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“ Then I say, No; I intend him for a farmer.”
“ That is right - it is a noble calling, but one, let me tell you, sir, that'affords no argument against a public education. I am well aware, that it is deemed unnecessary, by the people of the Middle and Northern States, especially, to give liberal educations to any of their sons, except those destined for the learned professions ; but I cannot but consider this a great error, and one whose consequences are seriously felt by the agricultural interest, which, in its various relations, must ever remain the great and leading interest of the country.”
6 How so?”
“Why, the first and direct consequence of the course ] condemn is, that it places nearly all the science, and most of the intellect, of the country in the professions; and from this spring a train of others, all tending to the same point. The business of agriculture is thus left to be conducted by the unscientific and more unthinking portion of community, and its advance in improvement will, of course, be comparatively slow. Grades are thus established in society, in which the farming is made less honorable than professional business, operating as an inducement for all the most enterprising and ambitious to leave the former, already too much neglected, and crowd into the latter, already so much overstocked as to have become the fruitful source of demagogues and sharpers. And besides all this, the farming interest, under the present order of things, will never be efficiently or adequately represented in our legislatures, where those interests will always be best protected and promoted which furnish the most talent to advocate and forward them.”
“ Well, some part of that may be true, sir, especially your notion about too many quitting work to go into the professions, and become idlers and sharpers ; but I really can't see what use high learning is to a man in carrying on the business of farming - can you ?
“ Yes, sir. Even in the mere management of your grounds, a thorough knowledge of the sciences will give you many and great advantages.”
“ What advantages, I should like to know ?”
“ One, and a great one, too, will be that it will show you the true nature and capabilities of the different soils of your farm, which can be accurately known only by a knowledge of chemistry and geology. It was through these sciences that plaster was discovered, and its use in supplying the place of some ingredient which, by the same means, was found to be wanting to make the soil fruitful. You have used this article, perhaps, on your own farm ?”
“Yes, I have ; and if the article came by the sciences, I should be willing, for one, that the sciences should take it away again. A year or two ago, I laid out about a dozen dollars in ground plaster to sow over an old, worn-out piece of bottom land of mine ; and I might have as well sown so much ground moonshine, as for any good it did. Well, the next year, I put a lot on to a heavy, wet piece of land, to see whether it might not help that; and I come out with just about as much benefit as before. In both cases, my money was thrown away.”
“ And yet, sir, that is one of those facts which go strongly to prove what I have said. Without chemical analysis, it can with no certainty be determined what ingredients are lacking in any soil to restore its fertility. The knowledge I contend for would have taught you this, and enabled you to lay out your money where, instead of being thrown away, it would have been doubled. It would have taught you, that alluvial soils, or meadows, are rarely, if ever, benefited by plaster ; lime, potash, salt, or a mixture of some other soil being required, to produce the necessary change. And so with wet, heavy soils, whose defects are better remedied by an addition of peat, loam, or gravel ; while high and dry
soils are generally made productive, to an astonishing degree, by plaster alone.”
“Is that a fact? Well, I never knew it before."
“ Yes, sir; this, and much more of the same character, has already been ascertained, not by practical farmers, but by men of science, who have made these discoveries by only occasionally turning their attention to the subject. And if so much has been done by those who made it not their main object and business, what might not be effected by a whole community of educated farmers, whose whole energies and interests were devoted to the work of improvement? Indeed, sir, I seriously believe, that if our legislatures would establish a fund for the liberal education of young farmers, with the condition that they should remain such, they would do a thousand times more towards promoting and elevating the great interest of agriculture, to say nothing of the general benefits which would follow would do a thousand times more than by all the premiums they could offer for best products, or all the societies they could establish.”
“Well, I confess, sir, that your ideas, which are new to me, look kinder reasonable. But what is the reason all these things cannot be learned in our common schools ? We have them in all our districts, both summer and winter, and generally keep our children in them more than half of the year, from the ages of four to twenty."
“ Perhaps most of the sciences might be acquired in our common schools, if they were conducted properly, and by teachers of adequate qualifications. But as at present managed, and with the low wages now given, it is next to a miracle to find a teacher thus qualified. Now, for instance, as regards your son here, I very much doubt whether you will ever have a teacher in your district, who will be able to instruct him much more, especially in those higher branches which he is now evidently capable of entering upon with
profit to himself. No, sir, you should send him to the public schools. It will give him advantages in life, which he can never otherwise obtain. Knowledge is power.”
Well, sir, if knowledge is power, as in some respects it probably is, it is often used, I fear, by those who have it, to take advantage of the weak and honest laboring people, who don't happen to be so well educated.”
“ Such advantages may be, and sometimes doubtless are, taken by some, who have knowledge without moral principle. But the proportion of unprincipled men among the well educated, I am satisfied, is much smaller than among an equal number of almost any class of society. Allowing, however, the proportion to be the same, or greater, how would you
disarm them of that power ? In no other way, certainly, than by placing the same weapons of knowledge in the hands of the many, instead of the few. I am no advocate for power to be used in the manner you mention. I am no advocate for the doctrine,
That those who think, must govern those who toil.'
I believe, sir, as I have been endeavoring to show, that those who think and those who toil should be one and the same class; and, as I have already intimated, I believe this desirable object can never be effected, without affording the means of a more general and thorough education.” During the foregoing dialogue between Mr. Amsden and
who stood over the kettle of boiling sugar, occasionally dipping into it with their slender wooden spoons or paddles, to sip the pure liquid, or the less cloying sweet of the snowy scum continually gathering in concentric and surgy lines around the point of ebulition, - Locke stood like one spell-bound to the spot, eagerly drinking in the words and opinions of the courteous stranger, who had so eloquently expressed the feelings of his own breast, and given a definite
shape to many a confused idea of a similar bearing, which had often risen in his own mind. His heart, swelling with irrepressible emotions, gratefully responded to every sentiment he had heard ; and he felt as if he could have fallen down and worshipped, as a superior being, the man who had uttered them. He had often before, as just intimated, harbored thoughts, feelings, and wishes like those of the stranger; yet they had been vague and uncertain, and he never dared cherish them as practicable for himself, or indulge in any expectation of their fulfilment. But now the train, which had long been preparing in his bosom, was fired never more to be extinguished.
By this time, the now slowly boiling sugar had settled low in the kettle, and assumed that deep, orange hue, which indicates a near approach to that point at which granulation takes place almost as soon as the mass ceases boiling.
“Come, Locke," said Mr. Amsden, raising aloft his skimmer, from which each falling drop was followed by a fine, silken harl, that stiffened and shivered in the breeze; “ come, it throws off the hairs pretty smartly, I see; we may as well call it done, I think. You may bring," he continued, lifting off the kettle, “ you may bring me a clean pail to take it home in. And hav ’nt you a tin cup or something, Locke, into which you can take some by itself to carry to the gentleman’s little girl ? - it might please her better.”
“We have nothing fit for that, here, father, I beliere,” replied the boy. “But stay - I made something the other day that will do, I think ; and I will give it to her, sugar and all, to carry off with her, if she will accept it.”
So saying, he ran into the shantee, and returned with a small, neatly-made, oblong box, holding, perhaps, about a pint, which he had chiseled and cut out from a solid billet of the beautiful bird's-eye maple, having provided it with a curiously carved slide-cover, and tastefully stained the whole