« VorigeDoorgaan »
boundaries of the United States, an uncultivated country extends for many hundreds, nay thousands of miles to the westward, covered with immense forests, unfrequented, and indeed, much unknown to the present European American inhabitants. The present settlements extend comparatively but a very little way from the sea-coast. It will surely be admitted that trees found in large forests, and in numerous places, whether of the same species of other countries or not, are indigenous.
Can it be questioned whether grasses and other vegetables are natives, which are found for many hundreds of miles back of settlements, on land that has been accidentally cleared of woods, in open swamps, and on the banks of rivers and lakes, etc., and in various parts of the wilderness?
In new plantations, 50 or 100 miles from settlements, may we not conclude, without hesitation, that those vegetable productions are native which immediately spring up in abundance, the seeds of which it can be made very certain were not conveyed by the settlers, for three or four of the first years ? Should it be said that birds of passage may spread the seeds of naturalized plants in the wilderness, it may be answered that their flights are not in parallels of latitude, but, alternately, from colder to warmer climates.
Neither is there probability that those seeds which Nature has formed for being wafted by the winds are carried far, in this country, in a western direction; for easterly winds are not frequent, never last many hours, are generally attended with excessive rains. North America, from the latitude of the most southern to that of the most northern boundaries of the United States, even including Canada, is so circumstanced at the present time, as leaves little more doubt of the possibility of distinguishing between the native and naturalized plants now, than at the first discovery; but I readily admit there is very little probability of its being asserted, for it requires much labor and attention, and so few are disposed, and so small is the encouragement, at present, for such kinds of exertions, that no person will be induced to attempt it with the necessary caution and accuracy.
You observe that the “ greater part of the grain and hay growing in America have been imported from Europe.” Of grain, we consider only the Indian corn as indigenous. Of grasses, very few kinds are cultivated in the Northern States. The red and white clover, one or two species of Herd-grass, or Sextait, are the principal.
The two species of trefoil undoubtedly are native, for they abound in new settlements in the eastern, northern, and western parts of N. England; they are the first grasses that appear in the uplands after they are cleared; pastures and fields are covered with them the second and third years after the growth of the wood is removed, where the seed has not been introduced, and are found many hundred miles in the wilderness to the westward. The herd's grass is said to have been found growing native far back in the wilderness, but I am not certain of its being a fact; perhaps these may be different species from the European. Fowl meadow-grass is cultivated in wet meadows, produces great crops, and makes good cuthay for cows. It was certainly in the country when discovered by Europeans, for the first emigrants from Europe, who landed at Plymouth (where the first settlement was made in this state), found it, the second summer, in a very large meallow, in Delham. The meadow was full of this grass, and the growth most luxuriant. It is said not to have been found growing native in any other meadow in this part of the country, but has since been cultivated through the N. England States.
This meadow afforded the first settlers in that vicinity a great plenty of good hay, and still exceeds any other in the quantity it produces without the least cultivation. In the spring and autumn, when the river which runs through it overflowed its banks, it was observed by the first settlers to abound with water-fowl, hence it was called fowl-meadow, and the grass fowl meadow-grass. The seeds of this grass have been sent to Europehave been cultivated in France. We have several species of grass, generally known by the name of English grass, which have been cultivated, but are now much neglected. They are, however, very much spread over the old settlements, but are not to be found in the new plantations, only where seed has been introduced. These naturalized plants may, with little difficulty, be distinguished from natives. It was fully my intention to have examined the grasses and plants of the crypt. class, and to have preserved specimens, but some unexpected domestic affairs crowded upon me early in the spring, and unavoidably employed so much of my time as to oblige me totally to give up botanical pursuits for the season.
I have therefore done so little in the investigation of grasses, that I shall not attempt to give you any particular account of them, nor can I send you specimens, but expect to be able to convince you that the number of native grasses can not be much inferior to that of other countries. ...
It has not been in my power to pay that attention to the vegetables of this country, which is absolutely necessary to distinguish with accuracy the naturalized from the natives. No botanist can do this without frequent excursions into remote plantations and various parts of the wilderness.
