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Sturgis Hooper Professor 





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" Not all the winds, and storms, and earthquakes, and seas, and seasons of the world, have 
done so much to revolutionize the earth as Man, the power of an endless life, has done since 
the day he came forth upon it, and received dominion over it." — H. Bushnell, Sermon on the 
Power of an Endless Life. 


IS 74. 


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the 3-ear 1874, by 


In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. 

John F. Trow & Son, 


905 to 213 Rtist Twelfth Street, 
New York. 


The object of the present volume is : to indicate the char- 
acter and, approximately, the extent of the changes produced 
by human action in the physical conditions of the globe we 
inhabit ; to point out the dangers of imprudence and the neces- 
sity of caution in all operations which, on a large scale, inter- 
fere with the spontaneous arrangements of the organic or the 
inorganic world ; to suggest the possibility and the importance 
of the restoration of disturbed harmonies and the material im- 
provement of waste and exhausted regions ; and, incidentally, 
to illustrate the doctrine that man is, in both kind and degree, 
a power of a higher order than any of the other forms of ani- 
mated life, which, like him, are nourished at the table of boun- 
teous nature. 

In the rudest stages of life, man depends upon spontaneous 
animal and vegetable growth for food and clothing, and his 
consumption of such products consequently diminishes the nu- 
merical abundance of the species which serve his uses. At 
more advanced periods, he protects and propagates certain es 


culent vegetables and certain fowls and quadrupeds, and, at 
the same time, wars upon rival organisms which prey upon 
these objects of his care or obstruct the increase of their num- 
bers. Hence the action of man upon the organic world tends 
to derange its original balances, and while it reduces the num- 
hers of some species, or even extirpates them altogether, it mul- 
tiplies other forms of animal and vegetable life. 

The extension of agricultural and pastoral industry involves 
an enlargement of the sphere of man's domain, by encroach- 
ment upon the forests which once covered the greater part of the 
earth's surface otherwise adapted to his occupation. The fell- 
ing of the woods has been attended with momentous conse- 
quences to the drainage of the soil, to the external configura- 
tion of its surface, and probably, also, to local climate ; and 
the importance of human life as a transforming power is, per- 
haps, more clearly demonstrable in the influence man has thus 
exerted upon superficial geography than in any other result of 
his material effort. 

Lands won from the woods must be both drained and irri- 
gated ; river-banks and maritime coasts must be secured 1 > v 
means of artificial bulwarks against inundation by inland and 
by ocean floods ; and the needs of commerce require the im- 
provement of natural and the construction of artificial chan- 
nels of navigation. Thus man is compelled to extend over the 
unstable waters the empire he had already founded upon the 
solid land. 

The upheaval of the bed of seas and the movements of 
water and of wind expose vast deposits of sand, which occupy 


space required for the convenience of man, and often, by the 
drifting of their particles, overwhelm the fields of human indus- 
try with invasions as disastrous as the incursions of the ocean. 
On the other hand, on many coasts, sand-hills both protect the 
shores from erosion by the waves and currents, and shelter 
valuable grounds from blasting sea-winds. Man, therefore, 
must sometimes resist, sometimes promote, the formation and 
growth of dunes, and subject the barren and Hying sands to 
the same obedience to his will to which he has reduced other 
forms of terrestrial surface. 

Besides these old and comparatively familiar methods of 
material improvement, modern ambition aspires to yet grander 
achievements in the conquest of physical nature, and projects 
are meditated which quite eclipse the boldest enterprises hith- 
erto undertaken for the modification of geographical surface. 

The natural character of the various fields where human 
industry has effected revolutions so important, and where the 
multiplying population and the impoverished resources of the 
globe demand new triumphs of mind over matter, suggests a 
corresponding division of the general subject, and I have con- 
formed the distribution of the several topics to the chronologi- 
cal succession in which man must be supposed to have ex- 
tended his sway over the different provinces of his material 
kingdom. I have, then, in the introductory chapter, stated, 
in a comprehensive way, the general effects and the prospec- 
tive consequences of human action upon the earth's surface 
and the life which peoples it. This chapter is followed by 
four others in which I have traced the history of man's indus- 


try as exerted upon Animal and Yegetable Life, upon the 
Woods, upon the "Waters, and upon the Sands ; and to these 
I have added a concluding chapter upon Man. 

It is perhaps superfluous to add, what indeed sufficiently 
appears upon every page of the volume, that I address myself 
not to professed physicists, but to the general intelligence of 
observing and thinking men ; and that my purpose is rather to 
make practical suggestions than to indulge in theoretical specu- 
lations more properly suited to a different class from that for 
which I write. 


December 1, 1863. 


In preparing for the press an Italian translation of this 
work, published at Florence in 1S70, I made numerous correc- 
tions in the statement of both facts and opinions ; I incorpo- 
rated into the text and introduced in notes a large amount of 
new data and other illustrative matter ; I attempted to improve 
the method by differently arranging many of the minor subdi- 
visions of the chapters ; and I suppressed a few passages which 
seemed to me superfluous. 

In the present edition, which is based on the Italian transla- 
tion, I have made many further corrections and changes of 
arrangement of the original matter ; I have rewritten a con- 
siderable portion of the work, and have made, in the text and 
in notes, numerous and important additions, founded partly on 
observations of my own, partly on those of other students of 
Physical Geography, and though my general conclusions re- 
main substantially the same as those I first announced, yet I 
think I may claim to have given greater completeness and a 
more consequent and logical form to the whole argument. 


Since the publication of the original edition, Mr. Elisee 
Reclus, in the second volume of his admirable work, La Terre 
(Paris, 1868), lately made accessible to English-reading stu- 
dents, has treated, in a general way, the subject I have under- 
taken to discuss. He has, however, occupied himself with the 
conservative and restorative, rather than with the destructive, 
effects of human industry, and he has drawn an attractive and 
encouraging picture of the ameliorating influences of the ac- 
tion of man, and of the compensations by which he, consciously 
or unconsciously, makes amends for the deterioration which he 
has produced in the medium he inhabits. The labors of 
Mr. Reclus, therefore, though aiming at a much higher and 
wider scope than I have had in view, are, in this particular 
point, a complement to my own. I earnestly recommend the 
work of this able writer to the attention of my readers. 


Rome, May 1, 1873. 



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Natural Advantages of the Territory of the Roman Empire — Physical 
Decay of that Territory — Causes of the Decay — Reaction of Man on 
Nature— Observation of Nature — Uncertainty of Our Historical 
Knowledge of Ancient Climates — Uncertainty of Modern Meteoro- 
logy — Stability of Nature — Formation of Bogs — Natural Condi- 
tions Favorable to Geographical Change — Destructiveness of Man — 
Human and Brute Action Compared — Limits of Human Power — 
Importance of Physical Conservation and Restoration — Uncertainty 
as to Effects of Human Action 1 



Modern Geography takes Account of Organic Life — Geographical Impor- 
tance of Plants — Origin of Domestic Vegetables — Transfer of Vege- 
table Life — Objects of Modern Commerce — Foreign Plants, how In- 
troduced — Vegetable Power of Accommodation — Agricultural Pro- 
ducts of the United States — Useful American Plants Grown in Eu- 
rope — Extirpation of Vegetables — Animal Life as a Geological and 
Geographical Agency — Origin and Transfer of Domestic Quadrupeds 
— Extirpation of Wild Quadrupeds — Large Marine Animals Relatively 
Unimportant in Geography — Introduction and Breeding of Fish — 
Destruction of Fish — Geographical Importance of Birds — Introduction 
of Birds — Destruction of Birds — Utility and Destruction of Reptiles 
— Utility of Insects and Worms — Injury to the Forest by Insects — In- 
troduction of Insects — Destruction of Insects — Minute Organisms ... 56 





The Habitable Earth Originally Wooded — General Meteorological Influence 
of the Forest — Electrical Action of Trees — Chemical Influence of 
Woods — Trees as Protection against Malaria^ — Trees as Shelter to 
Ground to the Leeward — Influence of the Forest as Inorganic on 
Temperature — Thermometrical Action of Trees as Organic — Total 
Influence of the Forest on Temperature — Influence of Forests as In- 
organic on Humidity of Air and Earth — Influence as Organic — Balance 
of Conflicting Influences — Influence of Woods on Precipitation — Total 
Climatic Action of the Forest — Influence of the Forest on Humidity 
of Soil — The Forest in Winter — Summer Rain, Importance of — In- 
fluence of the Forest on the Flow of Springs — Influence of the Forest 
on Inundations and Torrents — Destructive Action of Torrents — Floods 
of the Ardeche — Excavation by Torrents — Extinction of Torrents — 
Crushing Force of Torrents — Transporting Power of Water — The Po 
and its Deposits — Mountain Slides — Forest as Protection against 
Avalanches — Minor Uses of the Forest — Small Forest Plants and 
Vitality of Seeds — Locusts do not Breed in Forests — General Func- 
tions of Forest — General Consequences of Destruction of — Due Propor- 
tion of Woodland — Proportion of Woodland in European Countries — 
Forests of Great Britain — Forests of France — Forests of Italy — 
Forests of Germany — Forests of United States — American Forest 
Trees — European and American Forest Trees Compared — The Forest 
does not furnish Food for Man — First Removal of the Forest — Prin- 
cipal Causes of Destruction of Forest — Destruction and Protection of 
Forests by Governments — Royal Forests and Game-laws — Effects of 
the French Revolution — Increased Demand for Lumber — Effects of 
Burning Forest — Floating of Timber — Restoration of the Forest — 
Economy of the Forest — Forest Legislation — Plantation of Forests 
in America — Financial Results of Forest Plantations — Instability 
of American Life 148 



Land Artificially Won from the Waters — Great Works of Material Improve- 
ment — Draining of Lincolnshire Fens — Incursions of the Sea in the 
Netherlands — Origin of Sea-dikes — Gain and Loss of Land in the Neth- 
erlands — Marine Deposits on the Coast of Netherlands — Draining of 
Lake of Haarlem — Draining of the Zuiderzee — Geographical Effects of 



Improvements in the Netherlands — Ancient Hydraulic Works — Drain- 
ing of Lake Celano by Prince Torlonia — Incidental Consequences of 
Draining Lakes — Draining of Marshes — Agricultural Draining — Meteor- 
ological Effects of Draining — Geographical Effects of Draining — Geo- 
graphical Effects of Aqueducts and Canals — Antiquity of Irrigation — 
Irrigation in Palestine, India, and Egypt — Irrigation in Europe — Me- 
teorological Effects of Irrigation — Water withdrawn from Rivers for 
Irrigation — Injurious Effects of Rice-culture — Salts Deposited by 
Water of Irrigation — Subterranean Waters — Artesian Wells — Artificial 
Springs — Economizing Precipitation — Inundations in France — Basins 
of Reception — Diversion of Rivers — Glacier Lakes — River Embank- 
ments — Other Remedies against Inundations — Dikes of the Nile — De- 
posits of Tuscan Rivers — Improvements in Tuscan Maremma — Im- 
provements in Val di Chiana — Coast of the Netherlands 398 



Origin of Sand — Sand now Carried to the Sea — Beach Sands of Northern 
Africa — Sands of Egypt — Sand Dunes and Sand Plains — Coast Dunes 
— Sand Banks — Character of Dune Sand — Interior Structure of 
Dunes — Geological Importance of Dunes — Dunes on American Coasts 
— Dunes of Western Europe— Age, Character, and Permanence of 
Dunes — Dunes as a Barrier against the Sea — Encroachments of the 
Sea — Liimfjord — Coasts of Schleswig-Holstein, Netherlands, and 
France — Movement of Dunes — Control of Dunes by Man — Inland 
Dunes — Inland Sand Plains 545 




Cutting of Isthmuses — Canal of Suez — Maritime Canals in Greece — Canals 
to Dead Sea — Canals to Libyan Desert — Maritime Canals in Europe 
— Cape Cod Canal — Changes in Caspian — Diversion of the Nile — Diver- 
sion of the Rhine — Improvements in North American Hydrography 
— Soil below Rock — Covering Rock with Earth — Desert Valleys — 
Effects of Mining — Duponchel's Plans of Improvement — Action of 
Man on the Weather — Resistance to Great Natural Forces — Incidental 
Effects of Human Action — Nothing Small in Nature G09 





Natural Advantages of the Territory of the Koman Empire. —Physical Decay 
of that Territory.— Causes of the Decay. — Reaction of Man on Nature. — 
Observation of Nature. — Uncertainty of Our Historical Knowledge of 
Ancient Climates. — Uncertainty of Modern Meteorology. — Stability of 
Nature. — Formation of Bogs. — Natural Conditions Favorable to Geogra- 
phical Change. — Destructiveness of Man. — Human and Brute Action 
Compared. — Limits of Human Power. — Importance of Physical Conser- 
vation and Restoration. — Uncertainty as to Effects of Human Action. 

Natural Advantages of the Territory of the Roman Empire. 

The Roman Empire, at the period of its greatest expansion, 
comprised the regions of the earth most distinguished by a 
happy combination of physical conditions. The provinces bor- 
dering on the principal and the secondary basins of the Medi- 
terranean enjoyed in healthfulness and equability of climate, in 
fertility of soil, in variety of vegetable and mineral products, 
and in natural facilities for the transportation and distribution 
of exchangeable commodities, advantages which have not been 
possessed in any equal degree by any territory of like extent 
in the Old World or the New. The abundance of the land and 
of the waters adequately supplied every material want, minis- 
tered liberally to every sensuous enjoyment. Gold and silver, 
indeed, were not found in the profusion winch has proved so 
baneful to the industry of lands richer in veins of the precious 


metals; but mines and river beds yielded them in the spare 
measure most favorable to stability of value in the medium of 
exchange, and, consequently, to the regularity of commercial 
transactions. The ornaments of the barbaric pride of the 
East, the pearl, the ruby, the sapphire, and the diamond — 
though not unknown to the luxury of a people whose conquests 
and whose wealth commanded whatever the habitable world 
could contribute to augment the material splendor of their 
social life — were scarcely native to the territory of the empire ; 
but the comparative rarity of these gems in Europe, at some- 
what earlier periods, was, perhaps, the very circumstance that 
led the cunning artists of classic antiquity to enrich softer stones 
with engravings, which invest the common onyx and cornelian 
with a worth surpassing, in cultivated eyes, the lustre of the 
most brilliant oriental jewels. 

Of these manifold blessings the temperature of the air, the 
distribution of the rains, the relative disposition of land and 
water, the plenty of the sea, the composition of the soil, and 
the raw material of the primitive arts, were wholly gratuitous 
gifts. Yet the spontaneous nature of Europe, of "Western 
Asia, of Libya, neither fed nor clothed the civilized inhabitants 
of those provinces. The luxuriant harvests of cereals that 
waved on every field from the shores of the Rhine to the banks 
of the Nile, the vines that festooned the hillsides of Syria, of 
Italy and of Greece, the olives of Spain, the fruits of the gar- 
dens of the Hesperides, the domestic quadrupeds and fowls 
known in ancient rural husbandry — all these were original pro- 
ducts of foreign climes, naturalized in new homes, and gradu- 
ally ennobled by the art of man, while centuries of persevering 
labor were expelling the wild vegetation, and fitting the earth 
for the production of more generous growths. Every loaf was 
eaten in the sweat of the brow. All must be earned by toil. 
But toil was nowhere else rewarded by so generous wages ; for 
nowhere would a given amount of intelligent labor produce so 
abundant, and, at the same time, so varied returns of the good 
things of material existence. 


Physical Decay of the Territory of the Roman Envpire. 

If we compare the present physical condition of the coun- 
tries of which I am speaking, with the descriptions that ancient 
historians and geographers have given of their fertility and 
general capability of ministering to human uses, we shall find 
that more than one-half their whole extent — not excluding the 
provinces most celebrated for the profusion and variety of 
their spontaneous and their cultivated products, and for the 
wealth and social advancement of their inhabitants — is either 
deserted by civilized man and surrendered to hopeless desola- 
lation, or at least greatly reduced in both productiveness and 
population. Vast forests have disappeared from mountain 
spurs and ridges ; the vegetable earth accumulated beneath 
the trees by the decay of leaves and fallen trunks, the soil of 
the alpine pastures which skirted and indented the woods, and 
the mould of the upland fields, are washed away ; meadows, 
once fertilized by irrigation, are waste and unproductive be- 
cause the cisterns and reservoirs that supplied the ancient 
canals are broken, or the springs that fed them dried up ; rivers 
famous in history and song have shrunk to humble brooklets ; 
the willows that ornamented and protected the bank's of the 
lesser watercourses are gone, and the rivulets have ceased to 
exist as perennial currents, because the little water that finds 
its way into their old channels is evaporated by the droughts of 
summer, or absorbed by the parched earth before it reaches 
the lowlands ; the beds of the brooks have widened into broad 
expanses of pebbles and gravel, over which, though in the hot 
season passed dryshod, in winter sealike torrents thunder ; 
the entrances of navigable streams are obstructed by sandbars ; 
and harbors, once marts of an extensive commerce, are shoaled 
by the deposits of the rivers at whose mouths they lie ; the 
elevation of the beds of estuaries, and the consequently dimin- 
ished velocity and increased lateral spread of the streams which 
flow into them, have converted thousands of leagues of shallow 


sea and fertile lowland into unproductive and miasmatic mo- 

Besides the direct testimony of history to the ancient fer- 
tility of the now exhausted regions to which I refer — Northern 
Africa, the greater Arabian peninsula, Syria, Mesopotamia, Ar- 
menia and many other provinces of Asia Minor, Greece, Sicily, 
and parts of even Italy and Spain — the multitude and extent 
of yet remaining architectural ruins, and of decayed works of 
internal improvement, show that at former epochs a dense pop- 
ulation inhabited those now lonely districts. Such a popula- 
tion could have been sustained only by a productiveness of soil 
of which we at present discover but slender traces ; and the 
abundance derived from that fertility serves to explain how 
large armies, like those of the ancient Persians, and of the Cru- 
saders and the Tartars in later ages, could, without an organ- 
ized commissariat, secure adequate supplies in long marches 
through territories which, in our times, would scarcely afford 
forage for a single regiment. 

It appears then, that the fairest and fruitfulest provinces 
of the Roman Empire, precisely that portion of terrestrial sur- 
face, in short, which, about the commencement of the Chris- 
tian era, was endowed with the greatest superiority of soil, 
climate, and position, which had been carried to the highest 
pitch of physical improvement, and which thus combined the 
natural and artificial conditions best fitting it for the habita- 
tion and enjoyment of a dense and highly refined and cultivated 
population, are now completely exhausted of their fertility, or 
so diminished in productiveness, as, with the exception of a few 
favored oases that have escaped the general ruin, to be no 
longer capable of affording sustenance to civilized man. If to 
tli is realm of desolation we add the now wasted and solitary 
soils of Persia and the remoter East that once fed their millions 
with milk and honey, we shall see that a territory larger than 
all Europe, the abundance of which sustained in bygone centu- 
ries a population scarcely inferior to that of the whole Christian 
world at the present day, has been entirely withdrawn from 


human use, or, at best, is thinly inhabited by tribes too few in 
numbers, too poor in superfluous products, and too little ad- 
vanced in culture and the social arts, to contribute anything to 
the general moral or material interests of the great common- 
wealth of man. 

Causes of this Decay. 

The decay of these once flourishing countries is partly due, 
no doubt, to that class of geological causes whose action we can 
neither resist nor guide, and partly also to the direct violence 
of hostile human force ; but it is, in a far greater proportion, 
either the result of man's ignorant disregard of the laws of 
nature, or an incidental consequence of war and of civil and 
ecclesiastical tyranny and misrule. Next to ignorance of these 
laws, the primitive source, the causa causarum, of the acts and 
neglects w r hich have blasted with sterility and physical decrepi- 
tude the noblest half of the empire of the Ccesars, is, first, the bru- 
tal and exhausting despotism which Rome herself exercised over 
her conquered kingdoms, and even over her Italian territory ; 
then, the host of temporal and spiritual tyrannies which she 
left as her dying curse to all her wide dominion, and which, in 
some form of violence or of fraud, still brood over almost 
every soil subdued by the Roman legions.* Man cannot 

* In the Middle Ages, feudalism, and a nominal Christianity, whose corrup- 
tions had converted the most beneficent of religions into the most baneful of 
superstitions, perpetuated every abuse of Roman tyranny, and added new 
oppressions and new methods of extortion to those invented by older despot- 
isms. The burdens in question fell most heavily on the provinces that had 
been longest colonized by the Latin race, and these are the portions of Europe 
which have suffered the greatest physical degradation. "Feudalism," says 
Blanqui, "was a concentration of scourges. The peasant, stripped of the 
inheritance of his fathers, became the property of inflexible, ignorant, indo- 
lent masters ; he was obliged to travel fifty leagues with their carts whenever 
they required it ; he labored for them three days in the week, and surrendered 
to them half the product of his earnings during the other three ; without 
their consent he could not change his residence, or marry. And why, indeed, 
should he wish to marry, when he could scarcely save enough to maintain 


struggle at once against human oppression and tlie destructive 
forces of inorganic nature. When both are combined against 
him, he succumbs after a shorter or longer struggle, and the 
fields he has won from the primeval wood relapse into their 
original state of wild and luxuriant, but unprofitable forest 
growth, or fall into that of a dry and barren wilderness. 

himself ? The Abbot Alcuin had twenty thousand slaves, called serfs, who 
were forever attached to the soil. This is the great cause of the rapid depop- 
ulation observed in the Middle Ages, and of the prodigious multitude of mon- 
asteries which sprang up on every side. It was doubtless a relief to such 
miserable men to find in the cloisters a retreat from oppression ; but the human 
race never suffered a more cruel outrage, industry never received a wound 
better calculated to plunge the world again into the darkness of the rudest 
antiquity. It suffices to say that the prediction of the approaching end of the 
world, industriously spread by the rapacious monies at this time, was received 
without terror." — Resume cle VHistoire du Commerce, p. 156. 

The abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, which, in the time of Charlemagne, 
had possessed a million of acres, was, down to the Revolution, still so 
wealthy, that the personal income of the abbot was 300,000 livres. The abbey 
of Saint-Denis was nearly as rich as that of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. — 
Layergne, Economic Burale de la France, p. 104. 

Paul Louis Courier quotes from La Bruyere the following striking picture of 
the condition of the French peasantry in his time : " One sees certain dark, 
livid, naked, sunburnt, wild animals, male and female, scattered over the 
country and attached to the soil, which they root and turn over with indomi- 
table perseverance. They have, as it were, an articulate voice, and when 
they rise to their feet, they show a human face. They are, in fact, men ; 
they creep at night into dens, where they live on black bread, water, and roots. 
They spare other men the labor of ploughing, sowing, and harvesting, and 
therefore deserve some small share of the bread they have grown." " These 
are his own words," adds Courier, "and he is speaking of the fortunate 
peasants, of those who had work and bread, and they were then the few." — 
Petition a la Chambre des Deputes pour It a ViUageois que Fen empecTu <>• danser. 

Arthur Young, who travelled in France from 1787 to 1789, gives, in the 
twenty-first chapter of his Travels, a frightful account of the burdens <>!' the 
rural population even at that late period. Besides the regular governnui'tnl 
taxes, and a multitude of heavy fines imposed for trifling offences, he 
enumerates about thirty seignorial rights, the very origin and nature of some 
of which are now unknown, while those of some others arc as repulsive to 
humanity and morality, as the worst abuses ever practised by heathen 
despotism. But Young underrates the number of these oppressive impo- 
sitions. Moreau de Jonnes, a higher authority, asserts that in a brief exam- 


Rome imposed on the products of agricultural labor in the 
rural districts taxes which the sale of the entire harvest would 
scarcely discharge ; she drained them of their population by 
military conscription; she impoverished the jjeasantry by 
forced and unpaid labor on public works ; she hampered 
industry and both foreign and internal commerce by absurd 
restrictions and unwise regulations.* Hence, large tracts of 
land were left uncultivated, or altogether deserted, and exposed 
to all the destructive forces which act with such energy on the 
surface of the earth when it is deprived of those protections by 
which nature originally guarded it, and for which, in well- 
ordered husbandry, human ingenuity has contrived more or less 
efficient substitutes. f Similar abuses have tended to perpetuate 
and extend these evils in later ages, and it is but recently that, 
even in the most populous parts of Europe, public attention 

ination he had discovered upwards of three hundred distinct rights of the 
feudatory over the person or the property of his vassal. See Etat Eaonomique 
et Social de la France, Paris, 1870, p. 339. Most of these, indeed, had been 
commuted for money payments, and were levied on the peasantry as pecuniary 
imposts for the benefit of prelates and lay lords, who, by virtue of their nobil- 
ity, were exempt from taxation. The collection of the taxes was enforced with 
unrelenting severity. Ou one occasion, in the reign of Louis XIV., the troops 
sent out against the recreant peasants made more than 3,000 prisoners, of whom 
400 were condemned to the galleys for life, and a number so large that the 
government did not dare to disclose it, were hung on trees or broken on the 
wheel. — Moreatj de Jonnes, Etat Eaonomique et Social de la France, p. 420. 
Who can wonder at the hostility of the French plebeian classes towards the 
aristocracy in the days of the Revolution ? 

* Commerce, in common with all gainful occupations except agriculture, was 
despised by the Romans, and the exercise of it was forbidden to the higher 
ranks. Cicero, however, admits that though retail trade, which could only 
prosper by lying and knavery, was contemptible, yet wholesale commerce was 
not altogether to be condemned, and might even be laudable, provided the 
merchant retired early from trade and invested his gains in farm lands. — De 
Ojfteiis, lib. i., 42. 

f The temporary depoprdation of an exhausted soil may be, in some cases, 
a physical, though, like fallows in agriculture, a dear-bought advantage. 
Under favorable circumstances, the withdrawal of man and his flocks allows 
the earth to clothe itself again with forests, and in a few generations to 
recover its ancient productiveness. In the Middle Ages, worn-out fields were 


has been half awakened to the necessity of restoring the dis- 
turbed harmonies of nature, whose well-balanced influences are 
so propitious to all her organic offspring, and of repaying to our 
great mother the debt which the prodigality and the thrift- 
lessness of former generations have imposed upon their succes- 
sors — thus fulfilling the command of religion and of practical 
wisdom, to use this world as not abasing it. 

Reaction of Man on Nature. 

The revolutions of the seasons, with their alternations of 
temperature and of length of day and night, the climates of 
different zones, and the general conditions and movements of 
the atmosphere and the seas, depend upon causes for the most 
part cosmical, and, of course, wholly beyond our control. The 
elevation, configuration, and composition of the great masses 
of terrestrial surface, and the relative extent and distribution 
of land and water, are determined by geological influences 
equally remote from our jurisdiction. It would hence seem 
that the physical adaptation of different portions of the earth 
to the use and enjoyment of man is a matter so strictly belong- 
ing to mightier than human powers, that we can only accept 
geographical nature as we find her, and be content with such 
soils and such skies as she spontaneously offers. 

But it is certain that man has reacted upon organized and 
inorganic nature, and thereby modified, if not determined, the 
material structure of his earthly home. The measure of that 
reaction manifestly constitutes a very important element in the 
appreciation of the relations between mind and matter, as well 
as in the discussion of many purely physical problems. But 
though the subject has been incidentally touched upon by 

depopulated, in many parts of the Continent, by civil and ecclesiastical 
tyrannies, which insisted on the surrender of the half of a loaf already too 
small to sustain its producer. Thu.? abandoned, these lands often relapsed 
into the forest state, and, some centuries later, were again brought under 
cultivation with renovated fertility. 


many geographers, and treated with much fulness of detail in 
regard to certain limited fields of human effort and to certain 
specific effects of human action, it has not, as a whole, so far 
as 1 know, been made matter of special observation, or of his- 
torical research, by any scientific inquirer. Indeed, until the 
influence of geographical conditions upon human life was 
recognized as a distinct branch of • philosophical investigation, 
there was no motive for the pursuit of such speculations ; and 
it was desirable to inquire how far we have, or can, become 
the architects of our own abiding place, only when it was 
known how the mode of our physical, moral, and intellectual 
being is affected by the character of the home which Provi- 
dence has appointed, and we have fashioned, for our material 

It is still too early to attempt scientific method in discussing 
this problem, nor is our present store of the necessary facts by 
any means complete enough to warrant me in promising any 
approach to fulness of statement respecting them. Systematic 
observation in relation to this subject has hardly yet begun, 
and the scattered data which have chanced to be recorded have 
never been collected. It has now no place in the general 
scheme of physical science, and is matter of suggestion and 
speculation only, not of established and positive conclusion. 
At present, then, all that I can hope is to excite an interest in 
a topic of much economical importance, by pointing out the 
directions and illustrating the modes in which human action 
has been, or may be, most injurious or most beneficial in its 
influence upon the physical conditions of the earth we inhabit. 

We cannot always distinguish between the results of man's 
action and the effects of purely geological or eosmical causes. 
The destruction of the forests, the drainage of lakes and marsh- 
es, and the operations of rural husbandry and industrial art have 

* Gods Almagt wenkte van den troon, 
En schiep elk volk een land ter woon : 
Hier vestte Zij een gxondgebied, 
Dat Zij ons zelven sckeppen Met. 


unquestionably tended to produce great changes in the hygro- 
metric, thermometric, electric, and chemical condition of the 
atmosphere, though we are not yet able to measure the force of 
the different elements of disturbance, or to say how far they 
have been neutralised by each other, or by still obscurer influ- 
ences ; and it is equally certain that the myriad forms of animal 
and vegetable life, which covered the earth when man first en- 
tered upon the theatre of a nature whose harmonies he was 
destined to derange, have been, through his interference, greatly 
changed in numerical proportion, sometimes much modified in 
form and product, and sometimes entirely extirpated.* 

* Man has not only subverted the natural numerical relations of wild as well 
as domestic quadrupeds, fish, birds, reptiles, insects, and common plants, and 
even of still humbler tribes of animal and vegetable life, but he has effected 
in the forms, habits, nutriment and products of the organisms which minister 
to his wants and his pleasures, changes which, more than any other manifesta- 
tion of human energy, resemble the exercise of a creative power. Even wild 
animals have been compelled by him, through the destruction of plants and 
insects which furnished their proper aliment, to resort to food belonging to 
a different kingdom of nature. Thus a New Zealand bird, originally gran- 
ivorous and insectivorous, has become carnivorous, from the want of its natural 
supplies, and now tears the fleeces from the backs of the sheep, in order to 
feed on their living flesh. 

All these changes have exercised more or less direct or indirect action on 
the inorganic surface of the globe ; and the history of the geographical revo- 
lutions thus produced would furnish ample material for a volume. 

The modification of organic species by domestication is a branch of philo- 
sophic inquiry which we may almost say has been created by Darwin ; but 
the geographical results of these modifications do not appear to have yet been 
made a subject of scientific investigation. 

I do not know that the following passage from Pliny has ever been cited in 
connection with the Darwinian theories, but it is worth a reference : 

" But behold a very strange and new fashion of them [cucumbers] in Cam- 
pane, for there you shall have abundance of them come up in forme of a 
Quince. And as I heare say, one of them chaunced so to grow first at a very 
venture ; but afterwards from the seed of it came a whole race and progerrie 
of the like, which therefore they call Melopopones, as a man would say, the 
Quince-pompions or cucumbers." — Pliny, JS T at. Hist., Holland's translation, 
book xix., c. 5. 

The word cucumis used in the original of this passage embraces many of 
the cucurbitaceaj, but the context shows that it here means the cucumber. 


The physical revolutions thus wrought by man have not in- 
deed all been destructive to human interests, and the heaviest 
blows he has inflicted upon nature have not been wholly with- 
out their compensations. Soils to which no nutritious vege- 
table was indigenous, countries which once brought forth but 
the fewest products suited for the sustenance and comfort of 
man — while the severity of their climates created and stimu- 
lated the greatest number and the most imperious urgency of 
physical wants — surfaces the most rugged and intractable, and 
least blessed with natural facilities of communication, have 
been brought in modern times to yield and distribute all that 
supplies the material necessities, all that contributes to the sen- 
suous enjoyments and conveniences of civilized life. The 
Scythia, the Thule, the Britain, the Germany, and the Gaul 
which the Roman writers describe in such forbidding terms, 
have been brought almost to rival the native luxuriance and 
easily won plenty of Southern Italy; and, while the fountains 
of oil and wine that refreshed old Greece and Syria and 
Northern Africa have almost ceased to How, and the soils of 
those fair lands are turned to thirsty and inhospitable deserts, 
the hyperborean regions of Europe have learned to conquer, 
or rather compensate, the rigors of climate, and have attained 
to a material wealth and variety of product that, with all their 
natural advantages, the granaries of the ancient world can 
hardly be said to have enjoyed. 

Observation of Nature. 

In these pages it is my aim to stimulate, not to satisfy, curi- 
osity, and it is no part of my object to save my readers the labor 
of observation or of thought. For labor is life, and 

Death lives where power lives unused.* 

Self is the schoolmaster whose lessons are best worth his wages; 
and since the subject I am considering has not yet become a 

* Verses addressed by G. C. to Sir Walter Raleigh.— Haeluyt, i., p. 668. 


branch of formal instruction, those whom it may interest can, 
fortunately, have no pedagogue but themselves. To the natu- 
ral philosopher, the descriptive poet, the painter, the sculptor, 
and indeed every earnest observer, the power most important 
to cultivate, and, at the same time, hardest to acquire, is that of 
seeing what is before him. Sight is a faculty ; seeing, an art. 
The eye is a physical but not a self-acting apparatus, and in 
general it sees only what it seeks. Like a mirror, it reflects 
objects presented to it; but it may be as insensible as a mirror, 
and not consciously perceive what it reflects." 

It has been maintained by high authority, that the natural 
acuteness of our sensuous faculties cannot be heightened by 
use, and hence, that the minutest details of the image formed 
on the retina are as perfect in the most untrained as in the 
most thoroughly disciplined organ. This may be questioned, 
and it is agreed on all hands that the power of multifarious 
perception and rapid discrimination may be immensely in- 
creased by well-directed practice.f This exercise of the eye 

* I troer, at Synets Sands er lagt i Oiet, 

Mens dette kun er Redskab. Synet stronimer 
Fra Sjajlens Dyb, og Oiets fine Nerver 
Gaae ud fra Hjernens hemmelige Yserksted. 

Henrik Hertz, Kong Rene's Batter, sc. ii. 

In the material eye, you think, sight lodgeth ! 
The eye is but an organ. Seeing streameth 
From the soul's inmost depths. The fine perceptive 
Nerve springeth from the brain's mysterious workshop. 
f Skill in marksmanship, whether with firearms or with other projectile wea- 
pons, depends more upon the training of the eye than is generally supposed, and 
I have often found particularly good shots to possess an almost telescopic vision. 
In the ordinary use of the rifle, the barrel is guided by the eye, but there are 
sportsmen who fire with the butt of the gun at the hip. In this case, as in 
the use of the sling, the lasso, and the bolas, in hurling the knife (see Dabi- 
KET, Lectures, vii., p. 84), in throwing the boomerang, the javelin, or a stone, 
and in the employment of the blowpipe and the bow, the movements of the 
hand and aim are guided by that mysterious sympathy which exists between 
the eye and the unseeing organs of the body. 

" Some men wonder whye, in casting a man's eye at the marke, the hand 


I desire to promote, and, next to moral and religious doctrine, 
I know no more important practical lessons in this earthly life 
of ours — which, to the wise man, is a school from the cradle to 
the grave — than those relating to the employment of the sense 
of vision in the study of nature. 

The pursuit of physical geography, embracing actual observa- 
tion of terrestrial surface, affords to the eye the best general train- 
ing that is accessible to all. The majority of even cultivated men 
have not the time and means of acquiring anything beyond a 
very superficial acquaintance with any branch of physical know- 
ledge. Natural science has become so vastly extended, its re- 
corded facts and its unanswered questions so immensely multi- 
plied, that every strictly scientific man must be a specialist, and 
confine the researches of a whole life within a comparatively 
narrow circle. The study I am recommending, in the view I pro- 
should go streighte. Surely if he considered the nature of a man's eye he 
would not wonder at it : for this I am certaine of, that no servaunt to his 
maister, no childe to his father, is so obedient, as every joynte and peece of 
the bodye is to do whatsover the eye biddes." — Roger Ascham, Toxophilus, 
Eook ii. 

In shooting the tortoises of the Amazon and its tributaries, the Indians use 
an arrow with a long twine and a float attached to it. Ave-Lallemant (Di-e 
Benutzung der Palmen am Amasone?istrom, p. 32) thus describes their mode of 
aiming : "As the arrow, if aimed directly at the floating tortoise, would strike 
it at a small angle and glance from its flat and wet shell, the archers have a 
peculiar method of shooting. They are able to calculate exactly their own 
muscular effort, the velocity of the stream, the distance and size of the tor- 
toise, and they shoot the arrow directly up into the air, so that it falls almost 
vertically upon the shell of the tortoise, and sticks in it." Analogous calcula- 
tions — if such physico-mental operations can properly be so called — are made 
in the use of other missiles ; for no projectile flies in a right line to its mark. 
But the exact training of the eye lies at the bottom of them all, and marks- 
manship depends almost wholly upon the power of that organ, whose direc- 
tions the blind muscles implicitly follow. Savages accustomed only to the 
use of the bow become good shots with firearms after very little practice. 
It is perhaps not out of place to observe here that our English word aim 
comes from the Latin astimo, I calculate or estimate. See Wedgwood's Dic- 
tionary of English Etymology, and the note to the American edition, under 

Another proof of the control of the limbs by the eye has been observed in 


pose to take of it, is yet in that imperfectly developed state 
which allows its votaries to occupy themselves with broad and 
general views attainable by every person of culture, and it does 
not now require a knowledge of special details which only years 
of application can master. It may be profitably pursued by 
all ; and every traveller, every lover of rural scenery, every agri- 
culturist, who will wisely use the gift of sight, may add valuable 
contributions to the common stock of knowledge on a subject 
which, as I hope to convince my readers, though long neglected, 
and now inartificially presented, is not only a very important 
but a very interesting field of inquiry. 

Measurement of Mali's Influence. 

The exact measurement of the geographical and climatic 
changes hitherto effected by man is impracticable, and we pos- 
sess, in relation to them, the means of only qualitative, not 
quantitative analysis. The fact of such revolutions is established 

deaf-and-dumb schools, and others where pupils are first taught to write on 
large slates or blackboards. The writing is in large characters, the small 
letters being an inch or more high. They are formed with chalk or a slate 
pencil firmly grasped in the fingers, and by appropriate motions of the wrist, 
elbow, and shoulder, not of the finger joints. Nevertheless, when a pen is 
put into the hand of a pupil thus taught, his handwriting, though produced 
by a totally different set of muscles and muscular movements, is identical in 
character with that which he has practised on the blackboard. 

For a very remarkable account of the restoration of vision impaired from 
age, by judicious training, see Lessons in Life, by Timothy Titcomb, les- 
son xi. 

It has been much doubted whether the artists of the classic ages possessed 
a more perfect sight than those of modern times, or whether, in executing 
their minute mosaics and gem engravings, they used magnifiers. Glasses 
ground convex have been found at Pompeii, but they are too rudely fashioned 
and too imperfectly polished to have been of any practical use for optical pur- 
poses. But though the ancient artists may have had a microscopic vision, 
their astronomers cannot have had a telescopic power of sight ; for they did 
not discover the satellites of Jupiter, which are often seen with the naked eye 
at Oormeeah, in Persia, and sometimes, as I can testify by personal observa- 
tion, at Cairo. 


partly by historical evidence, partly by analogical deduction from 
effects produced, in our own time, by operations similar in char- 
acter to those which must have taken place in more or less 
remote ages of human action. Both sources of information 
are alike defective in precision ; the latter, for general reasons 
too obvious to require specification ; the former, because the 
facts to which it bears testimony occurred before the habit or 
the means of rigorously scientific observation upon any branch 
of physical research, and especially upon climatic changes, 

Uncertainty of our Historical Conclusions on Ancient 

The invention of measures of heat and of atmospheric mois- 
ture, pressure, and precipitation, is extremely recent. Hence, 
ancient physicists have left us no thermometric or barometric 
records, no tables of the fall, evaporation, and flow of waters, 
and even no accurate maps of coast lines and the course of rivers. 
Their notices of these phenomena are almost wholly confined to 
excessive and exceptional instances of high or of low tempera- 
tures, extraordinary falls of rain and snow, and unusual floods 
or droughts. Our knowledge of the meteorological condition 
of the earth, at any period more than two centuries before our 
own time, is derived from these imperfect details, from the 
vague statements of ancient historians and geographers in re- 
gard to the volume of rivers and the relative extent of forest 
and cultivated land, from the indications furnished by the history 
of the agriculture and rural economy of past generations, and 
from other almost purely casual sources of information.* 

* The subject of climatic change, with and without reference to human 
action as a cause, has been much discussed by Moreau de Jonnes, Dureau de la 
Malle, Arago, Humboldt, Fuster, Gasparin, Becquerel, Schleiden, and many- 
other writers in Europe, and by Noah Webster, Fony, Drake, and others in 
America. Fraas has endeavored to show, by the history of vegetation in 
Greece, not merely that clearing and cultivation have affected climate, but 
that change of climate has essentially modified the character of vegetable hie. 
See his EUma und Pfiansenwelt in der Zeit. 


Among these latter we must rank certain newly laid open 
fields of investigation, from which facts bearing on the point 
now under consideration have been gathered. I allude to the 
discovery of artificial objects in geological formations older than 
any hitherto recognized as exhibiting traces of the existence 
of man ; to the ancient lacustrine habitations of Switzerland 
and of the terremare of Italy,* containing the implements of 
the occupants, remains of their food, and other relics of human 
life; to the curious revelations of the Kjokkenmoddinger, or 
heaps of kitchen refuse, in Denmark and elsewhere, and of the 
peat mosses in the same and other northern countries ; to the 
dwellings and other evidences of the industry of man in remote 
ages sometimes laid bare by the movement of sand dunes on the 
coasts of France and of the North Sea ; and to the facts disclosed 
on the tide-washed flats of the latter shores by excavations in 
Halligs or inhabited mounds which were probably raised before 
the era of the Roman Empire, f These remains are memorials 
of races which have left no written records, which perished at a 
period beyond the reach of even historical tradition. The plants 
and animals that furnished the relics found in the deposits were 
certainly contemporaneous with man ; for they are associated 
with his works, and have evidently served his uses. In some 
cases, the animals belonged to species well ascertained to be 
now altogether extinct ; in some others, both the animals and 
the vegetables, though extant elsewhere, have ceased to inhabit 
the regions where their remains are discovered. From the char- 
acter of the artificial objects, as compared with others belong- 
ing to known dates, or at least to known periods of civiliza- 
tion, ingenious inferences have been drawn as to their age; 
and from the vegetable remains which accompany them, as to 
the climates of Central and Northern Europe at the time of their 

* See two learned articles by Pigorini, in the Nuova Antologia for January 
and October, 1870. 

f For a very picturesque description of the Ilalligs, see Pliny, N. H., Book 
xvi., c. 1. 


There are, however, sources of error which have not always 
been sufficiently guarded against in making these estimates. 
When a boat, composed of several pieces of wood fastened 
together by pins of the same material, is dug out of a bog, it is 
inferred that the vessel, and the skeletons and implements 
found with it, belong to an age when the use of iron was not 
known to the builders. Bat this conclusion is not warranted 
by the simple fact that metals were not employed in its con- 
struction ; for the Nubians at this day build boats large enough 
to carry half a dozen persons across the Nile, out of small 
pieces of acacia wood pinned together entirely with wooden 
bolts, and large vessels of similar construction are used by the 
islanders of the Malay archipelago. Nor is the occurrence of 
flint arrow heads and knives, in conjunction with other evidences 
of human life, conclusive proof as to the antiquity of the latter. 
Lyell informs us that some Oriental tribes still continue to use 
the same stone implements as their ancestors, " after that 
mighty empires, where the use of metals in the arts was well 
known, had flourished for three thousand years in their neigh- 
borhood ; " * and the North American Indians now manufacture 
weapons of stone, and even of glass, chipping them in the latter 
case out of the bottoms of thick bottles, with great facilitv.'r 

"We may also be misled by our ignorance of the commercial 
relations existing between savage tribes. Extremely rude 

* Antiquity of Man, p. 377. 

f " One of the Indians seated himself near me, and made from a fragment 
of quartz, with a simple piece of round bone, one end of which was hemi- 
spherical, with a small crease in it (as if worn by a thread) the sixteenth of an 
inch deep, an arrow head which was very sharp and piercing, and such as they 
use on all their arrows. The skill and rapidity with which it was made, with- 
out a blow, but by simply breaking the sharp edges with the creased bone by 
the strength of his hands — for the crease merely served to prevent the instru- 
ment from slipping, affording no leverage — was remarkable. " — Reports of Ex- 
plorations and Surveys for Pacific Railroad, vol. ii., 1855. Lieut. Beckwitii's 
Report, p. 43. See also American Naturalist for May, 1870, and especially 
Stevens, Flint Chips, London, 1870, pp. 77 et seq. 

Mariette Bey lately 6aw an Egyptian barber shave the head of an Arab with 
a flint razor. 



nations, in spite of their jealousies and their perpetual wars, 
sometimes contrive to exchange the products of provinces very 
widely separated from each other. The mounds of Ohio con- 
tain pearls, thought to be marine, which must have come from 
the Gulf of Mexico, or perhaps even from California, and the 
knives and pipes found in the same graves are often formed of 
far-fetched material, that was naturally paid for by some home 
product exported to the locality whence the material was 
derived. The art of preserving fish, flesh, and fowl by drying 
and smoking is widely diffused, and of great antiquity. The 
Indians of Long Island Sound are said to have carried on a 
trade in dried shell fish with tribes residing very far inland. 
From the earliest ages, the inhabitants of the Faroe and Orkney 
Islands, and of the opposite mainland coasts, have smoked wild 
fowl and other flesh. Hence it is possible that the animal and 
the vegetable food, the remains of which are found in the 
ancient deposits I am speaking of, may sometimes have been 
brought from climates remote from that where it was consumed. 
The most important, as well as the most trustworthy con- 
clusions with respect to the climate of ancient Europe and 
Asia, are those drawn from the accounts given by the classical 
writers of the growth of cultivated plants ; but these are by no 
means free from uncertainty, because we can seldom be sure 
of an identity of species, almost never of an identity of race or 
variety, between vegetables known to the agriculturists of 
Greece and Rome and those of modern times which are thought 
most nearly to resemble them. Besides this, there is always 
room for doubt whether the habits of plants long grown in 
different countries may not have been so changed by domestica- 
tion or by natural selection, that the conditions of temperature 
and humidity which they required twenty centuries ago were 
different from those at present demanded for their advan- 
tageous cultivation.* 

* Probably no cultivated vegetable affords so good an opportunity of study- 
ing the laws of acclimation of plants as maize or Indian com. Maize is grown 
from tbe tropics to at least lat. 47° in Northeastern America, and farther 


Even if we suppose an identity of species, of race, and of 
habit to be established between a given ancient and modern 
plant, the negative fact that the latter will not grow now where 
it flourished two thousand years ago does not in all cases prove 
a change of climate. The same result might follow from the 
exhaustion of the soil,* or from a change in the quantity of 
moisture it habitually contains. After a district of country has 

north in Europe. Every two or three degrees of latitude brings you to a new- 
variety, with new climatic adaptations, and the capacity of the plant to 
accommodate itself to new conditions of temperature and season seems almost 

Many persons now living remember that, when the common tomato was 
first introduced into Northern New England, it often failed to ripen ; but, in 
the course of a very few years, it completely adapted itself to the climate, 
and now not only matures both its fruit and its seeds with as much certainty 
as any cultivated vegetable, but regularly propagates itself by self-sown seed. 
Meteorological observations, however, do not show any amelioration of the 
summer clirnate in those States within that period. 

It may be said that these cases — and indeed all cases of a supposed acclima- 
tion consisting in physiological changes — are instances of the origination of 
new varieties by natural selection, the hardier maize, tomato, and other 
vegetables of the North, being the progeny of seeds of individuals endowed, 
exceptionally, with greater power of resisting cold than belorigs in general to 
the species which produced them. But, so far as the evidence of change of 
climate, from a difference in vegetable growth, is concerned, it is immaterial 
whether we adopt this view or maintain the older and more familiar doctrine 
of a local modification of character in the plants in question. 

Maize and the tomato, if not new to human use, have not been long known 
to civilization, and were, very probably, reclaimed and domesticated at a 
much more recent period than the plants which form the great staples of 
agricultural husbandry in Europe and Asia. Is the great power of accommoda- 
tion to climate possessed by them due to this circumstance ? There is some 
reason to suppose that the character of maize has been sensibly changed by 
cultivation in South America ; for, according to Tschudi, the ears of this grain 
found in old Peruvian tombs belong to varieties not now known in Peru. — 
Travels in Peru, chap. vii. See important observations in Sciiubeler, Die 
Pflanzenwelt Nbrwegens {Allgemeiner Theil), Christiania, 1873, 77 and follow- 
ing pp. 

