Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Those Who Labor in the Earth

Euripides, Orestes 917-922 (tr. David Kovacs):
Another man got up and made precisely the opposite proposal. He was not handsome to look at but a brave man, one who rarely had anything to do with the city or the market circle, a man who farmed with his own hands, the sort who alone keep the land from destruction, yet clever enough to grapple in argument when he wanted: he has lived a life of integrity, above reproach.

ἄλλος δ' ἀναστὰς ἔλεγε τῷδ' ἐναντία,
μορφῇ μὲν οὐκ εὐωπός, ἀνδρεῖος δ' ἀνήρ,
ὀλιγάκις ἄστυ κἀγορᾶς χραίνων κύκλον,
αὐτουργός, οἵπερ καὶ μόνοι σῴζουσι γῆν.
ξυνετὸς δέ χωρεῖν ὁμόσε τοῖς λόγοις θέλων,
ἀκέραιος ἀνεπίπληκτον ἠσκηκὼς βίον.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Jay (August 23, 1785):
Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country, and wedded to its interests, by the most lasting bonds.
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIX:
Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phaenomenon 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 husbandman, for their subsistance, depend for it on the casualties and caprice of customers. Dependance begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition. This, the natural progress and consequence of the arts, has sometimes perhaps been retarded by accidental circumstances: but, 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 good-enough barometer whereby to measure its degree of corruption. While we have land to labour then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work-bench, or twirling a distaff.
Or tapping on a computer keyboard.

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