For want of time and opportunity to explore parts more remote, I doubt not a number may be inserted in my paper as natives which it will be found are not; but still I have no idea of any insuperable difficulties in making the distinctions.
It has been no small mortification to me not to have examined plants of the crypt. class the last summer, especially as you wish for specimens. In the spring I collected a small number of Ferns, but not having it in my power to take proper care of them they were spoiled.
On receiving your letter, I immediately made a collection of such as I could find. Unfortunately we had just before two or three pretty severe frosts, which wholly destroyed many Ferns. When collecting the Ferns it did not occur to me that the flowers of some of them were found at the roots, and that in some instances specific characters are taken from the roots. How far either is the case in these I send you, I am unable to say, for I have not been able to examine them with any attention, nor have I attempted to arrange them. You will find among the Ferns, I presume, and perhaps among the others, that each member is not a different species, but as they were found in different places, and suspected, different species, or, at least, varieties, I have packed them separately.
This collection was made in great haste, and only within the compass of 3 or 4 miles, it therefore contains but a small part of our crypt. plants ; besides, many in the same limits, were not in a state for collecting specimens. I have reserved similar specimens, numbered with the same numbers, and beg you to be so kind as to inform me what you find them to be.
“In my specimens I always notice on the label the place where it was gathered.” I always do the same. In my botanical paper it is mentioned in the introductory part that the most of the plants were found growing within the compass of a few miles; to all those that were found at a greater distance, the name of the place of growth is added. This I supposed to be sufficiently particular in a publication of this kind.
“The English names should be distinguished as European or American.” There has been so much confusion in the application of English names to American plants, that the British Am. names can be distinguished only by British catalogues. Some note of distinction might be made in publications, but perhaps would not be in every instance strictly just.
“ The titles of order, class, and genera should form a part of the running title.” Such a running title as this was intended, and prepared, but my distance from the press rendered it impracticable for me to correct the sheets, and from the difficulties that had attended the preceding papers, I had reason to expect gross mistakes, which induced me to omit it.
"In your account of the virtues, it would be agreeable to us on this side the Atlantic to know precisely what is from American and what from European information.” It is not possible to know with precision from whence such information is obtained, except in a few instances. It may be well known that certain plants are employed for certain purposes, and if such virtues are to be found in European authors, it may be presumed that the information was derived from them, but it will be by no means certain. In some instances, we are well assured, the information is from the aborigines; in a few others, that it is from the American inhabitants; but, in general, we are unable to determine. In my account I have mentioned from whence the information was derived, so far as I was assured of it.
The Indian physicians, who have the best knowledge of the virtues of plants, by being conversant with Americans, have obtained a smattering of the uses to which Europeans and Americans have applied them, and have so blended this knowledge with their own, that I frequently find it very difficult to discriminate, in my attempts to ascertain the properties and uses of vegetable productions which the natives themselves had discovered. ..
Give me leave now to reply to some of the remarks you have made on the Memoirs of the Academy. You object to the title as savoring too much of the air of France, and as improper when applied to a Society. You will recollect that the American Academy was instituted at a time (1780) when Britain was viewed in this country as an inveterate enemy, and France as a generous patron. Although philosophers ought to divest themselves of all those prejudices which national contentions and combinations naturally excite, yet I doubt not it was the intention of those concerned in establishing the institution to give it the air of France, rather than that of England, and wished to be considered as following the Royal Academy, rather than the Royal Society. But, however this might be, it was of importance that the title should clearly and concisely distinguish this from a similar institution at Philadelphia, whose title was professedly copied from the Royal Society.
For the sake of such distinction between the Vols. of these societies, the title of Memoirs was given to our Vol., in preference to that of Transactions.
As I had no concern in the institution of the Society, I can only give you my conjectures; but I am inclined to be of the opinion that those who gave it the title had no idea of the distinction you make between an Academy and Society; at least, it is new to me. The Akademia at Athens, surely, was no more than a public school, bearing the name of a certain person, and does not necessarily include the idea of the members being paid by the State. And Academies of Arts and Sciences, in a modern sense, I conceive, intend no more