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Title: Makers of Modern Agriculture
Author: Macdonald, William
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Jethro Tull

Founder of the Principles of Dry-Farming. 1674-1740.]




_Editor, "Agricultural Journal," Union Department of Agriculture,
South Africa; and Corresponding Secretary for the International
Dry-Farming Congress_





Richard Clay and Sons, Limited,




When it is remembered what a prominent part Agriculture plays in the
history of all Nations, it does seem strange that so little is known
of the lives of those pioneers who have been foremost in the discovery
of fundamental principles, improved methods, and labour-saving
machines. Perhaps it is that farmers as a whole are not specially fond
of reading. This, however, is not to be wondered at, because after a
long day's work in the open air it is hard to rivet one's mind on
anything more serious than the headlines of a daily newspaper, or the
rose-tinted pictures of a rural magazine. Still, it is safe to
prophesy that the successful farmer of the future will not only be a
hard worker, but also a hard reader. And biography brings before us,
in a vivid manner, the onward march of modern Agriculture.

It is also of interest to note how much Agriculture owes to men who
could scarcely be called practical farmers. Indeed, the author has
been impressed, contrary to common opinion, with the success of the
Townsman who takes to farming. But this is really no more surprising
than that the simple-hearted farm lad should forsake the Old Homestead
for the fascinations of the City, and by reason of his character,
courage, and industry, become in a few years the Captain of some great
commercial enterprise. There will always be the ceaseless ebb and
flow of the human tide between country lane and crowded street. But it
is surely our plain duty to do something to make the life of the
worker in the field less dull and lonely, and more attractive by the
erection of pleasant cottages and the establishment of rural
industries: while, at the same time, we try to brighten the life of
the toiler in the town by freehold garden lots and sunlit, open

I desire to thank the Editors of the several papers in which these
Sketches have appeared for kind permission to republish them in book
form: The _Graphic_ (Chapter I), The _Star_, Johannesburg (Chapter
II), the _Rand Daily Mail_ (Chapters III and IV), and the _Sunday
Post_ (Chapter V). To the _Journal_ of the Royal Agricultural Society
of England, I am indebted for the frontispiece (Jethro Tull), as well
as for much valuable information.

  Royal Agricultural Society of England,
      16, Bedford Square, London,
         _September 1st, 1913._



    Portrait of Jethro Tull   _Frontispiece_

    I. Jethro Tull                                   1

   II. Coke of Norfolk                              16

  III. Arthur Young                                 39

   IV. John Sinclair                                54

    V. Cyrus H. McCormick                           68

     "One comfort is, that Great Men, taken up in any way, are
     profitable company."--Carlyle.




     _"For the finer land is made by tillage the richer will it become
     and the more plants will it maintain."_--Jethro Tull.

Eight miles to the north-west of Reading, on a lovely reach of the
River Thames, lies the parish town of Basildon, in the County of
Berkshire. Here, in the year 1674, was born the man who revolutionized
British agriculture and laid the foundations for the "Conquest of the
Desert." Yet, strange as it may seem, until the other day Tull's
grave was unknown, and even now no monument marks the resting-place of
this illustrious husbandman. His family was of ancient and honourable
lineage, and he was heir to a competent estate. At seventeen he
entered his name on the register of St. John's College, Oxford; but he
did not proceed to a degree. Two years later he was admitted as a
student of Gray's Inn, and was, in due course, called to the Bar. It
is probable that Tull studied law not so much with the thought of
taking it up seriously as a profession, but simply in order to better
fit himself for a political career. Ill-health, however, made him turn
his attention to farming. At the age of twenty-five he married a lady
of good family, Miss Susanna Smith, of the County of Warwick, and then
settled down to farm in Oxfordshire.

His first farm was Howberry, in the parish of Crowmarsh. The land of
this farm was fertile and renowned for heavy crops of both wheat and
barley. Here Tull lived and toiled for nine years, till at last his
health broke down and he was ordered south to the milder climate of
France and Italy. So he decided to sell a portion of his Oxfordshire
estate and send his family to another farm in Berkshire named
"Prosperous," situated in the parish of Shalbourne. After an absence
of three years Tull returned to "Prosperous Farm"--a place for ever
famous in the annals of agriculture. Here he lived for twenty-six
years to the close of his strenuous, chequered career. Of this farm,
Tull writes: "Situated on a little chalk on one side and heath on the
other, the soil is poor and shallow--generally too light and too
shallow to produce a tolerable crop of beans. This farm was made out
of the skirts of others; a great part was a sheep down with a full
reputation of poverty."

While in Europe Tull took special note of the deep and careful
cultivation of the vineyards, where the tillage of the soil between
the rows of the grape vines was made to take the place of manuring the
land. On his return to England he tried this method at "Prosperous
Farm," first with turnips and potatoes, and then with wheat. And by
adopting this simple system with some few modifications of his own, he
was enabled to grow wheat on the same fields for thirteen years
continuously without the use of manure.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was on his farm of Howberry that Tull invented and perfected his
drill in the year 1701. He has told the story of this invention in the
pages of his great work. Finding his plans for growing sainfoin[1]
hindered by the distaste of his labourers for his new methods, he
resolved to try to "contrive an engine to plant St. Foin more
faithfully than such hands would do. For that purpose I examined and
compared all the mechanical ideas that ever had entered my
imagination, and at last pitched upon a groove, tongue, and spring in
the sound-board of the organ. With these, a little altered, and some
parts of two other instruments, as foreign to the field as the organ
is, added to them, I composed my machine. It was named a drill,
because, when farmers used to sow their beans and peas in channels or
furrows by hand, they called that action drilling." And thus Tull's
drill, taken from the rotary mechanism of his favourite organ, is the
pioneer of all modern planters. His first invention was what he termed
a _drill-plough_ to sow wheat and turnip seed three rows at a time.

[1] A leguminous plant cultivated for fodder.

It was this invention that led Tull to enunciate his first principle
of tillage, namely, _drilling_. And it is the more amazing to reflect
that even after this long lapse of time many farmers still persist in
broadcasting their seed; for, as a recent authority working on the
semi-arid lands of Montana writes: "Sowing broadcast is bad at any
time, but in dry-farming it is suicidal." That the use of the drill
has everywhere effected an enormous saving of seed is common
knowledge; but let us hear what Tull has to say under this head: "Seed
(sainfoin) was scarce, dear, and bad, and enough could scarce be got
to sow, as was usual, seven bushels[2] to an acre. I examined and
thought the matter out, and found the greater part of the seed
miscarried, being bad, or too much covered. I observed, and counted,
and found when much seed had miscarried the crop was best." Here was
his second principle, _reduction of seed_, or, as we now say,
"thin-seeding," a practice which has been adopted by the dry-farmers
of Utah with remarkable success.

[2] At the present time it is customary to sow from 80-100 lb. of
sainfoin seed per acre.

Moreover, Tull was an ardent advocate of the weedless field, and he
saw, clearly enough, that dung was a serious menace to clean tillage,
as the seeds of troublesome weeds were apt to be scattered far and
wide over the farm. This led him to lay down as his third
principle--the _absence of weed_. But he certainly never, as is
sometimes said, condemned the use of manure. His experiments, however,
proved beyond the shadow of doubt that good crops might be grown
simply and solely by means of deep and constant tillage. So he says,
angrily: "The vulgar in general believe that I carried my farmyard
dung and threw it in a river. I have no river near; besides, my
neighbours buy dung at a good price; but it is known I neither sell
nor waste any dung. Against such lying tongues there is no defence."