* The cultivation of madder is said to have been introduced into Europe 
by an Oriental in the year 17G5, and it was first planted in the neighborhood 
of Avignon. Of course, it has been grown in that district for less than a 
century ; . but upon soils where it has been a frequent crop, it is already losing 


been completely or even partially cleared of its forest growth, 
and brought under cultivation, the drying of the soil, under 
favorable circumstances, goes on for generations, perhaps for 
ages.* In other cases, from injudicious husbandry, or the diver- 

much of its coloring properties. — Lavergne, Economic Murale de la France, 
pp. 259-291. 

I believe there is no doubt that the cultivation of madder in the vicinity of 
Avignon is of recent introduction ; but it is certain that it was grown by the 
ancient Romans, and throughout nearly all Europe in the middle ages. The 
madder brought from Persia to France, may belong to a different species, or at 
least variety. 

* In many parts of New England there are tracts, many square miles in ex- ■ 
tent and presenting all varieties of surface and exposure, which were partially 
cleared sixty or seventy years ago, and where little or no change in the pro- 
portion of cultivated ground, pasturage, and woodland has taken place since. 
In some cases, these tracts compose basins apparently scarcely at all exposed 
to any local influence in the way of percolation or infiltration of water towards 
or from neighboring valleys. But in such situations, apart from accidental 
disturbances, the ground is growing drier and drier from year to year, sj irings 
are still disappearing, and rivulets still diminishing in their summer supply of 
water. A probable explanation of this is to be found in the rapid drainage 
of the surface of cleared ground, which prevents the subterranean natural 
reservoirs, whether cavities or merely strata of bibulous earth, from filling up. 
How long this process is to last before an equilibrium is reached, none can 
say. It may be, for years ; it may be, for centuries. 

Livingstone states facts which strongly favor the supposition that a secular 
desiccation is still going on in central Africa, and there is reason to suspect 
that a like change is taking place in California. When the regions where the 
earth is growing drier were cleared of wood, or, indeed, whether forests ever 
grew there, we are unable to say, but the change appears to have been long in 
progress. A similar revolution appears to have occurred in Arabia Petrasa. In 
manj' of the wadis, and particularly in the gorges between Wadi Feiran and 
Wndi Esh Sheikh, there are water-worn banks showing that, at no very remote 
period, the winter floods must have risen fifty feet in channels where the 
growth of acacias and tamarisks and the testimony of the Arabs concur to 
prove that they have not risen six feet within the memory or tradition of the 
present inhabitants. Recent travellers have discovered traces of extensive 
ancient cultivation, and of the former existence of large towns in the Tih 
desert, in localities where all agriculture is now impossible for want of water. 
Is this drought due to the destruction of ancient forests or to some other 
cause ? 

For important observations on supposed changes of climate in our Western 


sion or choking up of natural water-courses, it may become 
more highly charged with humidity. An increase or diminu- 
tion of the moisture of a soil almost necessarily supposes an 
elevation or a depression of its winter or its summer heat, and 
of its extreme if not of its mean annual temperature, though 
such elevation or depression may be so slight as not sensibly to 
raise or lower the mercury in a thermometer exposed to the 
open air. Any of these causes, more or less humidity, or more 
or less warmth of soil, would affect the growth both of wild 
and of cultivated vegetation, and consequently, without any 
appreciable change in atmospheric temperature, precipitation, 
or evaporation, plants of a particular species might cease to be 
advantageously cultivated where they had once been easily 

prairie region, from cultivation of the soil and the introduction of domestic 
cattle, see Bkyant's valuable Forest Trees, 1871, chapter v., and Hayden, 
Preliminary Report on Surrey of Wyoming, p. 455.' 

Some physicists believe that the waters of our earth are, from chemical oi 
other less known causes, diminishing- by entering into new inorganic combina. 
lions, and that this element will finally disappear from the globe. 

* The soil of newiy subdued countries is genera'ly highly favorable to the 
growth of the fruits of the garden and the orchard, but usually becomes 
much less so in a very few years. Plums, of many varieties, were formerly 
grown, in great perfection and abundance, in many parts of New England 
where at present they can scarcely be reared at all ; and the peach, which, a 
generation or two ago, succeeded admirably in the southern portion of the 
same States, has almost ceased to be cultivated there. The disappearance of 
these fruits is partly due to the ravages of insects, which have in later years 
attacked them ; but this is evidently by no means the sole, or even the prin- 
cipal cause of their decay. In these cases, it is not to the exhaustion of the 
particular acres on which the fruit trees have grown that we are to ascribe 
their degeneracy, but to a general change in the condition of the soil or the 
air; for it is ecmally impossible to rear them successfully on absolutely new 
land in the neighborhood of grounds where, not long since, they bore the 
finest fruit. 

I remember being told, many years ago, by intelligent early settlers of the 
State of Ohio, that the apple trees raised there from seed sown soon after the 
land was cleared, bore fruit in less than half the time required to bring to 
bearing those reared from seed sown when the ground had been twenty years 
under cultivation. 


Uncertainty of Modern Meteorology. 

We are very imperfectly acquainted with the present mean 
and extreme temperature, or the precipitation and the evapora- 
tion of any extensive region, even in countries most densely 
peopled and best supplied with instruments and observers. 
The progress of science is constantly detecting errors of method 
in older observations, and many laboriously constructed tables 
of meteorological phenomena are now thrown aside as falla- 
cious, and therefore worse than useless, because some condition 
necessary to secure accuracy of result was neglected, in obtain- 
ing and recording the data on which they were founded. 

To take a familiar instance: it is but recently that attention 
has been drawn to the great influence of slight differences in 
station upon the results of observations of temperature and 
precipitation. Two thermometers hung but a few hundred 
yards from each other differ not ^infrequently five, sometimes 
even ten degrees in their readings ;* and when we are told 

Analogous changes occur slowly and almost imperceptibly even in sponta- 
neous vegetation. In the peat mosses of Denmark, Scotch firs and other trees 
not now growing in the same localities, are found in abundance. Every gen- 
eration of trees leaves the soil in a different state from that in which it found 
it; every tree that springs up in a group of trees of another species than its 
own. grows under different influences of light and shade and atmosphere from 
its predecessors. Hence the succession of crops, which occurs in all natural 
forests, seems to be due rather to changes of condition than of climate. See 
chapter iii. , post. 

* Tyndall, in a lecture on Radiation, expresses the opinion that from ten to 
fifteen per cent, of the heat radiated from the earth is absorbed by aqueous 
vapor within ten feet of the earth's surface. — Fragments of Science, 3d edi- 
tion, London, 1871, p. 203. 

Thermometers at most meteorological stations, when not suspended at 
points regulated by the mere personal convenience of the observer, are hung 
from 20 to 40 feet above the ground. In Mich positions they are less exposed 
to disturbance from the action of surrounding bodies than at a lower level, 
and their indications are consequently more uniform ; but according to Tyn- 
dall's views they do not mark the temperature of the atmospheric stratum in 
which neai-ly all the vegetables useful to man, except forest trees, bud and 
blossom and ripen, and in which a vast majority of the ordinary operations of 


that the annual fall of rain on the roof of the observatory at 
Paris is two inches less than on the ground by the side of it, 
we may see that the height of the rain-gauge above the earth 
is a point of much consequence in making estimates from its 
measurements.* The data from which results have been de- 
duced with respect to the hygrometrical and thermometrical 
conditions, to the climate in short, of different countries, have 
very often been derived from observations at single points in 
cities or districts separated by considerable distances. The 
tendency of errors and accidents to balance each other author- 
izes us, indeed, to entertain greater confidence than we could 
otherwise feel in the conclusions drawn from such tables ; but 
it is in the highest degree probable that they would be much 
modified by more numerous series of observations, at different 
stations within narrow limits, f 

material life are performed. They give the rise and fall of the mercury at 
heights arbitrarily taken, without reference to the relations of temperature to 
human interests, or to any other scientific consideration than a somewhat less 
liability to accidental disturbance. 

* Careful observations by the late lamented Dallas Bache appeared to show 
that there is no such difference in the quantity of precipitation falling at 
slightly different levels as has been generally supposed. The apparent differ- 
ence was ascribed by Prof. Bache to the irregular distribution of the drops of 
rain and flakes of snow, exposed, as they are, to local disturbances by the cur- 
rents of air around the corners of buildings or other accidents of the surface. 
This consideration much increases the importance of great care in the selec- 
tion of positions for rain-gauges. 

But Mr. Bache's conclusions seem not to be accepted by late experimenters 
in England. See Quarterly Journal of Science for January, 1S71, p. 123. 

{ The nomenclature of meteorology is vague and sometimes equivocal. 
Not long since, it was suspected that the observers reporting to a scientific 
institution did not agree in their understanding of the mode of expressing the 
direction of the wind prescribed by their instructions. It was found, upon 
inquiry, that very many of them used the names of the compass-points to 
indicate the quarter from which the wind blew, while others employed them 
to signify the quarter towards which the atmospheric currents were moving. 
In some instances, the observers were no longer within the reach of inquiry, 
and of course their tables of the wind were of no value. 

"Winds," says Mrs. Somerville, "are named from the points whence they 
blow, currents exactly the reverse. An easterly wind comes from the east ; 


There is one branch of research which is of the utmost im- 
portance in reference to these questions, but which, from the 
great difficulty of direct observation upon it, has been less suc- 
cessfully studied than almost any other problem of physical 
science. I refer to the proportions between precipitation, 
superficial drainage, absorption, and evaporation. Precise ac- 
tual measurement of these quantities upon even a single acre of 
ground is impossible ; and in all cabinet experiments on the sub- 
ject, the conditions of the surface observed are so different from 
those which occur in nature, that we cannot safely reason from 
one case to the other. In nature, the inclination and exposure 
of the ground, the degree of freedom or obstruction of the flow 
of water over the surface, the composition and density of the 
soil, the presence or absence of perforations by worms and small 
burrowing quadrupeds — upon which the permeability of the 
ground by water and its power of absorbing and retaining or 
transmitting moisture depend — its temperature, the dryness or 

whereas an easterly current comes from the west, and flows towards the east." 
— Physical Geography, p. 229. 

There is no philological ground for this distinction, and it probably originated 
in a confusion of the terminations -wardly and -eiiy, both of which are mod- 
ern. The root of the former ending implies the direction to or to-wards which 
motion is supposed. It corresponds to, and is probably allied with, the Latin 
versus. The termination -erly is a corruption or softening of -truly, easterly 
for easternly, and many authors of the seventeenth century so write it. In 
Hakluyt (i., p. 2), easterly is applied to place, '■'■easterly bounds." and means 
eastern. In a passage in Drayton, " easterly winds " must mean winds from 
the east; but the same author, in speaking of nations, uses northerly for 
northern. Hakewell says: " The sonne cannot goe more soutfierndy from VB, 
nor come more northernely towards vs." Holland, in his translation of Pliny, 
referring to the moon, has: "Y\'hen shee is northerly," and "shoe is gone 
.y/!tta<-;i//." Richardson, to whom I am indebted for the above cital 
quotes a passage from Dampier win re westerly is applied to the wind, but the 
context does not determine the direction. The only example of bh< 
tion n -wardly given by this lexicographer i-j from Donne, where it D 
toirm lis the west. 

Shakspeare, in Ham let{ v., ii.), uses noi'therly wind for wind from the norths 
Milton does not employ either of these terminations, nor were they known to 
the Anglo-Saxons, who, however, had adjectives of direction in- an or -en, 


saturation of the subsoil, vary at comparatively short distances; 
and though the precipitation upon very small geographical 
basins and the superficial now from them may he estimated 
with an approach to precision, yet even here we have no present 
means of knowing how much of the water absorbed by the 
earth is restored to the atmosphere by evaporation, and how 
much carried off by infiltration or other modes of underground 
discharge. When, therefore, we attempt to use the phenomena 
observed on a few square or cubic yards of earth, as a basis of 
reasoning upon the meteorology of a province, it is evident that 
our data must be insufficient to warrant positive general con- 
clusions. In discussing the climatology of whole countries, or 
even of comparatively small local divisions, we may safely say 
that none can tell what percentage of the water they receive 
from the atmosphere is evaporated ; what absorbed by the ground 
and conveyed off by subterranean conduits ; what carried down 
to the sea by superficial channels ; what drawn from the earth 
or the air by a given extent of forest, of short pasture vegeta- 

-em and -loeard, the last always meaning- the point towards which motion is 
supposed, the others that /row which it proceeds. 

The vocabulary of science has no specific name for one of the most impor- 
tant phenomena in meteorology- — I mean for watery vapor condensed and 
rendered visible by cold. The Latins expressed this condition of water by the 
word vapor. For invisible vapor they had no name, because they did not 
know that it existed, and Van Helmont was obliged to invent a word, gas, 
as a generic name for watery and other fluids in the invisible state. 
The modems have perverted the meaning of the word vapor, and in 
science its use is confined to express water in the gaseous and invisible 
state. When vapor is rendered visible by condensation, we call it fog or mist — 
between which two words there is no clearly established distinction — if it is 
lying on or near the surface of the earth or of water ; when it floats in the 
air we call it cloud. But these words express the form and position of the 
humid aggregation, not the condition of the water-globules which compose it. 

The breath from our mouths, the steam from an engine, thrown out into 
cold air, become visible, and consist of water in the same state as in fog or 
cloud ; but we do not apply those terms to these phenomena. It would be 
an improvement in meteorological nomenclature to restore vapor to its original 
meaning, and to employ a new word, such for example as hydrogas, to ex- 
press the new scientific idea of water in the invisible state. 


tion, or of tall meadow-grass ; what given out again by surfaces 
so covered, or by bare ground of various textures and compo- 
sition, under different conditions of atmospheric temperature, 
pressure, and humidity ; or what is the amount of evaporation 
from water, ice, or snow, under the varying exposures to which, 
in actual nature, they are constantly subjected. If, then, we 
are so ignorant of all these climatic phenomena in the best- 
known regions inhabited by man, it is evident that we can rely 
little upon theoretical deductions applied to the former more 
natural state of the same regions — less still to such as are adopt- 
ed with respect to distant, strange, and primitive countries. 

Stability of Nature. 

Nature, left undisturbed, so fashions her territory as to give 
it almost unchanging permanence of form, outline, and propor- 
tion, except when shattered by geologic convulsions ; and in 
these comparatively rare cases of derangement, she sets herself 
at once to repair the superficial damage, and to restore, as nearly 
as practicable, the former aspect of her dominion. In new 
countries, the natural inclination of the ground, the self-formed 
slopes and levels, are generally such as best secure the stability 
of the soil. They have been graded and lowered or elevated 
by frost and chemical forces and gravitation and the flow of 
water and vegetable deposit and the action of the winds, until, 
by a general compensation of conflicting forces, a condition of 
equilibrium has been reached which, without the action of man, 
would remain, with little fluctuation, for countless ages. 

We need not go far back to reach a period when, in all that 
portion of the North American continent which has been occu- 
pied by British colonization, the geographical elements very 
nearly balanced and compensated each other. At the commence- 
ment of the seventeenth century, the soil, with insignificant ex- 
ceptions, was covered with forests; * and whenever the Indian, 

* I do not here speak of the vast prairie region of the Mississippi valley, 
which cannot properly be said ever to have been a field of British colonization; 


in consequence of war or the exhaustion of the beasts of the 
chase, abandoned the narrow fields he had planted and the woods 
he had burned over, they speedily returned, by a succession of 
herbaceous, arborescent, and arboreal growths, to their original 
state. Even a single generation sufficed to restore them almost 
to their primitive luxuriance of forest vegetation.* The un- 
broken forests had attained to their maximum density and 
strength of growth, and, as the older trees decayed and fell, 
they were succeeded by new shoots or seedlings, so that from 
century to century no perceptible change seems to have occurred 
in the wood, except the slow, spontaneous succession of crops. 
This succession involved no interruption of growth, and but 
little break in the "boundless contiguity of shade ; " for, in the 
husbandry of nature, there are no fallows. Trees fall singly, 
not by square roods, and the tall pine is hardly prostrate, before 
the light and heat, admitted to the ground by the removal of 
the dense crown of foliage which had shut them out, stimulate 
the germination of the seeds of broad-leaved trees that had 
lain, waiting this kindly influence, perhaps for centuries. 

Formation of Bogs. 

Two natural causes, destructive in character, were, indeed, 
in operation in the primitive American forests, though, in 
the Northern colonies, at least, there were sufficient com- 
pensations; for we do not discover that any considerable 

but of the original colonies, and their dependencies in the territory of the pres- 
ent United States, and in Canada. It is, however, equally true of the Western 
prairies as of the Eastern forest land, that they had arrived at a state of equi- 
librium, though under very different conditions. 

* The great fire of Miramichi in 1825, probably the most extensive and 
terrific conflagration recorded in authentic history, spread its ravages over 
nearly six thousand square miles, chiefly of woodland, and was of such in- 
tensity that it seemed to consume the very soil itself. But so great are the 
recuperative powers of nature, that, in twenty-five years, the ground was 
thickly covered again with trees of fair dimensions, except where cultivation 
and pasturage kept down the forest growth. 


permanent change was produced by them. I refer to the 
action of beavers and of fallen trees in producing bogs,* 

.* The English nomenclature of this geographical feature does not seem well 
settled. We have bog, swamp, marsh, morass, moor, fen, turf -moss, peat-moss, 
quagmire, all of which, though sometimes more or less accurately discriminated, 
are often used interchangeably, or are perhaps employed, each exclusively, in 
a particular district. In Sweden, where, especially in the Lappish provinces, 
this terr-aqueous formation is very extensive and important, the names of its 
different kinds are more specific in their application. The general designa- 
tion of all soils permanently pervaded with water is Kdrr. The elder Lassta- 
dius divides the Kdrr into two genera : Myror (sing, myra), and Mossar (sing. 
mosse). " The former," he observes, "are grass-grown, and overflowed with 
water through almost the whole summer ; the latter are covered with mosses 
and always moist, but very seldom overflowed." He enumerates the following 
species of Myra, the character of which will perhaps be sufficiently under- 
stood by the Latin terms into which he translates the vernacular names, for 
the benefit of strangers not altogether familiar with the language and the 
subject: 1. Ilvmyror, paludes grarninosas. 2. Dy, paludes profunda?. 3. 
Flarhmyror, or proper kdrr, paludes limosae. 4. Fjdllmyror, paludes uligi- 
nosre. 5. Tufmyror, paludes csespitosse. 6. IHsmyror, paludes virgatas. 
7. Slurrangar, prata irrigata, with their subdivisions, dry starrungar or ri- 
sangar, wet starranga/r and frakengropar. 8. Polar, lacuna?. 9. Golar, fos- 
sa? inundatoe. The Mossar, paludes turfosa?, which are of great extent, have 
but two species : 1. Torfmossar, called also Mossmyror and Snottt rmyror, 
and. 2. Bjornmossar. 

The accumulations of stagnant or stagnating water originating in bogs are 
distinguished into Trash, stagna, and Tjernar or Tjarnar (sing. Tjern or 
1'jiii-ii), stagnatiles. Trash are pools fed by bogs, or water emanating from 
them, and their bottoms are slimy; Tjernar are small Trash situated within 
the limits of Mossar. — L. L. L/ESTADius, om MojligTieten af UppooT&ngar i 
Lappmarken, pp. 23, 24. 

Although the quantity of bog land in New England is less than in many 
other regions of equal area, yet there is a considerable extent of this forma- 
tion in some of the Northeastern States. Dana {Manual of Geology, p. 614) 
states that the quantity of peat in Massachusetts is estimated at 120,000,000 
cords, or nearly 509,000,000 cubic yards, but he does not give either the area 
or the depth of the deposits. In any event, however, bogs cover but a small 
percentage of the territory in any of the Northern States, while it is said that 
one tenth of the whole surface of Ireland is composed of bogs, and there are 
still extensive tracts of undrained marsh in England. The amount of this for- 
mation in Great Britain is estimated at 0,000,000 acres, with an average depth 
of twelve feet, which would yield 21,600,000 tons of air-dried peat. — AsbjOkN- 
sen, Tore og lorcdrifl, Christiania, 1808, p. 0. 


and of smaller animals, insects, and birds, in destroying the 

Bogs generally originate in the checking of watercourses by 
the falling of timber or of earth and rocks, or by artificial ob- 
structions across their channels. If the impediment is sufficient 
to retain a permanent accumulation of water behind it, the 
trees whose roots are overflowed soon perish, and then by their 
fall increase the obstruction, and, of course, occasion a still 
wider spread of the stagnating stream. This process goes on 
until the water finds a new outlet, at a higher level, not liable 

Peat beds have sometimes a thickness of ten or twelve yards, or even more. 
A depth of ten yards would give 48,000 cubic yards to the acre. The greatest 
quantity of firewood yielded by the forests of New England to the acre is 100 
cords solid measure, or 474 cubic yards ; but this comprises only the trunks 
and larger branches. If we add the small branches and twigs, it is possible 
that 600 cubic yards might, in some cases, be cut on an acre. This is only 
one eightieth part of the quantity of peat sometimes found on the same area. 
It is true that a yard of peat and a yard of wood are not the equivalents of 
each other, but the fuel on an acre of deep peat is worth much more than 
that on an acre of the best woodland. Besides this, wood is perishable, and 
the quantity on an acre cannot be increased beyond the amount just stated ; 
peat is indestructible, and the beds are always growing. See post, Chap. IV. 
Cold favors the conversion of aquatic vegetables into peat. Asbjornsen says 
some of the best peat he has met with is from a bog which is frozen for forty 
weeks in the year. 

The Greeks and Romans were not acquainted with the employment of peat 
as fuel, but it appears from a curious passage which I have already cited from 
Pliny, N. H., book xvi., chap. 1, that the inhabitants of the North Sea coast 
used what is called kneaded turf in his time. This is the finer and more 
thoroughly decomposed matter lying at the bottom of the peat, kneaded 
by the hands, formed into small blocks and dried. It is still prepared in pre- 
cisely the same way by the poorer inhabitants of those shores. 

But though the Low German tribes, including probably the Anglo-Saxons, 
have used peat as fuel from time immemorial, it appears not to have been 
known to the High Germans until a recent period. At least, I can find neither 
in Old nor in Middle High German lexicons and glossaries any word signifying 
peat. Zurb indeed is found in Graff as an Old High German word, but only 
in the sense of grass-turf, or greensward. Peat bogs of vast extent occur in 
many High German localities, but the former abundance of wood in the same 
regions rendered the use of peat unnecessary. 

* Seo Chapter II., post. 


to similar interruption. The fallen trees not completely cov- 
ered by water are soon overgrown with mosses ; aquatic and 
semiaquatic plants propagate themselves, and spread until they 
more or less completely fill up the space occupied by the water? 
and the surface is gradually converted from a pond to a 
quaking morass. The morass is slowly solidified by vegetable 
production and deposit, then very often restored to the forest 
condition by the growth of black ashes, cedars, or, in southern 
latitudes, cypresses, and other trees suited to such a soil, and 
thus the interrupted harmony of nature is at last reestab- 

In countries somewhat further advanced in civilization than 
those occupied by the North American Indians, as in mediaeval 
Ireland, the formation of bogs may be commenced by the neg- 
lect of man to remove, from the natural channels of superfi- 
cial drainage, the tops and branches of trees felled for the 
various purposes to which wood is applicable in his rude indus- 
try ; and, when the flow of the water is thus checked, nature 
goes on with the processes I have already described. In such 

* ' ' Aquatic plants have a utility in raising the level of marshy grounds, 
which renders them very valuable, and may well be called a geological func- 
tion. * * * * 

' ' The eugineer drains ponds at a great expense by lowering the surf ace of 
the water ; nature attains the same end, gratuitously^ by raising the level of 
the soil without depressing that of the water ; but she proceeds more slowly. 
There are, in the Landes, marshes where this natural filling has a thickness of 
four metres, and some of them, at first lower than the sea, have been thus 
raised and drained so as to grow summer crops, such, for example, as maize." 
■ — Boitel, Mise en valour des Terres fauvres, p. 227. 

The bogs of Denmark — the examination of which by Steenstrup and Yaupell 
has presented such curious results with respect to the natural succession of 
forest trees — appear to have gone through this gradual process of drying, and 
the birch, which grows freely in very wet soils, has contributed very effectu- 
ally by its annual deposits to raise the surface above the water level, and thus 
to prepare the ground for the oak. — Vavjfell, Bdgens Indrandriug. pp. 09, 40. 

The growth of the peat not unfrcqucntly raises the surface of bogs consid- 
erably above the level of the surrounding country, and they sometimes burst 
and overflow lower grounds with a torrent of mud and water as destructive as 
a current of lava. 


half-civilized regions, too, windfalls are more frequent than in 
those where the forest is unbroken, because, when openings have 
been made in it for agricultural or other purposes, the entrance 
thus afforded to the wind occasions the sudden overthrow of 
hundreds of trees which might otherwise have stood for gene- 
rations and have fallen to the ground, only one by one, as natu- 
ral decay brought them down.* Besides this, the flocks bred 
by man in the pastoral state keep down the incipient growth of 
trees on the half-dried bogs, and prevent them from recovering 
their primitive condition. 

Young trees in the native forest are sometimes girdled and 
killed by the smaller rodent quadrupeds, and their growth is 
checked by birds which feed on the terminal bud ; but these 
animals, as we shall see, are generally found on the skirts of 
the wood only, not in its deeper recesses, and hence the mis- 
chief they do is not extensive. 

In fine, in countries untrodden by man, the proportions and 
relative positions of land and water, the atmospheric precipita- 
tion and evaporation, the thermometric mean, and the distribu- 
tion of vegetable and animal life, are maintained by natural 
compensations, in a state of approximate equilibrium, and are 
subject to appreciable change only from geological influences 
so slow in their operation that the geographical conditions may 
be regarded as substantially constant and immutable. 

Natural Conditions favorable to Geographical Change. 

There are, nevertheless, certain climatic conditions and cer- 
tain forms and formations of terrestrial surface, which tend 
respectively to impede and to facilitate the physical degrada- 

* Careful examination of the peat mosses in North Sjaslland — which are so 
abundant in fossil wood that, within thirty years, they have yielded above a 
million of trees — shows that the trees have generally fallen from age and not 
from wind. They are found in depressions on the declivities of which they 
grew, and they lie with the top lowest, always falling towards the bottom 
of the valley. — Vatjpell, Bdgens Induandring i de Danslce Skove, pp. 10, 14. 


tion "both of new countries and of old. If the precipitation, 
whether great or small in amount, be equally distributed 
through the seasons, so that there are neither torrential rains 
nor parching droughts, and if, further, the general inclination 
of ground be moderate, so that the superficial waters are car- 
ried off without destructive rapidity of flow, and without sud- 
den accumulation in the channels of natural drainage, there is 
little danger of the degradation of the soil in consequence of 
the removal of forest or other vegetable covering, and the natu- 
ral face of the earth ma) 7 be considered as virtually perma- 
nent. These conditions are well exemplified in Ireland, in a 
great part of England, in extensive districts in Germany and 
France, and, fortunately, in an immense proportion of the 
valley of the Mississippi and the basin of the great American 
lakes, as well as in many parts of the continents of South 
America and of Africa, and it is partly, though by no means 
entirely, owing to topographical and climatic causes that the 
blight, which has smitten the fairest and most fertile provinces 
of Imperial Rome, has spared Britannia, Germania, Pannonia, 
and Moesia, the comparatively inhospitable homes of barbarous 
races, who, in the days of the Caesars, were too little advanced 
in civilized life to possess either the power or the will to wage 
that war against the order of nature which seems, hitherto, an 
almost inseparable condition precedent of high social culture, 
and of great progress in fine and mechanical art. 

Destructive changes are most frequent in countries of irregu- 
lar and mountainous surface, and in climates where the pre- 
cipitation is confined chiefly to a single season, and where, of 
course, the year is divided into a wet and a dry period, as is the 
case throughout a great part of the Ottoman empire, and, in- 
deed, in a large proportion of the whole Mediterranean basin. 

In mountainous countries various causes combine to expose 
the soil to constant dangers. The rain ami snow usually fall in 
greater quantity, and with much inequality of distribution ; the 
snow on the summits accumulates for many months in succes- 
sion, and then is not unfrequently almost wholly dissolved in a 


single thaw, so that the entire precipitation of months is in a 
few hours hurried down the flanks of the mountains, and through 
the ravines that furrow them ; the natural inclination of the 
surface promotes the swiftness of the gathering currents of 
diluvial rain and of melting snow, which soon acquire an almost 
irresistible force and power of removal and transportation ; the 
soil itself is less compact and tenacious than that of the plains, 
and if the sheltering forest has been destroyed, it is confined by 
few of the threads and ligaments by which nature had bound 
it together, and attached it to the rocky groundwork. Hence 
every considerable shower lays bare its roods of rock, and the 
torrents sent down by the thaws of spring, and by occasional 
heavy discharges of the summer and autumnal rains, are seas 
of mud and rolling stones that sometimes lay waste and bury 
beneath them acres, and even miles, of pasture and field and 

Destructiveness of Man. 

Man has too long forgotten that the earth was given to him 
for usufruct alone, not for consumption, still less for profligate 
waste. Nature has provided against the absolute destruction 
of any of her elementary matter, the raw material of her works ; 
the thunderbolt and the tornado, the most convulsive throes of 
even the volcano and the earthquake, being only phenomena of 
decomposition and recomposition. But she has left it within 

* The character of geological formation is an element of very great import- 
ance in determining the amount of erosion produced by running water, and, 
of course, in measuring the consequences of clearing off the forests. The soil 
of the French Alps yields very readily to the force of currents, and the decliv- 
ities of the northern Apennines, as well as of many minor mountain ridges 
in Tuscany and other parts of Italy, are covered with earth which becomes 
itself almost a fluid when saturated with water. Hence the erosion of such 
surfaces is vastly greater than on many other mountains of equal steepness of 
inclination. The traveller who passes over the route between Bologna and 
Florence, and the Perugia and the Siena roads from the latter city to Rome, 
will have many opportunities of observing such localities. 



the power of man irreparably to derange the combinations 
of inorganic matter and of organic life, which through the 
night of aeons she had been proportioning and balancing, to 
prepare the earth for his habitation, when in the fulness of time 
his Creator should call him forth to enter into its possession. 

Apart from the hostile influence of man, the organic and the 
inorganic world are, as I have remarked, bound together by 
such mutual relations and adaptations as secure, if not the abso- 
lute permanence and equilibrium of both, a long continuance 
of the established conditions of each at any given time and 
place, or at least, a very slow and gradual succession of changes 
in those conditions. But man is everywhere a disturbing 
agent. Wherever he plants his foot, the harmonies of nature 
are turned to discords. The proportions and accommodations 
which insured the stability of existing arrangements are over- 
thrown. Indigenous vegetable and animal species are extir- 
pated, and supplanted by others of foreign origin, spontaneous 
production is forbidden or restricted, and the face of the earth 
is either laid bare or covered with a new and reluctant growth 
of vegetable forms, and with alien tribes of animal life. These 
intentional changes and substitutions constitute, indeed, great 
revolutions ; but vast as is their magnitude and importance, they 
are, as we shall see, insignificant in comparison with the con- 
tingent and unsought results which have flowed from them. 

The fact that, of all organic beings, man alone is to be re- 
garded as essentially a destructive power, and that he wields 
energies to resist which Nature — that nature whom all material 
life and all inorganic substance obey — is wholly impotent, tends 
to prove that, though living in physical nature, he is not of her, 
that he is of more exalted parentage, and belongs to a higher 
order of existences, than those which are born of her womb and 
live in blind submission to her dictates. 

There are, indeed, brute destroyers, beasts and birds and in- 
sects of prey — all animal life feeds upon, and, of course, destroys 
other life, — but this destruction is balanced by compensations. 
It is, in fact, the very means by which the existence of one 


tribe of animals or of vegetables is secured against being smoth- 
ered by the encroachments of another; and the reproductive 
powers of species, which serve as the food of others, are always 
proportioned to the demand they are destined to supply. Man 
pursues his victims with reckless destructiveness ; and, while the 
sacrifice of life by the lower animals is limited by the cravings 
of appetite, he unsparingly persecutes, even to extirpation, 
thousands of organic forms which he cannot consume.* 

* The terrible destructiveness of man is remarkably exemplified in the chase 
of large mammalia and birds for single products, attended with the entire 
waste of enormous quantities of flesh, and of other parts of the animal 
which are capable of valuable uses. The wild cattle of South America are 
slaughtered by millions for their hides and horns ; the buffalo of North 
America for his skin or his tongue ; the elephant, the walrus, and the nar- 
whal for their tusks ; the cetacea, and some other marine animals, for their 
whalebone and oil ; the ostrich and other large birds, for their plumage. 
Within a few years, sheep have been killed in New England, by whole flocks, 
for their pelts and suet alone, the flesh being thrown away ; and it is even said 
that the bodies of the same quadrupeds have been used in Australia as fuel for 
limekilns. What a vast amount of human nutriment, of bone, and of other 
animal products valuable in the arts, is thus recklessly squandered ! In nearly 
all these cases, the part which constitutes the motive for this wholesale de- 
struction, and is alone saved, is essentially of insignificant value as compared 
with what is thrown away. The horns and hide of an ox are not economically 
worth a tenth part as much as the entire carcass. During the present year, 
large quantities of Indian corn have been used as domestic fuel, and even for 
burning lime, in Iowa and other Western States. Corn at from fifteen to 
eighteen cents per bushel is found cheaper than wood at from five to seven 
dollars per cord, or coal at six or seven dollars per ton. — Rep. Agric. Dept. , 
Nov. and Dec, 1872, p. 487. 

One of the greatest benefits to be expected from the improvements of civi- 
lization is, that increased facilities of communication will render it possible to 
transport to places of consumption much valuable material that is now wasted 
because the price at the nearest market will not pay freight. The cattle 
slaughtered in South America for their hides would feed millions of the starv- 
ing population of the Old World, if their flesh could be economically preserved 
and transported across the ocean. This, indeed, is already done, but on a 
scale which, though absolutely considerable, is relatively insignificant. South 
America sends to Europe a certain quantity of nutriment in the form of meat 
extracts, Liebig's and others ; and preserved flesh from Australia is beginning 
to figure in the English market. 

We are beginning to learn a better economy in dealing with the inorganic 


The earth was not, in its natural condition, completely 
adapted to the use of man, but only to the sustenance of wild 
animals and wild vegetation. These live, multiply their kind 
in just proportion, and attain their perfect measure of strength 
and beauty, without producing or requiring any important 
change in the natural arrangements of surface, or in each other's 
spontaneous tendencies, except such mutual repression of 
excessive increase as may prevent the extirpation of one species 
by the encroachments of another. In short, without man, lower 
animal and spontaneous vegetable life would have been prac- 
tically constant in type, distribution, and proportion, and the 
physical geography of the earth would have remained undis- 
turbed for indefinite periods, and been subject to revolution 

world. The utilization — or, as the Germans more happily call it, the Verwer- 
thung, the bewortJiing — of waste from metallurgical, chemical, and manufac- 
turing establishments, is among the most important results of the application 
of science to industrial purposes. The incidental products from the laborato- 
ries of manufacturing chemists often become more valuable than those for the 
preparation of which they were erected. The slags from silver refineries, and 
even from smelting houses of the coarser metals, have not unfrequently 
yielded to a second operator a better return than the first had derived from 
dealing with the natural ore ; and the saving of lead carried off in the smoke 
of furnaces has, of itself, given a large profit on the capital invested in the 
works. According to lire's Dictionary of Arts, see vol. ii., p. 832, an Eng- 
lish miner has constructed flues five miles in length for the condensation 
of the smoke from his lead-works, and makes thereby an annual saving of 
metal to the value of ten thousand pounds sterling. A few years ago, an 
officer of an American mint was charged with embezzling gold committed to 
him for coinage. He insisted, in his defence, that much of the metal was 
volatilized and lost in refining and melting, and upon scraping the chimnej's 
of the melting furnaces and the roofs of the adjacent houses, gold enough 
was found in the soot to account for no small part of the deficiency. 

The substitution of expensive machinery for mauual labor, even in agricul- 
ture — not to speak of older and more familiar applications — besides being 
highly remunerative, has better secured the harvests, and it is computed that 
the 200,000 threshing machines used in the United States in 1870 obtained five 
per cent, more grain from the sheaves which passed through them than could 
have been secured by the use of the flail. 

The cotton growing States in America produce annually nearly three million 
tons of cotton seed. This, until very recently, has been thrown away as a 


only from slow development, from possible, unknown cosmical 
causes, or from geological action. 

But man, the domestic animals that serve him, the field and 
garden plants the products of which supply him with food and 
clothing, cannot subsist and rise to the full development of 
their higher properties, unless brute and unconscious nature be 
effectually combated, and, in a great degree, vanquished by 
human art. Hence, a certain measure of transformation of 
terrestrial surface, of suppression of natural, and stimulation of 
artificially modified productivity becomes necessary. This 
measure man has unfortunately exceeded. He has felled the 
forests whose network of fibrous roots bound the mould to the 
rocky skeleton of the earth ; but had he allowed here and there 
a belt of woodland to reproduce itself by spontaneous propaga- 
tion, most of the mischiefs which his reckless destruction of the 
natural protection of the soil has occasioned would have been 

useless incumbrance, but it is now valued at ten or twelve dollars per ton for 
the cotton fibre which, adheres to it, for the oil extracted from it, and for the 
feed which the refuse furnishes to cattle. The oil — which may be described 
as neutral — is used very largely for mixing with other oils, many of which 
bear a large proportion of it without injury to their special properties. 

There are still, however, cases of enormous waste in many mineral and me- 
chanical industries. Thus, while in many European countries common salt is 
a government monopoly, and consequently so dear that the poor do not use as 
much of it as health requires, in others, as in Transylvania, where it is quar- 
ried like stone, the large blocks only are saved, the fragments, to the amount 
of millions of hundred weights, being thrown away. — Bonar, Transylvania, 
p. 455,6. 

One of the most interesting and important branches of economy at the 
present day is the recovery of agents such as ammonia and others which had 
been utilized in chemical manufactures, and re-employing them indefinitely 
afterwards in repeating the same process. 

Among the supplemental exhibitions which will be formed in connection 
with the Vienna Universal Exhibition is to be one showing what steps have 
been taken since 1851 (the date of the first London Exhibition) in the utiliza- 
tion of substances previously regarded as waste. On the one hand will be 
shown the waste products in all the industrial processes included in the forth- 
coming Exhibition ; on the other hand, the useful products which have been 
obtained from such wastes since 1851. This is intended to serve as an incen- 
tive to further researches in the same important direction. 


averted. He has broken up the mountain reservoirs, the perco- 
lation of whose waters through unseen channels supplied the 
fountains that refreshed his cattle and fertilized his fields; but 
he has neglected to maintain the cisterns and the canals of 
irrigation which a wise antiquity had constructed to neutralize 
the consequences of its own imprudence. While lie has torn 
the thin glebe which confined the light earth of extensive plains, 
and has destroyed the fringe of semi aquatic plants which 
skirted the coast and checked the drifting of the sea sand, he 
has failed to prevent the spreading of the dunes by clothing 
them with artificially propagated vegetation. He has ruthlessly 
warred on all the tribes of animated nature whose spoil he 
could convert to his own uses, and he has not protected the 
birds which prey on the insects most destructive to his own 

Purely untutored humanity, it is true, interferes compara- 
tively little with the arrangements of nature,* and the destrue- 

* It is an interesting and not hitherto sufficiently noticed fact, that the 
domestication of the organic world, so far as it has yet been achieved, be- 
longs, not indeed to the savage state, but to the earliest dawn of civiliznion. 
the conquest of inorganic nature almost as exclusively to the most advanced 
stages of artificial culture. Civilization has added little to the number of vege- 
table or animal species grown in our fields or bred in our folds — the cranberry 
and the wild grape being almost the only plants which the Anglo-American Las 
reclaimed out of our vast native flora and added to his harvests — while, on the 
contrary, the subjugation of the inorganic forces, and the consequent extension 
of man's sway over, not the annual products of the earth only, but her sub- 
stance and her springs of action, is almost entirely the work of highly refined 
and cultivated ages. The employment of the elasticity of wood and of horn, as 
a projectile power in the bow, is nearly universal among the rudest sav 
The application of compressed air to the same purpose, in the blowpipe, is 
more restricted, and the use of the mechanical powers, the inclined plane, the 
wheel and axle, and even the wedge and lever, seems almost unknown except 
to civilized man. I have myself seen European peasants to whom one of the 
simplest applications of this latter power was a revelation. 

It is familiarly known to all who have occupied themselves with the psy- 
chology and habits of the ruder races, and of persons with imperfectly 
developed intellects in civilized life, that although these humble tribes and 
individuals sacrifice, without scruple, the lives of the lower animals to the 
gratification of their appetites and the supply of their other physical wants, 


tive agency of man becomes more and more energetic and 
unsparing as be advances in civilization, until tbe impoverish- 
ment, with which bis exhaustion of the natural resources of the 
soil is threatening him, at last awakens him to tbe necessity of 
preserving what is left, if not of restoring what has been 
wantonly wasted. The wandering savage grows no cultivated 

yet they nevertheless seem to cherish with brutes, and even with vegetable 
life, sympathies which are much more feebly felt by civilized men. The 
popular traditions of the simpler peoples recognize a certain community of 
nature between man, brute animals, and even plants; and this serves to 
explain why the apologue or fable, which ascribes the power of speech and 
the faculty of reason to birds, quadrupeds, insects, flowers, and trees, is one 
of the earliest forms of literary composition. 

In almost every wild tribe, some particular quadruped or bird, though 
persecuted as a destroyer of other animals more useful to man, or hunted for 
food, is regarded with peculiar respect, one might almost say, affection. Some 
of the North American aboriginal nations celebrate a propitiatory feast to the 
manes of the intended victim before they commence a bear hunt ; and the 
Norwegian peasantry have not only retained an old proverb which ascribes to 
the same animal " ti Mmnds Styrke og tolv Miends Vid" ten men's strength 
and twelve men's cunning, but they still pay to him something of the rever- 
ence with which ancient superstition invested him. The student of Icelandic 
literature will find in the saga of Finnbogi himi rami a curious illustration of 
this feeling, in an account of a dialogue between a Norwegian bear and an 
Icelandic champion — dumb show on the part of Bruin, and chivalric words on 
that of Finubogi — followed by a duel, in which the latter, who had thrown 
away his arms and armor in order that the combatants might meet on equal 
terms, was victorious. See also Fkiis, Lappish Mytliologi, Christiania, 1871, 
§ 37, and the earlier authors there cited. Drummond Hay's very interesting 
work on Morocco contains many amusing notices of a similar feeling enter- 
tained by the Moors towards the redoubtable enemy of their flocks — the lion. 

This sympathy helps us to understand how it is that most if not all the 
domestic animals — if indeed they ever existed in a wild state — were appro- 
priated, reclaimed and trained before men had been gathered into organized 
and fixed communities, that almost eveiy known esculent plant had acquired 
substantially its present artificial character, and that the properties of nearly 
all vegetable drugs and poisons were known at the remotest period to which 
historical records reach. Did nature bestow upon primitive man some instinct 
akin to that by which she has been supposed to teach the brute to select the 
nutritious and to reject the noxious vegetables indiscriminately mixed hi 
forest and pasture ? 

This instinct, it must be admitted, is far from infallible, and, as has been 


vegetable, fells no forest, and extirpates no useful plant, no 
noxious weed. If his skill in the chase enables him to entrap 
numbers of the animals on which he feeds, he compensates this 
loss by destroying also the lion, the tiger, the wolf, the otter, the 
seal, and the eagle, thus indirectly protecting the feebler 
quadrupeds and fish and fowls, which would otherwise become 

hundreds of times remarked by naturalists, it is in many cases not an original 
faculty but an acquired and transmitted habit. It is a fact familiar to persons 
engaged in sheep husbandry in New England — and I have seen it confirmed by 
personal observation — that sheep bred where the common laurel, as it is called, 
Kalmia angustifoMa, abounds, almost always avoid browsing upon the leaves 
of that plant, while those brought from districts where laurel is unknown, 
and turned into pastures where it grows, very often feed upon it and are 
poisoned by it. A curious acquired and hereditary instinct, of a different 
character, may not improperly be noticed here. I refer to that by which 
horses bred in provinces where quicksands are common avoid their dangers or 
extricate themselves from them. See Brkmoxtier, Memoire sur les Dunes, 
Annates den Ponts et GTmus&ees, 1833: premier semestre, pp. 155-157. 

It is commonly said in New England, and I believe with reason, that the 
crows of this generation are wiser than their ancestors. Scarecrows which 
were effectual fifty years ago are no longer respected by the plunderers of the 
cornfield, and new terrors must from time to time be invented for its protec- 

Schroeder van der Kolk, in Het VersoMl tusschen den Psychischen Aanleg 
tun het Dier en van den Mensch, cites many interesting facts respecting 
instincts lost, or newly developed and become hereditary, in the lower animals, 
and he quotes Aristotle and Pliny as evidence that the common quadrupeds 
and fowls of our fields and our poultry yards were much less perfectly domes- 
ticated in their times than long, long ages of servitude have now made them. 

Among other instances of obliterated instincts, this author states that in 
Holland, where, for centuries, the young of the cow has been usually taken 
from the dam at birth and fed by hand, calves, even if left with the mother, 
make no attempt to suck ; while in England, where calves are not weaned 
until .several weeks old, they resort to the udder as naturally as the young of 
wild quadrupeds. — 2Hd en IAgchaam^ p. 128, n. 

Perhaps the half- wild character ascribed by P. Lseatadius and other 
Swedish writers to the reindeer of Lapland, may be in some degree due to the 
comparative shortness of the period during which he has been partially tamed. 
The domestic swine bred in the woods of Hungary and the buffalo of Southern 
Italy are so wild and savage as to be very dangerous to all but their keepers, 
The former have relapsed into their original condition, the latter, perhaps, have 
never been fully reclaimed from it. 


the booty of beasts and birds of prey. But with stationary life, 
or at latest with the pastoral state, man at once commences an 
almost indiscriminate warfare upon all the forms of animal 
and vegetable existence around him, and as he advances in 
civilization, he gradually eradicates or transforms every spon- 
taneous product of the soil he occupies.* 

Human and Bimte Action Compared. 

It is maintained by authorities as high as any known to mod- 
ern science, that the action of man upon nature, though greater 
in degree, does not differ in kind from that of wild animals. 
It is perhaps impossible to establish a radical distinction in 
(jt-nere between the two classes of effects, but there is an essential 
difference between the motive of action which calls out the en- 
ero-ies of civilized man and the mere appetite which controls the 
life of the beast. The action of man, indeed, is frequently fol- 
lowed by unforeseen and undesired results, yet it is nevertheless 
guided by a self-conscious will aiming as often at secondary and 
remote as at immediate objects. The wild animal, on the other 
hand, acts instinctively, and, so far as we are able to perceive, 
always with a view to single and direct purposes. The back- 
woodsman and the beaver alike fell trees ; the man that he may 
convert the forest into an olive grove that will mature its fruit 
only for a succeeding generation, the beaver that he may feed 
upon the bark of the trees or use them in the construction of his 
habitation. The action of brutes upon the material world is 
slow and gradual, and usually limited, in any given case, to a 

* The difference between the relations of savage life, and of incipient 
civilization, to nature, is well seen in that part of the valley of the Missis- 
sippi which was once occupied by the mound builders and afterwards by the 
far less developed Indian tribes. When the tillers of the fields, which must 
have been cultivated to sustain the large population that once inhabited those 
regions, perished, or were driven out, the soil fell back to the normal forest 
state, and the savages who succeeded the more advanced race interfered very 
little, if at all, with the ordinary course of spontaneous nature. 


narrow extent of territory. Nature is allowed time and oppor- 
tunity to set her restorative powers at work, and the destructive 
animal has hardly retired from the field of his ravages before 
nature has repaired the damages occasioned by his operations. 
In fact, he is expelled from the scene by the very efforts which 
she makes for the restoration of her dominion. Man, on the 
contrary, extends his action over vast spaces, his revolutions are 
swift and radical, and his devastations are, for an almost incal- 
culable time after he has withdrawn the arm that gave the blow, 

The form of geographical surface, and very probably the 
climate of a given country, depend much on the character of 
the vegetable life belonging to it. Man has, by domestication, 
greatly changed the habits and properties of the plants he rears ; 
he has, by voluntary selection, immensely modified the forma 
and qualities of the animated creatures that serve him ; and he 
has, at the same time, completely rooted out many forms of ani- 
mal if not of vegetable being.* What is there, in the influence 
of brute life, that corresponds to this ? We have no reason to 
believe that, in that portion of the American continent which, 
though peopled by many tribes of cpiadruped and fowl, re- 
mained uninhabited by man or only thinly occupied by purely 
savage tribes, any sensible geographical change had occurred 
within twenty centuries before the epoch of discovery and colo- 
nization, while, during the same period, man had changed mil- 

* Whatever may be thought of the modification of organic species by natural 
selection, there is certainly no evidence that animals have exerted upon any 
form of life an influence analogous to that of domestication upon plants, quad- 
rupeds, and birds reared artificially by man ; and this is as true of unforeseen 
as of purposely effected improvements accomplished by voluntary selection of 
breeding animals. 

It is true that nature employs birds and quadrupeds for the dissemination 
of vegetable and even of animal species. But when the bird drops the seed 
of a fruit it has swallowed, and when the sheep transports in its fleece the 
seed-vessel of a burdock from the plain to the mountain, its action is purely 
mechanical and unconscious, and does not differ from that of the wind in pro- 
ducing the same effect. 


lions of square miles, in the fairest and most fertile regions of 
the Old World, into the barrenest deserts. 

The ravages committed by man subvert the relations and de- 
stroy the balance which nature had established between her 
organized and her inorganic creations, and she avenges herself 
upon the intruder, by letting loose upon her defaced provinces 
destructive energies hitherto kept in check by organic forces 
destined to be his best auxiliaries, but which he has unwisely 
dispersed and driven from the field of action. When the forest 
is gone, the great reservoir of moisture stored up in its vegetable 
mould is evaporated, and returns only in deluges of rain to wash 
away the parched dust into which that mould has been con- 
verted. The well-wooded and humid hills are turned to ridges 
of dry rock, which encumbers the low grounds and chokes the 
watercourses with its debris, and — except in countries favored 
with an equable distribution of rain through the seasons, and a 
moderate and regular inclination of surface — the whole earth, 
unless rescued by human art from the physical degradation to 
which it tends, becomes an assemblage of bald mountains, of 
barren, turfless hills, and of swampy and malarious plains. 
There are parts of Asia Minor, of Northern Africa, of Greece, 
and even of Alpine Europe, where the operation of causes set in 
action by man has brought the face of the earth to a desolation 
almost as complete as that of the moon ; and though, within 
that brief space of time which we call " the historical period," 
they are known to have been covered with luxuriant woods, ver- 
dant pastures, and fertile meadows, they are now too far deterio- 
rated to be reclaimable by man, nor can they become again fitted 
for human use, except through great geological changes, or other 
mysterious influences or agencies of which we have no present 
knowledge, and over which we have no prospective control. 
The earth is fast becoming an nnfit home for its noblest inhab- 
itant, and another era of equal human crime and human im- 
providence, and of like duration with that through which traces 
of that crime and that improvidence extend, would reduce it to 
such a condition of impoverished productiveness, of shattered 


surface, of climatic excess, as to threaten the depravation, bar- 
barism, and perhaps even extinction of the species.* 

Physical Tmprovement. 

True, there is a partial reverse to this picture. On narrow 
theatres, new forests have been planted ; inundations of flowing 
streams restrained by heavy walls of masonry and other con- 
structions ; torrents compelled to aid, by depositing the slime 
with which they are charged, in filling up lowlands, and raising 
the level of morasses which their own overflows had created ; 
ground submerged by the encroachments of the ocean, or ex- 
posed to be covered by its tides, has been rescued from its do- 
minion by diking; swamps and even lakes have been drained, 
and their beds brought within the domain of agricultural indus- 
try ; drifting coast dunes have been checked and made produc- 
tive by plantation ; seas and inland waters have been repeopled 
with fish, and even the sands of the Sahara have been fertilized 
by artesian fountains. These achievements are more glorious 
than the proudest triumphs of war, but, thus far, the}* give but 
faint hope that we shall yet make full atonement for our spend- 
thrift waste of the bounties of nature, f 

* "And it maybe remarked that, as the world has passed through 

these several stages of strife to produce a Christendom, so by relaxing in the 
enterprises it has learnt, does it tend downwards, through inverted steps, to 
wildness and the waste again. Let a people give up their contest with moral 
evil ; disregard the injustice, the ignorance, the greediness, that may prevail 
among them, and part more and more with the Christian element of their civ- 
ilization; and in declining this battle with sin, they will inevitably get em- 
broiled with men. Threats of war and revolution punish their unfaithfulness ; 
and if then, instead of retracing their steps, they yield again, and are driven 
before the storm, the very arts they had created, the structures they had 
raised, the usages they had established, are swept away; 'in that very day 
their thoughts perish.' The portion they had reclaimed from the young 
earth's ruggedness is lost ; and failing to stand East against man, they finally 
get embroiled with nature, and arc thrust down beneath her ever-living hand." 
— Mabtineatj'8 Sermon, " The Good Soldier of Jesus Christ" 

f The wonderful success which has attended the measures for subduing 
torrents and preventing inundations employed in Southern France since 1805, 


Limits of Hitman Power. 

It is, on the one hand, rash and unphilosophical to attempt to 
set limits to the ultimate power of man over inorganic nature, 
and it is unprofitable, on the other, to speculate on what may 
be accomplished by the discovery of now unknown and unima- 
gined natural forces, or even by the invention of new arts and 
new processes. But since we have seen aerostation, the motive, 
power of elastic vapors, the wonders of modern telegraphy, the 
destructive explosiveness of gunpowder, of nitro-glycerine, and 
even of a substance so harmless, unresisting, and inert as cotton, 
there is little in the way of mechanical achievement which seems 
hopelessly impossible, and it is hard to restrain the imagination 
from wandering forward a couple of generations to an epoch 
when our descendants shall have advanced as far beyond us in 
physical conquest, as we have marched beyond the trophies 
erected by our grandfathers. There are, nevertheless, in actual 
practice, limits to the efficiency of the forces which we are now 
able to bring into the field, and we must admit that, for the 
present, the agencies known to man and controlled by him are 
inadequate to the reducing of great Alpine precipices to such 
slopes as would enable them to support a vegetable clothing, 
or to the covering of large extents of denuded rock with earth, 
and planting upon them a forest growth. Yet among the 
mysteries which science is hereafter to reveal, there may be still 
undiscovered methods of accomplishing even grander wonders 
than these. Mechanical philosophers have suggested the pos- 
sibility of accumulating and treasuring up for human use some 
of the greater natural forces, which the action of the elements 
puts forth with such astonishing energy. Could we gather, 
and bind, and make subservient to our control, the power 
which a West Indian hurricane exerts through a small area in 

and described in Chapter III. , post, ought to be here noticed as a splendid and 
most encouraging example of well-directed effort in the way of physical resto- 


one continuous blast, or the momentum expended by the waves, 
in a tempestuous winter, upon the breakwater at Cherbourg,* 
or the lifting power of the tide, for a month, at the head of the 
Bay of Fundy, or the pressure of a square mile of sea water at the 
depth of five thousand fathoms, or a moment of the might of 
an earthcpiake or a volcano, our age — which moves no moun- 
tains and casts them into the sea by faith alone — might hope 
to scarp the rugged walls of the Alps and Pyrenees and Mount 
Taurus, robe them once more in a vegetation as rich as that of 
their pristine woods, and turn their wasting torrents into re- 
freshing streams.f 

Could this old world, which man has overthrown, be rebuild- 

* In heavy storms, the force of the waves as they strike against a sea-wall 
is from one and a half to two tons to the square foot, and Stevenson, in one 
instance at Skerryvore and in another at the Bell Rock lighthouse, found this 
force equal to nearly three tons per foot. 

The seaward front of the breakwater at Cherbourg exposes a surface of 
about 2,500,000 square feet. In rough weather the waves beat agaiust this 
whole face, though at the depth of twenty-two yards, which is the height of 
the breakwater, they exert a very much less violent motive force than at and 
near the surface of the sea, because this force diminishes in geometrical, as 
the distance below the surface increases in arithmetical, proportion. The 
shock of the waves is received several thousand times in the course of twenty- 
four hours, and hence the sum of impulse which the breakwater resists in one 
stormy day amounts to many thousands of millions of tons. The breakwater 
is entirely an artificial construction. If then man could accumulate aud con- 
trol the forces which he is able effectually to resist, he might be said to be, 
physically speaking, omnipotent. 

f Some well-known experiments show that it is quite possible to accumulate 
the solar heat by a simple apparatus, and thus to obtain a temperature which 
might be economically important even in the climate of Switzerland. Saus- 
sure, by receiving the sun's rays in a nest of boxes blackened within and cov- 
ered with glass, raised a thermometer enclosed in the inner box to the boiling 
point ; and under the more powerful sun of the Cape of Good Hope, Sir John 
Herschel cooked the materials for a family dinner by a similar process, using, 
however, but a single box, surrounded with dry sand and covered with two 
glasses. Why should not so easy a method of economizing fuel be resorted to 
in Italy, in Spain, and even in moro northerly climates? 

The unfortunate John Davidson records in his journal that he saved fuel in 
Morocco by exposing his teakettle to the sun on the roof of his house, where 
the water rose to the temperature of one hundred and forty degrees, and, of 


ed, could human cunning rescue its wasted hillsides and its 
deserted plains from solitude or mere nomade occupation, from 
barrenness, from nakedness, and from insalubrity, and restore 
the ancient fertility and healthfulness of the Etruscan sea coast, 
the Campagna and the Pontine marshes, of Calabria, of Sicily, 
of the Peloponnesus and insular and continental Greece, of 
Asia Minor, of the slopes of Lebanon and Ilermon, of Pales- 
tine, of the Syrian desert, of Mesopotamia and the delta of the 
Euphrates, of the Cyrenaica, of Africa proper, JSTumidia, and 
Mauritania, the thronging millions of Europe might still find 
room on the Eastern continent, and the main current of emi- 
gration be turned towards the rising instead of the setting sun. 
But changes like these must await not only great political 
and moral revolutions in the governments and peoples by whom 
those regions are now possessed, but, especially, a command of 
pecuniary and of mechanical means not at present enjoyed by 
those nations, and a more advanced and generally diffused 
knowledge of the processes by which the amelioration of soil 
and climate is possible than now anywhere exists. Until such 
circumstances shall conspire to favor the work of geographical 
regeneration, the countries I have mentioned, with here and 
there a local exception, will continue to sink into yet deeper 
desolation, and in the meantime the American continent, 
Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the smaller 
oceanic islands, will be almost the only theatres where man is 
engaged, on a great scale, in transforming the face of nature. 

course, needed little fire to bring it to boil. But tbis was tbe direct and sim- 
ple, not tbe concentrated or accumulated beat of tbe sun. 

On tbe utihzing of tbe solar beat, simply as heat, see tbe work of MouCHOT, 
La Chaleur solaire et ses applications iiidustrielles. Paris, 1809. 

Tbe reciprocal convertibility of tbe natural forces bas suggested tbe possi- 
bility of advantageously converting tbe beat of tbe sun into mechanical power. 
Ericsson calculates that in all latitudes between the equator and 45°, a hun- 
dred square feet of surface exposed to the solar rays develop continuously, for 
nine hours a day on an average, eight and one fifth horse-power. 

I do not know that any attempts have been made to accumulate and store 
up, for use at pleasure, force derived from this powerful source. 


Importance of Physical Conservation and Restoration. 

Comparatively short as is the period through which the colo- 
nization of foreign lands by European emigrants extends, 
great and, it is to be feared, sometimes irreparable injury has 
already been done in the various processes by which man seeks 
to subjugate the virgin earth; and many provinces, first trod- 
den by the homo sapiens Euroj)03 within the last two centuries, 
begin to show signs of that melancholy dilapidation which is 
now driving so many of the peasantry of Europe from their 
native hearths. It is evidently a matter of great moment, not 
only to the population of the states where these symptoms are 
manifesting themselves, but to the general interests of human- 
ity, that this decay should be arrested, and that the future ope- 
rations of rural husbandry and of forest industry, in districts 
yet remaining substantially in their native condition, should be 
so conducted as to prevent the widespread mischiefs which have 
been elsewhere produced by thoughtless or wanton destruction 
of the natural safeguards of the soil. This can be done only 
by the diffusion of knowledge on this subject among the classes 
that, in earlier days, subdued and tilled ground in which they 
had no vested rights, but who, in our time, own their woods, 
their pastures, and their ploughlands as a perpetual possession 
for them and theirs, and have, therefore, a strong interest in the 
protection of their domain against deterioration. 

Physical Restoration. 

Many circumstances conspire to invest with great present 
interest the questions : how far man can permanently modify 
and ameliorate those physical conditions of terrestrial surface 
and climate on which his material welfare depends ; how far 
he can compensate, arrest, or retard the deterioration which 
many of his agricultural and industrial processes tend to pro- 
duce ; and how far he can restore fertilitv and salubrity to soils 


which his follies or his crimes have made barren or pestilential. 
Among these circumstances, the most prominent, perhaps, is 
the necessity of providing new homes for a European popula- 
tion which is increasing more rapidly than its means of subsist- 
ence, new physical comforts for classes of the people that have 
now become too much enlightened and have imbibed too much 
culture to submit to a longer deprivation of a share in the 
material enjoyments which the privileged ranks have hitherto 

To supply new hives for the emigrant swarms, there arc, 
first, the vast unoccupied prairies and forests of America, of 
Australia, and of many other great oceanic islands, the sparsely 
inhabited and still unexhausted soils of Southern and even 
Central Africa, and, finally, the impoverished and half -depopu- 
lated shores of the Mediterranean, and the interior of Asia 
Minor and the farther East. To furnish to those who shall 
remain after emigration shall have conveniently reduced the 
too dense population of many European states, those means of 
sensuous and of intellectual well-being which are styled " arti- 
ficial wants " when demanded by the humble and the poor, but 
are admitted to be " necessaries " when claimed by the noble 
and the rich, the soil must be stimulated to its highest powers 
of production, and man's utmost ingenuity and energy must be 
tasked to renovate a nature drained, by his improvidence, of 
fountains which a wise economy would have made plenteous 
and perennial sources of beauty, health, and wealth. 

In those yet virgin lands which the progress of modern dis- 
covery in both hemispheres has brought and is still bringing to 
the knowledge and control of civilized man, not much improve- 
ment of great physical conditions is to be looked for. The 
proportion of forest is indeed to be considerably reduced, super- 
fluous waters to be drawn off, and routes of internal communica- 
tion to be constructed ; but the primitive geographical and cli- 
matic features of these countries ought to be, as far as possible, 

In reclaiming and reoccupying lands laid waste by human im- 


providence or malice, and abandoned by man, or occupied only 
by a nomade or thinly scattered population, the task of the 
pioneer settler is of a very different character. He is to become 
a co-worker with nature in the reconstruction of the damaged 
fabric which the negligence or the wantonness of former lodgers 
has rendered untenantable. He must aid her in reclothing the 
mountain slopes with forests and vegetable mould, thereby re- 
storing the fountains which she provided to water them ; in 
checking the devastating fury of torrents, and bringing back 
the surface drainage to its primitive narrow channels ; and in 
drying deadly morasses by opening the natural sluices which 
have been choked up, and cutting new canals for drawing off 
their stagnant waters. He must thus, on the one hand, create 
new reservoirs, and, on the other, remove mischievous accumula- 
tions of moisture, thereby equalizing and regulating the sources 
of atmospheric humidity and of flowing water, both which are 
so essential to all vegetable growth, and, of course, to human 
and lower animal life. 

I have remarked that the effects of human action on the forms 
of the earth's surface could not always be distinguished from 
those resulting from geological causes, and there is also much 
uncertainty in respect to the precise influence of the clearing 
and cultivating of the ground, and of other rural operations, upon 
climate. It is disputed whether either the mean or the extremes 
of temperature, the periods of the seasons, or the amount or dis- 
tribution of precipitation and of evaporation, in any country 
whose annals are known, have undergone any change during 
the historical period. It is, indeed, as has been already obser- 
ved, impossible to doubt that many of the operations of the 
pioneer settler tend, to produce great modifications in atmos- 
pheric humidity, temperature, and electricity ; but we are at 
present unable to determine how far one set of effects is neutral- 
ized by another, or compensated by unknown agencies. This 
question scientific research is inadequate to solve, for want of 
the necessary data; but well conducted observation, in regions 
now first brought under the occupation of man, combined with 


such historical evidence as still exists, may be expected at no 
distant period to throw much light on this subject. 

Australia and iSTew Zealand are, perhaps, the countries from 
which we have a right to expect the fullest elucidation of these 
difficult and disputable problems. Their colonization did not 
commence until the physical sciences had become matter of 
almost universal attention, and is, indeed, so recent that the 
memory of living men embraces the principal epochs of their 
history ; the peculiarities of their fauna, their flora, and their 
geology are such as to have excited for them the liveliest inter- 
est of the votaries of natural science ; their mines have given 
their people the necessary wealth for procuring the means of 
instrumental observation, and the leisure required for the pursuit 
of scientific research; and large tracts of virgin forest and 
natural meadow are rapidly passing under the control of civil- 
ized man. Here, then, exist greater facilities and stronger 
motives for the careful study of the topics in question than have 
ever been found combined in any other theatre of European 

In North America, the change from the natural to the arti- 
ficial condition of terrestrial surface began about the period 
when the most important instruments of meteorological obser- 
vation were invented. The first settlers in the territory now 
constituting the United States and the British American prov- 
inces had other things to do than to tabulate barometrical and 
thermometrical readings, but there remain some interesting 
physical records from the early days of the colonies,* and there 

* The Travels of Dr. Dwight, president of Yale College, which embody the 
results of his personal observations, and of his inquiries among the early set- 
tlers, in his vacation excursions in the Northern States of the American 
Union, though presenting few instrumental measurements or tabulated re- 
sults, are of value for the powers of observation they exhibit, and for the 
sound common sense with which many natural phenomena, such for instance 
as the formation of the river meadows, called "intervales," in New England, 
are explained. They present a true and interesting picture of physical condi- 
tions, many of which have long ceased to exist in the theatre of his researches, 
and of which few other records are extant. 


is still an immense extent of North American soil where the 
industry and the folly of man have as yet produced little 
appreciable change. Here, too, with the present increased 
facilities for scientific observation, the future effects, direct and 
contingent, of man's labors, can be measured, and such precau- 
tions taken in those rural processes which we call improve- 
ments, as to mitigate evils, perhaps, in some degree, insepara- 
ble from every attempt to control the action of natural laws. 

In order to arrive at safe conclusions, we must first obtain 
a more exact knowledge of the topography, and of the pres- 
ent superficial and climatic condition of countries vdiere the 
natural surface is as yet more or less unbroken. This can 
only be accomplished by accurate surveys, and by a great mul- 
tiplication of the points of meteorological registry,* already so 
numerous ; and as, moreover, considerable changes in the pro- 
portion of forest and of cultivated land, or of dry and wholly 
or partially submerged surface, will often take place within 
brief periods, it is highly desirable that the attention of 
observers, in whose neighborhood the clearing of the soil, or 
the drainage of lakes and swamps, or other great works of 
rural improvement, are going on or meditated, should be espe- 
cially drawn not only to revolutions in atmospheric tempera- 

* The general law of temperature is that it decreases as we ascend. But, 
in hilly regions, the law is reversed in cold, still weather, the cold air descend- 
ing, by reason of its greater gravity, into the valleys. If there be wind enough, 
however, to produce a disturbance and intermixture of higher and lower 
atmospheric strata, this exception to the general law does not take place. 
These facts have long been familiar to the common people of Switzerland and 
of New England, but their importance has not been sufficiently taken into 
account in the discussion of meteorological observations. The descent of the 
cold air and the rise of the warm affect the relative temperatures of hills and 
valleys to a much greater extent than has been usually supposed. A gentle- 
man well known to me kept a thermometrical record for nearly half a century, 
in a New England country town, at an elevation of at least 1,500 feet above 
the sea. During these years his thermometer never fell lower than 26° — 
Fahrenheit, while at the shire town of the county, situated in a basin one 
thousand feet lower, and only ten miles distant, as well as at other points in 
similar positions, the mercury froze several times in the same period. 


tnre and precipitation, but to the more easily ascertained and 
perhaps more important local changes produced by these ope- 
rations in the temperature and the hygrometric state of the 
superficial strata of the earth, and in its spontaneous vegetable 
and animal products. 

The rapid extension of railroads, which now everywhere 
keep pace with, and sometimes even precede, the occupation 
of new soil for agricultural purposes, furnishes great facilities 
for enlarging our knowledge of the topography of the territory 
they traverse, because their cuttings reveal the composition 
and general structure of surface, and the inclination and eleva- 
tion of their lines constitute known hypsometrical sections, 
which give numerous points of departure for the measure- 
ment of higher and lower stations, and of course for deter- 
mining the relief and depression of surface, the slope of the 
beds of watercourses, and many other not less important ques- 

* Railroad surveys must be received with great caution where any motive 
exists for cooking them. Capitalists are shy of investments in roads with 
steep grades, and of course it is important to make a fair show of facilities in 
obtaining funds for new routes. Joint-stock companies have no souls ; their 
managers, in general, no consciences. Cases can be cited where engineers 
and directors of railroads, with long grades above one hundred feet to the 
mile, have regularly sworn in their annual reports, for years in succession, 
that there were no grades upon their routes exceeding half that elevation. In 
fact, every person conversant with the history of these enterprises knows that 
in their public statements falsehood is the rule, truth the exception. 

What I am about to remark is not exactly relevant to my subject ; but it is 
hard to "get the floor" in the world's great debating society, and when a 
speaker who has anything to say once finds access to the public ear, he must 
make the most of his opportunity, without inquiring too nicely whether his 
observations are "in order." I shall harm no honest man by endeavoring, as 
I have often done elsewhere, to excite the attention of thinking and conscien- 
tious men to the dangers which threaten the great moral and even political in- 
terests of Christendom, from the unscrupulousness of the private associations 
that now control the monetary affairs, and regulate the transit of persons and 
property, in almost every civilized country. More than one American State 
is literally governed by unprincipled corporations, which not only defy the legis- 
lative power, but have, too often, corrupted even the administration of jus- 


The geological, hydrographical, and topographical surveys, 
which almost every general and even local government of the 
civilized world is carrying on, are making yet more important 
contributions to our stock of geographical and general physical 
knowledge, and, within a comparatively short space, there will 
be an accumulation of well established constant and historical 
facts, from which we can safely reason upon all the relations 
of action and reaction between man and external nature. 

But we are, even now, breaking up the floor and wain- 
scoting and doors and window frames of our dwelling, for fuel 
to warm our bodies' and to seethe our pottage, and the world 
cannot afford to wait till the slow and sure progress of exact 
science has taught it a better economy. Many practical lessons 
have been learned by the common observation of unschooled 

tice. The tremendous power of these associations is clue not merely to 
pecuniary corruption, but partly to an old legal superstition — fostered by the 
decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the famous Dartmouth 
College case — in regard to the sacredness of corporate prerogatives. There is 
no good reason why private rights derived from God and the very constitu- 
tion of society should be less respected than privileges granted by legislatures. 
It should never be forgotten that no privilege can be a rigid, and legislative 
bodies ought never to make a grant to a corporation, without express reser- 
vation of what many sound jurists now hold to be involved in the very nature 
of such grants, the power of revocation. Similar evils have become almost 
equally rife in England, and on the Continent ; and I believe the decay of 
commercial morality, and of the sense of all higher obligations than those of 
a pecuniary nature, on both sides of the Atlantic, is to be ascribed more to 
the influence of joint-stock banks and manufacturing and railway companies, 
to the workings, in short, of what is called the principle of "associate ac- 
tion," than to any other one cause of demoralization. 

The apophthegm, " the world is governed too much," though unhappily too 
truly spoken of many countries — and perhaps, in some aspects, true of all — 
has done much mischief whenever it has been too unconditionally accepted am 
a political axiom. The popular apprehension of being over-governed, and, I 
am afraid, more emphatically the fear of being over-taxed, has had much to 
do with the general abandonment of certain governmental duties by the ruling 
powers of most modern states. It is theoretically the duty of government to 
provide all those public facilities of intercommunication and commerce, which 
are essential to the prosperity of civilized commonwealths, but which indi- 
vidual means are inadequate to furnish, aud for the due administration of 


men ; and the teachings of simple experience, on topics where 
natural philosophy has scarcely yet spoken, are not to be 

In these humble pages, which do not in the least aspire to 
rank among scientific expositions of the laws of nature, I shall 
attempt to give the most important practical conclusions sug- 
gested by the history of man's efforts to replenish the earth and 
subdue it; and I shall aim to support those conclusions by such 
facts and illustrations only as address themselves to the under- 
standing of every intelligent reader, and as are to be found 
recorded in works capable of profitable perusal, or at least con- 
sultation, by persons who have not enjoyed a special scientific 

which individual guaranties are insufficient. Hence public roads, canals, rail- 
roads, postal communications, the circulating medium of exchange whether 
metallic or representative, armies, navies, being all matters in which the na- 
tion at large has a vastly deeper interest than any private association can have, 
ought legitimately to be constructed and provided only by that which is the 
visible personification and embodiment of the nation, namely, its legislative 
head. No doubt the organization and management of these institutions by 
government are liable, as are all things human, to great abuses. .The multi- 
plication of public placeholders, which they imply, is a serious evil. But the 
corruption thus engendered, foul as it is, does not strike so deep as the rot- 
tenness of private corporations ; and official rank, position, and duty have, in 
practice, proved better securities for fidelity and pecuniary integrity in the 
conduct of the interests in question, than the suretyships of private corporate 
agents, whose bondsmen so often fail or abscond before their principal is de- 

Many theoretical statesmen have thought that voluntary associations for 
strictly pecuniary and industrial purposes, and for the construction and con- 
trol of public works, might furnish, in democratic countries, a compensation 
for the small and doubtful advantages, and at the same time secure an ex- 
emption from the great and certain evils, of aristocratic institutions. The 
example of the American States shows that private corporations — whose rule 
of action is the interest of the association, not the conscience of the indi- 
vidual—though composed of ultra-democratic elements, may become most 
dangerous enemies to rational liberty, to the moral interests of the common- 
wealth, to the purity of legislation and of judicial action, and to the sacred- 
ness of private rights. 



Modern geography takes account of organic life — Geographical importance 
of plants — Origin of domestic vegetables — Transfer of vegetable life — 
Objects of modern commerce — Foreign plants, how introduced — Vegetable 
power of accommodation— Agricultural products of the United States — 
Useful American plants grown in Europe — Extirpation of vegetables — 
Animal life as a geological and geographical agency — Origin and transfer 
of domestic quadrupeds — Extirpation of wild quadrupeds — Large marine 
animals relatively unimportant in geography — Introduction and breeding 
of fish — Destruction of fish — Geographical importance of birds — Introduc- 
tion of birds — Destruction of birds — -Utility and destruction of reptiles — 
Utility of insects and worms — Injury to the forest by insects — Introduc- 
tion of insects — Destruction of insects — Minute organisms. 

Modern Geography embraces Organic Life. 

It was a narrow view of geography which confined that 
science to delineation of terrestrial surface and outline, and to 
description of the relative position and magnitude of land and 
water. In its improved form it embraces not only the globe 
itself and the atmosphere which bathes it, but the living 
things which vegetate or move upon it, the varied influences 
they exert upon each other, the reciprocal action and reaction 
between them and the earth they inhabit. Even if the end of 
geographical studies were only to obtain a knowledge of the 
external forms of the mineral and fluid masses which constitute 
the globe, it would still be necessary to take into account the 
element of life ; for every plant, every animal, is a geographical 
agency, man a destructive, vegetables, and in some cases even 
wild beasts, restorative powers. 


The rushing waters sweep down earth from the uplands ; in 
the first moment of repose, vegetation seeks to reestablish itself 
on the bared surface, and, by the slow deposit of its decaying 
products, to raise again the soil which the torrent had lowered. 
So important an element of reconstruction is this, that it has 
been seriously questioned whether, upon the whole, vegetation 
does not contribute as much to elevate, as the waters to depress, 
the level of the surface. 

Whenever man has transported a plant from its native 
habitat to a new soil, he has introduced a new geographical 
force to act upon it, and this generally at the expense of some 
indigenous growth which the foreign vegetable has supplanted. 
The new and the old plants are rarely the equivalents of each 
other, and the substitution of an exotic for a native tree, shrub, 
or grass, increases or diminishes the relative importance of the 
vegetable element in the geography of the country to which it 
is removed. Further, man sows that he may reap. The pro- 
ducts of agricultural industry are not suffered to rot upon the 
ground, and thus raise it by an annual stratum of new mould. 
They are gathered, transported to greater or less distances, and 
after they have served their uses in human economy, they 
enter, on the final decomposition of their elements, into new 
combinations, and are only in small proportion returned to the 
soil on which they grew. The roots of the grasses, and of 
many other cultivated plants, however, usually remain and 
decay in the earth, and contribute to raise its surface, though 
certainly not in the same degree as the forest. 

The smaller vegetables which have taken the place of trees 
unquestionably perform many of the same functions. They 
radiate heat, they absorb gases, and exhale uncombined gases 
and watery vapor, and consequently act upon the chemical con- 
stitution and hygrometrical condition of the air, their roots pene- 
trate the earth to greater depths than is commonly supposed, and 
form an inextricable labyrinth of filaments which bind the soil 
together and prevent its erosion by water. The broad-leaved 
annuals and perennials, too, shade the ground, and prevent the 


evaporation of moisture from its surface by wind and sun.* 
At a certain stage of growth, grass land is probably a more 
energetic evaporator and refrigerator than even the forest, but 
this powerful action is exerted, in its full intensity, for a com- 
paratively short time only, while trees continue such functions, 
with unabated vigor, for many mouths in succession. Upon 
the whole, it seems quite certain, that no cultivated ground is 
as efficient in tempering climatic extremes, or in conservation 
of geographical surface and outline, as is the soil which nature 
herself has planted. 

Origin of Domestic Plants. 

One of the most important questions connected with our sub- 
ject is: how far we are to regard our cereal grains, our esculent 
bulbs and roots, and the multiplied tree fruits of our gardens, 
as artificially modified and improved forms of wild, self -propa- 
gating vegetation. The narratives of botanical travellers have 
often announced the discovery of the original form and habitat 

* It is impossible to say how far the abstraction of water from the earth 
by broad-leaved field and garden plants — such as maize, the gourd family, the 
cabbage, &c. — is compensated by the condensation of dew, which sometimes 
pours from them in a stream, by the exhalation of aqueous vapor from their 
leaves, which is directly absorbed by the ground, and by the shelter they 
afford the soil from sun and wind, thus preventing evaporation. American 
farmers often say that after the leaves of Indian corn are large enough to 
"shade the ground," there is little danger that the plants will suffer from 
drought; but it is probable that the comparative security of the fields from 
this evil is in part due to the fact that, at this period of growth, the roots 
penetrate down to a permanently humid stratum of soil, and draw from it the 
moisture they require. Stirring the ground between the rows of maize with 
a light harrow or cultivator, in very dry seasons, is often recommended as a 
preventive of injury by drought. It would seem, indeed, that loosening and 
turning over the surface earth might aggravate the evil by promoting the 
evaporation of the little remaining moisture; but the practice is founded 
partly on the belief that the hygroscopicity of the soil is increased by it to 
such a degree that it gains more by absorption than it loses by evaporation, 
and partly on the doctrine that to admit air to the rootlets, or at least to the 
earth near them, is to supply directly elements of vegetable growth. 


of domesticated plants, and scientific journals have described 
the experiments by which the identity of particular wild and 
cultivated vegetables has been thought to be established. It is 
confidently affirmed that maize and the potato — which we must 
suppose to have been first cultivated at a much later period 
than the breadstuff's and most other esculent vegetables of 
Europe and the East — are found wild and self-propagating in 
Spanish America, though in forms not recognizable by the 
common observer as identical with the familiar corn and tuber 
of modern agriculture. It was lately asserted, upon what 
seemed very strong evidence, that the ^Egilojps ovata, a plant 
growing wild in Southern France, had been actually converted 
into common wheat ; but, upon a repetition of the experiments, 
later observers have declared that the apparent change was 
only a case of temporary hybridation or fecundation by the 
pollen of true wheat, and that the grass alleged to be trans- 
formed into wheat could not be perpetuated as such from its 
own seed. 

The very great modifications which cultivated plants are con- 
stantly undergoing under our eyes, and the numerous varieties 
and races which spring up among them, certainly countenance 
the doctrine, that every domesticated vegetable, however de- 
pendent upon human care for growth and propagation in its 
present form, may have been really derived, by a long succes- 
sion of changes, from some wild plant not now perhaps much 
resembling it."" But it is, in every case, a question of evidence. 

* What is the possible limit of such changes, we do not know, but they may 
doubtless be carried vastly beyond what experience has yet shown to be practi- 
cable. Civilized man has experimented little on wild plants, and especially on 
forest trees. He has indeed improved the fruit, and developed new varieties, 
of the chestnut, by cultivation, and it is observed that our American forest-tree 
nuts and berries, such as the butternut and the wild midberry, become larger 
and better flavored in a single generation by planting and training. (Bryant, 
'Forest Trees, 1871, pp. 99, 115.) Why should not the industry and ingenu- 
ity which have wrought such wonders in our horticulture produce analo- 
gous results when applied to the cultivation and amelioration of larger vege- 
tables ? Might not. for instance, the ivory nut, the fruit of the Phytd&phm 


The only satisfactory proof that a given wild plant is identical 
with a given garden or field vegetable, is the test of experi- 
ment, the actual growing of the one from the seed of the other, 
or the conversion of the one into the other by transplantation 
and change of conditions.* It is hardly contended that any of 
the cereals or other plants important as human aliment, or 
as objects of agricultural industry, exist and propagate them- 
selves uncultivated in the same form and with the same pro- 
perties as when sown and reared by human art.f In fact, 
the cases are rare where the identity of a wild with a domes- 
ticated plant is considered by the best authorities as conclu- 
sively established, and we are warranted in affirming of but 
few of the latter, as a historically known or experimentally 

macrocarpa, possibly be so increased in size as to serve nearly all the purposes 
of animal ivory now becoming so scarce ? Slight not the various milk-pro- 
ducing trees become, by cultivation, a really important source of nutriment 
to the inhabitants of warm climates ? In short, there is room to hope incal- 
culable advantage from the exercise of human skill in the improvement of 
yet untamed forms of vegetable life. 

* The poisonous wild parsnip of New England has been often asserted to be 
convertible into the common garden parsnip b3 r cultivation, or rather to be 
the same vegetable growing under different conditions, and it is said to be de- 
prived of its deleterious qualities simply by an increased luxuriance of growth 
in rich, tilled earth. Wild medicinal plants, so important in the rustic mate- 
ria medica of New England — such as pennyroyal, for example — are generally 
much less aromatic and powerful when cultivated in gardens than when self- 
Bown on meagre soils. On the other hand, the cinchona, lately introduced 
from South America into British India and carefully cultivated there, is found 
to be richer in quinine than the American tree. 

f Some recent observations of Wetzstein are worthy of special notice. 
" The soil of the Hauran," he remarks, " produces, in its primitive condition, 
much wild rye, which is not known as a cultivated plant in Syria, and much 
wild barley and oats. These cereals precisely resemble the corresponding cul- 
tivated plants in leaf, ear, size, and height of straw, but their grains are sen- 
sibly natter and poorer in flour." — Meisebericht iiber llauvan und die Tntclio- 
nen, p. 40. 

Some of the cereals are, to a certain extent, self-propagating in the soil 
and climate of California. " Volunteer crops are grown from the seed which 
falls out in harvesting. Barley has been known to volunteer five crops in suc- 
cession." — Pkayek-Frowd, Six. Months in. California, p. lo9. 


proved fact, that they ever did exist, or could exist, independ- 
ently of man.* 

Transfer of Vegetable Life. 

It belongs to vegetable and animal geography, which are 
almost sciences of themselves, to point out in detail what man 
has done to change the distribution of plants and of animated 

* This remark is much less applicable to fruit trees than to garden vegeta- 
bles and the cerealia. The wild orange of Florida, though once considered 
indigenous, is now generally thought by botanists to be descended from the 
European orange introduced by the early colonists. On the wild apple trees 
of Massachusetts see an interesting chapter in Thoreau, Excursions. The 
fig and the olive are found growing wild in every country where those trees 
are cultivated. The wild fig differs from the domesticated in its habits, its 
season of fructification, and its insect population, but is, I believe, not spe- 
cifically distinguishable from the garden fig, though I do not know that it is 
reclaimable by cultivation. The wild olive, which is so abundant in the Tus- 
can Maremma, produces good fruit without further care, when thinned out 
and freed from the shade of other trees, and is particularly suited for graft- 
ing. See Salvagnoli, Memorie sulk Maremme, pp. 63-73. The olive is indi- 
genous in Syria and in the Punjaub, and forms vast forests in the Himalayas 
at from 1,400 to 2,100 feet above the level of the sea.— Cleghorn. Memoir 
on the Timber 'procured from the Indus, etc., pp. 8-15. 

Fraas, Klima und Pflanzenwelt in der Zeit, pp. 35-38, gives, upon the 
authority of Link and other botanical writers, a list of the native habitats of 
most cereals and of many fruits, or at least of localities where these plants 
are said to be now found wild ; but the data do not appear to rest, in general, 
upon very trustworthy evidence. Theoretically, there can be little doubt that 
all our cultivated plants are modified forms of spontaneous vegetation, 
though the connection is not historically shown, nor are we able to say that 
the originals of some domesticated vegetables may not be now extinct and 
unrepresented in the existing wild flora. See, on this subject, Humboldt, 
Ansichten der Katur, i., pp. 208, 209. 

The Adams of modem botany and zoology have been put to hard shifts in 
finding names for the multiplied organisms which the Creator has brought 
before them, "to see what they would call them ;" and naturalists and phi- 
losophers have shown much moral courage in setting at naught the laws of 
philology in the coinage of uncouth words to express scientific ideas. It is 
much to be wished that some bold neologist would devise English technical 
equivalents for the German verwildert, run-wild, and veredelt, improved by 


life and to revolutionize the aspect of organic nature ; but some 
of the more important facts bearing on the first branch of this 
subject may pertinently be introduced here. Most of the cereal 
grains, the pulse, the edible roots, the tree fruits, and other im- 
portant forms of esculent vegetation grown in Europe and the 
United States are believed, and — if the testimony of Pliny and 
other ancient naturalists is to be depended upon — many of them 
are historically known, to have originated in the temperate 
climates of Asia. The agriculture of even so old a country as 
Egypt has been almost completely revolutionized by the intro- 
duction of foreign plants, within the historical period. "With 
the exception of wheat," says Helm, "the Nile valley now 
yields only new products, cotton, rice, sugar, indigo, sorghum, 
dates," being all unknown to its most ancient rural husbandry.* 
The wine grape has been thought to be truly indigenous only 
in the regions bordering on the eastern end of the Black Sea, 
where it now, particularly on the banks of the Rion, the ancient 
Phasis, propagates itself spontaneously, and grows with un- 
exampled luxuriance. f Put some species of the vine seem 
native to Europe, and many varieties of grape have been too 
long known as common to every part of the United States to 

* On these points see the learned work of Heiot, Kultur. Pflanzen und 
Thiere in ihrem Uebergang aus Aden. 1870. On the migration of plants 
generally, see Lyell, Principles of Qeology, 10th ed., vol. ii., c. 

f The vine-wood planks of the ancient great door of the cathedral at 
Ravenna, which measured thirteen feet in length by a foot and a quarter in 
width, are traditionally said to have been brought from the Black Sea, byway 
of Constantinople, about the eleventh or twelfth century. Vines of such 
dimensions are now very rarely found in any other part of the East, and, 
though I have taken some pains on the subject, I never found in Syria or in 
Turkey a vine stock exceeding six inches in diameter, bark excluded. Schulz, 
however, saw at Beitschin, near Ptolemais, a vine measuring eighteen inches in 
diameter. Strabo speaks of vine-stocks in Margiana (Khorasan) of such dimen- 
sions that two men, with outstretched arms, could scarcely embrace them. 
See Strabo, ed. Casaubon, pp. 7o, 51G, 826. Statues of vine wood are mentioned 
by ancient writers. Very large vine-stems are not common in Italy, but the 
vine-wood panels of the door of the chapter-hall of the church of St. John at 
Saluzzo are not less than ten inches in width, and I observed not long since, in 
a garden at Pic di Mulera, a vine stock with a circumference of thirty inches. 


admit of the supposition that they were introduced by European 

Objects of Modem Commerce. 

It is an interesting fact that the commerce — or at least the 
maritime carrying trade — and the agricultural and mechanical 
industry of the world are, in very large proportion, dependent 
on vegetable and animal products little or not at all known to 
ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish civilization. In many 
instances, the chief supply of these articles comes from coun- 
tries to which they are probably indigenous, and where they are 
still almost exclusively grown ; but in most cases, the plants or 
animals from which they are derived have been introduced by 
man into regions now remarkable for their successful cultiva- 
tion, and that, too, in comparatively recent times, or, in other 
words, within two or three centuries. 

Something of detail on this subject cannot, I think, fail to 
prove interesting. Pliny mentions about thirty or forty oils as 
known to the ancients, of which only olive, sesame, rape seed 
and walnut oil — for except in one or two doubtful passages I 
find in this author no notice of linseed oil — appear to have been 
used in such quantities as to have had any serious importance 
in the carrying trade. At the present time, the new oils, linseed 
oil, the oil of the whale and other large marine animals, 
petroleum — of which the total consumption of the world in 
1S71 is estimated at 6,000,000 barrels, the port of Philadelphia 

* The Northmen who — as I think it has been indisputably established by- 
Professor Eafn of Copenhagen — visited the coast of Massachusetts about the 
year 1000, found grapes growing there in profusion, and the wild vine still 
flourishes in great variety and abundance in the southeastern counties of 
that State. The townships in the vicinity of the Dighton rock, supposed by 
many— with whom, however, I am sorry I cannot agree — to bear a Scandi- 
navian inscription, abound in wild vines. According to Latjdonniere, Histoire 
Notable de la Fhride, reprint, Paris, 1853, p 5, the French navigators in 1563 
found in that peninsula " wild vines which climb the trees and produce good 
grapes. " 


alone exporting 56,000,000 gallons in that year — palm-oil recently 
introduced into commerce, and now imported into England 
from the coast of Africa at the rate of forty or fifty thousand 
tuns a year, these alone undoubtedly give employment to more 
shipping than the whole commerce of Italy — with the excep- 
tion of wheat — at the most flourishing period of the Roman 
empire.* England imports annually about 600,000 tons of 
sugar, 100,000 tons of jute, and about the same quantity of 
esparto, six million tons of cotton, of which the value of 
$30,000,000 is exported again in the form of manufactured 
goods — including, by a strange industrial revolution, a large 
amount of cotton yarn and cotton tissues sent to India and 
directly or indirectly paid for by raw cotton to be manufactured 
in England— 30,000 tons of tobacco, from 100,000 to 350,000 
tons of guano, hundreds of thousands of tons of tea, coffee, 
cacao, caoutchouc, gutta-percha and numerous other important 
articles of trade wholly unknown, as objects of commerce, to 
the ancient European world ; and this immense importation is 
balanced by a corresponding amount of exportation, not consist- 

* A very few years since, the United States had more than six hundred large 
ships engaged in the whale fishery, and the number of American whalers, in spite 
of the introduction of many new sources of oils, still amounts to two hundred 
and fifty. 

The city of Rome imported from Sicily, from Africa, and from the Levant, 
enormous quantities of grain for gratuitous distribution among the lower 
classes of the capital. The pecuniary value of the gems, the spices, the 
unguents, the perfumes, the cosmetics and the tissues, which came principally 
from the East, was great, but these articles were neither heavy nor bulky and 
their transportation required but a small amount of shipping. The marbles, 
the obelisks, the statuary and other objects of art plundered in conquered 
provinces by Roman generals and governors, the wild animals, such as elephants, 
rhinoceroses, hippopotami, camelopards and the larger beasts of prey imported 
for slaughter at the public games, and the prisoners captured in foreign wars 
and brought to Italy for sale as slaves or butchery as gladiators, furnished 
employment for much more tonnage than all the legitimate commerce of the 
empire, with the possible exception of wheat. 

Independently of the direct testimony of Latin authors, the Greek statuary, 
the Egyptian obelisks, and the vast quantities of foreign marbles, granite, por- 
phyry, basalt, and other stones used in sculpture and in architecture, which 


ing, however, by any means, exclusively of articles new to com- 

Foreign Plants, how Introduced. 

Besides the vegetables I have mentioned, we know that many 
plants of smaller economical value have been the subjects of 
international exchange in very recent times. Busbequius, Aus- 
trian ambassador at Constantinople about the middle of the 
sixteenth century — whose letters contain one of the best 
accounts of Turkish life which have appeared down to the 
present clay — brought home from the Ottoman capital the lilac 
and the tulip. The Belgian Clusius about the same time intro- 
duced from the East the horse chestnut, which has since 
wandered to America. The weeping willows of Europe and 
the United States are said to have sprung from a slip received 

have been found in the remains of ancient Rome, show that the Imperial 
capital must have employed an immense amount of tonnage in the importation 
of heavy articles for which there could have been no return freight, unless in 
the way of military transportation. Some of the Egyptian obelisks at Rome 
weigh upwards of four hundred tons, and many of the red granite columns 
from the same country must have exceeded one hundred tons. Greek and 
African marbles were largely used not only for columns, entablatures, and 
solid walls, but for casing the exterior and veneering the interior of public 
and private buildings. Scaurus imported, for the scene alone of a temporary 
theatre designed to stand scarcely for a month, three hundred and sixty 
columns, which were disposed in three tiers, the lower range being forty-two 
feet in height.— See Pliny, Nat. Hist., Lib. xxxvi. 

Italy produced very little for export, and her importations, when not consist- 
ing of booty, were chiefly paid for in coin which was principally either the 
spoil of war or the fruit of official extortion. 

* Many of these articles would undoubtedly have been made known to the 
Greeks and Romans and have figured in their commerce, but for the slowness 
and costliness of ancient navigation, which, in the seas familiar to them, was 
suspended for a full third of the year from the inability of their vessels to cope 
with winter weather. The present speed and economy of transportation have 
wrought and are still working strange commercial and industrial revolutions. 
Algeria now supplies Northern Germany with fresh cauliflowers, and in the early 
spring the market-gardeners of Naples find it more profitable to send their first 
fruits to St. Petersburg than to furnish them to Florence and Rome. 


from Smyrna by the poet Pope, and planted by him in an English 
garden ; Drouyn de Tllnys, in a discourse delivered before the 
French Societe d'Acclimatation, in I860, claims for Rabelais 
the introduction of the melon, the artichoke and the Alexandria 
pink into France; and the Portuguese declare that the progeni- 
tor of all the European and American oranges was an Oriental 
tree transplanted to Lisbon, and still living in the last genera- 
tion.-' The present favorite flowers of the parterres of Europe 
have been imported from America, Japan and other remote 
Oriental countries, within a century and a half, and, in fine, 
there are few vegetables of any agricultural importance, few 
ornamental trees or decorative plants, which are not now 
common to the three civilized continents. 

The statistics of vegetable emigration exhibit numerical 
results quite surprising to those not familiar with the subject. 
The loneby island of St. Helena is described as producing, at 
the time of its discovery in the year 1501, about sixty vegetable 
species, including some three or four known to grow elsewhere 
also.i' At the present time its flora numbers seven hundred and 

* The name poi'togallo, so generally applied to the orange in Italy, seems to 
favor this claim. The orange, however, was known in Europe before the dis- 
covery of the Cape of Good Hope, and, therefore, before the establishment of 
direct relations between Portugal and the East. — See Amari, Storia dci 
Afn.siibnani in Sicilia, vol. ii., p. 445. 

The date-palms of eastern and southern Spain were certainly introduced by 
the Moors. Leo von Rozmital, who visited Barcelona in 1470, says that the 
date-tree grew in great abundance in the environs of that city and ripened its 
fruit well. It is now scarcely cultivated further north than Valencia. It is 
singular that Hitter in his very full monograph on the palm does not mention 
those of Spain. 

On the introduction of conlfcrm into England see an interesting article in the 
Edinburgh Review of October, 1864. 

Muller, Das Buck der Pflanzcnwclt, p. 86, asserts that in 1802 the ancestor 
of all the mulberries in France, planted in 1500, was still standing in a garden 
in the village of Allan-Montelimart. 

f It may be considered very highly probable, if not certain, that the undis- 
criminating herbalists of the sixteenth century must have overlooked many 
plants native to this island. An English botanist, in an hour's visit to Aden, 
discovered several species of plants on rocks always reported, even by scien- 


fifty species — a natural result of the position of the island as 
the half-way house on the great ocean highway between Europe 
and the East. Humboldt and Bonpland found, among the 
unquestionably indigenous plants of tropical America, mono- 
cotyledons only, all the dicotyledons of those extensive regions 
having been probably introduced after the colonization of the 
New World by Spain. 

