair of fine imported Berk-
shires : his fellow farmers around were large raisers of pork,
and their swine were, without exception, of the genuine land
pike and alligator breed, all leg and snout ; well, they crowded
to see the new pigs, admired their shape, did not like their colour,
did not think they were " so great, after all," and thought that
one hundred dollars invested in two pigs was " quite ridiculous."
The result, however, was, that the farmers were soon willing to
help pay for the original outlay, for they quickly became dis-
satisfied with their own rail-like breed ; and I have since seen,
at the piggery of a flour mill two miles off, more than fifty half
blooded Berkshires, and all through the township they are get-
ting a better article for pork and hams.

The prejudices of the farmers to new ways, fresh breeds, and
book farming, are all destined to give way. I am sure that a
remark which that great man, De Witt Clinton, made in 1825,
in relation to American invention, that we were " a people that
had no stand still in us," is perfectly applicable to us as agri-
culturists. Our farmers have eyes, they can all see, and they
tvill learn. I am acquainted with a vicinity where a root crop
had never been raised as a principal resource for cattle. An
experiment in 183S, has now twenty rivals, all at first slow to
believe, but quick to follow ; and all their working cattle this
winter will have cause for thanksgiving. In that same town a
man has converted a soil, marred by the salts of iron, into valu-
able ground, by the free use of lime ; a course to which he was
advised by a neighbour who took the Cultivator. And here let
me say, that in 1840, on a long western journey, I one day re-
marked to my friend, that I thought I could give a pretty shrewd
guess, from observation as we went along, as to the fact whether
the occupants of the farms took any agricultural papers:
in thirteen trials I made but one wrong guess. It is important
that the doings of this society, good agricultural reports, books
and periodicals, be circulated among the farmers; because
improvements and the alterations of established customs and
habits are very slowly admitted, and the farmer oftentimes, from
his retired position, unless he is addicted to reading, is likely to



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acquire very little knowledge of his art, but that which is tra-
ditional and peculiar to his vicinity. We should do much for
our state, if we could put forth a periodical into every farm-
house ; one that would keep pace with the times, and afford the
earliest notice of every important invention or discovery in ru-
ral life. I never take up the Ploughboy, the New-York Farmer,
and especially the Cultivator, without an earnest wish that such
admirable pages of wisdom and experience, and plain, round-
about common sense, could be scattered in every farm-house in
America, and its volumes placed in every city habitation. I do
not know a more amusing or instructive set of volumes than
Buel's Cultivator. I almost envy that good great man his claims
upon national gratitude.

I wish I could induce the father of every family to give this
work a place in his house at Christmas, for the benefit of his
children ; the practical information which they would gain from
it, and their acquaintance with things of rural life, would richly
repay the expenditure, and this knowledge would all come into
useful play.* I know a youth, the son of a president of a city
bank, a boy of eighteen, who gravely asked how long it took to
bring a crop of wheat and barley to perfection, and what ani-
mals were called neat cattle ; and yet this lad was deemed well-
educated and accomplished, in the circle in which he moved.

We all know how much is done by oral instruction ; how often
men are more affected by what they hear than what they read ;
and this has induced me to wish that suitable, and, of course, well-
qualified men, could go through every portion of our state, and
address the population of every vicinity on the great subject of
the improvements in husbandry, and urge the cultivators of the
soil to a generous rivalry. The man who went out upon this

* I am happy to state, that Mr. A. B. Allen has commenced another periodical
devoted to agriculture. It is published in New-York, and is called " The American
Farmers' Magazine," a monthly, at two dollars a year. No writer in our
country brings more thorough practical skill and a larger share of science to the
subject than Mr. Allen. His magazine will, I doubt not, be a standard authority,
New-York city ought to furnish it with a large number of subscribers. Our mer-
chants depend so much upon the production of the soil, that their very business in-
terests demand that they should be acquainted with the farming interests of the state
and country, and Mr. Allen will give such statistics as are adapted to their use.



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task should not go forth as the profound scholar, or the refined
gentleman, but as a plain, honest-hearted citizen, who had an
important subject to talk about, and valuable information to
diffuse.

I believe that such an agency would be productive of the
happiest results. It would do much to overcome prejudice ; the
individual would drop the seed of suggestion upon much good
ground; he would acquire immense practical information.
There are a hundred things which a wise man could do upon
such a tour that we can hardly hope to effect by our publica-
tions. Improvements in fencing, especially in building, could
be pointed out and explained ; the abatement and removal of
absolute nuisances could be judiciously hinted at and enforced
in good natured conversation, and the cultivation of fruit recom-
mended. I know a gentleman who prides himself on having
induced several farmers to get up woodpiles, where formerly
daily fuel was only to be obtained by daily prayer and coaxing
and scolding, on the part of all the women, to all the men in
the establishment.

It is to be deplored, that in many parts of the country the
farm-house makes so little pretension to external beauty, and
that it is destitute of those attractions which are always at the
command of the occupant.

How many abodes do we know that are almost without gar-
dens, and quite without flowers. It is the part of wisdom to
make our habitations the home of as many joys and pleasures
as possible, and there ought to be a thousand sweet attractions
in and around the sacred spot we call our homes.

This feeling is perfectly philosophical. The fragrance of the
rose that is plucked at the door of the cottage, is sweeter in
odour to the poor man, who has assiduously reared it there amid
difficulties and discouragements, than if it were culled from the
" parterre" of the palace ; and the root which he has dug from
his own little garden is more grateful to his palate than if it were
the purchased product of unknown hands ; and this argument,
if it be true when applied to individuals, is equally valid on the
broad principle of nations.

