« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
every one. Now, we find that a circular reaping machine was sometime ago employed, though it was never brought to such perfection as to be applied to practical use. This return to the straight blade and reciprocating motion would indicate from analogy a progress in a wrong direction. There may, however, be specialties in the case, to render the analogy inapplicable.
Although much ingenuity has been displayed in agricultural implements, with the design of economising labour, agriculture has benefited comparatively little by the use of steam power, which has given such a wonderful impulse to the manufactures of our country. Agriculture is often spoken of as a species of manufacture; and it is contended that in political economy it should be treated as our other manufactures. It has been maintained that the process by which potatoes and corn are raised from the soil, belongs to the same category as the process by which calicoes are manufactured from cotton; and the farmer is taunted with the slow progress he has made compared to the cotton aristocracy. The cases, however, are materially different. Steam power has done every thing for our manufactures; but the problem which agriculture presents is so much more difficult, that almost no material aid has been derived from it. In the factory the work is brought to the machine, but in agriculture the machine must be brought to the work; and the difficulty of adaptation to the specialties of the case is so great, that all attempts to prepare the soil by steam power have failed. Several steam ploughs were no doubt exhibited, but a moment's inspection was sufficient to discover their defects. There were both stationary and locomotive engines with ploughs attached, but they were only slight modifica tions of plans which have already been tried and signally failed. I do not, however, despair of seeing steam economically applied to direct agricultural operations. After the wondrous triumphs of steam, which have falsified all the predictions of the incredulous, it would be presumptuous to maintain its inapplicability to agriculture. Still the conditions are so different, that it may be unhesitatingly assumed that agriculture can never be benefited by steam in a like degree with our manufactures. With all the recent agricultural improvements, the ratio of animal power to the produce has not been materially changed, while in the various manufactures the change has been enormous. Agriculture can shew nothing that can match the vast gulph between the distaff and the spinning-jenny; and while, in the very nature of things, this disparity must exist, it would be unjust to treat agriculture as one of our manufactures. There is again a wide difference in this, that while the manufacturer has only to do with mechanical and chemical forces, the agriculturist has to deal with capricious vital forces, and has to struggle with the uncertain elements of the atmosphere, over which he has no control. The manufacturer, no doubt, has to struggle with the uncertain elements of commerce, (which the farmer has also to do,) but he can calculate, generally, with unerring certainty as to the amount of produce from a given application of capital and power. With these and other points of difference, it is obvious that it can only be by an undue generalization of the term, that agriculture is included in manufactures.
We cannot quit the subject of agricultural machines, without adverting to an ingenious mode of irrigation, invented by a Doctor of the Church, to whom the Church at large owes a deep debt of gratitude for his unwearied labours to provide spiritual irrigation for the waste and desolate places of our land. Notwithstanding his abundant labours in instructing the youthful hopes of the Church, and in rousing all quarters of the country to a sense of the spiritual desolation crying aloud for a remedy, he has found time to devise an ingenious and effective mode of agricultural irrigation. In the most improved style of farming, liquid manure is conveyed through pipes permanently laid in the ground, to all parts of the farm. When any particular field is to be irrigated, the pipe is opened at the nearest point, a gutta percha hose is attached, and the liquid manure is discharged over the field as a fireman discharges water from the hose of a fire-engine. In the plan hitherto in use, there is only one centre of distribution, viz., the tank in the farm-yard. This is the heart from which the metallic arteries radiate in all directions. This involves, however, an enormous expense for pipes, and for the power requisite to keep up the pulsation of this single arterial ventricle. The peculiarity of the new contrivance referred to, consists in employing many centres of distribution instead of one. A portable steam engine is employed, and when it is required for use, it is conveyed to one of the artificial or natural wells at convenient places throughout the farm. It then works a force pump, by which the water is drawn from the well and forced to a considerable height through the gutta percha hose. The metallic pipes are entirely dispensed with, and much less power is necessary than if an engine was employed at the farm-steading as the sole centre of distribution. By this plan the manure is applied separately in a dry state as a dressing, and it is only pure water that is discharged through the hose. Pure water also, irrespective of the top-dressing, may be frequently applied, as it is well known that water which appears perfectly pure may possess highly fertilising properties. Besides the utility of such a plan, it will add a new feature of interest to the landscape. The beautiful parabolic jet of pure water descending in a sunny shower of spray, will present a convenient ground for the colours of " the bow of mercy ribbed with the native hues of heavenly love." The engine panting and blowing with its white volumes of high-pressure steam, and its lofty liquid column, will represent not amiss the Great Geyser of Iceland. But in these days of gross utilitarianism, we can look for amenity only as an incidental item.
