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A Year's Residence in the United States of America: Vol 2
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PRICES OF LAND, LABOUR, FOOD AND RAIMENT.
310. LAND is of various prices, of course. But, as I am, in this Chapter, addressing myself to English Farmers, I am not speaking of the price either of land in the wildernesses, or of land in the immediate vicinage of great cities. The wilderness price is two or three dollars an acre: the city price four or five hundred. The land at the same distance from New York that Chelsea is from London, is of higher price than the land at Chelsea. The surprizing growth of these cities, and the brilliant prospect before them, give value to every thing that is situated in or near them.
311. It is my intention, however, to speak only of farming land. This, too, is, of course, affected in its value by the circumstance of distance from market; but, the reader will make his own calculations as to this matter. A farm, then, on this Island, any where not nearer than thirty miles of, and not more distant than sixty miles from, New York, with a good farm-house, barn, stables, sheds, and styes; the land fenced into fields with posts and rails, the wood-land being in the proportion of one to ten of the arable land, and there being on the farm a pretty good orchard; such a farm, if the land be in a good state, and of an average quality, is worth sixty dollars an acre, or thirteen pounds sterling; of course, a farm of a hundred acres would cost one thousand three hundred pounds. The rich lands on the necks and bays, where there are meadows and surprizingly productive orchards, and where there is water carriage, are worth, in some cases, three times this price. But, what I have said will be sufficient to enable the reader to form a pretty correct judgment on the subject. In New Jersey, in Pennsylvania, every where the price differs with the circum stances of water carriage, quality of land, and distance from market.
312. When I say a good farm-house, I mean a house a great deal better than the general run of farm-houses in England. More neatly finished on the inside. More in a parlour sort of style; though round about the house, things do not look so neat and tight as in England. Even in Pennsylvania, and amongst the Quakers too, there is a sort of out-of-doors slovenliness, which is never hardly seen in England. You see bits of wood, timber, boards, chips, lying about, here and there, and pigs and cattle trampling about in a sort of confusion, which would make an English farmer fret himself to death; but which is here seen with great placidness. The out-buildings, except the barns, and except in the finest counties of Pennsylvania, are not so numerous, or so capacious, as in England, in proportion to the size of the farms. The reason is, that the weather is so dry. Cattle need not covering a twentieth part so much as in England, except hogs, who must be warm as well as dry. However, these share with the rest, and very little covering they get.
313. Labour is the great article of expence upon a farm; yet it is not nearly so great as in England, in proportion to the amount of the produce of a farm, especially if the poor-rates be, in both cases, included. However, speaking of the positive wages, a good farm-labourer has twenty-five pounds sterling a year and his board and lodging; and a good day-labourer has, upon an average, a dollar a day. A woman servant, in a farm-house, has from forty to fifty dollars a year, or eleven pounds sterling. These are the average of the wages throughout the country. But, then, mind, the farmer has nothing (for, really, it is not worth mentioning) to pay in poor-rates; which in England, must always be added to the wages that a farmer pays; and, sometimes, they far exceed the wages.
314. It is, too, of importance to know, what sort of labourers these Americans are; for, though a labourer is a labourer, still there is some difference in them; and, these Americans are the best that I ever saw. They mow four acres of oats, wheat, rye, or barley in a day, and, with a cradle, lay it so smooth in the swarths, that it is tied up in sheaves with the greatest neatness and ease. They mow two acres and a half of grass in a day, and they do the work well. And the crops, upon, an average, are all, except the wheat, as heavy as in England. The English farmer will want nothing more than these facts to convince him, that the labour, after all, is not so very dear.
315. The causes of these performances, so far beyond those in England, is first, the men are tall and well built; they are bony rather than fleshy; and they live, as to food, as well as man can live. And, secondly, they have been educated to do much in a day. The farmer here generally is at the head of his "boys," as they, in the kind language of the country, are called. Here is the best of examples. My old and beloved friend, Mr. JAMES PAUL, used, at the age of nearly sixty to go at the head of his mowers, though his fine farm was his own, and though he might, in other respects, be called a rich man; and, I have heard, that Mr. ELIAS HICKS, the famous Quaker Preacher, who lives about nine miles from this spot, has this year, at seventy years of age, cradled down four acres of rye in a day. I wish some of the preachers of other descriptions, especially our fat parsons in England, would think a little of this, and would betake themselves to "work with their hands the things which be good, that they may have to give to him who needeth," and not go on any longer gormandizing and swilling upon the labour of those who need.
316. Besides the great quantity of work performed by the American labourer, his skill, the versatility of his talent, is a great thing. Every man can use an ax, a saw, and a hammer. Scarcely one who cannot do any job at rough carpentering, and mend a plough or a waggon. Very few indeed, who cannot kill and dress pigs and sheep, and many of them Oxen and Calves. Every farmer is a neat butcher; a butcher for market; and, of course, "the boys" must learn. This is a great convenience. It makes you so independent as to a main part of the means of housekeeping. All are ploughmen. In short, a good labourer here, can do any thing that is to be done upon a farm.
