DELIVERED AT THE ANNUAL MEETING,
October 20th 1836,
By Charles Yancey,
President of the Society
PETERSBURG, Printed at the Office of the Farmer's Register
Full text available here
At our last annual meeting of the Buckingham Agriculural Society, when I was not present, you conferred upon me the high honor of electing me your president for the present year: for your kindness and partiality in confiding to me this honorable station, I now tender to you my unfeigned and grateful thanks. In compliance with a resolution of the board, requiring me as your president, according to usage heretofore, to deliver an address to the society at its present annual meeting, I now proceed to discharge that duty with much diffidence, being fully aware of my want of qualifications to do justice to the great and important subjects of agriculture, horticulure, and other subjects that I deem proper to include in this address. Agricultural husbandry, from the earliest ages to the present day, has ever been deemed, and wisely considered, as the nursing mother of the arts; and the basis of the comforts, prosperity, and the support of the whole human family. When our first parents offended against the first divine law of the Almighty, a curse was laid upon the earth for their transgression. That is, it was doomed to grow thorns and thistles, which I understand to be the type of the long list of every noxious plant that now infests the earth; consequently it was decreed that Adam and all his descendants should "eat bread in the sweat of their faces" -- that is to say, should procure the bread of life by labor, for the purpose that labor should be indespensable to render the earth capable "of bringing forth its increase." It is then a divine command to labor; and I assert with confidence, that no manner of labor is more honorable, more independent, more certain of reward, more virtuous, peaceful and happy, than the cultivation of our mother earth.
How gratifying, how consoling, the reflections of those who sow and who plant, that are permitted by the dispensations of Providence, together with their own labor and toil, to harvest a bountiful increase of crops, to the ample supply of their household, and a large surplus to supply the wants of their fellow-men.
I consider slavery an evil of great maginitude, yet I am not in favor of abolition -- far from it. No remedy for the evil has presented itself to my mind, but would produce a greater evilto society, than a continuance of servitude in the mild and humane form in which it at present exists. The philanthropist, fanatics, and those who really entertain religous scruples, who have a knowledge of the relative duties of master and servant, as practiced in Virginia, must all admit that the situation of our servants is greatly preferable, as to all essential comforts of life, compared with the situation and condition of the poorer order of white people, in the non-slave holding states; and certainly much better than the condition of the free people of color residing among us, or their savage ancstors, naked and starved, roaming through the wilds of Africa like the wild beasts of the forest, deprived of the light of revelation, and all the social and endearing relations of civilized life. Slavery was introduced in this country, by the sordid policy of the British Government, for which we of the present generation cannot be held accountable; but we are accountable for a just discharge of our duty as masters, in extending to them mild humane treatment, with a due regard to their morals. Abolition can never be forced by the clamor of fanatics, which can only make the situation of slaves less tolerable,and delay the process of public opinion, in devising some plan for commencing a system of abolition, which, commence when it may, must take its origin in some of the slave holding states."
I consider one great objection to slavery to be, that by fashion, pride, and folly, the fathers of the land have relied mainly upon the reluctant labor of slaves for the support of their families, to the neglect of the important duty of rearing theirsons to labor, either in the mechanic arts, or on the farm; to train them up to industry and economy, thereby lessening the inducements of vice and immoral practices -- the bane of society, to which youth unemployed in some regular daily avocation, is peculiarly laible. Indolence is the mother of vice and dissipation, destructve of health, morlas, and all the social relations of life, and the certain forerunner of poverty and wnat. Besides, slavery is an evil in this point of view; by means of slave labor, the most valuable region of country under the sun, has been worn down and exhausted by the culture of tobacco - a plant that yields nothing for the support of man or beast, agreat exhauster, its cultue very laborious, and certainly under no circumstances will it ever be cultivated by white labor. Furthermore, these people under humane treatment, the strength and vigor of the females acquired by moderate labor, multiply and increase upon us, faster than our means of procuring additional lands to work them upon. With a redundancy of labor for the extent of our farms, no plan of improvement can be advantageously adopted. The inquiry naturaly presenting itself is, what is the remedy? I answer, lessen your force. There never was, and probably never will again be , a more propitious time than the present to dispose of your slaves; and forthwith resolve to comence upon the improvement of your exhausted fields, by making and applying all the manure in your power, of animal and vegetable manner, such as corn stalks, wheat straw, and leaves taken from the poorest part of your woodland, designed for timber and not for cultivation. Much can be done in this way to increase your quantity of manure; and then rely upon clover and plaster, as the great auxilliary of the whole vegetable kingdom, by which you can reovate your exhausted lands, and bring them up into good tilth again. Now gentlemen, let me intreat ad ebseech you to commence the clover husbandry as the only known process by which you can render your lands fertile; you must not mind the expense; the money expended will return to you with usurious interest; in augmented crops, and renewed fertility of your exhasuted lands, and amply reward you for all expenses, time and labor employed. One of two things must