Nevertheless, many years after his part was taken by none other than
the great scientist of Rothamsted, the late Sir John Lawes, who wrote
as follows:--

"Tull was quite an original genius and a century in advance of his
time. I consider he has been most unjustly accused of not placing
sufficient value upon farmyard manure; he advocated cleanliness, and
saw that dung was a great carrier of weeds. To give some clear idea of
the value of Tull's advocacy of drill-husbandry and the freedom from
weed which can alone be obtained by the use of the drill, I may
mention that so far as statistics will allow, I have ascertained the
average yield of the wheat crop of the world, and I am able to say
that the average yield is less than it is at the present time upon my
permanent wheat land, after more than sixty years absolutely without
manure. Here we have the result of Tull's three great
principles--_drilling, reduction of seed, and absence of weed_. If he
were alive now and were writing for the agriculture of the world, he
would, I think, be quite justified in saying everything he said in
regard to cleanliness and manure."

As a result of his studies, travels, and experiments, Tull published
"The New Horse-Hoeing Husbandry: or an Essay on the Principles of
Tillage and Vegetation" in the year 1731. The great value of this work
is that it is founded not upon mere theory, but upon actual
experiments in the field. The fourth edition, which I have beside me,
consists of 426 pages, with several plates, and 23 chapters which
treat of the following subjects: Of Roots and Leaves; Of Food of
Plants; Of Pastures of Plants; Of Dung; Of Tillage; Of Weeds; Of
Turnips; Of Wheat; Of Smuttiness; Of Lucerne; Of Change of Species; Of
Change of Individuals; Of Ridges; Old and New Husbandry; Of Ploughs;
The Four-Coulter'd Plough; Of the Drill-Boxes; Of the Wheat-Drill: Of
the Turnip-Drill; Of the Hoe-Plough; with an appendix concerning the
making of the drill and the hoe-plough.

Tull's idea--which was that by tillage soils might be constantly and
for ever reinvigorated or renewed--is summed up in his famous epigram,
"tillage is manure." He believed that the earth was the true and the
sole food of the plant, and, further, that the plant feeds and grows
by taking in minute particles of soil. And since these particles are
thrown off from the surface of the soil grains, it followed,
therefore, that the more finely the soil was divided the more numerous
the particles and the more readily the plant would grow. Although
Tull's theories were wrong, his practice has been followed by all
progressive farmers down to the present time. We now know that plants
do not absorb particles of earth, but take in food in solution.
Consequently, the more the particles of soil are broken up and
refined, the more plant food the roots can absorb. In this volume,
which must be counted an agricultural classic, Tull at once takes rank
as the foremost preacher of his time of the gospel of deep and perfect
tillage. And it is a work which, in the words of his great compeer,
Arthur Young, will "unquestionably carry his name to the latest

The botanical world has recently been illumined by the splendid
discovery of the principles of heredity set forth by Gregor Mendel,
and the foremost exponent of the new science, Professor Bateson,
writes as follows: "We have at last a brilliant method and a solid
basis from which to attack these problems, offering an opportunity to
the pioneer such as occurs but seldom even in the history of modern
science." Cannot we, as agriculturists, say the same with equal truth?
For, to our thinking, Jethro Tull bears the same relation to
dry-farming that Mendel does to plant-breeding. For if, on the one
hand, his drill-ploughs are the models from which have been derived
the marvellous agricultural machines of modern times, then, on the
other, his clean husbandry, his seed selection, his deep and constant
tillage are the fundamental principles in the great new science of
dry-farming. Nor should we forget that both Mendel and Tull
enunciated their principles only after long and patient experiment.

The principles which we have adopted in our experiments on the
Government Dry-Land Station at Lichtenburg, in the Transvaal and which
we propose to follow on all stations hereafter to be established in
the Union of South Africa, are seven in number, namely: (1) Deep
ploughing; (2) drilling; (3) thin seeding; (4) frequent harrowing; (5)
weedless lands; (6) few varieties; and (7) moisture-saving fallows.
And we know full well that the more faithfully we adhere to this
scheme the richer shall be our harvests. But, after all, these
principles are merely the amplification, nothing more, of those
fundamental methods of tillage so plainly set forth, one hundred and
eighty-two years ago, by the genius of Jethro Tull.

Tull died in the month of March, in the year 1740, at the age of
sixty-six. In speaking of agricultural education we have frequently
urged the benefits to be derived from a liberal education, and we like
to recall Tull's own words: "I owe my principles and practice
originally to my travels, as I owe my drill to my organ." Here indeed,
was a man of many parts--a famous agriculturist, an able mechanic, a
good musician, and a keen classical scholar. His life, strange to say,
was one dauntless struggle with disease. For six years he scarce ever
left his room, and seldom in that period was he gladdened by so much
as a glimpse of his "hundred acres of drilled wheat." So they laid the
tired body of the simple-minded English squire under the yew-trees of
Basildon in the mellow soil he loved so well. But the bells of the old
church of Saint Bartholomew now ring out with a new, glad message,
for they tell the toiling husbandmen of all lands to be of good cheer,
for the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; while the winds
and the waters carry the echo of Tull's name down through the
corridors of time.



    _"Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand
    before Kings; he shall not stand before mean men."_

At the beginning of this article we have quoted a text taken from the
Proverbs of Solomon, which we believe can be applied more truthfully
to the subject of our paper than to any other name conspicuous in the
annuals of agriculture. For he was a man diligent in his business and
he stood before Kings.

Thomas William Coke, of Holkham (Holy Home), Earl of Leicester, was
the eldest son of Robert Wenman. He was born in the year 1752, and
educated at Eton, after which he travelled abroad. On the death of his
father, Coke was elected in his place as member of Parliament for the
County of Norfolk. He was then in his twenty-second year. He entered
the youngest member; his political career extended over a period of
fifty-seven years, and he finished up as "Father of the House of
Commons." His domestic life was singularly happy--very different from
the sad state of his great contemporary Arthur Young. In 1775 he
married his cousin, Jane Dutton, by whom he had three daughters. After
her death in 1800 he remained a widower for twenty-one years and then
at the age of sixty-eight wedded a girl of eighteen, Lady Anne Keppel,
by whom he had five sons and one daughter. Coke had the unique
experience of being offered a Peerage seven times under six different
Prime Ministers, and he was the first commoner raised to the Peerage
by Queen Victoria on her accession to the Throne. In this connection
an amusing story is told. In the year 1817 Coke was called on to
present, at a Levee, a very forcible address to the Prince of Wales,
who was then acting as Regent, praying him "to dismiss from his
presence and Council those advisers, who, by their conduct, had proved
themselves alike enemies to the Throne and the people." The Regent was
warned of the proposal. Knowing that Coke valued his position as a
Commoner above everything else, he declared with an oath that: "If
Coke of Norfolk enters my presence, by God, I'll knight him." This
speech was repeated to Coke. "If he dares," was the rejoinder, "by God
I'll break his sword."

