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Thomas Jefferson, "The Importance of Agriculture" from Notes on the State of Virginia (1784)

In this famous passage, Jefferson voices his confidence in yeomen farmers and his fear of the influence of industry.  As you read, consider why Jefferson has confidence in yeomen and why he is fearful of industry.

The political economists of Europe have established it as a principle that every state should endeavor to manufacture for itself; and this principle, like many others, we transfer to America, without calculating the difference of circumstance which should often produce a difference of result.

In Europe the lands are either cultivated, or locked up against the cultivator.  Manufacture must therefore be resorted to of necessity, not of choice, to support the surplus of their people.  But we have an immensity of land courting the industry of the husbandman.  Is it best then that all our citizens should be employed in its improvement, or that one half should be called off from that to exercise manufactures and handicraft arts for the other?  Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if he ever had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.... Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example.  It is the mark set on those who, not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandmen, for their subsistence, depend for it on the casualties and caprice of customers.  Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition....

Generally speaking, the proportion which the aggregate of the other classes of citizens bears in any state to that of its husbandmen is the proportion of its unsound to its healthy parts, and is a... barometer whereby to measure its degree of corruption.  While we have land to labor then, led us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a workbench, or twirling a distaff.  Carpenters, masons, smiths, are wanting in husbandry; but, for the general operations of manufacture, let our workshops remain in Europe.  It is better to carry provisions and materials to workmen there than bring them to the provisions and materials, and with them their manners and principles.  The loss by the transportation of commodities across the Atlantic will be made up in happiness and permanence of government.  The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body.  It is the manners and the spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the hearts of its laws and constitution.
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