Page images
PDF
EPUB

" He

indifferent to vulgar traditional prejudices," he enumerated those axioms which must ever be the cardinal rules of the improvers of live stock. chose the animals of the form and temperament which showed signs of producing most fat and muscle," declaring that in an ox “ all was useless that was not beef;" that he sought, " by pairing the best specimens, to make the shoulders comparatively little, the hind quarters large;" to produce a body “ truly circular, with as short legs as possible, upon the plain principle that the value lies in the barrel and not in the legs, " and to secure a * small head, small neck, and small bones.' As few things escaped his acute eye, he remarked that quick fattening depended much upon amiability of disposition, and he brought his bulls by gentleness to be as docile as dogs. In sheep his “ object was mutton, not wool, disregarding mere size," a vulgar test of merit.

The great physiologist, John Hunter, confirmed in one essential particular the observations of Bakewell, for be asserted that in the human subjects he had examined he found small bones a usual concomitant of corpulence. Mr. Clive, the celebrated surgeon, who paid much attention to the breeding of cattle, also came to the conclusion that extremely large bones indicated a defect in the organs of nutrition. But “ fine boned” animals were in fashion when Bakewell commenced his career, and to the majority of people it seemed a step backwards to prefer well made dwarfs to uncouth giauts. One or two enlightened persons having suggested at Ipswich fair that a piece of plate should be presented to Arthur Young for the public service he had rendered in introducing the Southdown sheep into Suffolk, a farmer determined to put forth the counter proposition, " that he was an enemy to the county for endeavoring to change the best breed in England for a race of rats." The tenantry of that period were strong in the self confidence of ignorance. " To attempt to reason with such fellows," said Young of some of those he met with in his tours, “is an absurdity," and he longed to seize a hedge-stake in order to break it about their backs. Even they were persuaded to thy some improvement to which they were not previously inclined, they reported that “ their experience” was unfavorable to it—their experience being in reality the foregone conclusion which was antecedent to experience, and which blinded them to the results of experience itself. The graziers who adhered to the old huge-skeletoped race of stock were accustomed to give as the reason for their preference that a beast could not get fat unless there “ was room to lay the fat on.” It would have been just as rational to argue that none but farmers of large stature could have felt Young's proposed application of the hedge-stake, because in smaller men there would not be room to lay it on. Numbers of short, round, tub-like agriculturists, who uttered the current excuse for breeding bones in preference to flesh, were living representatives of the fallacy of their assertion. But there were others who were not slow to see the truth. A Southdown ram belonging to Arthur Young got by accident to a few Norfolk ewes of a neighboring farmer. When the butcher came in the summer to select some lambs, he drew every one of the Southdown breed, which, he said, were by much the fattest in the flocs. The owner instantly took the hint, Upon the whole the principles of Bakewell were more favorably received than most innovations in that day, and some of the pupils succeeded in improving upon the stock of the master. The brothers Collings in Durham established the Durham or Teeswater breed, now known as the “Short-horn." Quartly successfully applied himself to improving the North Devon. Price took up the Hereford, and Ellman of Glynde the Southdown sheep, then little better than half a dozen other heatbland kinds. The emulation gave rise to the forerunner of the modern fat cattle show, in single oxen of monstrous size, dragged round the country in vans, and with such success that in 1800 a Mr. Day refused 20001. for the Durham ox he had purchased two months previously for 2501. Graziers who were not able to join the sheep-shearings of Holkham or Woburn, who did not read the agricul

tural works of Arthur Young, and would not have been convinced if they had, found their prejudices in favor of local breeds shaken by a personal interview with gigantic specimens of the Teeswater ox.

In 1798 the Duke of Bedford, Lord Somerville, and others, with Arthur Young as honorary secretary, established the "Little Smithfield Club,” for - exhibiting fat stock at Christmas time, in competition for prizes, with a specification of the food on which each animal had been kept. This society bas rendered essential service by making known the best kinds of food, and by educating graziers and butchers in a knowledge of the best form of animal. We smile now on reading that in 1806, in defiance of Mr. Coke's toast, • Small in size and great in value," a "prize was given to the tallest ox. Length of leg has long been counted a serious fault; for it is the most unprofitable part of the beast. In 1856 a little Devon ox, of an egg-like shape, which is the modern beau-ideal, gained the Smithfield gold medal in competition with gigantic short horns and Herefords of elephantine proportions; and in 1854 a large animal of Sir Harry Verney's was passed over without even the compliment of a "commendation,” because be carried on his carcase too much offal and more threepenny than ninepenny beef.

