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tutions, gives us a large, independent and stable class of intelligent, rural population, such as never before enriched and gave security to any country or age.
Agriculture, in its various branches, always has been, and always must be the chief employment of all civilized countries. It feeds and clothes earth's teeming millions, and supplies by far the largest part of the material of trade and commerce. Our small traders and grocers, our “merchant princes," with their well filled storehouses and richly ladened ships on every sea, and from every clime, are but middle -men-exchangers or agents, standing between the producer and consumer to facilitate exchanges between them. Wealthy towns and cities, with their art and luxury, are built up, and the most of their wealth created by the profits, charged in some form, on agricultural, mechanical and manufacturing labor. This system of exchanges, or mercantile system, even as it is, is an important part of the world's industry. But if it were conducted on fair, sound and economical principles, about one-half of our exchangers might become producers, and the producing classes relieved from the burthen of supporting them, which is now done by the large profits levied on the products of their industry. Let me illustrate this by an example :--Take almost any of our villages and towns, or the different localities in them, and you will find more traders than are actually necessary to supply the wants of the places where they are located. Frequently one trader could do the business now done by half a dozen ; and by having his business increased six fold, and out of its profits to pay rent, taxes and insurance, on only one store instead of six, and having to support only one family instead of six ; it must be readily seen that if trade were conducted on correct principles, the consumers would be relieved of burdensome taxes, now paid to superfluous agents in the form of profits on merchandize sold by them. But we may hope that the future will bring a reform in our system of exchanging productions, and so large a portion of the profits of labor not be wasted on this unnecessary number of exchangers and nonproducers.
By the census of 1850 it was shown that about one-half the population of the free States were engaged in agriculture, cultivating 108,200,000 farms, and turning out an annual product worth nearly $900,000,000. The farmers of Maine bear about the same proportion to her whole population, nearly one-half of our people being engaged in agricultural pursuits. Agriculture has already become
the leading and most important pursuit of our people, and we believe it is, in the future, destined to occupy a much larger space in the public mind, and in the public economy, or policy of our State, than it has in the past. Maine is no longer emphatically the lumber State. Her dense forests of valuable timber are fast disappearing, and she must prepare for the day, and that in no distant future, when lumbering will cease to be a great and profitable branch of business. Lumbering in the vicinity of our great rivers and their tributaries, has heretofore occupied a large share of the industry of our State, diverting it from agriculture, and often dividing men's time between the logging camp, the drive on the river, and the farm ; and always to the injury of the latter-for a farm is one of the last things that will bear slight and neglect. The result of such inattention is always short and poor crops, lean stock of an inferior breed, and a perfect holiday for thistles and all kinds of noxious weeds. As our forests of marketable lumber disappear and retire towards the sources of our great rivers, agriculture receives more attention and additional strength and steadiness; and consequently is much improved in method and the quality and quantity of its crops. As the wealth hitherto derived from the forest is gradually withheld, and its sources disappear, our people are in a measure compensated by an increase of agricultural strength, closer attention, more scientic methods, abundant crops and an improved stock.
Nearly all kinds of manufactures can be carried on to advantage in our State. We have a variety of raw material for manufacturing purposes, and whatever disadvantages may arise from our climate are more than made up by the industry and energy of our people. This branch of business has too long been neglected by our capitalists; but it will in time give employment to many of our people and largely increase the home market for agricultural productions.
The sea fisheries give employment to a portion of our capital and labor, and can, no doubt, be largely extended with profit to those who engage in them. But the chief business of our sea-board population is ship building and maritime commerce. Maine is not an importing State, or but partially so. She builds ships for sale and to engage in the carrying trade for whoever will pay best, and receives her reward mainly in freight money, and what she can gain by constructing vessels. The carrying trade has had many years of great prosperity, and has been extremely liberal in its
returns to the most of those who have engaged in it. But it has had its periods of depression and is now passing through one, of perhaps greater length and severity than was ever before known in a time of peace. In nearly all of our sea-board towns, may be seen the sad faces of shipwrecked men, who, after a great struggle had to bow their heads and fall before this great commercial storm, whilst many who survive are borne up by hope, and anxiously watch the shifting scud in the commercial sky to find some sign that the storm is abating and calm returning. To whatever cause we may attribute the current mercantile disasters, whether to a general overtrading, a too rapid and large accumulation of tonnage for the world's business, or to other causes, we must all unite in the hope of a speedily returned prosperity to our commerce.
But with all its buoyant hopes, its brilliant allurements, its periods of high success, of stirring excitement, and generally its appearance of enduring strength, it must not be forgotten that its paths are beset with danger, and whoever treads them commences a journey of care and anxiety, which, in a majority of cases, ends in disappointment, and too often in disaster and ruin.