The seven hundred new species which have found their way 
to St. Helena within three centuries and a half, were certainly 
not all, or even in the largest proportion, designedly planted 
there by human art, and if we were well acquainted with vege- 
table emigration, we should probably be able to show that man 
has intentionally transferred fewer plants than he has acci- 
dentally introduced into countries foreign to them. After the 
wheat, follow the tares that infest it. The weeds that grow 
among the cereal grains, the pests of the kitchen garden, are 
the same in America as in Europe.* The overturning of a 
wagon, or any of the thousand accidents which befall the 
emigrant in his journey across the "Western plains, may scatter 
upon the ground the seeds he designed for his garden, and the 
herbs which fill so important a place in the rustic materia 
medica of the Eastern States, spring up along the prairie paths 
but just opened by the caravan of the settler, f 

tific travellers, as absolutely barren. But after all, it appears to be well 
established that the original flora of St. Helena was extremely limited, though 
now counting hundreds of species. 

* Some years ago I made a collection of weeds in the wheatfields of Upper 
Egypt, and another in the gardens on the Bosphorus. Nearly all the plants 
were identical with those which grow under the same conditions in New 
England. I do not remember to have seen in America the scarlet wild poppy 
so common in European grainflelds. I have heard, however, that it has lately 
crossed the Atlantic, and I am not sorry for it. With our abundant harvests 
of wheat, we can well afford to pay now and then a loaf of bread for the 
cheerful radiance of this brilliant flower. 

f Josselyn, who wrote about fifty years after the foundation of the first 
British colony in New England, says that the settlers at Plymouth had ob- 
served more than twenty English plants springing up spontaneously near their 


Introduction of Foreign Plants. 

" A negro slave of the great Cortez," says Humboldt, " was 
the first who sowed wheat in Xew Spain. He found three 
grains of it among the rice which had been brought from Spain 
as food for the soldiers." 

About twenty years ago, a Japanese forage plant, the lespe- 
deza striata, whose seeds had been brought to the United 
States by some unknown accident, made its appearance in one 
of the Southern States. It spread spontaneously in various 
directions, and in a few years was widely diffused. It grows 
upon poor and exhausted soils, where the formation of a turf 
or sward by the ordinary grasses would be impossible, and 
where consequently no regular pastures or meadows can exist. 
It makes excellent fodder for stock, and though its value is 
contested, it is nevertheless generally thought a very important 
addition to the agricultural resources of the South. * 

In most of the Southern countries of Europe, the sheep and 
horned cattle winter on the plains, but in the summer are 

Every country has many plants not now, if ever, made use of by man, and 
therefore not designedly propagated by him, but which cluster around his 
dwelling, and continue to grow luxuriantly on the rains of his rural habitation 
after he has abandoned it. The site of a cottage, the very foundation stones 
of which have been earned off, may often be recognized, years afterwards, by 
the rank weeds which cover it, though no others of the same species are found 
for miles. 

"Mediaeval Catholicism," says Vaupell, "brought us the red horsehoof — 
whose reddish-brown flower buds shoot up from the ground when the snow 
melts, and are followed by the large leaves — comfrey and snake-root, which 
grow only where there were convents and other dwellings in the Middle Ages." 
— Bijgens Indvandring i de Danske Skovc, pp. 1, 2. 

* Accidents sometimes limit, as well as promote, the propagation of foreign 
vegetables in countries new to them. The Lombartly poplar is a dioecious 
tree, and is very easily grown from cuttings. In most of the countries into 
which it has been introduced the cuttings have been taken from the male, 
and as, consequently, males only have grown from them, the poplar does not 
produce seed in those regions. This is a fortunate circumstance, for other- 
v. ise this most worthless and least ornamental of trees would spread with a 
rapidity that would make it an annoyance to the agriculturist. 


driven, sometimes many days' journey, to mountain pastures. 
Their coats and fleeces transport seeds in both directions. 
Hence we see Alpine plants in champaign districts, the plants 
of the plains on the borders of the glaciers, though in neither 
case do these vegetables ripen their seeds and propagate them- 
selves. This explains the occurrence of tufts of common red 
clover with pallid and sickly flowers, on the flanks of the Alps 
at heights exceeding seven thousand feet. 

The hortus siccus of a botanist may accidentally sow seeds 
from the foot of the Himalayas on the plains that skirt the 
Alps ; and it is a fact of very familiar observation, that exotics, 
transplanted to foreign climates suited to their growth, often 
escape from the flower garden and naturalize themselves among 
the spontaneous vegetation of the pastures. When the cases 
containing the artistic treasures of Thorvaldsen were opened 
in the court of the museum where they are deposited, the 
straw and grass employed in packing them were scattered upon 
the ground, and the next season there sprang up from the 
seeds no less than twenty -five species of plants belonging to 
the Roman campagna, some of which were preserved and cul- 
tivated as a new tribute to the memory of the great Scandi- 
navian sculptor, and at least four are said to have syjoiitaneously 
naturalized themselves about Copeidiagen.* The Turkish 
armies, in their incursions into Europe, brought Eastern vege- 
tables in their train, and left the seeds of Oriental wall plants 
to grow upon the ramparts of Buda and Vienna, f In the 
campaign of 1814, the Russian troops brought, in the stuffing 
of their saddles and by other accidental means, seeds from the 
banks of the Dnieper to the valley of the Rhine, and even 
introduced the plants of the steppes into the environs of Paris. 

The forage imported for the French army in the war of 

* Vaupell, Bogens Indvandring i de Danske Shove, p. 2. 

f I believe it is certain that the Turks introduced tobacco into Hungary, 
and probable that they in some measure compensated the injury by intro- 
ducing maize also, which, as well as tobacco, has been claimed as Hungarian by 
patriotic Magyars. 


1870-1871 has introduced numerous plants from Northern 
Africa and other countries into France, and this vegetable 
emigration is so extensive and so varied in character, that it 
will probably have an important botanical, and even economi- 
cal, effect on the flora of that country.* 

The Canada thistle, JErigeron Ca/nadense, which is said to 
have accompanied the early French voyagers to Canada from 
JSormandy, is reported to have been introduced into other parts 
of Europe two hundred years ago by a seed which dropped out 
of the stuffed skin of an American bird. 

Vegetable Power of Accommodation. 

The vegetables which, so far as we know their history, seem 
to have been longest objects of human care, can, by painstaking 
industry, be made to grow under a great variety of circum- 
stances, and some of them prosper nearly equally well when 
planted and tended on soils of almost any geological character ; 
but the seeds of most of them vegetate only in artificially pre- 
pared ground, they have little self-sustaining power, and they 
soon perish when the nursing hand of man is withdrawn from 

The vine genus is very catholic and cosmopolite in its habits, 
but particular varieties are extremel} 7 fastidious and exclusive 
in their recpiirements as to soil and climate. The stocks of 
many celebrated vineyards lose their peculiar cpialities by 

* In a communication lately made to the French Academy, M. Vibraye gives 
numerous interesting details on tins subject, and says the appearance of the 
many new plants observed in France in 1871, "results from forage supplied 
from abroad, the seeds of which had fallen upon the ground. At the present 
time, several Mediterranean plants, chiefly Algerian, having braved the cold 
of an exceptionally severe winter, are being largely propagated, forming exten- 
sive meadows, and changing soil that was formerly arid and produced no 
vegetable of importance into veritable oases." See NATURE, Aug. 1, 1SJ2, 
p. 203. We shall see on a following page that canals arc efficient agencies in 
the unintentional interchange of organic life, vegetable as well as animal, 
between regions connected by such channels. 


transplantation, and the most famous wines are capable of 
production only in certain well-defined and for the most part 
narrow districts. The Ionian vine which bears the little stone- 
less grape known in commerce as the Zante currant, has resisted 
almost all efforts to naturalize it elsewhere, and is scarcely 
grown except in two or three of the Ionian islands and in a 
narrow territory on the northern shores of the Morea. 

The attempts to introduce European varieties of the vine into 
the United States have not been successful except in California,* 
and it may be stated as a general rule that European forest 
and ornamental trees are not suited to the climate of North 
America, and that, at the same time, American garden vege- 
tables are less luxuriant, productive and tasteful in Europe than 
in the United States. 

The saline atmosphere of the sea is specially injurious both 
to seeds and to very many young plants, and it is only recently 
that the transportation of some very important vegetables 
across the ocean has been made practicable, through the inven- 
tion of "Ward's air-tight glass cases. By this means large num- 
bers of the trees which produce the Jesuit's bark were success- 
fully transplanted from America to the British possessions in 
the East, where this valuable plant may now be said to have 
become fully naturalized. f 

Vegetables, naturalized abroad either by accident or design, 
sometimes exhibit a greatly increased luxuriance of growth. 

* In 1869, a vine of a European variety planted in Sta. Barbara comity in 
1833 measured a foot in diameter four feet above the ground. Its ramifica- 
tions covered ten thousand square feet of surface and it annually produces 
twelve thousand pounds of grapes. The bunches are sixteen or eighteen 
inches long, and weigh six or seven pounds. — Letter from Commissioner oj 
Land- Office, dated May 13, 1889. 

f See Cleghorn, Forests and Gardens of South India, Edinburgh, 1861, 
and The British Parliamentary Return on the Chinchona plant, 1866. It has 
been found that the seeds of several species of cinchona preserve their vitality 
long enough to be transported to distant regions. The swiftness of steam 
navigation renders it possible to transport to foreign countries not only seeds 
but delicate living plants which could not have borne a long voyage by sailing 


The European cardoon, an esculent thistle, has broken out from 
the gardens of the Sjmnish colonies on the La Plata, acquired 
a gigantic stature, and propagated itself, in impenetrable 
thickets, over hundreds of leagues of the Pampas ; and the 
Anacharis alsinastrum, a water plant not much inclined to 
spread in its native American habitat, has found its way into 
English rivers, and extended itself to such a degree as to form 
a serious obstruction to the flow of the current, and even to 

Not only do many wild plants exhibit a remarkable facility 
of accommodation, but their seeds usually possess great tenacity 
of life, and their germinating power resists very severe trials. 
Hence, while the seeds of many cultivated vegetables lose 
their vitality in two or three years, and can be transported 
safely to distant countries only with great precautions, the 
weeds that infest those vegetables, though not cared for by 
man, continue to accompany him in his migrations, and find 
a new home on every soil he colonizes. Nature fights in 
defence of her free children, but wars upon them when they 
have deserted her banners and tamely submitted to the domin- 
ion of man.* 

Indeed, the faculty of spontaneous reproduction and perpetu- 
ation necessarily supposes a greater power of accommodation, 
within a certain range, than we find in most domesticated 
plants, for it would rarely happen that the seed of a wild plant 
would fall into ground as nearly similar, in composition and 
condition, to that where its parent grew, as the soils of different 
fields artificially prepared for growing a particular vegetable 
are to each other. Accordingly, though every wild species 
affects a habitat of a particular character, it is found that, if 

* Tempests, violent enough to destroy all cultivated plants, frequently 
spare those of spontaneous growth. I have often seen in Northern Italy, 
vineyards, maize fields, mulberry and fruit trees completely stripped of their 
foliage by hail, while the forest trees scattered through the meadows, and the 
shrubs and brambles which sprang up by the wayside, passed through the 
ordeal with scarcely the loss of a leaflet. 


accidentally or designedly sown elsewhere, it will grow under 
conditions extremely unlike those of its birthplace. Cooper 
says : " We cannot say positively that any plant is uncultivable 
anywhere until it has been tried ; " and this seems to be even 
more true of wild than of domesticated vegetation. 

The wild plant is much hardier than the domesticated vege- 
table, and the same law prevails in animated brute and even hu- 
man life. The beasts of the chase are more capable of endur- 
ance and privation and more tenacious of life, than the domesti- 
cated animals which most nearly resemble them. The savage 
rights on, after he has received half a dozen mortal wounds, the 
least of which would have instantly paralyzed the strength of his 
civilized enemy, and, like the wild boar, he has been known to 
press forward along the shaft of the spear which was trans- 
piercing his vitals, and to deal a deathblow on the soldier who 
wielded it. 

True, domesticated plants can be gradually acclimatized to 
bear a degree of heat or of cold, which, in their wild state, 
the} T would not have supported ; the trained English racer out- 
strips the swiftest horse of the pampas or prairies, perhaps even 
the less systematically educated courser of the Arab ; the 
strength of the European, as tested by the dynamometer, is 
greater than that of the New Zealander. But all these are 
instances of excessive development of particular capacities 
and faculties at the expense of general vital power. Expose 
untamed and domesticated forms of life, together, to an entire 
set of physical conditions ecpially alien to the former habits of 
both, so that every power of resistance and accommodation 
shall be called into action, and the wild plant or animal will 
live, while the domesticated will perish. 

Agricultural Products of the United States. 

According to the census of 1ST0, the United States had, on 
the first of June in that year, in round numbers, 189,000,000 
acres of improved land, the quantity having been increased by 


.16,000,000 acres within the ten years next preceding.* Not to 
mention less important crops, this land produced, in the year 
ending on the day last mentioned, in round numbers, 288,000,- 
000 bushels of wheat, 17,000,000 bushels of rye, 282,000,000 
bushels of oats, 6,000,000 bushels of pease and beans, 30,000,000 
bushels of barley, orchard fruits to the value of $47,000,000, 
640,000 bushels of cloverseed, 5S0,000 bushels of other grass 
seed, 13,000 tons of hemp, 27,000,000 pounds of flax, and 
1,730,000 bushels of flaxseed. These vegetable growths were 
familiar to ancient European agriculture, but they were all 
introduced into North America after the close of the sixteenth 

Of the fruits of agricultural industry unknown to the Greeks 
and Romans, or too little employed by them to be of any com- 
mercial importance, the United States produced, in the same 
year, 74,000,000 pounds of rice, 10,000,000 bushels of buck- 
wheat, 3,000,000 bales of cotton,f S 7,000 hogsheads of cane 
sugar, 6,600,000 gallons of cane molasses, 16,000,000 gallons of 
sorghum molasses, all yielded by vegetables introduced into that 
country within two hundred years, and — with the exception of 
buckwheat, the origin of which is uncertain, and of cotton — all, 
directly or indirectly, from the East Indies ; besides, from 

* Ninth Census of the United States, 1872, p. 341. By "improved" land, 
in the reports on the census of the United States, is meant " cleared land used 
for grazing, grass, or tillage, or which is now fallow, connected with or belong- 
ing to a farm." — Instructions to Marshals and Assistants, Census of 1870. 

f Cotton, though cultivated in Asia from the remotest antiquity, and known 
as a rare and costly product to the Latins and the Greeks, was not used by 
them except as an article of luxury, nor did it enter into their commerce to 
any considerable extent as a regular object of importation. The early voyagers 
found it in common use in the West Indies and in the provinces first colonized 
by the Spaniards ; but it was introduced into the territory of the United States 
by European settlers, and did not become of any importance until after the 
Revolution. Cottonseed was sown in Virginia as early as 1621, but wr.s not 
cultivated with a view to profit for more than a century afterwards. Sea-island 
cotton was first grown on the coast of Georgia in 1780, the seed having been 
brought from the Bahamas, where it had been introduced from Anguilla.— 
Bigelow, Les Etats-Unis en 18G3, p. 370. 


indigenous plants unknown to ancient agriculture, 761,000,000 
bushels of Indian corn, 263,000,000 pounds of tobacco, 143,- 
000,000 bushels of potatoes, 22,000,000 bushels of sweet pota- 
toes, 28,000,000 pounds of maple sugar, and 925,000 gallons of 
maple molasses.* To all this we are to add 27,000,000 tons of 
hay, — produced partly by new, partly by long known, partly by 
exotic and partly by native herbs and grasses, the value of 
$21,000,000 in garden vegetables chiefly of European or Asiatic 
origin, 3,000,000 gallons of wine, and many minor agricultural 

The weight of this harvest of a year would be many times 
the tonnage of all the shipping of the United States at the 
close of the year 1870 — and, with the exception of the maple 
sugar, the maple molasses, and the products of the Western 
prairie lands and of some small Indian clearings, it was all 
grown upon lands wrested from the forest by the European 
race within little more than two hundred years. The wants of 
Europe have introduced into the colonies of tropical America 
the sugar cane, $ the coffee plant, the orange and the lemon, 
all of Oriental origin, have immensely stimulated the cultiva- 
tion of the former two in the countries of which they are na- 
tives, and, of course, promoted agricultural operations which 

* There is a falling off since 1860 of 11,000,000 pounds in the quantity of 
maple sugar and of more than a million gallons of maple molasses. The 
high price of cane sugar during and since the late civil war must have increased 
the product of maple sugar and molasses beyond what it otherwise would have 
been, but the domestic warfare on the woods has more than compensated this 
cause of increase. 

f Ramie, Boehrneria te?iaeissima, a species of Chinese nettle producing a 
fibre which may be spun and woven, and which unites many of the properties 
of silk and of linen, has been completely naturalized in the United States, and 
results important to the industry of the country are expected from it. 

X The sugar cane was introduced by the Arabs into Sicily and Spain as 
early as the ninth century, and though it is now scarcely grown in those 
localities, I am not aware of any reason to doubt that its cultivation might 
be revived with advantage. From Spain it was carried to the West Indies, 
though different varieties have since been introduced into those islands from 
other sources. 


must have affected the geography of those regions to an extent 
proportionate to the scale on which they have been pursued. 

Useful American Plants grown in Europe. 

America has partially repaid her debt to the Eastern conti- 
nent. Maize and the potato are very valuable additions to the 
field agriculture of Europe and the East, and the tomato is no 
mean gift to the kitchen gardens of the Old World, though 
certainly not an adequate return for the multitude of esculent 
roots and leguminous plants which the European colonists 
carried with them.* I wish I could believe, with some, that 
America is not alone responsible for the introduction of the 
filthy weed, tobacco, the use of which is the most vulgar and 
pernicious habit engrafted by the semi-barbarism of modern 
civilization upon the less multifarious sensualism of ancient 
life ; but the alleged occurrence of pipe-like objects in old 
Sclavonic, and, it has been said, in Hungarian sepulchres, is 
hardly sufficient evidence to convict those races of complicity 
in this grave offence against the temperance and the refinement 
of modern society. 

Extirpation of Vegetables. 

Lamentable as are the evils produced by the too general 
felling of the woods in the Old World, I believe it does not 
appear that any species of native forest tree has yet been 

* John Smith mentions, in his Ilistarie of Virf/inia, 1624, pease and beans 
as having been cultivated by the natives before the arrival of the whites, and 
there is no doubt, I believe, that several common cucurbitaceous plants are of 
American origin ; but most, if not all the varieties of pease, beans, and other 
pod fruits now grown in American gardens, are from European and other 
foreign seed. 

Cartier, a.d. 1535-0, mentions "vines, great melons, cucumbers, gourds 
[co urges], pease, beans of various colors, but not like ours," as common 
among the Indians of the banks of the St. Lawrence.' — Bref Jiecit, etc., re- 
print. Paris, 1803, pp. 13, a; 14, b; 20, b; 31, a. 


extirpated by man on the Eastern continent. The roots, 
stumps, trunks, and foliage found in bogs are recognized as 
belonging to still extant species. Except in some few cases 
■where there is historical evidence that foreign material was 
employed, the timber of the oldest European buildings, and 
even of the lacustrine habitations of Switzerland, is evidently 
the product of trees still common in or near the countries 
where such architectural remains are found ; nor have the 
Egyptian catacombs themselves revealed to us the former ex- 
istence of any woods not now familiar to us as the growth of 
still living trees.* It is, however, said that the yew tree, 
Taxus baccata, formerly very common in England, Germany, 
and— as we are authorized to infer from Theophrastus — in 
Greece, has almost wholly disappeared from the latter country, 
and seems to be dying out in Germany. The wood of the yew 
surpasses that of almost any other European tree in closeness 
and fineness of grain, and it is well known for the elasticity 
which of old made it so great a favorite with the English 
archer. It is much in request among wood carvers and turners, 
and the demand for it explains, in part, its increasing scarcity. 

* Some botanists think that a species of water lily represented in many 
Egyptian tombs has become extinct, and the papyrus, which must have once 
been abundant in Egypt, is now found only in a very few localities near the 
mouth of the Nile. It grows very well and ripens its seeds in the waters of 
the Anapus near Syracuse, and I have seen it in garden ponds at Messina and 
in Malta. There is no apparent reason for believing that it could not be easily 
cultivated in Egypt, to any extent, if there were any special motive for en- 
couraging its growth. 

SUpldum, a famous medicinal plant of Lybia and of Persia, seems to have dis- 
appeared entirely. At any rate there is no proof that it now exists in either 
of those regions. The Silphium of Greek and Roman commerce appears to 
have come wholly from Cyrene, that from the Asiatic deserts being generally 
of less value, or, as Strabo says, perhaps of an inferior variety. The province 
near Cyrene which produced it was very limited, and according to Strabo (ed. 
Casaubon, p. 837), it was at one time almost entirely extirpated by the nomade 
Africans who invaded the province and rooted out the plant. 

The vegetable which produced the Balm of Gilead has not been found in 
modern times, although the localities in which it anciently grew have been 
carefully explored. 


It is also asserted that no insect depends upon it for food or 
shelter, or aids in its fructification, and birds very rarely feed 
upon its berries : these are circumstances of no small import- 
ance, because the tree hence wants means of propagation or 
diffusion common to so many other plants. But it is alleged 
that the reproductive power of the yew is exhausted, and that 
it can no longer be readily propagated by the natural sowing 
of its seeds, or by artificial methods. If further investigation 
and careful experiment should establish this fact, it will go far 
to show that a climatic change, of a character unfavorable to 
the growth of the yew, has really taken place in Germany, 
though not yet proved by instrumental observation, and the 
most probable cause of such change would be found in the 
diminution of the area covered by the forests. 

The industry of man is said to have been so successful in 
the local extirpation of noxious or useless vegetables in China, 
that, with the exception of a few water plants in the rice 
grounds, it is sometimes impossible to find a single weed in an 
extensive district ; and the late eminent agriculturist, Mr. 
Coke, is reported to have offered in vain a considerable reward 
for the detection of a weed in a large wheatfield on his estate 
in England. In these cases, however, there is no reason to sup- 
pose that diligent husbandry has done more than to eradicate 
the pests of agriculture within a comparatively limited area, 
and the cockle and the darnel will probably remain to plague 
the slovenly cultivator as long as the cereal grains continue to 
bless him.* 

* Although it is not known that man has absolutely extirpated any vegetable, 
the mysterious diseases which have, for the last twenty years, so injuriously 
affected the potato, the vine, the orange, the olive, and silk husbandry, are 
ascribed by some to a climatic deterioration produced by excessive destruction 
of the woods. As will be seen in the next chapter, a retardation in the period 
of spring has been observed in numerous localities in Southern Europe, as well 
as in the United States, and this change has been thought to favor the multi- 
plication of the obscure parasites which cause the injury to the vegetables just 

Babinet supposes the parasites which attack the grape and the potato to be 


All the operations of rural husbandry are destructive to 
spontaneous vegetation by the voluntary substitution of domes- 
tic for wild plants, and, as we have seen, the armies of the 
colonist are attended by troops of irregular and unrecognized 
camp-followers, which soon establish and propagate themselves 
over the new conquests. These unbidden and hungry guests — 
the gipsies of the vegetable world — often have great aptitude 
for accommodation and acclimation, and sometimes even crowd 
out the native growth to make room for themselves. The 
botanist Latham informs us that indigenous flowering plants, 

animal, not vegetable, and he ascribes their multiplication to excessive manur- 
ing and stimulation of the growth of the plants on which they live. They are 
now generally, if not universally, regarded as vegetable, and. if they are so, 
Babinet's theory would be even more plausible than on his own supposition. — 
Etudes et Lectures, ii. , p. 269. 

It is a fact of some interest in agricultural economy, that the oidium, which 
is so destructive to the grape, has produced no pecuniary less to the proprie- 
tors of the vineyards in France. " The price of wine," says Lavergne, " has 
quintupled, and as the product of the vintage has not diminished in the same 
proportion, the crisis has been, on the whole, rather advantageous than detri- 
mental to the country." — Economic Burale cle la France, pp. 263, 264. 

France produces a large surplus of wines for exportation, and the sales to 
foreign consumers are the principal source of profit to French vinegrowers. 
In Northern Italy, on the contrary, which exports little wine, there has been 
no such increase in the price of wine as to compensate the great diminution in 
the yield of the vines, and the loss of this harvest is severely felt. In Sicily, 
however, which exports much wine, prices have risen as rapidly as in France. 
Waltershausen informs us that in the years 1838-42, the red wine of Mount 
Etna sold at the rate of one kreuzer and a half, or one cent the bottle, and 
sometimes even at but two thirds that price, but that at present it commands 
five or six times as much. 

The grape disease has operated severely on small cultivators whose vine- 
yards only furnished a supply for domestic use, but Sicily has received a com- 
pensation in the immense increase which it has occasioned in both the product 
and the profits of the sulphur mines. Flour of sulphur is applied to the vine 
as a remedy against the disease, and the operation is repeated from two to three 
or four — and sometimes even eight or ten — times in a season. Hence there is 
a great demand for sulphur in all the vine-growing countries of Europe, and 
Waltershausen estimates the annual consumption of that mineral for this sin- 
gle piirpose at 850,000 centner, or more than forty thousand tons. The price 
of sulphur has risen in about the same proportion as that of wine. — Walters- 
hausen, Ueber den Sitilianischen Ackerbau, pp. 19, 20. 


once abundant on the North-Western prairies, have been so 
nearly extirpated by the inroads of half-wild vegetables which 
have come in the train of the Eastern immigrant, that there is 
reason to fear that, in a few years, his herbarium will constitute 
the only evidence of their former existence.* 

There are plants — themselves perhaps sometimes stragglers 
from their proper habitat — which are found only in small num- 
bers and in few localities. These are eagerly sought by the 
botanist, and some such species are believed to be on the very 
verge of extinction, from the zeal of collectors. 

Animal Life as a Geological and Geographical Agency. 

The quantitative value of animated life, as a geological 
agency, seems to be inversely as the volume of the individual 
organism ; for nature supplies by numbers what is wanting in 
the bulk of the animal out of whose remains or structures she 
forms strata covering whole provinces, and builds up from the 
depths of the sea large islands, if not continents. There are, it 
is true, near the mouths of the great Siberian rivers which 
empty themselves into the Polar Sea, drift islands composed, in 
an incredibly large proportion, of the bones and tusks of 
elephants, mastodons, and other huge pachyderms, and many 
extensive caves in various parts of the world are half tilled with 
the skeletons of quadrupeds, sometimes lying loose in the earth, 
sometimes cemented together into an osseous breccia by a cal- 
careous deposit or other binding material. These remains of 
large animals, though found in comparatively late formations, 
generally belong to extinct species, and their modern congeners 
or representatives do not exist in sufficient numbers to be of 
sensible importance in geology or in geography by the mere 
mass of their skeletons.! But the vegetable products found 

* Report of Commissioner of Agriculture of the United States for 1870. 

f Could the bones and other relics of the domestic quadrupeds destroyed by 
disease or slaughtered for human use in civilized countries be collected into 
large deposits, as obscure causes have gathered together those of extinct 


with them, and, in rare cases, in the stomachs of some of them, 
are those of yet extant plants ; and besides this evidence, the 
discovery of works of human art, deposited in juxtaposition 
with, fossil bones, and evidently at the same time and by the 
same agency which buried these latter — not to speak of human 
bones found in the same strata — proves that the animals whose 
former existence they testify were contemporaneous with man, 

animals, they would soon form aggregations which might almost be called 
mountains. There were: in the United States, in 1870, as we shall see here- 
after, nearly one hundred millions of horses, black cattle, sheep, and swine. 
There are great numbers of all the same animals in the British American Prov- 
inces and in Mexico, and there are large herds of wild horses on the plains, 
and of tamed among the independent Indian tribes of North America. It would 
perhaps not be extravagant to suppose that all these cattle may amount to 
two thirds as many as those of the United States, and thus we have in North 
America a total of 160,000,000 domestic quadrupeds belonging to species intro- 
duced by European colonization, besides dogs, cats, and other four-footed 
household pets and pests, also of foreign origin. 

If we allow half a solid foot to the skeleton and other slowly destructible 
parts of each animal, the remains of these herds would form a cubical mass 
measuring not much short of four hundred and fifty feet to the side, or a 
pyramid equal in dimensions to that of Cheops, and as the average life of these 
animals does not exceed six or seven years, the accumulations of their bones, 
horns, hoofs, and other durable remains would amount to at least fifteen times 
as great a volume in a single century. It is true that the actual mass of 
solid matter, left by the decay of dead domestic quadrupeds and permanently 
added to the crust of the earth, is not so great as this calculation makes it. 
The greatest proportion of the soft parts of domestic animals, and even of the 
bones, is soon decomposed, through direct consumption by man and other 
carnivora, industrial use, and employment as manure, and enters into new 
combinations in which its animal origin is scarcely traceable ; there is, never- 
theless, a large annual residuum, which, like decayed vegetable matter, be- 
comes a part of the superficial mould ; and in any event, brute life immensely 
changes the form and character of the superficial strata, if it does not sensibly 
augment the quantity of the matter composing them. 

The remains of man, too, add to the earthy coating that covers the face of 
the globe. The human bodies deposited in the catacombs during the long, 
long ages of Egyptian history, would perhaps build as large a pile as one 
generation of the quadrupeds of the United States. In the barbarous days of 
old Moslem warfare, the conquerors erected large pyramids of human skulls. 
The soil of cemeteries in the great cities of Europe has sometimes been raised 
several feet by the deposit of the dead during a few generations. In the East, 


and possibly even extirpated by him.* I do not propose to 
enter upon the thorny question, whether the existing races of 
man are genealogically connected with these ancient types of 
humanity, and I advert to these facts only for the sake of the 
suggestion, that man, in his earliest known stages of existence, 
was probably a destructive power upon the earth, though per- 
haps not so emphatically as his present representatives. 

The larger wild animals are not now numerous enough in any 
one region to form extensive deposits by their remains ; but 
thej' have, nevertheless, a certain geographical importance. If 
the myriads of large browsing and grazing quadrupeds which 
wander over the plains of Southern Africa — and the slaughter 
of which by thousands is the source of a ferocious pleasure and 

Turks and Christians alike bury bodies but a couple of feet beneath the surface. 
The grave is respected as long as the tombstone remains, but the sepultures 
of the ignoble poor, and of those whose monuments time or accident has re- 
moved, are opened again and again to receive fresh occupants. Hence the 
ground in Oriental cemeteries is pervaded with relics of humanity, if not 
wholly composed of them ; and an examination of the soil of the lower part of 
the Petit Champ des Morts, at Pera, by the naked eye alone, shows the ob- 
server that it consists almost exclusively of the comminuted bones of his fel- 

* The bones of mammoths and mastodons, in many instances, appear to 
have been grazed or cut by flint arrow-heads or other stone weapons, and the 
bones of animals now extinct are often wrought into arms and utensils, or 
split to extract the marrow. These accounts have often been discredited, be- 
cause it has been assumed that the extinction of these animals was more 
ancient than the existence of man. Recent discoveries render it certain that 
this conclusion has been too hastily adopted. 

On page 143 of the Antiquity of Man, Lyell remarks that man " no doubt 
played his part in hastening the era of the extinction " of the large pachyderms 
and beasts of prey ; but, as contemporaneous species of other animals, which 
man cannot be supposed to have extirpated, have also become extinct, he 
argues that the disappearance of the quadrupeds in question cannot be 
ascribed to human action alone. 

On this point it may be observed that, as we cannot know what precise 
physical conditions were necessary to the existence of a given extinct organ- 
ism, we cannot say how far such conditions may have been modified by the 
action of man, and he may therefore have influenced the life of such organ- 
isms in ways, and to an extent, of which we can form no just idea. 


a brutal triumph to professedly civilized hunters — if the herds of 
the American bison, which are numbered by hundreds of thou- 
sands, do not produce visible changes in the forms of terrestrial 
surface, they have at least an immense influence on the growth 
and distribution of vegetable life, and, of course, indirectly 
upon all the physical conditions of soil and climate between 
which and vegetation a mutual interdependence exists. 

In the preceding chapter I referred to the agency of the 
beaver in the formation of bogs as producing sensible geograph- 
ical effects. 

I am disposed to think that more bogs in the Northern States 
owe their origin to beavers than to accidental obstructions of 
rivulets by wind-fallen or naturally decayed trees ; for there 
are few swamps in those States, at the outlets of which we may 
not, by careful search, find the remains of a beaver dam. The 
beaver sometimes inhabits natural lakelets and even large rivers 
like the Upper Mississippi, when the current is not too rapid, but 
he prefers to owe his pond to his own ingenuity and toil. The 
reservoir once constructed, its inhabitants rapidly multiply so 
long as the trees, and the harvests of pond lilies and other 
aquatic plants on which this quadruped feeds in winter, suffice 
for the supply of the growing population. But the extension 
of the water causes the death of the neighboring trees, and the 
annual growth of those which could be reached by canals and 
floated to the pond soon becomes insufficient for the wants of 
the community, and the beaver metropolis now sends out expe- 
ditions of discovery and colonization. The pond gradually fills 
up, by the operation of the same causes as when it owes its exist- 
ence to an accidental obstruction, and when, at last, the original 
settlement is converted into a bog by the usual processes of 
vegetable life, the remaining inhabitants abandon it and build 
on some virgin brooklet a new city of the waters.* 

* I find confirmation of my own observations on this point (published in 
1863) in the North- West Passage by Land of Milton and Cheadle, London, 1865. 
These travellers observed " a long chain of marshes formed by the damming 
up of a stream which had now ceased to exist," Chap. X. In Chap. XIL 


Influence of Animal Life on Vegetation. 

The influence of wild quadrupeds upon vegetable life has 
been little studied, and not many facts bearing upon it have 
been recorded, but, so far as it is known, it appears to be con- 

they state that " nearly every stream between the Pembina and the Athabasca 
— except the large river McLeod — appeared to have been destroyed by the 
agency of the beaver," and they question whether the vast extent of swampy 
ground in that region ' ' has not been brought to this condition by the work 
of beavers who have thus destroyed, by their own labor, the streams neces- 
sary to their own existence." 

But even here nature provides a remedy, for when the process of " consoli- 
dation " referred to in treating of bogs in the first chapter shall have been 
completed, and the forest re-established upon the marshes, the water now dif- 
fused through them will be collected in the lower or more yielding portions, 
cut new channels for their flow, become running brooks, and thus restore the 
ancient aspect of the surface. 

The authors add the curious observation that the beavers of the present 
day seem to be a degenerate race, as they neither fell large trees nor con- 
struct great dams, while their progenitors cut down trees two feet in diam- 
eter and dammed up rivers a hundred feet in width. The change in the habits 
of the beaver is probably due to the diminution of their numbers since the 
introduction of fire-arms, and to the fact that their hydraulic operations are 
more frequently interrupted by the encroachments of man. 

In the valley of the Yellowstone, which has but lately been much visited by 
the white man, Hayden saw stumps of trees thirty inches in diameter which 
had been cut down by beavers. — Geological Survey of Wyoming, p. 135. 

The American beaver closely resembles his European congener, and I believe 
most naturalists now regard them as identical. A difference of species had 
been inferred from a difference in their modes of life, the European animal 
being solitary and not a builder, the American gregarious and constructive. 
But late careful researches in Germany have shown the former existence of 
numerous beaver dams in that country, though the animal, having become too 
rare to form colonies, has of course ceased to attempt works which require 
the co-operation of numerous individuals. — Sciileiden, FilrBaum and Wold, 
Leipzig, 1870, p. 68. 

On the question of identity and on all others relating to this interesting 
animal, see L. H. Morgan's important monograph. TJu American Beaver and 
his Works, Philadelphia, 1868. Among the many new facts observed by this 
investigator is the construction of canals by the beaver to float trunks and 
brunches of trees to his ponds. These canals are sometimes 600 or 700 feet 
long, with a width of two or three feet and a depth of one to one and a half. 


servative rather than pernicious. Few wild animals depend for 
their subsistence on vegetable products obtainable only by the 
destruction of the plant, and they seem to confine their con- 
sumption almost exclusively to the annual harvest of leaf or 
twig, or at least of parts of the vegetable easily reproduced. 
If there are exceptions to this rule, they are in cases where the 
numbers of the animal are so proportioned to the abundance of 
the vegetable that there is no danger of the extermination of 
the plant from the voracity of the quadruped, or of the extinc- 
tion of the quadruped from the scarcity of the plant.* In diet 
and natural wants the bison resembles the ox, the ibex and the 
chamois assimilate themselves to the goat and the sheep ; but 
while the wild animal does not appear to be a destructive 
agency in the garden of nature, his domestic congeners are 

* European foresters speak of the action of the squirrel as injurious to trees. 
Doubtless this is sometimes true in the case of artificial forests, but in woods 
of spontaneous growth, ordered and governed by nature, the squirrel does not 
attack trees, or at least the injury he may do is too trilling to be perceptible, 
but he is a formidable enemy to the plantation. " The squirrels bite the 
cones of the pine and consume the seed which might serve to restock the 
wood ; they do still more mischief by gnawing off, near the leading shoot, a 
strip of bark, and thus often completely girdling the tree. Trees so injured 
must be felled, as they w^ould never acquire a vigorous growth. The squirrel 
is especially destructive to the pine in Sologne, where he gnaws the bark of 
trees twenty or twenty-five years old." But even here, nature sometimes 
provides a compensation, by making the appetite of this quadruped serve to 
prevent an excessive production of seed cones, which tends to obstruct the 
due grow T th of the leading shoot. " In some of the pineries of Brittany 
which produce cones so abundantly as to strangle the development of the 
leading shoot of the maritime pine, it has been observed that the pines are 
most vigorous where the squirrels are most numerous, a result attributed to 
the repression of the cones by this rodent." — Boitel, Mise en valeur des Terres 
pcwores, p. HO. 

Very interesting observations, on the agency of the squirrel and other small 
animals in planting and in destroying nuts and other seeds of trees, may be 
found in a paper on the Succession of Forests in Thoreau's Excursions, pp. 
lo.j et *> r jq. 

I once saw several quarts of beech-nuts taken from the winter quarters of a 
family of flying squirrels in a hollow tree. The kernels were neatly stripped 
of their shells and carefully stored in a dry cavity. 


eminently so.* This is partly from the change of habits re- 
sulting from domestication and association with man, partly 
from the fact that the number of reclaimed animals is not de- 
termined by the natural relation of demand and spontaneous 
supply which regulates the multiplication of wild creatures, 
but by the convenience of man, who is, in comparatively few 
things, amenable to the control of the merely physical arrange- 
ments of nature. When the domesticated animal escapes from 
human jurisdiction, as in the case of the ox, the horse, the goat, 
and perhaps the ass — which, so far as I know, are the only 
well- authenticated instances of the complete emancipation of 
household quadrupeds — he becomes again an unresisting sub- 
ject of nature, and all his economy is governed by the same 
laws as that of his fellows which have never been enslaved by 
man ; but, so long as he obeys a human lord, he is an auxiliary 
in the warfare his master is ever waging against all existences 
except those which he can tame to a willing servitude. 

Origin and Transfer of Domestic Quadrupeds. 

Civilization is so intimately associated with certain inferior 
forms of animal life, if not dependent on them, that cultivated 

* Evelyn thought the depasturing of grass by cattle serviceable to its 
growth. " The biting- of cattle," he remarks, "gives a gentle loosening to the 
roots of the herbage, and makes it to grow fine and sweet, and their very 
breath and treading as well as soil, and the comfort of their warm bodies, is 
wholesome and marvellously cherishing." — Terra, or Philosophical Discourse 
of Earth, p. 36. 

In a note upon this passage, Hunter observes : " Nice farmers consider the 
lying of a beast upon the ground, for one night only, as a sufficient tilth for 
the year. The breath of graminivorous quadrupeds does certainly enrich the 
roots of grass ; a circumstance worthy of the attention of the philosophical 
farmer." — Terra, same page. 

The " philosophical farmer" of the present day will not adopt these opinions 
without some qualification, and they certainly are not sustained by American 

IhelieportoftJie Department ofAgrimUv/re for March and April, 1872, states 
that the native grasses are disappearing from the prairies of Texas, especially 
on the bottom-lands, depasturing by cattle being destructive to them. 


man has never failed to accompany himself, in all his migrations, 
with some of these humble attendants. The ox, the horse, the 
sheep, and even the comparatively useless dog and cat, as well as 
several species of poultry, are voluntarily transferred by every 
emigrant colony, and they soon multiply to numbers far exceed- 
ing those of the wild genera most nearly corresponding to them.* 
Of the origin of our domestic animals, we know .historically 
nothing, because their domestication belongs to the ages which 
preceded written annals; but though they cannot all be specifi- 
cally identified with now extant wild animals, it is presumable 
that they have been reclaimed from an originally wild state. 
Ancient writers have preserved to us fewer data respecting the 
introduction of domestic animals into new countries than re- 
specting the transplantation of domestic vegetables, Hitter, in 
his learned essay on the camel, has shown that this animal was 
not employed by the Egyptians until a comparatively late 
period in their history ; f that he was unknown to the Cartha- 

* The rat and the mouse, though not voluntarily transported, are passengers 
by every ship that sails for a foreign port, and several species of these quad- 
rupeds have, consequently, much extended their range and increased their 
numbers in modem times. From a story of Heliogabalus related by Lam- 
miDius, Ilist. Aug. Scriptores, ed. Casaubon, 1GG0, p. 110, it would seem that 
mice at least were not very common in ancient Rome. Among the capricious 
freaks of that emperor, it is said that he undertook to investigate the statistics 
of the arachnoid population of the capital, and that 10,000 pounds of spiders 
(or spiders' webs — for aranea is equivocal) were readily collected ; but when 
he got up a mouse-show, he thought ten thousand mice a very fair number. 
Rats are not less numerous in all great cities ; and in Paris, where their skina 
are used for gloves, and their llesh, it is whispered, in some very complex and 
equivocal dishes, they are caught by legions. I have read of a manufacturer 
who contracted to buy of the rat-catchers, at a high price, all the rat-skins 
they could furnish before a certain date, and failed, within a week, for want 
of capital, when the stock of peltry had run up to 600,000. 

Civilization has not contented itself with the introduction of domestic 
animals alone. The English sportsman imports foxes from the continent, and 
Grimalkin-like turns them loose in order that he may have the pleasure of 
chasing them afterwards. 

f The horse and the ass were equally unknown to ancient Egypt, and do not 
appear in the sculptures before the XV. and XVI. dynasties. But even then, 
the horse was only known as a draught animal, and the only representation of 


ginians until after the downfall of their commonwealth ; and 
that his first appearance in Western Africa is more recent still. 
The Bactrian camel was certainly brought from Asia Minor to 
the Northern shores of the Black Sea, by the Goths, in the third 
or fourth century, and the buffalo first appeared in Italy about 
A.D. 600, though it is unknown whence or by whom he was 
introduced.* The Arabian single-humped camel, or dromedary, 
has been carried to the Canary Islands, partially introduced 
into Australia, Greece, Spain, and even Tuscany, experimented 
upon to little purpose in Venezuela, and finally imported by 
the American Government into Texas and New Mexico, where 
it finds the climate and the vegetable products best suited to its 
wants, and promises to become a very useful agent in the pro- 
motion of the special civilization for which those regions are 

Quadrupeds, both domestic and wild, bear the privations 
and discomforts of long voyages better than would be sup- 
posed. The elephant, the giraffe, the rhinoceros, and even the 
hippopotamus, do not seem to suffer much at sea. Some of the 
camels imported by the U. S. government into Texas from the 
Crimea and Northern Africa were a whole year on shipboard. 
On the other hand, George Sand, in Un Ulcer au Midi, gives 
an amusing description of the sea-sickness of swine in the short 
passage from the Baleares to Barcelona. 

America had no domestic quadruped but a species of dog, the 
lama tribe, and, to a certain extent, the bison or buffalo, f Of 

a horseman yet found in the Egyptian tombs is on the blade of a battle axe 
of uncertain origin and period. 

* Erdkunde, viii., AMen, UU Abtliettung, pp. 660, 758. IIeiix, Kuttenpflahse^ 
p. 345. 

f See Chapter III., post; also Humboldt, Ansichten der Natur, i., p. 71. 
From the anatomical character of the bones of the urns, or auerochs, found 
a:. mug the relics of the lacustrine population of ancient Switzerland, and 
from other circumstances, it is inferred that this animal had been domesti- 
cated by that people ; arid it is stated, I know not upon what authority, in 
Jj& Alpi die cingono V Italia, that it had been tamed by the Veneti also. See 
Lykll, Antiquity of Mem, pp. 24, 25, and the last-named work, p. 489. This 
is a fact of much interest, because it is one of the very few historically known 


course, it owes the horse, the ass, the ox, the sheep, the goat, 
and the swine, as does also Australia, to European colonization. 
Modern Europe has, thus far, not accomplished much in the 
way of importation of new animals, though some interesting 
essays have been made. The reindeer was successfully intro- 
duced into Iceland about a century ago, while similar attempts 
failed, about the same time, in Scotland. The Cashmere or 
Thibet goat was brought to France a generation since, and 
succeeds well. The same or an allied species and the Asiatic 
buffalo were carried to South Carolina about the year 1850, 
and the former, at least, is thought likely to prove of perma- 
nent value in the United States.* The yak, or Tartary ox, 
seems to thrive in France, and it is hoped that success will 
attend the present efforts to introduce the South American 
alpaca into Europe, f 

instances of the extinction of a domestic quadruped, and the extreme im- 
probability of such an event gives some countenance to the theory of the 
identity of the domestic ox with, and its descent from, the urus. 

* The goat introduced into South Carolina was brought from the district of 
Angora, in Asia Minor, which has long been celebrated for flocks of this valu- 
able animal. It is calculated that more than a million of these goats are 
raised iu that district, and it is commonly believed that the Angora goat and its 
wool degenerate when transported. Probably this is only an invention of 
the shepherds to prevent rivals from attempting to interfere with so profitable 
a monopoly. But if the popular prejudice has any foundation, the degene- 
racy is doubtless to be attributed to ignorance of the special treatment which 
long experience has taught the Angora shepherds, and the consequent neglect 
of such precautions as are necessary to the proper care of the animal. 
Throughout nearly the whole territory of the United States the success of the 
Angora goat is perfect, and it would undoubtedly thrive equally well in Italy, 
though it is very doubtful whether in either country the value of its fleece 
would compensate the damage it would do to the woods. 

f The reproductive powers of animals, as well as of plants, seem to be some- 
times stimulated in an extraordinary way by transfer to a foreign clime. The 
common warren rabbit introduced by the early colonists into the island of 
Madeira multiplied to such a degree as to threaten the extirpation of vegeta- 
tion, and in Australia the same quadruped has become so numerous as to be 
a very serious evil. The colonists are obliged to employ professional rabbit- 
hunters, and one planter has enclosed his grounds by four miles of solid wall, 
at an expense of $6,000, to protect his crops against these ravagers. — Revue 
des Eaux et Forets, 1870, p. 38. 


According to the census of the United States for 1S70,- the 
total number of horses in all the States of the American Union, 
was, in round numbers, 7,100,000 ; of asses and mules, 1,100,000; 
of the ox tribe, 25,000,000; of sheep, 28,000,000; and of 
swine, 25,000,000. The only indigenous Xorth American 
quadruped sufficiently gregarious in habits, and sufficiently 
multiplied in numbers, to form really large herds, is the bison, 
or, as he is commonly called in America, the buffalo ; and 
this animal is confined to the prairie region of the Mississippi 
basin, a small part of British America, and Northern Mexico. 
The engineers sent out to survey railroad routes to the Pacific 
estimated the number of a single herd of bisons seen within 
the last fifteen years on the great plains near the Upper Mis- 
souri, at not less than 200,000, and yet the range occupied by 
this animal is now very much smaller in area than it was when 
the whites first established themselves on the prairies. f But it 
must be remarked that the American buffalo is a migratory 
animal, and that, at the season of his annual journeys, the whole 
stock of a vast extent of pasture-ground is collected into a single 
army, which is seen at or very near any one point only for a 
few days during the entire season. Hence there is risk of great 

* In the enumeration of farm, stock, " sucking pigs, spring lambs, and 
calves," are omitted. I believe they are included in the numbers reported by the 
census of 18130. Horses and homed cattle in towns and cities were excluded 
from both enumerations, the law providing for returns on these points from 
rural districts only. On the whole, there is a diminution in the number of all 
farm stock, except sheep, since 1860. This is ascribed by the Report to the 
destruction of domestic quadrupeds during the civil war, but this hardly ex- 
plains the reduction in the number of swine from 39,000,000 in 18G0 to 
25,000,000 in 1870. 

f " About five miles from camp we ascended to the top of a high hill, and 
for a great distance ahead every sqxiare mile seemed to have a herd of buffalo 
upon it. Their number was variously estimated by the members of the party • 
by some as high as half a million. I do not think it any exaggeration to set 
it down at 200,000." — Stevens's Narrative and Final Report. Report* of Ex- 
plorations and Surveys for Railroad to Pacific, vol. xii., book i., 1800. 

The next day the party fell in with a " buffalo trail," where at least 100,000 
were thought to have crossed a slough. 

As late as 1868, Sheridan's party estimated the number of bisons seen by them 
in a single day at 200,000. — Sheridan's Troopers on the Border, 1868, p. 41. 


error in estimating: the numbers of the bison in a given district 
from the magnitude of the herds seen at or about the same 
time at a single place of observation ; and, upon the whole, it 
is neither proved nor probable that the bison was ever, at any 
one time, as numerous in North America as the domestic bovine 
species is at present. The elk, the moose, the musk ox, the 
caribou, and the smaller quadrupeds popularly embraced under 
the general name of deer, though sufficient for the wants of a 
sparse savage population, were never numerically very abun- 
dant, and the carnivora which fed upon them were still less so. 
It is almost needless to add that the Rocky Mountain sheep and 
goat must always have been very rare. 

Summing up the whole, then, it is evident that the wild 
quadrupeds of North America, even when most numerous, were 
few compared with their domestic successors, that they required 
a much less supply of vegetable food, and consequently were 
far less important as geographical elements than the many 
millions of hoofed and horned cattle now fed by civilized man 
on the same continent. 

Extirjxttion of Wild Quadrupeds. 

Although man never fails greatly to diminish, and is perhaps 
destined ultimately to exterminate, such of the larger wild 
quadrupeds as he cannot profitably domesticate, yet their num- 
bers often fluctuate, and even after they seem almost extinct, 
they sometimes suddenly increase, without any intentional steps 
to promote such a result on his part. During the wars which 
followed the French Revolution, the wolf multiplied in many 
parts of Europe, partly because the hunters were withdrawn 
from the woods to chase a nobler game, and partly because the 
bodies of slain men and horses supplied this voracious quadru- 
ped with more abundant food.* The same animal became 

* During the late civil war in America, deer and other animals of the chase 
multiplied rapidly in the regions of the Southern States which were partly 
depopulated and deprived of their sportsmen by the military operations of the 
contest, and the bear is said to have reappeared in districts where he had not 
been seen in the memory of living men. 


again more numerous in Poland after the general disarming: of 
the rural population by the Russian Government. On the 
other hand, when the hunters pursue the wolf, the graminivo- 
rous wild quadrupeds increase, and thus in turn promote the 
multiplication of their great four-footed destroyer by augment- 
ing the supply of his nourishment. So long as the fur of the 
beaver was extensively employed as a material for hats, it bore 
a very high price, and the chase of this quadruped was so keen 
that naturalists feared its speedy extinction. When a Parisian 
manufacturer invented the silk hat, which soon came into almost 
universal use, the demand for beavers' fur fell off, and this 
animal — whose habits are an important agency in the forma- 
tion of bogs and other modifications of forest nature — im- 
mediately began to increase, reappeared in haunts which he 
had long abandoned, and can no longer be regarded as rare 
enough to be in immediate danger of extirpation. Thus the 
convenience or the caprice of Parisian fashion has unconsciously 
exercised an influence which may sensibly affect the physical 
geography of a distant continent. 

Since the invention of gunpowder, some quadrupeds have 
completely disappeared from many European and Asiatic 
countries where they were formerly numerous. The last wolf 
was killed in Great Britain two hundred years ago, and the 
bear was extirpated from that island still earlier. The lion is 
believed to have inhabited Asia Minor and Syria, and probably 
Greece and Sicily also, long after the commencement of the 
historical period, and he is even said to have been not yet ex- 
tinct in the first-named two of these countries at the time of 
the first Crusade.* 

The British wild ox is extinct except in a few English and 

* In maintaining the recent existence of the lion in the countries named in 
the text, naturalists have, perhaps, laid too much weight on the frequent 
occumncc of representations of tin's animal in sculptures apparently of a his- 
torical character. It will not do to ar^ue, twenty centuries hence, that the 
li"n and the unicorn were common in Great Britain in Queen Victoria's time, 
because they are often seen "fighting for the crown" in the carvings and 
paintings of that period. Many palaeontologists, however, identify the great 


Scottish paries, while in Irish bogs of no great apparent 
antiquity are found antlers which testify to the former exist- 
ence of a stag much larger than any extant European species. 
Two large graminivorous or browsing quadrupeds, the ur and 
the schelk, once common in Germany, have been utterly extir- 
pated, the eland and the auerochs nearly so. The Nibelungen- 
Lied, which, in the oldest form preserved to us, dates from 
about the year 1200, though its original composition no doubt 
belongs to an earlier period, thus sings : 

&l)cn gIoujc tl)£ b crag I) tic Sigfrib a tDieent anb an elk, 

■$e smote four stontc nroxen anb a jgrim anb sturbie sdjelk.* 

Modern naturalists identify the elk with the eland, the wisent 
with the auerochs. The period when the ur and the schelk be- 
came extinct is not known. The auerochs survived in Prussia 
until the middle of the last century, but unless it is identical 
with a similar quadruped said to be found on the Caucasus, it 
now exists only in the Russian imperial forest of Bialowitz 
where about a thousand are still preserved, and in some great 
menageries, as for example that at Schonbrunn, near Vienna, 
which, in 1852, had four specimens. The eland, which is 
closely allied to the American wapiti if not specifically the 
same animal, is still kept in the royal preserves of Prussia, to 
the number of four or five hundred individuals. The chamois 

cat-like animal, whose skeletons are frequently found in British bone-caves, 
with the lion of our times. 

The leopard (panthera), though already growing scarce, was found rn Cilicia 
in Cicero's time. See his letter to Ccelius, Epist. ad Diversos, Lib. II., Ep. 11. 

* £Dar nadi slnogcr sdjicre, einen taioent nnbe eld). 
Starker are mere, nut einen cjrimmen scrjelcl). 

XVI. Aventiure. 

The testimony of the Nibelungen-Lied is not conclusive evidence that these 
quadrupeds existed in Germany at the time of the composition of that poem. 
It proves too much ; for, a few lines above those just quoted, Sigf rid is said to 
have killed a lion, an animal which the most patriotic Teuton will hardly 
claim as a denizen of mediaeval Germany. 


is becoming rare, and the ibex or steinbock, once common in 
all the high Alps, is now believed to be confined to the Cogne 
mountains in Piedmont, between the valleys of the Dora 
Baltea and the Oreo, though it is said that a few still linger 
about the Grandes Jorasses near Cormayeur. 

The chase, which in early stages of human life was a neces- 
sity, has become with advancing civilization not merely a 
passion but a dilettanteism, and the cruel records of this 
pastime are among the most discreditable pages in modern 
literature. It is true that in India and other tropical countries, 
the number and ferocity of the wild beasts not only justify 
but command a war of extermination against them, but the 
indiscriminate slaughter of many quadrupeds which are 
favorite objects of the chase can urge no such apology. Late 
official reports from India state the number of human 
victims of the tiger, the leopard, the wolf and other beasts of 
prey, in ten " districts," at more than twelve thousand within 
three years, and we are informed on like authority that within 
the last six years more than ten thousand men, women, and 
children have perished in the same way in the Presidency of 
Bengal alone. One tiger, w T e are told, had killed more than a 
hundred people, and finally stopped the travel on an important 
road, and another had caused the desertion of thirteen villages 
and thrown 250 square miles out of cultivation. In such facts 
we find abundant justification of the slaying of seven thousand 
tigers, nearly six thousand leopards, and twenty-five hundred 
other ravenous beasts in the Bengal Presidency, in the space 
of half a dozen years. But the humane reader will not think 
the value of the flesh, the skin, and other less important 
products of inoffensive quadrupeds a satisfactory excuse for 
the ravages committed upon them by amateur sportsmen as 
well as by professional hunters. In 1861, it was computed that 
the supply of the English market with ivory cost the lives 
of 8,000 elephants. Others make the number much larger, 
and it is said that half as much ivory is consumed in the United 
States as in Great Britain. In Ceylon, where the elephants 


are numerous and destructive to the crops, as well as dangerous 
to travellers, while their tusks are small and of comparatively 
little value, the government pays a small reward for killing 
them. According to Sir Emerson Tennant,* in three years 
prior to 181S, the premium was paid for 3,500 elephants in a 
part of the northern district, and between 1851 and 1856 for 
2,000 in the southern district. Major Rogers, famous as an 
elephant shooter in Ceylon, ceased to count his victims after he 
had slain 1,300, and Gumming in South Africa sacrificed his 
hecatombs every month. 

In spite of the rarity of the chamois, his cautious shyness, and 
the comparative inaccessibility of his favorite haunts, Colani 
of Pontresina, who died in 1837, had killed not less than 2,000 
of these animals ; Kiing, who is still living in the Upper Enga- 
dine, 1,500 ; Hitz, 1,300, and Zwichi an equal number ; Soldani 
shot 1,100 or 1,200 in the mountains which enclose the Val 
Bregaglia, and there are many living hunters who can boast of 
having killed from 500 to S00 of these interesting quadrupeds, f 

In America, the chase of the larger quadrupeds is not less 
destructive. In a late number of the American Naturalist, 
the present annual slaughter of the bison is calculated at the 
enormous number of 500,000, and the elk, the moose, the cari- 
bou, and the more familiar species of deer furnish, perhaps, as 
many victims. The most fortunate deer-hunter I have person- 
ally known in New England had killed but 960 ; but in the 
northern part of the State of New York, a single sportsman is 
said to have shot 1,500, and this number has been doubtless 
exceeded by zealous Nimrods of the West. 

But so far as numbers are concerned, the statistics of the fur- 
trade furnish the most surprising results. Russia sends annu- 

* Natural History of Ceylon, chap. iv. 

f Although it is only in the severest cold of winter that the chamois descends 
to the vicinity of grounds occupied by man, its organization does not confine 
it to the mountains. In the royal park of Racconigi, on the plain a few miles 
from Turin, at a height of less than 1,000 feet, is kept a herd of thirty or 
forty chamois, which thrive and breed apparently as well as in the Alps. 


ally to foreign markets not less than 20,000,000 squirrel skins, 
Great Britain has sometimes imported from South America 
600.000 nutria skins in a year. The Leipzig market receives 
annually nearly 200,000 ermine, and the Hudson Bay Company 
is said to have occasionally burnt 20,000 ermine skins in order 
that the market might not be overstocked. 

Of course natural reproduction cannot keep pace with this 
enormous destruction, and many animals of much interest to 
natural science are in imminent clanger of final extirpation. - 

Large Marine Animals relatively unimportant in Geography. 

Yast as is the bulk of some of the higher orders of aquatic 
animals, their remains are generally so perishable that, even 
where most abundant, they do not appear to be now forming 
permnuent deposits of any considerable magnitude ; but it is 
quite otherwise with shell-iish, and, as we shall see hereafter, 
with many of the minute limeworkers of the sea. There are, 
on the southern coast of the United States, beds of shells so 
extensive that they were formerly supposed to have been 
naturally accumulated, and were appealed to as proofs of an 
elevation of the coast by geological causes ; but they are now 
ascertained to have been derived chiefly from oysters and other 
shell-fish, consumed in the course of long ages by the inhabitants 
of Indian towns. The planting of a bed of oysters in a new 
locality might very probably lead, in time, to the formation of 
a bank, which, in connection with other deposits, might per- 
ceptibly affect the line of a coast, or, by changing the course of 
marine currents, or the outlet of a river, produce geographical 
changes of no small importance. 

* Objectionable as game laws are, they have done something to prevent the 
extinction of many quadrupeds, which naturalists would be loth to lose, and, 
as in the case of the British ox, piivate parks and preserves have saved other 
species from destruction. Some few wild animals, such as the American mink, 
for example, have been protected and bred with profit, and in Pennsylvania 
an association of gentlemen has set ajiart, and is about enclosing, a park of 
10,000 acres for the breeding of indigenous quadrupeds and fowls. 


Introduction and, Breeding of Fish. 

The introduction and successful breeding of fish 01 foreign 
species appears to have been long practised in China, and was 
not unknown to the Greeks and Romans.* This art has been 
revived in modern times, but thus far without any important 
results, economical or physical, though there seems to be good 
reason to believe it may be employed with advantage on an 
extended scale. As in the case of plants, man has sometimes 
undesignedly introduced new species of aquatic animals into 
countries distant from their birthplace. The accidental escape 
of the Chinese goldfish from ponds where they were bred as a 
garden ornament, has peopled some European, and it is said 
American streams with this species. Canals of navigation and 
irrigation interchange the fish of lakes and rivers widely sepa- 
rated by natural barriers, as well as the plants which drop 
their seeds into the waters. The Erie Canal, as measured by 
its own channel, has a length of about three hundred and sixty 
miles, and it has ascending and descending locks in both direc- 
tions. By this route, the fresh-water fish of the Hudson and 
the Upper Lakes, and some of the indigenous vegetables of 
these respective basins, have intermixed, and the fauna and 
flora of the two regions have now more species common to both 
than before the canal was opened.f The opening of the Suez 
Canal will, no doubt, produce very interesting revolutions in 
the animal and vegetable population of both basins. The 
Mediterranean, with some local exceptions — such as the bays of 
Calabria, and the coast of Sicily so picturesquely described by 

* The observations of Columella, de Re Rmtica, lib. viii., sixteenth and 
following chapters, on fish-breeding, are interesting. The Romans not only- 
stocked natural but constructed artificial ponds, of both fresh and salt water, 
and cut off bays of the sea for this purpose. They also naturalized various 
species of sea-fish in fresh water. 

f The opening or rather the reconstruction of the Claudian emissary by 
Prince Torlonia, designed to drain the Lake Fucinus, or Celano, has introduced 
the fish of that lake into the Liri or Garigliano which receives the discharge 
from the lake. — Dorotea, Sornm vrio storico ddt 1 Alientica, p. GO. 


Quatrefages * — is comparatively poor in marine vegetation, 
and in shell as well as in fin fish. The scarcity of fish in some 
of its gulfs is proverbial, and you may scrutinize long stretches 
of beach on its northern shores, after every south wind for a 
whole winter, without finding a dozen shells to reward your 
search. But no one who has not looked down into tropical or 
subtropical seas can conceive the amazing wealth of the Red 
Sea in organic life. Its bottom is carpeted or paved with 
marine plants, with zoophytes and with shells, while its waters 
are teeming with infinitely varied forms of moving life. Most 
of its vegetables and its animals, no doubt, are confined by the 
laws of their organization to a warmer temperature than that of 
the Mediterranean, but among them there must be many whose 
habitat is of a wider range, many whose powers of accommo- 
dation would enable them to acclimate themselves in a colder 

"We may suppose the less numerous aquatic fauna and flora 
of the Mediterranean to be equally capable of climatic adapta- 
tion, and hence there will be a partial interchange of the 
organic population not already common to both seas. De- 
structive species, thus newly introduced, may diminish the 
numbers of their proper prey in either basin, and, on the other 
hand, the increased supply of appropriate food may greatly 
multiply the abundance of others, and at the same time add 
important contributions to the aliment of man in the countries 
bordering on the Mediterranean.! 

Some accidental attraction not unfrequently induces fish to 
follow a vessel for days in succession, and they may thus be 
enticed into zones very distant from their native habitat. 
Several years ago, I was told at Constantinople, upon good 
authority, that a couple of fish, of a species wholly unknown to 

* Souvenirs (Tun Naturalistc, i., pp. 204 et seqq. 

f The dissolution of the salts in the hed of the Bitter Lakes impregnated the 
water admitted from the Red Sea so highly that for seme time fish were not 
scon in that basin. The How of the current through the canal has now re- 
duced the proportion of saline matter to five per cent., and late travellers 
speak of fish as abundant in its waters. 


the natives, had just been taken in the Bosphorus. They were 
alleged to have followed an English ship from the Thames, and 
to have been frequently observed by the crew during the pas- 
sage ; but I was unable to learn their specific character.* 

Many of the fish which pass the greater part of the year in 
salt water spawn in fresh, and some fresh-water species, the 
common brook-trout of New England for instance, which under 
ordinary circumstances never visit the sea, will, if transferred 
to brooks emptying directly into the ocean, go down into the 
salt water after spawning-time, and return again the next 
season. Some sea fish have been naturalized in fresh water, 
and naturalists have argued from the character of the fish of 
Lake Baikal, and especially from the existence of the seal in 
that locality, that all its inhabitants were originally marine 
species, and have changed their habits with the gradual con- 
version of the saline waters of the lake — once, as is assumed, 
a "maritime bay — into f resh.f The presence of the seal is hardly 
conclusive on this point, for it is sometimes seen in Lake Cham- 
plain at the distance of some hundreds of miles from even brack- 
ish water. One of these animals was killed on the ice in that lake 
in February, 1810, another in February, 18464 and remains 
of the seal have been found at other times in the same waters. 

The intentional naturalization of foreign fish, as I have said, 
has not thus far yielded important fruits ; but though this par- 

* Seven or eight years ago, the Italian government imported from France 
a dredging machine for use in the harbor of La Spezia. The dredge brought 
attached to its hull a shell-fish not known in Italian waters. The mollusk, 
finding the local circumstances favorable, established itself in this new habitat, 
multiplied rapidly, and is now found almost everywhere on the west coast of 
the Peninsula. 

f Babinet, Etudes et Lectures, ii., pp. 108, 110. 

% Thompson, Natural History of Vermont, p. 38, and Appendix, p. 13. 
There is no reason to believe that the seal breeds in Lake Champlain, but the 
individual last taken there must have been some weeks, at least, in its waters. 
It was killed on the ice in the widest part of the lake, on the 23d of February, 
thirteen days after the surface was entirely frozen, except the usual small 
cracks, and a month or two after the ice closed at all points north of the place 
where the seal was found. 


ticular branch of what is called, not very h&p-pily, pisciculture, 
has not yet established its claims to the attention of the physi- 
cal geographer or the political economist, the artificial breed- 
ing of domestic fish, of the lobster and other Crustacea, has 
already produced very valuable results, and is apparently des- 
tined to occupy an extremely conspicuous place in the history 
of man's efforts to compensate his prodigal waste of the gifts of 
nature. The arrangements for breeding fish in the Venetian 
lagoon of Comacchio date far back in the Middle Ages, but the 
example does not seem to have been followed elsewhere in 
Europe at that period, except in small ponds where the pro- 
pagation of the fish was left to nature without much artificial 
aid. The transplantation of oysters to artificial ponds has 
long been common, and it appears to have recently succeeded 
well on a large scale in the open sea on the French coast. A 
great extension of this fishery is hoped for, and it is now pro- 
posed to introduce upon the same coast the American soft 
clam, which is so abundant in the tide-washed beach sands of 
Long Island Sound as to form an important article in the diet 
of the neighboring population. Experimental pisciculture has 
been highly successful in the United States, and will probably 
soon become a regular branch of rural industry, especially as 
Congress, at the session of 1871-2, made liberal provision for 
its promotion. 

The restoration of the primitive abundance of salt and fresh 
water fish, is perhaps the greatest material benefit that, with 
our present physical resources, governments can hope to confer 
upon their subjects. The rivers, lakes, and seacoasts onco 
restocked, and protected by law from exhaustion by taking fish 
at improper seasons, by destructive methods, and in extravagant 
quantities, would continue indefinitely to furnish a very large 
supply of most healthful food, which, unlike all domestic 
and agricultural products, would spontaneously renew itself 
and cost nothing but the taking. There are many sterile or 
wornout soils in Europe so situated that they might, at no very 
formidable cost, be converted into permanent lakes, which 


would serve not only as reservoirs to retain the water of winter 
rains and snow, and give it out in the dry season for irrigation, 
but as breeding ponds for fish, and would thus, without further 
cost, yield a larger supply of human food than can at present 
be obtained from them even at a great expenditure of capital 
and labor in agricultural operations.* The additions which 
might be made to the nutriment of the civilized world by a 
judicious administration of the resources of the waters, would 
allow some restriction of the amount of soil at present em- 
ployed for agricultural purposes, and a corresponding extension 
of the area of the forest, and would thus facilitate a return to 
primitive geographical arrangements which it is important par- 
tially to restore. 

Destruction of Fish. 

The inhabitants of the waters seem comparatively secure from 
human pursuit or interference by the inaccessibility of their 
retreats, and by our ignorance of their habits — a natural result 
of the difficulty of observing the ways of creatures living in a 
medium in which we cannot exist. Human agency has, never- 
theless, both directly and incidentally, produced great changes 
in the population of the sea, the lakes, and the rivers, and if 
the effects of such revolutions in aquatic life are apparently of 
small importance in general geography, they are still not wholly 
inappreciable. The great diminution in the abundance of the 
larger fish employed for food or pursued for products useful 
in the arts is familiar, and when we consider how the vegeta- 
ble and animal life on which they feed must be effected by the 
reduction of their numbers, it is easy to see that their destruc- 
tion may involve considerable modifications in many of the 
material arrangements of nature. The whale f does not appear 
to have been an object of pursuit by the ancients, for any pur- 

* See Ackerhop, Die Nutzung der Seiche unci Oewasscr. Quedlinburg, 1S69. 
f I use whale not in a technical sense, but as a generic term for all the 
large inhabitants of the sea popularly grouped under that name. 

The Greek ktjtos and the Latin Balama, though sometimes, especially in 


pose, nor do we know when the whale fishery first commenced. 
It was, however, very actively prosecuted in the Middle Ages, 
and the Biscayans seem to have been particularly successful 
in this as indeed in other branches of nautical industry.* Five 
hundred years ago, whales abounded in every sea. They long 
since became so rare in the Mediterranean as not to afford en- 
couragement for the fishery as a regular occupation ; and the 
great demand for oil and whalebone for mechanical and manu- 
facturing purposes, in the present century, has stimulated the 
pursuit of the " hugest of living creatures " to such activity, that 
he has now almost wholly disappeared from many favorite fish- 
ing grounds, and in others is greatly diminished in numbers. 

later classical writers, specifically apjjlied to true cetaceans, were generally 
much more comprehensive in their signification than the modern word whale. 
This appears abundantly from the enumeration of the marine animals em- 
braced by Oppian under the name ktjtos, in the first book of the Halieutica. 

There is some confusion in Oppian' s account of the fishery of the ktjtos in 
the fifth book of the Halieutica. Part of it is probably to be understood of 
cetaceans which have grounded, as some species often do ; but in general it 
evidently applies to the taking of large fish — sharks, for example, as appeal's 
by the description of the teeth — with hook and bait. 

* From the narrative of Ohther, introduced by King Alfred into his transla- 
tion of Orosius, it is clear that the Northmen pursued the whale fishery in the 
ninth century, and it appears, both from the poem called The Whale, in the 
Codex Exoniensis, and from the dialogue with the fisherman in the Colloquies 
of Aelfric, that the Anglo-Saxons followed this dangerous chase at a period 
not much later. I am not aware of any evidence to show that any of the 
Latin nations engaged in this fishery until a century or two afterward, though 
it may not be easy to disprove their earlier participation in it. In mediaeval 
literature, Latin and Romance, very frequent mention is made of a species of 
vessel called in Latin baleneria, balenerium, baleneritis, bdlaneria, etc.; in 
Catalan, bulener ; in French, balmier; all of which words occur in many 
other forms. The most obvious etymology of these words would suggest the 
meaning, whaler, baleinierj but some have supposed that the name was de- 
scriptive of the great size of the ships, and others have referred it to a differ- 
ent root. From the fourteenth century, the word occurs oftencr, perhaps, 
in old Catalan, than in any other language ; but Capmany does not notice 1 be 
whale fishery as one of the maritime pursuits of the very enterprising Catalan 
people, nor do I find any of the products of the whale mentioned in the old 
Catalan tariffs. The whalebone of the medieval writers, which is described as 
very white, is doubtless the ivory of the walrus or of the narwhale. 


"What special functions, besides his uses to man, are assigned 
to the whale in the economy of nature, we do not know ; but 
some considerations, suggested by the character of the f ood upon 
which certain species subsist, deserve to be specially noticed. 
JSoneof the great mammals grouped under the general name of 
whale are rapacious. They all live upon small organisms, and 
the most numerous species feed almost wholly upon the soft 
gelatinous mollusks in which the sea abounds in all latitudes. 
We cannot calculate even approximately the number of the 
whales, or the quantity of organic nutriment consumed by an 
individual, and of course we can form no estimate of the total 
amount of animal matter withdrawn by them, in a given period, 
from the waters of the sea. It is certain, however, that it must 
have been enormous when they were more abundant, and that 
it is still very considerable. In 1S1G the United States had six 
hundred and seventy-eight whaling ships chiefly employed in 
the Pacific, and the product of the American whale fishery for 
the year ending June 1st, 1860, was seven millions and a half 
of dollars." The mere bulk of the whales destroyed in a single 

* In consequence of the great scarcity of the whale, the use of coal-gas for 
illumination, the substitution of other fatty and oleaginous substances, such 
as lard, palm-oil, and petroleum for right -whale oil and spermaceti, the whale 
fishery has rapidly fallen off within a few years. The great supply of petroleum, 
which is much used for lubricating machinery as well as for numerous other 
purposes, has produced a more perceptible effect on the whale fishery than 
any other single circumstance. According to Bigelow, Les Etats- Uhis en 1 863, 
p. 346. the American whaling fleet was diminished by 29 in 1858, 57 in 1860, 
94 in 1861, and 65 in 1862. The number of American ships employed in that 
fishery in 1862 was 353. In 1868, the American whaling fleet was reduced to 
223. The product of the whale fishery in that year was 1,485,000 gallons of 
sperm oil. 2.065,612 gallons of train oil, and 901,000 pounds of whalebone. The 
yield of the two species of whale is about the same, being estimated at from 
4,000 to 5,000 gallons for each fish. Taking the average at 4,500 gallons, the 
American whalers must have captured 789 whales, besides, doubtless, many 
which were killed or mortally wounded and not secured. The returns for the 
year are valued at about five million and a half dollars. Mr. Cutts, from a 
report by whom most of the above facts are taken, estimates the annual value 
of the " products of the sea" at $90,000,000. 

According to the New Bedford Standard, the American whalers numbered 


year by the American and the European vessels engaged in 
this fishery would form an island of no inconsiderable dimen- 
sions, and each one of those taken must have consumed, in the 
course of his growth, many times his own weight of mollusks. 
The destruction of the whales must have been followed by a 
proportional increase of the organisms they feed upon, and if we 
had the means of comparing the statistics of these humble forms 
of life, for even so short a period as that between the years 
1760 and I860, we should find a difference possibly sufficient 
to suggest an explanation of some phenomena at present unac- 
counted for. 

For instance, as I have observed in another work,* the phos- 
phorescence of the sea was unknown to ancient writers, or at 
least scarcely noticed by them, and even Homer — who, blind 
as tradition makes him when he composed his epics, had seen, 
and marked, in earlier life, all that the glorious nature of the 
Mediterranean and its coasts discloses to unscientific observa- 
tion — nowhere alludes to this most beautiful and striking of 
maritime wonders. In the passage just referred to, I have 
endeavored to explain the silence of ancient writers with re- 
spect to this as well as other remarkable phenomena on psycho- 
logical grounds ; but is it not possible that, in modern times, 
the animalculae which produce it may have immensely multi- 
plied, from the destruction of their natural enemies by man, 
and hence that the gleam shot forth by their decomposition, or 
by their living processes, is both more frequent and more bril- 
liant than in the days of classic antiquity ? 

722, measuring 230,218 tons, in 1846. On the 31st December, 1872, the num- 
ber was reduced to 204, with a tonnage of 47,787 tons, and the importation 
of whale and sperm oil amounted in that year to 79,000 barrels. 

Sveud Fuyn, an energetic Norwegian, now carries on the whale fishery in 
the Arctic Ocean in a steamer of 20 horse-power, accompanied by freight- 
ships for the oil. The whales are killed by explosive shells fired from a small 
cannon. The number visually killed by F6yn is from 35 to4o per year. — The 
( 'ommerce in the Products of the Sea, a report by Col. R. D. Cutts, communi- 
cated to theU. S. Senate. Washington, 1872. 

* The Origin and History of the English Language, &c, pp. 423, 424. 


Although the whale does not prey upon smaller creatures 
resembling himself in form and habits, yet true fishes are 
extremely voracious, and almost every tribe devours unspar- 
ingly the feebler species, and even the spawn and young of its 
own.* The enormous destruction of the shark, f the pike, the 
trout family, and other ravenous fish, as well as of the fishing 
birds, the seal, and the otter, by man, would naturally have 
occasioned a great increase in the weaker and more defenceless 
fish on which they feed, had he not been as hostile to them also 
as to their persecutors. 

Destruction of Aquatic Animals. 

It does not seem probable that man, with all his rapacity 
and all his enginery, will succeed in totally extirpating any 
salt-water fish, but he has already exterminated at least one 
marine warm-blooded animal— Steller's sea cow — and the 
wali-us, the sea lion, and other large amphibia, as well as the 
principal fishing quadrupeds, are in imminent danger of ex- 
tinction. Steller's sea cow, Rhytina Stelleri, was first seen by 
Europeans in the year 1741, on Bering's Island. It was a 
huge amphibious mammal, weighing not less than eight thou- 
sand pounds, and appears to have been confined exclusively to 
the islands and coasts in the neighborhood of Bering's Strait. 
Its flesh was very palatable, and the localities it frequented 
were easily accessible from the Russian establishments in 
Kamtschatka. As soon as its existence and character, and the 

* Two young pickerel, Gt/stcs fasciatus, five inches long, ate 128 minnows, 
an inch long, the first clay they were feci, 132 the second, and 150 the third. 
— Fifth Report of Commissioners of Massachusetts for Introduction of Fish. 
1871, p. 17. 

f The shark is pursued in all the tropical and subtropical seas for its fins — 
for which there is a great demand in China as an article of diet — its oil and 
other products. About 40,000 are taken annually in the Indian Ocean and the 
contiguous seas. In the North Sea and the Arctic Ocean large numbers are 
annually caught. See Meek, Waar< niexikon — a work of great accuracy and 
value '^Leipzig, 1870), article Haifisch. 


abundance of fur animals in the same waters, were made 
known to the occupants of those posts by the return of the 
survivors of Bering's expedition, so active a chase was com- 
menced against the amphibia of that region, that, in the course 
of twenty-seven years, the sea cow, described by Steller as 
extremely numerous in 1741, is believed to have been com- 
pletely extirpated, not a single individual having been sen 
since the year 1768. The various tribes of seals* in the 
Northern and Southern Pacific, the walrus f and the sea otter, 
are already so reduced in numbers that they seem destined soon 
to follow the sea cow, unless protected by legislation stringent 
enough, and a police energetic enough, to repress the ardent 
cupidity of their pursuers. 

The seals, the otter tribe, and many other amphibia which 
feed almost exclusively upon fish, are extremely voracious, and 
of course their destruction or numerical reduction must have 
favored the multiplication of the species of fish principally 
preyed upon by them. I have been assured by the keeper of 
several young seals that, if supplied at frequent intervals, each 
seal would devour not less than fourteen pounds of fish, or 
about a quarter of his own weight, in a day. A very intelli- 
gent and observing hunter, who has passed a great part of his 
life in the forest, after carefully watching the habits of the 
fresh-water otter of the North American States, estimates their 
consumption of fish at about four pounds per day. 

Man has promoted the multiplication of fish by making war 

* The most valuable variety of fur seal, formerly abundant in all cold lati- 
tudes, is stated to have been completely exterminated in the Southern hemi- 
sphere, and to be now found only on one or two small islands of the Aleutian 
group. In 18G7 more than 700,000 seal skins were imported into Great 
Britain, and at least 000,000 seals are estimated to have been taken in 1870. 
These numbers do not include the seals killed by the Esquimaux and other 
rude tribes. 

f In 1808, a few American ships engaged in the North Pacific whale fishery 
turned their attention to the walrus, and took from 200 to 000 each. In 
other whalers engaged in the same pursuit, and in IS 70 the American fleet 
is believed to have destroyed not less than fifty thousand of these ani; 
They yield about twenty gallons of oil and four or five pounds of ivory each. 


on their brute enemies, but lie has by no means thereby com- 
pensated his own greater destructiveness.* The bird and beast 
of prey, whether on laud or in the water, hunt only as long as 
they feel the stimulus of hunger, their ravages are limited by 
the demands of present appetite, and they do not wastefully 
destroy what they cannot consume. Man, on the contrary, 
angles to-day that he may dine to-morrow ; he takes and dries 
millions of fish on the banks of Newfoundland and the coast of 
Norway, that the fervent Catholic of the shores of the Mediter- 
ranean may have wherewithal to satisfy the cravings of the 
stomach during next year's Lent, without violating the disci- 
pline of the papal church ;f and all the arrangements of his 
fisheries are so organized as to involve the destruction of many 

* According 1 to Hartwig, the United Provinces of Holland had, in 1618, 
three thousand herring busses, and nine thousand vessels engaged in the trans- 
port of these fish to market. The whole number of persons employed in the 
Dutch herring fishery was computed at 200,000. 

In the latter part of the eighteenth century, this fishery was most success- 
fully prosecuted by the Swedes, and in 1781, the town of G-ottenburg alone 
exported 136,649 ban-els, each containing 1,200 herrings, making a total of 
about 164,000,000 ; but so rapid was the exhaustion of the fish, from this keen 
pursuit, that in 1799 it was found necessary to prohibit the exportation of 
them altogether. — Das Leben des Meeres, p. 182. 

In 1855, the British fisheries produced 900,000 barrels, or almost enough to 
supply a fish to every human inhabitant of the globe. 

On the shores of Long Island Sound, the white fish, a species of herring too 
bony to be easily eaten, is used as manure in very great quantities. Ten 
thousand are employed as a dressing for an acre, and a single net has some- 
times taken 200,000 in a day. — Dwigiit's Travels, ii., pp. 512, 515. 

The London Times of May 11, 1872, informs us that 1,100 tons of mackerel 
estimated to weigh one pound each had recently been taken in a single night 
at a fishing station on the British coast. 

About ten million eels are sold annually in Billingsgate market, but vastly 
greater numbers of the young fry, when but three or four inches long, are 
taken. So abundant are they at the mouths of many French and English 
rivers, that they are carried into the country by cart-loads, and not only 
eaten, but given to swine or used as manure. 

f The fisheries of Sicily alone are said to yield 20,000 tons of tunny a year. 
The tunny is principally consumed in Italy during Lent, and a large propor- 
tion of the twenty millions of codfish taken annually at the Lofoden fishery 
on the coast of Norway is exported to the Mediterranean. 


more fish than are secured for human use, and the loss of a 
large proportion of the annual harvest of the sea in the process 
of curing, or in transportation to the places of its consumption.* 
Fish are more affected than quadrupeds by slight and even 
imperceptible differences in their breeding places and feeding 
grounds. Every river, every brook, every lake stamps a special 
character upon its salmon, its shad, and its trout, which is at 
once recognized by those who deal in or consume them. No 
skill can give the fish fattened by food selected and prepared 
by man the flavor of those which are nourished at the table of 
nature, and the trout of the artificial ponds in Germany and 
Switzerland are so inferior to the brook-fish of the same species 
and climate, that it is hard to believe them identical. The 
superior sapidity of the American trout and other fresh-water 
fishes to the most nearly corresponding European species, which 
is familiar to every one acquainted with both continents, is 
probably due less to specific difference than to the fact that, 
even in the parts of the New World which have been longest 
cultivated, wild nature is not yet tamed down to the character 
it has assumed in the Old, and which it will acquire in America 
also when her civilization shall be as ancient as is now that of 
Europe, f 

* According to Berthelot, in the Gulf of Lyons, between Marseilles and the 
easternmost spur of the Pyrenees, about 5,000,000 small fish are taken an- 
nually with the drag-net, and not less than twice as many more, not to speak 
of spawn, are destroyed by the use of this net. 

Between 1801 and 1865 France imported from Norway, for use as bait in 
the sardine fishery, cod-roes to the value of three million francs. — COTTS, 
Report on Commerce in the Products of the Sea, 1872, p. 82. 

The most reckless waste of aquatic life I remember to have seen noticed, if 
we except the destruction of herring and other fish with spawn, is that of the 
eggs of the turtle in the Amazon for the sake of the oil extracted from them. 
Bates estimates the eggs thus annually sacrificed at 48,000,000. — Naturalist on, 
the Amazon, 2d edition, 1864, p. 365. 

f It is possible that time may modify the habits of the fresh-water fish of 
the North American States, and accommodate them to the new physical con- 
ditions of their native waters. Hence it may be hoped that nature, even un- 
aided by art, will do something towards restoring the ancient plenty of our 
lakes and rivers. The decrease of our fresh-water fish cannot be ascribed 


Man has hitherto hardly anywhere produced such climatic 
or other changes as would suffice of themselves totally to banish 
the wild inhabitants of the dry land, and the disappearance of 
the native birds and quadrupeds from particular localities is to 
be ascribed quite as much to his direct persecutions as to the 
want of forest shelter, of appropriate food, or of other condi- 
tions indispensable to their existence. But almost all the pro 
cesses of agriculture, and of mechanical and chemical industry, 
are fatally destructive to aquatic animals within reach of their 
influence. When, in consequence of clearing the woods, the 
changes already described as thereby produced in the beds and 
currents of rivers, are in progress, the spawning grounds of fish 
are exposed from year to year to a succession of mechanical dis- 
turbances ; the temperature of the water is higher in summer, 
colder in winter, than when it was shaded and protected by 
wood ; the smaller organisms, which formed the sustenance of 
the young fry, disappear or are reduced in numbers, and new 
enemies are added to the old foes that preyed upon them ; the 
increased turbidness of the water in the annual inundations 
chokes the fish; and, finally, the quickened velocity of its 
current sweeps them down into the larger rivers or into the 
sea, before they are yet strong enough to support so great a 
change of circumstances.* Industrial operations are not less 

alone to exhaustion by fishing, for in the waters of the valleys and flanks of 
the Alps, which have been inhabited and fished ten times as long by a denser 
population, fish are still very abundant, and they thrive and multiply under 
circumstances where no American species could live at all. On the southern 
slope of those mountains, trout are caught in great numbers, in the swift 
streams which rush from the glaciers, and where the water is of icy coldness, 
and so turbid with particles of fine-ground rock, that you cannot see an inch 
below the surface. The glacier streams of Switzerland, however, are less 
abundant in fish. 

* A fact mentioned by Schubert — and which in its causes and many of its 
results corresponds almost precisely with those connected with the escape of 
Barton Pond in Vermont, so well known to geological students — is important, 
as showing that the diminution of the fish in rivers exposed to inundations is 
chiefly to be ascribed to the mechanical action of the current, and not mainly, 
as some have supposed, to changes of temperature occasioned by clearing. 


destructive to fish which live or spawn in fresh water. Mill- 
dams impede their migrations, if they do not absolutely prevent 
them, the sawdust from lumber mills clogs their gills, and the 
thousand deleterious mineral substances, discharged into rivers 
from metallurgical, chemical, and manufacturing establish- 
ments, poison them by shoals.* 

We have little evidence that any fish employed as human 
food has naturally multiplied in modern times, while all the 
more valuable tribes have been immensely reduced in numbers. 
This reduction must have affected the more voracious species 
not used as food by man, and accordingly the shark, and other 
fish of similar habits, even when not objects of systematic 
pursuit, are now comparatively rare in many waters where 
they formerly abounded. The result is, that man has greatly 
reduced the numbers of all larger marine animals, and conse- 
quently indirectly favored the multiplication of the smaller 
aquatic organisms which entered into their nutriment. This 
change in the relations of the organic and inorganic matter of 
the sea must have exercised an influence on the latter. What 
that influence has been we cannot say, still less can we predict 
what it will be hereafter ; but its action is not for that reason 
the less certain. f 

Our author states that, in 1796, a terrible inundation was produced in the 
Indalself, which rises in the Storsjo iu Jeratland, by drawing off into it the 
waters of another lake near Ragunda. The flood destroyed houses and fields ; 
much earth was swept into the channel, and the water made turbid and 
muddy ; the salmon and the smaller fish forsook the river altogether, and 
never returned. The banks of the river have never regained their former 
solidity, and portions of their soil are still continually falling into the water and 
destroying its purity. — Rem genom 8verge, ii., p. 51. 

* The mineral water discharged from a colliery on the river Doon in Scot- 
land discolored the stones in the bed of the river, and killed the fish for 
twenty miles below. 

The fish of the streams in which hemp is macerated in Italy arc often poi- 
soned by the juices thus extracted from the plant. — DOKOTEA, Somma/Ho 
delta 8toria deW .!'/, utiea, pp. 64, 65. 

f Among the unexpected results of human action, the destruction or multi- 
plication of fish, as well as of other animals, is a not unfrequent occurrence. 


Geographical Importance of Birds, 

Wild birds form of themselves a very conspicuous and inter- 
esting feature in the stqfage, as painters call it, of the natural 
landscape, and they are important elements in the view we are 
taking of geography, whether we consider their immediate or 
their incidental influence. Birds affect vegetation directly by 
sowing seeds and by consuming them ; they affect it indirectly 
by destroying insects injurious, or, in some cases, beneficial to 
vegetable life. Hence, when we kill a seed-sowing bird, we 
check the dissemination of a plant ; when we kill a bird which 
digests the seed it swallows, we promote the increase of a vege- 
table. Nature protects the seeds of wild, much more effectually 
than those of domesticated plants. The cereal grains are com- 
pletely digested when consumed by birds, but the germ of the 
smaller stone fruits and of very many other wild vegetables is 
uninjured, perhaps even stimulated to more vigorous growth, 
by the natural chemistry of the bird's stomach. The power of 
flight and the restless habits of the bird enable it to transport 
heavy seeds to far greater distances than they could be carried 
by the wind. A swift-winged bird may drop cherry stones a 
thousand miles from the tree they grow on ; a hawk, in tearing 

Williams, in his History of Vermont, i., p. 149, records such a case of the in- 
crease of trout. In a pond formed by damming a small stream to obtain 
water power for a sawmill, and covering- one thousand acres of primitive 
forest, the increased supply of food brought within reach of the fish multi- 
plied them to that degree, that, at the head of the pond, where, in the spring, 
they crowded together in the brook which supplied it, they were taken by the 
hands at pleasure, and swine caught them without difficulty. A single sweep 
of a small scoopnet would bring up half a bushel, carts were filled with them 
as fast as if picked up on dry land, and in the fishing season they were com- 
monly sold at a shilling (eightpence halfpenny, or about seventeen cents) 
a bushel. The increase in the size of the trout was as remarkable as the 
multiplication of their numbers. 

The construction of dams and mills is destructive to many fish, but operates 
as a protection to their prey. The mills on Connecticut River greatly dimin- 
ish, •;! the number of the salmon, but the striped bass, on which the salmon 
i, multiplied in proportion. — Dr. Dwigiit, Travels, vol. ii., p. 325. 


a pigeon, may scatter from its crop the still fresh rice it had 
swallowed at a distance of ten degrees of latitude, and thus the 
occurrence of isolated plants in situations where their presence 
cannot otherwise well be explained, is easily accounted for.* 
There is a large class of seeds apparently specially fitted by 
nature for dissemination by animals. I refer to those which 
attach themselves, by means of hooks, or by viscous juices, to 
the coats of quadrupeds and the feathers of birds, and are thus 
transported wherever their living vehicles may chance to wan- 
der. Some birds, too, deliberately bury seeds in the earth, or in 
holes excavated by them in the bark of trees, not indeed with 
a foresight aiming directly at the propagation of the plant, but 
from apparently purposeless secretiveness, or as a mode of pre- 
serving food for future use. 

The tame fowls play a much less conspicuous part in rural 
life than the quadrupeds, and, in their relations to the economy 
of nature, they are of very much less moment than four-footed 
animals, or than the undomesticated birds. The domestic tur- 
key f is probably more numerous in the territory of the United 
States than the wild bird of the same species ever was, and the 
grouse cannot, at the period of their greatest abundance, have 
counted as many as we now number of the common hen. The 
dove, however, must fall greatly short of the wild pigeon in 
multitude, and it is hardly probable that the flocks of domestic 
geese and ducks are as numerous as once were those of their 

* Pigeons were shot near Albany, in New York, a few years ago, with green 
rice in their crops, which it was thought must have been growing, a very few 
hours before, at the distance of seven or eight hundred miles. The efforts of 
the Dutch to confine the cultivation of the nutmeg to the island of Banda are 
said to have been defeated by the birds, which transported this heavy fruit to 
other islands. 

f The wild turkey takes readily to the water, and is able to cross rivers of 
very considerable width by swimming. By way of giving me an idea of the 
former abundance of this bird, an old and highly respectable gentleman who 
was among the early white settlers of the West, told me that he once counted, 
in walking down the northern bank of the Ohio River, within a distance of 
four miles, eighty-four turkeys as they landed singly, or at most in pairs, after 
swimming over from the Kentucky side 


wild congeners. The pigeon, indeed, seems to have multiplied 
immensely, for some years after the first clearings in the woods, 
because the settlers warred unsparingly upon the hawk, while 
the crops of grain and other vegetable growths increased the 
supply of food within the reach of the young birds, at the age 
when their power of flight is not yet great enough to enable 
them to seek it over a wide area.* The pigeon is not described 
by the earliest white inhabitants of the American States as 
filling the air with such clouds of winged life as astonished 
naturalists in the descriptions of Audubon, and, at the present 
day, the net and the gun have so reduced its abundance, that its 
appearance in large numbers is recorded only at long intervals, 
and it is never seen in the great flocks remembered by many 
still living observers as formerly very common. 

Introduction of Birds. 

Man has undesignedly introduced into new districts perhaps 
fewer species of birds than of quadrupeds ; f but the distribu- 
tion of birds is very much influenced by the character of his 

* The wood-pigeon, as well as the domestic dove, has been observed to in- 
crease in numbers in Europe also, when pains have been taken to exterminate 
the hawk. The American pigeons, which migrated in flocks so numerous that 
they were whole days in passing a given point, were no doubt injurious to the 
grain, but probably less so than is generally supposed ; for they did not confine 
themselves exclusively to the harvests for their nourishment. 

f The first mention I have found of the naturalization of a wild bird in mod- 
ern Europe is in the Menagiana, vol. iii., p. 174, edition of 1715, where it ia 
stated that Rene, King of Sicily and Duke of Anjou, who died in 1480, intro- 
duced the red-legged partridge into the latter country. Attempts have been 
made, and I believe with success, to naturalize the European lark on Long 
Island, and the English sparrow has been introduced into various parts of the 
Northern States, where he is useful by destroying noxious insects and worms 
not preyed upon by native birds. 

The humming-bird has resisted all efforts to acclimate him in Europe, though 
they have not unfrequently survived the passage across the ocean. 

In Switzerland and some other parts of Europe the multiplication of insec- 
tivorous birds is encouraged by building nests for them, and it is alleged that 
both fruit and forest trees have been essentially benefited by the protection 
thus afforded them. 



industry, and the transplantation of every object of agricultural 
production is, at a longer or shorter interval, followed by that 
of the birds which feed upon its seeds, or more frequently 
upon the insects it harbors. The vulture, the crow, and other 
winged scavengers, follow the march of armies as regularly as 
the wolf. Birds accompany ships on long voyages, for the sake 
of the offal which is thrown overboard, and, in such cases, it 
might often happen that they would breed and become natu- 
ralized in countries where they had been unknown before.* 
There is a familiar story of an English bird which built its nest 
in an unused block in the rigging of a ship, and made one or 
two short voyages with the vessel while hatching its eggs. Had 
the young become fledged while lying in a foreign harbor, they 
would of course have claimed the rights of citizenship in the 
country where they first took to the wing.f 

* Gulls hover about ships in port, and often far out at sea, diligently watch- 
ing for the waste of the caboose. While the four great fleets, English, French, 
Turkish, and Egyptian, were lying in the Bosphorus, in the summer and autumn 
of 1853, a young lady of my family called my attention to the fact that the gulls 
were far more numerous about the ships of one of the fleets than about the 
others. This was verified by repeated observation, and the difference was 
owing no doubt to the greater abundance of the refuse from the cookrooma 
of the naval squadron most frequented by the birds. Persons acquainted with 
the economy of the navies of the states in question, will be able to conjecture 
which fleet was most favored with these delicate attentions. The American 
gull follows the steamers up the Mississippi, and has been shot 1,500 miles 
from the sea. 

f Birds do not often voluntarily take passage on board ships bound for 
foreign countries, but I can testify to one such case. A stork, which had 
nested near one of the palaces on the Bosphorus, had, by some accident, injured 
a wing, and was unable to join his fellows when they commenced their winter 
migration to the banks of the Nile. Before he was able to fly again, he was 
caught, and the flag of the nation to which the palace belonged was tied to his 
leg, so that he was easily identified at a considerable distance. As his wing 
grew stronger, he made several unsatisfactory experiments at flight, and at 
last, by a vigorous effort, succeeded in reaching a passing ship bound south- 
ward, and perched himself on a topsail-yard. I happened to witness this move- 
ment, and observed him quietly maintaining his position as long as I could 
discern him with a spy-glass. I supposed he finished the voyage, for he cer- 
tainly did not return to the palace. 


