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630.6 ES 1840-41
ASAHEL HUNTINGTON, ESQ:
Call E4, 18404, 1856, 1891-90
Mr. President and Gentlemen :
Having again assembled on this twenty second anniversary of our society, and brought up hither the choice and beautiful fruits of the earth, together with the firstlings of our herds and flocks, it becomes us to render the tribute of grateful hearts to the Beneficent Author of all these gifts, who has caused his sun to shine, has given us the early and the latter rain, and has crowned the year with ample and abundant rewards of the labors of the husbandman.
It is no useless or unmeaning pageant that has brought together the farmers of the county on this interesting occasion. Devoted to a high and honorable pursuit—to a most useful, indeed, an indispensable calling, the cultivation and improvement of the earth, from which we all derive our food, raiment and shelter, and to a profession, for the successful prosecution of which, the observation or experience of no single individual, however much aided or enlightened by science, study or reflection, will adequately suffice ; why should not the farmers come together on stated times, to interchange opinions, to compare results and different modes of culture, and to devise the best means of advancing the great and paramount interests with which they are intrusted ? Men engaged in the other departments of industry or business, have their days and occasions
set apart for these purposes, and have found them attended with highly beneficial results. The merchants have their chambers of commerce, boards of trade, and mercantile associations—those engaged in manufacturing and mechanical pursuits have their institutes and societies--the learned professions have similar organizations--and why should not the farmers have theirs also ? If agriculture, the mother of the arts-being coeval and coexistent with the civilization of the race in all past generations—being the primeval trunk of which all other departments of human industry are the branches, and forming the foundation and support of all the great economical interests of society, in its just and true development and expansion, be not worthy of the highest regard of all, and especially of its more immediate ministers and professors, then there is no pursuit or employment in life, which can claim a moment's consideration. Being first in time, and in the natural constitution of things, it is paramount to all in importance. Connecting and blending itself with all the ramifications of human industry, in their endless varieties, by the golden chain of a mutual interest, and imparting to all vitality and strength, from its own inexhaustible resources and fullness, it may justly be deemed the centre and life of the whole. Engaged in a pursuit, eminently adapted to give health to the body, and if prosecuted in a just spirit of inquiry and research, vigor and purity to the mind and moral sentiments, and free from those corroding and anxious cares and embarrassments, which beset most of the avenues in other departments of industry ; and second in intrinsic dignity to none, whether we consider the pursuit itself, or the ends which it seeks to accomplish, well may the farmer, who cultivates his own acres, regard his condition a most fortunate one, and apply and realize in his own experience the sentiment of the great Roman poet, “Oh, too happy farmers ! did
you but know your own blessings.”
But these are general remarks, and however just or true in themselves, have no particular application to the agriculture or yeomanry of this county, and thus tend to no practical results. We live in a district of the State eminently commercial and manufacturing in its pursuits and character. Our soil, as a general fact, is not remarkable for its fertility or productions. Agriculture is not regarded as the chief or main interest of the county, and is very generally held, as a pursuit, in secondary estimation. Trade and commerce, on the one hand, hold out their enticing and splendid rewards, and on the other, manufactures fill the youthful mind, and often the chastened and sobered imagination of manhood with golden dreams, and excited expectations. But if the youthful aspirant for riches or distinction find the avenues in what are deemed the more lucrative pursuits closed against him here, and feels that he is doomed to be a farmer, his imagination kindles at the descriptions of that fairy land, the west, and he determines to seek his fortune in the teeming and fertile soil of the great valley. Of all the mistakes, which an Essex young man can commit, this is the greatest, and oftentimes, the most fatal. In executing this determination, he sacrifices a fortune in the outset. . He gives up his home with all its endearing and hallowed associations, and his New England birthright, which is itself the richest treasure to one who entertains any just notions of the real ends and aims of life. And is it nothing to make such a sacrifice? Is it nothing to surrender this rich inheritance of blessings and enjoyments for the fancied good of a more exuberant soil in the distant prairies of the west ? What if we have a less fertile natural soil, have we not also a far deeper and richer moral soil, laid down and imbedded by the labors and sacrifices of successive generations of a good and glorious ancestry, and producing fruits that gladden and rejoice the hearts of their descendants, giving stability to their purposes and strength to their character, and adorning
and beautifying New England life, with a richness and variety of coloring found in no other portion of this wide earth ? All this harvest, garnered up among our moral treasures, and justly esteemed by her sons, as the precious stones—the real wealth, and the chief attraction to a New England life, is cast away in the outset by the rash and speculating adventurer, who seeks for riches and repose in the valleys of the west. If he would make one half the real sacrifice here in old Essex, which he voluntarily or involuntarily submits to in seeking a new home, he might remain, and work out for himself a competence and independence far more satisfactory and enduring, than any he will find away from the home of his childhood, and the graves of his fathers. I would not affirm that no young man should emigrate to the west. There may be peculiar circumstances, which would render such a step expedient, but I do affirm that young men and others, who have been induced to make this change, have been operated on by inducements mainly or wholly delusive; and if we could have the real and honest opinions and experience of emigrants from this county for the last ten years, I believe I should be fully sustained in this remark. The truth is, we have not yet arrived at that point, at which emigration becomes at all necessary or desirable. The resources of the county, with a proper application of skill and industry, might be made ample
for sustaining four times our present population. The agricultural productions alone might be quadrupled with the greatest benefit and advantage; and I believe the younger members of this society may live to see an increase of production something in this proportion.
If, then, the young Essex farmer wisely determine to build
up his fortunes at home, shall he be allured from the useful and honorable employment in which he has been educated, by the gilded prospects of other, and more gainful pursuits? In other words, shall he risk the certain prospects of a healthful
competence and independence, for the uncertain prospects of large and extraordinary gains ? He may be certain of reasonable success in the pursuits of husbandry, to which he has been trained; he cannot be certain of an equal relative success in the more hazardous pursuits of commerce or manufactures. Why, then, should he change the mode of life to which he has been accustomed? I am not inculcating the sentiment that a young man should never seek other pursuits than those to which he may have been devoted, but that the young Essex farmer has every reason to be satisfied with his condition; and if he own the unincumbered fee of the acres, which he cultivates, he may justly esteem himself a most fortunate man. Compare the present condition of our farmers, in all those particulars which go to make up the comfort and real independence of the man, with that of any other class in the community, or make a similar comparison for the last ten or twenty years, and I am quite sure the farmer will find nothing in such comparison to make him dissatisfied with himself, his employment, or his prospects. Agriculture, then, as a pursuit, if followed with proper enterprise and spirit, is as respectable and honorable in itself, as any other—it is more certain in its returns, and insures competence and independence.
But, however this may be ; whether I am strictly correct in this comparative estimate of the different pursuits, is matter of very little practical importance. I believe the views I have expressed to be sound, and such as will commend themselves to the judgment of all practical and observing men. Still, right or wrong, you have chosen your profession, and upon reasons and grounds satisfactory, it is to be presumed, to your own minds. The point is settled. You are farmers, and have deliberately determined to dedicate yourselves to this mode of life. If any of you, however, are still doubting and hesitating on this point, I would respectfully advise you to come to an immediate determination, for such a state of