« AnteriorContinuar »
order, and discovered the use that might be made of the fruit, by pressing out and preserving the juice. The vine was carried by the offspring of Noah into the several countries of the world : but Asia was the first to experience the sweets of this gift ; from whence it was imparted to Europe and Africa. Greece and Italy, which were distinguished in so many other respects, were particularly so by the excellency of their wines. Greece was most celebrated for the wines of Cyprus, Lesbos, and Chio; the former of which is in great esteem at present: though the cultivation of the vine has been generally suppressed in the Turkish dominions. As the Romans were indebted to the Grecians for the arts and sciences, so were they likewise for the improvement of their wines ; the best of which were produced in the country of Capua, and were called the Massick, Calenian, Formian, Cæcuban, and Falernian, so much celebrated by Horace. Domitian passed an edict for destroying all the vines, and that no more should be planted throughout the greatest part of the west; which continued almost two hundred years afterwards when the emperor Probus employed his soldiers in planting vines in Europe, in the same manner as Hannibal had formerly employed his troops in planting olive-trees in Africa. Some of the ancients have endeavoured to prove, that the cultivation of vines is more beneficial than any other kind of hus bandry: but, if this was thought so in the time of Columella, it is very different at present ; nor were all the ancients of his opinion, for several gave the preference to pasture lands.
The breeding of cattle has always been considered as an important part of Agriculture. The riches of Abraham, Laban, and Job, consisted in their flocks and herds. We also find from Latinus in Virgil, and Ulysses in Homer, that the wealth of those princes consisted in cattle. It was likewise the same among the Romans, till the introduction of money, which put a value upon commodities, and established a new kind of barter. Varro has not disdained to give an extensive account of all the beasts that are of any use to the country, either for tillage, breed, carriage, or other conveniencies of man. And Cato, the censor, was of opinion, that the feeding of cattle was the most certain and speedy method of enriching a country.
Luxury, avarice, injustice, violence, and ambition, take up their ordinary residence in populous cities ; while the hard and laborious life of the husbandman will not admit of these vices. The honest Farmer lives in a wise and happy state, which inclines him to justice, temperance, sobriety, sincerity, and every virtue that can dignify human nature. This gave room for the poets to feign, that Astræa, the Goddess of Justice, had her last residence among husbandmen, before she quitted the earth. Hesiod and Virgil have brought the assistance of the Muses in praise of Agriculture. Kings, generals, and philosophers, have not thought it unworthy their birth, rank, and genius, to leave precepts to posterity upon the utility of the husbandman's profession. Hiero, Attalus, and Archelaus, kings of Syracuse, Pergamus, and Cappadocia, have composed books for supporting and augmenting the fertility of their different countries. The Carthaginian general Mago wrote twenty-eight volumes upon this subject; and Cato, the censor, followed his example. Nor have Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle, omitted this article, which makes an essential part of their politicks. And Cicero, speaking of the writings of Xenophon, says, “ How fully and excellently does he, in that book called his Oeconomicks,” set out the advantages of husbandry, and a country life !"
When Britain was subject to the Romans, she annually supplied them with great quantities of corn; and the Isle of Anglesea was then looked upon as the granary for the western provinces : but the Britons, both under the Romans and Saxons, were employed like slaves at the plough. On the intermixture of the Danes and Normans, possessions were better regulated, and the state of vassalage gradually declined, till it was entirely wore off under the reigns of Henry VII. and Edward VI. for they hurt the old nobility by favouring the commons, who grew rich by trade, and purchased estates.
The wines of France, Portugal, and Spain, are now the best; while Italy can only boast of the wine made in Tuscany. The breeding of cattle is now chiefly confined to Denmark and Ireland. The corn of Sicily is still in great esteem, as well as what is produced in the northern countries: but England is the happiest spot in the universe for all the principal kinds of Agriculture, and especially its great produce
The improvement of our landed estates, is the enrichment of the kingdom : for, without this, how could we carry on our manufactures, or prosecute our commerce? We should look upon the English Farmer as the most useful member of society. His arable grounds not only supply his fellow-subjects with all kinds of the best grain, but his industry enables him to export great quantities to other kingdoms, which might otherwise starve; particularly Spain and Portugal: for, in one year, there have been exported 51,520 quarters of barley, 219,781 of malt, 1,920 of oatmeal, 1,329 of rye, and 153,343 of wheat; the bounty on which amounted to 72,433 pounds. What a fund of treasure arises from his pasture lands, which breed such innumerable flocks of sheep, and afford such fine herds of cattle, to feed Britons, and cloath mankind! He rears flax and hemp for the making of linen; while his plantations of apples and hops supply him with generous kinds of liquors.
The land-tax, when at four shillings in the pound, produces 2,000,000 pounds a year. This arises from the labour of the husbandman: it is a great sum : but how greatly is it increased by the means it furnishes for trade? Without the industry of the Farmer, the manufacturer could have no goods to supply the merchant, nor the merchant find any employment for the mariners : trade would be stagnated; riches would be of no advantage to the great; and labour of no service to the poor.
The Romans, as historians all allow,
At my last visit, I took the liberty of mentioning a subject, which, I think, is not considered with attention proportionate to its importance. Nothing can more fully prove the ingratitude of mankind, a crime often charged upon them, and often denied, than the little regard which the disposers of honorary rewards have paid to Agriculture; which is treated as a subject so remote from common life, by all those who do not immediately hold the plough, or give fodder to the ox, that I think there is room to question, whether a great part of mankind has yet been informed that life is sustained by the fruits of the earth. I was once indeed provoked to ask a lady of great eminence for genius, Whether she knew of what bread is made ?
I have already observed, how differently Agriculture was considered by the heroes and wise men of the Roman commonwealth, and shall now only add, that even after the emperours had made great alter
* From the Visitor for March 1756, p. 111