Part of the estate or Holkham was formerly a series of salt marshes
on the coast of the North Sea. And when Coke came into his property in
1776--a fateful year in the history of the British Empire the
surrounding district was little better than a rabbit-warren, with long
stretches of shingle and sand. Soon after Coke's marriage, when his
wife remarked that she was going down to Norfolk, the witty old Lady
Townshend said, "Then, my dear, all you will see will be one blade of
grass and two rabbits fighting for that." The story of how Coke came
to be a practical farmer is told in the third volume of the Journal of
the Royal Agricultural Society of England, published in the year 1842.
The article containing it was written by Earl Spencer, and is of
special interest as he had it direct from the lips of Mr. Coke (then
Lord Leicester) a short time before his death. When Coke entered into
his heritage, he found that five leases were about to expire. These
farms were held at a rental of 3s. 6d. an acre; and in the previous
leases they had been valued at 1s. 6d. an acre. At that time the
agriculture of Norfolk was of the poorest character; and we may judge
of the quality of the Holkham land by comparing it with the average
rent of 10s. an acre which Arthur Young says prevailed at this time.
Coke sent for the two tenants, Mr. Brett and Mr. Tann, and offered to
renew their leases at a slightly higher figure, namely 5s. an acre.
Both refused; and Mr. Brett jeered at the suggestion, saying that the
land was not worth even the 1s. 6d. an acre which had originally been
paid for it. This curt refusal was enough for a man of Coke's
temperament. He forthwith decided to farm the land himself. It was
thus that a young man of twenty-two, possessor of a princely fortune,
fresh from the salons of Europe, suddenly turned his back on a gay
and fashionable world; and stung into action by the laughter of a lazy
tenant, took up the management of a sterile farm, raised a parish from
poverty to affluence, transformed a desolate county into a cornfield,
and left a name renowned in the annals of English agriculture.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the history of agriculture, the name of Coke is chiefly remembered
by those famous gatherings locally known as "Coke's Clippings." These
wonderful meetings began in a simple way with the clipping or shearing
of sheep, but soon came to embrace the whole realm of the rural
industry. As might be imagined, when Coke took over the management of
his farms, he had not the slightest knowledge of the science and
practice of agriculture. So he called together his neighbours and
frankly asked their advice.

They in turn were doubtless glad to meet a young man so keen and so
eager to learn. Soon they brought their friends and their relatives,
and two years later these little country gatherings had assumed a more
definite character, and were thereupon called "Coke's Clippings." Soon
agriculturists from all parts of Great Britain wrote to ask if they
might attend. Swiftly and steadily the fame of the "clippings" grew,
till presently scientific and other celebrated men from the United
States and the Continent travelled to England to take part in these
meetings. Year by year they increased in numbers till at last they
embraced every nationality, every profession, and every rank in life,
from Royalty to the poorest peasant. Holkham had, in fact, become a
great experimental farm--a private estate turned by the enterprise of
its owner into a public institution. Nowadays, we are familiar with
State experimental farms, which are visited by thousands of farmers
once or twice a year. But a century ago such a thing was unheard of,
and Coke may justly be termed the "Father of the Experimental Farm."
At these shearings Coke presented many cups and prizes for the
invention of any new agricultural implement, for suggestions with
regard to improved systems of cropping, of irrigation, of enriching
the soil, and for articles on agricultural subjects--in a word, to
every one who contributed to advance any branch whatsoever of the
agricultural industry. Moreover, we are told that at a meeting of 1803
sweepstakes were offered for guessing the correct weight of a wether.
The winner was a certain Mr. Money Hill, who guessed the exact
weight--130 lbs.; while a butcher named Rett was a good second, and he
guessed the weights of four other sheep within one pound. It is said
that, one year, there died on the Holkham estate a tenant who had won
no less than £800 in prizes at the "clippings." Party politics were
carefully excluded from these meetings, and any attempt to introduce a
party spirit into the speeches at the annual dinners was at once
silenced by Coke. As a politician he was a prominent Whig, but as an
agriculturist he sank his politics and opened his doors to men of
merit irrespective of their views. Thus he gave Sir John Sinclair a
magnificent goblet as a token of his appreciation of Sinclair's "Code
of Agriculture," in spite of the fact that Sir John was a strong
supporter of the "vile Tories and their viler head, Mr. Pitt." Sir
John was pleased beyond measure and remarked, with a true Highland
courtesy, that hitherto the most priceless heirloom in his castle had
been the drinking cup of Mary Queen of Scots, but henceforth he would
look on the goblet of his Whig friend as his greatest treasure.

The last of "Coke's Clippings" took place in the year 1821. It was
attended by seven thousand people, and lasted three whole days. There
is something very pleasing in the account of this pastoral scene. A
stately mansion in a splendid park, with a group of village maidens
spinning flax, on a velvet lawn, in the midst of a vast concourse of
people drawn from all parts of the earth. Punctually at ten o'clock in
the morning, so we read, Miss Coke came on to the lawn, accompanied by
her father, and the Duke of Sussex. Then after greetings taken and
greetings given, the vast crowd proceeded, some riding, some driving,
some walking, to inspect the different farms on the estate. The first
day was given up to the study of the inoculated pasture, prize
cattle, new implements, sheep-shearing amid farm crops. The second day
was devoted to fresh fields, farm schools and cottage gardens. The
third day was absorbed in the inspection of the carcases of animals
that had been slaughtered, speech-making, and the distribution of
prizes. On that day at 3 p.m., seven hundred guests sat down to
dinner, a mid-day meal, which, with the speeches and prizes lasted for
seven hours! The historian of this period has left us an account of
the most popular toasts at these annual banquets, such as "A Fine
Fleece and a Fat Carcase," "The Plough and a Good Use of It," while
the tribute to Coke's efforts to enclose all waste lands always
brought down the house, for it wittily ran: "The Enclosing of all
Waists," and Coke's own toast "Live and Let Live," was invariably
greeted with tumultuous applause. The two annalists who have left us
unimpeachable accounts of those memorable meetings are both agreed
that Coke himself was the central figure. Dr. Rigby, in "Holkham and
its Agriculture" (1818) writes: "He is everywhere and with everyone.
He solicits enquiry from everyone." At each halt in the ride little
knots of people collected round him and listened with absorbed
interest to all he said, while for hours he thus sustained the
character of leader, lecturer, and host. And the American Ambassador
of that day, His Excellency Mr. Richard Rush, writes in "A Residence
at the Court of London," "No matter what the subsequent advance of
English agriculture or its results, Mr. Coke will ever take honourable
rank among the pioneers of the great work. Come what will in the
future, the Holkham sheep-shearings' will live in English rural
annals. Long will tradition speak of them as uniting improvements in
agriculture to an abundant, cordial, and joyous hospitality."

When Coke started to farm in Norfolk the value of rotation was
unknown. Then, it was customary to grow three white straw crops in
succession followed by broadcast turnips. It was not to be wondered at
that soil which consisted mainly of drifting sand and sharp, flinty
gravel should soon become worn out. Coke changed this practice and
grew only two white crops in succession and then let the land lie in
pasture for the next two years. He began to manure heavily; and used
rape-cake as a top dressing with marked success. Moreover, he found
that the soil of almost the whole district was composed of very light
sand and underlaid with a stratum of rich marl. Pits were opened, the
marl dug out, and scattered over the surface of the land. This not
only promoted fertility, but gave to the soil that solidity which is
so essential to the growth of wheat, It was Coke's proud boast that he
turned West Norfolk from a rye-growing into a wheat-growing district.
But it took him eleven years before he could get wheat to grow on the
poor, sandy soil of his own estate. Nevertheless, before he died,
these so-called "rabbit and rye" lands were yielding as much as
thirty-two bushels to the acre. His main idea was to stock heavily;
more for the sake of manure than for the sake of meat. He pinned his
faith on the motto: "Muck is the mother of money." And we are told
that he was accustomed to say to his tenants, "If you will keep an
extra yard of bullocks, I will build you a yard and sheds free of
expense." He was a patient man but he was once heard to remark: "It is
difficult to teach anything to adult ignorance. I had to contend with
prejudice, an ignorant impatience of change, and a rooted attachment
to old methods." He referred to the fact that the farmers still
persisted in the old system of sowing cereals broadcast, or else
laboriously made holes with a dibbing-iron into which the grain was
dropped, while another man followed with a rake and covered up the
holes. Thus he used the drill for sixteen years before any of his
neighbours could be induced to adopt it; and even when the farmers
began at last to see the benefit of this rapid manner of sowing, he
estimated that its spread was only a mile each year. By-and-by,
however, he noticed that a quaint term for a good crop of barley had
come into use at Holkham. His farmers spoke of "hat-barley" for the
reason that if a man throws his hat into a crop of barley, the hat
rests on the surface if the crop is good, but falls to the ground if
the crop is bad. "All sir," said his tenants at length, "is
'hat-barley' since the drill came."

