More on Agrarians and Agrarianism

On the off chance that someone is actually reading this blog (and on the even more unlikely chance that any such reader actually wants to hear more about agrarianism), I like this definition, which comes from an essay by Thomas Inge on Agrarianism in Literature:

The ideas associated with agrarianism in this century may be stated as an interrelated set of beliefs:

1.  The cultivation of the soil is an occupation singularly blessed by God that provides benefits from direct contact with physical nature.  It is the mother of all the arts and instills in the cultivator such spiritual and social virtues as honor, courage, self-reliance, integrity and hospitality.

2.  The standard by which an economic system is judged is not the amount of prosperity it produces but the degree to which it encourages independence and morality.  Because the farmer’s basic needs of food and shelter are always met through a cooperative relationship with nature, only farming offers complete self-sufficiency regardless of the state of the national economy.

3.  The life of the farmer is harmonious, orderly, and whole, and it counteracts the tendencies toward abstraction, fragmentation, and alienation that have come with modern urban existence.  The farmer belongs to a specific family, place and region; participates in a historic and religious tradition; and has, in other words, a sense of identity that is pyschologically and culturally beneficial.

4.  Since nature is the primary source of inspiration, all the arts, music, literature, and other forms of creativity are better fostered and sustained in an agrarian society.  The mass-produced culture of the industrial society lacks the individuality, humanity, and simple beauty of folk culture.

5.  The thriving cities created by industry, technology, and capitalism are destructive of independence and dignity and encourage crime and corruption.  The agricultural community, on the other hand, which depends on friendly cooperation and neighborliness, provides a possible model for an ideal social order.

Granted that Professor Inge has dug deeply into the soil of idealism to generate the description, but, after all, romanticism is one of the attributes of agrarians.  And, to be fair, he is describing an ideal.

Such idealism is not confined to poets and English professors.  Thomas Jefferson, in his query 19 from Notes on the State of Virginia wrote:

Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phaenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example. It is the mark set on those, who not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandman, for their subsistance, depend for it on the casualties and caprice of customers. Dependance begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition. This, the natural progress and consequence of the arts, has sometimes perhaps been retarded by accidental circumstances: but, generally speaking, the proportion which the aggregate of the other classes of citizens bears in any state to that of its husbandmen, is the proportion of its unsound to its healthy parts, and is a good-enough barometer whereby to measure its degree of corruption. While we have land to labour then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work-bench, or twirling a distaff. Carpenters, masons, smiths, are wanting in husbandry: but, for the general operations of manufacture, let our workshops remain in Europe. It is better to carry provisions and materials to workmen there, than bring them to the provisions and materials, and with them their manners and principles. The loss by the transportation of commodities across the Atlantic will be made up in happiness and permanence of government. The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body. It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigour. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.

These are subjects to which I will often return.

Grace and Peace.

 

 

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