SOCIETY FOR THE DIFFUSION OF USEFUL KNOWLEDGE— FARM REPORTS, No.
WE do not pretend to any acquaintance with the springs that give motion to the various parts of this Society. The Committee is of the highest respectability ; but, with perhaps the exception of one or two, it contains no person of note either in science or literature, who is not occupied in pursuits that must leave him small leisure to advise or superintend its labours. Some of the little treatises which the Committee have published have been pretty notoriously fitted for any purpose rather than the diffusion of knowledge. Others, and these the most popular, are apparently the ingenious specula;- tions of a skilful publisher, trading to good account under the influence of the Society's name. A third set, we suspect, ought to be placed to the account of the hobbies of individuals ; and these, like most hobbies, promise neither knowledge to the public nor profit to the bookseller. In this class we are disposed to rank a series of pamphlets, the first of which now lies before us. It is not worth while to criticise the pamphlet itself, which has nothing either of new or old to detain attentiorr; but we must say one word on the plan of which it forms a part. None can be less disposed than ourselves to undervalue the re- marks of practical men ; but we would remind the Committee, that the public are already in possession of many volumes of such re- marks, in the reports of the numerous agricultural societies esta- blished in various parts of the kingdom ; and that there are, in addi- tion to these, several publications expressly devoted to the collection of facts and observations connected with agriculture ; one of which —Mr. BLACKWOOD'S—we have had repeated occasion to notice in our pages. Not only is the publication of Farm Reports an uncalled- for act on the part of the Society, and one which we feel assured none but a person ignorant of agriculture, both practically and theoretically, would ever have dreamed of, but such publications are wholly alien from the scope and purpose of the Society's institution. The Society was formed to diffuse knowledge ; and the Farm Re- ports are not knowledge—they are merely the rude materials out of which it is to be gathered. So far as the facts and opinions• of these Reports correspond with the systems of agriculture which the Committee and others have promulgated, they are useless ; so far as they contradict them, they are injurious. The Committee have begun at the wrong end. Good sense would have dictated, if they found their store insufficient, to accumulate facts before they published rules. We should not have objected to an appendix of documents for the purpose of giving additional authority to the Reports : but by the method which the Committee have pursued, it is at least ten to one that every point and particular of their state- ment will be contradicted by the proofs that follow it. There is an objection more formidable to the preposterous proceedings of the Committee. We mean their tendency to continue and strengthen one of the most injurious prejudices under which society labours, and one which has gone farther to repress im- provement than all the rest—the prejudice which would separate practice from theory ; that represents the latter as something not even to be listened to, much less believed ; that sets observation above reflection, the hands above the head; that scouts all rules but the rule of thumb, recognizes no principles but those of inve- terate custom, no authority but the ignorance of the departed. In fostering this prejudice, the Committee, we think, do more to re- tard the progress of real knowledge than all their previous publi- cations have done to forward it. Hitherto they have promised much and effected little, chiefly from the want of system, and of the effective superintendence which one, and we rather think but one of their number—of course we allude to that very wonderful, we might almost say miraculous combination of genius and in- dustry, of creative and accumulative power, Mr. BROUGHAM—is qualified to give. But if they have done little good, they have also done little ill. Education has profited little, science almost nothing, but neither has suffered, from their labours. If, however, they depart from the straightforward path of public instructors, and, abandoning principle for " practice " as it is called, instead of pro- mulgating general truths, become collectors of isolated and in- consequential facts, such a negative praise will be no longer theirs.
We sincerely hope that in the temporary relaxation of his more arduous labours, which the approaching termination of the Parlia- mentary session, and the succeeding vacation in the Courts bring, the gentleman we have named will find leisure to chalk out a more rational and systematic plan of publication than has hitherto been observed ; and, by the choice of fitting labourers, give to it the chances of success which unity of purpose and combination of power can alone insure.