Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

guano, a thousand miles, to recuperate the land from which such matters were extracted. So soon as the light of science is let in upon the popular mind in cities, villages, and rural districts, all will see that the pestilence of towns is the offspring of ignorance. Remove the deplora

. ble ignorance that now darkens the human understanding in reference to the true sources of three-fourths of the diseases which afflict society, and they will be prevented by wise and timely sanitary regulations. Every acre of the twelve million acres under cultivation in the State of New York really needs five dollars' worth of manure a year. Here is a demand for sixty million dollars' worth of commercial manure in a single State. Why, then, should the rotting of vegetable and animal substances in the numerous cities and villages of that commonwealth be permitted to breed pestilence in a thousand forms? Thirty-odd persons died in two or three days in Rochester in the summer of 1852, from cholera, generated from rotting cabbages and codfish in the cellars of a small block of provision stores. Sixty years ago, when New York was subject to the yellow fever, Dr. Samuel Mitchell wrote the letter from which the following is an extract: [It should be stated that Dr. Mitchell was secretary of the first agricultural society established in New York in 1791, and that he is treating of the importance of azote or “septon” (now called nitrogen) as a constituent of agricultural plants.] “ American municipalities had rather offer a yearly sacrifice of hundreds of citizens to the demon of pestilence than make the most easy and obvious of all public provision for washing away such pollution. I have often thought the sixth labor of a great deity of antiquity very applicable to the considerable towns in the United States, which may be considered as so many Augean stables, requiring the waters of a river to be poured through in order to cleanse them.” Again, he

says: “Neatness and elegance are thus found to be as con. ducive to good health as to good husbandry. On considering the matter it appears that the effluvia from the neighborhood of dirty cottages and mean huts, in the country, are of a like nature with the pestilential fumes which insinuate themselves into foul and unventilated tenements in cities; and the reason is apparent: wherefore, as penury is generally associated with ignorance and nastiness, and often with indolence, these distempers rage with such tremendous violence among the poor.

“When I see a farmer permit such unwholesome substances to collect around his habitation, I cannot help reflecting on the danger which awaits him. The manure, which ought to have been carried away

and spread over his lots, serves, as it lies, but to make his family sickly, to disable his laborers, and lead him to the dubious and expensive routine of physic; and as in common life, as well as in logic, one blunder leads to another, the want of crops, and the consequent failure of income, drive him to mortgages, judgments, and executions—those fatal expedients of the law.

“ In like manner do I lament the indiscretion of tenants contending in our cities which of them shall obtain, at a high rent from the distant landlord, a pestilential stand for business! With the view of bettering themselves they venture, at all hazards, amidst the poisonous exhalations of the neighborhood. By and by they are visited with distempers; and as they are honest and sober citizens, having no uneasy consciences to reproach them for their sins, they piously consider the infliction as a monition from Heaven to try their virtue. Their sense of constancy and firmness forbids them to fly from the scourge of the Lord; and thus they religiously stick to the infected spot! What is the true interpretation of such conduct, but that both the farmer and the trader, obstinately persisting in the means of self-destruction, are guilty of a sort of suicide?

"It is a fact long ago established, that great cities are the graves of the human species. It is a truth of almost equal importance, that the foul habitations of country people are nurseries of pestilential distem

a

pers."

In vain have medical men preached the above doctrines for threefourths of a century. Habits stronger than a love of life prompt the citizens of this free land to persist in desolating the earth, and accumulate the elements of pollution, sickness, and premature death in all American cities. To remedy the evil, something more must be done than has ever yet been attempted. Municipal, State, and national legis. lation must initiate the needful reforms, or no reforms will ever be realized. Three years ago, when the writer took charge of the agricultural department of the Patent Office, he begged permission to expend two hundred dollars in experiments designed to ascertain the best way to deodorize and concentrate night soil, that it might be put up in bags and sent far into the country for agricultural purposes; but not a dollar could be had. To expend $100,000 in printing, binding, and distributing through the mails, a book on agriculture, and at the same time refuse two hundred dollars for the most valuable information within our reach, to put into the book, seems like being penny wise and pound foolish.

