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The counties distinguished for the best farming: Hertfordshire, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Leicestershire: the low general standard; Arthur Young; his crusade against bad farming, and the hindrances to progress; waste land; the "Goths and Vandals " of open-field farmers: want of capital and education; insecurity of tenure; prejudices and traditional practices; impassable roads; rapid development of manufacture demands a change of agricultural front: Young's advocacy of capitalist landlords and large tenant-farmers.
DURING the first three quarters of the eighteenth century many advances had been made in the theory, and some in the practice, of agriculture. Alternations of crops and the management of livestock were better understood. But progress was still confined to localities, if not to individuals. Only in such counties as Hertfordshire, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Leicestershire was a fair standard of farming generally established. The superior enterprise of these favoured districts was due to various causes, and was displayed in different directions.
Without any special fertility of soil, Hertfordshire had for the last hundred years enjoyed the reputation of being the best corn county in England. To some extent it owed its superiority to the neighbourhood of London. But Middlesex, which shared the same advantage, was relatively backward. In Hertfordshire roads were above the average. In Middlesex turnpike roads, in spite of a large revenue from tolls, are described as "very bad." On the main road from Tyburn to Uxbridge, in the winter of 1797-8, there was but "one passable track, and that was less than six feet wide, and was eight inches deep in fluid mud. All the rest of the road was from a foot to eighteen inches deep in adhesive mud." Hertfordshire, which had been to a great extent covered with forest, contained, at the close of the eighteenth century, few open-field farms and an inconsiderable area of commons, which were practically confined to the chalk districts in the north of the county. In Middlesex, on the other hand, 17,000 acres, or one-tenth of the county, were commons, and, out of 23,000 arable acres, 20,000 were cultivated in open-field farms. The neighbourhood of London probably accounts for the predominance of pasture. Hertfordshire had been, for many years, an enclosed county, divided into small estates, and small farms conveniently varied in size. Unlike Middlesex, it was almost entirely arable. Its farmers had at once appreciated the value of turnips and clover, for which the soil was well adapted. Both crops must have been adopted within a few years after their first introduction into the country, if there is any truth in the tradition that Oliver Cromwell paid £100 a year to a Hertfordshire farmer named Howe for their successful cultivation. Other useful practices were established at an early date. William Ellis of Gaddesden (died 1758), a Hertfordshire farmer whose writings enjoyed a short-lived popularity, attributed the reputation of "this our celebrated county" to four principal means of improvement: "good ploughings, mixing earths, dunging and dressing, resting the ground with sown grasses." The Hertfordshire men were clean farmers. Their ploughmen were so celebrated that the county was "accounted a Nursery for skill in that Profession." Chalk was largely used on heavy clays, and red clay on sandy or gravelly soils. Nor were the advantages gained by neighbourhood to a great city neglected. London refuse was liberally bought and freely employed. Large quantities "of soot, coney-clippings, Horn-shavings, Rags, Hoofs-hair, ashes" were purchased from "Mr. Atkins in Turnmill-Street, near Clerkenwel." To these were added, when Walker wrote his report on the county (General View of the Agriculture of the County of Hertford, 1795), bones--boiled or burned--sheep-trotters, and malt-dust. Great numbers of sheep were also folded, mostly bought at Tring Fair from Westcountry drovers. But the peculiar practice of Hertfordshire farmers, in which Ellis took the greatest pride, was the sowing of tares on the turnip fallows as green fodder for horses in May. Young (1770) states that, while in other counties the land lay idle, these crops fed five horses to the acre for a month, at 2s. 6d. each a week. It was on these crops that Hertfordshire farmers reared the horses which they bought as two-year-olds in Leicestershire. Yet at the beginning of the nineteenth century the example had been rarely followed in other counties.
Suffolk and Essex also afforded good examples of the best English farming as it was practised at the close of the eighteenth century. Both counties had, as a whole, been enclosed for many years. Only on the poor and chalky soil of the north-western district had openfields held their own. As early as 1618, East Suffolk and Mid Suffolk were enclosed, and only "the westerne parts ether wholly champion or neer." In both counties yeomanry abounded, and in Essex the class was in 1807 still increasing according to Authur Young (North-East Essex, vol. i, p. 40) "For twenty or thirty years past scarcely an estate is sold, if divided into lots of forty or fifty to two or three hundred a year but is purchased by farmers." Both counties were centres of manufacturing industries, and in addition enjoyed the advantage of access to a great market. Suffolk supplied London with butter, Essex with calves, for which it had been famous in the seventeenth century. In both counties large quantities of manure were now used on the land. Farmers were not always so energetic. Under a lease of 1753 a tenant of the Suffolk manor of Hawsted was allowed two shillings for every load of manure which he brought from Bury and laid on the land. In a tenancy of twenty-one years only one load was charged to the landlord. Sixty years later, agriculturists had become more energetic. On the light sands of East Suffolk, marl and a calcareous shelly mixture of phosphates called "crag" were freely employed as fertilisers. Chalk from the Kentish quarries for use on the clays, as well as London refuse, were purchased by Essex farmers, conveyed by sea up the estuaries, and thence distributed in the county. Probably this traffic partly explains the condition of the Essex roads, which were as bad as the Suffolk highways were good. In both counties hollow drainage was practised earlier than elsewhere. The drains were wedge-shaped, filled with branches, twisted straw, or stone, and covered in with earth. Bradley (Complete Body of Husbandry, 1727, p. 133-43) speaks of the "Essex practice" of making drains two feet deep, at close and regular intervals throughout a whole field, filled with rubble or bushes, and he derives the term "thorough-drainage" from an Essex word "thorow," meaning a trench to carry off the water. Ploughing was in both counties economically conducted. The Suffolk swing-plough, drawn by two horses, was the common implement. Oxen were seldom used: "no groaning ox is doomed to labour there" is the evidence of Bloomfield. Turnips and clover were firmly established as arable crops. Suffolk had been for two centuries famous for its field cultivation of carrots. Cabbages were a later introduction, but extensively grown. Hemp was cultivated in the neighbourhood of Beccles, and hops flourished round Saxmundham. In Essex a peculiar crop, grown, generally together, on the same land for three years in succession, consisted of caraway, coriander, and teazels. The teazels were bought by woollen manufacturers, and fixed in a revolving cylinder to catch the surface of bays, says, etc., and so raise the nap of cloth to the required length. Suffolk was also famous for its live-stock. The Suffolk Punch was a short compact horse of about fifteen hands high, properly of a sorrel colour, unrivalled in its power of draught, though, as Cullum wrote in 1790, "not made to indulge the rapid impatience of this posting generation." In the dairy the "milch kine" of Suffolk are said by Reyce (1618) to be as good as in any other county, and he notes the beauty of their horns. In later tames the Suffolk Dun was renowned for the quantity of her milk. Suffolk cheese, however, had an evil reputation. It was "so hard that pigs grunt at it, dogs bark at it, but none dare bite it." The mystery of its interior inspired Bloomfield to sing of the substance, which
"Mocks the weak effort of the bending blade,
Or in the hog-trough rests in perfect spite,
Too big to swallow and too hard to bite."
As the eighteenth century drew to a close, it was to Norfolk and to Leicestershire that men had begun to look for the best examples of arable and pasture farming. In both counties progress had been largely due to the character of the farmers, and in Norfolk to the alertness and industry of the labourers. In Norfolk, Marshall (1787) says that farmers were "strongly marked by a liberality of thinking," that they were men who had "mixed with what is called the World, of which their leases render them independent . . occupying the same position in society as the clergy and smaller squires." Many of them had prospered enough to buy their holdings, and to add to them "numerous small estates of the yeomanry." Nor is this surprising in view of the productiveness of their land under the Norfolk system of husbandry. At the end of the eighteenth century the average annual number of live-stock sent from the county to Smithfield was 20,000 cattle and 30,000 sheep. It was also stated in 1795 that as much corn was exported from the four Norfolk ports of Yarmouth, Lynn, Wells, and Blakeney, as was sent abroad from the whole of the rest of England. In Leicestershire, again, "yeomanry of the higher class" abounded. "Men cultivating their own estates of two, three, four or five hundreds a year are thickly scattered over almost every part of the country"; they had "travelled much and mixed constantly with one another." In both Leicestershire and Norfolk the special branches of farming which were generally followed brought agriculturists into contact with their rivals, compelled them to be wide-awake, and sharpened their intelligence. Both were occupied in fattening stock for town markets, the Leicestershire men on pasture breeding their own stock, the Norfolk farmers on arable land buying their cattle from Scottish drovers. In one important respect there was a wide difference in their development. In Norfolk, great landowners, like Lord Townshend and, later, Coke of Norfolk, took the lead in improvement, tested for the benefit of their tenants the value of the new arable methods, encouraged them by long leases to follow their example, and by high rents made imitation compulsory. In Leicestershire, on the other hand, large landlords were few and had given no lead; the example was set by large tenan-tfarmers or substantial yeomen.
Other counties had adopted other useful practices which had scarcely spread beyond their borders. Thus Lancashire excelled in the cultivation of potatoes; Middlesex was celebrated for the art and practice of haymaking; Wiltshire for the irrigation and treatment of water-meadows; Cheshire for its management of dairy produce; Yorkshire farmers round Sheffield had tested the value of bone-dust, many years before the value of the manure was known in other districts. But there is some evidence that other counties had rather fallen back than advanced. This is especially true of Cambridgeshire, which enjoyed the reputation of being the worst cultivated county in England. It will probably be true to say that the country as a whole had made no general advance on the agriculture of the thirteenth century. The stagnation was mainly due to the prevalence of wastes, the system of open-field farming, the risk of loss of capital in improvements made under tenancies-at-will, the poverty and ignorance of hand-to-mouth farmers, the obstinacy of traditionary practices, the want of markets, and difficulties of communication. Till these obstacles were to some extent overcome, agricultural progress could not become general. It is with the removal of these hindrances that the name of Arthur Young is inseparably connected.
Born in London in 1741, Arthur Young was the younger son of the Rev. Arthur Young, who owned a small estate of 200 acres at Bradfield in Suffolk. From his father he inherited his literary tastes, a habit of negligence, in money matters, and ultimately a landed property. Out of Lavenham School he passed, at the age of seventeen, into a wine merchant's office at Lynn. A youthful fop and gallant, he there began his literary career in order to pay for books and clothes. Before he was nineteen, he had published four novels and two political pamphlets. On his father's death in 1759, he abandoned trade for literature, and Lynn for London, where he launched a monthly magazine called The Universal Museum, which only ran for six months. The venture was unprofitable. Without profession or employment, he drifted back, in 1703, to his mother's home at Bradfield, married, and settled down to farming as a business. As a practical farmer he failed, and the impression left by his writings is that he always would have done so. On three farms, which he took in rapid succession, he lost money. Meanwhile he was succeeding better as a writer. Books and pamphlets flowed from his pen with prodigious rapidity, and his income was considerable. In 1767 he began those farming tours, in the course of which he drew his graphic sketches of rural England, Ireland, and France.*
*A Six Weeks' Tour through the Southern Counties of England and Wales (1768); A Six Months' Tour through the North of England (1770), 4 vols.; The Farmer's Tour through the East of England (1771), 4 vols.; Tour in Ireland, 1776-7-8 (1780), 2 vols.; Travels during the Years 1787, '88, '89 and 1790, undertaken more Particularly with a view of ascertaining the Cultivation, Wealth, Resources, and National Prosperity of the Kingdom of France (1792-4), 2 vols.
His careless ease of style, his racy forcible English, his gift of happy phrases, his quick observation, his wealth of miscellaneous detail, make him the first of English agricultural writers. Apart from the value of the facts which they contain, his tours, with their fresh word-pictures, their gossip, their personal incidents, and even their irrelevancies, have the charm of private diaries. His Ireland was described by Maria Edgeworth as "the first faithful portrait of the inhabitants," and his France was recognised by Tocqueville as a first-hand authority on the rural conditions of the country on the eve of the Revolution. In 1784 he began his Annals of Agriculture, a monthly publication to which George III., under the name of his shepherd at Windsor, "Ralph Robinson," occasionally contributed. The magazine was continued till 1809, when, owing to failing eyesight, Young discontinued its publication. He had written more than a quarter of the forty-six volumes himself.
Young had now succeeded, on the death of his mother in 1785, to the Bradfield estate, his elder brother having broken his neck in the hunting-field. His Travels in France show that he sympathised with the peasants in their early efforts to free themselves from the ancien régime. But the subsequent course of the Revolution filled him with horror. In 1793, he wrote an effective pamphlet on The Example of France a Warning to Great Britain, urged the formation of a "militia of property," and himself joined the Suffolk yeomanry. In the same year Pitt established the Board of Agriculture, with Sir John Sinclair as President. Arthur Young was appointed Secretary with a salary of £400 a year and, later, an official residence in Sackville Street, London. One of the first objects of the Board was to collect information respecting the agricultural conditions of each county. For this purpose Commissioners were appointed. They were not always wisely selected; but for this choice, against which Young protested, the President was responsible. Their Reports were severely criticised by William Marshall* (1745-1818), an embittered, disappointed man, who had himself originally suggested the establishment of the Board and the compilation of the surveys. But, with all their faults, the reporters collected a mass of valuable information on the state of farming from 1793 to 1813. Six of the surveys were by Young himself, and his Report on Oxfordshire was almost his last literary work.
* Marshall's General Survey . . of the Rural Economy of England has been frequently quoted. His valuable records fill twelve volumes published between 1787 and 1798, two volumes being allotted to each of the six departments into which he divides the country: (1) the Eastern: Norfolk, 2 vols. (1787); (2) the Northern: Yorkshire, 2 vols. (1788); (3) the West Central: Gloucestershire, North Wilts, and Herefordshire, 2 vols. (1789); (4) the Midland: Leicestershire, etc., 2 vols. (1790); (5) the Western: Devonshire and parts of Soersetshire, Dorsetshire, and Cornwall, 2 vols. (1796); (6) the Southern: Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, 2 vols. (1798). Of the first ten volumes a second edition was published in 1796. A second edition of the Southern volumes was published in 1799, with the prefix of a sketch of the Vale of London.
Marshall has none of the charm of Young. He is a heavy, didactic writer.But his system is better; his generalisations are more conclusive, and less contradictory; his facts are better arranged; he was, also, a better farmer. A zealous collector of "provincialisms" of speech, he gives lists of the local words which he found in use in the Northern, Midland, and West Central departments, and appends them, with a glossary, to the volumes to which they relate. Besides the Rural Economy, he published numerous other works, chiefly on agriculture.
Young was a man of strong prejudices. He was also wanting in power of generalisation. But he worked untiringly for what he believed to be the progress of good farming. On this object were concentrated the chief labours of his life--his enquiries, experiments, researches, his collections of statistics, his notes of useful practices, his observations on new methods. His eager face, with its keen eyes and aquiline features, expressed the vivacity of his temperament, just as his tall slender figure indicated the restless activity of his body. A gay and charming companion, his enthusiasms were infectious. He was the soul and inspiration of the progressive movement. To him, more than to any other individual, were due the dissemination of new ideas on farming, the diffusion of the latest results of observation and experiment, the creation of new agencies for the interchange of experiences, the establishment of farmers' clubs, ploughing matches, and agricultural societies and sows. His married life was not happy; but his wife was not entirely to blame. An affectionate father, his whole heart was given to his youngest daughter (Martha Ann, born 1783, died 1797) nicknamed "Bobbin." Versailles did not afford him so much pleasure as giving to the child a French doll. Her death broke down his health and spirits. Grief deepened into religious melancholy. His gloom was intensified by failing eyesight. In 1811 he became totally blind. Nine years later (1820), he died in London.
When Young began to write on agriculture, vast districts, which might have been profitably cultivated, still lay waste. Of the area already under tillage, a large proportion lay in open-fields. Under this system, whatever might be the differences or capacities of the soil, the whole of the land, with rare exceptions, was placed under the same unvarying rotation. It was this inability to put land to its best use which especially roused Young's indignation. When he made his Eastern Tour in 1770, he found nearly all the Vale of Aylesbury cultivated in arable open-fields, lying in broad, high, crooked ridges. The course of cropping was (1) Fallow, (2) Wheat or Barley, (3) Beans. The land was ploughed from two to four inches deep, and five horses were used to each plough. Beans were sown broadcast, and never hoed. Drainage was badly needed, for the ridge system had failed. But the lands were so intermixed that any other system was difficult, if not impossible. Even in June, only the tops of the ridges were dry, and, in the winter, most of the land, crops and all, were soaked with water. As a result, the products were as bad as the land was good. The Vale of Aylesbury farmers, whom Ellis (1733) describes as "one of the most obstinate bigotted sort," "reap bushels where they should reap quarters." Both in Buckinghamshire and in Northamptonshire, the cow-dung was collected from the fields, mixed with short straw, kneaded into lumps, daubed on the walls of buildings, and, when dry, used as fuel. "There cannot," says Young, "be such an application of manure anywhere but among the Hottentots." (It was no uncommon practice. Edward Laurence suggests  that "Cow-dung not to be burnt for fuel " should be inserted as a restrictive covenant in all leases. He mentions Yorkshire and Lincolnshire as counties where dung was frequently used as fuel.) Naseby Field in 1770 consisted of 6000 acres, all cultivated on the open-field system, on the same course of cropping which Young found established on village farms from the Vale of Aylesbury to the north of Derbyshire. Round the mud-built village lay a few pasture enclosures. The three arable fields were crossed and re-crossed by paths to the different holdings, filled with a cavernous depth of mire; the pastures were in a state of nature, overrun with nettles, furze, and rushes. The farm-houses and buildings, all collected in the village, were two miles distant from a great part of the fields. When Young visited the village again in 1785, he found that the land in tillage for spring corn was "perfectly matted with couch." Marshall, a less prejudiced observer than Young, visited the Vale of Gloucester in 1789. There he found half the arable land unenclosed. Near Gloucester, and in other parts of the district, there were extensive tracts of land, called "Every Year's Land," which were cropped year after year without any fallows. Only the cleanest farming could have made such a system productive. But here Marshall found beans hidden among mustard growing wild as a weed; peas choked by poppies and corn marigolds; every stem of barley fettered with convolvulus; wheat pining in thickets of couch and thistle. It is not surprising that the yield of wheat was anything from 18 bushels an acre down to 12 or 8 bushels.
Other instances might be quoted to show the general condition of open-field farms. But the system had its champions, even among practical agriculturists, especially if they were flock-masters. It cannot, therefore, always have been characterised by the worst farming. No doubt lower depths might be reached. If severalty made a good farmer better, it also made a bad farmer worse. Nor was the system altogether incapable of improvement. Here and there Young or Marshall alludes to some useful practice adopted on village farms. For instance, Young speaks of the drainage of common pastures by very large ploughs belonging to the parish, cutting 16 inches in depth and the same in width, drawn by 12 horses; of the introduction of clover by common consent into the rotation of crops, or of the adoption of a fourth course instead of the old two- or three-shift system. So also Marshall notes the open-field practice of dibbing and hoeing beans in Gloucestershire, where beans commanded a ready market among the Guinea traders of Bristol as food for negro slaves on the voyage from the African coast to the West Indies. But, speaking generally, any rotation of crops in which roots formed an element was with difficulty introduced on arable land which was pastured in common during the autumn and winter months; drainage was impracticable on the intermixed lands of village farms; among the underfed, undersized, and underbred flocks and herds of the commons the principles of Bakewell could not be followed. That open-field farmers were impervious to new methods is certain. "You might," says Young, "as well recommend to them an Orrery as a hand-hoe." That they had not the capital to carry out costly improvements is also obvious. They could not bring into cultivation the sands of Norfolk, the wolds of Lincolnshire, or the ling-covered Peak of Derbyshire. From a purely agricultural point of view Young's intemperate crusade against village farms was justified, and he had reason on his side when he said that "the Goths and Vandals of open-field farmers must die out before any complete change takes place." To some extent the same arguments applied to small farmers occupying their holdings in severalty. "Poverty and ignorance," says Marshall, speaking of the Vale of Pickering in 1787, "are the ordinary inhabitants of small farms; even the smaller estates of the yeomanry are notorious for bad management." It was on the larger farms that he found the spirit of improvement and the best practice. In Gloucestershire (1789) he looked to the " few men of superior intelligence " to raise the standard of the profession. Nor did enclosures necessarily mean an improvement of methods. In Derbyshire, at the time of Young's tour in 1770, many farmers on new enclosures pursued the same course of cropping to which they had been restricted by the "field constraint" of village farms. Sometimes the landlord, and not the tenant, was the Vandal or the Goth. Thus in Cambridgeshire farmers on freshly enclosed land were bound by their leases to continue the old course of fallow, corn, and beans.
Even when a tenant-farmer possessed both enterprise and capital, the method of land-tenure discouraged improvement. Without some security for his outlay, no tenant could venture to spend money on his land. At the same time he was often expected to make improvements which now are considered the duty of a landlord and parts of the necessary equipment of a farm. Yet the commonest forms of tenure were lettings from year to year, voidable on either side, as they then were, at six months' notice. In the eastern counties leases for terms of years, with covenants for management, were in the last half of the century becoming a usual form of letting. But elsewhere long leases were regarded with justifiable suspicion by both parties. Tenants objected to them, because they bound them to take land for a long period before they knew what the land would do, and to make fixed annual payments based on current prices which might not be maintained. Landlords also objected to them, because they deprived owners of the advantages of a rise in prices, and "told the farmer when he might begin systematically to exhaust the land." Where a good understanding existed between landlords and tenants, leases were not indispensable. Land was often farmed on verbal agreements. Ordinary tenancies-at-will secured Berkshire and Nottinghamshire farmers in their holdings from generation to generation. Under the same tenancy, on the Duke of Devonshire's estates in Derbyshire, tenants even carried out costly and permanent improvements. Often, however, the uncertainty of this form of tenure checked enterprise; because of it, also, tenants fell into the routine of the district and plodded along in the beaten track trodden by their ancestors. Sometimes the uncertainty was a real insecurity. Thus, in Yorkshire, in 1787, Marshall notices that confidence between landlord and tenant had been destroyed by successive rises in rents. "Good farming ceased, for fear the fields should look green and the rent be raised." Local rhymes expressed the popular belief that he "that havocs may sit," while the improving tenant must either pay increased rent or "flit." Leases for lives were common, especially in the south-western counties. They gave a fixity of tenure; but they were necessarily, both for tenant and landlord, somewhat of a gambling speculation. Fourteen years' purchase of the rental value was the usual price for a lease of three lives. The initial outlay crippled the first tenant, and, only if the lives proved good, was the purchase remunerative. On the other hand, the landlord was often obliged, as the third life drew towards its close, to put himself in as sub-tenant to save his land from exhaustion and his buildings from ruin. Leases for very short terms were not infrequent. On open-field farms in Bedfordshire and Huntingdon the term was three years, in Durham six years, corresponding to the completion of one or two courses of the ordinary three-shift routine. But in the last twenty years of the eighteenth century, leases for 7, 14, and 21 years became more common. Even longer terms were often granted, as the enthusiasm for improvement extended. Tenants under long leases throve on rents fixed before the high prices during the Napoleonic war; but after 1813 the position was disastrously reversed. Prudent men had taken their money out. The sufferers were new men, who had enjoyed none of the advantages of the system; they were its victims, never its beneficiaries. Two of the difficulties by which the tenure is embarrassed were already becoming important, if not burning, questions--the compensation for unexhausted improvements, and the covenants imposed by landlords. Some of the restrictions imposed by leases were a bar to progress. Leicestershire graziers, for example, were crippled by the absolute prohibition of arable farming; they were forced either to sell off their stock at Michaelmas when it was cheapest, or to buy winter-keep from Hertfordshire. On the other hand, covenants of a reasonable nature proved invaluable in lifting the standard of a stationary agriculture, and raising farming to a higher level.
Other formidable obstacles to progress lay in the mass of local prejudices and the obstinate adherence to antiquated methods. All over the country there were men like the "round-frocked" farmers of Surrey, who prided themselves on preserving the practices and dress of their forefathers, men of "inflexible honesty," enemies equally to "improvements in agriculture" and to the commercial morality of a new generation. Reforming agriculturists no doubt were too ready to ignore the solid basis of sound sense and experience which often underlay practices that in theory were objectionable. In their excuse it may be urged that their patience was sorely tried. Traditional methods were treasured with jealous care as agricultural heirlooms; even ocular proof of the superiority of other systems failed to wean farmers from the routine of their ancestors. In 1768 turnips and clover were still unknown in many parts of the country; and their full use only appreciated in the eastern counties. In some districts, as in Essex (1808), clover had been adopted with such zeal that the land was already turning sick; in others it was scarcely tried. In Westmoreland, for instance, in 1794, "the prejudice that exists almost universally against clover and rye-grass" was said to be "a great obstacle to the improvement of the husbandry of the county." In Cumberland, where clover had been introduced in 1752, it was still rare in 1797. Turnips remained, at the close of the eighteenth century, an "alien crop" in many counties, such as Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Glamorganshire, and Worcestershire. Even where they were grown, they were generally sown broadcast, and seldom hoed. In 1780 a Norfolk farmer settled in Devonshire, where he drilled and hoed his roots. His crops were far superior to those of other farmers in the district; yet, at the close of the century, no neighbour had followed his example. In 1794 many Northumberland sheep-masters still milked their ewes, though the more intelligent had discontinued the practice. Another illustration of the tyranny of custom may be taken from ploughing. In many districts the Norfolk, Rotherham, or Small's ploughs had been introduced at a great economy of cost. But elsewhere farmers still clung to some ancestral implement. In Kent, at the time of Cromwell, it was not unusual to see six, eight, or twelve oxen attached to a single plough. On the dry land of East Kent, on stony land, on rough hill-sides, the implement undoubtedly had, and has, its uses. But on all soils alike, a century and a half later, the same huge machine, looking at a distance more like a cart than a plough, with a beam the size of a gate-post, remained the idol of the men of Kent. In Middlesex, in 1796, it was no uncommon sight to see ploughs drawn by six horses, with three men in attendance. In Berkshire (1794), four horses and two men ploughed one acre a day. In Northamptonshire Donaldson (1794) found in general use a clumsy implement, with a long massive beam, drawn by four to six horses at length, with a boy to lead and a man to hold. By immemorial custom in Gloucestershire two men, a boy, and a team of six horses were usually employed in ploughing. Coke of Norfolk sent into the county a Norfolk plough, and ploughman, who, with a pair of horses, did the same work in the same time. But though the annual cost of the operation was thus diminished by a half, it was twenty years before the neighbours profited by the lesson.
The backwardness of many agricultural counties was to some extent due to difficulties of communication. By the creation of Turnpike Trusts (1663 and onwards) portions of the great highways were placed in repair. Yet in the eighteen miles of turnpike road between Preston and Wigan, Young in 1770 measured ruts "four feet deep and floating with mud only from a wet summer," and passed three broken-down carts. "I know not in the whole range of language," he says, "terms sufficiently expressive to describe this infernal road. Let me most seriously caution all travellers who may accidentally propose to travel this terrible country to avoid it as they would the devil, for a thousand to one they break their necks or their limbs, by overthrows or breakings down." The turnpike road to Newcastle from the south seems to have been equally dangerous. "A more dreadful road," he says, "cannot be imagined. I was obliged to hire two men at one place to support my chaise from overturning. Let me persuade all travellers to avoid this terrible country, which must either dislocate their bones with broken pavements, or bury them in muddy sand." The turnpike road from Chepstow to Newport was a rocky lane, "full of hugeous stones, as big as one's horse, and abominable holes." Marshall says that the Leicestershire roads, till about 1770, had been "in a state of almost total neglect since the days of the Mercians." The principal road from Tamworth to Ashby lay, in 1789, "in a state almost impassable several months in the year." Waggons were taken off their wheels and dragged on their bellies. Essex, in the time of Fitzherbert, was famous for the badness of its roads. In the eighteenth century it worthily maintained its reputation. "A mouse could barely pass a carriage in its narrow lanes," which were filled with bottomless ruts, and often choked by a string of chalk waggons, buried so deeply in the mire that they could only be extricated by thirty or forty horses. "Of all the cursed roads that ever disgraced this kingdom in the very age of barbarism none ever equalled that from Billericay to the 'King's Head' at Tilbury" was the suffering cry of Young in 1769. The roads of Herefordshire, says Marshall, twenty years later, were "such as you might expect to find in the marshes of Holland or the mountains of Switzerland." In Devonshire, which Marshall considered to be agriculturally the most benighted district of England, there was not in 1750 one single wheeled carriage; everything wan carried in sledges or on pack-horses. The latter were still in universal use in 1796. Crops were piled between willow "crooks," to which the load was bound; manure was carried in strong panniers, or "potts," the bottom of which was a sort of falling door; sand was slung in bags across the wooden packsaddle. Even where efforts were made to improve the highways, the attempt was often rendered useless by ignorance of the science of road-making. Some roads were convex and barrel-shaped. But the fall from the centre of the road to the sides was so rapid that carts could only travel in the centre with safety. Many roads were concave, constructed in the form of a trough, filled in with sand. In wet weather this deposit became porridge. On a road of this formation between Woodstock and Oxford, Marshall, in 1789, encountered labourers employed in "scooping out the batter." Yet in spite of the difficulty of communication, distant counties carried on a considerable trade in agricultural produce. Thus calves, bred in Northamptonshire, were sent to Essex to be reared. The animals travelled in carts with their legs tied together, were eight days on the road, and during the journey were fed with "gin-balls," i.e. flour and gin mixed together. Off the main lines of communication, highways were unmetalled tracks, which spread in width as vehicles deviated to avoid the ruts of their predecessors. By-roads were often zigzag lanes, engineered on the principle that one good or bad turn deserved another. In narrow ways the bells on the teams were not merely ornaments; they were warnings that the passage was barred by the entry of another vehicle. When rural districts were thus cut off from one another, their isolation was not only a formidable obstacle to agricultural progress, but made a uniform system of growing corn on every kind of land a practical necessity. Yet the days when Gloucester seemed "in the Orcades," and York a "Pindarick flight" from London had their advantages. In 1800 it required fifty-four hours, and favourable circumstances, for "a philosopher, six shirts, his genius, and his hat upon it," to reach London from Dublin.
Shut off from neighbours by impassable roads, impeded in their access to markets, not ambitious of raising from the soil anything beyond their own needs and the satisfaction of the local demand for bread, farmers felt no spur to improvement. Hitherto the slow increase of a rural population was the only effective incentive to increased production. But as the eighteenth century drew to its close, Watt, Hargreaves, Crompton, Arkwright, and other mechanical geniuses were beginning to change the face of society with the swiftness of a revolution. Population was shifting from the South to the North, and advancing by leaps and bounds in crowded manufacturing towns. Huge markets were springing up for agricultural produce. Hitherto there had been few divisions of employment because only the simplest implements of production were used; spinners, weavers, and cloth-workers, iron-workers, handicraftsmen, had combined much of their special industries with the tillage of the soil. But the rapid development of manufacture caused its complete separation from agriculture, and the application of machinery to manual industries completed the revolution in social arrangements. A division of labour became an economic necessity. Farmers and manufacturers grew mutually dependent. Self-sufficing farming was thrown out of date. Like manufacture, agriculture was ceasing to be a domestic industry. Both had to be organised on a commercial footing. The problem was, how could the inevitable changes be met best and most promptly? How could a country at war with Europe raise the most home-grown food for a rapidly growing population, concentrated in the coal and iron fields? How could agriculture supply the demand for artisan labour, and yet increase its own productiveness? Arthur Young was, at this period of his career, ready with an unhesitating answer--large farms, large capital, long leases, and the most improved methods of cultivation and stock-breeding. His object was to develop to the utmost the resources of the soil. To this end all social considerations must be subordinated. Every obstacle to good farming must be swept away--wastes reclaimed, commons divided, open-fields converted into individual occupations, antiquated methods abandoned, obsolete implements scrapped, improved practices uniformly adopted. "Where," he asks, with perfect truth, "is the little farmer to be found who will cover his whole farm with marl at the rate of 100 or 150 tons per acre? who will drain all his land at the expense of £2 or £3 an acre? who will pay a heavy price for the manure of towns, and convey it thirty miles by land carriage? who will float his meadows at the expense of £5 an acre? who, to improve the breed of his sheep, will give 1000 guineas for the use of a single ram for a single season? who will send across the Kingdom to distant provinces for new implements, and for men to use them? who will employ and pay men for residing in provinces where practices are found which they want to introduce into their farms?"
Young's spirited crusade against bad or poor farming would probably have fallen on deaf ears, if it had not been supported by the prospect of financial gain and by the impulse of industrial necessities. As he put the case, more produce from the land meant higher rents for the landlord, larger incomes for farmers, better wages for labourers, more home-grown food for the nation. Under the pressure of war-prices and of the gigantic growth of a manufacturing population, the system which he advocated made rapid progress. Years after his death, it was established with such completeness that men forgot not only the existence of any different conditions, but even the very name of the most active pioneer of the change. In the agricultural literature of the early and middle Victorian era, he is almost ignored. The article on English agriculture in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, for example, devotes only a few lines to his career. Recently his memory has been revived in England by the renewal under different circumstances of the struggle between large and small farmers. In France, on the other hand, where the contest between capitalist farmers and peasant proprietors was never decisively terminated, the discussion has always centred round his name. In the words of Lesage, his latest editor and translator, France has made an adopted child of Arthur Young.