( Originally Published 1879 )
AGRICULTURE is the greatest among the arts, for it is first in supplying our necessities. It is the mother, and nurse of all other arts. It favors and strengthens population; it creates and maintains manufactures, gives employment to navigation and materials to commerce. It animates every species of industry, and opens to nations the surest channels of opulence. It is also the strongest bond of well regulated society, the surest basis of internal peace, the natural associate of good morals.
We ought to count among the benefits of agriculture the charm which the practice of it communicates to a country life. That charm which has made the country, in our own view, the retreat of the hero, the asylum of the sage, and the temple of the historic muse. The strong desire, the longing after the. country, with which we find the bulk of mankind to be. penetrated, points to it as the chosen abode of sublunary bliss. The sweet occupations of culture, with her varied products and attendant enjoyments are, at least, a relief from the stifling atmosphere of the city, the monotony of sub-divided employments, the anxious uncertainty of commerce, the vexations of ambition so often disappointed, of self love so often mortified, of factitious pleasures and unsubstantial vanities.
Health, the first and best of all the blessings of life, is preserved and fortified by the practice of agriculture. That state of well-being which we feel ' and cannot define; that self-satisfied disposition which depends, perhaps, on the perfect equilibrium and easy play of vital forces, turns the slightest acts to pleasure, and makes every exertion of our faculties a source of enjoyment; this inestimable state of our bodily functions is most vigorous in the country, and if lost elsewhere, it is in the country we expect to recover it.
" In ancient times, the sacred plow employ'd
We deplore the disposition of young men to get away from their farm homes to our large cities, where they are subject to difficulties and temptations, which, but too often, they fail to overcome.
Depend upon it, if you would hold your sons and brothers back from roaming away into the perilous centers, you must steadily make three attempts—to abate the taskwork of farming, to raise maximum crops and profits, and to surround your work with the exhilaration of intellectual progress. You must elevate the whole spirit of your vocation for your vocation's sake, till no other can outstrip it in what most adorns and strengthens a civilized state.
We have long observed, and with unfeigned regret, the growing tendency of young men and lads, yet early in their teens, to abandon the healthful and ennobling cares of the farm for the dangerous excitements and vicissitudes of city life and trade. Delightful firesides and friendly circles in the quiet rural districts are every day sacrificed to this lamentable mania of the times. Young men, favored with every comfort of life, and not overworked, fancy that they may do far better than "to guide the ox or turn the stubborn glebe;" and with the merest trifle of consideration their hands are withdrawn from the implements of agriculture and given to the office or shop-work of the city, which generally proves vastly less agreeable or profitable than they had (in their inexcusable thoughtlessness) anticipated. Disappointed and chagrined, they faint under the advance of
" Nimble mischance, that comes so swift of foot,"
and where one is enabled to withstand the sweeping tide of temptation, five are submerged in its angry waves and hurried on to ruin. Every year finds hundreds, ay, thousands, of such victims, irrecoverably allied to the fallen and vicious of every class, from the smooth-tongued parlor gambler and rake, to the more degraded, if not more despicable, "Bowery Boy" and "Dead Rabbit," while the prison doors, and worse, the gates of hell, close on many "lost ones" who had been saved but for the foolish desertion of home and true friends. It has been well said that "for a young man of unstable habits and without religious principles, there is no place where he will be so soon ruined as in a large city"
Parents throughout the country have not failed to realize this startling truth, and to sorely mourn the strange inclination of their sons to encounter the fascinating snares and pitfalls of city residence and fashion. In brief, let the country lad be as well educated for the farm as his city cousin is for the bar, or the counting. room. And by all possible means let the farmer be led to properly estimate his high and honorable position in the community " Ever remember," writes Goldthwait, " that for health and substantial wealth, for rare opportunities for self-improvement, for long life and real Independence, farming is the best business in the world." History tells of one who was called from the plow to the palace, from the farm to the forum; and when he had silenced the angry tumults of a State resumed again the quiet duties of a husbandman. Of whose resting-place did Halleck write these beautiful. lines?
" Such graves as his are pilgrim-shrines,
It was Burns, the plow-boy, afterward the national bard of Scotland. And Burns himself has left evidence that he composed some of the rarest gems of his poetry while engaged in rural pursuits.
It would require volumes to enumerate the noble men. who have imperishably recorded their exalted appreciation of rural life and enterprise. Every age has augmented the illustrious number. Our own immortal Washington was ever more enamored of the sickle-than the sword, and unhesitatingly pronounced agriculture "the most healthy, the most useful, and the most noble employment of man."
When we walk abroad in nature, we go not as artists, to study her scenes, but as her children to rejoice in her beauty. The breath of the air, the blue of the un-clouded sky, the shining sun, and the green softness of the unflowered turf beneath our feet, are all that we-require to make us feel that we are transported into a region of delights. We breathe and tread in a pure-untroubled world, and the fresh clear delight that breathes round our senses, seems to bathe our spirits in the innocence of nature. It is not that we have prized a solitude which secludes us from the world of life; but the aspects on which we look breathe a spirit ; the characters we read speak a language which, mysterious and obscurely intelligible as they are, draw us on with an eager and undefined desire. In shapes and sounds of fear; in naked crags, gulfs, precipices, torrents that have rage without beauty, desolate places; there is to that temper of mind and attractive power. All speak in some way to the spirit, and raise up in it new and hidden emotion, which, even when mingled with pain, it is glad to feel; for such emotion makes discovery to it of its own nature, and the interest it feels so strongly springs up from and returns into itself.
Of all occupations, that of agriculture is best calculated to induce love of country, and rivet it firmly on the heart. No profession is more honorable, none as conducive to health, peace, tranquillity, and happiness. More independent than any other calling, it is calculated to produce an innate love of liberty. The farmer stands upon a lofty eminence, and looks upon the bustle of cities, the intricacies of mechanism, the din of commerce, and brain confusing, body killing literature, with feelings of personal freedom, peculiarly his own. He delights in the prosperity of the city as his market place, acknowledges the usefulness of the mechanic, admires the enterprise of the commercial man, and rejoices in the benefits ,that flow from the untiring investigations and developments of science; then turns his thoughts to the pristine quiet of his agrarian do-main, and covets not the fame that accumulates around the other professions.