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Ideas generally entertained of Anierican fertility and agricultural
resources.--Reports of travellers.-Desire to obtain accurate information.-Condition of agriculture as an art in North America.Contrast between Europe and America.—General effect of an exhausting culture upon the soil.—Effect sometimes produced very slowly.Instance of old abbey-lands.- Claim of monasteries to the manure of their tenants’ stables.-Effect of general exhaustion on the production of staple crops.-Its effect on the wheat-lands of North America.— Their retreat towards the west.—Liability of plants to disease on impoverished lands. — Remarkable change of cultivation in Lower Canada during the last twenty years.—Great diminution in the wheat and increase in the oat crop.-Loss and disaster which must have accompanied such a change.—Effect of this change on the cornmarkets of the world.—Lower Canada become wheat-importing and oat-consuming.- Disastrous effect of the potato failure.-Similar changes threaten to follow similar modes of culture in other parts of North America.—The wheat-exporting capability will diminishManuring system of Scottish farmers who sell or carry off their crops as is done in America. — Possible continued and extensive supply of Indian corn.--Import-duty in the United States upon corn from Canada : should it be removed ? - Would it on the whole be beneficial to Canada ?—Zeal for improvement in Upper Canada.Why do Rochester millers compete with the Canadian in Liverpool, in flour made from Canadian wheat?—Occasional low freights of the New York liners. Use of Canadian wheat for mixing. — Alleged large mercantile profits expected in Canada,-Profits derived from dealings in land.-Profit of a direct trade in flour between Montreal and Liverpool.-Growth of flax in Canada, and export of linseed.-Instance of the close relation of discoveries in science to the profits of agriculture, and the agricultural capabilities of a country.-Comparative freights by the St Lawrence to Liverpool, and by the Erie Canal through New York.--St Lawrence the natural outlet of the lake-bordering countries. - Great expertness with which the Erie
HOME NOTIONS OF AMERICAN FERTILITY.
Canal is worked.-Overflow of traffic upon that canal.-Great exertions of Canada in the construction of canals.-The Welland Canal.
-Canals along the rapids of the St Lawrence; their extent and cost. –Energy of Canada compared with that of New York.-St Lawrence route now takes less time than that by the Erie Canal.-Money cost of transport is also less.—Ohio wheat will take the St Lawrence instead of the Mississippi route. Importance of this route to the political independence of the free North-western States.—Difficulties in the navigation of the Lower St Lawrence.-Structure of its bed and channels.—Risks, and high insurance.- Need of lighthouses and depots of stores at the mouth of the river.—Traffic by the Richelieu Canal and Lake Champlain.-Rising importance of this.—Projected new ship-canal.-Future prospects of the St Lawrence navigation.
BEFORE I leave the shores of the St Lawrence, there are a few points in connection with the agriculture and national economy of Canada which have been the subjects of observation and of interesting consideration to myself, and which most of those readers who have accompanied me thus far in my book will not regret to have their attention drawn to. Until I personally visited North America, my own notions as to the agricultural condition, capabilities, and resources of the several new provinces and States, were, I now find, notwithstanding all I had heard and read, of the crudest, most general, and indefinite character. The exaggerations of interested natives and settlers, and the repetition of such exaggerations by travellers who knew nothing of agriculture themselves, and, like myself some dozen years ago, could scarcely distinguish bad land from goodthese were all the information our journals and yearly literature afforded us. That wheat and Indian corn poured in upon us at times from those regions, we knew; that some portions of the country were rich and fertile, we could not doubt; and the general conclusion in the public mind was, that these new countries were generally fertile—that inferior land was the exception—that large crops were everywhere reaped—that the fertility of the whole region was inexhaustible — that the supply of
CONDITION OF AGRICULTURE
wheat it could send us was without bounds—and that if those who tilled the land and raised the corn in these countries were not so skilful as the average of our own farmers, this was only another evidence that nature there was kinder to the tiller of the soil than she is in our own country, and did not demand at his hands either the same amount of knowledge, or the same unwearied application of ceaseless toil.
