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witty, he has some share of humour, and can "shake the sides" of the House by a ludicrous exhibition of an argument.

We live in an age which is peculiarly one of transition; and Sir Robert Peel is a transition minister. Entering the House of Commons in the year 1809, when he was just turned twenty-one years of age (he is now fifty-eight), his ideas were formed on pre-existing notions; and he possessed no intuitive power to divine the future. His first great error was on the currency question, On this subject, his father, that successful manufacturer whom Pitt created a baronet, was thoroughly enthusiastic. His intellect, like that of his son's, was practical, and its range made it narrower. At a time when the newly discovered powers which science had placed in the hands of manufacture were developing the latent resources of our ingenuity, old Sir Robert Peel, calico-printer and cotton-manufacturer, rose to opulence. But practical as he was, he was in the habit of confounding cause with effect. Pitt was to him a very great minister; and Pitt's worst measure, the suspension of cash payments, was the glory of his premiership. The old man's motto was "Pitt and paper-money ;" and he once told the House of Commons that his highest ambition was to produce a son who might serve his country as effectually as Pitt did.

His son, the second, and to all purposes of history, the Sir Robert Peel, entered the House of Commons without an idea on currency but what his father taught him. On this question he exhibited his first great act of apostacy. Having voted in support of inconvertible paper currency, he took to studying the subject, and, to the dismay of his father, and the surprise of the country, adopted "cash payments," and brought in the bill of 1819. And herein is the clue to his conduct. Francis Horner may speak; Ricardo may expound; Canning or Brougham may concentrate all their power; Villiers or Cobden may enlighten: he resists them all until circumstances compel him to study the subject for himself. Conviction comes at last, though it anay come slowly; he will not walk until his crutch assures him that the ground is secure; and then he walks firmly forward. Thus has it been, in currency reform, in amelioration of the criminal law, in the Corporation and Test Acts, in Catholic Emancipation, in Commercial Reform; other men laboured, and Sir Robert Peel, waiting till theory had done its work, walks in to carry out into practice the fruit of toilsome years. He is not precisely the APOSTLE of public opinion, but he is its practical realiser.

Sir Robert Peel is exemplary in his private morals. Reserved in his manners, and somewhat jealous and secretive in his course of action, he has frequently exposed himself to the imputation of being both an egotist and a double-dealer. But all men, whose habits are reserved and secret, are liable to be suspected by those who observe them; and the art of managing men frequently requires a caution that approaches cunning. As a party leader, Sir Robert Peel has evinced much skill; and since he became Prime Minister, his methods of reconciling individuals to inevitable changes have exposed him to taunts of inconsistency and deception. Yet he has balanced conflicting forces with extraordinary precision; and having gained office by party, achieves purposes without it. Though not profuse in his expenditure, he is not mean in the distribution of his superfluous funds, though more discreet than generous. A natural love of art leads him to purchase pictures, of which he has a splendid collection; but he is rather chary in their exhibition. He carries his purest feelings into his official conduct; and whatever opinion may be formed of his political course, his assertion cannot be contradicted, that he has never debased the powers which office has conferred upon him to unworthy objects. In his present capacity, as head of

his

the government, he strikingly exemplifies the remark of Mr. Pitt, that patience is the chief quality required in a prime minister. Night after night, be the subject discussed trivial or otherwise, Sir Robert Peel is in his place in the House of Commons during the whole session. And day by day he receives dispatches, reads letters, confers with deputations, and concocts plans. His life is a course of as patient industry as that of any private individual who toils for his daily bread; and no man can doubt that since he last became Prime Minister his course of action has been that of a man who wishes to improve his country, and to leave his name impressed upon posterity by the beneficent exercise of power.

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THE POTATO DISEASE, AND THE USE OF MAIZE.

