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A YEAR'S RESIDENCE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Treating of the Face of the Country, the Climate, the Soil, the Products, the Mode of Cultivating the Land, the Prices of Land, of Labour, of Food, of Raiment; of the Expenses of Housekeeping, and of the usual Manner of Living; of the Manners and Customs of the people; and of the Institutions of the Country; Civil, Political, and Religious.IN THREE PARTS.
BY WILLIAM COBBETT.
Containing, I. a description of the face of the country, the Climate, the Seasons, and the Soil, the facts being taken from the Author's daily notes during a whole year — II. An Account of the Author's agricultural experiments in the Cultivation of Ruta Baga, or Russia, or Swedish Turnip, which afford proof of what the climate and soil are.
PRINTED FOR SHERWOOD, NEELY, AND
OF PART I.
CHAP. I. Description of the Situation and Extent of Long Island, and also of the Face of the Country, and an Account of the Climate, Seasons and Soil
CHAP. II. RUTA Baga. Culture, Mode of preserving, and Uses of the Ruta Baga, sometimes called the Russia, and sometimes the Swedish, Turnip
1. THROUGHOUT the whole of this work it is my intention to number the paragraphs, from one to the end of each PART. This renders the business of reference more easy than it can be rendered by any mode in my power to find out; and, easy reference saves a great deal of paper and print, and also, which ought to be more valuable, a great deal of time, of which an industrious man has never any to spare. To desire the reader to look at paragraph such a number of such a part, will frequently, as he will find, save him both money and labour; for without this power of reference, the paragraph, or the substance of it, would demand being repeated in the place where the reference would be pointed out to him.
2. Amongst all the publications which I have yet seen on the subject of the United States, as a country to live in, and especially to farm in, I have never yet observed one that conveyed to Englishmen any thing like a correct notion of the matter. Some writers of Travels in these States have jolted along in the stages from place to place, have lounged away their time with the idle part of their own countrymen, and, taking every thing different from what they left at home for the effect of ignorance, and every thing not servile to be the effect of insolence, have described the country as unfit for a civilized being to reside in. Others, coming with a resolution to find every thing better than at home, and weakly deeming themselves pledged to find climate, soil and all blessed by the effects of freedom, have painted the country as a perfect paradise; they have seen nothing but blooming orchards and smiling faces.
3. The account, which I shall give, shall be that of actual experience. I will say what I know and what I have seen and what I have done. I mean to give an account of a YEAR'S RESIDENCE, ten months in this Island and two months in Pennsylvania, in which I went back to the first ridge of mountains. In the course of the THREE PARTS, of which this work will consist, each part making a small volume, every thing which appears to me useful to persons intending to come to this country shall be communicated; but more especially that which may be useful to farmers; because, as to such matters, I have ample experience. Indeed, this is the main thing; for this is really and truly a country of farmers. Here Governors, Legislators, Presidents, all are farmers. A farmer here is not the poor dependent wretch that a Yeomanry-Cavalry man is, or that a Treason-Jury man is. A farmer here depends on nobody but himself and on his own proper means; and, if he be not at his ease, and even rich, it must be his own fault.
4. To make men clearly see what they may do in any situation of life, one of the best modes, if not the very best, is to give them, in detail, an account of what one has done one's-self in that same situation, and how and when and where one has done it. This, as far as relates to farming, and house-keeping in the country, is the mode that I shall pursue. I shall give an account of what I have done; and, while this will convince any good farmer, or any man of tolerable means, that he may, if he will, do the same, it will give him an idea of the climate, soil, crops, &.c. a thousand times more neat and correct than could be conveyed to his mind by any general description unaccompanied with actual experimental accounts.
5. As the expressing of this intention may, perhaps, suggest to the reader to ask, how it is that much can be known on the subject of Farming by a man, who, for thirty-six out of fifty-two years of his life has been a Soldier or a Political Writer, and who, of course, has spent so large a part of his time in garrisons and in great cities, I will beg leave to satisfy this natural curiosity before-hand.
6. Early habits and affections seldom quit us while we have vigour of mind left. I was brought up under a father whose talk was chiefly about his garden and his fields, with regard to which he was famed for his skill and his exemplary neatness. From my very infancy, from the age of six years, when I climbed up the side of a steep sand rock, and there scooped me out a plot four feet square to make me a garden, and the soil for which I carried up in the bosom of my little blue smock-frock, or bunting shirt, I have never lost one particle of my passion for these healthy and rational and heart-cheering pursuits, in which every day presents something new, in which the spirits are never suffered to flag, and in which, industry, skill and care are sure to meet with their due reward. I have never, for any eight months together, during my whole life, been without a garden. So sure are we to overcome difficulties where the heart and mind are bent on the thing to be obtained!
7. The beautiful plantation of American Trees round my house at Botley, the seeds of which were sent me, at my request, from Pennsylvania, in 1806, and some of which are now nearly forty feet high, all sown and planted by myself, will, I hope, long remain as a specimen of my perseverance in this way. During my whole life I have been a gardener. There is no part of the business, which, first or last, I have not performed with my own hands. And, as to it, I owe very little to books, except to that of TULL; for I never read a good one in my life, except a French book, called the Manuel du Jardinier.
8. As to farming, I was bred at the plough-tail, and in the Hop-Gardens of Farnham in Surrey, my native place, and which spot, as it so happened, is the neatest in England, and, I believe, in the whole world. All there is a garden. The neat culture of the hop extends its influence to the fields round about. Hedges cut with shears, and every other mark of skill and care strike the eye at Farnham, and become fainter and fainter as you go from it in every direction. I have had, besides, great experience in farming for several years of late; for, one man will gain more knowledge in a year than another will in a life. It is the taste for the thing that really gives the knowledge.
9. To this taste, produced in me by a desire to imitate a father, whom I ardently loved, and to whose every word I listened with admiration, I owe no small part of my happiness, for a greater portion of which very few men ever had to be grateful to God. These pursuits, innocent in themselves, instructive in their very nature, and always tending to preserve health, have been a constant, a never-failing source, of recreation with me; and, which I count amongst the greatest of their benefits and blessings, they have always, in my house, supplied the place of the card-table, the dice-box, the chess-board and the lounging bottle. Time never hangs on the hands of him, who delights in these pursuits, and who has books on the subject to read. Even when shut up within the walls of a prison for having complained that Englishmen had been flogged in the heart of England under a guard of German Bayonets and Sabres; even then, I found in these pursuits a source of pleasure inexhaustible. To that of the whole of our English books on these matters I then added the reading of all the valuable French Books; and I then, for the first time, read that Book of all Books on Husbandry, the work of JETHRO TULL, to the principles of whom I owe more than to all my other reading and all my experience, and of which principles I hope to find time to give a sketch, at least, in some future PART of this work.
10. I wish it to be observed, that, in any thing which I may say, during the course of this work, though truth will compel me to state facts, which will, doubtless, tend to induce farmers to leave England for America, I advise no one so to do. I shall set down in writing nothing but what is strictly true. I myself am bound to England for life. My notions of allegiance to country; my great and anxious desire to assist in the restoration of her freedom and happiness; my opinion that I possess, in some small degree, at any rate, the power to render such assistance; and, above all other considerations, my unchangeable attachment to the people of England, and especially those who have so bravely struggled for our rights: these bind me to England; but, I shall leave others to judge and to act for themselves.
WM. COBBETT.North Hempsted, Long Island,
21 April, 1818.