April 17, 1805
There are only a few places in the United States of America where you can stroll down a street and see people bustling about their daily lives. In the majority of the country, it could take an hour just to get to the next property over. There is a very strong agrarian culture here, whether you are wealthy or poor. Everyone lives or works on farms. For people who are born and raised in America, this is not such a strange fact. But, for someone like me who just arrived from London, the sight is very odd indeed.
An agrarian culture is one that somebody can succeed in with, as people say, hard work and a strong persistent nature. Because this new country has this opportunistic lifestyle, more and more people flock to the United States to create a new life for themselves. I went to speak to the Reverend Joseph Caldwell of New Jersey, the current and first president of the University of North Carolina (1), who is the great-grandson of a man who was came to America after religious persecution in France to start a new life in the then-colony (pictured at left). Walking into the grand room, I was met with a slightly-balding man who simply emanated the air of knowledge. We sat and had a cup of tea while he told me about how his family had ended up here. After being chased out of France because of the religious prejudices, his great-grandfather set up a farm in the States and taught his children how to run it, “My grandmother told me once that he brought up his children to the habits of industry, piety, and economy,” he said (1). Also, the man didn’t eat any meat. “He never permitted an animal to be slaughtered for his own use or that of his family,” Caldwell shrugged. “My grandmother hadn’t ever eaten meat until she was 21 and married” (1). But, despite Rev. Caldwell’s great-grandfather’s strange antics, his family’s story of coming to the new country for more opportunity and for a more agrarian lifestyle is not unusual.
Though the agrarian culture is very prominent, you can see the slight shift towards slightly more urban living in the North. Cities like Boston and New York and Philadelphia are growing larger and larger each year. Boston now has almost 25,000 people living within the city limits (2). It is nothing compared to London, my hometown, where the streets are crammed with people everywhere you look, but it is still impressive for a country of this age. People like Martha Ballard, who lives in Hallowell, Maine, are avidly involved in the community of a city . She is a midwife in town, which is a profession that can really only be performed in a place where there are people. “I’ve been starting to keep a diary,” she tells me. “Every day, I write a little bit. About life in town, social scandals, midwifing, town hall meetings, and have now even started to keep my accounting in there” (5). When asked about whether she would ever want to live on a farm, she responds with a curt “no. How could I help women when I am so far away from the next house? It’s very impractical.”
But, if you head down South to states such as Georgia, you hear a different story, and see the original roots of the country in the true agrarian culture of the United States.
I travelled down the coast to the Peterson Farm right outside of Savannah, Georgia, to speak to Mr. Peterson about why people have not started to make the move into major cities yet in the South. “It’s because we don’t need to,” he said. “The agricultural economy is doing good, so why would we want to abandon our way of life because those Yankees up North want live close together. I like my space” (3).
Mr. Peterson’s thoughts are shared by many people in the South. With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 adding about 827,000 square miles of land (4) to the country and the cotton gin invention in 1794 making harvesting the crop much faster and easier (6), it is a great time right now to be a farmer.
Depending on where you live, there is a very different thought about how this country will grow. But, the fact is, this country will continuously grow, and it’s hard to tell at this moment what direction it will point to. Will we stay with our agrarian roots and continue to live as famers while the country moves westward? Or will it inevitably end as an urban community like England and France have become? As a new member of the United States, I am interested to see how it will change itself, and in the meanwhile, how it will change me.
Thank you, readers, for supporting this fine newspaper. Have a good day, and God bless you all.
Caldwell, Joseph. “Autobiography and Biography of Rev. Joseph Caldwell, D.D., L.L.D., First President of the University of North Carolina.” Documenting the American South. 1860. Web. 5 Nov. 2013. <http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/caldwell/caldwell.html>.
“Population Trends in Boston 1640 – 1990.” iBoston. Web. 7 Nov. 2013. <http://www.iboston.org/mcp.php?pid=popFig>.
Brinkley, Alan. The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History Of The American People. Volume 1. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies. 2010. Print.
- “Historical Timeline — 1800.” Growing a Nation – The Story of American Agriculture. Web. 6 Nov. 2013. <http://www.agclassroom.org/gan/timeline/1800.htm>.
Ballard, Martha. “Martha Ballard’s Diary.” DoHistory. Web. 5 Nov. 2013. <http://dohistory.org/diary/index.html>.
“Cotton Gin and Eli Whitney.” History Channel. Web. 6 Nov. 2013. <http://www.history.com/topics/cotton-gin-and-eli-whitney>.
- Featured Image: Unidentified artist. Benjamin Hawkins and the Creek Indians, circa 1805, oil on canvas, 35 7/8 x 49 7/8 inches. Collection of the Greenville County Museum of Art, gift of The Museum Association, Inc.