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tions of Nature, is one of action and reaction, of a disturbance of equilibrium which sets at work the machinery for its own restoration. The elemental forces, gravitation, and the wash of running water, carry to the lowest levels the mineral and organic nutriment for vegetation; and vegetation, thus originated, carries them back again up the slopes, preparing a soil for its own progress as it goes. The slimmest and scantiest vegetation is always in the advance, like the pioneers and light troops who clear the ground for the heavy columns of an army.*
Ages roll away: dank swamps, filling the air with mists and fog, occupy the valley bottoms; tangled forests of gigantic timber surround them, at the foot of the slopes; above them the vegetable growth dwindles, from smaller and less frequent trees, to shrubs of less and less size, to weeds and plants, requiring a diminishing quantity of nutriment for their support, and finding it upon the thin, porous, sandy soil of the uplands, through which the rain filters readily, and from whose inclined surface the drenching showers run off.
Finally, man comes to begin the work of cultivation. History teaches us that he has first, everywhere, passed through a hunter
clay slate. In six or seven years the lower branches spread out, become interlaced, and completely overshadow the ground. Nothing, therefore, grows upon it until the trees are twenty-four years old, when the spines of the lower branches beginning to fall, the first considerable thinning takes place. Air and light being thus readmitted, grasses spring up, and a fine sward is gradually produced. The ground, which previously was worth only 9d. or 18. an acre, as a sheep pasture, at the end of thirty years becomes worth from 78. to 10s.
Johnston's Agricul. Chemistry, Lect. 17, 8 8. * An analogous process is described in the following account of the banks of willows on the Mississippi, below New Orleans:
“ The growth of willows on that side of the stream where the land is gaining on the water, is often so formal and regular that they look like a young plantation. In the front row are young saplings, just rising out of the ground, which is formed of silt thrown down within the last two or three years. Behind them is an older growth, from four to eight feet high. Still farther back is seen a third row, twenty-five feet high; and sometimes, in this manner, five tiers, each overtopping the other, showing the gradual formation of the bank, which inclines upward, because the soil first deposited has been continually raised during the annual floods.". Lyell's Second Visit to the United States, Vol. 2, page 115.
state, when be subsisted upon the various spoils of the chase, and of fishing; and the nomadic, when the flesh and milk of tame flocks, cropping the spontaneous herbage, furnish him with food, and their skins with tents and clothing.
In those stages of society there is little individuality of labour or of profit. The land over which the tribe hunts, and the streams in which it fishes, the pastures over which the flocks of the wandering herdsmen browse, have no individual proprietor. They are the common stock of the tribe, and when they are exhausted, the tribe emigrates in a body to find new ones, as yet unappropriated, or engages in war, to drive off from their possessions another tribe whose territories seem worth the chances of strife. Each man partakes in the common fortunes. The entire body obtain but a scanty subsistence; and the one who happens to have a superfluity to-day, shares with his fellow, and exchanges situations with him when less fortunate to-morrow. Individual property in land, and dependence upon individual success in gathering its products, for subsistence, only arises when the nomadic way of life is abandoned, and men settle down in fixed babitations.
But where is the man to establish himself who makes the first attempts in agriculture? Where can he ? His choice is obviously controlled by his power. His implements are of the rudest description, such as Nature offers ready-made to his hand, like the shell that the South Sea Islanders use for a hoe. All the arms and tools that his forefathers had used, while the tribe was passing through its stages of hunter and shepherd life, were of this description. A flint had served for an arrow-bead, and its sharp edge gave the only cutting instrument they had been able to construct. A bow fashioned by such a knife, the string of which was a thong cut from a deer-skin, was his chief weapon for the chase, or for combat at a distance - a club hardened by the fire, armed sometimes with a sharp stone, fastened to it by thongs, was the weapon for close strife. A pointed bone, from the leg of a deer, furnished his wife with a needle, and its sinews with the thread, by which she sewed together the skins that clothed her household. It is with such tools only that experience or the traditions of his tribe have made him acquainted. One has but to walk into the nearest Museum that contains a collection
of savage implements, to see how imperfect they are, and at the same time, to observe with some astonishment how fully they meet the limited wants of those who use them, and through what a long tract of time generations of men make no sensible improvement upon their primitive stock.
The first planter, moreover, can have little assistance from others, for their numbers are few. “It has been computed," says Lyell, the geologist, “ that eight hundred acres furnish only as much subsistence to a community of hunters, as half an acre under cultivation.” Liebig gives us the scientific explanation of this fact.* It is clear, then, that the individuals of a tribe, just resolving itself into an agricultural community, would be widely scattered, and that long distances would separate them from each other. It is quite probable, indeed, that the first cultivator would be one whom physical debility had deprived of the power of accompanying his fellows in their migrations.