The Royal Agricultural Society of England has offered a premium of a thousand pounds for the discovery of a manure equal to guano in strength, that can be manufactured and sold in large quantities, at five pounds, or twenty-five dollars, a ton. This liberal bounty shows that The subject is yet in the dark in England, and that the science of ma. nures is deemed worthy of critical research and study. If it be so there, how much more so in this country, where the fruits of agriculture are not consumed near the fields that produce them, but exported by mil. lions of tons, in cotton, sugar, tobacco, corn, wheat, rice, and provisions? Irrespective of all crops, a year's tillage injures the soil in the United States, and especially in the planting States, at least twice as much as it does in Great Britain. When the plough, hoe, and cultivator stir the vegetable mould in cotton culture nine or ten months in twelve, the mould is largely consumed, just as the organic elements of a manure heap are rapidly wasted away by the frequent turning and stirring of the mass while exposed, as all tilled lands are, to alternate rains and sunshine. Twice the quantity of rain falls in the southern States in the course of a year that falls in England, and it falls in one-third the time. It is not so much the atoms removed in crops, as those washed out in solution, or suspended in water as fine mud, that impoverishes the arated fields of the planting States. Southern agriculture is not at all understood out of the States where it is practised, nor is it so closely studied in those States as it ought to be. Agricultural meteorology and engineering deserve far more attention, not only at the South, but in every part of the country, than they now receive.

The farms in the United States contain over 300,000,000 acres, on every square foot of which there falls an average of 200 pounds of water, or more, per annum. Wisely husbanded, this immense quantity of rain

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

water may render the farmers and gardeners a vastly greater service than it now does. Skilful engineering has yet to be applied to American agriculture, with a view to make the most of steam power, water, fuel, earth, rocks, air, sunshine, and vegetable and animal vitality. Never was there opened up a field so inviting and boundless for the successful employment of capital, learning, labor, talent, and genius. We have a continent for the basis of agricultural operations, embracing climates, and physiological and material resources, equal to the wants of a thousand millions of prosperous and happy people.

With such unlimited wealth, it is painful to contemplate the fact, that we so misapply our physical and intellectual energies as needlessly to impoverish the land in every State and Territory of the republic. Tennessee contains 28,160,000 acres, of which, according to the census of 1850, only 5,175,173 are “improved land." These figures show that there is a wide range for stock in that State, outside of improvements as well as on them; and, consequently, that we may expect to find a large increase of neat cattle in the Commonwealth from 1840 to 1850. So far, however, is this from being true, that, like New York, Tennessee is forced by the exhaustion of her soil to keep fewer cattle in 1850 than she did in 1840. At the latter period the State returned 822,851 head. In 1850 the number was reduced to 750,765. Decrease in ten years, 72,086.

The people of Tennessee have been engaged fifty years in exporting the few available atoms which a beneficent Providence placed in the surface of their lands, in the shape of grain, tobacco, live stock, and provisions. Probably not one hundred tons of manure of any kind were ever imported into the State to balance the account with the soil. Hence its constant deterioration was inevitable.

Kentucky contains more acres of improved land than any other State except New York, and more than twice as many as Tennessee. It is a remarkably fine grazing and corn-growing State, having a great deal of naturally rich limestone land. Acres under improvement in 1850, 11,368,270. Number in the State, 24,115,200. Acres of unimproved land, 10,972,478. These figures are interesting, as showing that more than nine-tenths of the whole area of Kentucky are covered by farms. There are embraced in improved and unimproved land, 22,340,748 acres of the 24,115,200 in the State. Fertile as much of the soil of Kentucky naturally is, it is unable to endure without serious detriment the American system of tillage and husbandry. Instead of increasing their neat stock with the increase of acres subdued for pasturage and tillage, the number decreased from 1840 to 1850, 33,786. In 1840 it was 787,098, and in 1850, 753,312.

Horses and mules are largely reared in Kentucky for exportation to the cotton and sugar-growing States; and one might suppose that, instead of rearing neat cattle, mules and horses had taken their place. Such, however, is not the fact. In 1840 there were 395,853 horses and mules in the State; in 1850, 381,291. Decrease in ten years, 14,562.

