MR. COLMAN, in his Agricultural Tour,* remarks, that his observations abroad convinced him that the Americans are the most extravagant people in the world; and the truth of the remark is corroborated by the experience of every sensible traveller that returns from Europe. The much greater facility of getting money here, makes us more regardless of system in its expenditure; and the income of many an estate abroad, amounting to twenty thousand dollars, is expended with an exactness, and nicety of calculation, that would astonish persons in this country, who have only an income of twenty hundred dollars. Abroad, it is the study of those who have, how to save; or, in the case of spending, how to get the most for their money. At home, it seems to be the desire of every body to get - and, having obtained wealth, to expend it in the most lavish and careless manner.
There are, again, many who wish to be economical in their disbursements, but find, in a country where labor is one of the dearest of commodities, *¡ that every thing which is attained by the expenditure of labor, costs so much more than they had supposed, that moderate "improvements"
* Original date of May, 1849.
* This and several other references to Mr. Colman's "Agricultural Tour" show that Mr. Downing was deeply impressed. Rev. Henry Col-man of Massachusetts, after making extended agricultural surveys in this country, visited Europe (1843) and wrote extensively of his travels and observations. Besides several volumes of letters he published two volumes of "European Agriculture and Rural Economy," in Boston (1846-48). - F. A. W.
*¡ At the time this was written, fairly good farm labor generally received $15 a month "and board." A high price for agricultural labor was $1 a day, often working "from sun-up to sun-down." - F. A. W.
- as we call all kinds of building and gardening in this country - in a short time consume a handsome competence.
The fact, that in no country is labor better paid for than in ours, is one that has much to do with the success and progress of the country itself. Where the day laborer is so poorly paid, that he must, of necessity, always be a day laborer, it follows, inevitably, that the condition of the largest number of human beings in the state must remain nearly stationary. On the other hand, in a community where the industrious, prudent, and intelligent day laborer can certainly rise to a more independent position, it is equally evident that the improvement of national character, and the increase of wealth, must go on rapidly together.
But, just in proportion to the ease with which men accumulate wealth, will they desire to spend it; and, in spending it, to obtain the utmost satisfaction which it can produce. Among the most rational modes of doing this, in the country, are building and gardening; and hence, every year, we find a greater number of our citizens endeavoring to realize the pleasures of country life.
Now building is sufficiently cheap with us. A man may build a comfortable cottage for a few hundred dollars, which abroad would cost a few thousands. But the moment he touches a spade to the ground, to plant a tree, or to level a hillock, that moment his farm is taxed three or four times as heavily as in Europe; and as he builds in a year, but "gardens" all his life, it is evident that his out-of-door expenses must be systematized, or economized, or he will find his income greatly the loser by it. Many a citizen, who has settled in the country with the greatest enthusiasm, has gone back to town in disgust at the unsuspected cost of country pleasures.
And yet, there are ways in which economy and satisfactory results may be combined in country life. There are always two ways of arriving at a result; and, in some cases, that mode least usually pursued is the better and more satisfactory one.
The price of the cheapest labor in the country generally, averages 80 cents to $1 per day. Now we have no wish whatever to lower the price of labor; we would rather feel that, by and by, we could afford to pay even more. But we wish either to avoid unnecessary expenditure for labor in producing a certain result, or to arrive at some mode of insuring that the dollar a day, paid for labor, shall be fairly and well earned.
Four-fifths of all the gardening labor performed in the eastern and middle states is performed by Irish emigrants.* Always accustomed to something of oppression on the part of landlords and employers, in their own country, it is not surprising that their old habits stick close to them here; and as a class, they require far more watching to get a fair day's labor from them than many of our own people. On the other hand, there is no workman who is more stimulated by the consciousness of working on his own account than an Irishman. He will work stoutly and faithfully, from early to late, to accomplish a job of his own seeking, or which he has fairly contracted for, and accomplish it in a third less time than if working by the day.
The deduction which experienced employers in the country draw from this, is, never to employ "rough hands," or persons whose ability and steadiness have not been well proved, by the day or month, but always by contract, piece or job. The saving to the employer is large; and the laborer, while he gets fairly paid, is induced, by a feeling of greater independence, or to sustain his own credit, to labor faithfully and without wasting the time of his employer.