An unfortunate popular error greatly magnifies the injury 
done to the crops of grain and leguminous vegetables by wild 
birds. Yery many of those generally supposed to consume 
large quantities of the seeds of cultivated plants really feed 
almost exclusively upon insects, and frequent the wheatfields, 
not for the sake of the grain, but for the eggs, larvae, and fly 
of the multiplied tribes of insect life which are so destructive 
to the harvests. This fact has been so well established by the. 
examination of the stomachs of great numbers of birds in 
Europe and the United States, at different seasons of the year, 
that it is no longer open to doubt, and it appears highly prob- 
able that even the species which consume more or less grain 
generally make amends by destroying insects whose ravages 
would have been still more injurious.* On this subject, we 

* Even the common crow has found apologists, and it has been asserted that 
he pays for the Indian corn he consumes by destroying the worms and larvae 
which infest that plant. 

Professor Treadwell, of Massachusetts, found that a half -grown American 
robin in confinement ate in one day sixty-eight worms, weighing together 
nearly once and a half as much as the bird himself, and another had pre- 
viously starved upon a daily allowance of eight or ten worms, or about twenty 
per cent, of his own weight. The largest of these numbers appeared, so far a3 
could be judged by watching parent birds of the same species, as they brought 
food to their young, to be much greater than that supplied to them when fed 
in the nest ; for the old birds did not return with worms or insects oftener than 
once in ten minutes on an average. If we suppose the parents to hunt for 
food twelve hours in a day, and a nest to contain four young, we should have 
seventy-two worms, or eighteen each, as the daily supply of the brood. It is 
probable enough that some of the food collected by the parents may be more 
nutritious than the earthworms, and consequently that a smaller quantity suf- 
ficed for the young in the nest than when reared under artificial conditions. 

The supply required by growing birds is not the measure of their wants 
after they have arrived at maturity, and it is not by any means certain that 
great muscular exertion always increases the demand for nourishment, either 
in the lower animals or in man. The members of the English Alpine Club 
are not distinguished for appetites which would make them unwelcome guests 
to Swiss landlords, and I think every man who has had the personal charge 
of field or railway hands, must have observed that laborers who spare their 
strength the least are not the most valiant trencher champions. During 
the period when imprisonment for debt was permitted in New England, per- 
sons confined in country jails had no specific allowance, and they were com- 


have much other evidence besides that derived from dissection. 
Direct observation has shown, in many instances, that the 
destruction of wild birds has been followed by a great multi- 
plication of noxious insects, and, on the other hand, that these 
latter have been much reduced in numbers by the protection 
and increase of the birds that devour them. Many interesting 
facts of this nature have been collected by professed natural- 
ists, but I shall content myself with a few taken from familiar 
and generally accessible sources. The following extract is 
from Michelet, ISOiseau, pp. 169, 170 : 

" The stingy farmer — an epithet justly and feelingly be- 
stowed by Virgil. Avaricious, blind, indeed, who proscribes 
the birds — those destroyers of insects, those defenders of his 
harvests. Not a grain for the creature which, during the rains 
of winter, hunts the future insect, finds out the nests of the 
larva?, examines, turns over every leaf, and destroys, every 
day, thousands of incipient caterpillars. But sacks of corn for 
the mature insect, whole fields for the grasshoppers, which the 
bird would have made war upon. With eyes fixed upon his 
furrow, upon the present moment only, without seeing and 
without foreseeing, blind to the great harmony which is never 
broken with impunity, he has everywhere demanded or ap- 
proved laws for the extermination of that necessary ally of his 
toil — the insectivorous bird. And the insect has well avenged 
the bird. It has become necessary to revoke in haste the pro- 
scription. In the Isle of Bourbon, for instance, a price was set 
on the head of the martin ; it disappeared, and the grasshop- 
pers took possession of the island, devouring, withering, scorch- 
ing with a biting drought all that the}" did not consume. In 
North America it has been the same with the starling, the 
protector of Indian corn.* Even the sparrow, which really 

monly fed without stint. I have often inquired concerning their diet, and 
been assured by the jailers that their prisoners, who were not provided with 
work or other means of exercise, consumed a considerably larger supply of 
food than common out-door laborers. 

* I hope Michelet has good authority for this statement, but I am unable to 
confirm it. 


does attack grain, but which protects it still more, the pilferer, 
the outlaw, loaded with abuse and smitten with curses — it has 
been found in Hungary that they were likely to perish without 
him, that he alone could sustain the mighty war against the 
beetles and the thousand winged enemies that swarm in the 
lowlands ; they have revoked the decree of banishment, re- 
called in haste this valiant militia, which, though deficient in 
discipline, is nevertheless the salvation of the country.* 

"Not long since, in the neighborhood of Rouen and in the 
valley of Monville, the blackbird was for some time proscribed. 
The beetles profited well by this proscription ; their larvae, in- 
finitely multiplied, carried on their subterranean labors with 
such success, that a meadow was shown me, the surface of 
wliich was completely dried up, every herbaceous root was con- 
sumed, and the whole grassy mantle, easily loosened, might 
have been rolled up and carried away like a carpet." 

The general hostility of the European populace to the smaller 
birds is, in part, the remote effect of the reaction created by 
the game laws. "When the restrictions imposed upon the chase 
by those laws were suddenly removed in France, the whole 
people at once commenced a destructive campaign against every 
species of wild animal. Arthur Young, writing in Provence, 
on the 30th of August, 17S9, soon after the National Assembly 
had declared the chase free, thus complains of the annoyance 
he experienced from the use made by the peasantry of their 
newly-won liberty. ' ; One would think that every rusty fire- 
lock in all Provence w T as at work in the indiscriminate destruc- 
tion of all the birds. The wadding buzzed by my ears, or fell 

* Apropos of the sparrow — a single pair of which, according to Michelet, 
p. 315, carries to the nest four thousand and three hundred caterpillars or 
coleoptera in a week — I find in an English newspaper a report of a meeting of 
a " Sparrow Club," stating that the member who took the first prize had de- 
stroyed 1,4(57 of these birds within the year, and that the prowess of the 
other members had brought the total number up to 11.944 birds, besides 2,556 
eggs. Every one of the fourteen thousand hatched and unhatched birds, 
thus sacrificed to puerile vanity and ignorant prejudice, would have saved his 
bushel of wheat by preying upon insects that destroy the grain. 


into my carriage, five or six times in the course of the day." 
* * " The declaration of the Assembly that every man is 
free to hunt on his own land * * has filled all France with 
an intolerable cloud of sportsmen. * * The declaration 
speaks of compensations and indemnities [to the seigneurs'], 
but the ungovernable populace takes advantage of the abolition 
of the game laws and laughs at the obligation imposed by the 

The contagious influence of the French Revolution occa- 
sioned the removal of similar restrictions, with similar results, 
in other countries. The habits then formed have become here- 
ditary on the Continent, and though game laws still exist in 
England, there is little doubt that the blind prejudices of the 
ignorant and half-educated classes in that country against birds 
are, in some degree, at least, due to a legislation, which, by 
restricting the chase of game worth killing, drives the un- 
privileged sportsman to indemnify himself by slaughtering all 
wild life which is not reserved for the amusement of his betters. 
Hence the lord of the manor buys his partridges and his hares 
by sacrificing the bread of his tenants, and so long as the mem- 
bers of " Sparrow Clubs" are forbidden to follow higher game, 
they will suicidally revenge themselves by destroying the birds 
which protect their wheatfields. 

On the Continent, and especially in Italy, the comparative 
scarcity and dearness of animal food combine with the feeling 
I have just mentioned to stimulate still further the destructive 
passions of the fowler. In the Tuscan province of Grosseto, 
containing less than 2,000 square miles, nearly 300,000 thrushes 
and other small birds are annually brought to market.* 

* Salvagnoli, Memorie sulle Maremme Toscane, p. 143. The country about 
Naples is filled with slender towers fifteen or twenty feet high, which are a 
standing- puzzle to strangers. They are the stations of the fowlers who watch 
from them the flocks of small birds and drive them down into the nets by 
throwing stones over them. 

In Northern and Central Italy, one often sees hillocks crowned with grove- 
like plantations of small trees, much resembling large arbors. These serve to 
collect birds, which are entrapped in nets in great numbers. These plan- 


Birds are less hardy in constitution, they possess less facility 
of accommodation,* and they are more severely affected by 

tations are called ragnaje, and the reader will find, in Bindi's edition of Da- 
vanzati, a very pleasant description of a ragnaja, though its authorship is not 
now ascribed to that eminent writer. 

Tschudi has collected in his little work, Ueber die LandwirtJischafUiche Be- 
deutung der Yogel, many interesting facts resjsecting the utility of birds, and 
the wanton destruction of them in Italy and elsewhere. Not only the owd, 
but many other birds more familiarly known as predacious in their habits, are 
useful by destroying great numbers of mice and moles. The importance of 
this last service becomes strikingly apparent when it is known that the 
burrows of the moles are among the most frequent causes of rupture in the 
dikes of the Po, and, consequently, of inundations which lay many square 
miles of land under water. See Annates des Ponts et Chaussees, 1847, 
l Kre semestre, p. 150; Vogt, Niitzliche und schddliclie Thiere ; and particu- 
larly articles in the Qiornale del Club Alpino, vol. iv., no. 15, and vol. v., no. 

See also in Aus der Natitr, vol. 54, p. 797, an article entitled Nutzen der 
Vogelfur die Landwirihschaft, where it is affirmed that " without birds no 
agriculture or even vegetation would be possible." 

In an interesting memoir by Itondani, published in the Bollettino del Comizio 
agrarlo di Parma for December, 1808, it is maintained that birds are often 
injurious to the agriculturist, by preying not only on noxious insects, but 
sometimes exclusively, or at least by preference, on entomopbagous tribes 
which would otherwise destroy those injurious to cultivated plants. See also 
articles by Prof. Sabbioni in the Giornale di Agrkoltura di Bologna, Novem- 
ber and December, 1870, and other articles in the same journal of 15th and 
30th April, 1870. 

* Wild birds are very tenacious in their habits. The extension of particular 
branches of agriculture introduces new birds ; but unless in the case of such 
changes in physical conditions, particular species seem indissolubly attached 
to particular localities. The migrating tribes follow almost undeviatingly 
the same precise line of flight in their annual journeys, and establish them- 
selves in the same breeding-places from year to year. The stork is a strong- 
winged bird and roves far for food, but very rarely establishes new colonies. 
He is common in Holland, but unknown in England. Not above five or six 
pairs of storks commonly breed in the suburbs of Constantinople along the 
European shore of the narrow Bosphorus, while — much to the satisfaction of 
the Moslems, who are justly proud of the marked partiality of so orthodox a 
bird — dozens of chimneys of the true believers on the Asiatic side are crowned 
with his nests. 

The appearance of the dove-like grouse, Tetrao paradoxus, or Syrrliaptes 
Pallasii, in various parts of Europe, in 1859 and the following years, is a 


climatic excess than quadrupeds. Besides, they generally want 
the special means of shelter against the inclemency of the 
weather and against pursuit by their enemies, which holes and 
dens afford, to burrowing animals and to some larger beasts of 
prey. The egg is exposed to many dangers before hatching, 
and the young bird is especially tender, defenceless, and help- 
less. Every cold rain, every violent wind, every hailstorm dur- 
ing the breeding season, destroys hundreds of nestlings, and the 
parent often perishes with her progeny while brooding over it 
in the vain effort to protect it.* The great proportional num- 
bers of birds, their migratory habits, and the ease with which 
by their power of flight they may escape most dangers that 
beset them, would seem to secure them from extirpation, and 
even from very great, numerical reduction. But experience 
shows that when not protected by law, by popular favor or 
superstition, or by other special circumstances, they yield 
very readily to the hostile influences of civilization, and, though 
the first operations of the settler are favorable to the increase of 
many species, the great extension of rural and of mechanical 

noticeable exception to the law of regularity "which seems to govern the 
movements and determine the habitat of birds. The proper home of this bird 
is the steppes of Tartary, and it is not recorded to have been observed in 
Europe, or at least west of Russia, until the year above mentioned, when 
many flocks of twenty or thirty, and even a hundred individuals, were seen in 
Bohemia, Germany, Holland, Denmark, England, Ireland, and France. A 
considerable flock frequented the Frisian island of Borkum for more than five 
months. It was hoped they would breed and remain permanently in the 
island, but this expectation has been disappointed, and the steppe-grouse 
seems to have disappeared again altogether. 

* It is not the unfledged and the nursing bird alone that are exposed to 
destruction by severe weather. Whole flocks of adult and strong-winged 
tribes are killed by hail. Severe winters are usually followed by a sensible 
diminution in the numbers of the non-migrating bin Is, and a cold storm in 
summer often proves fatal to the more delicate species. On the 10th cf June, 
1S4-, five or six inches of snow fell in Northern Vermont. The next morning 
I found a humming-bird killed by the cold, and hanging by its claws just be- 
low a loose clapboard on the wall of a small wooden building where it had 
sought shelter. 


industry is, in a variety of ways, destructive even to tribes not 
directly warred upon by man."" 

Nature sets bounds to the disproportionate increase of birds, 
while at the same time, by the multitude of their resources, she 
secures them from extinction through her own spontaneous 
agencies. Man both preys upon them and wantonly destroys 

* Lyell, Antiquity of Man, p. 409, observes: "Of birds it is estimated 
that the number of those which die every year equals the aggregate number 
by which the species to which they respectively belong is, on the average, 
permanently represented." 

A remarkable instance of the influence of new circumstances upon birds was 
observed upon the establishment of a light-house on Cape Cod some years 
since. The morning after the lamps were lighted for the first time, more 
than a hundred dead birds of several different species, chiefly water-fowl, 
were found at the foot of the tower. They had been killed in the course of 
the night by flying against the thick glass or grating of the lantern. 

From an article by A. Esquiros, in the Revue des Deux Mondes for Sept. 1, 
1864, entitled, La vie Anglaise, p. 119, it appears that such occurrences as 
that stated in the note have been not unfrequent on the British coast. Are 
the birds thus attracted by new lights, flocks in migration ? 

Migrating birds, whether for greater security from eagles, hawks, and other 
enemies, or for some unknown reason, perform a great part of their annual 
journeys by night ; and it is observed in the Alps that they follow the high 
roads in their passage across the mountains. This is partly because the food 
in search of which they must; sometimes descend is principally found near the 
roads. It is, however, not altogether for the sake of consorting with man, 
or of profiting by his labors, that their line of flight conforms to the paths he 
has traced, but rather because the great roads are carried through the natural 
depressions in the chain, and hence the birds can cross the summit by these 
routes without rising to a height where at the seasons of migration the cold 
would be excessive. 

The instinct which guides migratory birds in their course is not in all cases 
infallible, and it seems to be confounded by changes in the condition of the 
surface. I am familiar with a village in New England, at the junction of two 
valleys, each drained by a mill-stream, where the flocks of wild geese which 
formerly passed, every spring and autumn, were very frequently lost, as it 

as popularly phrased, and I have often heard their screams in the night as 
they flew wildly about in perplexity as to the proper course. Perhaps the vil- 
lage lights embarrassed them, or perhaps the constant changes in the face of 
the country, from the clearings then going on, introduced into the landscape 
features not according with the ideal map handed down in the anserine family, 
and thus deranged its traditional geography. 


them. The delicious flavor of game-birds, and the skill im- 
plied in the various arts of the sportsman who devotes himself 
to fowling, make them favorite objects of the chase, while the 
beauty of their plumage, as a military and feminine decora- 
tion, threatens to involve the sacrifice of the last survivor of 
many once numerous species. Thus far, but few birds de- 
scribed by ancient or modem naturalists are known to have 
become absolutely extinct, though there are some cases in which 
they are ascertained to have utterly disappeared from the face 
of the earth in very recent times. The most familiar instances 
are those of the dodo, a large bird peculiar to the Mauritius or 
Isle of France, exterminated about the year 1690, and now 
known only by more or less fragmentary skeletons, and the 
solitary, which inhabited the islands of Bourbon and Rodriguez, 
but has not been seen for more than a century. A parrot and 
some other birds of the Norfolk Island group are said to have 
lately become extinct. The wingless auk, Alca impennis, a 
bird remarkable for its excessive fatness, was very abundant 
two or three hundred years ago in the Faroe Islands, and on 
the whole Scandinavian seaboard. The early voyagers found 
either the same or a closely allied species, in immense num- 
bers, on all the coasts and islands of Newfoundland. The. 
value of its flesh and its oil made it one of the most important 
resources of the inhabitants of those sterile regions, and it was 
naturally an object of keen pursuit. It is supposed to be 
now completely extinct, and few museums can show even its 

There seems to be strong reason to believe that modern 
civilization is guiltless of one or two sins of extermination 
which have been committed in recent ages. New Zealand 
formerly possessed several species of dinornis, one of which, 
called moa by the islanders, was larger than the ostrich. The 
condition in which the bones of these birds have been found 
and the traditions of the natives concur to prove that, though 
the aborigines had probably extirpated them before the dis- 
covery of New Zealand by the whites, they still existed at a 


comparatively late period. The same remarks apply to a 
winged giant the eggs of which have been brought from 
Madagascar. This bird must have much exceeded the dimen- 
sions of the moa, at least so far as we can judge from the egg, 
which is eight times as large as the average size of the ostrich 
egg, or about one hundred and fifty times that of the hen. 

But though we have no evidence that man has exterminated 
many species of birds, we know that his persecutions have 
caused their disappearance from many localities where they 
once were common, and greatly diminished their numbers in 
others. The cappercailzie, Tetrao urogallus, the finest of the 
grouse family, formerly abundant in Scotland, had become 
extinct in Great Britain, but has been reintroduced from 
Sweden." The ostrich is mentioned, by many old travellers, as 
common on the Isthmus of Suez down to the middle of the 
seventeenth century. It appears to have frequented Palestine, 
Syria, and even Asia Minor at earlier periods, but is now rarely 
found except in the seclusion of remoter deserts. f 

* The cappercailzie, or tjiider, as he is called in Sweden, is a bird of singu- 
lar habits, and seems to want some of the protective instincts which secure 
most other mid birds from destruction. The younger Laestadius frequently 
notices the tjiider, in his very remarkable account of the Swedish Laplanders. 
The tjiider, though not a bird of passage, is migratory, or rather wandering 
in domicile, aud appears to undertake very purposeless and absurd journeys. 
" When he flits," says Laestadius, "he follows a straight course, and some- 
times pursues it quite out of the countiy. It is said that, in foggy weather, 
he sometimes flies out to sea, and, when tired, falls into the water and is 
drowned. It is accordingly observed that, when he flies westwardiy, towards 
the mountains, he soon comes back again ; but when he takes an eastwardly 
course, he returns no more, and for a long time is very scarce in Lapland. 
From this it would seem that he turns back from the bald mountains, when 
he discovers that he has strayed from his proper home, the wood ; but when 
he finds himself over the Baltic, where he cannot alight to rest and collect 
himself, he flies on until he is exhausted and falls into the sea." — Petuus 
L.kstadius, Journal afforsta dret, etc., p. 325 

f Frescobaldi saw ostriches between Suez and Mt. Sinai. Yiaggio in Terra 
Santa, p. 65. See also Vansleb, Voyage cP£gypte, p. 103, and an article in 
Petermann, MiUheilungen, 1870, p. 380, entitled DieVerbreitung des Strausses 
in Aiden. 


The modern increased facilities of transportation have 
brought distant markets within reach of the professional hunt- 
er, and thereby given a new impulse to his destructive propen- 
sities. ISTot only do all Great Britain and Ireland contribute to 
the supply of game for the British capital, but the canvas-back 
duck of the Potomac, and even the prairie hen from the basin 
of the Mississippi, may be found at the stalls of the London 
poulterer. Kohl * informs us that on the coasts of the Xorth 
Sea, twenty thousand wild ducks are usually taken in the 
course of the season in a single decoy, and sent to the large 
maritime towns for sale. The statistics of the great European 
cities show a prodigious consumption of game-birds, but the 
official returns fall far below the truth, because they do not 
include the rural districts, and because neither the poacher nor 
his customers report the number of his victims. Reproduction, 
in cultivated countries, cannot keep pace with this excessive 
destruction, and there is no doubt that all the wild birds which 
are chased for their flesh or their plumage are diminishing 
with a rapidity which justifies the fear that the last of them 
will soon follow the dodo and the wingless auk. 

Fortunately the larger birds wdiich are pursued for their flesh 
or for their feathers, and those the eggs of which are used as 
food, are, so far as w r e know the functions appointed to them 
by nature, not otherwise specially useful to man, and, there- 
fore, their wholesale destruction is an economical evil only in 
the same sense in which all waste of productive capital is an 
evil.f If it were possible to confine the consumption of game- 
fowl to a number equal to the annual increase, the world would 
be a gainer, but not to the same extent as it would be by 

* Die Ilerzogthamer Schlcswig und Eolstein, i., p. 203. 

f The increased demand for animal oils for the use of the leather-dresser 
is now threatening the penguin with the fate of the wingless auk. According 
to the Report of the Agricultural Department of the U. 8. for August and 
September, 1871, p. 340, small vessels are fitted out for the chase of this bird, 
and return from a six weeks' cruise with 25,000 or 30,000 gallons of oil. 
About eleven birds are required for a gallon, and consequently the vessels 
take upon an average 300,000 penguins each. 


checking the wanton sacrifice of millions of the smaller birds, 
which are of no real value as food, but which, as we have seen, 
render a most important service by battling, in our behalf, as 
well as in their own, against the countless legions of humming 
and of creeping things, with which the prolific powers of insect 
life would otherwise cover the earth. 

Utility and Destruction of Reptiles. 

The disgust and fear with which the serpent is so universally- 
regarded expose him to constant persecution by man, and per- 
haps no other animal is so relentlessly sacrificed by him. Never- 
theless, snakes as well as lizards and other reptiles are not wholly 
useless to their great enemy. The most formidable foes of the 
insect, and even of the small rodents, are the reptiles. The 
chameleon approaches the insect perched upon the twig of a 
tree, with an almost imperceptible slowness of motion, until, at 
the distance of a foot, he shoots out his long, slimy tongue, and 
rarely fails to secure the victim. Even the slow toad catches 
the swift and wary housefly in the same manner ; and in the 
warm countries of Europe, the numerous lizards contribute very 
essentially to the reduction of the insect population, which they 
both surprise in the winged state upon walls and trees, and con- 
sume as egg, worm, and chrysalis, in their earlier metamor~ 
phoses. The serpents feed much upon insects, as well as upon 
mice, moles, and small reptiles, including also other snakes. 

In temperate climates, snakes are consumed by scarcely any 
beast or bird of prey except the stork, and they have few dan- 
gerous enemies but man, though in the tropics other animals 
prey upon them.* It is doubtful whether any species of ser- 

* It is very questionable whether there is any foundation for the popular 
belief in the hostility of swine and of deer to the rattlesnake, and careful 
experiments as to the former quadruped seem to show that the supposed 
enmity is wholly imaginary. It is however affirmed in an article in Nature, 
June 11, 1872, p. 215, that the pigs have exterminated the rattlesnake in some 
parts of Oregon, and that swine are destructive to the cobra de capello in 
India. Observing that the starlings, stornelU, which bred in an old tower in 


pent has been exterminated within the human period, and even 
the dense population of China has not been able completely to 
rid itself of the viper. They have, however, almost entirely 
disappeared from particular localities. The rattlesnake is now 
wholly unknown in many large districts where it was extremely 
common half a century ago, and Palestine has long been, if not 
absolutely free from venomous serpents, at least very nearly so.* 

Piedmont, carried something from their nests and dropped it upon the ground 
about as often as they brought food to their young, I watched their proceed- 
ings, and found every day lying near the tower numbers of dead or dying 
slowworms, and, in a few cases, small lizards, which had, in every instance, 
lost about two inches of the tail. This part I believe the starlings gave to 
their nestlings, and threw away the remainder. 

* Eussell denies the existence of poisonous snakes in Northern Syria, and 
states that the last instance of death known to have occurred from the bite of 
a serpent near Aleppo took place a hundred years before his time. In Pales- 
tine, the climate, the thinness of population, the multitude of insects and of 
lizards, all circumstances, in fact, seem very favorable to the multiplication of 
serpents, but the venomous species, at least, are extremely rare, if at all 
known, in that country. I have, however, been assured by persons very fami- 
liar with Mount Lebanon, that cases of poisoning from the bite of snakes had 
occurred within a few years, near Hasbeiyeh, and at other places on the 
southern declivities of Lebanon and Hermon. In Egypt, on the other hand, 
the cobra, the asp, and the cerastes are as numerous as ever, and are much 
dreaded by all the natives except the professional snake charmers. 

The recent great multiplication of vipers in some parts of France is a sin- 
gular and startling fact. Toussenel, quoting from official documents, states, 
that upon the offer of a reward of fifty centimes, or ten cents, a head, tfdve 
thousand vipers were brought to the prefect of a single department, and that 
in 1859 fifteen hundred snakes and twenty quarts of snakes' eggs were found 
under a farm-house hearthstone. The granary, the stables, the roof, the very 
beds swarmed with serpents, and the family were obliged to abandon its habi- 
tation. Dr. Viaugrandmarais, of Nantes, reported to the prefect of his depart- 
ment more than two hundred recent cases of viper bites, twenty -four of which 
proved fatal. — Tmtia, p. 176 et seqq. According to the Journal dts Debate 
for Oct. 1st, 1867, the Department of the Cdte d'Or paid in the year 1866 
eighteen thousand francs for the destruction of vipers. The reward was thirty 
centimes a head, and consequently the number killed was about sixty thousand. 
A friend residing in that department informs me that it was strongly suspected 
that many of these snakes were imported from other departments for the sake 
of the premium. 

In Nature for 1870 and 1871 we are told that the number of deaths from the 


The serpent does not appear to have any natural limit of 
growth, and we are therefore not authorized wholly to discredit 
the evidence of ancient naturalists in regard to the extraordi- 
nary dimensions which these reptiles are said by them to have 
sometimes attained. The use of firearms has enabled man to 
reduce the numbers of the larger serpents, and they do not often 
escape him long enough to arrive at the size ascribed to them by 
travellers a century or two ago. Captain Speke, however, shot 
a serpent in Africa which measured fifty-one and a half feet in 

Some enthusiastic entomologist will, perhaps, by and by dis- 
cover that insects and worms are as essential as the larger or- 
ganisms to the proper working of the great terraqueous machine, 
and we shall have as eloquent pleas in defence of the mosquito, 
and perhaps even of the tzetze-fly, as Toussenel and Michelet 
have framed in behalf of the bird. The silkworm, the lac in- 
sect, and the bee need no apologist ; a gallnut produced by the 
puncture of a cy?iips on a Syrian oak is a necessary ingredient 
in the ink I am writing with, and from my windows I recog- 
nize the grain of the kermes and the cochineal in the gay habili- 
ments of the holiday groups beneath them. 

These humble forms of being are seldom conspicuous by mere 
mass, and though the winds and the waters sometimes sweep 
together large heaps of locusts and even of may-flies, their re- 
mains are speedily decomposed, their exuvias and their struc- 
tures form no strata, and still less does nature use them, as she 
does the calcareous and silicious cases and dwellings of animal- 
cular species, to build reefs and spread out submarine deposits, 
which subsequent geological action may convert into islands and 
even mountains.* 

bites of venomous serpents in the Bengal Presidency, in the year 18G9, was 
11,416, and that in the whole of British India not less than 40,000 human lives 
are annually lost from this cause. In one small department, a reward of from 
three to six pence a head for poisonous serpents brought in 1,200 a day, and 
in two months the government paid £10,000 sterling for their destruction. 

* Although the remains of extant animals are rarely, if ever, gathered in 
sufficient quantities to possess any geographical importance by their mere 


But the action of the creeping and swarming things of the 
earth, though often passed unnoticed, is not without important 
effects in the general economy of nature. The geographical 
importance of insects proper, as well as of worms, depends 
principally on their connection with vegetable life as agents of 
its fecundation, and of its destruction. We learn from Darwin, 
" On Various Contrivances by which British and Foreign Or- 
chids are Fertilized by Insects," that some six thousand species 
of orchids are absolutely dependent upon the agency of insects 
for their fertilization, and that consequently, were those plants 
unvisited by insects, they would all rapidly disappear. What 
is true of the orchids is more or less true of many other vegeta- 
ble families.* We do not know the limits of this agency, and 

mass, the decayed exuvias of even the smaller and humbler forms of life are 
sometimes abundant enough to exercise a perceptible influence on soil and 
atmosphere. " The plain of Cumana," says Humboldt, " presents a remark- 
able phenomenon, after heavy rains. The moistened earth, when heated by the 
rays of the sun, diffuses the musky odor common in the torrid zone to animals 
of very different classes, to the jaguar, the small species of tiger-cat, the 
cabia'i, the gallinazo vulture, the crocodile, the viper, and the rattlesnake. 
The gaseous emanations, the vehicles of this aroma, appear to be disengaged 
in proportion as the soil, which contains the remains of an innumerable mul- 
titude of reptiles, worms, and insects, begins to be impregnated with water. 
Wherever we stir the earth, we are struck with the mass of organic sub- 
stances which in turn are developed and become transformed or decomposed. 
Nature in these climes seems more active, more prolific, and, so to speak, more 
prodigal of life." 

* Later observations of Darwin and other naturalists have greatly raised 
former estimates of the importance of insect life in the fecundation of plants, 
and among other remarkable discoveries it has been found that, in many 
cases at least, insects are necessary even to monoecious vegetables, because 
the male flower does not impregnate the female growing on the same stem, 
and the latter can be fecundated only by pollen supplied to it by insects from 
another plant of the same species. 

"Who would ever have thought," says Preyer, " that the abundance and 
beauty of the pansy and of the clover were dependent upon the number of 
cats and owls ? But so it is. The clover and the pansy cannot exist without 
the humble-bee, which, in search of his vegetable nectar, transports uncon- 
sciously the pollen from the masculine to the feminine flower, a service which 
other insects perform only partially for these plants. Their existence there- 
fore depends upon that of the humble-bee. The mice make war upon this 


many of the insects habitually regarded as unqualified pests, 
may directly or indirectly perform functions as important to 
the most valuable plants as the services rendered by certain 
tribes to the orchids. I say directly or indirectly, because, be- 
sides the other arrangements of nature for checking the undue 
multiplication of particular species, she has established a police 
among insects themselves, by which some of them keep down 
or promote the increase of others ; for there are insects, as well 
as birds and beasts, of prey. The existence of an insect which 
fertilizes a useful vegetable may depend on that of another 
insect which constitutes his food in some stage of his life, and 
this other again may be as injurious to some plant as his de- 
stroyer is to a different species. 

The ancients, according to Pliny, were accustomed to hang 
branches of the wild fig upon the domestic tree, in order that 
the insects which frequented the former might hasten the ripen- 
ing of the cultivated fig by their punctures — or, as others sup- 
pose, might fructify it by transporting to it the pollen of the 
wild fruit — and this process, called caprification, is not yet en- 
tirely obsolete.* 

The perforations of the earthworms and of many insect 
larvss mechanically affect the texture of the soil and its perme- 
ability by water, and they therefore have a certain influence on 
the form and character of terrestrial surface. The earthworms 

bee. In their fondness for honey they destroy the nest and at the same time 
the bee. The principal enemies of mice are cats and owls, and therefore the 
finest clovers and the most beautiful pansies are found near villages where 
cats and owls abound." — Preyer, Der Kampf um das Dasein, p. 22. See 
also Delpixo, Pensieri sulla biologia vegetcde, and other works of the same 
able observer on vegetable physiology. 

* The utility of caprification has been a good deal disputed, and it has, I 
believe, been generally abandoned in Italy, though still practised in Greece. 
See Browne, The Trees of America, p. 475, and on caprification in Kabylia, 
N. Bibesco, Les Kabyles du Djurdjura, in Revue des Deux Monden for April 
1st, 1865, p. 589; also, Aus der Natur, vol. xxx., p. G84, and Piiipson, 
Utilization of Minute Life, p. 59. In some parts of Sicily, sprigs of mint, 
mentha puleghtm, are used instead of branches of the wild fig for caprification. 
Pitre, Urn popolari Siciliani, 1871, p. 18. 



long ago made good their title to the respect and gratitude of 
the farmer as well as of the angler. Their utility has been 
pointed out in many scientific as well as in many agricultural 
treatises. The following extract from an essay on this subject 
will answer my present purpose : 

" Worms are great assistants to the drainer, and valuable aids 
to the farmer in keeping up the fertility of the soil. They love 
moist, but not wet soils ; they will bore down to, but not into 
water ; they multiply rapidly on land after drainage, and prefer 
a deeply-dried soil. On examining part of a field which had 
been deeply drained, after long-previous shallow drainage, it 
was found that the worms had greatly increased in number, 
and that their bores descended quite to the level of the pipes. 
Many worm-bores were large enough to receive the little linger. 
A piece of land near the sea in Lincolnshire, over which the 
sea had broken and killed all the worms, remained sterile until 
the worms again inhabited it. A piece of pasture land, in 
which worms were in such numbers that it was thought their 
casts interfered too much with its produce, was rolled at night 
in order to destroy the worms. The result was, that the fertility 
of the field greatly declined, nor was it restored until they had 
recruited their numbers, which was aided by collecting and 
transporting multitudes of worms from the fields. 

" The great depth into which worms will bore, and from 
which they push up fine fertile soil, and cast it on the surface, 
have been well shown by the fact that in a few years they 
have actually elevated the surface of fields by a large layer of 
rich mould, several inches thick, thus affording nourishment to 
the roots of grasses, and increasing the productiveness of the 

It should be added that the writer quoted, and all others who 
have discussed the subject, have, so far as I know, overlooked 
one very important element in the fertilization produced by 
earthworms. I refer to the enrichment of the soil by their 
excreta during life, and by the decomposition of their remains 
when they die. The manure thus furnished is as valuable as 


the like amount of similar animal products derived from 
higher organisms, and when we consider the prodigious num- 
bers of these worms found on a single square yard of some 
soils, we may easily see that they furnish no insignificant con- 
tribution to the nutritive material required for the growth of 

The carnivorous and often herbivorous insects render another 
important service to man by consuming dead and decaying 
animal and vegetable matter, the decomposition of which 
would otherwise till the air with effluvia noxious to health. 
Some of them, the grave-digger beetle, for instance, bury the 
small animals in which they lay their eggs, and thereby pre- 
vent the escape of the gases disengaged by putrefaction. 
The prodigious rapidity of development in insect life, the 
great numbers of the individuals in many species, and the 
voracity of most of them while in the larva state, justify 
the appellation of nature's scavengers which has been be- 
stowed upon them, and there is very little doubt that, in 
warm countries, they consume a larger quantity of putrescent 
organic matter than the quadrupeds and birds which feed upon 
such aliment. 

* I believe there is no foundation for the supposition that earthworms attack 
the tuber of the potato. Some of them, especially one or two species em- 
ployed by anglers as bait, if natives of the woods, are at least rare in shaded 
grounds, but multiply very rapidly after the soil is brought under cultivation. 
Forty or fifty years ago they were so scarce in the newer parts of New Eng- 
land, that the rustic fishermen of every village kept secret the few places 
where they were to be found in their neighborhood, as a professional mystery, 
but at present one can hardly turn over a shovelful of rich moist soil any- 
where, without unearthing several of them. A very intelligent lady, born in 
the woods of Northern New England, told me that, in her childhood, these 
Worms were almost unknown in that region, though anxiously sought for by 
the anglers, but that they increased as the country was cleared, and at last 
became so numerous in some places, that the water of springs, and even of 
shallow wells, which had formerly been excellent, was rendered undrinkable 
by the quantity of dead worms that fell into them. The increase of the robin 
and other small birds which follow the settler when he has prepared a suit- 
able home for them, at last checked the excessive multiplication of the 
wormo, and abated the nuisance. 


Injury to the Forest by Insects. 

The action of the insect on vegetation, as we have thus far 
described it, is principally exerted on smaller and less con- 
spicuous plants, and it is therefore matter rather of agricul- 
tural than of geographical interest. But in the economy of 
the forest European writers ascribe to insect life an importance 
which it has not reached in America, where the spontaneous 
woods are protected by safeguards of nature's own devising. 

The insects which damage primitive forests by feeding upon 
products of trees essential to their growth, are not numerous, 
nor is their appearance, in destructive numbers, frequent, and 
those which perforate the stems and branches, to deposit and 
hatch their eggs, more commonly select dead trees for that pur- 
pose, though, unhappily, there are important exceptions to this 
latter remark.* I do not know that we have any evidence 

* The locust insect, Clit'is pictus, which deposits its eggs in the American 
locust, Robinia pseudacacia, is one of these, and its ravages have been and 
still are more destructive to that very valuable tree, so remarkable for combin- 
ing rapidity of growth with strength and durability of wood. This insect, I 
believe, has not yet appeared in Europe, where, since the so general employ- 
ment of the Robinia to clothe and protect embankments and the scarps of 
deep cuts on railroads, it would do incalculable mischief. As a traveller, 
however, I should find some compensation for this evil in the destruction of 
these acacia hedges, which as completely obstruct the view on hundreds of 
miles of French and Italian railways, as do the garden walls of the same 
countries on the ordinary roads. 

The lignivorous insects that attack living trees almost uniformly confine 
their ravages to trees already unsound or diseased in growth from the depre- 
dations of leaf-eaters, such as caterpillars and the like, or from other causes. 
The decay of the tree, therefore, is the cause not the consequence of the in- 
vasions of the borer. This subject has been discussed by Penis in the 
Annalcs de la Soeiete Entomologiqac de la France for 1852, and his conclusions 
are confirmed by the observations of Samanos, who quotes, at some length, 
the views of Perris. "Having, for fifteen years," Bays the latter author, 
" incessantly studied the habits of lignivorous insects in one of the best 
wooded regions of France, I have observed facts enough to feel myself war- 
ranted in expressing my conclusions, which arc : that insects in general — I am 
not speaking of those which confine their voracity to the leaf — do not attack 


of the destruction or serious injury of American forests by in- 
sects, before or even soon after the period of colonization ; but 
since the white man has laid bare a vast proportion of the 
earth's surface, and thereby produced changes favorable, per- 
haps, to the multiplication of these pests, they have greatly 
increased in numbers, and, apparently, in voracity also. Not 
many years ago, the pines on thousands of acres of land in 
North Carolina were destroyed by insects not known to have 
ever done serious injury to that tree before. In such cases as 
this and others of the like sort, there is good reason to believe 
that man is the indirect cause of an evil for which he pays so 
heavy a penalty. Insects increase whenever the birds which 
feed upon them disappear. Hence, in the wanton destruction 
of the robin and other insectivorous birds, the hijjes imj)liimis, 
the featherless biped, man, is not only exchanging the vocal 
orchestra which greets the rising sun for the drowsy beetle's 
evening drone, and depriving his groves and his fields of their 
fairest ornament, but he is waging a treacherous warfare on his 
natural allies.* 

trees in sound health, and they assail those only whose normal conditions and 
functions have been by some cause impaired." 

See, more fully, Samanos, Traite de la Culture du Pin Maritime, Paris, 1864, 
pp. 140-145, and Siemoni, Mamiale dcW Arte Forentcde. 2d edition. Florence, 

* In the artificial woods of Europe, insects are far more numerous and de- 
structive to trees thau in the primitive forests of America, and the same re- 
mark may be made of the smaller rodents, such as moles, mice, and squirrels. 
In the dense native wood, the ground and the air are too humid, the depth of 
shade too great, for many tribes of these creatures, while near the natural 
meadows and other open grounds, where circumstances are otherwise more 
favorable for their existence and multiplication, their numbers are kept down 
by birds, serpents, foxes, and smaller predacious quadrupeds. In civilized 
countries these natural enemies of the worm, the beetle, and the mole, are 
persecuted, sometimes almost exterminated, by man, who also removes from 
his plantations the decayed or wind-fallen trees, the shrubs and underwood, 
which, in a state of nature, furnished food and shelter to the borer and the 
rodent, and often also to the animals that preyed upon them. Hence the in- 
sect and the gnawing quadruped are allowed to increase, from the expulsion of 
the police which, in the natural wood, prevent their excessive multiplication, 


Introduction of Insects. 

The general tendency of man's encroachments upon spon- 
taneous nature has been to increase insect life at the expense 
of vegetation and of the smaller quadrupeds and birds. 
Doubtless there are insects in all woods, but in temperate 
climates they are comparatively few and harmless, and the 
most numerous tribes which breed in the forest, or rather in its 
waters, and indeed in all solitudes, are those which little injure 
vegetation, such as mosquitoes, gnats, and the like. With 
the cultivated plants of man come the myriad tribes which 
feed or breed upon them, and agriculture not only introduces 
new species, but so multiplies the number of individuals as to 
defy calculation. Newly introduced vegetables frequently es- 
cape for years the insect plagues which had infested them in 
their native habitat ; but the importation of other varieties of 
the plant, the exchange of seed, or some mere accident, is sure 
in the long run to carry the egg, the larva, or the chrysalis to 
the most distant shores where the plant assigned to it by nature 
as its possession has preceded it. For many years after the 
colonization of the United States, few or none of the insects 
which attack wheat in its different stages of growth, were 
known in America. During the Revolutionary war, the Hes- 

and they become destructive to the forest because they are driven to the 
living tree for nutriment and cover. The forest of Fontainebleau is almost 
wholly without birds, and their absence is ascribed by some writers to the 
want of water, which, in the thirsty sands of that wood, does not gather into 
running brooks ; but the want of undergrowth is perhaps an equally good 
reason for their scarcity. 

On the other hand, the thinning out of tbe forest and the removal of under- 
wood and decayed timber, by which it is brought more nearly to the condition 
of an artificial wood, is often destructive to insect tribes which, though not 
injurious to trees, are noxious to man. Thus the troublesome woodtick, 
formerly very abundant in the North Eastern, as it unhappily still is in native 
forests in the Southern and Western States, has become nearly or quite extinct 
in the former region since the woods have been reduced in extent and laid 
more open to the sun and air. — Asa Fitch, in Beport of Nw Yurie Agricultural 
Society for 1S70, pp. 303, 364. 


sian fly, Cecidomyia destructrix, made its appearance, and it 
was so called because it was first observed in the year when the 
Hessian troops were brought over, and was popularly supposed 
to have been accidentally imported by those unwelcome stran- 
gers. Other destroyers of cereal grains have since found their 
way across the Atlantic, and a noxious European aphis has first 
attacked the American wheatfields witliin the last fifteen years. 
Unhappily, in these cases of migration, the natural corrective 
of excessive multiplication, the parasitic or voracious enemy of 
the noxious insect, does not always accompany the wanderings 
of its prey, and the bane long precedes the antidote. Hence, 
in the United States, the ravages of imported insects injurious 
to cultivated crops, not being checked by the counteracting in- 
fluences which nature had provided to limit their devastations 
in the Old World, are more destructive than in Europe. It is 
not known that the wheat midge is preyed upon in America by 
any other insect, and in seasons favorable to it, it multiplies to 
a degree which would prove almost fatal to the entire harvest, 
were it not that, in the great territorial extent of the United 
States, there is room for such differences of soil and climate as, 
in a given year, to present in one State all the conditions favor- 
able to the increase of a particular insect, while in another, 
the natural influences are hostile to it. The only apparent 
remedy for this evil is, to balance the disproportionate develop- 
ment of noxious foreign species by bringing from their native 
country the tribes which prey upon them. This, it seems, has 
been attempted. The United States Census Report for I860, 
p. 82, states that the New York Agricultural Society " has in- 
troduced into this country from abroad certain parasites which 
Providence has created to counteract the destructive powers of 
some of these depredators." * 

This is, however, not the only purpose for which man has 
designedly introduced foreign forms of insect life. The eggs 
of the silkworm are known to have been brought from the far- 

* On parasitic and entornophagous insects, see a paper by Rondani referred 
to p. 119 ante. 


thcr East to Europe in the sixth century, and new silk-spinners 
which feed on the castor-oil bean and the ailanthus, have recently 
been reared in France and in South America with promising 
success.* The cochineal, long regularly bred in aboriginal 
America, has been transplanted to Spain, and both the kermes 
insect and the cantharides have been transferred to other cli- 
mates than their own. The honey-bee must be ranked next to 
the silkworm in economical importance. This useful creature 
was carried to the United States by European colonists, in the 
latter part of the seventeenth century ; it did not cross the Mis- 
sissippi till the close of the eighteenth, and it is only in 1S53 
that it was transported to California, where it was previously 
unknown. The Italian bee, which seldom stings, has lately 
been introduced into the United States, f 

The insects and worms intentionally transplanted by man 
bear but a small proportion to those accidentally introduced 
by him. Plants and animals often cany their parasites 
with them, and the traffic of commercial countries, which 
exchange their products with every zone and every stage 
of social existence, cannot fail to transfer in both directions 
the minute organisms that are, in one way or another, asso- 

* The silkworm which feeds on the ailanthus has naturalized itself in the 
United States, but the promises of its utility have not been realized. 

f Bee husbandry, now very general in Switzerland and other Alpine regions, 
was formerly an important branch of industry in Italy. It has lately been 
revived and is now extensively prosecuted in that country. It is interesting 
to observe that many of the methods recently introduced into this art in Eng- 
land and the United States, such for example as the removable honey-boxes, 
are reinventions of Italian systems at least three hundred years old. See 
Gali.o, Leventi Oiornatt deW Agricultura, cap. xv. 

The temporary decline of this industry in Italy was doubtless in a great 
measure due to the use of sugar which had taken the place of honey, but per- 
haps also in part to the decrease of the wild vegetation from which the bee 
draws more or less of his nutriment. 

A new wax-producing insect, a species of coccus, very abundant in China, 
where its annual produce is said to ampunt to the value of ten millions of 
francs, has recently attracted notice in "France. The wax is white, resembling 
spermaceti, and is said to be superior to that of the bee. 


dated with almost every object important to the material in- 
terests of man. - 

The tenacity of life possessed by many insects, their prodi- 
gious fecundity, the length of time they often remain in the 
different phases of their existence,f the security of the retreats 
into which their small dimensions enable them to retire, are 
all circumstances very favorable not only to the perpetuity of 
their species, but to their transportation to distant climates and 
their multiplication in their new homes. The teredo, so destruc- 
tive to shipping, has been carried by the vessels whose wooden 
walls it mines to almost every part of the globe. The termite, 
or white ant, is said to have been brought to Eochefort by the 
commerce of that port a hundred years ago.J This creature is 
more injurious to wooden structures and implements than any 
other known insect. It eats out almost the entire substance of 

* A few years ago, a laborer, employed at a North American port in dis- 
charging a cargo of hides from the opposite extremity of the continent, was 
fatally poisoned by the bite or the sting of an unknown insect, which ran out 
from a hide he was handling. 

The Phylloxera vastatrix, the most destructive pest which has ever attacked 
European vineyards — for its ravages are fatal not merely to the fruit, but; to 
the vine itself — is said by many entomologists to be of American origin, but I 
have seen no account of the mode of its introduction. 

\ In many insects, some of the stages of life regularly continue for several 
years, and they may, under peculiar circumstances, be almost indefinitely 
prolonged. Dr. Dwight mentions the following remarkable case of this sort : 
" I saw here an insect, about an inch in length, of a brown color tinged with 
orange, with two antenna?, not unlike a rosebug. This insect came out of a 
tea-table made of the boards of an apple-tree." Dr. Dwight found the 
" cavity whence the insect had emerged into the light," to be " about two 
inches in length. Between the hole, and the outside of the leaf of the table, 
there were forty grains of the wood. " It was supposed that the sawyer and 
the cabinet-maker must have removed at least thirteen grains more, and the 
table had been in the possession of its proprietor for twenty years. 

X It does not appear to be quite settled whether the termites of France are 
indigenous or imported. See Quatrefages, Souvenirs dhun fflzturaiiste, ii., 
pp. 400, 542, 543. 

