Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/401

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ployments may be no financial loss to the nation, but it robs New England of a hardy yeomanry, with whom the love of natal soil and home and simple life has been almost a religion.

3. Not only is the area of cultivated land decreasing in this way, but the land-owners are sensibly narrowing their tillage. The land is growing poorer, partly from natural causes and partly from less careful working and the marked decrease in the amount of live stock kept upon it. The fact is, farming does not pay, especially if help must be hired to do a large part of the work.

The farmer finds himself the victim of all the evils of a protective tariff without its supposed benefits. The promised home market he has found to his cost, if not his ruin, is a delusion and a snare. If the manufacturing centers in his vicinity have raised the price of some of his products, they have advanced the cost of labor in a greater degree, and drawn to themselves the best brain and muscle from the farms. He is being heavily taxed for the benefit of the whole list of these assistant industries that rob him of his working force, while the competition, intensified by laborsaving machines suited to the large prairie farms of the "West and stimulated by lavish gifts of land to settlers and subsidies to railroads, ruinously reduces the prices of his products in his natural home market. He buys Western flour and Western corn for his own consumption at a cheaper rate than he can produce them with hired labor, and by reason of the long winter is unable to compete with the West and South in cattle-raising for the Eastern markets at his door. Confining his attention to the few crops that, from their bulk or perishable nature, are not subject to the destructive competition of the West, the ordinary farmer merely lives and pays current expenses, while his less shrewd and careful neighbor falls behind each year, and sooner or later will be sold out of house and home.

Naturally, there is a decay of heart and hope that blights growth and prosperity. Many farms within a hundred miles of Boston and not five miles from excellent railroad facilities will not sell for the cost of the improvements. The New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture gives a long list of farms with "fairly comfortable buildings, at prices from two dollars to ten dollars per acre," and a shorter list at higher prices. The Vermont Commissioner gives a list at from three dollars to five dollars per acre, and nearer to railroad or village, with better buildings, five dollars to ten dollars—"all at no great distance from market and adapted to doing business." I know of the sale of such a farm of fifty acres, with fair buildings, well supplied with water and fuel, at fifty-two dollars. What a paradise for the Henry George theorists!

4. Outside of the large towns and business centers the popula-