This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
You have lately made some remarks on the disadvantages of cities; if I recollect rightly you give the preference to country life. Do you sufficiently reflect that cities concentrate advantages which the country is denied? Can you not as easily mention where cities have the advantage?
I grant you advantages; but must still hold that the natural position of man is the country. There he is a lord, a master, his own master; not the slave of banks, a slavery I hold to be only a little lighter than that in Cuba. In the country, man has an individual character; in cities he is moulded more to the common form of mind; he meets his friend with the same form of dress, and his habit of thought is influenced by conventional rules and his newspaper. I have a theory tod, lately confirmed by an author of merit, that the care of animals has a very civilizing effect; you in cities never even look after your horses; they are consigned to the groom. I might easily pursue the subject, but I have just now to ask your own opinion on the social progress we are making; our cities have received a severe lesson - they have been stabbed in vital points, but such is the tendency to merchandising that probably they will recover from their immediate depression. Surely, the experience of the last year is quite unsatisfactory.
But there is a great element of country life which is sometimes overlooked, climate.
A learned author lays it down as a law that of all the great social improvements, the accumulation of wealth must be the first, because without it there can be neither taste nor leisure or that acquisition of knowledge on which the progress of civilization depends. It is evident that among an entirely ignorant people, the rapidity with which wealth is created, will be solely regulated by the physical peculiarities of their country. At a later period, and when the wealth has been capitalized, other causes come into play; but until this occurs, the progress can only depend on two circumstances: first on the energy and regularity with which labor is conducted, and secondly on the returns made to that labor by the bounty of nature. And these two causes are themselves the result of physical antecedents. The returns made to labor are governed by the fertility of the soil, which is itself regulated partly by the admixture of its chemical components, partly by the extent to which, from rivers or from other natural causes, the soil is irrigated, and partly by the heat and humidity of the atmosphere.
Then you allow no wealth to originate from the manufactories of a country.
I am afraid not a dollar. We may save our money by not exporting it for foreign labor, but evidently there is no increase of wealth if you give me a piece of cotton cloth for the plough of my manufacture.
You get my plough and I get your cloth. The exportation of the cotton cloth and getting money for your labor is another thing, in a national point of view. But let us pursue our topic.
The energy and regularity with which labor is conducted, is much dependent on the influence of climate. This will display itself in two different ways. The first is, that if the heat is intense, men will be indisposed, and in some degree unfitted, for that active industry which in a milder climate they might willingly have exerted.
Ah ! yes. I remember Mr. Squier telling us of the white man he saw in Central America. He found him in a miserable tent rudely made of palm leaves, swinging in a hammock, a bundle of cigars on one side of him and a bunch of bananas on the other, both within reach. " Why don't you plant your ground and raise something for sale," said Mr. Squier. "What is the use," said the sluggard, " when these are* sufficient for my wants." But proceed.
Another consideration is equally important; climate influences labor not only by enervating the laborer or by invigorating him, but also by the effect it produces on the regularity of his habits. Thus we find that no people living in a very northern latitude have ever possessed that steady and unflinching industry for which the inhabitants of temperate regions are remarkable. The reason of this becomes clear when we remember that in the more northern countries the severity of the weather, and, at some seasons, the deficiency of light, render it impossible for the people to continue their usual out-door employments. 'The result is that the working classes being compelled to cease from their ordinary employments, are rendered more prone to desultory habits; the chain of their industry is, as it were, broken, and they lose that impetus which long cultivated and uninterrupted practice never fail to give, and which every one should be careful to preserve.
Most true; here is one of the evils of the stoppage of factories during our late panic. The number of people who have lost their regular industrial habits and have become loungers and drinkers, etc., it would be impossible to estimate.
So powerful is this principle that we may see its operation even under the most opposite circumstances. It would be difficult to conceive a greater difference in government, laws, religion, and manners, than that which distinguishes Sweden and Norway on the. one hand, from Spain and Portugal on the other. But these four countries have one great point in common. In all of them continued agricultural industry is impracticable. In the two southern countries, labor is interrupted by the heat, by the dryness of the weather, and by the consequent state of the soil. In the two northern countries, the same effect is produced by the severity of the winter-and the shortness of the days. The consequence is that these four nations, though so different in other respects, are all remarkable for a certain instability and fickleness of character; presenting a striking contrast to the more regular and settled habits which are established in countries whose climate subjects the working-classes to fewer interruptions, and induces a habit of more constant and unremitting employment.
The topic you open "up is one of great interest, and when we meet again you must extend it. I shall ask you, sometime, whether you think that in what we call the innate and original morals of mankind, there is the advance which so much school teaching, so many books, and so many sermons, would have led us to expect Is man much wiser for the railroad and the telegraph? Are we educating the people to industry or idleness? Is "living by one's wits" more a trade than it used to be? and to conclude with a question more germane to the Horticulturist, where are we to procure gardeners when emigration ceases, unless we establish schools for teaching them in youth?
Very true; we must have experimental gardens, lectures, teaching, and diplomas of qualification issued to those who go through a regular course of drill and study. Gentlemen must bestir themselves.