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The country has been and is weighed down with a heavy national, State, municipal, and individual debt, held at home and abroad, the interest and principal of which must be paid; business has been, and is, depressed; commerce languishes; confidence is destroyed; almost numberless remedies and suggestions have been proposed to bring relief and restore prosperity, but in the prolonged stagnation, most all have failed and are distrusted.
This resolution is not brought forward as a panacea for all our ills and the only safe road out of our troubles, but it is claimed that for what has been done in the past to bring relief, and for whatever of light and hope there is ahead of us, the country is mainly indebted to agriculture; and if anything can be done to stimulate and better promote this great national interest, the greatest of all, it will not only continue largely to aid in bringing relief and restoring prosperity, but remain a lasting and substantial benefit to the country in the future.
IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURE.
It is impossible to measure, or even estimate, the importance of agriculture to a people. It is the foundation upon which civilization and society rest; the basis and source of the permanent wealth of a nation. No people in history have made substantial progress in civilization, the arts and sciences, and have remained long prosperous, if they neglected agriculture. It is the most universal of all arts, the parent of manufactures and commerce, and the basis of all other industries, and without which all others must decay and perish.
In all countries, its rudest beginnings have marked the first steps in the emancipation of the people from barbarism and their approach to civilization and organized society. This fact is fully established by annually appropriating and expending large sums and sending agents to induce the savage Indian to adopt farming instead of hunting for a living, and when successful much has been accomplished, and the Indian is on the high road to become a good and useful citizen.
Adam was the first agriculturist. We read in Genesis:
"And the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."
In the earliest times the Egyptians were devoted to agricultural pursuits, and Egyptian civilization only took form and shape after her people learned to till the soil.
The Israelites were one of the greatest agricultural nations of antiquity: nearly the whole people were engaged in agriculture; it constituted the chief source of their wealth. Nearly every Israelite was a landowner,
and literally sat "under his own vine and fig tree." Noah was a husbandman. Abraham had flocks. Job, in addition to owning large herds and flocks, had five hundred yoke of oxen, with which he plowed. Isaac was a farmer, and Jacob tended flocks and herds. David was a farmer and also a shepherd.
The Greeks, though possessing a sterile soil, gave great attention to agriculture.
ROME AND AGRICULTURE.
In the early history of Rome the people were thoroughly devoted to agriculture, and were proud of it; it was their chief source of wealth. They were a nation of farmers, and it was during the period they paid the most attention to agriculture that they enjoyed the most substantial progress, prosperity, and success. The state allotted to each citizen a certain parcel of land, and he who was not content to own and till the land was deemed dangerous to the state and to society. One could not hold office unless he was a landowner and a cultivator of the soil; and it is a remarkable fact that the decline of agriculture, more than anything. else, marks the decay and dissolution of the Roman Empire. When her people neglected tilling the soil and tending their herds, and depended upon the neighboring provinces for supplies and food, her glory began to depart.
Cato, distinguished as a general, statesman, and orator, found time to write books upon farming. Cicero, the renowned and eloquent orator, prided himself upon his agricultural attainments. The agricultural literature of Rome was unsurpassed in its time, and is only inferior to that of a few nations to day.
Cincinnatus was a farmer, and after having been chief ruler of his country and one of its great generals, returned to his plow. He was called from thence to save his country a second time, and, having accomplished his high purpose, he returned to it again.
In Spain, under the Saracens, followed by the Moors, agriculture reached a high state of perfection, which has not been surpassed in more modern times. The revenue from it alone amounted to $30,000,000 per annum more than the combined revenue of all the other monarchs of Europe at that time. During the dark ages, when the Goths, Vandals, and other barbarian conquerors overran nearly all Europe, agriculture was not only neglected and abandoned, but it sunk into the lowest condition of contempt. It seemed as if civilization had taken its flight and barbarism was about to claim the world.
WHAT AGRICULTURE HAS ACCOMPLISHED.
About the fourteenth century agriculture revived and the improvement and elevation of the lower and middle classes began, and, with its advance, has gradually gone on all over the world.
Agriculture started England on her high road to prosperity and the commercial supremacy which she has maintained in the world for five hundred years.
Through agriculture a large part of Holland was reclaimed from the sea, and it is now the foundation of her great wealth and prosperity.
The people comprising the great German Empire, one of the most powerful of nations, and respected all over the world, are largely devoted to agriculture and are greatly indebted to it for their wealth and power.
