Monday, February 3, 2014

Maxims for Young Farmers and Overseers!

Looking through the various antebellum agricultural journals printed in the slaveholding states and available on Google Books has been quite informative. In these one can get advice on just about anything related to farming, animal husbandry, and much much more. There are articles on beekeeping and grapes; and, of course, cotton. There are thoughts on female education, and boring wells for water. Poultry of every kind come in for mention, and manures from compost to guano to calcareous marls. On top of this, the advertisements are intriguing too. They offered mills of all kind, plows of all kinds, cultivators of all kinds, and even advertised plantation land for sale.

It appears, too, that there were some attempts at humor presented also. Printed in the March 1857, edition of the American Cotton Planter and Soil of the South, which was published Montgomery, Alabama, was a brief article titled "Maxims for Young Farmers and Overseers!" At first I thought it was a serious submission, but I quickly understood that it was an valiant attempt at satire.

Maxims for Young Farmers and Overseers!

Dr. Cloud - Dear Sir: The following ten maxims are respectfully dedicated to young farmers and overseers , in the hope that in this day of agricultural progress they may effect some good:

For Young Farmers

1. As soon as you have planted your crop, be sure to make a calculation how much you will make. If you have made liberal allowances for bad seasons, sickness, and such like subtractions, you will probably be not more than two-thirds over the mark; but then, you will have had all the pleasures of anticipation, and you can easily convince yousself [sic] that your arithmetic was right, if something else was wrong.

2. Be sure not to plow deep. Geologists say the earth is a hollow globe, and you might get through the crust. Besides, if the current philosophy be true, the the interior is liquid fire, you might get your feet burnt.

3. The old adage that "time is money" may do well for the face of a Yankee clock, but it is altogether beneath the philosophy of Young America. Therefore lie in bed until your breakfast is ready, and be sure to go a fishing every Sunday evening. Your corn and cotton will grow as well as while you sleep, as when you are awake; and if the grass grows, who cares for grass?

4. Scientific agriculturalists make a great noise about rotation of crops. Don't believe a word they say. "Rotation of crops, indeed!! Wonder if the rotation of a wagon wheel don't it land in a mud hole at last? Bug who? Every body knows that good land makes more cotton than poor land - so continue to plant your best field in cotton as long as you please. If it wears out, you can go to Texas.

5. As you value your future prospects in life, and your reputation as a physiologist, never suffer a curry-comb to scratch the sides of your mules. It wears them out, (the curry-combs) and curry-combs cost money. If the pores of their skin should be clogged up with dust, they can rub themselves against a tree or the corner of a fence; and everybody knows there is glorious luxury in scratching!

For Overseers

6. If you are an overseer, and a young one at that, look sour at your negroes the first day, and kick up a general row the second.  Africans are nothing but brutes, and they will love you the better for whipping, whether they deserve it or not. Besides, by this manly course you will show your spunk. To be sure, a half dozen of them may take to the woods, but that is no loss to you.

7. Be sure to make your office a sinecure.- Congressmen, Judges, and civil officers generally do so, and why not overseers? To this end, ride once in the forenoon to where you can see your hands, and then gallop off to some store, blacksmith's shop, or wherever you can find a crowd to listen to your interesting conversation. This is the only way to "magnify your office."

N.B.- Whatever else you may neglect, never forget to put yourself in the possessive case in regard to your owner's property - say "my negroes, my mules, my cotton," &c. Your employer is a lazy skunk, and has no right to any thing.

8. Swear like "our army in Flanders," yourself; but whip every negro on the plantation who dares to use profane language - the ebony scamps, what right they to imitate their overseer?

9. If your horse becomes lame, or from any other cause cannot carry you, as in No. 7, seek some "boundless contiguity of shade," where you can enjoy a comfortable snooze - nothing like "otium cum dignitate."

10. If your employer desires you to plant his cotton or corn in a manner different from that which you think best, be sure to spoil every thing, in its cultivation. You will then prove to him that his plans are wrong, and yours right.

Jannary [sic], 1857.

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