       *       *       *       *       *

Coke was never tired of experimenting with every kind of crop.
Cocksfoot (orchard grass) was cultivated with great success and
numbers of sheep were fattened on it. On land, once considered
worthless, he cut four hundred tons of sainfoin from one hundred and
four acres. He early recognised the merits of swedes, and was the
first to grow them on a large scale. He made a special study of birds
in relation to the eradication of grubs. Finding a field of turnips
infested with a larva which caused black canker he turned four hundred
ducks into the field which they cleared of this pest in five days.
Early in his career Coke discarded the native sheep of Norfolk, with
backs as narrow as rabbits, in favour of the Southdowns, and gradually
became one of the largest sheep-breeders in England. Encouraged by
the Duke of Bedford, another eminent agriculturist, he started a herd
of North Devons, and thereafter bred them with much success. He also
improved the Suffolk breed of pigs by crossing them with the
Neapolitan, thereby obtaining a superior quality of pork.
Afforestation was one of his special hobbies. He fully realised the
truth of the old saying that a tree is growing while its planter is
sleeping. Every year he planted fifty acres of timber, mostly oak,
Spanish chestnut, and beech, till he had three thousand acres of
bleak, wind-swept country well covered. He permitted the poor of the
neighbourhood to plant potatoes among his young trees for two or three
years; a practice which kept his land clean and saved the expense of
hoeing. And in the year 1832 he embarked in a ship built of oak from
the acorns which he himself had planted.

He always maintained that the interests of landlord and tenant were
identical. In order, therefore, to encourage his tenants to exert
themselves to the utmost, he let out his farms on long leases of
twenty-one years at a moderate rental and burdened with but few
restrictions. He soon saw, however, that in the case of an indolent
tenant a long lease would mean the rapid deterioration of the
property. It happened at this time that a certain farmer named Mr.
Overman, who had been foremost in furthering the new agricultural
schemes, applied for a farm on the Holkham estate. Coke allowed him,
as an experiment, to draw up the covenants of his own lease. Overman
straightway inserted a clause making the improved course of cropping
compulsory. Coke was so pleased that he at once made this lease the
model for all his other tenants with a few slight modifications. And
so the land was fully protected from any possible injury through a
long period of bad farming. By such improved methods Coke is said to
have raised the annual rental of his estate from £2,200 to £20,000;
while the yearly fall of timber and underwood averaged £2,700--a sum
which exceeded the whole of his old rent roll. During his sixty-six
years at Holkham he spent over half a million pounds sterling on
improvements alone, without taking into account the large sums spent
on his house, domain, and home-farm buildings. Yet it is averred that
this vast outlay was all regained in due course. At that period the
Holkham estate consisted of 4,300 acres in a ring fence, with a park
of 3,500 acres surrounded by a ten-mile wall close to the sea. In a
volume entitled "Agricultural Writers" (1200-1800) by Donald
McDonald, the name of Coke does not appear. And it would seem that all
he ever wrote were some papers for the "Annals of Agriculture" (Arthur
Young), and a pamphlet on "An Address to the Freeholders of Norfolk."

The biography of this remarkable man has recently been written in two
brightly bound and lavishly illustrated volumes by Mrs. A. M. W.
Stirling, under the title of "Coke and his Friends."[3] His memory
well deserved the laborious and loving tribute of his enthusiastic
great grand-child. But to be of any practical value to the
agriculturist, the book must be greatly condensed. Out of thirty-five
chapters we can find only five which tell of his services to the
agricultural industry. Out of a thousand odd pages we can find only
one hundred and sixteen which bear on the science and practice of
farming. Out of sixty-four carefully executed illustrations we can
only find four which have anything whatsoever to do with rural
affairs. It may be affirmed that Coke was much more than a mere
agriculturist. That is very true; but surely his fame rests far more
on his services to rural progress than on his reputation as a
politician, a society leader, or a landlord. We therefore hope that at
no distant date the same flowing pen which has produced the bulkier
volumes will compile a handier life dealing altogether with Coke's
agricultural doings. Coke died in 1842 at the age of eighty-eight, and
was buried in the family mausoleum attached to the Tittleshall Church,

[3] Published by Mr. John Lane, London.

In a life drama so vivid and forceful there are yet two vivid scenes
we cannot fail to recall. It was Coke who brought forward the motion
in the House of Commons to recognise the independence of the American
Colonies. All night long the House sat. At 8.30 a.m., the end came.
Amid breathless silence the result was announced 177 Noes, 178 Ayes.
It was Coke who announced to the obstinate, discomfited King the
result of that great debate, whereby the disastrous fratricidal war
was forever ended and the independence of the United States
acknowledged by the Parliament of the Mother Country, after nine
bitter years, by a majority of one vote. The Parish of Burnham lies
next to the Parish of Holkham. And the son of the rector of the former
village, a fragile, delicate lad, used sometimes to join Mr. Coke's
hounds when they were out coursing. But he was never asked to shoot,
as only once had he been known to hit a partridge. One day this poor
young man, returning from a two years' cruise paid a visit to his
wealthy neighbour and stayed overnight. The great-uncle of his host
built the mansion house of Holkham, and Thomas William Coke spent all
his life and a large fortune in developing the family estate. But the
British people placed Nelson, the frail and nervous guest, who slept
that night in the humble turret-room, on the top of the Column in the
centre of Trafalgar Square.



    _"The magic of property turns sands into gold. Give a man the
    secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a
    garden; give him a nine years' lease of a garden, and he will
    convert it into a desert."_--Arthur Young.

Arthur Young, the greatest of English agriculturists and the poorest
of practical farmers, was born at Whitehall, London, in the year 1741.
He was the youngest son of the Reverend Dr. Arthur Young, Prebendary
of Canterbury Cathedral, Rector of Bradfield, and of Anne Lucretia,
daughter of John de Cousmaker, a Dutchman who accompanied William of
Orange to England. From his father Arthur inherited good looks and
literary talent; and from his mother the love of learning and
brilliant and pleasing speech.

Mrs. Young brought her clerical husband a large dowry, much of which
was swallowed up in the vortex of his debts, and later, on his death,
in promoting the agricultural schemes of her gifted but unbusinesslike
son. His home from the first, and for the most part of his life, was
Bradfield Hall in the County of Suffolk--a property which had been in
the hands of the Young family since the year 1672. After a visit to
Bradfield, reached from Marks Tey on the Great Eastern Railway, you do
not wonder at Young's early love of rural life. A broad, winding,
elm-bordered road, meadows knee-deep in wild flowers and waving
grasses, tangled hedges of eglantine and honeysuckle, rustling
cornfields and silent woods--these, all these, were the sweet pathways
to his home.

At the age of seven the lad was sent to the Grammar School at Lavenham
in order to learn the Greek and Latin languages, together with writing
and arithmetic. Owing to the indulgence of a fond mother, his
attendance at his classes was irregular, and neither the centurions of
Cæsar nor the wooers of Penelope were able to beguile him from his
pony, his pointer and his gun. But the cheapness of his board and
schooling would delight the hearts of many parents in the Transvaal
and elsewhere in the year of grace 1912. Here is the bill:--

     "The Rev. Dr. Young to John Coulter (Master of Lavenham School),
     Xmas, 1750 to Xmas, 1751. A year's board, etc., £15. Sundries, £2
     4_s._ 4_d._ Total, £17 4_s._ 4_d._"

On leaving Lavenham, he was apprenticed, at the wish of his mother,
to a wine-merchant at Lynn. He deserted his new work. He was fond of
music and the drama. He excelled in dancing, but was always a diligent

His income, in those days, was not excessive, being thirty pounds per
annum: but his foppery in dress deprived him of the means wherewith to
purchase his beloved books. Accordingly, he wrote a pamphlet entitled
"The Theatre of the Present War in North America," for which he
received ten pounds' worth of books from the publisher. More balls
compelled him to compile more political pamphlets in order to procure
more books. In the year 1759, at the age of eighteen, he left the
counting house at Lynn, as he tells us in his own words, "without
education, pursuits, profession or employment." That same year his
father died much in debt.