The improvements in machinery, new discoveries of, and changes in, the commodities of commerce, and its fluctuating ebb and flowa more universal engagement in manufactures, which must lead to a less transportation of heavy raw material--the effort now making to change, to some extent, the commerce of the sea by the use of steam in ocean navigation, all tend directly to a re-adjustment of the course of trade, and to create material changes in the channels of commerce. Whatever changes may come, I trust our people will show as much facility in meeting and adapting themselves to them as the people of any other State or country.
The pursuit of agriculture is free from these violent fluctuations and changes, and far more sure to yield to industry a fair reward. If it excites no glowing dreams of anticipated millions, rarely seen but in golden visions ; if its quiet pursuit builds up but few overgrown fortunes, it offers the great consolation that it is not borne up on wrecked hopes, that it leaves none to perish by the way-side, and that all who try may succeed, and gain a fair reward for their industry, more than enough to satisfy all temperate wants, beside that which is above all price, calm peaceful lives, comparatively free from care and anxiety. I do not mean to be understood that a farm is an elysium upon which care and trouble never enter. Far from it. I speak of the pursuit of agriculture in comparison with
other leading branches of business, and say there is none so sure of placing those who follow it above the reach of want, and leaving the mind so much at rest, free from that care which haunts our daily steps, and that anxiety which corrodes the life. I know that the farmer has his cares and occasionally his troubles also. Some seasons are too wet and cold, and vegetation is backward. Some are too dry and the crops do not reach an average. Sometimes an early frost may cut short the corn and the weevil the wheat. But on the whole there are few drawbacks that the farmer, devoted to his business, cannot, in some way, provide against. The surplus of the years of plenty will always make up for the years of deficiency. But he is never overtaken by such great and overwhelming disaster-such stagnant gloom as often settle down upon mercantile and commercial communities, reaching and paralyzing all the veins and arteries of trade. It is true these periods of suspended trade make dull markets for farmers and in other ways affect him, though in a secondary degree, yet but lightly in comparison with others. They do not touch his bread, his own granaries supply that, and kind nature continues to work for him in the field, the orchard, the garden and woodland, hour by hour, day by day and month by month, until his crops are ripened for the harvesters. She never tires or falters, but toils on through darkness and storm, by sunshine and starlight, preparing God's bounteous gifts to man, notwithstanding the marts of trade may be silent and sad, and the sails of commerce flap lazily on the ever restless sea.
To show the comparative security of those who cultivate the soil against the dangers and misfortunes which constantly hang upon the steps of those engaged in commercial, manufacturing, mercantile, mechanical and speculative pursuits, let me state the number of failures, so far as they were ascertained, which recently occurred within the United States in a single year. The mercantile agency has its head quarters in the city of New York, with branches and agencies in all sections of the country. Its business is to collect information, for its members, concerning the character and pecuniary standing of business men in all parts of the country, and to report the number of failures. In their report for the year 1857, the last which I have examined, the number of failures reported as having taken place for that single year in the United States were 4,927, and the liabilities of the same $291,450,000. Of these nearly 5,000 failures, 82 are reported for Maine whose liabilities amount to $1,000,000. It is not probable that over fifty cents on the dollar
of this large sum of nearly $300,000,000, will ever be paid, consequently there will be a loss to somebody of about $150,000,000. How many of these five thousand bankrupts suppose you were farmers, those making agriculture their business, and what amount of this vast bankrupt debt of near $300,000,000, is due from them ? Although nearly one half of our population are engaged in agricultural pursuits, I think it would be entirely safe to say that not one in twenty of these 5,000 bankrupts was a farmer, and not one dollar in forty of their liabilities was due from farmers.
Another statement sets this view in a still stronger light. It has frequently been said, on the authority of bank and insurance officers, old mercantile firms and other reliable sources of information in several of our leading cities, that nine in ten of all traders and merchants fail at some period of their career, many of whom again commence their business lives anew. No such extreme embarrassment and danger attends the business of agriculture. The farmer can pursue the even tenor of his way without the distressing thought that to-morrow may bring him a list of protested notes and drafts, with an injured .credit. He fears no disasters by sea, and does not watch with trembling anxiety the barometer of trade to see what changes may take from or add to his means, or fear some desperate speculation may turn out disastrously. Whatever may be his anxieties they are not for fear of ruined fortunes, or that want may sit a ghastly companion at his generous table. The farmer then has every reason to be content with his calling—it is a safe and noble one.
To the young men, the sons of farmers who are about to choose their occupation and commence the serious business of life, permit me to say in all earnestness, think seriously, weigh well all the chances of success before you decide to abandon the pursuit of your fathers. It is a pursuit worthy of man's highest aim. If the long summer days are sometimes weary, they are not attended by harrassing and distracting thoughts, and night brings its social joys and calm repose, not sleepless hours, an aching brow and dread apprehensions of the morrow. If the advantages, the excitement, the empty show and fashionable follies or dissipations of city life tempt you from the industry, peace and virtue of your rural homes, think how much of extreme poverty, agonizing misery and revolting vice is contained within the limits of cities, creeping along their dark allies and crouching in the shadow of their marble palaces. Think of how many disappointed expectations, blighted