While the owners of the land in Kentucky are enriching all who are engaged in trade, inland and foreign commerce, by unprecedented draughts on the soil, they forget that their own children and grandchildren must suffer an almost

irreparable injury by their folly. An intelligent wheat-grower in Wisconsin writes to the agricultural

department, that lands which have been cultivated only twelve years in that newly-settled State now yield but half the number of bushels per acre which was obtained at the beginning. Other farmers equally en. titled to our confidence corroborate this important information. Extensive corn-growers in Indiana say that river bottoms that once produced from sixty to eighty bushels of corn per acre now yield only from thirty to forty. It is much to be regretted that the census of 1850 did not give the number of acres devoted to the production of each of the great staples, as a means of instructive comparison hereafter. If there were not room in the blank schedules without extending them too far, then the almost vacant column that contains the few pounds of hops grown in the great cotton-producing States, would have sufficed to set down the number of acres planted in cotton in every county, district, and parish at the South. It would have been infinitely better to remain ignorant of the pounds of beeswax made in the United States, if need be, than of the number of acres cultivated to produce 592,141,230 bushels of corn.

suggestions are made not in a spirit of fault-finding, but solely with a view to encourage State legislatures to do more than they yet have for obtaining reliable agricultural statistics. The writer drew up the bill and schedules for taking the agricultural part of the census of New York in 1845, and he has labored many years to persuade both statesmen and the masses that something more ought to be done for agriculture than has yet been attempted in this country. The public interest demands that reliable statistics be obtained in reference to what the soils of the several States really possess of the indispensable ele. ments of crops, which are available for agricultural purposes. If this were done, it would doubtless be found that some lands have a surplus and others a deficiency; and that by removing the surplus elements of fertility from exceedingly deep and rich soils to such as are comparatively thin and unproductive, the latter may be greatly and permanently improved without sensible injury to the former.

In the Report from this department in 1850, we endeavored to call pub. lic altention to the advantages of a critical study of soils, for it is believed that their positive resources have been sadly neglected and are not gen. erally understood. Our agricultural statistics and practice are alike imperfect and deceptive, and nothing but appropriate legislation by Congress and State legislatures can save the farming lands of this continent from being made poorer than the poorest old field in any State at the present time. Ten million laborers will soon be at work under our equally progressive and destructive policy in the production of crops, whose elements will be wasted in cities and villages. Before the close of the present century, this country will doubtless contain one hundred million inhabitants; and as we educate the children who are to bear rule twenty-five and perhaps fifty years hence, so they will act either to improve or desolate the farming lands of the republic.

If agricultural sciences are never taught in the United States and never properly studied, how is it possible for them to be understood ? Without qualified teachers, without text books, without agricultural schools or agricultural statistics worthy of the name, and without popu. lar sympathy, how is a change to be effected for the better? Thirty years ago we thought that agricultural education would soon be popu

[ocr errors]

lar; now we believe that one or two generations must live and die before we shall fairly begin to investigate the true principles of farm economy. If four-fifths of the elements of fertility contained in the residue of the food consumed by the twenty-five millions of people in the United States were restored to the land, the gain to the latter beyond what it now receives would be equal to one hundred million dol. lars a year.

That the health of all cities, and sound farm economy, alike demand such restitution of all fecal matters, is denied by no one. But so long as indefinite millions of acres of rich virgin lands, over which no plough has ever passed, are accessible to all, few will incur the expense of making adequate restitution to the soil as a duty. Hence the science of tillage and husbandry will long be neglected on this continent, while the inventions and advancement of rural arts will continue, and enrich the present generation and one or two succeding ones, by creating a barren territory for all that may come after them.

Population in cities will continue to increase twice as fast as it does in farming districts, simply because the treasures of the land will be transferred to commercial and manufacturing towns, there to be consumed and wasted. American statesmanship has adopted a system of political economy which renders full and perfect restitution to the soil impossible so long it shall prevail. This statesmanship, which ignores the very existence of agricultural science, and repudiates all its teachings, costs the country three hundred million dollars a year by the needless destruction of its agricultural resources. All power seeks to perpetuate itself, and therefore it is not to be expected that the systematic study of agriculture will be encouraged during the last half of the present century. If the best informed men in the country will do nothing to foster agricultural science, it is folly to pretend that men less informed will do any better in that behalf. So long as American statesmen shall lack both foresight and forethought in all that relates to the planting, farming, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the United States, the soil on which their interests rest for their enduring support will lose all, and gain nothing but desolation. If it were possible to persuade State legis. latures to give a true statistical account every year of the number of acres under tillage, and in meadows and pasturage, and the products of each, additional evidence would be furnished corroborating every statement which we have made respecting the ceaseless drain upon one hundred million acres in this republic.

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »