The rain having ceased, I resumed my walk, in a southerly direction, to Chrishall Grange, the residence of Samuel Jonas, who may be called the largest farmer in England; not, perhaps, in extent of territory occupied, but in the productive capacity of the land cultivated, and in the values realised from it. It is about four miles east of Royston, bordering on the three counties of Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, and Essex, though lying mainly in the latter. It contains upwards of 3,000 acres, and nearly every one of them is arable, and under active cultivation. It consists of five farms, belonging to four different landlords; still they are so contiguous and coherent that they form substantially one great block. No one could be more deeply impressed with the magnitude of such an establishment, and of the operations it involves, than a New England farmer. Taking the average of our agriculturists, their holdings or occupations, to use an English term, will not exceed 100 acres each; and, including woodland, swamp, and mountain, not over half of this space can be cultivated. To the owner and tiller of such a farm, a visit to Mr. Jonas’ occupation must be interesting and instructive. Here is a man who cultivates a space which thirty Connecticut farmers would feel themselves rich to own and occupy, with families making a population of full two hundred souls, supporting and filling a church and school-house. In the great West of America, where cattle are bred and fed somewhat after the manner of Russian steppes or Mexican ranches, such an occupation would not be unusual nor unexpected; but in the very heart of England, containing a space less than the state of Virginia, a tract of such extent and value in the hands of a single farmer is a fact which a New Englander must regard at first with no little surprise. He will not wonder how one man can rent such a space, but how he can till it to advantage; how, even with the help of several intelligent and active sons, he can direct and supervise operations which fill the hands of thirty solid farmers of Massachusetts. Two specific circumstances enable him to perform this undertaking.
In the first place, agriculture in England is reduced to an exact and rigid science. To use a nautical phrase, it is all plain sailing. The course is charted even in the written contract with the landlord. The very term, “course,” is adopted to designate the direction which the English farmer is to observe. Skilled hands are plenty and pressing to man the enterprise. With such a chart, and such a force, and such an open sea, it is as easy for him to sail the “Great Eastern” as a Thames schooner. The helm of the great ship plays as freely and faithfully to the motion of his will as the rudder of the small craft. Then the English farmer has a great advantage over the American in this circumstance: he can hire cheaply a grade of labor which is never brought to our market.