He next went to London and started at his own expense a monthly
magazine called "The Universal Museum." It failed, and he returned
home. All his wealth was now summed up in a freehold farm of twenty
acres. His mother owned eighty acres at Bradfield. She persuaded him
to reside with her and to manage the farm. He had no knowledge of
agriculture, but he accepted, and tells the story in his own words:
"Young, eager, and totally ignorant of every necessary detail, it is
not surprising that I squandered large sums under golden dreams of
improvement." At the age of twenty-four he married Miss Martha Allen
of Lynn. One of his biographers says: "The marriage brought him an
enviable connection--troops of friends, a passport into brilliant
circles, but no fireside happiness. The lady was evidently of a
captious disposition, shrewish temper and narrow sympathies." Another
biographer writes: "A loving son, a devoted father, Young was an
indifferent husband."

Having failed to make a success of his first farm, Young, nothing
daunted, undertook the cultivation of Sampford Hall in Essex. This
farm consisted of 300 acres of good arable land. But want of practical
knowledge, and want of capital, drove him from it, and after a five
years' tenancy he paid a farmer £100 to take it off his hands. His
successor made a fortune on it. But during these five years Young had
made a large number of experiments, the results of which he afterwards
published in two large volumes under the title of "A Course of
Experimental Agriculture." Still unshaken in his love of the soil, he
sought another farm, and the quest furnished materials for his "Six
Weeks' Tour through the Southern Counties," a very popular work which
ran through several editions. It was at this time that on the advice
of his Suffolk bailiff he took a farm of one hundred acres at North
Mimms in Hertfordshire. This property had a good house, but that seems
to have been all. He was deceived by seeing it in a specially good
season. This speculation proved worse than the last; but his
picturesque pen never failed: "I know what epithet to give this soil.
Sterility falls short of the idea--a hungry, vitriolic gravel. I
occupied for nine years the jaws of a wolf." The simple fact was that
whenever he put pen to paper he was successful; whenever he turned to
practical farming he was a ruined man.

He continued to write. His publisher called for more tours. His
receipts were considerable, yet we find him recording: "No carthorse
ever laboured as I did at this period, spending like an idiot, always
in debt, in spite of what I earned with the sweat of my brow, and
almost my heart's blood--the year's receipts £1,167." About this time
he wrote "Observations on the Present State of the Waste Lands of
Great Britain," and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Finding
that he could not make enough to live on at farming, he accepted an
appointment as Parliamentary Reporter for the "Morning Post" at five
guineas a week--a most incongruous job for a farmer since it compelled
him to be absent from his home during six days of the week. Yet he
retained it for several years--walking seventeen miles down to his
farm every Saturday evening and returning to London every Monday

In the year 1784 Young began the publication of the "Annals of
Agriculture"--a monthly publication which ran through forty-five
volumes. These annals covered the whole field of Agriculture in the
form of letters and essays from the most eminent ruralists of the age.
But more than a fourth part of the whole series came from the editor's
ceaseless pen. Even the King was persuaded to contribute two letters
under the _nom de plume_ of "Ralph Robinson," his Windsor shepherd.
Young related with much pride that His Majesty said to him one day on
the terrace of Windsor: "Mr. Young, I consider myself as more obliged
to you than to any other man in my Dominions"; while the Queen
observed that they never travelled without a copy of the "Annals" in
the Royal carriage. These volumes created quite a stir in European
circles, and from all parts of the Continent there flocked scholars to
study at the feet of the Abelard of English Agriculture. A year later
Young's mother died and Bradfield Hall and farm became his property.

If Tull was the founder of dry-farming, and Coke the father of the
experimental farm, Young was unquestionably the author of the
agricultural tour. From his fertile pen flowed "The Southern," "The
Northern," and "The Eastern Tours," together with "The Tour in
Ireland." The first three tours were translated into Russian by the
express command of the Empress Catherine, who at the same time sent
several young Russians to reside at Bradfield for instruction in
British agriculture. It was his own opinion that the most useful
feature of the tours was the practical information which they gave on
the important subject of the correct courses of crops, on which all
preceding writers had been silent. His most famous and most popular
work was his "Travels in France during the years 1787, 1788 and

Yet these remarkable journeys were fore-shadowed twenty years before
in a little book he wrote entitled "The Farmer's Letters to the People
of England," in which he says: "The nobility and men of large fortune
travel, but no farmers; unfortunately, those who have this peculiar
and distinguishing advantage, the noble opportunity of benefiting
themselves and their country, seldom enquire or even think about

Then comes a sketch of a farmer's tour with the routes laid down for
the imaginary traveller, being precisely those roads he himself was to
follow two decades later.

In the year 1787 he received a pressing invitation from a Polish
friend in Paris to join the Count de la Rochefoucauld in a tour of the
Pyrenees. "This was touching a string tremulous to vibrate," he
writes: "I had long wished for an opportunity to examine France." His
travels in France were the sensation of the hour. No one had done
quite the same thing before. He was an eye-witness of the moving
scenes which ushered in the French Revolution. His name was in
everybody's mouth. He received invitations to Courts and salons.
All the learned societies enrolled him as a member. His work was
translated into a score of languages. Princes, statesmen, scientists,
men of letters, simple farmers and plain peasants paid a visit to
Bradfield. Among his correspondents we note the names of Washington,
Pitt. Burke, Wilberforce, Lafayette, Priestly and Jeremy Bentham. So
it happened that when the affluent Coke of Norfolk was holding a
Continental sheep-shearing salon at Holkham, his indigent neighbour,
fifty miles to the south, was holding a European levee to discuss the
fundamental principles of rural economy.

Four years later Young's heart was broken by the death of his
favourite daughter, "Bobbin" at the early age of fourteen. He
developed religious melancholia, shunned society, left his Journal
blank and brooded over sermons. His sight began to fail. He was
operated on for cataract. Wilberforce, warned to be careful, went, a
week later, to see him in the darkened room. In his sweet and elegant
voice the Great Emancipator spoke feelingly of the death of a mutual
friend. Young burst into tears and became for ever blind. The
remainder of his life was spent in preaching the Gospel to the
peasantry and in works of charity. He died in the eightieth year of
his age in Sackville Street, London, and was buried at Bradfield,
April, 1820.

It is impossible in this brief article to do more than mention the
writings of Young. These we must reserve for a subsequent paper. Our
library is far from complete, yet we possess sixty-six volumes of his
sparkling prose, which, placed one upon another, attain to a height of
nine feet--a monument of amazing industry. True, he was not exempt
from those petty jealousies which so often mar the character of
eminent men. He tried to snatch some credit for the Board of
Agriculture from Sir John Sinclair, and he scoffed at the idea that
Jethro Tull had invented the corn-drill. He met and conversed with the
greatest savants of the age, yet his mind never burst the old wine
bottles which he served out in the Suffolk store. And so he arrogantly
says that Canada and Nova Scotia are not worth colonising. "If they
continue poor, they will be no markets. If rich they will revolt; and
that perhaps is the best thing they can do for our interest." ...
"The loss of India must come. It ought to come." Yet with all his
foolish fancies what a splendid life! For he was the Prophet of the
New Agriculture in the Valley of Dry Bones. And England may well write
the epitaph of her illustrious son in the words of Ezekiel: "This land
that was desolate is become like the Garden of Eden."