But the fattening qualities and early maturity of the improved stock would have been of little value beyond the few rich grazing districts of the Midland counties, without an addition to the supply of food. The best arable land of the kingdom had been exhausted by long years of cultivation, and the barren fallow, which annually absorbed one-third of the soil, failed to restore its fertility. A new source of agricultural wealth was discovered in turnips, which, as their important qualities became known, excited in many of their early cultivators much the gume sort of enthusiasm as they did in Lord Monboddo, who on returning home from a circuit went to look at a field of them by candle-light. Turnips answered the purpose of a fallow crop which cleaned and rested old arable land ; turnips were food for fattening cattle in winter; turnips, grown on light land and afterwards eaten down by sheep which consolidated it by their feet, prepared the way for corn crops on wastes that had previously been given up to the rabbits. By this means the heaths and wolds of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, with the help of marling in certain districts, the blowing sands of Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, and Bedfordshire, were gradually reclaimed and colonized by the race of farmers who have been foremost to adopt all the great improvements in English agriculture for the last century. This new system required a capital on the part of both landlord and tenant. It required from the landlord barns and yards, and houses fit for first-class farmers. Mr. Coke of Holkham laid out above a hundred thousand pounds in 20 years on dwellings and offices. It required the tenant to expend à considerable sum on flocks and herds, and, above all, in labor for the years before the wild land began to yield a profit. Mr. Rodwell, in Suffolk, sunk 50001. in merely marling 820 acres, with a lease of only 28 years. Such spirited proceedings demanded no mean amount of intelligence to conduct them with discretion and profit. The value of Mr. Rodwell's produce during the 28 years of his occupancy was 30,0001. greater than the 28 years which preceded his improvements. No needy race of peasant cultivators, no rack-rent absentee line of landowners, could have achieved this conquest over the English wilderness, then far from ports, manufacturing towns, and markets.

This great advance in arable farming took its rise in Norfolk. The king of Brobdignag gave it as his opinion, " that whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together." This passage might have been written upon Lord Townsend, who retired in 1730 from public affairs, which went on none the worse without him, and devoted the remaining eight years of his life to improving his estate. He originated practices which increased the produce not only two, but a hundred fold, and of which

the world continues to reap the benefit at this hour. To marl and clay farms was an old practice in England ; for Harrison, in his “ Description of Britaine,” in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, says, “Besides the compost that is carried out of the husbandmen's yards, ditches, and dove-houses, or out of great towns, we have with us a kind of white marl, which is of so great force, that, if it be cast over a piece of land but once in three-score years, it shall not need of any further composting.” The usage seems, however, to have died away, and its advantages were rediscovered by Lord Townshend and a Mr. Allen, who applied it to the sands of Norfolk, and converted boundless wilds of rabbit-warrens and sheep-walks into rich, grain-bearing soil. Young estimated that before the close of the century “ three or four hundred thousand acres of wastes had been turned into gardens," and rents rose from sums be. tween sixpence and two shillings an acre to fifteen shillings and twenty. Many of the tenants realized a capital which amounted to more than the reputed worth of the property. A Mr. Mallett made a fortune in thirty years on a farm of 1500 acres, and bought land of his own of the value of 17001. a year -a more remarkable example even than that of the Scotch proprietor mentioned by Dr. Cartwright, who, being compelled to sell his estate, hired it on a lease, and afterwards repurchased it with the profits he derived from his tenancy.

But marling would not of itself have reclaimed the Norfolk deserts. Turpips, which are said by Young to have been brought into farm cultivation by the celebrated Jethro Tull, found such a zealous advocate in Lord Townshend, that he got the name of " Turnip Townshend." This crop he had the sagacity to see was the parent of all the future crops. Without winter food little stock could be kept, without stock there could be little manure, and with little manure there could not be much of anything else. The turnips were, therefore, employed to secure a large dung-heup, and the dung-heap in turn was mainly appropriated to securing the largest possible store of turnips. This tillage in a circle was as productive as it was simple. The ground, cleaned and enriched by the root-crop, afterwards yielded abundant harvests of corn ; and, as we have already stated, the treading of the sheep upon the loose soil, while they fed off a portion of the turnips, gave it the necessary firmness. Thus through the agency of turnips a full fold and a full bullock-yard made a full granary. Essex and Suffolk soon copied the method, but they did not carry it so far as Norfolk; and in many places the turnips were never thinded or hoed, upon which their size and consequently nearly all their value depended.

