Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

1

surviving in another. Whether this jealousy be good or bad, it is certain that laws or customs which are inspired by it tend to the quicker dissipation rather than to the more equal distribution of wealth. New York has all the appearance of being one of the most luxurious cities in the world, whilst the discontent of the working classes is often propitiated, if I may believe the general consensus of my American friends, by tolerating heavy taxation which these classes impose, but to which they do not contribute, and by an expenditure of the funds so raised in a manner which is generally extravagant and very often corrupt.

There is another subject on which I derived a strong impression in America, and that is the really irrational character of the agricultural panic which has prevailed of late in many parts of the United Kingdom. If, indeed, we are to assume that the succession of bad seasons which has recently occurred in England marks a permanent change for the worse in our climate, there might be room for the most serious alarm. But so far as the mere fall in the price of certain agricultural products is concerned, that fall is one which has affected a great part of the world, and is quite as marked in America as in Europe. It has been the result mainly of the universal depression in almost all other branches of industry; and after the repeated experience we have had of the history of such depressions, it seems difficult to account for the exaggerated tone of alarm which has prevailed when its natural and inevitable effects have been felt in the price of certain articles, which, after all, are only a very few among those on which successful farming must depend in Europe. The unbounded wheat-producing powers of the great western plains of the American Continent are no new discovery of the year 1879. They have long been known, and the immense importations they have afforded to our markets have been going on for many years, during which, nevertheless, the prices have not been so low as to be considered ruinous to the British farmer. It is possible, however, that the growth of this particular cereal may become permanently unprofitable on many soils which have hitherto been devoted to its growth. The exchange of this crop for other kinds of grain is a process which has been gradually going on for many years. Some thirty years ago, wheat was often grown in certain districts of the west of Scotland where it has been almost entirely discontinued. But the same land has been quite as profitably employed in the growth of other crops ; and until a long and acute depression of manufacturing and commercial industry had supervened for a period unusually long, the business of agriculture has continued to be as attractive and as remunerative as it has ever been. Even as regards the few articles of produce which have been subjected to a sudden and to a heavy fall in price, it seems to be forgotten that such reductions in value have an inevitable tendency to correct themselves. Let us take the case of cheese. For many years the importations from

[ocr errors]

to afford a good return to dairy farming at home. In 1878 there was a very sudden and a very great reduction. When I sailed for America, in the end of May, it was at about the lowest point. A few days after I landed at New York I found that the farmers of New England were quite as much alarmed as the farmers of Cheshire or of Ayrshire. There was a meeting of a Dairymen's Association at Utica, it which it was agreed that at the prices then ruling in the cheese market this particular form of dairy produce did not pay common interest on the capital invested in the land and in the stock. The conclusion was enforced by a careful and elaborate calculation of the money product of each cow, as compared with the cost of her keep and the cost of dairy labour. The result was that the cost left a surplus on each cow of only about thirty shillings, from which had to be deducted whatever might be the calculated proportion due for taxes, and insurance, and outlay for repairs on buildings and machinery. On the whole, the conclusion was drawn, that in the case of average cheese dairies, the product of the cows during the year 1878 was scarcely sufficient to pay for their own support.' The Association consequently recommended its members to go inrather for the supply of butter and of fresh milk, and to give up a manufacture which had ceased to pay. On sending this report home to some of my friends in Scotland, i found it made no impression whatever. There is nothing so impregnable to attack as the human mind under the influence of a prevailing fear. But within two months of my return to England there was a rise in the price of cheese, even more sudden and violent than the previous fall. In one week, in consequence of telegrams from New York, intimating a great limitation of production, both from the voluntary abandonment of the manufacture and from the scorching effects of a hot summer on the pastures, the price of American cheese rose 90 per cent. But although the depression of prices was very severely felt in America, it was spoken of and treated there, as all similar depressions of trade ought to be treated—a matter to be dealt with by those concerned--and remedied, in so far as it admitted of remedy, by changes in the direction of agricultural industry. I must add that the universal testimony I heard, in regard to farming in America, so far at least as regards all the Eastern or Atlantic States, was to the effect that it was a business in which nobody expected to make, or ever did make money,' in the sense of realising even a moderate fortune. It was represented as an industry in which men were contented with a pleasant and healthy occupation, with a competent and comfortable living. I apprehend that . this is very much the position of affairs in the Old World, except that, under the system of letting land with the security of leases, and with definite stipulations, high farming at home does often yield returns largely profitable. I saw nothing in America which gave me the idea that anything like • high farming' was even known there.

