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Full text of "A familiar talk about trees : delivered in the hall of the House of Representatives, Concord, at a meeting of the New Hampshire Board of Agriculture, on the evening of June 13, 1883"

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Delivered in the Hall of the House of Representatives, 
Concord, at a Meeting of the New Hampshire 
Board of Agriculture, on the Even- 
ing OF June 13, 1883. 






Since being invited, some ten days ago, b}' your secretary, to 
attend this meeting, I have been travelling every day, and have 
had no opportuuity for writing, or for making references. I 
will not therefore attempt to deliver an "address," and must 
simply attempt to give you, from the abundance of the subject, 
a familiar talk about trees. 

When this country first became known to Europeans, the soil 
was everywhere, throughout this state, and in all the Atlantic 
states, and in Canada, covered with forests, until we reach the 
prairies of the West and the treeless regions of the North. 
These forests differed greatly in density, and in the kind and 
value of their timber. 

Of course, had these settlers then known all that Europeans 
now know, or all that we shall hereafter know about forest 
management, a considerable part of this would have been 
cleared, in order to make room for agriculture. The parts se- 
lected for this purpose would have been the best portions for til- 
lage, — the intervales along the valleys, and the arable portions of 
the hills and the plains. But the hill-tops and the broken moun- 
tain regions, too steep and stony for the plow, and too poor for 
pasturage, would have been spared. They would have left the 
forests in the ravines, upon slopes liable to erosion, and upon 
sands liable to drift. But without this knowledge as to the 
proper care of woodlands, and without a further thought than 


to destroy evervthiiig alike, and without reservation, except here 
and there a wood lot, the country throughout the whole settled 
portion has been cleared, so that there are now but few large 
tracts of forest remaining, and the valuable timber has, to a 
very large extent, been cleared off. Much was burned to get 
rid of it, without any profit, excepting sometimes from the ashes. 
Forest fires have been invited in to aid in the destruction, and 
much that was not absolutely wasted without any return has 
been extravagantly used in needless degree. 

This wanton practice has at length begun to attract the serious 
attention of thoughtful men in every part of the country, and 
the}' are asking one another, What shall we do to be saved 
from the inconvenience and distress which the extreme depletion 
of these supplies must occasion? 

The great seal of Maine bears the device of a white pine tree, 
and that of your state the figure of a ship upon the stocks. 
The first of these emblems fitly represented the grandest element 
of wealth that the state of Maine then possessed ; but it has 
since disappeared from their commerce almost entirely, and in 
its place we find them using up their spruces and hard woods, 
which must in time become equally scarce. The ship on the 
stocks reminds us of a time when the white oak and the white 
pine supplied tlie materials for an industry which was once re- 
garded as of commanding importance, and worth}' of adoption as 
the symbol of a state. 

I have recently visited Portsmouth, your only sea-port, and 
they told me that this business of ship-building has died out 
almost entirely as a private enterprise, and that excepting what 
is going on now and then at the navy -yard, there is scarcely any- 
thing left. At Batii, the principal ship-building point in Maine, 
where a considerable number of ships are still built every year, 
the amount of tonnage is far below the totals of former years. 
They get their white oak from Virginia and other Southern 
states ; their yellow pine from Georgia ; their white pine from 
Michigan ; and some of their " juniper" (tamarack) knees from 
Canada. They are already getting ready to build iron ships at 
that place, wisely foreseeing in this, a time not remote, when 
these timber supplies which they ai'e now using wull become 

It is true that coal for fuel aud iron for naval and civil con- 
structions have in late years largely taken the place of wood ; 
and to this extent they have lessened the demand for wood as a 
fuel, and for the heavy timbers formerly used in ship-building 
and in city architecture. But on the other hand, new uses for 
wood, in various forms, are daily appearing, and among these 
is that for the making of paper-pulp, of which, already, since a 
comparatively recent period, a large amount is made ; and of 
this we have as yet scarcely seen the beginning, although nearly 
forty establishments exist in the New England states alone. 
Upon the whole, we may say that the amount of wood consumed 
as a material is increasing every year, while the existing supplies 
are as rapidly becoming less. I think it need not be proved, for 
the fact is evident, that although we may. to a large extent, 
employ stone, slate, tile, brick, aud the metals for many uses 
in which wood is now taken, we can scarcely conceive of a time 
when this material from the forests will not be in great and con- 
stant demand, or when it could ever be less needed than to-day. 

Let us for a moment compare the conditions of this country 
and of Europe, and especially with respect to the titles to land, 
and notice some points of difference that vitally concern the 
prospects of our future forests and our timber supplies. With 
us. the lands in all the older states, and throughout the settled 
portions everywhere, belong to private owners. Neither the 
states, nor the general government, nor any county, city, or 
town, has any woodlands, nor any land upon which forests could 
be planted. To make a beginning of public forest management, 
it would be necessary to obtain the title, either by purchase, 
gift, or some lapse of title. It is in the most extreme degree 
improbable that any public authority whatever will ever plant 
upon private lands, or that any law would be passed, or could 
be enforced, that should compel the planting of lands by their 
owners. "What remains of our woodlands, as well as all of the 
land on which the forests once grew, being now held by private 
owners, it is these owners who must do the planting of the 
future ; and they will clear their lands, or rear forests, as their 
self-interest leads them. 

Now in Europe we find upon the continent very different con- 
ditions. The governments, the communes, or other local or- 

ganizations, and the pu1)lic establishments of various kinds, are 
owners of considerable tracts of forest land, and administra- 
tions have been organized to take care of these interests. To 
get qualified agents for this service they have established schools 
of forestry. I have visited the forest administrations of every 
country in Europe that has a system of this kind, and about 
twenty of these schools, of which there are about thirty. At 
these schools, 3'oung men who have passed their first studies, 
about equal to what is taught in our academies, are admitted 
upon examination, and are carefully taught from two to three 
years in the sciences and the practices that apply to the care of 
woodlands and the removal and first working of forest prod- 
ucts. They are taught mathematics, as applied to surveying, 
the measurement of contents, estimates of the growth and 
quantity of timber, accounts, and the like ; the natural sciences 
that have reference to trees, and to all animal or vegetable life 
that may effect their welfare. Chemistry, geology, meteorol- 
ogy, mechanics, and, in short, whatever branch of knowledge 
is useful to the forester, including so much of laws and juris- 
prudence as may be needed in the discharge of his oflScial 
trusts. Many of these candidates for the forest service are 
the sons of foresters, and one of the most talented of the pro- 
fessors of fores^i'y in Europe is the son and grandson of men 
equally eminent in their profession. 

The students in these schools have provided for their use 
extensive collections of tools and implements, models, cabinets 
of natural history, laboratories, libraries, forest gardens and 
nurseries, and the like, and ever}' week they make excursions 
with their professors to learn from actual observation whatever 
concerns their pursuits. Once in a year they make a long 
joui'ney to see forests and operations in planting under other 
conditions, and of these journey's they keep a journal and write 
up an account. Finally, after passing examinations that show 
approved attainments, they become entitled to a place, at first 
under an experienced forester, and afterwards by themselves ; 
and they may rise through the various grades of the service, as 
in our army and navy, with the right to retire on a pension 
when working days are over. 

Among the foresters' duties in Europe are the protection of 

game and the adjustment of rights of common usage, as, for 
example, where the inhabitants of a commune or village have a 
right to fuel, or building materials, or pasturage, and the like, 
upon their common lands. With none of these affairs relating 
to hunting or common rights shall we in this country ever have 
concern. The rights of hunting belong absoluteh' to the owner 
of the land, and of rights of common usage we have none. 

Now in all of these foreign systems we have nothing to learn 
from their codes or their jurisprudence ; but we have everything 
to learn from their methods of planting and management, and 
from the scientific researches that are being made abroad. We 
could not give employment to men who were so highly qualified 
in these special sciences ; we need a less extended but plain 
and practical course of instruction for a greater number ; in 
fact, more or less of the first principles throughout the whole 
of our educational system, even down to the primary schools. 

Every graduating class in a college should, at least, have the 
opportunity of hearing a few practical lectures upon forestry, 
and in several of our colleges, as in Dartmouth, instruction is 
now given in the class-room. In schools of less degree, it 
would be a most profitable thing to inculcate correct ideas, if 
nothing more, as to the importance of our woodlands in the wel- 
fare of the country, and the necessity of presenting injuries 
and avoiding waste. 

As we begin to feel the need, we find springing up here and 
there inquiries under authority of law relating to the wants and 
the duties of the future, as depending upon the maintenance of 
our forest supplies. You have a commission named for the 
purpose in New Hampshire ; the\' have one in Vermont : a lit- 
tle has been done in New York ; and through state and local 
societies, of one kind and another, our people are beginning to 
turn attention to this subject, and to realize its importance. 

It is not alone the want of wood as a material for ship-build- 
ing, and erections of every kind upon the land, for manufac- 
tories and uses of infinite variety and importance, and for fuel, 
that is reminding us of this duty. We find effects upon our 
climate, upon the flow of water in our rivers and streams, and 
upon our agricultural interests ever3'where, which may be, 
directly or indirectly, traced to the destruction of our forests as 

a principal cause. Let us l)riefly notice these several incidental 
effects, and the manner in wliich they are produced. 

