If I were asked to say what single aspect of our economic condition most strikingly and favorably distinguished the people of our Northern States from these of most if not all other countries which I have traversed, I would point at once to the fruit-trees which so generally diversify every little as well as larger farm throughout these States, and are quite commonly found even on the petty holdings of the poorer mechanics and workmen in every village and in the suburbs and outskirts of every city.
I can recall nothing like it abroad, save in two or three of the least mountainous and most fertile districts of northern Switzerland. Italy has some approach to it in the venerable olive-trees which surround or flank many, perhaps most, of her farm-houses, upholding grape-vines as ancient and nearly as large as themselves; but the average New-England or Middle State homestead, with its ample Apple-orchard and its cluster of Pear, Cherry and Plum-trees surrounding its house and dotting or belting its garden, has an air of comfort and modest thrift, which I have nowhere else seen fairly equaled.
Upland Virginia and the mountainous portion of the States southward of her may in time surpass the most favored regions of the North in the abundance, variety and excellence of their fruits; for the Peach and the Grape find here a congenial climate, while they are grown with difficulty, where they can be grown at all, in the North; but, up to this hour, I judge that our country north of the Potomac is better supplied with wholesome and palatable tree-fruits than any other portion of the earth’s surface of equal or nearly equal area.
On the whole, I deem it a misfortune that our Northern States were so admirably adapted to the Apple and kindred fruit-trees that our pioneer forefathers had little more to do than bury the seeds in the ground and wait a few years for the resulting fruit. The soil, formed of decayed trees and their foliage, thickly covered with the ashes of the primitive forest, was as genial as soil could be; while the remaining woods, which still covered seven-eighths of the country, shut out or softened the cold winds of Winter and Spring, rendering it less difficult, a century ago, to grow fine peaches in southern New-Hampshire than it now is in southern New-York.