'THE HORSE AND BUGGY AGE' is a belittling phrase. To the smart modern city dweller, it conjures up a picture of old men with beards poking along country roads and using queer words, which they enunciate (over the radio) in still queerer voices. It is especially hard for the modern city dweller, with his ant-like ways, to imagine another mode of life, different from his own and with different values. It always has been hard for the city dweller to appreciate rural values (especially when so many city dwellers are escapees from the country). During most of history the countryman's fortunes have answered to the derisive terms the city dweller applies to him, for he usually gets the worst of it, and sooner or later is depressed to the level of either a peasant, a serf, or a slave. More rarely, he is elevated to that of gentleman or feudal nobleman--in which case he earns the citizens' equally hearty contempt for different reasons.
There have been, however, rare periods when the country has provided a way of life that was good and neither depressed nor elevated, whereby large numbers of men attained to substantial heights of well-being. These have been the 'yeoman' periods, when sturdy, independent men owned their own land and lived their own lives, with no consciousness of inferiority to others. The 'franklin' of the English Danelagh appears to have been such a man, as was the English yeoman of the seventeenth century and early eighteenth century--the man who took the measure of Charles I and his cavaliers. We read of the same type in more distant times, in both Greece and Rome, and we also read sad poetry about their decline.--
"But a bold peasantry, their country's pride
When once destroyed, can never be supplied. . . ."
It has been North America's boast that her soils could provide the foundation for such a yeomanry as no other land