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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, and genius, to leave precepts to posterity upon the utility of the husbandman's profession. Hiero, Attalus, and Archelaus, kings of Syracuse, Pergamus, and Cappadocia, have composed books for supporting and augmenting the fertility of their different countries. The Carthaginian general, Mago, wrote twenty-eight volumes upon this subject; and Cato, the censor, followed his example. Nor have Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle, omitted this article, which makes an essential part of their politicks. And Cicero, speaking
of the writings of Xenophon, says, How fully and excellently does he, in that book called his Economicks, set out the advantages of husbandry, and a country life!"
When Britain was subject to the Romans, she annually supplied them with great quantities of corn; and the isle of Anglesea was then looked upon as the granary for the western provinces; but the Britons, both under the Romans and Saxons, were employed like slaves at the plough. On the intermixture of the Danes and Normans, possessions were better regulated, and the state of vassalage gradually declined, till it was entirely worn off under the reigns of Henry the seventh and Edward the sixth; for they hurt the old nobility by favouring the commons, who grew rich by trade, and purchased estates.
The wines of France, Portugal, and Spain, are now the best; while Italy can only boast of the wine made in Tuscany. The breeding of cattle is now chiefly confined to Denmark and Ireland. The corn of Sicily is still in great esteem, as well as what is produced in the northern countries but England is the happiest spot in the universe for all the principal kinds of agriculture, and especially its great produce of corn.
The improvement of our landed estates is the enrichment of the kingdom; for, without this, how could we carry on our manufactures, or prosecute our commerce? We should look upon the English farmer as the most useful member of society. His arable grounds not only supply his fellow-subjects with all kinds of the best grain, but his industry enables him to export great quantities to other kingdoms, which might otherwise starve; particularly Spain and Portugal; for, in one year, there have been exported 51,520 quarters of barley, 219,781 of malt, 1,920 of oatmeal, 1,329 of rye, and 153,343 of wheat; the bounty on which amounted to 72,433 pounds. What a fund of treasure arises from his pasture lands, which breed such innumerable flocks of sheep, and afford such fine herds of cattle, to feed Britons, and clothe mankind! He rears flax and hemp for the making of linen; while his
plantations of apples and hops supply him with generous kinds of liquors.
The land-tax, when at four shillings in the pound, produces 2,000,000 pounds a year. This arises from the labour of the husbandman: it is a great sum; but how greatly is it increased by the means it furnishes for trade! Without the industry of the farmer, the manufacturer could have no goods to supply the merchant, nor the merchant find any employment for the mariners: trade would be stagnated; riches would be of no advantage to the great; and labour of no service to the poor.
The Romans, as historians all allow,
Sought, in extreme distress, the rural plough;
Io triumphe! for the village swain,
Retired to be a nobleman again.
FURTHER THOUGHTS ON AGRICULTURE".
AT my last visit, I took the liberty of mentioning a subject, which, I think, is not considered with attention proportionate to its importance. Nothing can more fully prove the ingratitude of mankind, a crime often charged upon them, and often denied, than the little regard which the disposers of honorary rewards have paid to agriculture, which is treated as a subject so remote from common life, by all those who do not immediately hold the plough, or give fodder to the ox, that I think there is room to question, whether a great part of mankind has yet been informed that life is sustained by the fruits of the earth. I was once, indeed, provoked to ask a lady of great eminence for genius," Whether she knew of what bread is made?"
I have already observed, how differently agriculture was considered by the heroes and wise men of the Roman commonwealth, and shall now only add, that even after the emperours had made great alteration in the system of
"From the Visiter for March, 1756, p. 111,
life, and taught men to portion out their esteem to other qualities than usefulness, agriculture still maintained its reputation, and was taught by the polite and elegant Celsus among the other arts.
The usefulness of agriculture I have already shown; I shall now, therefore, prove its necessity: and, having before declared, that it produces the chief riches of a nation, I shall proceed to show, that it gives its only riches, the only riches which we can call our own, and of which we need not fear either deprivation or diminution.
Of nations, as of individuals, the first blessing is independence. Neither the man nor the people can be happy to whom any human power can deny the necessaries or conveniencies of life. There is no way of living without the need of foreign assistance, but by the product of our own land, improved by our own labour. Every other
source of plenty is perishable or casual.
Trade and manufactures must be confessed often to enrich countries; and we ourselves are indebted to them for those ships by which we now command the sea from the equator to the poles, and for those sums with which we have shown ourselves able to arm the nations of the north in defence of regions in the western hemisphere. But trade and manufactures, however profitable, must yield to the cultivation of lands in usefulness and dignity.
Commerce, however we may please ourselves with the contrary opinion, is one of the daughters of Fortune, inconstant and deceitful as her mother; she chooses her residence where she is least expected, and shifts her abode when her continuance is, in appearance, most firmly settled. Who can read of the present distresses of the Genoese, whose only choice now remaining is, from what monarch they shall solicit protection? Who can see the Hanseatick towns in ruins, where, perhaps, the inhabitants do not always equal the number of the houses, but he will say to himself, these are the cities, whose trade enabled them once to give laws to the world, to whose merchants princes sent their jewels in pawn, from whose
treasuries armies were paid, and navies supplied? And who can then forbear to consider trade as a weak and uncertain basis of power, and wish to his own country greatness more solid, and felicity more durable?
It is apparent, that every trading nation flourishes, while it can be said to flourish, by the courtesy of others. We cannot compel any people to buy from us, or to sell A thousand accidents may prejudice them in favour of our rivals; the workmen of another nation may labour for less price, or some accidental improvement, or natural advantage, may procure a just preference to their commodities; as experience has shown, that there is no work of the hands, which, at different times, is not best performed in different places.
Traffick, even while it continues, in its state of prosperity, must owe its success to agriculture; the materials of manufacture are the produce of the earth. The wool which we weave into cloth, the wood which is formed into cabinets, the metals which are forged into weapons, are supplied by nature with the help of art. Manufactures, indeed, and profitable manufactures, are sometimes raised from imported materials, but then we are subjected, a second time, to the caprice of our neighbours. The natives of Lombardy might easily resolve to retain their silk at home, and employ workmen of their own to weave it, And this will certainly be done when they grow wise and industrious, when they have sagacity to discern their true interest, and vigour to pursue it.
Mines are generally considered as the great sources of wealth, and superficial observers have thought the possession of great quantities of precious metals the first national happiness. But Europe has long seen, with wonder and contempt, the poverty of Spain, who thought herself exempted from the labour of tilling the ground, by the conquest of Peru, with its veins of silver. Time, however, has taught even this obstinate and haughty nation, that without agriculture they may, indeed, be the transmitters of money, but can never be the possessours. They may dig