pains on restricted areas of land. Strong local attachment to a particular farm was spoken of as almost unknown. The owners were represented as generally willing and anxious to sell if a good profit could be made by doing so. And a shrewd farmer, who crossed with me in the Scythia, and who had emigrated from Scotland early in life, spoke of this circumstance as fully accounting for the indisposition of farmers in America to publish or complain of the smallness of their gains. Such complaints could only tend to damage their own property. In England, he observed, similar complaints had exactly the opposite effect, inasmuch as they aimed at and tended to the reduction of the price or rent for which land was hired. In this difference lay, according to him, the real secret of the difference between the farmer of the Old World and the farmer of the New, in times when agricultural depression was equally oppressing both. If there was much shrewdness, there was also some cynicism in this observation of my Scotch friend, for undoubtedly the exceptionally bad harvests which have lately affected the wheat-producing districts of England and of Scotland have had a very severe effect, greatly aggravating the results of a mere fall in price. But the agricultural interest has had many times of depression quite as serious before. Rents will necessarily adjust themselves to any permanent change either in climate or in price. For my own part, I believe in neither.

Of one great pleasure I derived from my short visit to America I must say a word. Those who have never cared for any department of Natural Science can form no idea of the intense delight and refreshment of seeing for the first time a fauna or a flora which is entirely new. This can only be felt in perfection by passing direct from Europe to the Tropics. The temperate regions of all the great continents of the globe present only varieties of one and the same general aspect. But as regards my own favourite pursuit, that of Ornithology, the passage from Europe to any part of the American Continent is the passage to a new world indeed. One may be quite sure that, with very few exceptions, every bird one sees is a bird one has never seen alive before. One gets out of “Sparrowdom, or, at least, one would have got out of it completely in America, if our old and forward little friend, the Passer domesticus, had not been, of malice prepense, introduced into the States, and had not bred and flourished there with a success and an impudence in proportion to the care which has been expended on his welfare. In all the eastern cities of the Union breeding boxes are provided for the Sparrow in the trees which line the streets, and the Park at Boston is almost disfigured by the hideous miniatures of houses and cottages which are stuck up everywhere for the accommodation of this favoured representative of the old country. If the sparrow is to be educated in architecture, I wish our American friends would take more care as to the models set before him. Cocoa-nut shells, or any other similar vegetable sections of street houses which are too generally provided. But, at least, when we get outside the cities we get outside of Sparrowdom. The whole Avifauna of America is fresh to an English eye. There is indeed that strange likeness in the midst of difference which is one of the mysteries of creation when it is seen in lands separated by several thousand miles of ocean. The Swallows are all obvious Swallows, but, with one exception,' they are all different from the Swallows of Europe. The Starlings are obvious Starlings, but with scarlet epaulettes. The very Crows have a flight in which one detects a difference. The great order of the Flycatchers is represented by forms much more conspicuous and larger than at home. The handsome King-bird (Tyrannus carolinensis) was one of the first that attracted my eye from the railway carriage. The large Belted Kingfisher (Čeryle Alcyon) was passing with a Jay-like flight over the creeks and marshes of the Hudson. On looking out of my window in the morning at the glories of Niagara, I was hardly less interested by seeing the lovely American Goldfinch (Chrysomitris tristis) sitting on the low wall which guards the bushy precipice under the hotel. A golden finch indeed! the whole body of richer yellow than any Canary, with black wings and cap. The family of the Warblers was first indicated to my eye by the beautiful Dendroica ostiva among the overhanging vegetation of the same place. It reminded me much of our own Willow Wren, in movement and in manners, although it is much less shy, being common among the trees in the streets of Montreal. The azure of the Bluebird, with the strange song and piebald appearance of the Bobolink' (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), enlivened our drive from Niagara to the heights of Queenstown. The sharp wings, and swift, powerful flight of a bird of a dark steel blue colour had often attracted my curiosity before I knew that I had before me the Purple Martin (Progne purpurea), the largest and handsomest of all the Hirundinæ. It was with no little surprise that I saw in the seething waters of the pool below the Great Falls, and in the whirlpool, some miles farther down the river, one of the Colymbidæ, which was, I believe, the American representative of our own Black-throated Diver (Colymbus arcticus). In the calmer waters of the Lake of Beauport I saw one of the birds common to the two sides of the Atlantic, but now comparatively rare in Britain, that splendid bird the Great Northern Diver, Colymbus glacialis. In the forests of the Restigouche, dense, stifling, and almost impervious, my ear caught endless notes of Warblers and of Tits, and of Finches which were wholly new to it, and had generally a ventriloquistic character, that seemed to render sound useless as a guide to sight. I obtained specimens of the lovely American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), of the Indigo Bird (Cyanospiza cyanea), and of that curious family Vireo-Sylvia, which constitutes a link between the