It has been the glory of France and the chief occupation of her people for centuries, and through it, though but a few years ago a conquered people and compelled to pay a war indemnity whose figures are staggering, but which was paid in less time than any other nation ever paid so large an amount, to-day her people are proud, rich, and prosperous.
It is agriculture that gives greatness to Russia, and enables her to contend for supremacy in European affairs and carry on her great wars.
Belgium and Switzerland, though small, owe their prosperity and importance largely to agriculture.
Indeed, all history attests the fact that where a people have devoted themselves to agriculture they have been uniformly prosperous and progressive, while those nations and the people who have abandoned or even neglected it, have declined.
The majority of all people, in all times and ages of the world, from the humblest to the highest, have engaged in agriculture. Presidents, emperors, kings, and nobles have not thought it a condescension to be farmers, but rather an honor and a credit. The greatest names in our history have been those who were practical farmers and devoted to agriculture. We have been from the beginning, and must remain, a nation of farm
WHAT WE OWE TO AMERICAN FARMERS.
From the time of the landing at Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, the American farmers have always constituted the advance guard and the largest part of that grand army of progress and liberty which in its triumphant march in the face of dangers, trials, privations, and the cruelty of the savage, has gradually subdued forests, crossed rivers, and climbed mountains, until civilization, society, churches, schools, and happy homes have been established from ocean to ocean and from the lakes to the Gulf.
The American farmers have laid the foundation of an empire on this continent, destined, largely through their efforts, virtues, industry, courage, and devotion to free government, to surpass in substantial glory, grandeur, wealth, progress, and prosperity all the nations of this world. and the achievements of all history.
Our liberties were conquered and our Constitution made mainly by farmers, and to them in any and every great crisis we must look for the safe-keeping and protection of both.
As a rule the agricultural classes have always been devoted to liberty, peace, and good order, and the friends of established society and the enemies of disorder, wrong, change, violence, and unjust revolution; they constitute the reserve forces of conservatism in all governments, particularly in ours.
The collection of large populations in commercial centers, by depleting the country, has a dangerous tendency. It is in the cities and these great centers that rings, strikes, frauds, trades unions, centralization, and consolidation are born, fostered, and best flourish, while in the agricultural districts the tendency is in the opposite direction.
EMINENT MEN AND AGRICULTURE.
Washington, called from his farm to command the armies of the Revolution, having gained our liberties and started our Government in its grand experiment, against the unanimous entreaties of his countrymen to remain in public life, returned to his farm at Mount Vernon and superintended it until the close of his exemplary and patriotic life, nearly the last act of which was to ride over and inspect his various fields, and give orders concerning the same.
In a letter to Sir John Sinclair, Washington said:
"I know of no pursuit in which more real and important service can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture and its breed of useful animals."
And in his message to Congress he more than once called attention to the great importance of agriculture.
General Jackson, in his fourth annual message to Congress (December, 1832), in speaking of agriculture, says:
"The wealth and strength of a country are its population, and the best part of that population are the cultivators of the soil. Independent farmers are everywhere the basis of society and the true friends of liberty."
Another great mind has said:
"A virtuous and intelligent farmer has attained the highest estate of fallen man." Mr. Jefferson, when not attending to his public duties, spent most of his time upon his estate at Monticello. He said that agriculture was
the highest calling of man, the surest road and safeguard to a nation's prosperity and liberty.
Mr. Webster, perhaps the greatest constitutional lawyer this country ever produced, was fond of agricultural pursuits, and spent all of his leisure time at Marshfield, where his great mind found ample scope and occupation in attending to his farm and stock.
Mr. Clay, that great patriot of the West, who knew no North, South, East, or West, spent much of his time at Ashland, and while there devoted his great talent to farming; and when permitted to retire from public life he returned to his farm.
That able, pure, and great man, Silas Wright, when he retired from public life, went direct to his farm, and gave his personal attention to its management; and the last work of his pen was to write an agricultural address, which he did not live to deliver. It is a proud distinction to agriculture in our country that it numbers among its advocates and followers such names as Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Jackson, Webster, Clay, and Wright.
Napoleon the First said that agriculture was the body and soul of the empire; and, in the height of his glory, he gave the subject much attention and encouragement, and established in France a department of agriculture.
Dr. Johnson remarks that agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.
Prince Albert, a model farmer, said that agriculture was the foundation of the social state.
Gibbon says that agriculture is the foundation of manufactures, since the productions of nature are the materials of art.
THE UNITED STATES AND AGRICULTURE.
The following table presents the number of persons engaged in the different occupations in the United States at the last enumerations: