« AnteriorContinuar »
ninety millions of free American citizens; it is the only agency whereby these ninety millions of American people can accomplish their will and desire. We can only run a free Government by the rule of the majority; a majority of one is potent to control this whole great country; 51 percent are in favor of what that majority does, and, 49 percent claim the right to criticise and kick at what that majority does. As this is a free Government they have that right. Now, my friends, we must remember that what displeases us probably pleases 51 percent, and if we had the right to pass the very laws we wanted to on any subject, the chances are that our next-door neighbors, on both sides, would criticise and complain of us, just as we are now doing of other people. The only thing I wish to emphasize is that Congress tries to represent the whole American people, tries to make concrete the voice of the whole American people. It is human, the same as the people are: it makes the same kind of mistakes that the people make; and, after all, the people are responsible for Congress. I thank you. (Applause)
Chairman CLAPP-Ladies and Gentlemen, we will now have an address on “Conservation in Country Life,” by Dr Liberty Hyde Bailey, Dean of State Agricultural College, Cornell University, and Chairman of the Country Life Commission. It affords me great pleasure to introduce Professor Bailey. (Applause)
Professor BAILEY—Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen: Because of the lateness of the hour, and because of the very great treat which you have had this afternoon in the presentation of the fundamental questions of country life, I shall only call your attention to three or four topics which, perhaps, have not been touched by others who have spoken from this platform.
Two great economic and social movements are now before the country—Conservation, and Country Life. The Conservation movement is the expression of the idea that the materials and agencies that are part of the furniture of the planet are to be utilized by each generation carefully, and with real regard to the welfare of those who are to follow us. The Country Life movement is the expression of the idea that the policies, efforts, and material well-being of the open country must be highly sustained, as a fundamental essential of a good civilization; and it recognizes the fact that rural society has made relatively less progress in the past century than has urban society. Both movements are immediately economic, but in ultimate results they are social and moral. They rest on the assumption that the welfare of the individual man and woman is to be conserved and developed, and is the ultimate concern of governments; both, therefore, are phases of a process in Social evolution.
Not only the welfare but the existence of the race depends on utilizing the products and forces of the planet wisely, and also on securing greater quantity and variety of new products. These are finally the most fundamental movements that government has yet attempted to attack; for when the resources of the earth shall largely disappear or the arm of the husbandman lose its skill, there is an end of the office of government. At the bottom, therefore, the Conservation and Country Life movements rest on the same premise; but in their operation, and in the problems that are before them, they are so distinct that they should not be confounded or united. These complementary phases may best work themselves out by separate organization and machinery, although articulating at every point; and this would be true if for no other reason than that a different class of persons, and a different method of procedure, attached to each movement. The Conservation movement finds it necessary, as a starting-point, to attack intrenched property interests, and it therefore finds itself in politics, inasmuch as these interests have become intrenched through legislation. The Country Life movement lacks these personal and political aspects.
These Subjects Have a History
Neither “Conservation” nor “Country Life” is new except in name and as the subject of an organized movement. The end of our original resources has been foreseen from time out of mind, and prophetic books have been written on the subject. The need of a quickened country life has been recognized from the time that cities began to dominate civilization; and the outlook of the high-minded countryman has been depicted from the days of the classical writings until now. On this side of mineral and similar resources, the geologists and others among us have made definite efforts for conservation; and on the side of soil fertility, the agricultural chemists and the teachers of agriculture have for a hundred years maintained a perpetual campaign of conservation. So long and persistently have those of us in the agricultural and some other institutions heard these questions emphasized, that the startling assertions of the present day as to the failure of our resources and the coordinate importance of rural affairs have not struck me with any force of novelty. But there comes a time when the warnings begin to collect themselves, and to crystallize about definite points; and my purpose in suggesting this history is to emphasize the importance of the two movements now before us by showing that the roots run deep, back into human experience. It is no ephemeral or transitory subject that we are now met to discuss.
All really fundamental movements are the results of long-continued discussion and investigation, but it requires a great generalizer and organizer, and one possessed of prevision, to concrete scattered facts into powerful national movements. The one who recognized the existence of these questions, who saw the significance of the problems, who aided to assemble them, and who projected them into definite lines of public action was Theodore Roosevelt; and he himself has expressed our obligation in this Conservation movement to Gifford Pinchot. (Great applause) .
The Conservation movement is now approaching its full; the Country Life movement is a slower and quieter tide, but it will rise with great power. These are the twin economic and social questions that the Roosevelt administration raised for our consideration. (Applause)
They are not party-politics subjects
I have said that these are economic and social problems and policies. I wish to enlarge this view. They are concerned with saving, utilizing, and augmenting, and only secondarily with administration. We must first ascertain the facts as to our resources, and from this groundwork impress the subject on the people. The subject must be approached by scientific methods. It would be unfortunate if such movement became the exclusive program of a political party, for then the question would become partisan and probably be removed from calm or judicial consideration, and the opposition would equally become the program of a party. Every last citizen should be naturally interested in the careful utilization of our native materials and wealth, and it is due him that the details of the question be left open for unbiased discussion rather than be made the arbitrary program, either one way or another, of a political organization. The Conservation principle is a plain economic and social problem rather than a political issue. (Applause)
The Country Life movement is equally a scientific problem, in the sense that it must be approached in the scientific spirit. It will be inexcusable in this day if we do not go at the subject with only the desire to discover the facts and to arrive at a rational solution by nonpolitical methods. The first recommendation of the Commission on Country Life is that the Government begin taking stock of rural life in order that we may have definite facts on which to begin a reconstructive program.