One of my objects in visiting North America was to remove the mistiness of my own ideas as to the agricultural character and condition of its several great regions, to test the seeming exaggerations in which, as if by some natural law, the natives and residents of this northern part of the New World are inclined to indulge. I was desirous, also, of obtaining a clear idea of the relation which American practice bears to English practice; the prospects and success of individual American to those of individual English and Scotch farmers ; American past and future surplus wheat to the state and demands of the English market; the life of the settler in these new countries to the life he would have led had he remained at home. On a few of these points I have arrived at clear and definite notions—not hastily, I believe—though some of them
may still be incorrect. It is some remarks upon these I wish briefly to put down in this place.
And first, as to the condition of agriculture as an art of life, it cannot be denied that, in this region, as a whole, it is in a very primitive condition. Before the first Puritan emigrants landed at Plymouth, the Indians planted and hoed and reaped their corn much as the white settlers do now, and, like them, deserted old land for new when the crops began to fail. Many operations, it is true, are now performed upon existing farms which were unknown to the Indian races; but a similar absence of skill and forethought is generally observable in reference both to the mode of performing them and to their
AS AN ART IN NORTH AMERICA.
after effect upon the land. I speak, it will be borne in mind, in these remarks, of the newly settled parts of North America; and the more newly settled the more closely will they apply. I would not be understood to calumniate those longer cultivated districts in which—the first stage of their agricultural history being past-new life and energy are now being brought to bear upon the culture of the land, and by which the errors of past ignorance and want of skill may by-and-by be repaired, or of those happier new districts which men of knowledge and capital are redeeming from a state of nature, and at once submitting to a rational system of culture, capable of being carried on for an indefinite period without injury to the land.
Were the population as fond of their homes, and as stationary in numbers, as in the central regions of northern Europe--as quiescent in character, their labour as small in money-value, and everywhere as abundant, and their institutions as repressive of exuberant energy-this primitive condition of the agricultural practice would be both less felt among themselves, and be a matter of less observation to foreign countries. As in Poland and Russia, land which had become unproductive would be abandoned to nature, and new land broken up year by year. Thus supplies of food comparatively uniform would be yearly reaped, sufficient not only to meet the wants of the native population, but to pour a large annual surplus into foreign markets, wherever a demand might happen to exist.
But all these things are different in North America, The population increases rapidly, not only by natural growth, but by the crowding in of immigrants from the various countries of Europe ; and thus the mouths are greatly multiplied which are to be filled by the native produce of the land. Labour is comparatively dear, so that new land cannot be cleared and brought into culti
GRADUAL EXHAUSTION OF THE LAND.
vation as fast as the old is worn out, were new land even everywhere available, which in the more settled parts of the country, already divided into small farms, it usually is not. Besides, the majority of those who boast of Anglo-Saxon blood are generally energetic, and their institutions incline them to push everything forward as in a race—their wide continent holding out to them many dazzling hopes and sources of gain. They labour, therefore, those who till the soil, to make as much and take as much out of the land as they can, and in the least possible time; probably without either thinking or wishing that their actual residence is to be the future home either of themselves or of their children, but rather that interest or expediency may by-and-by carry them all to happier homes in the farther west.
The result or effect, therefore, of this condition of the rural art, and of the agricultural population, upon the state of the soil, is to bring it by degrees into a state of more or less complete exhaustion. Whatever be its quality or natural fertility, this is the final and inevitable result. In land which is very rich, the effect is produced more slowly—so slow, that those who hold land which for fifty or a hundred years bas yielded crops of corn without the addition of manure, will scarcely believe in the possibility of its ceasing at last to give its wonted returns. But old experience and modern science alike demonstrate that the richest soils, by constant cropping, without the addition of manuring substances to replace what the crops carry off, must ultimately arrive at a state of comparative barrenness.
It is not to be wondered at that men should be faithless upon this point, when it is considered how grateful the soil is for kind treatment, and how very long, in some cases, it is before it begins to resent a contrary course of procedure. The lifetime of one man may be spent in gradually improving and enriching a field by skilful manage