XX. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS (cont.)
What the Legislature Should Do for Agriculture
The further progress of our national agriculture is undoubtedly to be looked for from the independent exertions of those immediately engaged in it; but important assistance might be, and ought to be, afforded to them by the legislature, chiefly in the way of removing obstructions,. What we desiderate in this respect is the repeal, or at least the important modification, of the law of distraint and hypothec; the commutation of the burden attaching to copyhold lands; the reformation of the law of settlement; the removal of the risk and costs which art present interfere with the transference of land; the endowment of an adequate number of agricultural colleges, with suitable museums, apparatus, and illustrative farms; and the compulsory adoption of a uniform standard of weights and measures. We desire also to see the arterial or truck drainage of the country undertaken by government, Until this is done, vast tracts of the most fertile land in the kingdom cannot be cultivated with safety and economy, or attain to the productiveness of which they are capable. It is the opinion of Mr. Bailey Denton, the eminent draining engineer, that not more than three millions of acres of the land of Great Britain have yet been drained. Our national interests surely require that its agriculture should be freed from such obstructions as these, and that it should receive the benefit of a fair share of public provision, such as is made for training youths for the learned professions and for the public service; and of such grants as are given in aid of scientific research for the encouragement of the fine arts, and for the furtherance of manufactures and commerce.
We cannot close this section without referring to another grievance which has long had a most depressing effect on the agriculture of particular districts of our country, and is now, we regret to say, spreading rapidly to all parts of it, in the excessive preservation of game. This evil has been greatly aggravated since that mode of sporting called the battue has unhappily become the fashion. For this amusement a very head of game is reckoned to be indispensable, and proprietors who engage in it are naturally enough led to vie with each other as to who shall show the greatest quantity of game, and report the heaviest bag, at their respective shooting parties. All this necessarily implies a grievous waste of farm produce, and frightful loss to farmers whose crops are exposed to the incursions of the privileged vermin. Worst of all, these hordes of game present such irresistible temptation to poaching that the rural population is demoralized by it to an alarming extent. So long as field sports were in a great measure restricted to resident landowners and their personal friends, they were, with rare exceptions, careful not to allow their tenants to be injured by game. Now, however, there are multitudes of men, who, having acquired wealth in business, are eager to engage in field sports, and ready to give almost any amount of money for the privilege of doing so. These game tenants are often utterly regardless of the interest of farmers, and cause them both loss and annoyance. All this is occasioning such an amount of heart-burning and alienation of feeling between different classes of society as cannot fail to gave disastrous consequence. A few years ago the removal of hares and rabbits from the list of animals protected by the game-laws would, so far at least as landlords and their tenants are concerned, have put an end to all this misery. The refusal of so moderate a concession has in all likelihood sealed the fate of these oppressive laws which have so long embittered society and disgraced our country.
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Agriculture - Table of Contents