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CHARLES 0. FLAGG.......Abbott Run, R. I.... Pres. and Director, pro. tem. MELVILLE BULL.. Newport, R. I.. ... Secretary and Treasurer.



To the Honorable the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island,

at its January Session, 1889.

In making this, the first annual report of the Board of Managers of the Rhode Island State Agricultural School, we trust it may not be inappropriate to very briefly review the influences which have brought about the passage of the Act of the General Assembly of this State, March 23d, 1888.


The idea of the higher education came to American soil with the Pilgrim Fathers, for hardly had their feet pressed Plymouth Rock when ont of their poverty a year's rate of the Colony was levied, that the germ of a college should be planted in the new world. The solicitous care of the colony is ever manifest through the vicissitudes of those early days, and the pages of legislative record up to the memorable days of Independence bear evidence by more than a hundred different statutes of its nurture and guidance.

What is true of Harvard is essentially true of Yale, for the General Court of Connecticut had carefully considered the founding of such an institution long before Elihu Yale gave the final impulse which resulted in the establishment of the college which bears his name, some sixty years after the planting of Harvard.

The support of Yale college previous to the present century was largely due to the bounty of the legislature of Connecticut, says the first President Dwight in his history. The second college established in the Colonies, the William and Mary of Virginia, was founded and supported through colonial days from the public treasury.

In our own State the fear that in some way educational institutions might interfere with that perfect individual religious freedom of thought and action which was the central motive that brought Roger Williams to settle Providence Plantations, seems to have caused division of opinion among the early settlers and time passed on till 1762, when James Manning was instrumental in an effort to procure a charter for the establishment of a University in Rhode Island, upon a broad basis of religious freedom.

This effort was doomed to defeat through religious jealousy; but two years later, in February, 1764, a charter was granted, but we find no record of educational work until 1766, when eight students were instructed in the town of Warren, and the first commencement dates from September 7, 1769. A proposition to build in Warren led to an agreement to locate in the county which might raise the most money in support of it, and February 7, 1770, it was voted to build the college edifice “ in the town of Providence, and there to be continued forever.”


The minister, the lawyer, the doctor, the scholar and perhaps the merchant were graduates of these colleges. The sons of farmers, merchants and professional men entered their halls to go forth into the socalled professions. The idea that the son of the farmer intending to follow his father's vocation, the youth whose ambition was to become a builder, a blacksmith, a wheelwright or cabinet maker, required any other training than a smattering of the “ three R.'s” and a thorough seven years' apprenticeship in the manual labor of the field or workshop had not been advanced by even the most liberal educationalists on this or the other side of the water.

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It remained for the Father of his Country-and is it not an additional evidence of the far-seeing wisdom of this remarkable statesman and farmer as well—to say in his annual message at the second session of the Fourth Congress, December 7, 1796, just a year after the organization of the first industrial and technical school in Europe, these words :

“ It will not be doubted that with reference either to individual or national welfare, agriculture is of primary importance. In proportion as nations advance in population and other circumstances of maturity this truth becomes more apparent and renders the cultivation of the soil more and more an object of public patronage. Institutions for promoting it grow up supported by the public purse; and to what object can it be dedicated with greater propriety.

Among the means which have been employed to this end, none have been attended with greater success than the establishment of Boards composed of public characters charged with collecting and diffusing information, and enabled by premiums and small pecuniary aid to encourage and assist a spirit of discovery and improvement. This species of establishment contributes doubly to the increase of improvements by stimulatiog to enterprise and experiment and by drawing to a common centre the results everywhere of individual skill and observation and spreading them thence over the whole nation.

Experience accordingly has shown that they are very cheap instruments of immense national importance.”


The propositions for a National University and a National Board of Agriculture made about this time were referred to a committee, but never heard from after. A few agricultural societies had been already organized, the earliest in Philadelphia in 1785, the Massachusetts Society for promoting Agriculture, incorporated March 7, 1792, and one in New York and another in North Carolina with some others doubtless, before the present century began.

In 1817 a memorial was presented to Congress through the efforts of members of Berkshire, Mass., Agricultural Society in favor of a Natiopal Board of Agriculture. The favorable report of the committee to which it was referred was ably seconded by some, but opposed by the large majority and defeated.

Finally a National Agricultural Department came into being in connection with the Patent Office about 1837. The Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry has been a stimulus to the industrial and agricultural business of the State since 1820. Local societies sprang up in all sections of the country.


Many and varied influences were at work turning the attention of public men to the agriculture of the country. The possibilities of steam transportation by sea and land were just unfolding. Better postal facilities and more rapid transportation of mails gave an unbounded impetus to the publication of papers and literature of all kinds, stirred the minds and quickened the thoughts of the people.

The discovery of gold in California and the subsequent tide of emigration westward, the tireless spirit of invention which strove on every hand so successfully to substitute the machine for man and steam for muscle, reached the hitherto almost untouched field of agriculture. Improved plows, cultivators and harrows were made, mowing machines invented, horse rakes, tedders, reapers, self-binders, etc., etc., came in rapid succession with numberless improvements, till now the number and variety of farming tools is legion.


Meanwhile the elaborate report on the agricultural schools of Europe by Mr. Chas. L. Fleischmann in the Patent Office report for 1847, and of Dr. Hitchcock, commissioned by the State of Massachusetts in 1851 to examine the agricultural schools of England, France and Germany and report thereon, together with spasmodic efforts in some sections of our own country looking toward the establishment of some agricultural school or college, formed a leaven which was slowly but steadily doing its work on public opinion. Again, observing minds had been a little startled and troubled to find from the census reports of the

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