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engagements, for the last few weeks, have prevented me from making what little preparation might otherwise have been within my power.
But having been bred a farmer and having from long observation and study become deeply impressed with the wants and importance of the profession, I could not forego the opportunity of presenting a few thoughts to so large and influential a body of my fellow citizens, as are present on this occasion.
The topic which I have selected for your considera tion, is, the means by which constant progress and permanent improvement in Agriculture may be secured. The subject is an extensive one; it includes a wide field; embracing nearly every topic which would be pertinent to present on an occasion like the present.
The history of this society shows that it has been and is an important means of progress and perfection in the art; and were you to disband it to-day, you could not destroy the influence which it would exert through all coming time.
The Agricultural and Geological surveys, which tend to develope our resources, Agricultural publications, the experiments of practical farmers and the efforts of scientific men, are all important means of progress in the art*
But I must confine myself to a single view; to a view, however, which I deem fundamental to the complete success of all other means of further progress, and perfection in the art.
I am not ignorant of the fact, that our agriculture has advanced rapidly within the last twenty years; perhaps tripling the productions of the soil. I would not lightly value the means by which its progress has been promoted. I would be slow in adopting those which experience has not proved to be successful. But yet, it must be
*It is evident that many influences are calculated to advance the art, which when withheld tend upon the whole to retard rather than to secure its progress. The state may offer premiums in such a way, as to produce a temporary advancement, which, when withheld, or when they become such that efforts for successful competition are not adequately rewarded, the progress will be ajvarent but not permanent.
evident to all, that Agriculture has not kept pace with most other arts. It has not derived that aid from scientific discovery and mechanical invention which has been secured in almost every other department of human industry. Why is agriculture, the oldest as well as the foundation of all other arts, so slow in its progress ? Why must each generation of farmers go through the same experiments, without being able to profit by those of their predecessors, or to make but slow advances upon what their fathers have done before them? In other words, why has not agriculture as an art, advanced as rapidly as other arts? And why have not the efforts to improve and perfect it, been as successful as those which have been directed to the same end, in other departments of human industry? Is not the true answer to these inquiries to be found in the fact that those means which have been deemed indispensable in other arts have not been resorted to, to the same extent, in this? We have employed means which never have produced and never can produce the results at which we aim. They do not strike deep enough to furnish a permanent basis upon which the art may be built up and cemented together in one complete and symmetrical whole.
I remark then, in the first place, that in order to secure constant progress and permanent improvement in Agriculture, it must be based on scientific principles. Agriculture must be cultivated not only as an art, but as a science. I need not stop here to show that with a few honorable exceptions, the art is practised merely as an art. That the great majority of farmers are unable to give an intelligible reason for the modes of culture which they adopt. For the fact is notorious, that, they are not only ignorant of the changes which take place in the process of vegetation and of those conditions which are requisite for the highest development of the vital power in the production of their crops, but that many of them do not know the nature of a single ingredient of their soil. In fact, the idea of "Book Farming” has been in many places a subject of ridicule. As if the recorded experiments and generalizations of scien
tific men and practical farmers, conducted under every variety of soil and climate, were not only useless, but just subjects of contempt; or as if an accurate knowledge of the laws of reproduction in the animal and vegetable kingdoms could be of no possible use to those whose whole success in their profession must be in proportion to their strict conformity to those laws.
It must be confessed, however, that there is much discrepancy among scientific men, on many of the theories which pertain to the subject. Many of the principles do not seem to be well settled, and there is some ground for the prejudice which I have noticed. But this fact does not invalidate the position which we have assumed. So far as Agriculture is not yet capable of being based on scientific truth, so far its progress must be retarded and we must direct our efforts to the establishment of those principles which are yet in doubt.
But there are many principles well settled. The great majority of truths which are applicable to the subject are well established. It is true that they are not well collected and arranged; they are scattered and need classification; but then enough is known to give direction and permanency to the modes of culture in all their prominent features, and if generally understood and applied, to increase in a rapid ratio the productions of the soil.
Mineralogy and Geology furnish us with many important principles relating to the origin and composition of soils. Chemistry teaches us how to improve them, as well as explains to us the changes which take place in the processes of vegetation, and hence points out those conditions which are requisite for the most perfect growth and maturity of vegetables. It also instructs us in the best modes of preserving the various vegetable and animal productions, and enables us to understand their properties and uses.
Botany makes us acquainted with the structure and habits of various species of plants, and aids us in determining what soils to select and what mode of treatment will be crowned with the most certain success.
Zoology opens her vast storehouse of facts and principles, and developes those laws by which the reproduction of animals is regulated, and their highest perfection attained.
Mechanical Philosophy may also afford essential aid, and further, the great number of experiments which have been tried by scientific men (and practical farmers) to test the truth of the principles thus developed, render it certain that we have a broad basis on which the art
Let the principles derived from Natural Science be applied to Agriculture as they have been to other arts, and we shall soon see it moving forward with the same rapidity. We shall soon attain to similar perfection, and secure a permanency in the acquisitions that are made, which all other means combined can never effect.
The absolute necessity of basing the whole art of Agriculture on the principles of science, may be shown from the nature of the case, the analogy of other arts, and the history of Agriculture itself.
From the nature of the employment, its permanent success must depend upon a knowledge of those rational laws by which it is governed. The conditions of success are too many and too difficult of apprehension, to be discovered anew by each generation of farmers. It requires constant attention to a great variety of circumstances; and that attention must be given not only from year to year and with regard to each kind of crop, but observations must constantly be made to adapt the mode of treatment to the exigencies of the case. nent progress can be secured, unless its principles are classified, its experiments recorded, and the accumulated experience of many observers so arranged, as to become attainable by one. Strange as the assertion may appear, it is doubtless true, that few arts can be practised with more doubtful success by those who are unacquainted with the scientific principles upon which they are based, than Agriculture. Scientific farming bears the same relation to that which is not, that history does to tradition; that the recorded events of civilized
life, to the mythologies of the savage state; the clear and steady light which shines from the printed page, to the dim shadows which come to us from popular rumor. Why should not Agriculture require the aid of science, to secure its permanent progress, as well as the chemical and mechanical arts? I am aware that the arts precede the sciences, and that some arts have attained a high degree of perfection, long before their principles were reduced to system; but generally, there is a certain degree of perfection only attained; and although the results may be equal in beauty and perfection to those which art enlightened by science produces, still, there is a vast difference in the economy and facility by which the results are brought about.
The general fact is, that science is the offspring of the arts in the first instance, but the child soon becomes the parent of a numerous progeny. It is often the secret, unseen agent which directs the artisan and leads to eminence and perfection in the art.
Mere art unenlightened by science, might construct edifices of the most perfect symmetry, with sufficient time and labor; or make the living form start out of rock, by a kind of instinct; but it can never construct steamboats, cotton or woollen factories. The beautiful fabrics which come from our manufactories did not receive their various coloring and finish by some fortunate but unscientific blunderer; the modern arts of bleaching and dyeing are not the results of a few experiments carelessly conducted by some successful compounder of logwood and alum. No, the chemical arts have reached their present degree of perection by oft-repeated and accurate experiments, and a careful comparison of a great variety of phenomena, and the application of principles derived from several of the sciences. In fact, all our large manufactories employ a professed chemist, whose whole energies are employed in investigating and applying the principles of science to the progress and perfection of these arts.
When you witness the almost miraculous effects of steam in its various applications; when you stand for example on some promontory of the sea and observe its