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AMERICAN QUARTERLY REVIEW.
ART. I.-1. Journal of the American Institute, a Monthly
Publication, devoted to the Interests of Agriculture, Commerce, Manufactures, and the Arts; accompanied with public documents, sketches of natural history, and, occasionally, philosophical and literary essays. Edited by a Committee,
Members of the Institute. Vol. I. New York: 1836. 2. The New England Farmer and Gardener's Journal ; con
taining essays, original and selected, relating to agriculture and domestic economy, with the prices of country
produce. By THOMAS G. FESSENDEN. Boston: 1837. 3. Elements of Agricultural Chemistry, in a Course of Lec
tures for the Board of Agriculture. By Sir HUMPHREY Davy, LL. D. London: 1814.
Agriculture, in its broadest sense, may be defined the cultivation of the earth; and it is probably the most ancient of all the arts. Adam was sent forth to till the ground, and that was the condition of his existence. The precise date and measure of agricultural improvement, which existed during the different early ages of the world, cannot be accurately determined, from a want of historical records. The Chaldeans, the Phænicians, Egyptians, Persians, Athenians, and Romans, it is well known, practised agriculture with considerable success, and encouraged it among their people as an honourable employment : and the learned treatises upon the subject, which were written during the continuance of the Grecian and Roman rule, comprising the works of such men as Hesiod, Xenophon, Cato, Columella, Virgil, and Varro, almost rival in bulk the " many camel loads" of the Justinian age of the law. Who has not heard of Cincinnatus returning to his plough, after restoring the liberties of his country; or of Regulus, who requested to be recalled from Africa lest his farm might suffer from his absence; or of the VOL. XXI.--NO. 41.
ancient Persian kings, who annually threw off their diadem, that they might eat with the husbandmen! The senators of Rome employed the intervals of their public duties in the cares of husbandry. The veneration for this employment was carried so far by the Egyptians, that they worshipped as gods certain products of the soil, and those animals which were used in tillage.
We shall present a condensed sketch of the early history of Agriculture, though the question may be asked, Why, in this age of printing, when the world can scarcely contain the books which are written, we discuss a matter so dry and uninteresting? We enter but a single plea of justification,—the importance of the subject.
Agriculture was successfully exercised among the most civilized portions of the earth, until the reign of the Emperor Claudius, when it fell into neglect. The northern barbarians, who, after the reign of Constantine, overran Europe, cultivated by slaves only a small portion of the land near their habitations, and were content to roam over the vast deserts which their ravages had made, without any settled habits of industry. It is clear that, among these people, husbandry could receive but little attention. In 1478, an attempt was made to revive it, through the publication of a work in Florence by Crescenzio. The precise period in which agriculture was introduced into Britain is not known, although Julius Cæsar has alleged that it was practised by some of the colonists from Gaul who had settled in the southern part, about one hundred years before the Roman invasion. Great improvements were brought about in this art, however, by the establishment of the Romans in that country, and it sunk only with the declension of the other arts. Vast inroads were made by the Picts and Scots upon the
general prosperity of the Britons; and on the arrival of the Saxons, in 449, the disastrous wars which followed actually drove the Britons from the fields which they had cultivated into barren regions. But although the Britons had lost, in a great measure, the science of agriculture, they encouraged it by their laws, which provided certain privileges in favour of those who should cultivate the soil.
The Anglo-Saxons, upon their accession to Britain, imbibed a contempt for agriculture, and enacted by law that it should be followed only by women and slaves. These haughty warriors were, however, soon obliged to pursue the art, when the Britons, whom they had before plundered of their subsistence, were driven from the kingdom. The Saxon princes divided their domains into two parts, the inlands and outlands. The former were generally contiguous to the mansion of the proprietor, and were cultivated by his slaves for domestic purposes :
the latter were more remote from the proprietary mansion, and were rented to the ceorls or farmers. In order to show the low state of agriculture at that time, we may state that the common price of an acre of fertile soil was about four English shillings, and in the year 1043, a quarter of wheat sold at about fifteen shillings, which was equal to seven or eight pounds sterling at the present time. A new era in agriculture was, however, introduced by the invasion of the Normans in 1066, and by the introduction of husbandmen from France, Flanders, and Normandy, who purchased and cultivated farms.