One of the earliest recollections of the writer's childhood as he
fished for trout in the Swiney Burn in the far North of Scotland, was
the tale of a certain wonderful man that was wont to tie little shoes
on the feet of his sheep in order to keep them warm while walking
through the snow. But many a trout had to be caught, and many a ripple
of the shining river had to pass beneath the Thurso Bridge ere he
learned the name of the strange person who struck his childish fancy
as he looked up from his quivering line into the wistful eyes of a
Cheviot ewe on the lonely, wine-red, moor.

Sir John Sinclair, the founder of the British Board of Agriculture,
was born in Thurso Castle in the county of Caithness, on May 10th,
1754. His father, George Sinclair, the Laird of Ulbster, was a
descendant of the Earls of Caithness and Orkney; while his mother,
Lady Janet Sutherland of Dunrobin, was the sister of the sixteenth
Earl of that name. As a child he was carefully and wisely trained by
his parents. From his father, a man of literary tastes and deeply
religious character, he inherited a love of books; and from his gentle
mother, he learned the lesson that life is not an empty dream; and her
lad was soon to be known as "the most indefatigable man in Europe."

John was educated at the Royal School of Edinburgh, and at the
University of the same city which he entered at the early age of
thirteen. He also studied at Glasgow, and at Trinity College, Oxford.
He was called to the Bar in 1782. His father died suddenly when John
was sixteen, and he found himself heir to Estates comprising some
100,000 acres, mainly bleak and barren moor. He at once began to
improve his property.

Scottish agriculture was then in a most backward state. The fields
were unenclosed, the lands were undrained. The small farmers of
Caithness were so poor that they could hardly afford to keep a horse,
or even a Shetland pony. The burdens were chiefly borne by women.
Indeed, according to Smiles, if a cottar lost a horse, it was not
unusual for him to marry a wife as the cheapest substitute.

The country was without roads or bridges. Drovers taking their cattle
to the South had to swim rivers alongside their beasts. The chief
track leading into the country lay along the high shelf of a mountain
called Ben Cheilt; the path being several hundred feet above the
storm-tossed sea, which thundered on the rocks below.

Imagine the loud laughter of the elders of this community when they
heard a rumour that young Sinclair proposed to build in a single day a
road over this hitherto impassable hill. But John surveyed the road
himself, and ordered up the Statute labour. At that time the law
decreed that all capable inhabitants of the agricultural class should
work on the roads for six days in every year. And so, early one summer
morning, he assembled the neighbouring farmers and their servants--a
total of 1,260. Each party, on arrival, was assigned a certain piece
of the path where they found tools and provisions awaiting them. At
sunset of the same evening the youth drove his carriage and pair over
six miles of mountain road which the night before had been a dangerous
sheep-track. Tidings of this exploit by a stripling of eighteen spread
far and wide, and spurred the sleeping spirit of the North.

At the age of twenty-six, John Sinclair was elected member of
Parliament for the county of Caithness, and remained in the House of
Commons for upwards of thirty years.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great monument to Sinclair's indefatigable industry is his
"Statistical Account of Scotland" in twenty-one volumes, one of the
most valuable works on agriculture ever published in any country. It
took seven years and seven months of incessant labour to complete. It
was then that the word "statistics" and "statistical" were first
introduced into the English language by Sinclair. He made use of the
clergy to obtain the information he desired. He sent a circular letter
to each parish minister in Scotland with 160 questions under four
heads: (1) Geography and Natural History. (2) Population. (3)
Production. (4) Miscellaneous subjects.

In the collection of data many difficulties occurred. Some of the
clergy scorned the idea that one man could collect and collate all
this information: others were lazy both in mind and body: and some
were old and infirm. Several parishes were vacant, some too huge to
fully cover, many were without roads, and not a few separated by
tempestuous arms of the sea. To overcome these obstacles he enlisted
the aid of the leaders of the Church of Scotland, of which he was a
member, and the great landowners, and as a last resort he employed
statistical missionaries to supply the missing information. He
generously assigned all the profits of this publication to the
Scottish Fund for the benefit of the sons of the clergy, and obtained
for that Society a Royal grant of £2,000. Among the direct results of
this work was the raising of the stipends of ministers and
schoolmasters--surely a convincing reply to his critics in the
manses--the abolition of what was then called thirlage or the
compulsory grinding of corn at a particular mill. Charles Abbot,
afterwards Lord Colchester, the originator of the census of England,
wrote to Sinclair: "Your success suggested to me the idea," and the
various bureaux of statistics in the United States and other countries
can be directly traced to the influence of his treatise.

In the year 1788 Sinclair founded the Wool Society. For some time he
had been wondering why Shetland wool was so extremely fine. Meeting at
the General Assembly in Edinburgh a Shetland minister, he put the
question to him and obtained much valuable information which he at
once laid before the Highland Society. This led him to form the
British Wool Society. It was inaugurated by a grand sheep-shearing
festival at Newhall's Inn, Queensferry, near Edinburgh, in the year
1791. To Sinclair, therefore, belongs the credit of initiating the
sheep-shearing contests which a few years later developed into Coke's
famous "clippings," and which were the precursors of our present
agricultural shows. The first agricultural show was held by the
Highland and Agricultural Society at Edinburgh in 1822. It was the
Long Hill sheep of the East Border that Sinclair re-christened by the
now famous name of Cheviot. These sheep soon became naturalised all
over the north of Scotland, and in a short time the rent of sheep
firms rose to fabulous prices. Pastures of little value under
coarse-woolled sheep yielded large returns. As an illustration of
the practical value of his improvements it may be mentioned that
Sinclair's estate of Langwell, which he had bought for £8,000,
he afterwards sold for £40,000: while the estate of Reay in
Sutherlandshire was purchased at £300,000. The name Cheviot comes
from the range of rounded or cone-shaped hills growing a superior
pasture on the Scottish and English border.

In the opening lines of this article I spoke of a childish tale about
sheep-shearing. That this legend is not mere fiction may be seen in
the following letter of Arthur Young (see Autobiography of Arthur
Young, page 159): "From Sir J. Sinclair on clothing for sheep which
he sent and desired me to buy. I did so, and the rest of the flock
took them, I suppose, for beasts of prey, and fled in all directions,
till the clothed sheep, jumping hedges and ditches, soon derobed

       *       *       *       *       *

In his third lecture in the "Crown of Wild Olives," Ruskin points out
that all the pure and noble arts of peace are founded on war. It is
worth while, therefore, to note that the British Board of Agriculture
was established when Britain was engaged in the supreme struggle with
France, which terminated on the field of Waterloo, that the National
Department of Agriculture in the United States was inaugurated in
the midst of the Civil War, and that the Transvaal Department of
Agriculture was commenced ere peace was signed at Vereeniging. In
the year 1793 Sinclair's services in restoring commercial confidence
during the crisis which occurred at the outbreak of the French War
were recognised by Pitt, who sent for him to come to Downing Street,
thanked him on behalf of the Government, and asked him if there was
anything that he desired. Sinclair replied that he sought no favours
for himself, but the most gratifying of all would be the establishment
by Parliament of a great National Corporation to be called "The Board
of Agriculture." In due course the Board was successfully established
with the King as Patron, Sinclair as President, and Arthur Young as
Secretary. The annual Parliamentary grant was £3,000.

In this brief review we have no space to follow the fortune of the
Board to the date of the retirement of its inspiring founder, down to
the time when it returned £42,000 to the Treasury--not knowing how to
spend it--till it finally faded away in the year 1822. Yet the Board
accomplished much imperishable work. It carried out agricultural
surveys, published several volumes of "communications," promoted prize
essays on rural topics, encouraged Elkington, the father of drainage,
Macadam the road-maker, and Meikle, the inventor of the threshing
machine, and arranged lectures by Sir Humphry Davy on agricultural
chemistry, and by Young on tillage.

