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LADIES AND GexTLEMEN,
Agriculture (the history of which I have selected to address, you on this evening), is an occupation which may justly be ennobled with the title of * " the parent of most of the numerous subdivisions of employment which call forth the industry of civilised man, or elicit the skilful application of inventive genius,” the foundation and groundwork of manufactures, “ since the productions of nature are the materials of art,” the laborious exertions of the Agriculturist supply those useful commodities which relieve the demands of our natural exigencies, gratify those calls which are collateral and adventitious, and indulge those desires which ideas of comfort have created, as well as those generated by luxury.
It is from the connexion which exists between this useful art, and many of the highest branches of mechanical science, by which its various operations are assisted and expedited, as well as by which its products are with wonderfully greater facility than hy ordinary means reduced from the raw material and rendered available to suit the wants and wishes of mankind, that the subject of Agriculture appeared to me well calculated for a lecture before this institution : and while I lamented my want of practical acquaintance with the subject as it relates to this country, I consoled myself with the hope that, were I to deliver a brief outline of the History of the Art, with occasional deductions in the course of it, I might meet the indulgence of the members, and perhaps have the good fortune to draw the attention of some one present to instruct the community on this most useful of arts at some future period, with a lecture more deserving of your
The investigation of this subject naturally leads us to the contemplation of man, in the unsophisticated state of primeval simplicity. His desires limited to the gratification of the cravings of nature, his wants few, his wishes simple, his enjoyments partaking rather of a passive than active character, his early history would present us with little to afford either interest or instruction, were it not that within his mortal frame was lodged a particle of that divine spirit which released him from communion with the beasts of the field; established his undisputed sovereignty over them; stimulated him to efforts which developed the inexhaustable resources of his fertile imagination, and finally, elevated him to that glorious eminence from which he can look downwards with satisfaction on creation as subservient to his will and conducive to his happiness, and upwards to his Creator with lowly aspirations of thanksgiving and praise.
* Gibbon's Decline and Fall, wha; vi.
It is to present the astonishing contrast between man in his original condition.
- When first in woods the noble savage ran,” and in the advanced state of refinement to which he has arrived, that I have ventured to commence at so early a period, and also, because it will enable me to show that Agriculture is entitled to respect, as having first aroused the human intellect to declare itself, and as having encouraged man to apply lis abilities to the accomplishment of other purposes, which gradually led to the achievement of such enterprises in discovery and invention as render him in reality “the greatest wonder of nature.”
Following then the records of creation given in the Bible, we are furnished with distinct evidence that one of the objects which the Deity had in contemplation in forming man was, that he should apply himself to the cultivation of the earth ; for we find *“ These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God created the earth, and the heavens; And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.” Here, you observe, before it pleased the Creator to express an intention of supplying a population for the world which had issued fresh from the mould of his Almighty fiat, the employment of the man who was to be created, is expressly designated.
And as the earth had not at that period received the anathema “ Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shall eat the herb of the field ; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” still a duty is by anticipation imposed on man, wisely and kindly imposed ; ; that a moderate proportion of labor should regulate his health, stimulate his appetite, impart a relish for his food, ensure refreshing slumber, and rescue him from that, listless state of inactivity consequent on a total absence of employment.
* Gen. c. ii., v. 1, 5. + Gione ju, 1.8, 18 and 19
It having been decreed that man was to enjoy the pre-eminence over other animals, and to walk forth amidst the domains of nature as “lord of the creation,” the structure of his frame and the peculiar adaptation of the limbs and members of his body, are admirably calculated to enable him, under the guidance of superior intellect, to derive means of subsistence from the labour of his hands, to reduce several of the brute creation to a state of obedience to his will in furtherance of it, and thus to render him independent of the precarious and uncertain modes of existence afforded by the chase, or of relying on the gratuitous productions of the earth. The latter peaceful and tranquil mode of supporting life seems, however, to have been preferred to the former by our first parents. Placed in a garden, abounding with every variety of fruit-bearing trees, they preferred the quiet task of preparing for their daily meal by selecting the ripest and most inviting of the productions around them. To them, while a supply of food was abundantly afforded by the liberal hand of nature, a course of toilsome labor was unnecessary ; and we may suppose that the primitive cultivator was called on for little more than to protect those choice trees which supplied him spontaneously, to restrain their luxuriance, or to foster their growth.
In fact, the offices of the first man are particularly mentioned, when we read that *“ the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it.” This simple duty, while in a state of innocence, is with infinite grace described by Milton ; where, after pouring forth their orisons,
“ More tumcable than needed lute or harp.
To add more sveetness.”
“On to their morning's rural work they haste
Among sweet dews and flowers; where any row
“ His barren leaves." + It may not be out of place to observe, that the exact situation of the Garden of Eden has not been decided on, although its topographical features are so clearly defined in the Bible ; and the
* Gen. II. v. 15. + Paradise Lost, lib. v. 1. 211,
commentators adhering to the circumstance of there being a river parted into four heads, have assigned to it various geographical positions.
Sir Walter Raleigh, in his History of the World, (principally composed during his long imprisonment in the tower, from 1603 to 1618), has collected the authorities and enumerated the several sites, as handed down by remote traditionary testimony, or selected by the speculation of antiquarians.
The neighbourhood of Mount Ararat, and different districts of Mesopotamia, Persia and Arabia, have each, in their turn, been fixed upon; and, while the fertility of the soil, the serenity of the climate, and the abundance of fruit-bearing trees, have induced some to place it in the vicinity of Damascus ; the Mahomedan asserts that Paradise was in the Isle of Topobrana or Serendib, our Ceylon; the Indian, on the other hand, has liberally allowed a fifth river to water the Garden, and placed it in the Punjaub.
Müller again has supposed that the cradle of the human race seems to be that place where bread corn, the universal food of mankind (as he assumes it to be), in indigenous; and he quotes * Theophrastus, the eloquent disciple of Aristotle, who says that barley grows wild in the high lands behind the Caspian Sea.
A pupil of Linæus, he also adds, in his travels to collect materials and specimens for that great naturalist, coroborates this testimony ; but, he says that he also found corn growing wild in Bashkiria, Kashmere, and Thibet, and, that in the north of China, it grows many years without sowing or tillage.
But, in adducing instances of so many countries in which corn is indigenous, Müller appears to have proved too much; and to have perplexed rather than established his position : nor,
unless we suppose the grain to have been eaten raw, or perhaps parched, do I lean to the opinion that man, in the earliest generations, advanced to such ingenuity as to be acquainted with the mode of
* Theophrastus was a native of Eresus, in Lesbos : his original name was Tyrtamus. Aristotle made him change it to Euphrastus, and afterwards to Theophrastus, to denote his excellent choice of language. When the disciples of Aristotle were anxious to ascertain which of them he wished to be his successor, aud entreated him shortly before his death to appoint one whom they should follow, he was perplexed, and found a difficulty whether to name Theophrastus or Eudemus, or Menedemus of Rhodes. After some hesitation, he called for Lesbian and Rhodian wine, and having tasted each, he said “ both are indeed excellent, but I prefer the Lesbian.”
They concluded from this expression, that his leaning was in favour of Theophrastus.