The white ant has lately appeared at St. Helena and is in a high degree 
destructive, no wood but teak, and even that not always, resisting it. — Na- 
ture for March 2d, 1871, p. 3G2. 


the wood, leaving only thin partitions between the galleries it 
excavates in it ; but as it never gnaws through the surface to 
the air, a stick of timber may be almost wholly consumed with- 
out showing any external sign of the damage it has sustained. 
The termite is found also in other parts of France, and particu- 
larly at Rochelle. where, thus far, its ravages are confined to a 
single quarter of the city. A borer, of similar habits, is not 
uncommon in Italy, and you may see in that country handsome 
chairs and other furniture which have been reduced by this 
insect to a framework of powder of post, covered, and appa- 
rently held together, by nothing but the varnish. 

Destruction of Insects. 

It is well known to naturalists, but less familiarly to common 
observers, that the aquatic larvae of some insects which in other 
stages of their existence inhabit the land, constitute, at certain 
seasons, a large part of the food of fresh-water fish, while other 
larvse, in their turn, prey upon the spawn and even the young 
of their persecutors.* The larvae of the mosquito and the gnat 
are the favorite food of the trout in the wooded regions where 
those insects abound. f Earlier in the year the trout feeds on 

* I have seen the larva of the dragon-fly in an aquarium bite off the head 
of a young fish as long as itself. 

f Insects and fish — which prey upon and feed each other — are the only forms 
of animal life that are numerous in the native woods, and their range is, of 
course, limited by the extent of the waters. The great abundance of the 
trout, and of other more or less allied genera in the lakes of Lapland, seems to 
be due to the supply of food provided for them by the swarms of insects which 
in the larva state inhabit the waters, or, in other stages of their life, are ac- 
cidentally swept into them. All travellers in the north of Europe speak of the 
gnat and the mosquito as very serious drawbacks upon the enjoyments of the 
summer tourist, who visits the head of the Gulf of Bothnia to see the mid- 
night sun, and the brothers Lasstadius regard them as one of the great plagues 
of sub-arctic life. " The persecutions of these insects," says Lars Levi L&BS- 
tadius [Culex pipiens, Cvlex reptans, and Oulex puiiearis], "leave not a mo- 
ment's peace, by day or night, to any living creature. Not only man, but 
cattle, and even birds and wild beasts, suffer intolerably from their bite." He 
adds in a note, "I will not affirm that they have ever devoured a living man, 


tlie larvse of the May fly, which is itself very destructive to the 
spawn of the salmon, and hence, by a sort of house-that-Jack- 
built, the destruction of the mosquito, that feeds the trout that 
preys on the May fly that destroys the eggs that hatch the sal- 
mon that pampers the epicure, may occasion a scarcity of this 
latter fish in waters where he would otherwise be abundant. 
Thus all nature is linked together by invisible bonds, and every 
organic creature, however low, however feeble, however de- 
pendent, is necessary to the well-being of some other among the 
myriad forms of life with which the Creator has peopled the 

I have said that man has promoted the increase of the insect 
and the worm, by destroying the bird and the fish which feed 
upon them. Many insects, in the four different stages of their 
growth, inhabit in succession the earth, the water, and the air. 
In each of these elements they have their special enemies, and, 
deep and dark as are the minute recesses in which they hide 
themselves, they are pursued to the remotest, obscurest corners 
by the executioners that nature has appointed to punish their 
delinquencies, and furnished with cunning contrivances for fer- 
reting out the offenders and dragging them into the light of day. 
One tribe of birds, the woodpeckers, seems to depend for sub- 
sistence almost wholly on those insects which breed in dead or 
dying trees, and it is, perhaps, needless to say that the injury 
these birds do the forest is imaginary. They do not cut holes 
in the trunk of the tree to prepare a lodgment for a future 
colony of boring larvae, but to extract the worm which has 
already begun his mining labors. Hence these birds are not 
found where the forester removes trees as fast as they become 
fit habitations for such insects. In clearing new lands in the 

but many young cattle, such as lambs and calves, have been worried out. of 
their lives by them. All the people of Lapland declare that young bii'ds are 
killed by them, and this is not improbable, for birds are scarce after seasons 
when the midge, the gnat, and the mosquito are numerous." — Om Uppodling- 
ar i Lappmarken, p. 50. 

Petrus La;stadius makes similar statements in his Journal fur forsta uret t 
p. 885. 


United States, dead trees, especially of the spike-leaved kinds, 
too much decayed to serve for timber, and which, in that state, 
are worth little for fuel, are often allowed to stand until they 
fall of themselves. Such stubs, as they are popularly called, are 
filled with borers, and often deeply cut by the woodpeckers, 
whose strong bills enable them to penetrate to the very heart of 
the tree and drag out the lurking larvae. After a few years, 
the stubs fall, or, as wood becomes valuable, are cut and carried 
off for firewood, and, at the same time, the farmer selects for 
felling, in the forest he has reserved as a permanent source of 
supply of fuel and timber, the decaying trees which, like the 
dead stems in the fields, serve as a home for both the worm and 
his pursuer. We thus gradually extirpate this tribe of insects, 
and, with them, the species of birds which subsist principally 
upon them. Thus the fine, large, red-headed woodpecker, 
Picus erythrocephalus, formerly very common in New England, 
has almost entirely disappeared from those States, since the 
dead trees are gone, and the apples, his favorite vegetable food, 
are less abundant. 

There are even large quadrupeds which feed almost exclu- 
sively upon insects. The ant-bear is strong enough to pull 
down the cla}" houses built by the species of termites that con- 
stitute his ordinary diet, and the curious ai-ai, a climbing quad- 
ruped of Madagascar, is provided with a very slender, hook- 
nailed finger, long enough to reach far into a hole in the trunk 
of a tree, and extract the worm which bored it.* 

Minute Organisms. 

Besides the larger inhabitants of the land and of the sea, the 
quadrupeds, the reptiles, the birds, the amphibia, the Crustacea, 
the fish, the insects, and the worms, there; are other countless 
forms of vital being. Earth, water, the ducts and fluids of 
vegetable and of animal life, the very air we breathe, are peo- 
pled by minute organisms which perform most important func- 

* On the destruction of insects by reptiles, see page 125 ante. 


tions in both the living and the inanimate kingdoms of nature. 
Of the offices assigned to these creatures, the most familiar to 
common observation is the extraction of lime, and, more rarely, 
of silex, from the waters inhabited by them, and the deposit of 
these minerals in a solid form, either as the material of their 
habitations or as the exuviae of their bodies. The microscope 
and other means of scientific observation assure us that the 
chalk-beds of England and of France, the coral reefs of marine 
waters in warm climates, vast calcareous and silicious deposits 
in the sea and in many fresh-water ponds, the common polish- 
ing earths and slates, and many species of apparently dense and 
solid rock, are the work of the humble organisms of which I 
speak, often, indeed, of animalcules so small as to become visi- 
ble only by the aid of lenses magnifying thousands of times the 
linear measures. It is popularly supposed that animalculce, or 
what are commonly embraced under the vague name of infuso- 
ria, inhabit the water alone, but naturalists have long known 
that the atmospheric dust transported by every wind and depos- 
ited by every calm is full of microscopic life or of its relics. 
The soil on which the city of Berlin stands, contains, at the 
depth of ten or fifteen feet below the surface, living elaborators 
of silex ; * and a microscopic examination of a handful of earth 
connected with the material evidences of guilt has enabled the 
naturalist to point out the very spot where a crime was com- 
mitted. It has been computed that one-sixth part of the solid 
matter let fall by great rivers at their outlets consists of still 
recognizable infusory shells and shields, and, as the friction of 
rolling water must reduce many of these fragile structures to a 
state of comminution which even the microscope cannot resolve 
into distinct particles and identify as relics of animal or 
of vegetable life, we must conclude that a considerably larger 
proportion of river deposits is really the product of animal- 
cules, f 

* Wittwer, PJiysikaliscJie Geographic, p. 142. 

f To vary the phrase, I make occasional use of animalcule, which, as a popu- 
lar designation, embraces all microscopic organisms. The name is founded 


It is evident that the chemical, and in many cases the 
mechanical, character of a great number of the objects impor- 
tant in the material economy of human life, must be affected 
by the presence of so large an organic element in their sub- 
stance, and it is equally obvious that all agricultural and all 
industrial operations tend to disturb the natural arrangements 
of this element, to increase or to diminish the special adaptation 
of every medium in which it lives to the particular orders of 
being inhabited by it. The conversion of woodland into pas- 
turage, of pasture into plough land, of swamp or of shallow sea 
into dry ground, the rotations of cultivated crops, must prove 
fatal to millions of living things upon every rood of surface 
thus deranged by man, and must, at the same time, more op 
less fully compensate this destruction of life by promoting the 
growth and multiplication of other tribes equally minute in 

I do not know that man has yet endeavored to avail himself, 
by artificial contrivances, of the agency of these wonderful 
architects and manufacturers. We are hardly well enough ac- 
quainted with their natural economy to devise means to turn 
their industry to profitable account, and they are in very many 
cases too slow in producing visible results for an age so impatient 
as ours. The over-civilization of the nineteenth century cannot 
wait for wealth to be amassed by infinitesimal gains, and we 
are in haste to speculate upon the powers of nature, as we do 
upon objects of bargain and sale in our trafficking one with an- 
other. But there are still some cases where the little we know 
of a life, whose workings are invisible to the naked eye, sug- 
gests the possibility of advantageously directing the efforts of 

on the now exploded supposition that all of them are animated, which was the 
general belief of naturalists when attention was first drawn to them. It waa 
soon discovered that many of them were unquestionably vegetable, and there 
are numerous genera the true classification of which is matter of dispute among 
the ablest observers. There are cases in which objects formerly taken for liv- 
ing animalcules turn out to be products of the decomposition of matter once 
animated, and it is admitted that neither spontaneous motion nor even appa- 
rent irritability are sure signs of animal life. 


troops of artisans that we cannot see. Upon coasts occupied by 
the corallines, the reef-building animalcule does not work near 
the mouth of rivers. Hence the change of the outlet of a stream, 
often a very easy matter, may promote the construction of a 
barrier to coast navigation at one point, and check the forma- 
tion of a reef at another, by diverting a current of fresh water 
from the former and pouring it into the sea at the latter. Cases 
may probably be found, in tropical seas, where rivers have pre- 
vented the working of the coral animalcules in straits separating 
islands from each other or from the mainland. The diversion 
of such streams might remove this obstacle, and reefs conse- 
quently be formed which should convert an archipelago into a 
single large island, and finally join that to the neighboring con- 

Quatrefages proposed to destroy the teredo in harbors by im- 
pregnating the water with a mineral solution fatal to them. 
Perhaps the labors of the coralline animals might be arrested 
over a considerable extent of sea-coast by similar means. The 
reef-builders are leisurely architects, but the precious coral 
is formed so rapidly that the beds may be relished advantage- 
ously as often as once in ten years.* It does not seem impossi- 
ble that branches of this coral might be attached to the keel of 
a ship and transplanted to the American coast, where the Gulf 
stream would furnish a suitable temperature beyond the clima- 
tic limits that otherwise confine its growth ; and thus a new 
source of profit might perhaps be added to the scanty returns 
of the hardy fisherman. 

In certain geological formations, the diatomacere deposit, at 
the bottom of fresh-water ponds, beds of silicious shields, valu- 
able as a material for a species of very light firebrick, in the 
manufacture of water-glass and of hydraulic cement, and ulti- 

* The smallest twig of the precious coral thrown back into the sea attaches 
Itself to the bottom or a rock, and grows as well as on its native stem. 

See an interesting report on the coral fishery, by Sant' Agabio, Italian Con- 
sul-General at Algiers, in the Bollcttino Cansolarc, published by the Depart- 
ment of Foreign Affairs, 1862, pp. 139, 151, and in the Annali di Agricoltura 
Industrie/, e Commercio, No. ii., pp. 860, 373. 


mately, doubtless, in many yet undiscovered industrial processes. 
An attentive study of the conditions favorable to the propaga- 
tion of the diatomacere might perhaps help us to profit directly 
by the productivity of this organism, and, at the same time, dis- 
close secrets of nature capable of being turned to valuable ac- 
count in dealing with silicious rocks, and the metal which is the 
base of them. 

Our acquaintance with the obscure and infinitesimal life of 
which I have now been treating is very recent, and still very 
imperfect. We know that it is of vast importance in geol- 
ogy, but we are so ambitious to grasp the great, so little accus- 
tomed to occupy ourselves with the minute, that we are not 
yet prepared to enter seriously upon the question how far we 
can control and utilize the operations, not of unembodied phy- 
sical forces merely, but of beings, in popular apprehension, 
almost as immaterial as they. 

Disturbance of Natural Balances. 

It is highly probable that the reef-builders and other yet un- 
studied minute forms of vital existence have other functions in 
the economy of nature besides aiding in the architecture of the 
globe, and stand in important relations not only to man but to 
the plants and the larger sentient creatures over which he has 
dominion. The diminution or multiplication of these unseen 
friends or foes may be attended with the gravest consequences to 
all his material interests, and he is dealing; with dangerous wea- 
pons whenever he interferes with arrangements pre-established 
by a power higher than his own. The equation of animal and 
vegetable life is too complicated a problem for human intelli- 
gence to solve, and we can never know how wide a circle of 
disturbance we produce in the harmonies of nature when we 
throw the smallest pebble into the ocean of organic being. 

This much, however, the facts I have hitherto presented au- 
thorize us to conclude: as often as we destroy the balance by 
deranging the original proportions between different orders of 


spontaneous life, the law of self-preservation requires us to re- 
store the equilibrium, by either directly returning the weight, 
abstracted from one scale, or removing a corresponding quan- 
tity from the other. In other words, destruction must be either 
repaired by reproduction, or compensated by new destruction 
in an opposite quarter. 

The parlor aquarium has taught even those to whom it is but 
an amusing toy, that the balance of animal and vegetable life 
must be preserved, and that the excess of either is fatal to the 
other, in the artificial tank as well as in natural waters. A few 
years ago, the water of the Cochituate aqueduct at Boston be- 
came so offensive in smell and taste as to be quite unfit for use. 
Scientific investigation found the cause in the too scrupulous 
care with which aquatic vegetation had been excluded from the 
reservoir, and the consequent death and decay of the animal- 
cuing, which could not be shut out, nor live in the water with- 
out the vegetable element.* 

Animalcular Life. 

Nature has no unit of magnitude by which she measures her 
works. Man takes his standards of dimension from himself. 
The hair's breadth was his minimum until the microscope told 
him that there are animated creatures to which one of the hairs 
of his head is a larger cylinder than is the trunk of the giant Cali- 

* It is remarkable that Palissy, to whose great merits as an acute observer 
I am happy to have frequent occasion to bear testimony, had noticed that 
vegetation was necessary to maintain the purity of water in artificial reser- 
voirs, though he mistook the rationale of its influence, which he ascribed to 
the elemental " salt " supposed by him to play an important part in all the ope- 
rations of nature. In his treatise upon Waters and Fountains, p. 174, of the 
reprint of 1844, he says: "And in special, thou shalt note one point, the 
which is understood of few : that is to say, that the leaves of the trees which 
fall upon the parterre, and the herbs growing beneath, and singularly the 
fruits, if any there be upon the trees, being decayed, the waters of the par- 
terre shall draw unto them the salt of the said fruits, leaves, and herbs, the 
which shall greatly better the water of thy fountains, au.l hinder the putrefac- 
tion thereof." 



fornia sequoia to him. He borrows his inch from the breadth 
of his thumb, his palm and span from the width of his hand and 
the spread of his fingers, his foot from the length of the organ 
so named; his cubit is the distance from the tip of his middle 
linger to his elbow, and his fathom is the space he can measure 
with his outstretched arms.* To a being who instinctively 
finds the standard of all magnitudes in his own material frame, 
all objects exceeding his own dimensions are absolutely great, 
all falling short of them absolutely small. Hence we habitu- 
ally regard the whale and the elephant as essentially large and 
therefore important creatures, the animalcule as an essentially 
small and therefore unimportant organism. But no geological 
f< >ri nation owes its origin to the labors or the remains of the huge 
mammal, while the animalcule composes, or has furnished, the 
substance of strata thousands of feet in thickness, and extend- 
ing, in unbroken beds, over many degrees of terrestrial surface. 
If man is destined to inhabit the earth much longer, and to ad- 
vance in natural knowledge with the rapidity which has marked 
his progress in physical science for the last two or three centu- 

* The French metrical system seems destined to be adopted throughout the 
civilized world. It is indeed recommended by great advantages, but it is veiy 
doubtful whether they are not more than counterbalauced by the selection of 
too large a unit of measure, and by the inherent intractability of all decimal 
systems with reference to fractional divisions. The experience of the whole 
world has established the superior convenience of a smaller unit, such as the 
braccio, the cubit, the foot, and the palm or span, and in practical life every 
man finds that he has much more frequent occasion to use a fraction than a 
multiple of the metre. Of course, he must constantly employ numbers ex- 
j r< ssive of several centimetres or millimetres instead of the ni me of a single 
Ler unit than the metre. Besides, the metre is not divisible into twelfths, 
I lis, sixths, or thirds, or the multiples of any of these proportions, two of 
which at least — the eighth and the third — are of as frequent use as any other 
fractions. The adoption of a fourth of the earth's circru as a base 

for the new measures was itself a departure from the decimal system. Had 
the Commissioners taken the entire circumference as a base, and divided it 
100,000,000 instead of 10,000,000 parts, we should have had a unit of 
ab ut sixteen inches, which, as a compromise between the foot and the cubit, 
would have been much better adapted to universal use than so large a unit as 
the metro. 


ries, he will learn to put a wiser estimate on the works of crea- 
tion, and will derive not only great instruction from studying 
the ways of nature in her obscurest, humblest walks, but great 
material advantage from stimulating her productive energies in 
provinces of her empire hitherto regarded as forever inaccess- 
ible, utterly barren.* 

* The fermentation of liquids, and in many cases the decomposition of 
semi-solids, formerly supposed to be owing purely to chemical action, are now 
ascribed by many chemists to vital processes of living minute organisms, 
both vegetable and animal, and consequently to physiological as well as to 
chemical forces. . Even alcohol is stated to be an animal product. The whole 
subject of animalcular, or rather minute organic, life, has assumed a new and 
startling importance from the recent researches of naturalists and physiolo- 
gists, in the agency of such life, vegetable or animal, in exciting and commu- 
nicating contagious diseases, and it is extremely probable that what are 
vaguely called germs, to whichever of the organic kingdoms they may be as- 
signed, creatures inhabiting various media, and capable of propagating their 
kind and rapidly multiplying, are the true seeds of infection and death in the 
maladies now called zymotic, as well perhaps as in many others. 

The literature of this subject is now very voluminous. For observations 
with high microscopic power on this subject, see Beale, Disease Germs, their 
supposed Nature, and Disease Germs, their real Nature, both published in Lon- 
don in 1870. 

The increased frequency of typhoidal, zymotic, and malarious diseases in 
some parts of the United States, and the now common occurrence of some of 
them in districts where they were unknown forty years ago, are startling facts, 
and it is a very interesting question how far man's acts or neglects may have 
occasioned the change. See Third Annual Report of Massachusetts State 
Board of Health for 1872. The causes and remedies of the insalubrity of 
Rome and its environs have been for some time the object of careful investi- 
gation, and many valuable reports have been published on the subject. 
Among the most recent of these are : Relazione sulle condizioni agrarie ed 
igieniehe della Campagna di Roma, per Raffaele Paketo ; Cenni Storki 
sutta questione del" Agro Romano di G. Guerzoni ; Cenni sulle condizioni Fisico- 
economichc di Roma per F. Giordano ; and a very important paper in the 
journal Lo Sperimentale for 1870, by Dr. D. Pantaleoni. 

There are climates, parts of California, for instance, where the flesh of 
dead animals, freely exposed, shows no tendency to putrefaction but dries up 
and may be almost indefinitely preserved in this condition. Is this owing to 
the absence of destructive animalcular life in such localities, and has man any 
agency in the introduction and naturalization of these organisms in regions 
previously not infested by them ? 



The habitable earth originally wooded — General meteorological influence of 
the forest — Electrical action of trees — Chemical influence of woods — 
Trees as protection against malaria — Trees as shelter to ground to the 
leeward — Influence of the forest as inorganic on temperature — Thermo- 
metrical action of trees as organic — Total influence of the forest on 
temperature — Influence of forests as inorganic on humidity of air and 
earth — Influence as organic — Balance of conflicting influences — Influence 
of woods on precipitation — Total climatic action of the forest — Influence 
of the forest on humidity of soil — The forest in winter — Summer rain, 
importance of — Influence of the forest on the flow of springs — Influence 
of the forest on inundations and torrents — Destructive action of torrents 
— Floods of the Ardeche — Excavation by torrents — Extinction of torrents — 
Crushing force of torrents — Transporting power of water — The Po and 
its deposits — Mountain slides— Forest as protection against avalanches — 
Minor uses of the forest — Small forest plants and vitality of seeds — 
Locusts do not breed in forests — General functions of forest — Goneral 
consequences of destruction of— Due proportion of woodland — Propor- 
tion of woodland in European countries — Forests of Great Britain — 
Forests of France — Forests of Italy — Forests of Germany — Forests of 
United States — American forest trees — European and American forest 
trees compared — The forest does not furnish food for man — First re- 
moval of the forest — Principal causes of destruction of forest — Destruc- 
tion and protection of forests by governments — Royal forests and game- 
laws — Effects of the French revolution — Increased demand for lumber — 
Effects of burning forest — Floating of timber — Restoration of the forest 
— Economy of the forest — Forest legislation — Plantation of forests in 
America/ — Financial results of forest plantations — Instability of American 

The Habitable Earth originally Wooded. 

There is good reason to believe that the surface of the habi- 
table earth, in all the climates and regions which have been 
the abodes of dense and civilized populations, was, with few 
exceptions, already covered with a forest growth when it first 


became the home of man. This we infer from the extensive 
vegetable remains — trunks, branches, roots, fruits, seeds, and 
leaves of trees — so often found in conjunction with works of 
primitive art, in the boggy soil of districts where no forests ap- 
pear to have existed within the eras through which written 
annals reach ; from ancient historical records, which prove 
that large provinces, where the earth has long been wholly bare 
of trees, were clothed with vast and almost unbroken woods 
when first made known to Greek and Roman civilization ; * 
and from the state of much of North and of South America, 
as well as of many islands, when they were discovered and 
colonized by the European race.f 

These evidences are strengthened by observation of the na- 
tural economy of our own time ; for, whenever a tract of 
country, once inhabited and cultivated by man, is abandoned by 
him and by domestic animals, and surrendered to the undis- 
turbed influences of spontaneous nature, its soil sooner or later 
clothes itself with herbaceous and arborescent plants, and, at 
no long interval, with a dense forest growth. Indeed, upon 
surfaces of a certain stability and not absolutely precipitous 
inclination, the special conditions required for the spontaneous 
propagation of trees may all be negatively expressed and re- 
duced to these three : exemption from defect or excess of 

* The recorded evidence in support of the proposition in the text has been 
collected by L. F. Alfred Maury, in his Histoire des grandes Forets de la 
Gaule et de Vancienne France, and by Becquerel, in his important work, 
Des climats et de V Influence qiCexercent les Sols boises et non boises, livre ii., 
chap. i. to iv. 

We may rank among historical evidences on this point, if not technically 
among historical records, old geographical names and terminations etymo- 
logically indicating forest or grove, which are so common in many parts of 
the Eastern Continent now entirely stripped of woods— such as, in Southern 
Europe, Breuil, Broglio, Brolio, Brolo ; in Northern, Briihl, and the endings 
-dean, -den, -don, -ham, -holt, -horst, -hurst, -lund, -shaw, -shot, -skog, -skov, 
-wald, -weald, -wold, -wood. 

f The island of Madeira, whose noble forests were devastated by fire not 
long after its colonization by European settlers, takes its name from the 
Portuguese word for wood. 


moisture, from perpetual frost, and from the depredations 
of man and browsing quadrupeds. Where these requisites are 
secured, the hardest rock is as certain to be overgrown with 
wood as the most fertile plain, though, for obvious reasons, the 
process is slower in the former than in the latter case. Lichens 
and mosses first prepare the way for a more highly organized 
vegetation. They retain the moisture of rains and dews, and 
bring it to act, in combination with the gases evolved by their 
organic processes, in decomposing the surface of the rocks they 
cover ; they arrest and confine the dust which the wind scatters 
over them, and their final decay adds new material to the soil 
already half formed beneath and upon them. A very thin 
stratum of mould is sufficient for -the germination of seeds of 
the hardy evergreens and birches, the roots of which are often 
found in immediate contact with the rock, supplying their trees 
with nourishment from a soil deepened and enriched by the 
decomposition of their own foliage, or sending out long root- 
lets into the surrounding earth in search of juices to feed them. 
The eruptive matter of volcanoes, forbidding as is its aspect, 
does not refuse nutriment to the woods. The refractory lava 
of Etna, it is true, remains long barren, and that of the great 
eruption of 16G9 is still almost wholly devoid of vegetation.* 
But the cactus is making inroads even here, while the volcanic 
sand and molten rock thrown out by Vesuvius soon become 
productive. Before the great eruption of 1631 even the in- 

* Even the volcanic dust of Etna remains very long unproductive. Near 
Nicolosi is a great extent of coarse black sand, thrown out in 1(569, which, 
for almost two centuries, lay entirely bare, and can be made to grow plant3 
only by artificial mixtures and much labor. 

The increase in the price of wines, in consequence of the diminution of the 
product from the grape disease, however, has brought even these ashes under 
cultivation. " I found," says Waltershausen, referring to the years 1861-G2, 
"plains of volcanic saud and half -subdued lava streams, which twenty years 
ago lay utterly waste, now covered with fine vineyards. The ashfield of ten 
square miles above Nicolosi, created by the eruption of 1669, which was en- 
tirely barren in 1835. is now planted with vines almost to the summits of 
Monte Rosso, at a height of three thousand feet." — Ueber (/• 'schm 

Ackerbau, p. 19. 


terior of the crater was covered with vegetation. George 
Sandys, who visited Vesuvius in 1611, after it had reposed for 
several centuries, found the throat of the volcano at the bot- 
tom of the crater " almost choked with broken rocks and trees 
that are falne therein." " Next to this," he continues, " the 
matter thrown up is ruddy, light, and soft : more removed, 
blacke and ponderous : the uttermost brow, that declineth like 
the seates in a theater, flourishing with trees and excellent pas- 
turage. The midst of the hill is shaded with chestnut trues, 
and others bearing sundry fruits." * 

I am convinced that forests would soon cover many parts of 
the Arabian and African deserts, if man and domestic animals, 
especially the goat and the camel, were banished from them. 
The hard palate and tongue and strong teeth and jaws of this 
latter quadruped enable him to break off and masticate tough 
and thorny branches as large as the finger. lie is particularly 
fond of the smaller twigs, leaves, and seed-pods of the sont and 
other acacias, which, like the American Robinia, thrive well 
on dry and sandy soils, and he spares no tree the branches of 
which are within his reach, except, if I remember right, the 
tamarisk that produces manna. Young trees sprout plenti- 
fully around the springs and along the winter water-courses 
of the desert, and these are just the halting stations of the 
caravans and their routes of travel. In the shade of these 
trees, annual grasses and perennial shrubs shoot up, but are 
mown down by the hungry cattle of the Bedouin, as fast as 
they grow. A few years of undisturbed vegetation would 
suffice to cover such points with groves, and these would grad- 

* A Relation of a Journey Begun An. Dom. 1610, lib. 4, p. 260, edition of 
1615. The testimony of Sandys on this point is confirmed by that of Pighio, 
Braccini, Magliocco, Salimbeni, and Nicola di Rubeo, all cited by ROTH, Der 
Vcsuv., p. 9. There is some uncertainty about the date of the last eruption 
previous to the great one of 1631. Ashes, though not lava, appear to have 
been thrown out about the year 1503, and some chroniclers have recorded an 
eruption in the year 1303 ; but this seems to be an error for 1036, when a 
great quantity of lava was ejected. In 1130, ashes were thrown out for many 
days. I take these dates from the work of Roth just cited. 


ually extend themselves over soils where now scarcely any 
green thing but the bitter colocynth and the poisonous fox- 
glove is ever seen. 

General Meteorological Influence of the Forest. 

The physico-geographical influence of forests may be divided 
into two great classes, each having an important influence on 
vegetable and on animal life in all their manifestations, as 
well as on every branch of rural economy and productive 
industry, and, therefore, on all the material interests of 
man. The first respects the meteorology of the countries ex- 
posed to the action of these influences ; the second, their super- 
ficial geography, or, in other words, the configuration, con- 
sistence, and clothing of their surface. 

For reasons assigned in the first chapter, and for others that 
will appear hereafter, the meteorological or climatic branch of 
the subject is the most obscure, and the conclusions of physicists 
resj>ecting it are, in a great degree, inferential only, not founded 
on exj)eriment or direct observation. They are, as might be 
expected, somewhat discordant, though one general result is 
almost universally accepted, and seems indeed too well sup- 
ported to admit of serious question, and it may be considered 
as established that forests tend to mitigate, at least within 
their own precincts, extremes of temperature, humidity, and 
drought. By what precise agencies the meteorological effects 
of the forest are produced we cannot say, because elements of 
totally unknown value enter into its action, and because the 
relative intensity of better understood causes cannot be meas- 
ured or compared. I shall not occupy much space in discuss- 
ing questions which at present admit of no solution, but I 
propose to notice all the known forces whose concurrent or 
conflicting energies contribute to the general result, and to 
point out, in some detail, the value of those influences whose 
mode of action has been ascertained. 


Electrical Inf/uence of Trees. 

The properties of trees, singly and in groups, as exciters or 
conductors of electricity, and their consequent influence upon 
the electrical state of the atmosphere, do not appear to have 
been much investigated ; and the conditions of the forest itself 
are so variable and so complicated, that the solution of any 
general problem respecting its electrical influence would be a 
matter of extreme difficulty. It is, indeed, impossible to sup- 
pose that a dense cloud, a sea of vapor, can pass over miles of 
surface bristling with good conductors, without undergoing 
and producing some change of electrical condition. Hypo- 
thetical cases may be put in which the character of the change 
could be deduced from the known laws of electrical action. 
But in actual nature, the elements are too numerous for us to 
seize. The true electrical condition of neither cloud nor forest 
could be known, and it could seldom be predicted whether the 
vapors would be dissolved as they floated over the wood, or 
discharged upon it in a deluge of rain. With regard to possible 
electrical influences of the forest, wider still in their range of 
action, the uncertainty is even greater. The data which 
alone could lead to positive, or even probable, conclusions are 
wanting, and we should, therefore, only embarrass our argument 
by any attempt to discuss this meteorological element, impor- 
tant as it may be, in its relations of cause and effect to more 
familiar and better understood meteoric phenomena. It may, 
however, be observed that hail-storms — which were once 
generally supposed, and are still held by many, to be pro- 
duced by a specific electrical action, and which, at least, appear 
to be always accompanied by electrical disturbances — are be- 
lieved, in all countries particularly exposed to that scourge, 
to have become more frequent and destructive in proportion as 
the forests have been cleared. Caiini observes: "When the 
chains of the Alps and the Apennines had not yet been stripped 
of their magnificent crown of woods, the May hail, which now 


desolates the fertile plains of Lombardy, was much less fre- 
quent ; but since the general prostration of the forest, these 
tempests are laying waste even the mountain -soils whose older 
inhabitants scarcely knew this plague.* The jpa/ragranjdmii^ 
which the learned curate of Rivolta advised to erect, with 
sheaves of straw set up vertically, over a great extent of culti- 
vated country, are but a Liliputian image of the vast para- 
grandini, pines, larches, and firs, which nature had planted by 
millions on the crests and ridges of the Alps and the Apen- 
nines." \ " Electrical action being diminished," says Meguscher, 
" and the rapid congelation of vapors by the abstraction of heat 
being impeded by the influence of the woods, it is rare that 
hail or waterspouts are produced within the precincts of a large 
forest when it is assailed by the tempest." § Arthur Young 
was told that since the forests which covered the mountains 
between the Riviera and the county of Montferrat had dis- 
appeared, hail had become more destructive in the district of 
AequiJ and a similar increase in the frequency and violence 

* There are, in Northern Italy and in Switzerland, joint-stock companies 
which insnre against damage by hail, as well as by fire and lightning. Be- 
tween the years 1854 and 1861, a single one of these companies, La Biunione 
Adriatica, paid, for damage by hail in Piedmont, Venetian Lombardy, and the 
Duchy of Parma, above 0,500,000 francs, or nearly $200,000 per year. 

f The pnragrandine, or, as it is called in French, the paragrele, is a species 
of conductor by which it has been hoped to protect the harvests in countries 
particularly exposed to damage by hail. It was at first proposed to employ for 
this purpose poles supporting sheaves of straw connected with the ground by 
the same material ; but the experiment was afterwards tried in Lombardy on a 
large scale, with more perfect electrical conductors, consisting of poles secured 
to the top of tall trees and provided with a pointed wire entering the ground 
and reaching above the top of the pole. It was at first thought that this ap- 
paratus, erected at numerous points over an extent of several miles, was of 
some service as a protection against hail, but this opinion was soon disputed, 
and does not appear to be supported by well-ascertained facts. The question 
of a repetition of the experiment over a wide area has been again agitated 
within a very few years in Lombardy ; but the doubts expressed by very able 
physicists as to its efficacy, and as to the point whether hail is an electrical 
phenomenon, have discouraged its advocates from attempting it. 

X Cen/ii suUa Importama i Cdtura dei Ihschi, p. 6. 

§ Memoria sui Boschi, etc., p. 44. || Travels in Italy, chap. hi. 


of hail-storms in the neighborhood of Saluzzo and Mondovi, 
the lower part of the Yaltelline, and the territory of Verona 
and Yicenza, is probably to be ascribed to a similar cause.* 

Chemical Influence of the Forest. 

"We know that the air in a close apartment is appreciably 
affected through the inspiration and expiration of gases by 
plants growing in it. The same operations are performed on 
a gigantic scale by the forest, and it has even been supposed 
that the absorption of carbon, by the rank vegetation of earlier 
geological periods, occasioned a permanent change in the con- 
stitution of the terrestrial atmosphere.f To the effects thus 
produced are to be added those of the ultimate gaseous decom- 
position of the vast vegetable mass annually shed by trees, and 
of their trunks and branches when they fall a prey to time. 
But the quantity of gases thus abstracted from and restored 
to the atmosphere is inconsiderable — infinitesimal, one might 

* Le Alpi che cingono P Italia, i., p. 377. See "On the Influence of the 
Forest in Preventing Hail-storms," a paper by Becquerel, in the Memoires de 
V Academic des Sciences, vol. xxxv. The conclusion of this eminent physicist 
is, that woods do exercise, both within their own limits and in their vicinity, 
the influence popularly ascribed to them in this respect, and that the effect is 
probably produced partly by mechanical and partly by electrical action. 

f " Long before the appearance of man, .... they [the forests] had 
robbed the atmosphere of the enormous quantity of carbonic acid it contained, 
and thereby transformed it into respirable air. Trees heaped upon trees had 
already filled up the ponds and marshes, and buried with tliem in the bowels 
of the earth — to restore it to us, after thousands of ages, in the form of bi- 
tuminous coal and of anthracite — the carbon which was destined to become, 
by this wonderful condensation, a precious store of future wealth."— Clave, 
Etudes sur PEconomie Forestiere, p. 13. 

This opinion of the modification of the atmosphere by vegetation is con- 

Mossman ascribes the great luxuriance and special character of the Austra- 
lian and New Zealand forests, as well as other peculiarities of the vegetation 
of the Southern hemisphere, to a supposed larger proportion of carbon in the 
atmosphere of that hemisphere, though the fact of such excess does not 
appear to have been established by chemical analysis. — MosSMAN, Origin of 
the Seasons. Edinburgh, 1869. Chaps, xvi. and xvii. 


almost say — in comparison with the ocean of air from which they 
are drawn and to which they return ; and though the exhala- 
tions from bogs, and other low grounds covered with decaying 
vegetable matter, are highly deleterious to human health, yet, 
in general, the air of the forest is hardly chemically distin- 
guishable from that of the sand plains, and we can as little 
trace the influence of the woods in the analysis of the atmos- 
phere, as we can prove that the mineral ingredients of land- 
springs sensibly affect the chemistry of the sea. I may, then, 
properly dismiss the chemical, as I have done the electrical, 
influences of the forest, and treat them both alike, if not as un- 
important agencies, at least as quantities of unknown value in 
our meteorological equation.* Our inquiries upon this branch 
of the subject will accordingly be limited to the thermometrical 
and hygrometrical influences of the woods. There is, however, 
a special protective function of the forest, perhaps, in part, of 
a chemical nature, which may be noticed here. 

Trees as a Protection against Malaria. 

The influence of forests in preventing the diffusion of mias- 
matic vapors is not a matter of familiar observation, and per- 

* Schacht ascribes to the forest a specific, if not a measurable, influence 
upon the constitution of the atmosphere. ' ' Plants imbibe from the air car- 
bonic acid and other gaseous or volatile products exhaled by animals or de- 
veloped by the natural phenomena of decomposition. On the other hand, the 
vegetable pours into the atmosphere oxygen, which is taken up by animals 
and appropriated by them. The tree, by means of its leaves and its young 
herbaceous twigs, presents a considerable surface for absorption and evapora- 
tion ; it abstracts the carbon of carbonic acid, and solidifies it in wood, fecula, 
and a multitude of other compounds. The result is that a forest withdraws 
from the air. by its great absorbent surface, much more gas than meadows or 
cultivated fields, and exhales proportionally a considerably greater quantity 
of oxygen. The influence of the forests on the chemical composition of the 
atmosphere is, in a word, of the highest importance." — Les Arhres, p. 111. 

See on this subject a paper by J. Jamin, in the Revue des Deux Mondes for 
Sept. 15, 18G4; and, on the effects of human industry on the atmosphere, an 
article in Aus dor Natur, vol. 20, 1864, pp. 443, 449, 403, ct seq. See also 
Alfred Maury, Les Forets de la Gaule, p. 107. 


haps it does not come strictly within the sphere of the present 
inquiry, but its importance will justify me in devoting some space 
to the subject. u It has been observed " (I quote from Bec- 
querel) "that humid air, charged with miasmata, is deprived 
of them in passing through the forest. Itigaud de Lille ob- 
served localities in Italy where the interposition of a screen of 
trees preserved everything beyond it, while the unprotected 
grounds were subject to fevers." * Few European countries 
present better opportunities for observation on this point than 
Italy, because in that kingdom the localities exposed to mias- 
matic exhalations are numerous, and belts of trees, if not for- 
ests, are of so frequent occurrence that their efficacy in this 
respect can be easily tested. The belief that rows of trees 
afford an important protection against malarious influences is 
very general among Italians best qualified by intelligence and 
professional experience to judge upon the subject. The com- 
missioners, appointed to report on the measures to be adopted 
for the improvement of the Tuscan Maremme, advised the 
planting of three or four rows of poplars, Populus alba, in such 
directions as to obstruct the currents of air from malarious lo- 
calities, and thus intercept a great proportion of the pernicious 
exhalations." f Maury believed that a few rows of sunflowers, 
planted between the Washington Observatory and the marshy 
banks of the Potomac, had saved the inmates of that establish- 
ment from the intermittent fevers to which they had been for- 
merly liable. Maury's experiments have been repeated in 
Italy. Large plantations of sunflowers have been made upon 
the alluvial deposits of the Oglio, above its entrance into the 
Lake of Iseo, near Pisogne, and it is said with favorable results 
to the health of the neighborhood.^: In fact, the generally 
beneficial effects of a forest wall or other vegetable screen, as 
a protection against noxious exhalations from marshes or other 

*Becquekel, Des Climats, etc., p. 9. 

\ Salvagnoli, Rapporto sul Bonificamento delle Maremme Toscane, pp. xli,, 
X 11 PoUtecnico, MUano, Aprile e Maggio, 18G3, p. 35. 


sources of disease, situated to the windward of them, are very 
commonly admitted. 

It is argued that, in these cases, the foliage of trees and of 
other vegetables exercises a chemical as well as a mechanical 
effect upon the atmosphere, and some, who allow that forests 
may intercept the circulation of the miasmatic effluvia of 
swampy soils, or even render them harmless by decomposing 
them, contend, nevertheless, that they are themselves active 
causes of the production of malaria. The subject has been a 
good deal discussed in Italy, and there is some reason to think 
that under special circumstances the influence of the forest in 
this respect may be prejudicial rather than salutary, though 
this does not appear to be generally the case.* It is, at all 

* Salvagnoli, Memorie sidle Maremme Toscane, pp. 213, 214. The sani- 
tary action of the forest has been lately matter of much attention in Italy. 
See Rendiconti del Congresso Medico del 1869 a Firenze, and especially the im- 
portant observations of Selmi, H Miasma Palustre, Padua, 1870, ppr. 109 g£ 
seq. This action is held by this able writer to be almost wholly chemical, and 
he earnestly recommends the plantation of groves, at least of belts of trees, 
as an effectual protection against the miasmatic influence of marshes. Very 
interesting observations on this point will be found in Ebermayer, 
Physikalisehm Mnwvrfcungen des Waldes, Aschaffenburg, 1873, B. I., pp. 237 
ct seq. , where great importance is ascribed to the development of ozone by the 
chemical action of the forest. The beneficial influence of the ozone of the 
f »rest atmosphere on the human system is. however, questioned by some 
observers. See also the able memoir: Del Miasma vegetale e deUe Malattie 
Miasmatiehe of .Dr. D. Pantaleoni in Lo Sperimmtale, vol. xxiL, 1870. 

The necessity of such hygienic improvements as shall render the new 
capital of Italy a salubrious residence gives great present importance to this 
question, and it is much to be hoped that the Agro Romano, as well as more 
distant prats of the Campagna, will soon be dotted with groves and traversed 
by files of rapidly growing trees. Many forest trees grow with great luxu- 
riance in Italy, and a moderate expense in plantation would in a very few 
years determine whether any amelioration of the sanitary condition of Rome 
can be expected from this measure. 

It is said by recent writers that in India the villages of the na1 1 the 

encampments of European troops, situated in the midst or in the n '■■ hbor- 
hood of groves and of fores 1 -, are exempt from cholera. Similar observations 
were also made in 1854 in Germany when this terrible disease was raging 
there. It is hence inferred that forests prevent the spreading of this malady, 
or rather the development of those unknown influences of which cholera is 


events, well known that the great swamps of Virginia and the 
Carolinas, in climates nearly similar to that of Italy, are healthy 
even to the white man, so long as the forests in and around 
them remain, bnt become very insalubrious when the woods 
are felled.* 

Trees as Shelter to Ground to the Leeward. 

As a mechanical obstruction, trees impede the -passage of 
air-currents over the ground, which, as is well known, is one 
of the most efficient agents in promoting evaporation and the 
refrigeration resulting from it.f In the forest, the air is almost 

the result. These influences, if we may believe certain .able writers on medi- 
cal subjects, are telluric rather than meteoric ; and they regard it as probable 
that the uniform moisture of soil in forests may be the immediate cause of 
the immunity enjoyed by such localities. See an article by Pettenkofer 
in the SAd-Deutsohe Presse, August, 18G9 ; and the observations of Eber- 
MAYER in the work above quoted, pp. 24 f 3 et seq. 

In Australia and New Zealand, as well as generally in the Southern Hemis- 
phere, the indigenous trees are all evergreens, and even deciduous trees intro- 
duced from the other side of the equator become evergreen. In those 
regions, even in the most swampy localities, malarious diseases are nearly, if 
not altogether, unknown. Is this most important fact due to the persistence 
of the foliage ? 

Mobsman, Origin of Climates, pp. 374, 393, 410, 425. etseq. 

* Except in the seething marshes of northern tropical and subtropical 
regions, where vegetable decay is extremely rapid, the uniformity of tempera- 
ture and of atmospheric humidity renders all forests eminently healthful. 
See Hoiienstein's observations on this subject, Dcr Wald, p. 41 ; also A. 
Maury, Les ForeU de la Guide, p. 7. 

The flat and marshy district of the Sologne in France was salubrious until 
its woods were felled. It then became pestilential, but within tho last few 
years its healthfulness has been restored by forest plantations. Jules Ceave 
in Ri vue des Deux Mondes for 1st March, 1SG6, p. 209. 

There is no question that open squares and parks conduce to the salubrity 
of cities, and many observers are of opinion that the trees and other vegeta- 
bles with which such grounds are planted contribute essentially to their bene- 
ficial influence. See an article in Aus der Natur, xxii., p. 813. 

f It is perhaps too much to say that the influence of trees upon the 
win ] i-- strictly limited to the mechanical resistance of their trunks, branches, 
and foliage. So far as the forest, by dead or by living action, raises or 


quieseent, and moves only as local changes of temperature 
affect the specific gravity of its particles. Hence there is often 
a dead calm in the woods when a furious blast is raging in the 
open country at a few yards' distance. The denser the forest 
— as, for example, where it consists of spike-leaved trees, or is 
thickly intermixed with them — the more obvious is its effect, 
and no one can have passed from the field to the wood in cold, 
windy weather, without having remarked it.* 

lowers the temperature of the air within it, so far it creates upward or down- 
ward currents in the atmosphere above it, and, consequently, a flow of air 
towards or from itself. These air-streams have a certain, though doubt- 
less a very small, influence on the force and direction of greater atmospheric 

* As a familiar illustration of the influence of the forest in checking the 
movement of winds, I may mention the well-known fact, that the sensible 
cold is never extreme in thick woods, where the motion of the air is little 
felt. The lumbermen in Canada and the Northern United States labor in the 
woods, without inconvenience, when the mercury stands many degrees below 
the zero of Fahrenheit, while in the open grounds, with only a moderate 
breeze, the same temperature is almost insupportable. The engineers and 
firemen of locomotives, employed on railways running through forests of any 
considerable extent, observe that, in very cold weather, it is much easier to 
keep up the steam while the engine is passing through the woods than in 
the open ground. As soon as the train emerges from the shelter of the trees 
the steam-gauge falls, and the stoker is obliged to throw in a liberal supply 
of fuel to bring it up again. 

Another less frequently noticed fact, due, no doubt, in a great measure 
to the immobility of the air, is, that sounds are transmitted to incredible 
distances in the unbroken forest. Many instances of this have fallen under 
my own observation, and others, yet more striking, have been related to 
me by credible and competent witnesses familiar with a more primitive 
condition of the Anglo-American world. An acute observer of natural 
phenomena, whose childhood and youth were spent in the interior of one 
of the newer New England States, has often told me that when he estab 
lished his home in the forest, he always distinctly heard, in still weather, 
the plash of horses' feet, when they forded a small brook nearly seven- 
eighths of a mile from his house, though a portion of the wood that inter- 
vened consisted of a ridge seventy or eighty feet higher than either the house 
or the ford. 

I have no doubt that, in such cases, the stillness of the air is the most 
important element in the extraordinary transmissibility of sound; but it 
must be admitted that the absence of the multiplied and confused noises, 


The action of the forest, considered merely as a mechanical 
shelter to grounds lying to the leeward of it, might seem to be 
an influence of too restricted a character to deserve much 
notice ; but many facts concur to show that it is a most import- 
ant element in local climate. 

which accompany human industry in countries thickly peopled by man, 
contributes to the same result. We become, by habit, almost insensible to 
the familiar and never-resting voices of civilization in cities and towns ; 
but the indistinguishable drone, which sometimes escapes even the ear of 
him who listens for it, deadens and often quite obstructs the transmission 
of sounds which would otherwise be clearly audible. An observer, who 
wishes to appreciate that hum of civic life which he cannot analyze, will 
find an excellent opportunity by placing himself on the hill of Capo di Monte 
at Naples, in the line of prolongation of the street called Spaccanapoli. 

It is probably to the stillness of which I have spoken that we are to 
ascribe the transmission of sound to great distances at sea in calm weather. 
In June, 1853, I and my family were passengers on board a ship-of-war 
bound up the iEgean. On the evening of the 27th of that month, as we 
were discussing, at the tea-table, some observations of Humboldt on this 
subject, the captain of the ship told us that he had once heard a single gun 
at sea at the distance of ninety nautical miles. The next morning, though 
a light breeze had sprung up from the north, the sea was of glassy smooth- 
ness when we went on deck. As we came up, an officer told us that he 
had heard a gun at sunrise, and the conversation of the previous evening 
suggested the inquiry whether it could have been fired from the combined 
French and English fleet then lying at Beshika Bay. Upon examination 
of our position we were found to have been, at sunrise, ninety sea miles 
from that point. We continued beating up northwards, and between sun- 
rise and twelve o'clock meridian of the 28th, we had made twelve miles 
northing, reducing our distance from Beshika Bay to seventy-eight sea 
miles. At noon we heard several guns so distinctly that we were able to 
count the number. On the 29th we came up with the fleet, and learned 
from an officer who came on board that a royal salute had been fired at 
noon on the 28th, in honor of the day as the anniversary of the Queen of 
England's coronation. The report at sunrise was evidently the morning gun, 
those at noon the salute. 