The north of Scotland at that period owed much to Sinclair. In 1782
he saved the inhabitants from a serious famine by obtaining a
Parliamentary grant of £15,000. In the same year, along with some
other patriots, he secured the repeal of the law which for
thirty-seven years--since the Rebellion of 1745--had forbidden the
use of the kilt.

Sinclair was an enthusiastic tree-planter in a country which was once
wittily described by an American visitor as a "Great Clearing." He
rebuilt Thurso, and founded the herring fisheries at Wick. To ensure
the success of this industry he imported Dutch fishermen to teach the
Caithnessmen the art of catching and curing herrings. He introduced
improved methods of tillage, a regular rotation of crops, and the
cultivation of turnips, clover, and rye-grass. One of his many schemes
was a General Enclosure Bill, his toast at agricultural gatherings
being: "May a Common become an Uncommon Spectacle in Caithness."

In 1786 his attachment to William Pitt was rewarded with a baronetcy.
Sir John's domestic life was singularly happy. On referring to the old
book already mentioned, we read: "He has been twice married to two of
the most beautiful women in the island. His first lady, a Miss
Maitland, died prematurely in the bloom of youth. His present lady is
the daughter of the late Lord Macdonald, and by her he has a son,
George, and other children."

It cannot be doubted that Sir John loved the limelight, possessed an
unbounded self-conceit, lacked the saving sense of humour, and
over-estimated his own achievements. But these vanities were but the
fitful smoke in the blue flame of a burning energy. What a lesson in
industry for the youth of South Africa. Fifty years of ceaseless toil,
author of thirty-nine volumes and 367 pamphlets. This Scottish
agriculturist died in 1835 at the ripe age of eighty-one, and is
buried according to an ancient family rite, in Holyrood Chapel at
Edinburgh--the friend and confidant of three English kings.



    _"I expect to die in harness, because this is not the world for
    rest. This is the world for work. In the next world we will have
    the rest."_--Cyrus H. McCormick.

It is hardly to be expected that those people who devoutly chant in a
million churches the fourth sentence of the Lord's Prayer should think
with gratitude of any other person than the Divine Giver of all Good.
Yet it is strange to reflect that although every schoolboy knows
something of the life of our least Poet Laureate, not one in ten
thousand could tell you the career of the man who responded in a
truly miraculous manner to the heartfelt, world-voiced matin of both
rich and poor, "Give us this day our daily bread."

Cyrus H. McCormick, the inventor of the reaping machine, was born in
the eventful year 1809. It was the birth year of Darwin and Tennyson,
of Mendelssohn, Gladstone, and Lincoln. He was born on Walnut Grove
Farm, amidst the mountains of Virginia, one hundred miles from the
sea. He came of that virile stock that has proved to be the main
strength of the Republic, that gave Washington thirty-nine of his
generals, three out of four members of his Cabinet, and three out
of the five judges of the Supreme Court--the Scots who migrated to
Ulster, and thence to the United States. Robert McCormick, the father
of Cyrus, was a fairly large farmer, and an inventor of no mean
ability. The little log workshop is still shown to the enquiring
tourist where father and son moulded and mended machinery on many a
rainy day. Indeed, we are told that the McCormick homestead was more
like a small factory than a farmer's home, so full was it of rural
industries--spinning and weaving, soap and shoes, butter-making and
bacon-curing. And it is more than likely that the ceaseless activity
of his wise and Celtic mother taught Cyrus the value of each moment
of time.

Ever since he was a child of seven it was his father's ambition to
invent a reaper. He made one, and tried it in the harvest of 1816, but
it proved a failure. It was a fantastic machine, pushed from behind
by two horses. It was highly ingenious, but it would not cut the corn,
and was hauled off the field to become one of the jokes of the
countryside. Hurt by the jests of his neighbours, he locked the door
of his workshop and toiled away at night. Early in the summer of 1831
he had so improved his reaper that he gave it another trial. Again it
failed. True, the machine cut the corn fairly well, but it flung it
on the ground in a tangled heap. Satisfied that there was something
radically wrong, Robert McCormick gave up the reaper after having
worked at it for over fifteen years.

At this point Cyrus took up the task which his father had reluctantly
abandoned. He showed his genius from the very start by adopting a new
principle of operation. First of all, he invented the divider to
separate the corn to be cut from the corn left standing. Next came the
reciprocating blade, and the fingers, the revolving reel, platform,
and side draught, and, lastly, the big driving wheel. One day late in
the month of July, in the summer of 1831, Cyrus put a horse between
the shafts of his reaper. With no spectators save his father and
mother, his brothers and sisters, he drove down to a patch of yellow
grain. To that little family circle it must have been a moment of
intense excitement. Click, click, click--the white blade shot to and
fro. What a shout of joy! The wheat is cut and falls upon the platform
in a golden, shimmering swathe!

Thus at the early age of twenty-two Cyrus had invented the first
practical reaper that the world had seen. And now began his nine
years' struggle with adversity, from which he emerged in triumph to
become the greatest manufacturer of harvesting machines that America
has produced. In order to obtain funds with which to manufacture
reapers he started to farm. But he soon found that it was impossible
to raise sufficient capital by this means. Near by was a large
deposit of iron ore, and he forthwith resolved to build a furnace and
make iron. He persuaded his father and the school teacher to become
his partners. For several years the furnace did fairly well, when,
suddenly, the price of iron fell. The McCormicks were bankrupt. Cyrus
gave up the farm, and stuck grimly to his reaper. One day the village
constable rode up to the farm door with a summons for a debt of
nine-teen dollars, but he was so impressed with the industry of the
McCormicks that he had not the heart to serve the notice. It was the
darkest hour before the dawn.

       *       *       *       *       *

The same year (1840) a stranger rode in from the north and drew rein
in front of the little log workshop. He was a rough looking man with
the homely name of Abraham Smith, but to Cyrus he came as an angel
of light. He had come with fifty dollars in his pocket to buy a
reaper--the first that was ever sold. A short time later two other
farmers came on the same errand, and that summer three reaping
machines were working in the wheat-fields of America. In 1842
McCormick sold seven machines, and in 1844 fifty. The home farm had
now become a busy factory.

Three years later a friend said to him "Cyrus, why don't you go West
with your reaper, where the land is level and labour cheap?"

It was the call of the West.

He travelled over the boundless prairies, and was quick to see that
this great land-ocean was the natural home of the reaper. Straightway
he transferred his factory to Chicago--then, in 1847, a forlorn little
town of less than 10,000 souls. His business flourished. In the
great fire of 1871 his factory, which was then turning out 10,000
harvesters a year, was totally destroyed. At the word of his wife he
rebuilt it anew with amazing rapidity. And so we find that the tiny
workshop in the backwoods of Virginia has become the McCormick City
in the heart of Chicago. In the sixty-five years of its life this
manufactory has produced over 6,000,000 harvesting machines, and is
now pouring them out at the rate of over 7,000 per week. The McCormick
Company is now known as the International Harvester Company, and his
eldest son, Cyrus H. McCormick, is the President. The annual output is
75,000,000 dollars. It was the reaper that enabled the United States,
during the four years of the civil war, not only to feed the armies
in the field, but at the same time to export to foreign countries
200,000,000 bushels of wheat. And well might the savants of the French
Academy of Science say, when electing Cyrus McCormick a member, that
"he had done more for the cause of agriculture than any other living

And now we must trace the evolution of the reaper from its origin on
the Walnut Grove Farm to the marvellous machine of to-day. For about
thirty years it remained practically unaltered in design, save that
seats had been added for the raker and the driver. It did no more than
cut the grain and leave it in loose bundles on the ground. It had
abolished the sickler and cradler, but there still remained the raker
and binder. Might it not be possible to do away with them also, and
leave only the driver? Such was the fascinating problem which now
confronted the inventor.

