Page images

ness stretches out before the eye,) broken only by the stately mansions and grounds of the nobility and gentry, and surrounded

"By hedge-row elms on hillocks green,
Right against the eastern gate,
Where the great sun begins his state
Robed in flames and amber light,
The clouds in thousand liveries dight,
While the ploughman near at hand
Whistles o'er the furrowed land,
And the milkmaid singeth blithe,
And the mower whets his scythe,
And every shepherd tells his tale,
Under the hawthorn in the dale."

It cannot be denied that other countries are also far behind the English in the quality of the stock, the blood and strength of their horses and cattle, and even dogs, owing, doubtless, to the extraordinary pains taken in breeding. The horses which one may daily see in the Regent's Park, would excite the emulation of our most accomplished gentlemen of the turf, and the display of fat sheep at Smithfield would almost startle the good people of Brighton.

The United States, in the immense magnitude and fertility of their domain, embracing a great variety of soil and climate, and affording growth to the products of the colder as well as tropical regions, afford a wide and rich field for agricultural science. The freedom of our government, the cheapness of the soil, the abolition of the laws of primogeniture and the statutes of distribution, which one of our most distinguished jurists' has declared are the only just agrarian laws, furnish ample means and motives to agricultural labour. We have no unjust impoposition of taxes, like those which limit a portion of the hardworking labourers of Ireland to three potatoes a day. Here, a man with common industry, may keep himself a freeman upon his own soil, and far from want, with nothing above him but "God and the laws."

The Indians, before the emigration of our forefathers, practised agriculture, but it was limited with them to small corn fields which they cultivated in their migratory expeditions through the wilderness. It seems to be essential to the progress of agricultural industry, that the rights of meum and tuum should be clearly defined, and that the husbandman should possess an absolute or qualified property in the soil. To this fact may be attributed the want of success which attended the agricultural labours of our ancestors. That they acquired a subsistence from the earth there can be no doubt, but it could hardly

1 Mr. Justice Story.

[ocr errors]

be expected, that a colony flying from persecution and establishing itself in dense forests could make any very marked advances in this art. The colonists had not the implements of husbandry, or the leisure necessary for its cultivation. Their time was occupied in laying the foundations of a new social system, and in repelling the attacks of the savages. The most approved modes of practice had not then been completely developed, and the utensils of the art had not been invented in those commodious forms which have so much facilitated agricultural labour in our own day. Obstacles to the success of the art were subsequently presented in the outbreaking of the American revolution. The disasters springing from that event, which were felt throughout every section of the country, called upon the people to exercise the arts of war, rather than those of peace, and they were therefore compelled to strap their muskets upon their backs while they were guiding the plough. When, however, the storm of the revolution blew over, the energies of the people quietly sank down into the right channels, and since that period the business of husbandry has been gradually advancing in this country.

The aid of science to the arts, which may be deemed a prominent characteristic of the present age, is no where more strongly exhibited than in the progress of husbandry. Chemistry, botany, geology, even natural philosophy, have all contributed to this work. The composition of the different species of soil, and their capacity for producing the different kinds of vegetation, may be easily ascertained by chemical analysis. To understand rightly the proper food of plants, the varieties of vegetables necessary to be raised for the amelioration of the soil, and also the different kinds of manures and composts adapted to the several kinds of land, requires a minute philosophical investigation. The soil is frequently barren in a great degree, and there is no mode of ascertaining the causes but by chemical tests. If, for example, the salts of iron are discovered in the soil, they may be decomposed by lime; or if there is an excess of siliceous sand, this may be remedied by the application of calcareous matter; if of vegetable matter, by liming and burning; or if there is a deficiency in this respect, it may be supplied by manure. In fact, the whole structure of organic matter is dependent upon physical laws, and it is only by ascertaining its chemical constitution that we can act upon it agriculturally with full success.

The advantages of agricultural chemistry are, moreover, demonstrated in the right practice of the rotation of crops. The benefit of this practice consists in keeping the soil always in strength, and at the same time in drawing from it all the profit which is practicable. It is well known that different plants

produce different effects upon the soil, some tending to rob it of its strength, and others, to act gently upon it; some to loosen, and others to bind. Hence it is necessary to good husbandry, that a careful examination should be made into the chemical combination of the different plants, and this is the only mode in which crops can be properly alternated. A merely theoretic agriculturist, doubtless, would be unable to cultivate the soil with full success, but the farmer, it is obvious, would practise husbandry with far greater advantage if he could combine a knowledge of the principles of the science with an experimental practice of the art. The design, and the only design of agricultural chemistry, is to discover improved modes of cultivation. This may be done most effectually, by experimenting upon those elements which constitute the soil, and upon those causes which produce the growth of vegetation. The soil, as well as the vegetation which it produces, contains a number of chemical constituents, which have been accurately analysed, and it is through the agency of the unerring principles of science, that a knowledge of the causes of its barrenness can be obtained, and also the proper means of its fertilization.