The rotation of crops was, however, considered the especial characteristic of the Norfolk husbandry. Until past the middle of the century no just ideas prevailed upon the subject in any other portion of the kingdom. Sir John Sinclair says that all courses were thought to be alike, and deserving neither of praise nor censure. The grand rule of the Norfolk cultivators, to which they steadily adhered, was never to be tempted to take two corn-crops in succession. But, in truth, no one part of their system could be dispensed with, and its value was as a whole. They had not only learnt the iinportance of alternating grain with other products of the soil, but they had ascertained the particular advantage of having the barley follow the turnips, the clover the barley, and the wheat the clover; for the fibrous roots of the latter were the finest possible pabulum for the lucrative wheat, and nothing else would have been equally efficacious. Young found this four-course system widely prevalent in 1767. The principal variation, he says, was in the duration of the clover, which some persons allowed to remain for two or three seasons before breaking it up for wheat. All these changes were brought about in the thirty years, from 1730 to 1760, but they were confined, with slight exceptions, to Norfolk itself; and it was not till after Young appeared upon the scene that they began to penetrate into other districts. After a considerable interval, during part of which Francis, Duke of Bed

ford, was the agricultural leader, another great Norfolk land-owner succeeded to the mantle of Lord Townshend. This was Mr. Coke, of Holkham, afterwards Earl of Leicester, who, towards the close of the last, and throughout the first quarter of the present century, beaded the movement. The reclaiming the wastes of Norfolk, the marlıng the light land, the extensive cultivation of turnips, and the introduction of the rotation of crops, have all been ascribed to him. But as Young, in the Tours he published several years before Mr. Coke possessed an acre in the county, states that every one of these practices was then in common use, and constituted the general features of the Norfolk husbandry, it is evident that this is another of the numerous cases in which the last improver is credited with the accumulated merits of his predecessors. But though the precise nature of what Mr. Coke effected is often misunderstood, the amount of his services has not been overrated. He stands foremost among the class of whom Arthur Young wrote in 1770—- Let no one accuse me of the vanity of thinking that I shall ever, by writing, wean farmers of their prejudices : all improvements in agriculture must have their origin in landlords." Five years afterwards Mr. Coke succeeded to the estates of the Leicester family. The fine house at Holkham, erected from the designs of Kent, about the middle of the last century, bears an inscription which imports that it was built in the midst of a desert tract, and its noble founder was accustomed to say, at once jocularly and sadly, that his nearest neighbor was the King of Denmark. There was still many a broad acre in its primitive state of sheep-walk, and Mr. Cuke graphically described the condition of portions of the property surrounding this princely mansion by the remarks that he found two rabbits quarrelling for one blade of grass.

His first care was to apply the existing methods to fertilizing his barren wilds ; his second was to improve on the prevailing practices; his third was to persuade his countrymen to follow his example. From the thirty years, between 1760 and 1790, both landlords and tenants were content to follow in the track wbich Lord Townshend had marked out for them-a track which led to such wealth that it is no wonder they were not tempted to further experiments. Mr. Coke roused them from their lethargy, and what Young calls a " second revolution" commenced. The great evil of the time was the isolation in which farmers lived. They were nearly as much fixtures as their houses, and what was done upon one side of a hedge was hardly known upon the other. The Lord of Holkham instituted his annual sheep-shearing, at which he feasted crowds of guests from all parts and of all degrees. Under the guise of a gigantic festival, it was an agricultural school of the most effective kind, for the social benevolence engendered by such magnificent hospitality disarmed prejudice, and many who would have looked with disdain upon new breeds of stock, new-fangled implements, and new modes of tillage, regarded them with favor when they came recommended by their genial host. Hot politician as he was, according to the fashion of those days, his opponents forgot the partisan in the agriculturist; and when Cobbett, who had no leaning to him, rode through Norfolk in 1821, he acknowledged that every one “ made uso of the expressions towards him that affectionate children use towards the best of parents."'. “I have not,” he adds, “ met with a single exception." The distinguished visitors who came from other counties to the sheep-shearings, carried home with them lessons which had an effect upon farming throughout the kingdom. Escluded by his political opinions from Court favor or office, Mr. Coke must have found abundant compensation in the feudal state of gatherings, at which, as a contemporary journalist records, "hundreds assembled and were entertained farming, hunting, or shooting in the mornings-after dinner discussing agricultural subjects, whether the Southdown or the new Leicester was the better sheep-whether the Devon or the old Norfolk ox was the more profitable.” In dealing with those who farmed under him, he showed the same wisdom as in bis own tillage. He formed an intimacy with Young, and acted on three of his maxims, on which agricultural progress may be said to depend—that