An individual or a community of individuals, so weak in resources, cannot undertake the tillage of land that demands great labour to prepare it for a crop. The valleys covered with heavy timber, that must be cut and removed, the swamps, suffused with water, that require only thorough drainage to convert them into fertile meadows, present insuperable difficulties to a poor and feeble people. The
* “A nation of hunters on a limited space is utterly incapable of increasing its numbers beyond a certain point, which is soon attained. The carbon necessary for respiration must be obtained from the animals, of which only a limited number can live on the space supposed. These animals collect from plants the constituents of their organs and their blood, and yield them in turn to the savages who live by the chase alone. They again receive this food, unaccompanied by those compounds destitute of nitrogen, which, during the life of the animals, served to support the respiratory process. In such men, confined to an animal diet, it is the carbon of the flesh and of the blood which must take the place of starch and sugar. But fifteen pounds of flesh contain no more carbon than four pounds of starch; and while the savage, with one animal and an equal weight of starch, could maintain life and health for a certain number of days, he would be compelled, if confined to flesh, in order to procure the carbon necessary for respiration during the same time, to consume five such animals.” — Liebig's Animal Chemistry, Part 1, $14.
malaria from the decay of rank vegetation upon the lowlands generates fevers, which would prevent the attempt to cultivate the rich bottoms,* even if the cultivators had the power to clear and drain them, and a sufficient supply of food in advance to wait the ripening of the crops, after those necessary preliminary operations were accomplished. But they possess neither; and the demand for food is instant and pressing. They are forced, therefore, as well as tempted, to begin the work of cultivation upon the light, thin soil of the upland slopes, which require no drainage, where there is no heavy timber for the settler to remove, which can be furrowed by a mere stick, and afford a speedy return to light labour, unassisted by mechanical contrivances or even animal power. The return is scanty, but, small as it is, it is more than the savage ancestors of the cultivator obtained, when they roamed over a thousand-fold larger space as hunters, or depastured the natural grasses with their flocks. If, while his grain is growing, he is obliged to depend in part upon fishing and hunting for food, yet, when it is gathered, there is a store for a long period, extending beyond the next harvest; a surplus which enables him to withdraw a portion of his time from the direct labour of tillage, and devote it to devising and manufacturing better tools, to improving the means of shelter for his family and stores, and to the care of such animals as he may have domesticated. It
The narrow plain along the seacoast”-such are the words of Murray's Encylopædia of Geography, in describing Mexico—“is a tract in which the richest tropical productions spring up with a luxuriance scarcely to be paralleled. Yet, while the climate is thus prolific of vegetation, in the finest and most gigantic forms, it is almost fatal to animal life: two consequences which, according to Humboldt, are in this climate almost inseparable. The Spaniards, terrified by this pestilential air, have made this plain only a passage to the higher districts, where even the native Indians chose rather to support themselves by laborious cultivation, than to descend into the plains, where every luxury of life is poured forth in ample and spontaneous profusion.”
Humboldt, in the Aspects of Nature, infers a probability that the earlier settlers of South America came from a cool climate, because they kept, by preference, to the highlands. He says: Throughout Mexico and Peru, the traces of a great degree of civilization are confined to the elevated plateaux. We have seen on the Andes the ruins of palaces and baths, at heights between 1600 and 1800 toises, (10,230 and 11,510 English feet).”
is always the first step that is laborious and costly. The accumulation of one year, and the increase and improvement of tools which it enables, begets a larger increase for the next. Their owner is enabled to dig the ground more thoroughly, and therefore to obtain a richer crop. He is enabled, too, to fell the lighter timber, and thus to extend the area of his cultivation, at the same time that he brings into activity the powers of a more productive soil. As his children grow up they take part in the work, the younger and weaker doing the lighter labours, which would otherwise engross the time of the father, and the stronger uniting with him to accomplish things, which while impossible to a single man by any continuance of exertion, are easily and speedily despatched by three or four.
As the families increase in number, and new families are formed by intermarriage, they naturally cling to the neighbourhood of the soil on which the husband or the wife first drew breath. The same motives actuating men in the same situation, the grounds first subjected to tillage must have been those extending in a line along the crest of the hills, and upon the same general level. The new families can keep most neighbours in their vicinity, by occupying the next lower terrace, or an inferior level upon the slope. In doing so they take up land of a higher grade of fertility, which, by the increased facilities of association and improvement in the quantity and effectiveness of implements, they can subdue, though their fathers could not. From generation to generation the progress of cultivation is in the same direction, from the soils of inferior to those of superior fertility. This necessarily implies an increased facility of production, a greater quantity of food in return for the same quantity of labour, and consequently a greater quantity of labour disposable for other purposes than the immediate production of the materials for subsistence. The division of labour which thus results, and the vast enhancement of power indirectly applied to procuring nutriment for the growing society, we are not yet prepared to examine. Nor is it necessary to enlarge upon the fact, that men imitating the process of Nature, carry back the elements of fertility from the freshly subdued lowlands, to enrich the older and shallower soils. The single circumstance which at present demands our attention is, that the natural progress of society in the work of