Previously to the fifteenth century, agriculture had received but little aid from scientific research, but in the latter part of that period it had assumed the form of a compact and permanent science. At that time it derived important assistance from Fitzherbert, who wrote two treatises upon the subject. One was entitled the “Book of Husbandry," and appeared in 1534. The other was called the “ Book of Surveying and Improvements,” and was published in 1539. Fitzherbert seems to have studied the character of soils, and the laws of vegetation, with considerable industry, and his works abound with much elementary knowledge, but they are of course destitute of that philosophical accuracy which is founded upon the inductive method of Bacon, afterwards established.
During the year 1600, France made extraordinary efforts to bring the art of husbandry into vogue, and for that object several important works were published ; but the practice of agriculture was more regarded by that nation, as well as the Flemings, than the mere publication of books, so that a knowledge of their principles could only be obtained by observation. In England, during the civil wars, husbandry received some temporary checks, but in the time of Hartlib it had grown to great perfection. The country gentlemen, who had been impoverished by these wars, became industrious, but they soon sank into idleness, and the whole business of agriculture gradually fell into the hands of the common farmers. Ireland was induced, by the writings of Blyth, to give up a wretched mode of agricultural practice which had long prevailed, and to adopt a more improved system, and as evidence of the fact, the transactions of the Dublin society for encouraging husbandry are cited as authority upon this subject. After the peace of Aix la Chapelle, the nations of Europe applied themselves with uncommon vigour to the science of agriculture, and societies were regularly organized for the promotion of this object, under the patronage of their several governments. In the year 1756, increased attention was given to the subject in France, and prize questions were annually proposed by the rural academies, particularly those of Lyons and Bordeaux. Russia has also made vigorous exertions to introduce into that country the most improved method of agriculture, through the patronage of the state, and it has been taught publicly in the Swedish, Danish, and German Universities. Italy, Tuscany, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Japan, and China, have also bestowed marked attention upon the subject.
Notwithstanding the rapid advances which have been made in modern times in agricultural science, there is no doubt that Great Britain is far before the rest of the world in its practical application. Societies, with powerful influence, such as the Bath Society, the Royal Society, and the Society of Arts, have given their agency in aid of its progress. This forwardness on the part of Great Britain is doubtless owing somewhat to the genius of the people, but more, perhaps, to the general spirit of improvement which pervades that empire, and to the denseness of the population which makes it the great alternative to starvation. A modern writer upon “the progress and present state of agriculture,” enters into an argument to show the advance of husbandry in England and Wales, by a computation of the increase of population in those countries, and the consequent increase of agricultural products necessary for their support. He traces the augmentation of agricultural industry to various causes. In the first place, vast tracts of land have for many years been used as wastes, commons, and cominon fields, the former of which have been altogether uncultivated. These fields were sometimes ploughed, but the property in them was so intermixed and divided that this was done to very little effect. It is estimated that from the year 1760 to 1832, about six millions of acres of land have been enclosed by act of parliament, and that in this mode the produce of the soil has been increased from eight to ten fold. Another cause of agricultural improvement in these countries, is the fact of the substitution of green crops for fallow, and the introduction of fallow between successive corn crops, as well as the use of bone manure, and the better rotation of crops. This improvement throughout Great Britain has been extended to stock, as well as to arable husbandry, and this is demonstrated by the fact, that the average weight of cattle and sheep throughout the kingdom has been doubled since the year 1750. The high state of agriculture in England is a prominent feature which strikes the attention of the traveller to that country. Almost every section of earth seems to be devoted to this object, and the natural humidity of the climate keeps the vegetation at all times verdant. In fact, the soil is generally too moist and low for cultivation without the use of furrowing and draining. The country is divided into comparatively small fields, (unlike the mighty solitudes which the American wilder