In the year 1852 a bedridden cripple called Jearum Atkins bought a
McCormick reaper, and had it placed outside his window. To while away
the weary hours he actually devised an attachment with two revolving
iron arms, which automatically raked off the cut grain from the
platform to the ground. It was a grotesque contrivance, and was
nicknamed by the farmers the "iron man." Nevertheless, this invention
stimulated the manufacture of self-rake reapers, and soon the American
farmer would buy no other kind. Thus part of the problem had been
solved. The raker was abolished. But there still remained the harder
task of supplanting the binder--the man or the woman who gathered up
the bundles of cut corn and bound them tightly together with a wisp
of straw into the sheaf.

And now another figure appears upon this ever-moving stage, a young
man by the name of Charles B. Withington. Born at Akron, Ohio, a year
before McCormick invented his reaper, this delicate youth was trained
by his father to be a watchmaker. At the age of fifteen, in order to
earn pocket-money, he went into the harvest field to bind corn. He
was not robust, and the hard, stooping labour under a hot sun would
sometimes bring the blood to his head in a hemorrhage. There were
times after the day's work was done when he was too weary to walk
home, and he would throw himself on the stubble to rest. At eighteen
he journeyed to the goldfields of California, drifted to Australia,
and in the year 1855 arrived back in Wisconsin with 3,000 dollars in
his belt. All this money he began to fritter away in trying to invent
a self-rake reaper. Suddenly, inspired by the articles of a rural
editor, who maintained that the binding of corn should be done by a
machine, Withington dropped his self-rake and went straight to work to
make a self-binder. He completed his first machine in 1872, but met
with much discouragement until, two years later, he came across

Their dramatic meeting is best told by Mr. Herbert M. Casson in his
interesting volume, entitled "Cyrus Hall McCormick: His Life and

     "One evening in 1874 a tall man; with a box under his arm, walked
     diffidently up the steps of the McCormick home in Chicago, and rang
     the bell. He asked to see Mr. McCormick, and was shown into the
     parlour, where he found Mr. McCormick, sitting, as usual, in a
     large and comfortable chair.

     "'My name is Withington,' said the stranger; I live in Janesville,
     Wisconsin. I have here a model of a machine that will automatically
     bind grain.'

     "Now, it so happened that McCormick had been kept awake nearly the
     whole of the previous night by a stubborn business problem. He
     could scarcely hold his eyelids apart. And when Withington was in
     the midst of his explanation, with the intentness of a born
     inventor, Mr. McCormick fell fast asleep. At such a reception to
     his cherished machine Withington lost heart. He was a gentle,
     sensitive man easily rebuffed, and so, when McCormick aroused from
     his nap, Withington had departed, and was on his way back to
     Wisconsin. For a few seconds McCormick was uncertain as to whether
     his visitor had been a reality or a dream. Then he awoke with a
     start into instant action. A great opportunity had come to him, and
     he had let it slip. He was at this time making self-rake reapers
     and Marsh harvesters; but what he wanted--what every reaper
     manufacturer wanted in 1871--was a self-binder. He at once called
     one of his trusted workmen.

     "'I want you to go to Janesville,' he said. Find a man named
     Withington and bring him to me by the first train that comes back
     to Chicago.'

     "The next day Withington was brought back, and treated with the
     utmost courtesy. McCormick studied his invention, and found it to
     be a most remarkable mechanism. Two steel arms caught each bundle
     of grain, whirled a wire tightly around it, fastened the two ends
     together with a twist, cut it loose, and tossed it to the ground.
     This self-binder was perfect in all its details--as neat and
     effective a machine as could be imagined. McCormick was delighted.
     At last, here was a machine that would abolish the binding of grain
     by hand."

For six years all went well with the McCormick and Withington
self-binder. This wonderful wire-twisting machine was working
everywhere with clockwork precision, and was believed to be the best
that human ingenuity could devise. All at once the manufacturing world
was startled with the news that William Deering had made and sold
three thousand twine self-binders. Deering, by this dramatic move
became in a flash McCormick's most powerful competitor. He was not a
farmer's son, like the latter, being bred in the city and trained in a
factory. He had been a successful merchant at Maine, then left it to
enter the harvester trade. He staked his whole fortune on making twine
binders. He won, and McCormick was forced to follow in his wake. The
evolution of the reaper into the twine self-binder was an epoch-making
event in the agricultural world. It enormously increased the sales. In
1880, 60,000 reapers were sold; five years later the figures had risen
to 250,000. Since then, with the exception of the new knot-tying
device, there has been no real change in the reaper. It remains the
grandest of all agricultural machines, and one of the most astonishing
mechanisms ever devised by the brain of man.

McCormick died in 1884. In the span of his own life the reaper was
born and brought to perfection. He created it in a remote Virginian
village, and he lived to see his catalogue printed in twenty
languages, and to know that so long as the human race continues to eat
bread the sun will never set on the Empire of his reaper, for
somewhere, in every month in all the year, you will find the corn
white unto the harvest.

       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *


Edited by Professor L. H. BAILEY

  =THE SOIL.= By F. H. King. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =THE FERTILITY OF THE LAND.= By I. P. Roberts. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =THE SPRAYING OF PLANTS.= By E. G. Lodeman. 5_s._ 6_d._ net,

  =MILK AND ITS PRODUCTS.= By H. H. Wing. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =PRINCIPLES OF FRUIT GROWING.= By L. H. Bailey. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =FERTILIZERS.= By E. B. Voorhees. 5_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =IRRIGATION AND DRAINAGE.= By F. H. King. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =RURAL WEALTH AND WELFARE.= By G. T. Fairchild. 5_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =THE FARMSTEAD.= By I. P. Roberts. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

     5_s._ 6_d._ net.

     6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =GARDEN-MAKING.= By L. H. Bailey. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =THE NURSERY BOOK.= By L. H. Bailey. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =THE PRUNING-BOOK.= By L. H. Bailey. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =THE FORCING-BOOK.= By L. H. Bailey. 5_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =PLANT BREEDING.= By L. H. Bailey. 5_s._ 6_d._ net.


       *       *       *       *       *


Edited by Professor L. H. BAILEY

  =FARM POULTRY.= By G. C. Watson. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =THE FEEDING OF ANIMALS.= By W. H. Jordan. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =THE FARMER'S BUSINESS HANDBOOK.= By I. P. Roberts. 3_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =THE DISEASES OF ANIMALS.= By Nelson S. Mayo. 8_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =HOW TO CHOOSE A FARM.= By Prof. T. F. Hunt. 7_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =BUSH FRUITS.= By F. W. Card. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =FORAGE CROPS.= By E. B. Voorhees. 6_s._ 6_d._

     6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =FRUIT-GROWING IN ARID REGIONS.= By W. Paddock and O. B. Whipple.
     6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =RURAL HYGIENE.= By Prof. Henry N. Ogden, C.E. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =DRY-FARMING.= By John A. Widtsoe. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =LAW FOR THE AMERICAN FARMER.= By John B. Green. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

     1_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =FARM BOYS AND GIRLS.= By William A. McKeever. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =SHEEP-FARMING IN NORTH AMERICA.= By John A. Craig. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.

  =CO-OPERATION IN AGRICULTURE.= By G. Harold Powell. 6_s._ 6_d._ net.


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes

All small caps formatted text has not been converted to ALL CAPS to
distinguish them from titles which were printed as all caps. The
birth year for Thomas William Coke is reported on Page 17 as 1752;
page 36 states "Coke died in 1842 at the age of eighty-eight"; and
Wikipedia reports Coke was born on 6 May 1754 and died 30 June 1842
(aged 88). So, the year of Coke's birth on page 17 should probably be
1754. Wikipedia shows that a gravestone has been placed on Mr. Tull's
resting place.

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