August 24, 1839
THE COLORED AMERICAN
New York, New York
Mr. Harris: - I have already hazarded the opinion, that farmers even in their present neglected state possess a greater amount of useful knowledge than any other class of the community. I also believe that their knowledge is very limited compared with what it might be if they understood and appreciated that they already posses, and improved advantages for acquiring more. For I am entirely settled in the opinion that their advantages for acquiring useful knowledge, are superior to those of any other class, and much superior to those of the professed scholar.
For acquiring a knowledge for natural science, a farm is one of the best schools, it is perhaps the best school which can be provided. Chemistry, natural philosophy, botany, entomology, geology, mineralogy, physiology, geometry, and some other departments of mathematics, are all brought to view upon a farm and not in abstract theory merely, but in their practical operations, upon a large scale.
While the farm is a laboratory and a cabinet of nature, where the laws and products of science are constantly and beautifully developed, every operator must necessarily form some acquaintance with those laws and products, and an acquaintance too more familiar and more thorough, because more practical, [ ] can be acquired by the mere student of books.
The intercourse of farmers with the other classes of society, gives them an opportunity and an acquaintance with man, and the reciprocal interests of men of different pursuits, which the mere student can never form by reading, let it be ever so extensive or various [ ] these reciprocal interests are founded on the necessity of governments and laws to promote and protect those interests. Consequently a farm, and the business of farming, furnishing as they do the very best school for practical acquaintance with men and things are well calculated to produce more enlightened and sounder statesmen than can be produced by confinement within the walls of a college or the shelves of a library, however long that confinement may be, or however studiously devoted.
The winter evenings of farmers are admirably fitted for enlarging by reading and for arranging under general laws, or bringing into operations upon their farms. For comparing their own views and experiments, with those of other farmers, as given in various agricultural journals, one of which certainly ought to be taken by every man who conducts a farm.
The benefit of farmers' winter evenings will be greatly increased by social meetings of some dozen or twenty in the same neighborhood, once or twice a week. These farmers' "Social Lyceums," have sometimes resulted in the course of a winter, in a volume or two of notes, taken from the remarks and statements, made in the form of conversation on the subjects previously selected for the occasion. By the aid of chemical and philosophical apparatus, and specimens of minerals, soils, vegetables, insects, &c., which may be procured at a slight expense, especially when the "Farmers' Lyceum" is a department of a town or village society, a great variety of experiments and observations may be made, which could not fail to benefit every individual who should engage in them both as farmers and an enlightened citizen.
Besides the winter evenings and social lyceums of farmers, they may without difficulty, during the summer even in their greatest pressure of business, find time to read a weekly or monthly journal like the "Genesee Farmer." By Mr. Tucker; the "Cultivator," by Judge Buel; or the "Farmers' Monthly Visitor," by Governor Hill. They may also try a great variety of experiments without cost or inconvenience, which have sometimes, at their social lyceums, been distributed and assigned to their respective members, for their special attention to be reported upon the succeeding winter.
The business of the farmer presents fewer temptations to dishonesty than any other profession.
They are consequently as there is reason to believe more honest as a body than any other class. They are also favorably situated for devotional feelings and exercises, and with them, for the study of the Bible that inexhaustible fountain of knowledge and wisdom.
These views and facts, with many others which might be presented, if time and the occasion permitted, will probably be sufficient to satisfy any candid mind that farmers have peculiar facilities for acquiring extensive and sound knowledge, and for becoming enlightened citizens, and consistent Christians. Their inducements for becoming truly scientific and intelligent, are certainly not inferior to their facilities for such acquisitions. There is perhaps no department of natural science, which the farmer has not frequented and almost on daily occasion applied in his business. Geology and mineralogy teach him the nature of his soil, with the proper materials and modes of improving it. Chemistry teaches the best modes and applications of manure, preparing soils, preserving his hay, roots and other vegetables, and preparing food for man and beast. Botany teaches the laws of vegetation, the properties of plants, both for cultivation and to be eradicated from his farm, changing and improving his seed, the rotation of crops, &c. Entomology acquaints the farmer with some of his most powerful enemies the cutworm, the wheat fly, the canker worm, the grass hopper, the rose bug, the moth, the weevil, and many other insects which he has occasion to destroy or to avoid their ravages. Natural philosophy teaches the proper construction and the best application of the plough, the scythe, the hoe, the wagon, the harness for the horse and ox, and every agricultural implement which can be named. Geometry teaches the construction of building, the fencing and dividing of his farm, the measuring of wood, timber and stone, the construction of drains, the digging of wells and cisterns, and many more less but important operations which he has occasion to perform.
If I am not mistaken, no men, or class of men have so many facilities, or so many inducements, for an extensive and familiar acquaintance with science and various departments of useful knowledge as farmers.
But I must close for the present, with the high esteem of your friend.
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