317. The operations necessary in miniature cultivation they are very awkward at. The gardens are ploughed in general. An American labourer uses a spade in a very awkward manner. They poke the earth about as if they had no eyes; and toil and muck themselves half to death to dig as much ground in a day as a Surrey man would dig in about an hour of hard work. Banking, hedging, they know nothing about. They have no idea of the use of a bill hook, which is so adroitly used in the coppices of Hampshire and Sussex, An ax is their tool, and with that tool, at cutting down trees or cutting them up, they will do ten times as much in a day as any other men that I ever saw. Set one of these men on upon a wood of timber trees, and his slaughter will astonish you. A neighbour of mine tells a story of an Irishman, who promised he could do any thing, and whom, therefore, to begin with, the employer sent into the wood to cut down a load of wood to burn. He staid a long while away with the team, and the farmer went to him fearing some accident had happened. "What are you about all this time?" said the farmer. The man was hacking away at a hickory tree, but had not got it half down; and that was all he had done. An American, black or white, would have had half a dozen trees cut down, cut up into lengths, put upon the carriage, and brought home, in the time.
318. So that our men, who come from England, must not expect, that, in these common labours of the country, they are to surpass, or even equal, these "Yankees," who, of all men that I ever saw, are the most active and the most hardy. They skip over a fence like a greyhound. They will catch you a pig in an open field by racing him down; and they are afraid of nothing. This was the sort of stuff that filled the frigates of DECATUR, HULL, and BRAINBRIDGE. No wonder that they triumphed when opposed to poor pressed creatures, worn out by length of service and ill-usage, and en couraged by no hope of fair-play. My LORD COGHRANE said, in his place in parliament, that it would be so; and so it was. Poor CASHMAN, that brave Irishman, with his dying breath, accused the government and the merchants of England of withholding from him his pittance of prize money! Ought not such a vile, robbing, murderous system to be destroyed?
319. Of the same active, hardy, and brave stuff, too, was composed the army of JACKSON, who drove the invaders into the Gulph of Mexico, and who would have driven into the same Gulph the army of Waterloo, and the heroic gentleman, too, who lent his hand to the murder of Marshal Ney. This is the stuff that stands between the rascals, called the Holy Alliance, and the slavery of the whole civilized world. This is the stuff that gives as English men an asylum; that gives us time to breathe; that enables us to deal our tyrants blows, which, without the existence of this stuff, they never would receive. This America, this scene of happiness under a free government, is the beam in the eye, the thorn in the side, the worm in the vitals, of every despot upon the face of the earth
320. An American labourer is not regulated, as to time, by clocks and watches. The sun, who seldom hides his face, tells him when to begin in the morning and when to leave off at night. He has a dollar, a whole dollar for his work; but then it is the work of a whole day. Here is no dispute about hours. "Hours were made for slaves" is an old saying; and, really, they seem here to act upon it as a practical maxim. This is a great thing in agricultural affairs. It prevents so many disputes. It removes so great a cause of disagreement. The American labourers, like the tavern-keepers, are never servile, but always civil. Neither boobishness nor meanness mark their character. They never creep and fawn, and are never rude. Employed about your house as day-labourers, they never come to interlope for victuals or drink. They have no idea of such a thing. Their pride would restrain them if their plenty did not; and, thus would it be with all labourers, in all countries were they left to enjoy the fair produce of their labour. Full pocket or empty pocket, these American labourers are always the same men: no saucy cunning in the one case, and no base crawling in the other. This, too, arises from the free institutions of government. A man has a voice because he is a man, and not because he is the possessor of money. And, shall I never see our English labourers in this happy state?
321. Let those English farmers, who love to see a poor wretched labourer stand trembling before them with his hat off, and who think no more of him than of a dog, remain where they are; or, go off, on the cavalry horses, to the devil at once, if they wish to avoid the tax-gatherer; for, they would, here, meet with so many mortifications, that they would, to a certainty, hang themselves in a month.
322. There are some, and even many, farmers, who do not work themselves in the fields. But, they all attend to the thing, and are all equally civil to their working people. They manage their affairs very judiciously. Little talking. Orders plainly given in few words, and in a decided tone. This is their only secret.
323. The cattle and implements used in husbandry are cheaper than in England; that is to say, lower priced. The wear and tear not nearly half so much as upon a farm in England of the same size. The climate, the soil, the gentleness and docility of the horses and oxen, the lightness of the waggons and carts, the lightness and toughness of the wood of which husbandry implements are made, the simplicity of the harness, and, above all, the ingenuity and handiness of the workmen in repairing, and in making shift; all these make the implements a matter of very little note. Where horses are kept, the shoing of them is the most serious kind of expence.
324. The first business of a farmer is, here, and ought to be every where, to live well: to live in ease and plenty; to "keep hospitality" as the old English saying was. To save money is a secondary consideration; but, any English farmer, who is a good farmer there, may, if he will bring his industry and care with him, and be sure to leave his pride and insolence (if he have any) along with his anxiety, behind him, live in ease and plenty here, and keep hospitality, and save a great parcel of money too. If he have the Jack-Daw taste for heaping little round things together in a hole, or chest, he may follow his taste. I have often thought of my good neighbour, JOHN GATER, who, if he were here, with his pretty clipped hedges, his garden-looking fields, and his neat homesteads, would have visitors from far and near; and, while every one would admire and praise, no soul would envy him his possessions. Mr. GATER would soon have all these things. The hedges only want planting; and he would feel so comfortably to know that the Botley Parson could never again poke his nose into his sheepfold or his pig-stye. However, let me hope, rather, that the destruction of the Borough-tyranny, will soon make England a country, fit for an honest and industrious man to live in. Let me hope, that a relief from grinding taxation will soon relieve men of their fears of dying in poverty, and will, thereby, restore to England the "hospitality" for which she was once famed, but which now really exists no where but in America.