Large farms are almost unknown in Connecticut, and the average-sized farm, which is not far from a hundred acres, is decreasing with every decade. If the welfare of society is considered, this tendency is not to be regretted.
Very large estates, thoroughly improved and worked mainly for economical results, employ a large force of laborers, content to sell their labor, and never looking forward to the possession of homes of their own. [But] our democratic institutions encourage every man to covet the possession of land for himself. As soon as he becomes intelligent and skillful, and makes himself profitable to his employer, he discovers that he can make his own labor pay better on his own land than on that of his neighbor; hence he improves the first opportunity to buy a few acres, or a run-down farm, and starts in business for himself.
This thirst for land, which runs in the blood of every Yankee, and which infects almost every European very soon after he lands upon our shores, operates very steadily against farming upon a large scale. The large land-holder finds it very difficult to secure good help at reasonable prices, and still more difficult to keep first-class workmen after he gets them. In a very few years they want to set up for themselves.
This is a very good thing for society, which wants the largest number of intelligent, prosperous freeholders, but not so good for the capitalist, who wants a thousand acres and twenty laborers the year round to furnish the sinews for his brain and purse.
So we find in this commonwealth a great division of the soil among a multitude of cultivators, and almost every variety of farming that is possible upon a small territory.
[The Cultivator & Country Gentleman—April 29, 1875]
In the Agrarian Nation of 1875 it was understood that a large number of intelligent, prosperous freeholders was "a very good thing for society." That is to say, that having a majority of citizens living on their own small sections of land, and working to derive the bulk of their subsistence from their land, is a very good thing for society.
That pretty much defines what an Agrarian Nation is.
Though America has changed with the sweep of industrialism, the wisdom of this old excerpt is as sound as it ever was.
Which reminds me... if you have not yet read my NY Times editorial, titled The Jeffersonian Solution, please do so.
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I enjoy "Agrarian Nation" and your editorial as well.
This is one of my favorite posts so far!
An excellent introduction to the agrarian economy. Jennifer in western NC
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