In a wooded country the climate is more humid on account 
of the great amount of evaporation that is going on from the 
foliage. The soil is humid because sheltered from the winds 
and the sun, and the streams are not liable to sudden floods and 
to drought, because they issue from swamps, or are fed by per- 
ennial springs. Let us notice the effect of clearings upon these 

In an open, treeless region, the soil being exposed will sooner 
dry up after a rain, and if it be clay, it will become hard, so 
that the rain when it falls will run off at once, instead of sink- 
ing into the earth. The water, no longer obstructed by roots 
and rubbish, does not find its way slowly into the water courses, 
but, upon steep mountain slopes and hillsides, tends to wear 
ravines, which sometimes become immense chasins, and the 
rocks and rubbish carried down by the torrents cover the fertile 
valleys below with stones and gravel, and spread over the plains 
in destructive inundations that desolate the country far and 
wide. Finally, the sediment coming down to the sea forms 
sandbars at the mouths of the rivers, which cause lagoons and 
stagnant morasses that render a once healthy and fertile region 
a pestilential -v^-tiste. 

This picture is a faithful one of great regions in southern 
Europe, and especially in Italy and Spain. In other countries, 
as in northern Africa, in Greece, and in western Asia, we find 
vast solitudes and sandy wastes, now given up to hopeless ster- 
ility, which were once well cultivated by a dense population, 
and abounding in trees and fruits. We find everywhere in our 
own country that our springs and wells fail in summer, and that 
mill-streams once furnishing hydraulic power through the year 
are almost dry for months together. Rivers once navigable are 
so no more, and streams depended upon for feeding the i-eser- 
voirs of our city water- works fail. The snows, prevented from 
drifting in a wooded country, accumulate in drifts behind fences 
or fill in the ravines, leaving our fields exposed to frost, and our 
winter grains to great injury' and loss. The insectivorous birds 
are driveu awa}' because they find no shelter, and our fruits fail 
where thev were once as sure as the returnina; seasons. 


Now these facts cauuot be denied, and they lead us to the all- 
important question, AYhat shall be done to prevent further in- 
juries, and to restore the conditions that we have lost? 

The first thing to be done is to economize — to use less, and 
waste less. AVe have coal, and peat, and iron. We can use 
these, and stone, slate, brick, and tiles, in a great number of 
places Avhere we now use wood. We can use up the waste pro- 
ducts that are now allowed to decay. We can get tanning ma- 
terials, when our hemlock is exhausted, by planting oaks. We 
can provide for future wants b}' reclothing our broken lands 
everywhere with woodlands, and we shall begin to get the bene- 
fits, so far as they concern the climate, as soon as the ground is 
well shaded, although we may have to wait longer for the mate- 
rial that these woodlands should supply. 

In travelling through your state — and it is much the same 
throughout New England and the Northern states generally — 
I have had frequent occasion to admire the facility- with which 
an abandoned field will lapse again into a forest. You have 
none of the difficulties that they encounter as we approach the 
arid regions of the West in making trees grow. They will grow 
themselves, and everywhere, if only allowed to remain where 
they find themselves a chance. But we should bear in mind 
that some kinds of timber are worth a great deal more than 
others ; that it takes a long time for any trees to become of 
size suitable for lumber, and that almost always those of least 
value are of most rapid growth, thus shading out and killing off 
the more valuable kinds. 

Of native species, you have A-arious l\inds of oak, ash, elm, 
birch, maple, linden, beech, chestnut, and others of the decid- 
uous class ; and of the evergreens, the pines, spruces, cedars, 
and the hemlock. It is an easy matter to determine from what 
has been which of these will thrive to advantage, and it is not 
worth while to experiment much on uncertainties. We need not 
try to prove, for this has been done by nature, that the chest- 
nut will not grow on a limestone soil ; that pines prefer a sandy 
soil, if underlaid by a subsoil congenial to their growth ; that 
the inaples and the beech avoid the sand and seek calcareous 
soils ; and so on through the whole list. 

But besides these native trees, we have within our range of 


0})portuuit3' many not native that will still thrive exceedingly 
well, some of them beai'ing seed and propagating their kind as 
vigoronsly as in their native home, and others that will grow 
well enongh if helped to a place, but that do not reproduce 
readily from seed. In Scotland the larch, a native of Tyrol, 
has been found much more i^rofitable than any of their indige- 
nous trees. The elm in Elngland thrives exceedingly, although 
its seeds are seldom fertile, and the most precious tree for plant- 
ing in the North-Western prairie states in some situations is the 
white willow, which grows best fn^m cuttings or sprouts. 

Of trees not native I would suggest the black walnut, hai'dy 
catalpa, European larch, Scotch and Austrian pines, and certain 
of the European willows and alder as well worthy of experi- 
ment. They may prove perfectly well adapted to ^unir soil and 
climate, and some of them, as for example the willows and the 
alder, a great deal more profitable than our native species. 
They will at least prove interesting as affording means for com- 
parison and for botanical study, and add new resources to our 
list, already large, of trees suited for ornamental plantation in 
our villages and around our homes. 

