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A CAREFUL examination of the returns of the Agricultural Societies shows the importance of such revision in the method of awarding premiums as to increase the efficiency and influence of the bounty of the State. The details of the system, though proper enough at the outset, have not, in all cases, been adapted to the exigencies of the times; and the influence of the society in such cases has not reached so far as to awaken an interest in the subject where little existed before, or to spread information by means of carefully prepared Transactions distributed all over the county.
The agricultural bounty, small as it is, has without doubt been of great and lasting good to the Commonwealth. This was to be expected. But no society can accomplish the highest good of which it is capable without constant and unremitting efforts to excite and keep alive the spirit of progress; and the result of these efforts should be seen on the fields of every farmer in the county. One mode of doing this is by the publication and distribution of reports, prepared with care and full of practical information, among all the farmers within the limits of the society, whether members or not.
All but two of the societies have published their Transactions for the past year. It is to be hoped there will be no exception to this rule hereafter.
The practice prevailing in a few societies, of awarding premiums twice on the same article, or, in some cases, of taking the premium on the same article at two or three different societies, has given rise to much very just complaint, and should have been remedied by the by-laws of all the societies at its inception ; for while the affairs of any society are managed in a manner which does not commend itself to the good sense and good judgment of honest men, all good influences are paralyzed, and men lose confidence in the disinterested purposes of the society, and cherish prejudices which ought not to exist. To remedy these evils, the present Legislature has passed the following Act :
SECT. 1. No incorporated agricultural society, receiving the bounty of this Commonwealth according to the provisions of chapter forty-two of the Revised Statutes, shall distribute any part thereof to any person, as first premium, for any animal or article for which a first premium shall have been awarded by that or any other incorporated society.
SECT. 2. No incorporated agricultural society receiving the bounty of this Commonwealth shall award from such bounty any second or third premium to any person for any animal or article which shall have received the same premium from any other incorporated society the same year.
SECT. 3. No incorporated agricultural society receiving the bounty of the Commonwealth, which shall hereafter disregard the prohibitions of this act, shall be entitled to receive any part of said bounty for that year.
Sect. 4. Nothing in this act shall be held to prohibit any animal or article which receives a lower premium from being entered with another society, or with the same society, on a succeeding year, for a higher premium.
It was evidently the intention of the law that the funds of each society receiving the bounty of the State should be actually contributed, paid in, and put at interest; whereas, in some instances, societies have been satisfied with the promissory notes of new members, and these notes, taken in the aggregate, form what is called the permanent fund. I am aware of all the reasons urged in favor of this course; but, however necessary it may seem to be, it can hardly be regarded in any other light than an evasion of the law, and no society should include property so invested as a part of its permanent fund.
Much greater care is needed in the preparation of the reports of committees; and if some system should be matured and adopted previous to the exhibition and adhered to by them, more valuable results would be arrived at and more information of general interest obtained, and, what is of nearly equal importance, the Transactions could be ready more promptly for distribution.
This is not the place to enter into the details of the management of a county society; and yet it is from details like these that its whole efficiency and aggregate influence are made up, while their importance has been repeatedly urged upon my attention during the preparation of this volume, and so strongly as to seem to warrant this occasion to call attention to them.
I am indebted to several individuals who have kindly furnished me with the plates of animals and buildings which adorn the following pages.
The arrangement of the materials of which the present volume is composed is in the main the same as that of last year, which, on the whole, was found to be both more logical and convenient for reference than any other which could be adopted. A complete index will be found at the end.
The financial returns of the societies will be found in the Appendix to the Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the Board of Agriculture.
C. L. FLINT.
Boston, April, 1855.