O, we greatly need something more of the sweet and beau-



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tiful about our houses and cottages, that shall make childhood,
youth and age all cry out, " there is no place like home." In
your summer rambles away from the hot city, you go to the
farm-houses of this and other states ; now just think how differ-
ently your memory calls up various houses at which you have
sojourned. You can think of spots like paradise, and there are
others that you recollect, and there are only the capabilities for
improvement and fine opportunities for the hand of industry and
good taste. How well we recall to mind the pretty white cot-
tage, the deep green blinds, the painted trellis, the climbing shrub,
the neat garden fence, the sweetly scented flowers, the entire air
of comfort, and how we long again to enjoy the bliss of quietness
and repose.

I believe a garden spot exerts a salutary influence, not only
in early life, but in the advanced periods of human existence.
" O, how much sweeter is it to me," said Madame De Genlis, " to
recall to my mind the walks and sports of my childhood, than
the pomp and splendour of the palaces I have since inhabited.
All these courts, once so splendid and brilliant, are now faded ;
the projects which were then built with so much confidence are
become chimeras. The impenetrable future has cheated alike
the security of princes and the ambition of courtiers. Ver-
sailles is drooping into ruins. I should look in vain for the ves-
tages of the feeble grandeur I once admired ; but I should find
the banks of the Loire as smiling as ever, the meadows of St.
Aubyn as full of violets and lilies of the valley, and its trees
loftier and fairer. There are no vicissitudes for the eternal
beauties of nature ; and while, amid blood-stained revolutions,
palaces, columns, statues disappear, the simple flowers of nature,
regardless of the storm, grow into beauty, and multiply for ever."

Hannah More felicitated herself through life on her attach-
ment to the garden, and declared to an American friend, that in
her eighty-third year the love of flowers was the only natural
passion left to her which had lost none of its force.

I am unhappy when I see a farm without a garden, and al-
most so in a house without flowers. I believe all who possess
sensibility are fond of plants, and I also believe that at some
period or other of life the predilection will break out. I think



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nature indicates the garden as man's proper place ; for the infant
can hardly walk before he is found planting a flower. Every
boy loves a garden a garden of his own ; every sailor talks
about his garden, and some old sailors can show us rare ones.
Napoleon and Siddons, Washington and Jefferson, in their re-
tirement from life's busy scenes, are found in the garden.

As far as I have noticed, the greatest admirers and most pas-
sionate cultivators of flowers are females and manufacturers.
I was much pleased, at the exhibition in New-Haven last week,
to observe that the choicest fruits and flowers came from the
care of the ladies ; and the manufacturing classes in England and
Scotland, especially in Staffordshire and Lancashire, and vicinity
of Paisley, are enthusiastic florists, and derive much enjoyment
from their gardening societies ; they regard gardening as a relax-
ation. It is not undeserving of a notice on this occasion, that a
mechanic* who labours daily in our city, has agarden in Williams,
burgh, where he can show a finer collection of flowers than is
possessed by most rich men, and his dahlias are now adorning our
agricultural room at the Garden.

" Flowers, of all created things, are the most innocently sim-
ple, and most superbly complex playthings for childhood,
ornaments of the grave, and companions of the cold corpse !
" Flowers, beloved by the wandering idiot, and studied by the
deep thinking man of science ! Flowers, that unceasingly ex-
pand to heaven their grateful, and to man their cheerful looks
partners of human joy, soothers of human sorrow ; fit em-
blems of the victor's triumph, of the young bride's blushes ; wel-
come to the crowded halls, and graceful upon solitary graves !
Flowers are, in the volume of nature, what the expression ' God
is love ' is in revelation. What a desolate place would be a
world without a flower ! It would be a face without a smile,
a feast without a welcome. Are not flowers the stars of the
earth ? And are not stars the flowers of heaven ? One cannot
look closely at the structure of a flower without loving it.
They are the emblems and manifestations of God's love to the
creation ; and they are the means and the ministration of man's

* Mr. Tucker.



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love to his fellow creatures, for they first awaken in his mind a
sense of the beautiful and good. The very inutility of flowers
is their excellence and great beauty, for they lead us to thoughts
of generosity and moral beauty, detached from and superior to
selfishness : so that they are pretty lessons in nature's book of
instruction, teaching man that he liveth not by bread alone, but
that he hath another than animal life."

1 think it will appear to all who have visited our best herds
and seen the state of the English cattle shows, that the time
has arrived when we should breed for ourselves ; and, with our
climate in New-York, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky, so favour-
able for our purpose, and perhaps even for exportation, I
know men who think we may not have to wait one hundred
years to repay favours to our friends in England. Only let us
keep our high blood pure, and bring up judicious selections to
the best pure blood bulls, and breed steadily toward the Durham,
and I expect we shall have cattle that will reflect as much
credit upon their breeders as the milk pots of Col. Jaques, or
the short horns or alloys of Collings. One thing I am quite
satisfied of, and that is, that we have no further need of extensive
importation in short horns. I think their value cannot well be
overrated for milking qualities or for beef. If any are sceptical
on the latter point, I beg their particular attention to a pair of


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Online LibraryJohn Overton ChoulesThe oration on the fourteenth anniversary of the American Institute → online text (page 2 of 3)