While speaking of exotic trees, it may be remarked that the 
conifers of the Pacific coast, which thrive so luxuriantly in their 
native region, almost uniformly fail in the Atlantic states, while 
the trees of eastern Asia, the Himalaya region, and Japan, 
almost uniformly succeed. As these all differ in species, and 
many of them in genus, from those nearest like them in our own 
country, we have in these a precious opportunity for increasing 
an interest in ornamental plantations, and perhaps of -adding to 
our list of exceptionally profitable timber trees. 

Let us now come to consider a very practical question, which, 
at the beginning of your legislative session, may be deemed op- 
portune, namely. How can a state encourage the preservation 
and restoration of its forests? It is true that individual en- 
terprise, under the stimulus of high prices and the pressure of 
want, might find it profitable to seek these prices and relieve 
this want ; but our land-owners, upon whom we must depend 
for future planting, will not begin to do this in a very extensive 
way until they feel this necessity upon them. It is not wise to 
wait till these evils are present. It is the part of prudence and 


foresight to provide seasonably for this future ; and in this the 
state may render important services to its citizens in various 
ways short of paying for the expenses of planting, and among 
these the following : 

1. It may- exempt waste and vacant lands from taxation for 
a limited period, where they are successfully replanted and pro- 
tected for forest growth ; or if there be a constitutional provi- 
sion forbidding the exemption of private property from taxation, 
as in some of the states, it can declare that the increased value of 
lands by reason of forest growth shall not be taxed until some 
revenue begins to accrue. 

2. It can stimulate rivalry by the offering of premiums for 
the greatest amount planted, the best management, or the most 
approved results in the introduction of exotic species, with re- 
ports showing the methods of operation, and other information 
best calculated for rendering this experience useful to others. 

3. It can in like manner reward the authors of essays upon 
forest culture, and various subjects relating to the maintenance 
and management of groves and woodlands. To render these 
most widely useful, they should be printed for distribution 
among those engaged in planting. 

4. It can provide for the establishment of experimental sta- 
tions for the careful study of methods and the determination of 
facts of practical utility ; and it can aid iu this by the distribu- 
tion of seeds and plants among those willing to cooperate in 
these observations. 

5. It can provide for instruction in the first principles of for- 
estry in the public schools, and to a greater degree in the higher 
institutions of learning in the state ; and in a more general way 
it can enable agricultural, horticultural, and other societies to 
extend their operations in the discussion of subjects relating to 
forestry until special societies for this purpose are established. 

6. It can provide laws for the prevention and control of for- 
est fires, under which greater care would be taken in the use of 
fires in or near a woodland, and a more direct responsibility 
attached to this act. 

7. In some of the states where this has not been done, the 
state can enact laws compelling the owners of cattle to keep 
them within their own premises, thus removing one of the mo- 


tives for setting forest fires, and tending to the welfare of the 
woodlands generally. 

It is very generally observed that in a new country, and in 
the absence of an owner or his agent, the rights of property in 
timber are often disregarded, and it has been appropriated for 
use without much care or inquiry as to who the owner was. 
This is especially true with respect to timber upon the public 
domain, and upon railroad grants. But where groves are planted 
upon the lands of a resident owner or manager, there would be 
no greater liability to trespass than in a corn-field or an orchard. 
As a country becomes older, these private rights become better 
established. The hardy and sometimes lawless pioneer moves 
on with the advancing tide of civilization, and personal rights 
become better defined. 

I might say much more that the opportunity allows concern- 
ing the amenities of life that are secured in home adornment, 
village improvement, and city parks, which are so many forms 
of planting and cultivation, in which the benefits appear in the 
public health and in the intellectual refinement and personal en- 
joyment which they secure to all who come within their influences. 

We are accused by Europeans of being an unstable and rest- 
less people, having no strong attachments to ancestral posses- 
sions, and ever seeking new fields of enterprise in an uneasy 
desire for change. There is nothing that can more strengthen 
this attachment to home and country than by making them 
pleasant. It is only those who feel this attachment, that build 
monuments and that found institutions that will survive them as 
witnesses of their substantial interest in the welfare of the coun- 
try in which they have lived. 

I have faith in the Yankee ! I believe in him ! If you can. 
only tell him where there is a dollar to be made or saved, and 
make him believe it, he will find the means to secure it. Now 
one of the ways of doing this is to plant trees. When planted, 
protect them. Teach the importance of this, and the methods 
by which it can be done to most profit, in your schools and col- 
leges, and especially let every owner of land seek to advance 
this object, both by precept and example, and it will not be 
long before we shall begin to realize the advantages that should 
result from this measure. 


BY iFi^j^itTiciiLiinsr B. hiotjoh:. 


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