THE potato is subject to a disease which, although it has been observed for some years past on the continent of Europe and in the United States, did not excite much attention till the year 1845, when Great Britain became alarmed by the appearance of this disease in the potato crops of Ireland. One of the earliest writers on the diseases of potatoes is Von Martius, who, in a work * * Die Kartoffeln-Epidemie.

published at Munich in 1842, described several diseases which had been observed in the potato in various parts of Germany, and one closely resembling that which appeared in Great Britain in 1845. For several years, more especially during 1842, 1843, and 1844, a disease of the potato was observed in the United States of America, and during the latter year it was so prevalent as to induce the American government to appoint a com

mission to inquire into the nature, causes, extent, and remedies of this disease. Although little attention had been paid to any failure in particular crops of potatoes in England, yet the writer of this article possesses satisfactory evidence that potatoes were affected with the disease which prevailed in 1845 during the year 1844.

One of the earliest public notices of this extraordinary distemper appeared in the 'Gardener's Chronicle' of the 16th of August, 1845, from Dr. Bell Salter, of Ryde, in the Isle of Wight. He thus describes its characters:-"The first appearance is a dark spot on the margin of the leaf, which withers the leaf and spreads rapidly to the stem. The discoloration soon extends along the stem in the course of the vessels, and the whole plant rapidly becomes black, so that within three days after a plant is attacked it has become totally destroyed. With this appearance in the upper part there co-exists a fatal change in the tubers: they become likewise spotted, at first near the eyes on the upper surface; the cuticle separates; the substance becomes friable, and the change soon spreads throughout the whole potato." Such was the first account

of the disease. It was soon found that it had appeared in various parts of England at the same time, and, what was worse than all, that it had made its appearance in Ire land. Such was the alarm felt on this subject that the government thought it necessary to appoint a commission, consisting of Professors Kane, Lindley, and Playfair, to investigate the nature and extent of the disease, and the amount of probable failure in the crops from its effects in Ireland. Such an inquiry was not necessary in England; but in Ireland, where upwards of four millions live chiefly on potatoes, it became a matter of the utmost importance to ascertain the real condition of the crops. The commissioners from Ireland presented a report that has led the prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, to adopt measures for a more free supply of food to this country. Not only did the disease prevail in Great Britain during the year 1845, but almost throughout the whole continent of Europe, pointing to a common cause for its origin.

In most instances the disease is easily detected, from the dry and shrivelled external appearance of the tuber, but in many cases it could not be discovered till the potato was cut into with a knife, when one or more black spots might be seen in the very centre of the tuber. On placing the diseased tissue of the potato under the microscope, the cells are found to contain a brown amorphous matter, which gives the colour to the dis

eased tissue. Granules of starch are also seen in the cells which appear to have been unaffected by the disease. In addition to this, crystals of oxalate of lime are frequently observed present in the interior of the cells.

On submitting the diseased potato to chemical analysis, it is found that the quantity of water in the tissues has increased. Dr. Playfair made several analyses, and found that it contained 80 per cent. of water. He also found that sound potatoes contained in the same year (1845) a larger quantity of water: the consequence of this would of course be a diminution in the amount of starch. The fibrine does not appear to undergo any change in quantity; but Professor Liebig* observed a curious change in the quality of the nitrogenous constituent, having observed that it was converted into vegetable casein (cheese). This substance has a much greater tendency to enter into decomposition than fibrine, and in this way Liebig accounts for the production of the disease. It is worthy of observation that none of the constituents of the affected tubers seem to have undergone any injurious change, so that however disagreeable they might be to the taste, they did not act as a poison on the system. A French experimenter, M. Bonjean, put this to the test, and lived for several days on the diseased potatoes, and drunk the water in which they were boiled, and yet suffered no other inconvenience than would have occurred from having recourse to a diet of healthy potatoes.