Every man who has at heart the moral and material welfare of his country, must feel deeply interested in its agricultural prosperity. I greatly fear that the project of making this country the factory of the world, irrespective of all other interests, can be accomplished only by the loss of all that is most glorious in our country's history. What has been the history of manufactures hitherto, but the aggregation of vice and ignorance in manufacturing centres, where there is kept up an incessant fermentation of all evil elements ever threatening to break forth as a lava flood on society around. Is it not manufactures that have presented the most terrible problems for solution in modern times-problems that fill the hearts of thoughtful philanthropists with dismay. God forbid that
we should doubt the efficacy of Christianity to meet the new social wants of such a state of things; but it is plain, that as yet there is no such adjustment of ecclesiastical machinery sensibly to affect the rapid progress of manufacturing corruption. And while such is the case, we cannot look but with sorrowful apprehension to any check to the prosperity of our agricultural population, who form the staple of our country's worth and morality.
I must plead guilty, in many things, to the frailty incident to advancing years, of insisting that the world is every day growing worse; but I cannot deny the great change for the better, that has, since my early days, come over the rural population. No class, perhaps, has made such a rapid advance as that of the farmer. This advance has not been in material prosperity only. He has greatly advanced in intelligence and moral tone, so that the farmer of the present day occupies a higher social standing than the laird of former days. In regard to convivial habits, the change has been of the happiest kind. The hard drinking of former days has alnost disappeared, and altogether an improved tone of moral feeling pervades the class as a whole. As to the peasantry, it is to be feared that the change is not of so healthful a kind. It is to be feared that they cannot be compared in piety with their godly forefathers. Still, as far as material prosperity is concerned, I believe there is a change to the better. In many cases the farm servants of the present day are better housed than the masters of the last generation. The landed gentry have also, on the whole, experienced a change for the better. Religion is more respected, and a greater considerate thoughtfulness is shewn towards the interests of their dependents. Instead of standing too much on prerogative as in former days, they are more inclined to look to the duty-aspect of their position. Is there any topic at the table of the laird more frequently discussed than the wants and comforts of the poor, and the wellbeing of all classes in the parish? Yet side by side with these facts, and I am sure almost every rural parish will furnish similar facts, we have the astounding announcement made, and based on statistical figures, that Scotland is far outstripping every other nation in immorality; that she is becoming, or is already, the most drunken country in the world; and that she far outstrips every other in the ratio of the increase of crime to that of population. This can only be accounted for by the festering centres presented by the densely aggregated masses in our manufacturing districts. No one can then look upon the progressive condensation of
our population in such centres without alarm. It is to be feared that
to protract the struggle somewhat longer. It would now appear that the merciless might of steam power is about to wrench even these exceptional fabrics from the poor hand-loom weaver. Being deeply interested in the welfare of a weaving village in my parish, I frequently visited the department of machinery in motion in the Exhibition, to see if there was still any hope for the hand-loom. I found from the intelligent persons who exhibited the machinery, that it was their opinion, that the extinction of the hand-loom trade was close at hand. I almost coaxed them into decision in favour of some particular fabrics; but they were quite inexorable. They held that it was now altogether a matter of time and capital; that steam power was now quite adequate to any of the linen fabrics still claimed by the hand-loom weaver; and that the increased economy would be such as to put competition out of the question. It is truly sad to contemplate the blow which the rural population must receive by such a change. I doubt not that the revolutions inseparably connected with the march of civilization will ultimately redound to the glory of God and the good of mankind; but the contemplation of the immediate misery which they produce is calculated to fill the heart with the deepest sadness. It is important, however, to those interested in the welfare of the labouring classes, to foresee the inevitable doom of hand-loom weaving, and so to anticipate it as to alleviate the misery of the transition period.
