Obrázky stránek



of employing such a thing as bones, even for the manuring of his worn-out wheat-lands.

I returned from Lachine, by the way of the valleyapparently an old channel of the St Lawrence, or of the Ottawa-along which the ship-canal and the railway have been conducted. There is rich flat meadow-land in the bottom of the valley, only partially drained; and some tracts of rich alluvial soil, dry enough to be submitted to arable culture, and productive of excellent crops. The upland, also, is generally of good quality, and well-cultivated farms are not unfrequent. On one of these I met with a warm and kind reception from Mr Evans, the Secretary of the Lower Canada Agricultural Society, editor of their Journal and Transactions, and the author of a valuable treatise on agriculture, adapted to the climate and productions of Canada. Both on this and on subsequent occasions, I was indebted to the kindness and attention of Mr Evans, and was obliged to him for much valuable information.

Sept. 25.-Among other persons whom it gave me pleasure to visit this morning was M. Morin, President of the Legislative Assembly, and of the Lower Canada Agricultural Society; and M. Villeneuve, Principal of the Roman Catholic college. Both of these gentlemen expressed a strong desire to promote the introduction of a better system of practical agriculture among the inhabitants of Lower Canada; and no other kind of instruction-I may say, from all I afterwards saw, no other gift which can be bestowed upon this people-seems likely to be productive of more material good to the province.

Looking at the relation which an established clergy bears to the agriculture of a country, in one of the aspects in which it naturally presents itself, it would appear as if no class of men ought to be more anxious to promote agricultural improvement, to remove obstacles out of its way, and to diffuse that kind of knowledge by which



it is to be most rapidly advanced. Entitled in most countries to a certain fixed share of the produce of the land, the larger that produce can be made, the greater the revenue the clergy must yearly receive. And yet experience seems to show that it is precisely when, as in Scotland, the established clergy have the least interest in the amount of produce yielded by the land, that agricultural improvement has most progressed; while it has remained most backward, also, in those Roman Catholic countries in which their interest has remained the greatest. Every one, in fact, knows how the tithe question has impeded rural improvement in countless localities, even in England; and how the tithe-commutation measure has been introduced, in the hope of removing the obstacles it presented, not more to rural peace than to rural progress.

It is not difficult to understand how such obstacles should actually arise out of what, at first sight, appears likely to promote agricultural improvement; how a diversity of interest should exist between the cultivator and the tithe-collector; and how human nature should stubbornly, though foolishly, refuse to adopt new methods which would be more profitable to the farmer himself, simply because they would at the same time be a source of profit to another, who incurs none of the additional labour, anxiety, or expense.

There is, however, an indirect method by which improvements are certain to be brought about-slowly perhaps at first, but largely and generally in the end. This method is the general diffusion of knowledge bearing upon the practice of agriculture. It is not by prescribing new methods to old men-by staking our chances of success on the hope of overcoming the prejudices of the most prejudiced class of society. It is by instilling into young and unprejudiced minds the principles according to which all rural practice ought to be



regulated, that future practice will be most certainly made better. This can be done at little or no expense; and in regard to imparting this knowledge, there can be no opposition of interests between the clergy and the rural laity. In most places, the parents will regard the new instruction as a boon to their children, and will be proud of their knowledge. They will, in most cases, also be delighted to see their children apply this knowledge under their own eye; and if they themselves refuse their assent to the introduction of this better culture, it is sure to be seen on the farms to which their sons succeed. Το all, therefore, who have an indirect interest in the better tillage of the land by those who hold it, the diffusion of such knowledge among the young in our rural districts at home, as well as abroad, ought to be a chief concern. Especially in our home islands, now when rents are falling, if knowledge can by possibility be made to keep them up without diminishing the comforts or reasonable profits of the farmer, it ought to be liberally, and with a ready hand, scattered among the children of the people.

To be generally available, however, the mode in which this is done should be easy, short, inexpensive, involving little change in the ordinary school-routine, little new machinery, and little interference with the customary school-teaching, in kind or quantity. All this, I think, may be effected, if the eye is kept bent upon the one object—that of instructing the children in agricultural principles, and their modes of application. These are comparatively few in number-can be simply expressed, so as to be intelligible to the very young; and can be taught in so short a time as to interfere in no necessary degree with the usual branches of education.

It is difficult to impress this clearly and distinctly either upon the general mind, upon that of teachers themselves, or even upon that of school-inspectors. The principles I speak of are deduced from scientific inquiry




chemical, geological, botanical, and physiological research. In the expression of these principles, new words-the names, for example, of certain substances familiar to the chemist or botanist—are necessarily employed. These words or names must be understood, if the sentence in which they are contained is to be comprehended—as the child is shown pictures of the horse and the lamb, or is taken to the fields to see these animals, if it is to understand the early reading-lessons in which they are mentioned. But a thing is known by its sensible properties; and as a child at once distinguishes the apple, the potato, the turnip, and the onion, by their form, colour, taste, and smell, so, among the things chemistry deals with-phosphorus and sulphur, oxygen and nitrogen, starch and gluten, must be made familiar to his senses, if he is to understand the meaning of their Thus far experimental chemistry is necessary in the teaching of agricultural principles. It must make the words intelligible, but no more is necessary. the apparatus or book in his hand, however, the master (if the purpose of his teaching be not clear to his own. mind) is apt to introduce other unnecessary experiments or scientific explanations, burdening the memory of the boy, and distracting his attention. The school-inspector, also, not distinguishing more clearly the true line of agricultural teaching, sometimes encourages this, by requiring and expecting, at his examinations, a knowledge of purely chemical principles, which are necessary neither to the comprehension nor to the future application of the agricultural principles which are intended to be inculcated. A teacher must learn to resist the temptation to show a pretty experiment, even with the laudable desire of making his pupils see and feel its natural beauty, for the boy will naturally ask, "How does this apply to agriculture?" It requires a clearer head and more considerable knowledge than many



teachers of elementary schools possess, to be able to draw the distinct line I speak of, between what ought to be taught and what withheld, and considerable selfrestraint to keep within that line, when it is seen. The school-inspector, therefore, at his periodical visit, should sedulously assist, by the questions he puts, in keeping him to the special instruction which is to be given, otherwise this branch of scientific agriculture will be made to occupy too prominent a place in the course of instruction, and will take up more time than is properly due to it, while the pupils will, at the same time, be less satisfactorily or usefully taught.

These remarks I introduce here, as likely to be by no means without their use even among ourselves; for though I have often, in various ways, pressed such views upon teachers and parents in our rural districts, and though as many as 26,000 copies of my little Catechism —which contains all the chemistry, and all the agricultural principles which, in my opinion, are necessary to make the schoolboys of our day the agricultural improvers of the future-have been distributed at home, yet in many cases I have reason to fear that the prospect of good has been marred by a departure from the simple necessities of the case, and the introduction of what is really extraneous matter. For whatever may be said in favour of pure chemistry as a separate branch of school-teaching, it is not included in, and ought not to be unnecessarily mixed up, in elementary schools, with instruction in the principles of agriculture.

Upon this subject of instruction in the principles of agriculture in the common schools of the country, I had frequent opportunities of conversing with influential persons in the British Provinces and in the United States, and rarely, I believe, without awakening a desire, or strengthening that which pre-existed, to promote this object, as a means of most certainly

« PředchozíPokračovat »