Under the microscope the granules of starch appear to have suffered no change, and when separated they are as available for all the purposes of diet as those procured from healthy potatoes. The starch is easily separated from the potato by scraping it on a grater and throwing the softened pulp into water, when the cellular and fibrous matter will fall to the bottom of the water insoluble, and the starch will be held in suspension in the supernatant fluid. The liquid, on being decanted' off and set aside, will deposit the starch, which may be rewashed, and may then be used for all the purposes of arrow-root, sago, or tapioca.

The cause of this disorder has been the occasion of difference amongst those who have written on the subject. During the progress of the disease, and especially during the latter stages, in the tissues of the tuber several species of the lower order of fungi have been observed to be present; and from a knowledge of the fact that the spores of some of these fungi are capable of engen

*Scottish Guardian,' Nov. 1845.

dering other forms of disease in plants, it has been concluded that they are the cause of the disease in this instance. Of those who defend this theory of the origin of the potato murrain, there is no one whose opinion is entitled to more respect than that of the Rev. M. J. Berkeley, author of a volume on the Fungi, in Smith's ' • English Botany. In a paper in the first volume of the Journal of the Horticultural Society, he says, "The decay is the consequence of the presence of the mould, and not the mould of the decay. It is not the habit of the allied species to prey on decayed or decaying matter, but to produce decay-a faet which is of the first importance. Though so many other species have this habit, these have not. The plant, then, becomes unhealthy in consequence of the presence of the mould, which feeds upon its juices and prevents the elaboration of nutritive sap in the leaves, while it obstructs the admission of air and the emission of perspiration. The stem is thus overcharged with moisture, and eventually rots, while every source of nutriment is cut off from the half-ripe tubers." On the other hand, Professor Lindley, Dr. Playfair, Mr. E. Soley, and others, attribute the disease to atmospheric causes alone. Dr. Lindley, in the Gardener's Chronicle' of August 25, 1845, says, "The cause of this calamity is, we think, clearly traceable to the season. During all the first weeks of August the temperature has been cold, from two to three degrees below the average; we have had incessant rain, and no sunshine. It is hardly possible to conceive that such a continuation of circumstances should have produced any other result, all things considered. The potato absorbs a very large quantity of water; its whole constitution is framed with a view to its doing so; and its broad succulent leaves are provided in order to enable it to part with this water. But a low temperature is unfavourable to the motion of the fluids, or to the action of the cells of the plant; and moreover sun-light is required, in order to enable the water sent into the leaves to be perspired. In feeble light the amount of perspiration from a plant is comparatively small; in bright sunshine it is copious: in fact, the amount of perspiration is in exact proportion to the quantity of light that falls upon a leaf. At night or in darkness there is no appreciable action of this kind. During the present season all this important class of functions has been deranged. The potatoes have been compelled to absorb an unusual quantity of water; the lowness of temperature has prevented their digesting it, and the absence of sunlight has rendered it impossible for them to get rid of

it by perspiration. Under these circumstances it necessarily stagnated in their interior, and the inevitable result of that was rot."

According to Dr. Playfair, in his lectures delivered before the Royal Agricultural Society of Great Britain, in December, 1845, this rot consists in a simple union of the tissues of the tuber with the oxygen of the atmosphere, a tendency to such a union being given by the imperfect manner in which the cellular tissue of the plant is developed. It is not perhaps a matter of importance which part of the plant is attacked first, but Dr. Lindley says, that "although we first see the symptoms of the disease in the leaves, and then in the haulm, yet we believe that it commences under ground in that part of the haulm which is just above the old set."

During the prevalence of the disease, it was found that sound potatoes were capable of contracting the same state from unsound ones; and this points to the necessity of keeping the potatoes, when dug up, as far from each other as possible. They should be placed in some dry material, as sand, turf, dry mould, &c., and be kept in a cool place, as a high temperature favours decomposi tion. In the next place, they should be well ventilated, as the same air remaining con stantly in contact with the potato serves to increase the disease.