I spent a great proportion of time among the various steam-engines at work. It was to me an unceasing source of delight to study the various improvements, and to trace the marvellous progress that has been made since the time of the ill-fated Comet,-the first steamer that plied regularly upon the Clyde. When I remembered, with the freshness of yesterday, the first application of the steam engine to navigation, and saw around me the advance that has been made in the short interval, I experienced a most vivid impression of the progressive character of the age in which we live. The world, as far as mechanical triumphs are concerned, is like a giant roused from the slumber of centuries, and no one can set a limit to these achievements. I could wish to enter more minutely into the distinguishing features of the more important engines, but I must forego this pleasure.
I must now bid adieu to the Crystal Palace and all its glories. It was a transient vision, but a vision never to be forgotten, and in the quiet sequestered nook in which these lines are penned, it still rises up before me in all its imposing grandeur. I cannot conclude my narrative without recording my grateful sense of the kind providence that watched over me during that memorable period. After a whole week's absence, I returned to the bosom of my flock, none the worse of my long travel, and the scenes of commotion in which I had mingled. It would be ungrateful however, in me to omit recording a gracious deliverance that was vouchsafed from a scene of no ordinary peril. I had made up my mind to spend the Saturday on which I was in London, in visiting the Meteorological Observatory at Kew,-which has gained much celebrity throughout Europe by the ingenious methods there adopted for the selfregistry of meteorological changes. I started by the steamer from Lon
don Bridge, and after a pleasant sail up the river, I was landed at Kew. I first visited the botanical gardens. I there saw a beautiful specimen of the Victoria Regia swimming in a large tank. It is distinguished by the great breadth of its circular leaf. I applied my walking stick across it, but it did not span it by a foot or two. When looking at the leaf I could not but admire the admirable adaptation of its structure to its habits. As it has to float in water subject to much agitation, it must be very strong and very buoyant,―otherwise, on account of its vast size, it would be very easily torn. The young leaf swims perfectly flat upon the water, but when it increases in size the rim turns up, and in the full leaf I should suppose that it is two or three inches above the surface. The leaf is thus changed into a buoyant vessel. But this is not all; one of the leaves was turned upside down, and the very curious structure of the underside was beautifully displayed. It presented a honey-combed appearance, the veins standing out from the surface an inch or more, so as to constitute cells by their intersections. These cells not only contribute to the buoyancy, but also greatly strengthen the leaf. The problem was the same as in the case of the Menai tubular bridge,—with a given amount of material to fashion it into the strongest structure, and it was solved in the same way by adopting the cellular principle. The buoyancy of the leaf is so great that it can bear the weight of a man without sinking. We are no doubt surrounded daily with adaptations as wonderful; but we are more struck with them when they are presented to us in some new organism. A similar delighted surprise was felt when the peculiar contrivance by which the young of marsupial animals are suckled, was discovered. The conditions were novel;-the young animal completing the period of gestation externally, with its mouth permanently fixed to the mother's nipple. In this immature state it has not muscular power to suck,--but the object is accomplished by muscles attached to the mammae, by which the milk is pressed by the agency of the mother into the mouth of its offspring. This new and palpable adaptation of means to an end could not fail to impress the mind with the finger of God in so striking an exercise of wisdom. It gave me great pleasure to find so many things connected with the Kew gardens to reflect credit on the character of Scotland. I entered into conversation with one of the working gardeners, and found that he was a Scotchman. He told me that a very large proportion of the gardeners were Scotchmen; and that Mr. Smith the curator came up from Scotland as a journeyman gardener. The director, Sir William Hooker, was taken from a Scotch university, Glasgow. It also gave me much pleasure to witness throughout the grounds such abundant proofs of the industry of his son, Dr. Joseph Hooker, who has already gained a distinguished reputation as a botanist, and who received his education at Glasgow College.
After finding the Meteorological Observatory with some difficulty, and spending a considerable time in the examination of the apparatus, I was conducted, by the venerable philosopher who superintends the establishment, to the railway station, where he left me comfortably seated by myself in a carriage in the hinder part of the train. I was not long left to