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First of all, then, I shall proceed in a great measure according to the dicta of the oracles of agriculture; for there is no branch of practical life in which we find them more numerous or more unerring. And why should we not view in the light of oracles those precepts which have been tested by the infallibility of time and the truthfulness of experience?

(5.) To make a beginning, then, with Cato1—"The agricul- tural population," says he, "produces the bravest men, the most valiant soldiers,2 and a class of citizens the least given of all to evil designs.—Do not be too eager in buying a farm.— In rural operations never be sparing of your trouble, and, above all, when you are purchasing land.—A bad bargain is always a ground for repentance.—Those who are about to purchase land, should always have an eye more particularly to the water there, the roads, and the neighbourhood." Each of these points is susceptible of a very extended explanation, and replete with undoubted truths. Cato3 recommends, too, that an eye should be given to the people in the neighbourhood, to see how they look: "For where the land is good," says he, "the people will look well-conditioned and healthy."

Atilius Regulus, the same who was twice consul in the Punic War, used to say4 that a person should neither buy an unhealthy piece of land in the most fertile locality, nor yet the very healthiest spot if in a barren country. The salubrity of land, however, is not always to be judged of from the looks of the inhabitants, for those who are well-seasoned are able to withstand the effects of living in pestilent localities even. And then, besides, there are some localities that are healthy during certain periods of the year only; though, in reality, there is no soil that can be looked upon as really valuable that is not healthy all the year through. "That5 is sure to be bad land against which its owner has a continual struggle." Cato recommends us before everything, to see that the land which we are about to purchase not only excels in the advantages of locality, as already stated, but is really good of itself We should see, too, he says, that there is an abundance of manual labour in the neighbourhood, as well as a thriving town; that there are either rivers or roads, to facilitate the carriage of the produce; that the buildings upon the land are substantially erected, and that the land itself bears every mark of having been carefully tilled—a point upon which I find that many persons are greatly mistaken, as they are apt to imagine that the negligence of the previous owner is greatly to the purchaser's advantage; while the fact is, that there is nothing more expensive than the cultivation of a neglected soil.

For this reason it is that Cato6 says that it is best to buy land of a careful proprietor, and that the methods adopted by others ought not to be hastily rejected—that it is the same with land as with mankind—however great the proceeds, if at the same time it is lavish and extravagant, there will be no great profits left. Cato looks upon a vineyard as the most7 profitable investment; and he is far from wrong in that opinion, seeing that he takes such particular care to retrench all superfluous expenses. In the second rank he places gardens that have a good supply of water, and with good reason, too, supposing always that they are near a town. The ancients gave to meadow lands the name of "parata," or lands "always ready."8

Cato being asked, on one occasion, what was the most certain source of profit, "Good pasture land," was his answer; upon which, enquiry was made what was the next best. "Pretty good9 pasture lands," said he—the amount of all which is, that he looked upon that as the most certain source of income which stands in need of the smallest outlay. This, however, will naturally vary in degree, according to the nature of the respective localities; and the same is the case with the maxim10 to which he gives utterance, that a good agriculturist must be fond of selling. The same, too, with his remark, that in his youth a landowner should begin to plant without delay, but that he ought not to build until the land is fully brought into cultivation, and then only a little at a time: and that the best plan is, as the common proverb has it, "To profit by the folly of others;"11 taking due care, however, that the keeping up of a farm-house does not entail too much expense. Still, however, those persons are guilty of no falsehood who are in the habit of saying that a proprietor who is well housed comes all the oftener to his fields, and that "the master's forehead is of more use than his back."12

1 De Re Rust. Preface.

2 Fée remarks, that we still recruit our armies mostly from the agricultural class.

3 De Re Rust. c. 1.

4 Quoted by Columella, De Re Rust. B. i. 4. The sad fate of Regulus is known to all readers of Roman history.

5 From Columella, B. i. c. 3.

6 De Re Rust. c. 1.

7 It is still thought so in France, Fée says, and nothing has tended more than this notion to the depreciation of the prices of wine.

8 Hence the usual Latin name, "prata."

9 "Si sat bene." Cicero, De Officiis, B. ii. n. 88, gives this anecdote somewhat more at length.

10 De Re Rust. c. 2.

11 "Alienâ insaniâ frui." We have a saying to a similar effect "Fools build houses, and wise men buy them."

12 "Frons domini plus prodest quam occipitium." See Cato, De Re Rust. c. 4; also Phædrus, B. iv. Fab. 19.

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