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ROYAL AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY.*
In the spring of 1839, Mr. Webster went for a short time to Eng. land. He went in no public capacity, but his reputation had preceded him, and he was received with every mark of the most distinguished consideration. He was present at several public festivals, and his addresses appear to have made a deep impression on those who heard them. The following is the only one, however, which was reported at any length. It was delivered at the first Triennial Celebration of the Royal Agricultural Society, held at Oxford, on the 18th of July. Three thousand persons were at table. Earl Spencer presided, and, in introducing Mr. Webster, said they had “ already drunk the health of a foreign minister who was present, but they had the honor and advan. tage of having among them other foreigners, not employed in any public capacity, who had come among them for the purpose of seeing a meeting of English farmers, such as he believed never had been witnessed before, but which he hoped might often be seen again. Among these foreigners was one gentleman, of a most distinguished character, from the United States of America, that great country, whose people we were obliged legally to call foreigners, but who were still our brethren in blood. It was most gratifying to him that such a man was present at that meeting, that he might know what the farmers of England really were, and be able to report to his fellow-citizens the manner in which they were united, from every class, in promoting their peaceful and most important objects." He gave,
“ The health of Mr. Webster, and other distinguished strangers." The toast was received with much applause.
MR. WEBSTER said the notice which the noble Earl at the head of the table had been kind enough to take of him, and the friendly sentiments which he had seen fit to express towards the coun
* Address at the Triennial Celebration of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, at Oxford, on the 18th of July, 1839.
try to which he belonged, demanded his most cordial acknowledgments. He should therefore begin by saying how much he was gratified in having it in his power to pass one day among the proprietors, the cultivators, the farmers, of Old England; that England of which he had been reading and conversing all his life, and now for once had the pleasure of visiting.
I would say, in the next place, continued Mr. Webster, if I could say, how much I have been pleased and gratified with one portion of the exhibition for which we are indebted to the formation of the Royal Agricultural Society, and that is, the assemblage of so large a number of the farmers of England. When persons connected with some pursuit, of whatever description, assemble in such numbers, I cannot look on them but with respect and regard; but I freely confess that I am more than ordinarily moved on all such occasions, when I see before me, on either continent, a great assemblage of those whose interests, whose hopes, whose objects and pursuits in life, are connected with the cultivation of the soil.
Whatever else may tend to enrich and beautify society, that which feeds and clothes comfortably the great mass of mankind should always be regarded as the great foundation of national prosperity. I need not say that the agriculture of England is instructive to all the world; as a science, it is here better understood; as an art, it is here better practised; as a great interest, it is here as highly esteemed as in any other part of the globe.
The importance of agriculture to a nation is obvious to every man; but it, perhaps, does not strike every mind so suddenly, although certainly it is equally true, that the annual produce of English agriculture is a great concern to the whole civilized world. The civilized and commercial states are so connected, their interests are so blended, that it is a matter of notoriety, that the fear or the prospect of a short crop in England deranges and agitates the business transactions and commercial speculations of the whole trading world.
It is natural that this should be the case in those nations which look to the occurrence of a short crop in England as an occasion which may enable them to dispose profitably of their own surplus produce. But the fact goes much farther, for when such an event occurs in the English capital, — the cen
tre of commercial speculations, where the price of commodities is settled and arranged for the whole world, where the exchanges between nations are conducted and concluded, -its consequences are felt everywhere, as no one knows better than the noble Earl who occupies the chair. Should there be a frost in England fifteen days later than usual in the spring, should there be an unseasonable drought, or ten cold and wet days, instead of ten warm and dry ones, when the harvest is reaped, every exchange in Europe and America is more or less affected by the result.
I will not pursue these remarks. [Loud cries of “Go on! Go on!”] I must, however, say, that I entertain not the
I slightest doubt of the great advantage to the interest of agriculture which must result from the formation and operation of this society. Is it not obvious to the most common observer, that those who cultivate the soil have not the same conveniences, opportunities, and facilities of daily intercourse and comparison of opinions, as the commercial and manufacturing interests ? Those who are associated in the pursuits of commerce and manufactures naturally congregate together in cities; they have immediate means of frequent communication. Their sympathies, feelings, and opinions are instantaneously circulated, like electricity, through the whole body.
But how is it with the cultivators of the soil ? Separated, spread over a thousand fields, each attentive to his own acres, they have only occasional opportunities of communicating with each other. If among commercial men chambers of commerce, and other institutions of that character, - if among the trades guilds are found expedient, how much more necessary and advisable to have some such institutions as this society, which, at least annually, shall bring together the representatives of the great agricultural interest!
In many parts of the country to which I belong, there are societies upon a similar principle, which have been found very advantageous. As with you, they offer rewards for specimens of fine animals, and for implements of husbandry supposed to excel those which have been known before. They turn their attention to every thing designed to facilitate the operations of the farmer, and improve his stock, and interest in the country. Among other means of improving agriculture, they
have imported largely from the best breeds of animals known in England. I am sure that a gentleman who has to-day deservedly obtained many prizes for stock will not be displeased to learn that I have seen, along the rich pastures of the Ohio and its tributary streams, animals raised from those which had been furnished by his farms in Yorkshire and Northumberland.
But, apart from this subject, I beg leave to make a short response to the very kind sentiments, which went near to my heart, as uttered by the noble Earl at the head of the table.
The noble chairman was pleased to speak of the people of the United States as kindred in blood with the people of Eng. land. I am an American. I was born on that great continent, and I am wedded to the fortunes of my country, for weal or for
There is no other region of the earth which I can call my country. But I know, and I am proud to know, what blood flows in these veins.
I am happy to stand here to-day, and to remember, that, although my ancestors, for several generations, lie buried beneath the soil of the western continent, yet there has been a time when my ancestors and your ancestors toiled in the same cities and villages, cultivated adjacent fields, and worked together to build up that great structure of civil polity which has made England what England is.
When I was about to embark for this country, some friends asked me what I was going to England for. To be sure, Gentlemen, I came for no object of business, public or private; but I told them I was coming to see the elder branch of the family. I told them I was coming to see my distant relations, my kith and kin of the old Saxon race.
With regard to whatsoever is important to the peace of the world, its prosperity, the progress of knowledge and of just opinions, the diffusion of the sacred light of Christianity, I know nothing more important to the promotion of those best interests of humanity, and the cause of the general peace, amity, and concord, than the good feeling subsisting between the Englishmen on this side of the Atlantic, and the descendants of Eng. lishmen on the other.
Some little clouds have overhung our horizon, — I trust they will soon pass away. I am sure that the age we live in does not expect that England and America are to have controversies
carried to the extreme, upon any occasion not of the last importance to national interests and honor.
We live in an age when nations, as well as individuals, are subject to a moral responsibility. Neither governments nor people — thank God for it! — can now trifle with the general sense of the civilized world; and I am sure that the civilized world would hold your country and my country to a very strict account, if, without very plain and apparent reason, deeply affecting the independence and great interests of the nation, any controversy between them should have other than an amicable issue.
I will venture to say that each country has intelligence enough to understand all that belongs to its just rights, and is not deficient in means to maintain them; and if any controversy between England and America were to be pushed to the extreme of force, neither party would or could have any signal advantage over the other, except what it could find in the justice of its cause and the approbation of the world.
With respect to the occasion which has called us together, I beg to repeat the gratification which I have felt in passing a day in such a company, and to conclude with the most fervent expression of my wish for the prosperity and usefulness of the
the Agricultural Society of England.