Joseph Smith on Agriculture & Commerce

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A Speech by Joseph Smith on the 1st December 1849 entitled; “On the present depressed state of Agriculture and Commerce”

Who feels himself at liberty to a lowering of our position in the scale to the exaltation of any other nation under the sun? Who is prepared to sacrifice our national glory, our national institutions, our national greatness, and our national privileges solely for the exaltation, the benefit, the aggrandisement of the stranger and foreigner?  No, a Britain's heart is too patriotic for this; his love for his country is too deeply rooted in his nature to make such a sacrifice "How are we to compete with the foreigner"?


Land abroad costs little in purchasing, little in cultivating, little in taxes, and because of its freshness is very productive; whereas ours is the reverse-the price paid is high, consequently the rents are high, the taxes high, and the expense of cultivating it is great.  The only approach to a balance in this vast disproportion is the cost of freight or carriage in bringing it, which is far from putting us on an equality; therefore something ought to be done so that the competition may be fair and equal".


This speech treats upon many suggestions made for the remedy of agricultural depression, i.e. drainage, artificial manures, reduction of rents."  To the latter suggestion the landlords are not all in a position to comply with, some of them having bought their property at an exorbitant price.  So we say that this state of things would not be a permanent remedy.  It would in some cases be the ruin of this honourable essential class of men.  That would be class legislation with a vengeance; that would be to maintain the position of the tenant to the utter ruin of the landlord.  As a tenant-farmer I scorn such a course "It is our wish to live and let live”.


We have no idea of rearing a temple of greatness on the ruins of another.  We seek not to raise one class or one interest to the diminution of another.  We consider all interests and all classes to be closely interwoven, none can be dispensed with-the ruin of one must soon be succeeded by the ruin of another. English life and English society is a complicated and exquisitely beautiful piece of machinery ~ when we are alarmed by confusion, rebellion, famine, depression, we may rest assured some of the wheels are out of order.  Keep the wheels in order ... and all will be harmonious.


The great experiment of "Free Trade" has been made, and so far it has utterly proved a failure to us as a nation.  We were told when Free Trade principles were agitated, that a repeal of the Corn Laws would benefit all classes of the community, though at the time we could not give the men credit for their sincerity. I don't think they ever believed it would benefit the agricultural interest".


In 1866

Joseph Smith was one among the fortunate farmers in escaping the Rinderpest, though this scourge was ravaging the district all round.  Having a large quantity of grass land, the spring following the Rinderpest cattle were very scarce, and also more difficult to find on account of the markets being closed, hence the question arose where was he to procure his grazing stock. Always full of resource and contrivance he hit on the idea of going off to seek them, so in company with Mr. West, a young man who was learning farming with him at Normanby, they set out on horseback, riding over the moors to Egton and through the districts which had escaped the Rinderpest, through Rosedale, Farndale, and Bransdale, and to the outlying farms, picking up cattle in odd ones just as the farmers had them to spare.  In this way they secured quite a herd and then arranged for the respective owners to send them all to one meeting place on a given day.  Many of the farmers were very pleased to see a customer for their stock, as owing to the cattle plague people who wished to buy dare not for fear of a return of the plague; therefore, they hailed with delight his presence among them as a buyer.  Many were the tempting drinks of "mead" and other intoxicants offered to them.  "Thank you," they replied, "if you will give us a drink of tea instead we shall be pleased to dismount and partake of your hospitality”.  This speculation on Mr. Smith's part was a bold venture at the time; however, as the summer advanced, this herd of cattle kept free from disease and thrived remarkably well.


The disease

Rinderpest killed vast numbers of cattle in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.  The devastating effects of the disease encouraged far-sighted scientists to set up the first veterinary schools.  By a combination of slaughter and rigorous quarantine, rinderpest was eliminated from Europe in the early 1900s.

The virus is related to those that cause measles in people, distemper in dogs, and peste des petits ruminants in sheep and goats.  Cloven hoofed animals are susceptible to the virus, but not all show clinical signs.  The incubation period is usually 3 to 5 days, but with particularly mild strains it can extend to 14 days


There is no treatment for infected animals. It is a highly contagious disease and mortality is high.


In the spring of the year 1892, Joseph Smith had a sale of implements and stock at Huggate, and finally retired from farming.  For some time he had complained of failing health and strength.  To use his own words, he often said, 'I cannot do as I used to do, and' unless I can personally superintend my business, I must give it up.'  Having been engaged in agriculture for nearly fifty years, he was advised to rest; but he soon found that his active temperament would not allow him to “rust out”.


As a consequence, by way of employment, he took some grazing land near York and other places, which enabled him to continue his marketing pursuits.  Through life he had always been fond of buying and selling stock.  Making his home with his son at the Manor House farm, South Holme, where he continued his preaching appointments, and also taking part in many meetings in the district, he thus spent his time very profitably.  After reading and studying in the house for a time, by way of relaxation, he would take his axe and cut up the branches of old and decayed trees which had succumbed to the winter's blast.  This, by the way, had always been his favourite hobby.


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