In planting potatoes for seed, it seems desirable to avoid using those which have been in any manner diseased, and those should be chosen which have grown on lands where none of the potato crop has suffered. It is, however, to be hoped that it will be long before such a concurrence of untoward events takes place as produced the potato murrain of 1846. Should the visitation of this disease lead to the more general cultivation of the better kinds of food in the sister country, it may still have to be regarded as a great blessing, although its immediate effects were of so painful a nature.

In concluding this notice of the potato, we would call attention to the following table given by Dr. Lyon Playfair, at the lectures alluded to, to illustrate the relative value and cost of the potato as an article of food. In all food the most important constituent for the working man is the nitrogenous matter called protein.

lbs.

Cost..

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Of MAIZE, or INDIAN CORN, only one species is known, but there are several varieties which are thought to owe their distinctive character to the accidental modifications of climate, soil, and culture, rather than to any original variance.

Naturalists are at no loss in determining the native region of maize, which is confidently held to be America, the Indians throughout that continent having been found engaged in its cultivation at the period when the New World was first discovered,

It

This grain is of scarcely less importance than rice for the sustenance of man. forms a principal food of the rapidly increasing inhabitants of the United States of America; it constitutes almost the entire support of the Mexicans; and is consumed in Africa to an extent nearly, if not quite, equal to the consumption of rice in the same quarter.

Of all the cerealia, maize is the least subject to disease. Blight, mildew, or rust, are unknown to it. It is never liable to be beaten down by rain, or by the most violent storms of wind; and in climates and seaSous which are favourable to its growth and maturity, the only enemies which the maize farmer has to dread are insects in the early stages, and birds in the later periods of its cultivation.

American Indian Corn is the largest known variety of maize. It is found growing wild in many of the West Indian islands, as well as in the central parts of America; and there can be no doubt of its being a native of those regions.

This variety will rarely come to maturity in northern climates, and could never be securely relied on for any part of Europe. In the Mexican states, where this grain is known by the name of Tlaouili, there are few parts of either the lower districts

tierra caliente-or of the table-land, whereon it is not successfully cultivated. In the former districts its growth is naturally more luxuriant than in the latter; but even at an elevation of six or seven thousand feet above the level of the sea, its productiveness is calculated to excite wonder, if not to provoke incredulity on the part of European agriculturists. Some particularly favoured spots have been known to yield an increase of eight hundred for one; and it is perfectly common in situations where artificial irrigation is practised, to gather from three hundred and fifty to four hundred measures of grain for every one measure that has been sown. In other places, where reliance is placed only on the natural supply of moisture to the soil from the periodical rains, such an abundant return is not expected; but even then, and in the least fertile spots, it is rare for the cultivator to realise less than from forty to sixty bushels for each one sown.

Humboldt states that in some warm and humid regions of Mexico three harvests of maize may be annually gathered, but that it is not usual to take more than one. The seed-time is from the middle of June to near the end of August. A great part of the internal commerce of Mexico consists in the transmission of this grain, the price of which varies considerably in not very distant stations, owing to the imperfect state of the roads, and the insufficient means of transport. As an instance of this, Humboldt mentions the fact, that during his stay in the intendancy of Guanaxuato, the fanega (five bushels) of maize cost at Salamanca nine, at Queretaro twelve, and San Luiz Potosi twenty-two livres. For want of a proper diffusion of commercial capital, the Mexican public is without the advantage of magazines for storing corn, and for preventing, by that means, great fluctuations in price. It is a fortunate circumstance, and one which should be mentioned as adding very materially to the natural value of maize in warm climates, that it will remain in store uninjured for periods varying from three to five years, according to the mean temperature of the district.

This kind of corn is generally planted in the United States of America about the middle of May, so as to avoid the mischance of its experiencing frost after it is once out of the ground. The Indians who inhabited the country previously to the formation of any settlement upon its shores by Europeans, having no calendar or other means of calculating the efflux of time, were guided by certain natural indications in their choice of periods for agricultural operations. The

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