On this foundation has been erected the work of Sir Humphrey Davy, whose title we have prefixed to this article. The course of lectures on Agricultural Chemistry was delivered during ten successive years from 1802, before the British Board of Agriculture. The work was published at their request, and dedicated to that body. We have before us the London edition, issued in 1814, but the volume has been reprinted in this country, and is already embodied into the agricultural literature of our republic. It embraces eight lectures, with an appendix, containing "an account of the results of experiments on the produce and nutritive qualities of different grasses, and other plants used as the food of animals, instituted by John, Duke of Bedford." These lectures embrace all that may be supposed connected with the application of chemistry to agriculture. The most prominent subjects treated of in the work are, "the general powers of matter which influence vegetables;" the constitution of soils; the nature of the atmosphere, and its influence upon vegetables; animal, vegetable, and mineral manures; and the chemical effect of the different modes of improving lands. These lectures are written in a clear and vigorous style, and we possess an ample voucher for the accuracy of the facts and principles they embody, in the reputation of their author as the first chemist of his age. Our limits forbid us from entering into an exhibition of the valuable facts contained in this volume, but we commend it to all the reading classes of the community, as it embraces knowledge of great importance to the man of science, the theoretical agriculturist, and the practical farmer.

We subjoin the following remarks from the introductionwhich contains a syllabus of the course-exhibiting the phenomena of vegetation:

"The phenomena of vegetation must be considered as an important branch of the science of organized nature; but, although exalted above inorganic matter, vegetables are yet, in a great measure, dependent for their existence upon its laws. They receive their nourishment from the external elements; they assimilate it by means of peculiar organs; and it is by examining their physical and chemical constitution, and the substances and powers which act upon them, and the modifications which they undergo, that the scientific principles of agricultural chemistry are obtained.

"According to these ideas, it is evident that the study ought to be commenced by some general enquiries into the composition and nature of material bodies, and the laws of their changes. The surface of the earth, the atmosphere, and the water deposited from it, must either together or separately afford all the principles concerned in vegetation, and it is only by examining the chemical nature of these principles that we are capable of discovering what is the food of plants, and the manner in which this food is supplied and prepared for their nourishment. The principles of the constitution of bodies, consequently, will form the first subject for our consideration.

"By methods of analysis, depending upon chemical and electrical instruments discovered in late times, it has been ascertained that all the varieties of material substances may be resolved into a comparatively small number of bodies, which, as they are not capable of being decompounded, are considered, in the present state of chemical knowledge, as elements. The bodies incapable of decomposition, at present known, are forty-seven. Of these, thirty-eight are metals, six are inflammable bodies, and three substances which unite with metals and inflammable bodies, and form, with them, acids, alkalies, earths, or other analogous compounds. The chemical elements, acted upon by attractive powers, combine in different aggregates. In their simple combinations, they produce various crystalline substances, distinguished by the regularity of their forms. In more complicated arrangements, they constitute the varieties of vegetable and animal substances, bear the higher character of organization, and are rendered subservient to the purposes of life. And by the influence of heat, light, and electrical powers, there is a constant series of changes; matter assumes new forms, the destruction of one order of beings tends to the conservation of another, solution and consolidation, decay and renovation, are connected, and whilst the parts of the system continue in a state of fluctuation and change, the order and harmony of the whole remain unalterable." pp. 7—9.

Sir Humphrey, in the same part of his works, superadds some valuable remarks concerning the organization of plants; the effect of air, earth, and water, in producing their different natures, the philosophy of fallowing and irrigation, and also the character of manures, and their chemical effect upon the soil.

The aid of science has not only been exerted in advancing the best modes of tillage, but also in conjunction with the mechanic arts, it has led to the invention of new, and the improvement of old instruments of husbandry. The plough, the harrow, and many utensils of less consequence, have been gradually

advancing from the rough model of the original inventor, to the finished and commodious instruments now in use, which have vastly augmented the profits and lightened the labour of agricultural industry.

But notwithstanding science has very materially aided the progress of agriculture, it is, after all, mainly owing to the strict observation of practical results, that the most solid advantages have been obtained. For this object, the experience of practical farmers is invaluable. By comparing the results of their practice, general facts have been established. To furnish an organ for the collation of these facts, societies have been formed, and agricultural journals have been published, in almost every state of the Union. It is only within the last ten or twelve years, however, that the public mind has been awakened to an effective impulse in the cause of husbandry, as well as the other branches of national industry. Among the most prominent societies which have been established in this country for that object is the American Institute, the title of whose Journal we have placed at the head of this paper. That society was organized about eight years ago in the city of New York, "for the promotion of agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and the arts." Its design is to arouse and concentrate the public mind upon a great American system of domestic industry. It is founded on the fact, that the United States possesses within its boundaries all the means of national comfort and strength, without a necessity of dependence for any thing upon foreign markets; and that all which is required for the development of the resources which are spread around us, is active, intelligent, vigorous industry. The American Institute, in accordance with its charter, holds its stated periodical meetings, annual addresses are delivered before the society, fairs are held, contributions made of valuable facts, new discoveries, improvements, or inventions in the arts; and premiums are awarded to the most approved articles of domestic manufacture. The Journal of the Institute, which we regard as a valuable compendium, professes to give, in monthly numbers, a record of the transactions of the society. It is also in contemplation by the Institute, to establish, in connection with a library, a repository in the city of New York, which shall be a general receptacle of models in the arts-we mean those models which have been recently invented. Whoever visited the patent office at Washington, before its destruction, could not fail to be surprised at the amazing activity of the American mind in new inventions, or to be convinced that an institution like that which we have last mentioned, would be desirable in the commercial metropolis of the country. The vast advantages of a society like the American Institute must be manifest to everybody. It concentrates public VOL. XXI.-No. 41.


« PreviousContinue »