"The exception is curious-it is the Common Bank Swallow, or Sand Martin (Cotyle riparia), which is one of the shortest winged of the whole tribe, and the least capable of establishing itself by migration on each side of the ocean.

Fly-catchers and the Warblers. In the evenings, high over head, I watched with delight the buoyant and beautiful evolutions of longwinged Goatsuckers cr Night hawks (Chordeiles Popetue), feeding on high-flying Lepidoptera, and chasing them with

Scythelike sweep of wings that dare

The headlong plunge through eddying gulfs. In the forest on the banks of Cascapediac river our carriage dashed into a covey of the so-called Canadian Partridges, a species representing the widespread and beautiful genus Tetrao, or Grouse (Tetrao canadensis). One of our party attempting to catch some of the young chicks was attacked by the mother with heroic dash, which effected so good a diversion that her object was fully attained, and at the imminent risk of her own capture she effected the escape

of

every one of her brood. The exquisite pattern of rich browns and russets which marked her plumage was beautifully displayed when her tail feathers were expanded in the fury of her attack. Near the same spot I saw a fine example of the close analogies of colouring which prevail in certain groups of birds both in the Old and in the New World. We all know that several of the Grey Linnets of Britain are adorned in the breeding season by the assumption of crimson feathers on the breast and forehead. But in the kindred or allied species of America the same colouring pervades the whole plumage, and the Purple Finches of Canada and the Northern States are among the handsomest of American birds (Carpodicus purpureus). On the Cascapediac also I saw, what I did not see on the Restigouche, numbers of the Night Heron (Nyctordea Gardeni)-a bird reminding one of the graceful bird at home--but on the whole a less conspicuous and a less ornamental species. Of one celebrated American bird—the White-headed Eagle (Haliatus leucocephalus)-I must vindicate the character. He has been accused on high authority of living by piracy, not fishing for bimself, but basely using his superior weight and strength to compel the Osprey or professional fishing Eagle (Pandion carolinensis) to give up its prey. On this ground no less a than Benjamin Franklin expressed his regret that this Eagle should have been chosen as the National emblem of the United States. The great American ornithologists, Audubon and Wilson, both repeat the same story, and neither of them appear to have ever seen a White-headed Eagle capturing his finny prey from the water, except, indeed, on one occasion, when an Eagle was seen in most un-aquiline fashion wading in some shallow pool and picking out 'Redfins' with his bill. But I had the good fortune on the Restigouche to see a fine White-headed Eagle catch a salmon for himself, by what seemed a bold and almost a dangerous manoeuvre.

About a thousand yards below our encampment the river disappeared round a sudden bend, with a very sharp current. The Eagle appeared coming up stream round this bend, and

man

« НазадПродовжити »