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2006-07-28 19:02

  When I consider my neighbors, the farmers of Concord, who are at least as well off as the other classes, I find that for the most part they have been toiling twenty, thirty, or forty years, that they may become the real owners of their farms, which commonly they have inherited with encumbrances, or else bought with hired money ——and we may regard one third of that toil as the cost of their houses—— but commonly they have not paid for them yet.  It is true, the encumbrances sometimes outweigh the value of the farm, so that the farm itself becomes one great encumbrance, and still a man is found to inherit it, being well acquainted with it, as he says.  On applying to the assessors, I am surprised to learn that they cannot at once name a dozen in the town who own their farms free and clear. If you would know the history of these homesteads, inquire at the bank where they are mortgaged.  The man who has actually paid for his farm with labor on it is so rare that every neighbor can point to him.  I doubt if there are three such men in Concord.  What has been said of the merchants, that a very large majority, even ninety-seven in a hundred, are sure to fail, is equally true of the farmers.  With regard to the merchants, however, one of them says pertinently that a great part of their failures are not genuine pecuniary failures, but merely failures to fulfil their engagements,because it is inconvenient; that is, it is the moral character that breaks down.  But this puts an infinitely worse face on the matter,and suggests, beside, that probably not even the other three succeed in saving their souls, but are perchance bankrupt in a worse sense than they who fail honestly.  Bankruptcy and repudiation are the springboards from which much of our civilization vaults and turns its somersets, but the savage stands on the unelastic plank of famine.  Yet the Middlesex Cattle Show goes off here with eclat annually, as if all the joints of the agricultural machine were suent.

  The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself.  To get his shoestrings he speculates in herds of cattle.  With consummate skill he has set his trap with a hair spring to catch comfort and independence, and then, as he turned away, got his own leg into it. This is the reason he is poor; and for a similar reason we are all poor in respect to a thousand savage comforts, though surrounded by luxuries.  As Chapman sings,

  "The false society of men ———— for earthly greatness All heavenly comforts rarefies to air."

  And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.  As I understand it, that was a valid objection urged by Momus against the house which Minerva made, that she "had not made it movable, by which means a bad neighborhood might be avoided"; and it may still be urged, for our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them; and the bad neighborhood to be avoided is our own scurvy selves.  I know one or two families, at least, in this town, who, for nearly a generation,have been wishing to sell their houses in the outskirts and move into the village, but have not been able to accomplish it, and only death will set them free.





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