truly good tenant-farmer cannot be too much favored, or a had one have his rent raised too high ”- that “good culture is another name for much labor"

- that “great farniers are generally rich farmers.” By these methods he raised his rental to more thousands a year than it was hundreds when he inherited the estate, and had enriched a numerous tenantry into the bargain. Mr. Coke showed that no profession in the world was so lucrative as that of a landlord who devoted his life to the improvement of his property. The wealth, nevertheless, which accrued to himself was the smallest part of the gain. He was a national benefactor upon a mighty scale, and was the cause, directly and indirectly, of adding a countless mass of corn and cattle, of beef and mutton, bread and beer to the resources of the country.

No discovery, perhaps, in agriculture was made by Mr. Coke, but he showed a surprising sagacity in singling out what was good in ideas which were not received by the farming public at large, in combining them into a system, and persevering in them till they prevailed. Young states, in his “ Report on the Agriculture of Norfolk,” which was published in 1804, that Mr. Coke had even then grown the invaluable Swedish turnip for several years with the greatest success, and used large quantities of purchased manure in the shape of rape-cake. Above all, he at that date drilled the whole of his crops, turnips included, and he was the prominent champion of this much opposed system, which is now universally adopted for the time and labor it saves, for the facility it affords for applying the manure directly to the seed, for keeping down weeds and stirring the soil by means of the horse-hoe, and for thioning out the crop with regularity and speed.

The Norfolk farmers, while attending to arable culture, had never turned their attention to improving their stock. One of Mr. Coke's most intelligent tenants said that “bones and offal, rather than meat, were the production of the best grass lands in the county." A small number of Norfolk or Suffolk cows, good milkers but miserable graziers, were kept, and a flock of the blackfaced, long-horned, Norfolk sheep-an active, bony, bardy animal, well suited to pick up a living on the wild, bare heaths, and which gave a little wool every year, and a little mutton at the end of four or five. It is just fifty years since Mr. Coke said, in one of his annual Holkham speeches, " that a Norfolk flock had hitherto been considered as little more, in point of profit, than a dung-cart.” He soon taught his tenants that, valuable as was manure, they had better keep animals which would at the same time make a return in flesh and fat. His own skill in the difficult art of judging of the qualities of stock was great, and he used to assist bis neighbors in parcelling out the ewes to the rams according to the shapes of each, that the defects of one parent might, as much as possible, he remedied by the good points in the other. "I have seen him and the late Duke of Bedford,” says Young, “ put on a shepherd's smock, work all day, and not quit the business till darkness forced them to dinner."

A new system of fattening sheep, which has been attended with wonderful results, was commenced in 1824, on the suggestion of Mr. Coke's steward, Blaikie, by Mr. John Hudson, now known throughout England in connection with his present farm of Castle Acre. He ventured to supply bis young wethers with sliced turnips and purchased oil-cake. Such was the success of his experiment, " that, to Mr. Coke's astonishment, when be asked to see the produce of his tup, he found they had been sent fat to market twelve months before the usual time." Yet all John Hudson's neighbors, including big father, a man of agricultural progress, prophesied his ruin from his extrava. gance in buying food for sheep, which was regarded in much the same light in farming as for a young spendthrift to go for money to the Jews. At the pregent day the purchase of linseed-cake, or meal, or foreign pulse, is one of the regular means by which an increased quantity of meat is manufactured. Wherever turnips are grown and sliced, there cake-troughs are to be seen, and the improved feeding, coupled with the natural tendency of the improved breeds to early maturity, has multiplied to an enormous extent the amount of

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »