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David was keeping sheep, when Samuel sent to look for him to anoint him king;' and he returned to his flock after he had been called to play upon the harp before Saul. After he was king, his sons made a great feast at the shearing of their sheep.' Elisha was called to be a prophet as he drove one of his father's twelve ploughs. 6 The child that he brought to life again was with his father at the harvest when it fell sick." And Judith's husband, though very rich, got the illness of which he died on the like occasion. The Scripture abounds with such examples.
This, without doubt, is what most offends those who are not acquainted with antiquity, and have no opinion of any customs but their own. When they hear of ploughmen and shepherds, they figure to themselves a parcel of clownish boors, that lead a slavish miserable life, in poverty and contempt, without courage, without sense or education. They do not consider, that what makes our country-people commonly so wretched is their being slaves to all the rest of mankind : since they work not only for their own maintenance, but to furnish necessaries for all those that live in high and polished life. For it is the countryman that provides for the citizens, the officers of the courts of judicature and treasury, gentlemen, and ecclesiastics ; and whatever ways we make use of to turn money
into provisions, or provisions into money, all will end in the fruits of the earth, and those animals that are supported by them. Yet when we compare all these different conditions together, we generally place those that work in the country in the last rank : and most people set a greater value upon fat idle citizens, that are weak, and lasy, and good for nothing, because, being richer, they live more luxuriously, and at their ease.
But if we imagine a country, where the difference of conditions is not so great, where to live genteelly is not to live without doing any thing at all, but carefully to preserve one's liberty, which consists in being subject to nothing but the laws and public authority ; where the inhabitants subsist upon their own stock, without depending upon any body, and are content with a little, rather than do a mean thing to grow rich; a country where idleness, effeminacy, and ignorance of what is necessary for the support of life, are discountenanced, and where pleasure is in less esteem than health and strength ; in such a country it would be more creditable to plow, or keep a flock, than to follow diversions, and idle away the whole of a man's time. Now there is no necessity for having any recourse to Plato's commonwealth to find men of this character; for so lived the greatest part of mankind for nearly four thousand years.
To begin with what we are best acquainted with. Of this sort were the maxims of the Greeks and Romans. We see every where in Homer, kings and princes living upon the fruits of their lands and their flocks, and working with their own hands. Hesiod has written a poem on purpose to recommend husbandry as the only creditable means of subsisting and improving one's fortune; and finds fault with his brother, to whom he addresses it, for living at other people's expence, by pleading causes, and following affairs of that kind.' He reckons this employment, which is the sole occupation of so many amongst us, no better than idleness. We see by Xenophon’s Economics that the Greeks had no way lessened their opinion of husbandry, when they were at the highest pitch of politeness.
We must not therefore impute the fondness of the Romans for husbandry to stupidity and want of letters: it is rather a sign of their good sense. As all men are born with limbs and bodies fit for labour, they thought every one ought to make use of them; and that they could not do it to better purpose than in making the earth afford them a certain maintenance and innocent plenty. It was not, however, covetousness that recommended it to them; since the same Romans despised gold, and the presents of strangers. Nor was it want of courage and bravery ; since at that very time they subdued all Italy, and raised those powerful armies with which they afterwards con quered the whole world. 'On the contrary, the painful and frugal
* See the Iliad and Odyssey, passim.
Hesiod flourished about 876 years before the Christian æra; and was the first poet who employed his pen in praise of agriculture.
life they led in the country was the chief reason of their great strength, making their bodies robust by inuring them to labour, and accustoming them to severe discipline. Whoever is acquainted with the life of Cato the Censor cannot suspect him of a low way of thinking, or of meanness of spirit ; yet that great man, who had gone through all the offices in the commonwealth when it flourished most, who had governed provinces and commanded armies; that great orator, lawyer, and politician, did not think it beneath him to write of the various ways of managing lands and vines, the method of building stables for different sorts of beasts, and a press
for wine or oil: and all this in the most circumstantial manner; so that, we see, he understood it perfectly, and did not write out of ostentation or vain-glory, but for the benefit of mankind.
Let us then frankly own that our contempt of husbandry is not founded upon any solid reason ; since this occupation is no way inconsistent with courage, or any other virtue that is necessary either in peace or war, or even with true politeness. Whence then does it proceed? I will endeavour to shew the real cause. It comes only from use, and the old customs of our own country. The Franks, and other people of Germany, lived in countries that were covered with forests; they had neither corn nor wine, nor any good fruits ; so that they were obliged to live by hunting, as the savages still do in the cold countries of America. After they had crossed the Rhine, and settled on better lands, they were ready enough to take the advantages that result from agriculture, arts, and trade; but would not apply themselves to any of them. They left this occupation to the Romans whom they had subdued; and continued in their ancient ignorance, which time seemed to have made venerable; and attached such an idea of nobility to it, as we have still much ado to abandon.
m See his work De Re Rusticâ.
But in the same degree that they lessened the esteem for agriculture, they brought hunting into credit, of which the antients made but little account. They held it in the highest repute, and advanced it to very great perfection, sparing neither pains nor expence. This has been generally the employment of the nobility. Yet, to consider things in a true light, the labour spent in tilling the ground, and rearing tame creatures, answers at least as well as that which only aims at catching wild beasts, often at the expence of tillage. The moderate pains of one that has the care of a great number of cattle and poultry is, surely, as eligible as the violent and unequal exercise of a hunter; and oxen and sheep are at least as useful for our support as dogs and horses. It may well therefore be asserted, that our customs, in this point, are not as agreeable to reason as those of the antients."
This relict of antient barbarism is continued among us iä full vigour; and without any kind of reason to vindicate the practice. By it our Gothic ancestors provided for their sus