The soil is the greatest of all resources
The resources that sustain the race are of two kinds—those that lie beyond the power of man to reproduce or increase, and those that may be augmented by propagation and by care. The former are the water, the air, the sunshine, and the mines of minerals, metals, and coal; the latter are the living resources, in crop and live-stock. Intermediate between the two classes stands the soil, on which all living resources depend. Even after all minerals and metals and coal are depleted, the race may sustain itself in comfort and progress so long as the soil is productive, provided, of course, that water and air and sunshine are still left to us. Beyond all the mines of coal and all the precious ores, the soil resource is the heritage that must be most carefully saved; and this, in particular, is the country-life phase of the Conservation movement. To my mind, the Conservation movement has not sufficiently emphasized this problem. It has laid stress, I know, on the enormous loss by soil erosion, and has said something of inadequate agricultural practice; but the main question is yet practically untouched by the movement—the plain problem of handling the soil by all the millions who, by skill or blundering or theft, produce crops and animals out of the earth. Peoples have gone down before the lessening power of the land, and in all probability other peoples will yet go down. The course of empire has been toward the unplundered lands. Thinner than the skin of an apple is the covering of the earth that man tills. Beyond all calculation and all comprehension are the powers and the mysteries of the soft soil layer of the earth. We do not know that any vital forces pulsate from the great interior bulk of the earth. Only on the surface does any nerve of life quicken it into a living sphere. And yet, from this attenuated layer have come numberless generations of giants of forests and of beasts, perhaps greater in their combined bulk than all the soil from which they have come; and back into this soil they go, until the great life-principle catches up their disorganized units and builds them again into beings as complex as themselves. The general evolution of this soil is toward greater powers; and yet, so nicely balanced are these powers that within his lifetime a man may ruin any part of it that society allows him to hold; and in despair he abandons it and throws it back to nature to reinvigorate and to heal. We are accustomed to marvel at the power of man in gaining dominion over the forces of nature—he bends to his use the expansive powers of steam and the energy of the electric currents, and he ranges through space in the light that he concentrates in his telescope; but while he is doing all this he sets at naught the powers in the soil beneath his feet, wastes them, and deprives himself of vast sources of energy. Man will never gain dominion until he learns from nature how to maintain the augmenting powers of the disintegrating crust of the earth. We can do little to control or modify the atmosphere or the sunlight; but the epidermis of the earth is ours to do with it much as we will. It is the one great earth resource over which we have dominion. The soil may be made better as well as worse, more as well as less; and to sove the producing powers of it is far and away the most important consideration in the Conservation of natural resources.
No man has a right to plunder the soil
The man who owns and tills the soil owes an obligation to his fellowmen for the use that he makes of his land; and his fellowmen owe an equal obligation to him to see that his lot in society is such that he will not be obliged to rob the earth in order to maintain his life. The natural resources of the earth are the heritage and the property of every one and all of us. A man has no moral right to skin the earth, unless he is forced to do it in sheer self-defense and to enable him to live in some epoch of an unequally developed society; and if there are or have been such epochs, then is society itself directly responsible for the waste of the common heritage. The man who plunders the soil is in very truth a robber, for he takes that which is not his own and he withholds food from the mouths of generations yet to be born. No man really owns his acres; society allows him the use of them for his life-time, but the fee comes back to society in the end. What, then, will society do with those persons who rob society? The pillaging or reckless land-worker must be brought to account and be controlled, even as we control other offenders. (I know that the soil-depletion idea is now challenged; but I am sure that the Conservation ideal must be applied to soil maintenance even as it is applied to other maintenance. If it transpires that plants hold a different relation to the soil-content than we have supposed, we still know that poor farming makes the land unproductive and that the saving of wastes is a desirable human quality; and we shall probably need to change only our phraseology to make the old statement broadly correct.) I have no socialistic program to propose. The man who is to till the land must be educated: there is more need, on the side of the public welfare, to educate this man than any other man whatsoever (applause). When he knows, and when his obligations to society are quickened, he will be ready to become a real conservator; and he will act energetically as soon as the economic pressure for land-supplies begins to be acute. When society has done all it can to make every farmer a voluntary conservator of the fatness of the earth, it will probably be obliged to resort to other means to control the wholly incompetent and the recalcitrant; at least, it will compel the soil-robber to remove to other occupation, if economic stress does not itself compel it. We shall reach the time when we shall not allow a man to till the earth unless he is able to leave it at least as fertile as he found it. (Applause) It is a pernicious notion that a man may do what he will with his own. The whole tendency of social development is away from this idea. A person may not even have the full control of his own children: society compels him to place them in school, and it protects them from over-work and hardship. A man may not breed diseased cattle. No more should he be allowed wantonly to waste forests or to make lands impotent, even though he “owns” them. (Applause)