Such cases are rare, because the sea is seldom still, and the kv^Atcov 
avripiSnov yzXo.ajxo. rarely silent, over so great a space as ninety or even seventy- 
eight nautical miles. I apply the epithet silent to ■ytKatrfj.a. advisedly. I am 
convinced that iEschylus meant the audible laugh of the waves, which is in- 
deed of countless multiplicity, not the visible smile of the sea, which, belong- 
ing to the great expanse as one impersonation, is single, though, like the 
human smile, made up of the play of many features. 


It is evident that the effect of the forest, as a mechanical 
impediment to the passage of the wind, would extend to a very 

considerable distance above its own height, and hence protect 
while standing, or lay open when felled, a much larger surface 
than might at first thought be supposed. The atmosphere, 
movable as are its particles, and light and elastic as are its 
masses, is nevertheless held together as a continuous whole by 
the gravitation of its atoms and their consequent pressure on 
each other, if not by attraction between them, and, therefore, 
an obstruction which mechanically impedes the movement of a 
given stratum of air will retard the passage of the strata above 
and below it. To this effect may often be added that of an 
ascending current from the forest itself, which must always 
exist when the atmosphere within the wood is warmer than the 
stratum of air above it, and must be of almost constant occur- 
rence in the case of cold winds, from whatever quarter, because 
the still air in the forest is slow in taking up the temperature 
of the moving columns and currents around and above it. Ex- 
perience, in fact, has shown that mere rows of trees, and even 
much lower obstructions, are of essential service in defending 
vegetation against the action of the wind. Hardy proposes 
planting, hi Algeria, belts of trees at the distance of one hun- 
dred metres from each other, as a shelter which experience had 
proved to be useful in France.* " In the valley of the Ehone," 
says Becquerel, " a simple hedge, two metres in height, is a suf- 
ficient protection for a distance of twenty-two metres.''! The 
mechanical shelter acts, no doubt, chiefly as a defence against 

* Becquerel, Des Climats, etc., p. 179. f Ibid., p. 116. 

Becquerel's views have been amply confirmed by recent extensive experiments 
on the bleak, stony, and desolate plain of the Gran in the Department of the 
Bouches-du-Rhone, which had remained a naked waste from the earliest 
ages of history. Belts of trees prove a secure protection even against the 
furious and chilly blasts of the Mistral, and in this shelter plantations of fruit- 
trees and vegetables, fertilized by the waters and the slime of the Durance, 
which are conducted and distributed over the Crau, thrive with the greatest 

Surell, EluiU suj' les Torrerd8, 2d edition, 1872, ii., p. 35. 


the mechanical force of the wind, but its uses are by no means 
limited to this effect. If the current of air which it resists 
moves horizontally, it would prevent the access of cold or parch- 
ing blasts to the ground for a great distance ; and did the wind 
even descend at a large angle with the surface, still a consider- 
able extent of ground would be protected by a forest to the 
windward of it. 

In the report of a committee appointed in 1836 to examine 
an article of the forest code of France, Arago observes : " If a 
curtain of forest on the coasts of Normandy and of Brittany 
were destroyed, these two provinces would become accessible to 
the winds from the west, to the mild breezes of the sea. Hence 
a decrease of the cold of winter. If a similar forest were to 
be cleared on the eastern border of France, the glacial east 
wind would prevail with greater strength, and the winters' 
would become more severe. Thus the removal of a belt of 
wood would produce opposite effects in the two regions." * 

This opinion receives confirmation from an observation of 
Dr. D wight, who remarks, in reference to the woods of New 
England : " Another effect of removing the forest will be the 
free passage of the winds, and among them of the southern 
winds, over the surface. This, I think, has been an increasing 
fact within my own remembrance. As the cultivation of the 
country has extended farther to the north, the winds from the 
south have reached distances more remote from the ocean, and 
imparted their warmth frequently, and in such degrees as, 
forty years since, were in the same places very little known. 
This fact, also, contributes to lengthen the summer and to 
shorten the winter half of the year." f 

It is thought in Italy that the clearing of the Apennines 
has very materially affected the climate of the valley of the 
Po. It is asserted in Le Alpi cite cingono V Italia that : " In 
consequence of the felling of the woods on the Apennines, the 
sirocco prevails greatly on the right bank of the Po, in the 

* Becquerel, Des Ornate, etc., Discours Prelim., vi. 
f Travels, i., p. 61. 


Parmesan territory, and in a part of Lombardy; it injures the 
harvests and the vineyards, and sometimes ruins the crops of the 
season. To the same cause many ascribe the meteorological 
changes in the precincts of Modena and of Eeggio. In the 
communes of these districts, where formerly straw roofs resisted 
the force of the winds, tiles are now hardly sufficient ; in others, 
where tiles answered for roofs, large slabs of stone are now 
ineffectual ; and in many neighboring communes the grapes 
and the grain are swept off by the blasts of the south and 
south-west winds." 

According to the same authority, the pinery of Porto, near 
Ravenna — which is twenty miles long, and is one of the oldest 
pine woods in Italy — having been replanted with resinous trees 
after it was unfortunately cut, has relieved the city from the 
sirocco to which it had become exposed, and in a great degree 
restored its ancient climate.* 

The felling of the woods on the Atlantic coast of Jutland 
has exposed the soil not only to drifting sands, but to sharp sea- 
winds, that have exerted a sensible deteriorating effect on the 
climate of that peninsula, which has no mountains to serve at 
once as a barrier to the force of the winds, and as a storehouse of 
moisture received by precipitation or condensed from atmos- 
pheric vapors.f 

* Le Alpi die cingono V Italia, pp. 370, 371 . 

f Bkrgsoe, Reventhm Virksomhed, ii., p. 125. 

The following well- attested instance of a local change of climate is probably 
to be referred to the influence of the forest as a shelter against cold winds. To 
supply the extraordinary demand for Italian iron occasioned by the exclusion of 
English iron in the time of Napoleon I., the furnaces of the valleys of Bergamo 
were stimulated to great activity. " The ordinary productiou of charcoal not 
sufficing to feed the furnaces and the forges, the woods were felled, the copses 
cut before their time, and the whole economy of the forest was deranged. At 
Piazzatorre there was such a devastation of the woods, and consequently such 
an increased severity of climate, that maize no longer ripened. An associa- 
tion, formed for the purpose, effected the restoration of the forest, and maize 
flourishes again in the fields of Piazzatorre." — Report by G. Rosa, in UPolitec- 
nico, Dicembre, 18(51, p. 014. 

Similar ameliorations have been produced by plantations in Belgium. In 
an interesting series of articles by Baude, entitled, " Les Cotes de la Blanche," 


The local retardation of spring, so much complained of in 
Italy, France, and Switzerland, and the increased frequency of 
late frosts at that season, appear to be ascribable to the admis- 
sion of cold blasts to the surface, by the felling of the forests 
which formerly both screened it as by a wall, and communi- 
cated the warmth of their soil to the air and earth to the leeward. 
Caimi states that since the cutting down of the woods of the 
Apennines, the cold winds destroy or stunt the vegetation, 
and that, in consequence of " the usurpation of winter on the 
domain of spring," the district of Mugello has lost all its mul- 
berries, except the few which find in the lee of buildings a pro- 
tection like that once furnished by the forest.* 

The department of Ardeche, which now contains not a single 
considerable wood, has experienced within thirty years a climatic 
disturbance, of which the late frosts, formerly unknown in the 
country, are one of the most melancholy effects. Similar results 
have been observed in the plain of xllsace, in consequeuce of 
the denudation of several of the crests of the Vosges.f 

Cussard, as quoted by Iiibbe,;}: maintains that even the 

in the Revue des Deux Mondes, I find this statement : " A spectator, placed on 
the famous bell-tower of the cathedral of Antwerp, saw, not long since, on the 
opposite side of the Schelde, only a vast desert plain ; now he sees a forest, 
the limits of which are confounded with the horizon. Let him enter within 
its shade. The supposed forest is but a system of regular rows of trees, the 
oldest of which is not forty years of age. These plantations have ameliorated 
the climate which had doomed to sterility the soil where they are planted. 
While the tempest is violently agitating their tops, the air a little below is 
still, and sands far more barren than the plateau of La Hague have been trans- 
formed, under their protection, into fertile fields." — Revue des Deux 2iondes, 
January, 1859, p. 277. 

* Cenni sulla Importanza e Coltura dei Bosclii, p. 31. 

f Clave, £tudes, p. 44 

It has been observed in Sweden that the spring, in many districts where the 
forests have been cleared off, now comes on a fortnight later than in the last 
century. — AsbjCirxsen, On Skovene i Norge, p. 101. 

% La Provence au point de mie des Toi'rents et des Inondations, p. 19. 

Dussard is doubtless historically inaccurate in making the origin of the 
mistral so late as the time of Augustus. Diodorus Siculus, who was a con- 
temporary of Julius Ca?sar, describes the north-west winds in Gaul as 


mistral, or north-west wind, whose chilling blasts are so fatal 
to tender vegetation in the spring, "is the child of man, the 
result of his devastations." " Under the reign of Augustus," 
continues he, "the forests which protected the Cevermes were 
felled, or destroyed by lire, in mass. A vast country, before 
covered with impenetrable woods — powerful obstacles to the 
movement and even to the formation of hurricanes — was sud- 
denly denuded, swept bare, stripped, and soon after, a scourge 
hitherto unknown, struck terror over the land from Avignon 
to the Bouehes-du-Rhone, thence to Marseilles, and then ex- 
tended its ravages, diminished indeed by a long career which 
had partially exhausted its force, over the whole maritime 
frontier. The people thought this wind a curse sent of God. 
They raised altars to it and offered sacrifices to appease its 
rage." It seems, however, that this plague was less destruc- 
tive than at present, until the close of the sixteenth century, 
when further clearings had removed most of the remaining 
barriers to its course. Up to that time, the north-vest wind 
appears not to have attained to the maximum of specific effect 
which now characterizes it as a local phenomenon. Extensive 
districts, from which the rigor of the seasons has now banished 
valuable crops, were not then exposed to the loss of their har- 
vests by tempests, cold, or drought. The deterioration was 
rapid in its progress. Under the Consulate, the clearings had 
exerted so injurious an effect upon the climate, that the culti- 
vation of the olive had retreated several leagues, and since the 
winters and springs of 1S20 and 1S3G, this branch of rural 
industry has been abandoned in a great number of localities 
where it was advantageously pursued before. The orange 
now flourishes only at a few sheltered points of the coast, and 
it is threatened even at IJyeres, where the clearing of the 

violent enough to hurl along stones as large as the fist with clouds of sand 
and gravel, to strip travellers of their arms and clothing, and to throw mounted 
men f rom their horses. BibUotheca Historiea, lib. v., c. xxvi. Diodorus. it 
is true, is speaking of the climate of Gaul in general, but his description can 
hardly refer to anything but the mistral of South-eastern France. 


hills near the town has proved very prejudicial to this valu- 
able tree. 

Marchand informs us that, since the felling of the woods, 
late spring frosts are more frequent in many localities north 
of the Alps ; that fruit-trees thrive no longer, and that it is 
difficult even to raise young fruit-trees.* 

Influence of the Forest, considered as Inorganic Hatter, on 


The evaporation of fluids, and the condensation and expan- 
sion of vapors and gases, are attended with changes of temper- 
ature ; and the quantity of moisture which the air is capable of 
containing, and of course, other things being equal, the evapo- 
ration, rise and fall with the thermometer. The hygroscopical 
and the thermoscopical conditions of the atmosphere are, there- 
fore, inseparably connected as reciprocally dependent quantities, 
and neither can be fully discussed without taking notice of 
the other. The leaves of living trees exhale enormous quan- 
tities of gas and of aqueous vapor, and they largely absorb 
gases, and, under certain conditions, probably also water. 
Hence they affect more or less powerfully the temperature as 
well as the humidity of the air. But the forest, regarded 
purely as inorganic matter, and without reference to its living 
processes of absorption and exhalation of gases and of water, 
has, as an absorbent, a radiator and a conductor of heat, and as 
a mere covering of the ground, an influence on the temperature 
of the air and the earth, which may be considered by itself. 

Absorbing and Emitting Surface. 

A given area of ground, as estimated by the every-day rule 
of measurement in yards or acres, presents always the same 

* Ueber die Entwaldung der Gebirge, p. 28. 

Interesting facts and observations on this point will be found in the valuable 
Report on the Effects of the Destruction of the Forests in Wisconsin, by Lapiiasi 
and others, pp. 6, 18, 20. 


apparent quantity of absorbing, radiating, and reflecting sur- 
face; but the real extent of that surface is very variable, 
depending, as it does, upon its configuration, and the bulk and 
form of the adventitious objects it bears upon it; and, besides, 
the true superficies remaining the same, its power of absorp- 
tion, radiation, reflection, and conduction of heat will be much 
affected by its consistence, its greater or less humidity, and its 
color, as well as by its inclination of plane and exposure. An 
acre of clay, rolled hard and smooth, would have great reflect- 
ing power, but its radiation would be much increased by break- 
ing it up into clods, because the actually exposed surface would 
be greater, though the outline of the field remained the same. 
The inequalities, natural or artificial, which always occur in the 
surface of ordinary earth, affect in the same way its quantity of 
superficies acting upon the temperature of the atmosphere, 
and acted on by it, though the amount of this action and reac- 
tion is not susceptible of measurement. 

Analogous effects are produced by other objects, of whatever 
form or character, standing or lying upon the earth, and no 
solid can be placed upon a fiat piece of ground, without itself 
exposing a greater surface than it covers. This applies, of 
course, to forest trees and their leaves, and indeed to all vegeta- 
bles, as well as to other prominent bodies. If we suppose 
forty trees to be planted on an acre, one being situated in the 
centre of every square of two rods the side, and to grow until 
their branches and leaves everywhere meet, it is evident that, 
when in full foliage, the trunks, branches, and leaves would 
present an amount of thermoscopic surface much greater than 
that of an acre of bare earth ; and besides this, the fallen leaves 
lying scattered on the ground, would somewhat augment the 
sum-total.* On the other hand, the growing leaves of trees 
generally form a succession of stages, or, loosely speaking, 

* " The Washington elm at Cambridge — a tree of no extraordinary size — was 
some years ago estimated to produce a crop of seven millions of leaves, ex- 
posing a surface of two hundred thousand sipiare feet, or about live acivs of 
foliage." — Gray, First Lc^oitd in, Botany and Vegetable Physiology. 


layers, corresponding to the animal growth of the branches, 
and more or less overlying each other. This disposition of 
the foliage interferes with that free communication between 
sun and sky above, and leaf-surface below, on which the 
amount of radiation and absorption of heat depends. From all 
these considerations, it appears that though the effective ther- 
moscopio surface of a forest in full leaf does not exceed that of 
bare ground in the same proportion as does its measured super- 
ficies, yet the actual quantity of area capable of receiving and 
emitting heat must be Greater in the former than in the latter 

It must further be remembered that the form and texture of 
a given surface are important elements in determining its 
thermoscopic character. Leaves are porous, and admit air and 
light more or less freely into their substance ; they are gener- 
ally smooth and even glazed on one surface ; they are usually 
covered on one or both sides with spicula, and they very com- 
monly present one or more acuminated points in their outline 
— all circumstances which tend to augment their power of 
emitting heat by reflection or radiation. Direct experiment on 
growing trees is very difficult, nor is it in any case practicable 
to distinguish how far a reduction of temperature produced by 
vegetation is due to radiation, and how far to exhalation of the 
gaseous and w r atery fluids of the plant ; for both processes 
usually go on together. But the frigorific effect of leafy struc- 
ture is well observed in the deposit of dew and the occurrence 
of hoarfrost on the foliage of grasses and other small vegetables, 
and on other objects of similar form and consistence, when the 
temperature of the air a few feet above has not been brought 
down to the dew-point, still less to 32°, the degree of cold re- 
quired to congeal dew to frost.f 

* See, on this particular point, and on the general influence of the forest on 
temperature, Humboldt, Ansichten der Ndtar, i., 158. 

f The leaves and twigs of plants may be reduced by radiation to a tempera- 
ture lower than that of the ambient atmosphere, and even be frozen when the 
air in contact with them is above 32°. Their temperature may be communicated 


We are also to take into account the action of the forest as a 
conductor of heat between the atmosphere and the earth. In 
the most important countries of America and Europe, and es- 
pecially in those which have suffered most from the destruction 
of the woods, the superficial strata of the earth are colder in 
winter, and warmer in summer, than those a few inches lower, 
and their shifting temperature approximates to the atmospheric 
mean of the respective seasons. The roots of large trees pene- 
trate beneath the superficial strata, and reach earth of a nearly 
constant temperature, corresponding to the mean for the entire 
year. As conductors, they convey the heat of the atmosphere to 
the earth when the earth is colder than the air, and transmit it 
in the contrary direction when the temperature of the earth is 
higher than that of the atmosphere. Of course, then, as con- 
ductors, they tend to equalize the temperature of the earth and 
the air. 

In countries where the questions I am considering have the 
greatest practical importance, a very large proportion, if not 
a majority, of the trees are of deciduous foliage, and their radi- 
ating as well as their shading surface is very much greater in 
summer than in winter. In the latter season, they little obstruct 
the reception of heat by the ground or the radiation from it ; 

to the dew deposited on them and thus this dew be converted into frost when 
globules of watery fluid floating in the atmosphere near them, in the condition 
of fog or vapor, do not become congealed. 

It has long been known that vegetables can be protected against frost by 
diffusing smoke through the atmosphere above them. This method has been 
lately practised in France on a large scale : vineyards of forty or fifty acres have 
been protected by placing one or two rows of pots of burning coal-tar, or of 
naphtha, along the north side of the vineyard, and thus keeping up a cloud of 
smoke for two or three hours before and after sunrise. The expense is said 
to be small, and probably it might be reduced by mixing some less combusti- 
ble substance, as earth, with the fluid, and thus checking its too rapid burning. 

The radiating and refrigerating power of objects by no means depends on 
their form alone. Melloni cut sheets of metal into the shape of leaves and 
grasses, and found that they produced little cooling effect, and were not mois- 
tened under atmospheric conditions which determined a plentiful deposit of 
dew on the leaves of vegetables. 


whereas, in the former, they often interpose a complete canopy 
between the ground and the sky, and materially interfere with 
both processes. 

Dead Products of Trees. 

Besides this various action of standing trees, considered as in- 
organic matter, the forest exercises, by the annual moulting of 
its foliage, still another influence on the temperature of the 
earth, and, consequently, of the atmosphere which rests upon it. 
If we examine the constitution of the superficial soil in a primi- 
tive or an old and undisturbed artificially planted wood, we 
find, first, a deposit of undecayed leaves, twigs, and seeds, lying- 
in loose layers on the surface ; then, more compact beds of the 
same materials in incipient, and, as we descend, more and more 
advanced, stages of decomposition : then, a mass of black mould, 
in which traces of organic structure are hardly discoverable 
except by microscopic examination ; then, a stratum of mineral 
soil, more or less mixed with vegetable matter carried down 
into it by water, or resulting from the decay of roots; and, 
finally, the inorganic earth or rock itself. Without this deposit 
of the dead products of trees, this latter would be the superfi- 
cial stratum, and as its powers of absorption, radiation, and con- 
duction of heat would differ essentially from those of the layers 
with which it has been covered by the droppings of the forest, 
it would act upon the temperature of the atmosphere, and be 
acted on by it, in a very different way from the leaves and 
mould which rest upon it. Dead leaves, still entire, or partially 
decayed, are very indifferent conductors of heat, and, therefore, 
though they diminish the warming influence of the summer 
sun on the soil below them, they, on the other hand, prevent the 
escape of heat from that soil in winter, and, consequently, in 
cold climates, even when the ground is not covered by a pro- 
tecting mantle of snow, the earth does not freeze to as great a 
depth in the wood as in the open field. 


Specific Heat. 

Trees, considered as organisms, produce in themselves, or in 
the air, a certain amount of heat, by absorbing and condensing 
atmospheric gases, and they exert an opposite influence by 
absorbing water and exhaling it in the form of vapor ; but 
there is still another mode by which their living processes may 
warm the air around them, independently of the thermometric 
effects of condensation and evaporation. The vital heat of a 
dozen persons raises the temperature of a room. If trees pos- 
sess a specific temperature of their own, an organic power of 
generating heat like that with which the warm-blooded ani- 
mals are gifted, though by a different process, a certain amount 
of weight is to be ascribed to this element in estimating the 
action of the forest upon atmospheric temperature. 

Boussingault remarks : " In many flowers there has been 
observed a very considerable evolution of heat, at the approach 
of fecundation. In certain arums the temperature rises to 40° 
or 50° Cent. [= 104° or 122° Fahr.] It is very probable that 
this phenomenon is general, and varies only in the intensity 
with which it is manifested." * 

If we suppose the fecundation of the flowers of forest trees 
to be attended with a tenth only of this calorific power, they 
could not fail to exert an important influence on the warmth 
of the atmospheric strata in contact with them. 

Experiments by Meguscher, in Lombardy, led that observer 
to conclude " that the wood of a living tree maintains a tem- 
perature of + 12° or 13° Cent, [=54°, 56° Fahr.] when the 
temperature of the air stands at 3°, 7°, and 8° [= 37°, 46°, 
47° F.] above zero, and that the internal warmth of the tree 
does not rise and fall in proportion to that of the atmosphere. 
So long as the latter is below 18° [= 67° Fahr.], that of the 
tree is always the highest ; but if the temperature of the air 
rises to 1S°, that of the vegetable growth is the lowest. Since, 

* Economic Rurctie, i., p. 22. 


then, trees maintain at all seasons a constant mean tempera- 
ture of 12° [= 54° Fahr.], it is easy to see why the air in con- 
tact with the forest must be warmer in winter, cooler in sum- 
mer, than in situations where it is deprived of that influence."* 

Professor Henry says : " As a general deduction from chemi- 
cal and mechanical principles, we think no change of tempera- 
ture is ever produced where the actions belonging to one or 
both of these principles are not present. Hence, in midwinter, 
when all vegetable functions are dormant, we do not believe 
that any heat is developed by a tree, or that its interior differs 
in temperature from its exterior further than it is protected 
from the external air. The experiments which have been 
made on this point, we think, have been directed by a false 
analogy. During the active circulation of the sap and the pro- 
duction of new tissue, variations of temperature belonging ex- 
clusively to the plant may be observed ; but it is inconsistent 
with general principles that heat should be generated where 
no change is taking place." f 

There can be no doubt that moisture is given out by trees 
and evaporated in extremely cold winter weather, and unless 
new fluid were supplied from the roots by the exercise of 
some vital function, the tree would be exhausted of its juices 
before winter was over. But this is not observed to be the 

* Memoria sur BoscM deUa Lombardia, p. 45. 

The results of recent experiments by Becquerel do not accord with those 
obtained by Meguscher, and the former eminent physicist holds that "a tree 
is warmed in the air like any inert body." At the same time he asserts, as a 
fact well ascertained by experiment, that ' ' vegetables possess in themselves 
the power of resisting extreme cold for a certain length of time, .... 
and hence it is i elieved that there may exist in the organism of plants a force, 
independent of fche conduction of caloric, which resists a degree of cold above 
the freezing-point." In a following page he cites observations made by 
Bugeaud, under the parallel of 58° N. L., between the months of November 
and June, during most of which time, of course, vegetable life was in its 
deepest lethargy. Bugeaud found that when the temperature of the air was 
at —34". 60, that of a poplar was only at —29°. 70, which certainly confirms 
the doctrine that trees exercise a certain internal resistance against cold. 

f United States Patent Office Report for 1857, p. 504. 


fact, and, though the point is disputed, respectable authorities 
declare that " wood felled in the depth of winter is the heaviest 
and fullest of sap." * Warm weather in winter, of too short 
continuance to affect the temperature of the ground sensibly, 
stimulates a free flow of sap in the maple. Thus, in the last 
week of December, 1S62, and the first week of January, 1SG3, 
sugar was made from that tree in various parts of New Eng- 
land. " A sino-le branch of a tree, admitted into a warm room 
in winter through an aperture in a window, opened its buds 
and developed its leaves, while the rest of the tree in the exter- 
nal air remained in its winter sleep." f Like facts are matter 
of every-day observation in graperies where the vine is often 
planted outside the wall, the stem passing through an aperture 
into the warm interior. The roots, of course, stand in ground 
of the ordinary winter temperature, but vegetation is developed 
in the branches at the pleasure of the gardener. The roots of 
forest trees in temperate climates remain, for the most part, 
in a moist soil, of a temperature not much below the annual 
mean, through the whole winter ; and we cannot account for 
the uninterrupted moisture of the tree, unless we suppose that 
the roots furnish a constant supply of water. 

Atkinson describes a ravine in a valley in Siberia, which was 
filled with ice to the depth of twenty -five feet. Poplars were 
growing in this ice, which was thawed to the distance of some 
inches from the stem. But the surface of the soil beneath it 
must have remained still frozen, for the holes around the trees 
were full of water resulting from its melting, and this would 
have escaped below if the ground had been thawed. In this 
case, although the roots had not thawed the thick covering of 
earth above them, the trunks must have melted the ice in con- 
tact with them. The trees, when observed by Atkinson, were 
in full leaf, but it does not appear at what period the ice around 
their stems had melted. 

From these facts, and others of the like sort, it would 
seem that " all vegetable functions are " not absolutely "dor- 
* Hoss-masslek, Ber W«M, p. 158. flbid, p. 160. 


mant" in winter, and, therefore, that trees may give ont some 
heat even at that season.* 

It does not appear that observations have been made on the 
special point of the development of heat in forest trees during 
iiorification, or at any other period of intense vital action; and 
hence an important element in the argument remains undeter- 
mined. The " circulation of the sap " commences at a very 
early period in the spring, and the temperature of the air in 
contact with trees may then be sufficiently affected by heat 

* All evergreens, even the broad-leaved trees, resist frosts of extraordinary 
severity better than the deciduous trees of the same climates. Is not this 
because the vital processes of trees of persistent foliage are less interrupted 
during winter than those of trees which annually shed their leaves, and that 
therefore more organic heat is developed ? 

In crossing Mont Cenis in October, 1SG9, when the leaves of the larches on 
the northern slope and near the top of the mountain were entirely dead and 
turned brown, I observed that these trees were completely white with hoar- 
frost. It was a wonderful sight to see how every leaf was covered with a 
delicate deposit of frozen aqueous vapor, which gave the effect of the most 
brilliant silver. On the other hand, the evergreen conifera?, which were grow- 
ing among the larches, and therefore in the same conditions of exposure, were 
almost entirely free from frost. The contrast between the verdure of the 
leaves of the evergreens and the crystalline splendor of those of the larches 
was strikingly beautiful. Was this fact due to a difference in the color and 
structure of the leaves, or rather is it a proof of a vital force of resistance to 
cold in the living foliage of the evergreen tree ? 

The low temperature of air and soil at which, in the frigid zone, as well as 
in warmer latitudes under special circumstances, the processes of vegetation go 
on, seems to necessitate the supposition that all the manifestations of vegeta- 
ble life are attended with an evolution of heat. In the United States it is 
common to protect ice, in ice-houses, by a covering of straw, which naturally 
sometimes contains kernels of grain. These often sprout, and even throw out 
roots and leaves to a considerable length, in a temperature very little above 
the freezing-point. Three or four years since I saw a lump of very clear and 
apparently solid ice, about eight inches long by six thick, on which a kernel of 
grain had sprouted in an ice-house, and sent half a dozen or more very slender 
roots into the pores of the ice and through the whole length of the lump. The 
young plant must have thrown out a considerable quantity of heat ; for though 
the ice was, as I have said, otherwise solid, the pores through which the roots 
passed were enlarged to perhaps double the diameter of the fibres, but still 
not so much as to prevent the retention of water in them by capillary attrac- 


evolved in the vital processes of vegetation, to raise the thermo- 
metric mean of wooded countries for that season, and, of course, 
for the year. The determination of this point is of much greater 
importance to vegetable physiology than the question of the 
winter temperature of trees, because a slight increment of heat 
in the trees of a forest might so affect the atmosphere in con- 
tact with them as to make possible the growing of many plants 
in or near the wood which could not otherwise be reared in 
that climate. 

The evaporation of the juices of trees and other plants is 
doubtless their most important thermoscopie function, and as 
recent observations lead to the conclusion that the quantity of 
moisture exhaled by vegetables has been hitherto underrated, 
we must ascribe to this element a higher value than has been 
usually assigned to it as a meteorological influence. 

The exhalation and evaporation of the juices of trees, by 
whatever process effected, take up atmospheric heat and pro- 
duce a proportional refrigeration. This effect is not less real, 
though to common observation less sensible, in the forest than 
in meadow or pasture land, and it cannot be doubted that the 
local temperature is considerably affected by it. But the 
evaporation that cools the air diffuses through it, at the same 
time, a medium which powerfully resists the escape of heat 
from the earth by radiation. Visible vapors, fogs and clouds, 
it is well known, prevent frosts by obstructing radiation, or 
rather by reflecting back again the heat radiated by the earth, 
just as any mechanical screen would do. On the other hand, 
fogs and clouds intercept the rays of the sun also, and hinder 
its heat from reaching the earth. The invisible vapors given 
out by leaves impede the passage of heat reflected and radiated 
by the earth and by all terrestrial objects, but oppose much 
less resistance to the transmission of direct solar heat, and 
indeed the beams of the sun seem more scorching when received 
through clear air charced with uncondensed moisture than 
after passing through a dry atmosphere. Hence the reduction 
of temperature by the evaporation of moisture from vegetation, 


though sensible, is less than it would be if water in the gaseous 
state were as impervious to heat given out by the sun as to that 
emitted by terrestrial objects. 

Total Influence of the Forest on Temperature. 

It has not yet been found practicable to measure, sum up, 
and equate the total influence of the forest, its processes and 
its products, dead and living, upon temperature, and investiga- 
tors differ much in their conclusions on this subject. It seems 
probable that in every particular case the result is, if not deter- 
mined, at least so much modified by local conditions which are 
infinitely varied, that no general formula is applicable to the 

In the report to which I referred on page 163, Gay-Lussac 
says : " In my opinion we have not yet any positive proof that 
the forest has, in itself, any real influence on the climate of a 
great country, or of a particular locality. By closely examin- 
ing the effects of clearing off the woods, we should perhaps 
find that, far from being an evil, it is an advantage ; but these 
questions are so complicated when they are examined in a 
climatological point of view, that the solution of them is very 
difficult, not to say impossible." 

Becquerel, on the other hand, considers it certain that in 
tropical climates the destruction of the forests is accompanied 
with an elevation of the mean temperature, and he thinks it 
highly probable that it has the same effect in the temperate 
zones. The following is the substance of his remarks on this 
subject : 

" Forests act as frigorific causes in three ways : 

"1. They shelter the ground against solar irradiation and 
maintain a greater humidity. 

" 2. They produce a cutaneous transpiration by the leaves. 

" 3. They multiply, by the expansion of their branches, the 
surfaces which are cooled by radiation. 

" These three causes acting with greater or less force, we 


must, in the study of the climatology of a country, take into 
account the proportion between the area of the forests and the 
surface which is bared of trees and covered with herbs and 

" We should be inclined to believe, d priori, according to the 
foregoing considerations, that the clearing of the woods, by 
raising the temperature and increasing the dryness of the air, 
ought to react on climate. There is no doubt that, if the 
vast desert of the Sahara were to become wooded in the 
course of ages, the sands would cease to be heated as much as at 
the present epoch, when the mean temperature is twenty-nine 
degrees [Centigrade, = 85° Fahr.]. In that case, the ascend- 
ing currents of warm air would cease, or be less warm, and 
would not contribute, by descending in our latitudes, to 
soften the climate of Western Europe. Thus the clearing of 
a great country may react on the climates of regions more or 
less remote from it. 

"' The observations by Boussingault leave no doubt on 
this point. This writer determined the mean temperature of 
wooded and of cleared points, under the same latitude, and at 
the same elevation above the sea, in localities comprised be- 
tween the eleventh degree of north and the fifth degree of 
south latitude, that is to say, in the portion of the tropics near- 
est to the equator, and where radiation tends powerfully during 
the night to lower the temperature under a sky without 
clouds." * 

The result of these observations, which has been pretty 
generally adopted by physicists, is that the mean temperature 
of cleared land in the tropics appears to be about our degree 
Centigrade, or a little less than two degrees of Fahrenheit, 
above that of the forest. On page 147 of the volume just 
cited, 1'ecquerel argues that, inasmuch as the same and some- 
times a greater difference is found in favor of the open 
ground, at points within the tropics so elevated as to have a 
temperate or even a polar climate, we must conclude that the 
* Becquerhi,, Des Clii>i<.>tx, etc., pp. 139-141. 


forests in Northern America exert a refrigerating influence 
equally powerful. But the conditions of the soil are so differ- 
ent in the two regions compared, that I think we cannot, 
with entire confidence, reason from the one to the other, and 
it is much to be desired that observations be made on the 
summer and winter temperature of both the air and the ground 
in the depths of the North American forests, before it is too 

Recent inquiries have introduced a new element into the 
problem of the influence of the forest on temperature, or 
rather into the question of the thermometrical effects of its 
destruction. I refer to the composition of the soil in respect 
to its hygroscopicity or aptitude to absorb humidity, whether 
in a liquid or a gaseous form, and to the conducting power of 
the particles of which it is composed. * 

* Composition, texture, and color of soil are important elements to be con- 
sidered in estimating- the effects of the removal of the forest upon its thernio- 
scopic action. "Experience has proved," says Becquerel, "that when the soil 
is bared, it becomes more or less heated [by the rays of the sun] according to 
the nature and the color of the particles which compose it, and according to 
its humidity, and that, in the refrigeration resulting from radiation, we 
must take into the account the conducting power of those particles also. 
Other things being equal, siliceous and calcareous sands, compared in equal 
volumes with different argillaceous earths, with calcareous powder or dust, 
with humus, with arable and with garden earth, are the soils which least 
conduct heat. It is for this reason that sandy ground, in summer, maintains 
a high temperature even during the night. We may hence conclude that 
when a sandy soil is stripped of wood, the local temperature will be raised. 
After the sands follow successively argillaceous, arable, and garden ground, 
then humus, which occupies the lowest rank. 

" The retentive power of humus is but half as great as that of calcareous 
sand. We will add that the power of retaining heat is proportional to the 
density. It has also a relation to the magnitude of the particles. It is for 
this reason that ground covered with siliceous pebbles cools more slowly than 
siliceous sand, and that pebbly soils are best suited to the cultivation of the 
vine, because they advance the ripening of the grape more rapidly than chalky 
and clayey earths, which cool quickly. Hence we sec that in examining the 
calorific effects of clearing forests, it is important to take into account the 
properties of the soil laid bare." — Beccjueuel, Dcs CUmats et des Sols boises, 
p. 137. 


The hygroscopicity of lmnius or vegetable earth is much 
greater than that of any mineral soil, and consequently forest 
ground, where humus abounds, absorbs the moisture of the 
atmosphere more rapidly and in larger proportion than common 
earth. The condensation of vapor by absorption develops 
heat, and consequently elevates the temperature of the soil 
which absorbs it, together with that of air in contact with the 
surface. Yon Babo found the temperature of sandy ground 
thus raised from 6S° to 80° F., that of soil rich in humus from 
68° to 88°. 

The question of the influence of the woods on temperature 
does not, in the present state of our knowledge, admit of precise 
solution, and, unhappily, the primitive forests are disappear- 
ing so rapidly before the axe of the woodman, that we shall 
never be able to estimate with accuracy the elimatological 
action of the natural wood, though all the physical functions of 
artificial plantations will, doubtless, one day be approximately 

But the value of trees as a mechanical screen to the soil they 
cover, and often to ground far to the leeward of them, is most 
abundantly established, and this agency alone is important 
enough to justify extensive plantation in all countries which 
do not enjoy this indispensable protection. 

Influence of Forests as Inorganic on the Humidity of the 
Air and the Earth. 

The most important hygroscopic as well as thermoscopic in- 
fluence of the forest is, no doubt, that which it exercises on the 
humidity of the air and the earth, and this climatic action it 
exerts partly as dead, partly as living matter. By its interposi- 
tion as a curtain between the sky and the ground it both checks 
evaporation from the earth, and mechanically intercepts a certain 
proportion of the dew and the lighter showers, which would 
otherwise moisten the surface of the soil, and restores it to the 


atmosphere by exhalation ; * while in heavier rains, the large 
drops which fall upon the leaves and branches are broken into 
smaller ones, and consequently strike the ground with less 
mechanical force, or are perhaps even dispersed into vapor 
without reaching it.f 

* Mangotti had observed and described, in his usual picturesque way, the 
retention of rain-water by the foliage and bark of trees, but I do not know 
that any attempts were made to measure the quantity thus intercepted before 
the experiments of Becquerel, communicated to the Academy of Sciences in 
1866. These experiments embraced three series of observations continued 
respectively for periods of a year, a month, and two days. According to 
Becquerel's measurements, the quantity falling on bare and on wooded soil re- 
spectively was as 1 to 0.67; 1 to 0.5; and 1 to 0.6, or, in other words, he 
found that only from five-tenths to sixty-seven hundredths of the precipitation 
reached the ground. — Comptes Rendus de V Academie des Sciences, 1866. 

It seemed, indeed, improbable that in rain-storms which last not hours but 
whole days in succession, so large a proportion of the downfall should continue 
to be intercepted by forest vegetation after the leaves, the bark, and the whole 
framework of the trees were thoroughly wet, but the conclusions of this 
eminent physicist appear to have been generally accepted until the very caref id 
experiments of Mathieu at the Forest-School of Xancy were made known. The 
observations of Mathieu were made in a plantation of deciduous trees forty- 
two years old, and were continued through the entire years 1866, 1867, and 

1868. The result was that the precipitation in the wood was to that in an 
open glade of several acres near the forest station as 943 to 1,000, and the 
proportion in each of the three years was nearly identical. According to 
Mathieu, then, only 57 thousandths or 5. 7 per cent, of the precipitation is in- 
tercepted by trees. — Surell, Etude sur les Torrents, 2d ed., ii., p. 98. 

By order of the Direction of the Forests of the Canton of Berne, a series of 
experiments on this subject was commenced at the beginning of the year 

1869. During the first seven months of the year (the reports for which alone 
I have seen), including, of course, the season when the foliage is most 
abundant, as well as that when it is thinnest, the pluviometers in the woods 
received only fifteen per cent, less than those in the open grounds in the 
vicinity. — Risler, in Revue des Eaux et Forets, of 10th January, 1870. 

f We are not, indeed, to suppose that the condensation of vapor and the 
evaporation of water are going on in the same stratum of air at the same time, 
or, in other words, that vapor is condensed into rain-drops, and rain-drops 
evaporated, under the same conditions ; but rain formed in one stratum may 
fall through another, where vapor would not be condensed. Two saturated 
strata of different temperatures may be brought into contact in the higher 
regions, and discharge large rain-drops, which, if not divided by some obstruc- 


The vegetable mould, resulting from the decomposition of 
leaves and of wood, serves as a perpetual mulch to forest-soil by 
carpeting the ground with a spongy covering which obstructs 
the evaporation from the mineral earth below,* drinks up the 
rains and melting snows that would otherwise flow rapidly 
over the surface and perhaps be conveyed to the distant sea, 
and then slowly gives out, by evaporation, infiltration, and per- 
colation, the moisture thus imbibed. The roots, too, penetrate 
far below the superficial soil, conduct water along their surface 
to the lower depths to which they reach, and thus by partially 
draining the superior strata, remove a certain quantity of mois- 
ture out of the reach of evaporation. 

The Forest as Organic. 

These are the principal modes in which the humidity of the 
atmosphere is affected by the forest regarded as lifeless matter. 
Let us inquire how its organic processes act upon this meteoro- 
logical element. 

The commonest observation shows that the wood and bark of 
living trees are always more or less pervaded with watery and 
other fluids, one of which, the sap, is very abundant in trees of 
deciduous foliage when the buds begin to swell and the leaves 
to develop themselves in the spring. This fluid is drawn prin- 
cipally, if not entirely, from the ground by the absorbent action 
of the roots, for though Schacht and some other eminent botan- 
ical physiologists have maintained that water is absorbed by the 
leaves and bark of trees, yet most experiments lead to the con- 

tion, will reach the ground, though parsing through strata which would vapor- 
ize them if they were in a state of mora minute division. 

* The only direct experiments known to me on the evaporation from the 
surface of the forest are those of Mathieu. — StTRELL, Etude surles ToTTi 
2ded., ii., p. 09. 

These experiments were continued from March to December, inclusive, of 
the year 1S(>8. It was found that during those months the evaporation from 
a recipient placed on the ground in a plantation of deciduous trees sixty-two 
years old, was less than one-fifth of that from a recipient of like form and 
dimensions placed iu the open country. 


trary result, and it is now generally held that no water is taken 
in by the pores of vegetables. Late observations by Cailletefc 
in France, however, tend to the establishment of a new doctrine 
on this subject which solves many difficulties and will probably 
be accepted by botanists as definitive. Cailletet finds that 
under normal conditions, that is, when the soil is humid enough 
to supply sufficient moisture through the roots, no water is 
absorbed by the leaves, buds, or bark of plants, but when the 
roots are unable to draw from the earth the requisite quantity 
of this fluid, the vegetable pores in contact with the atmosphere 
absorb it from that source. 

Popular opinion, indeed, supposes that all the vegetable fluids, 
during the entire period of growth, are drawn from the bosom 
of the earth, and that the wood and other products of the tree 
are wholly .formed from matter held in solution in the water 
abstracted by the roots from the ground. This is an error, for 
the solid matter of the tree, in a certain proportion net impor- 
tant to our present inquiry, is received from the atmosphere in 
a gaseous form, through the pores of the leaves and of the 
young shoots, and, as we have just seen, moisture is sometimes 
supplied to trees by the atmosphere. The amount of water 
taken up by the roots, however, is vastly greater than that im- 
bibed through the leaves and bark, especially at the season 
when the sap is most abundant, and when the leaves are yet in 
embryo. The quantity of water thus received from the air and 
the earth, in a single year, even by a wood of only a hundred acres, 
is very great, though experiments are wanting to furnish the 
data for even an approximate estimate of its measure; for only 
the vaguest conclusions can be drawn from the observations 
which have been made on the imbibition and exhalation of 
water by trees and other plants reared in artificial conditions 
diverse from those of the natural forest." 

* The experiments of Hales and others on the absorption and exhalation of 
vegetables are of high physiological interest ; but observations on sunflowers, 
cabbages, hops, and single branches of isolated trees, growing in artificially 
prepared soils and under artificial conditions, furnish no trustworthy ata for 
computing the quantity of water received and given off by the natural wood. 


Flow of Sap. 

The amount of sap which can be withdrawn from living trees 
furnishes, not indeed a measure of the quantity of water sucked 
up by their roots from the ground — for we cannot extract from 
a tree its whole moisture — but numerical data which may aid 
the imagination to form a general notion of the powerful action 
of the forest as an absorbent of humidity from the earth. 

The only forest-tree known to Europe and North America, 
the sap of which is largely enough applied to economical uses 
to have made the amount of its flow a matter of practical impor- 
tance and popular observation, is the sugar maple, Acer saccha- 
rinum, of the Anglo-American Provinces and States. In the 
course of a single " sugar season," which lasts ordinarily from 
twenty-five to thirty days, a sugar maple two feet in diameter 
will yield not less than twenty gallons of sap, and sometimes 
much more.* This, however, is but a trifling proportion of the 

* Emerson (Trees of Massachusetts, p. 493) mentions a maple six feet in 
diameter, as having yielded a barrel, or thirty-one and a half gallons, of sap in 
twenty-four hours, and another, the dimensions of which are not stated, as 
having- yielded one hundred and seventy -five gallons in the course of the sea- 
son. The Cultivator, an American agricultural journal, for June, 1842, states 
that twenty gallons of sap were drawn in eighteen hours from a single maple, 
two and a half feet in diameter, in the town of Warner, New Hampshire, and 
the truth of this account has been verified by personal inquiry made in my 
behalf. This tree was of the original forest growth, and had been left standing 
when the ground around it was cleared. It was tapped only every oilier year, 
and then with six or eight incisions. Dr. Williams {History of Vermont, i. , p. 
91) says: "A man much employed in making maple sugar, found that, for 
twenty-one days together, a maple-tree discharged seven and a half gallons 
per day." 

An intelligent correspondent, of much experience in the manufacture of 
maple sugar, writes me that a second-growth maple, of about two feet in 
diameter, standing in open ground, tapped with four incisions, has, for several 
seasons, generally run eight gallons per day in fair weather, lie speaks of a 
very large tree, from which sixty gallons were drawn in the course of a sea- 
son, and of another, something more than three feet through, which made 
■ i by-two pounds of wet sugar, and must have yielded not less than one hun- 
dn ■! and fifty gallons. 


water abstracted from the earth by the roots during this season ; 
for all this fluid runs from two or three incisions or anger-holes, 
so narrow as to intercept the current of comparatively few sap 
vessels, and besides, experience shows that large as is the quan- 
tity withdrawn from the circulation, it is relatively too small 
to affect very sensibly the growth of the tree.* The number 
of large maple-trees on an acre is frequently not less than 
fifty, f and of course the quantity of moisture abstracted from 
the soil by this tree alone is measured by thousands of gallons 
to the acre. The sugar orchards, as they are called, contain also 
many young maples too small for tapping, and numerous other 
trees — two of which, at least, the black birch, Betida lenta, 
and yellow birch, Betida excelsa, both very common in the same 
climate, are far more abundant in sap than the maple ± — are 
scattered among the sugar-trees ; for the North American na- 
tive forests are remarkable for the mixture of their crops. 

* Tapping does not check the growth, but does irijure the quality of the 
wood of maples. The wood of trees often tapped is lighter and less dense 
than that of trees which have not been tapped, and gives less heat in burning. 
Xo difference has been observed in the bursting of the buds of tapped and un- 
tapped trees. 

f Dr. Rush, in a letter to Jefferson, states the number of maples fit for tap- 
ping on an acre at from thirty to fifty. " This," observes my correspondent, 
" is correct with regard to the original growth, which is always more or less 
intermixed with other trees ; but in second growth, composed of maples alone, 
the number greatly exceeds this. I have had the maples on a quarter of an 
acre, which I thought about an average of second-growth l maple orchards,' 
counted. The number was found to be fifty-two, of which thirty-two were 
ten inches or more in diameter, and, of course, large enough to tap. This 
gives two hundred and eight trees to the acre, one hundred and twenty-eight 
of which were of proper size for tapping." 

\ The correspondent already referred to informs me that a black birch, 
tapped about noon with two incisions, was found the next morning to have 
yielded sixteen gallons. Dr. Williams {History of Vermont^ i.. p. 91) says : 
"A large birch, tapped in the spring, ran at the rate of five gallons an hour 
when first tapped. Eight or nine days after, it was found to run at the rate of 
about two and a half gallons an hour, and at the end of fifteen days the dis- 
charge continued in nearly the same quantity. The sap continued to flow for 
four or five weeks, and it was the opinion of the observers that it must have 
yielded as much as sixty barrels [1,800 gallons]." 


The sap of the maple, and of other trees with deciduous leaves 
which grow iu the same climate, flows most freely in the early 
spring, and especially in clear weather, when the nights are 
frosty and the days warm ; for it is then that the melting- 
snows supply the earth with moisture in the justest proportion, 
and that the absorbent power of the roots is stimulated to its 
highest activity. 

When the buds are ready to burst, and the green leaves begin 
to show themselves beneath their scaly covering, the ground 
has become drier, the absorption by the roots is diminished, and 
the sap, being immediately employed in the formation of the 
foliage, can be extracted from the stem in only small quan- 

Absorption and Exhalation by Foliage. 

The leaves now commence the process of absorption, and im- 
bibe both uncombined gases and an unascertained but probal >ly 
inconsiderable quantity of aqueous vapor from the humid atm< >-- 
phere of spring which bathes them. 

The organic action of the tree, as thus far described, tends to 
the desiccation of air and earth ; but when we consider what 
volumes of water are daily absorbed by a large tree, and how 
small a proportion of the weight of this fluid consists of matter 
which, at the period when the flow of sap is freest, enters into mew 
combinations, and becomes a part of the solid framework of the 
vegetable, or a component of its deciduous products, it becomes 
evident that the superfluous moisture must somehow he carried 
back again almost as rapidly as it flows into the tree. At the 
very commencement of vegetation in spring, some of this fluid 
certainly escapes through the buds, the nascent foliage, and the 
pores of the bark, and vegetable physiology tells us that there 
is a current of sap towards the roots as well as from them.* I 

* " The elaborated sap, passing ovit of the leaves, is received into the inner 
bark, * * * and a part of what descends finds its way even to the ends of the 
roots, and is all along diffused laterally into the stem, where it meets and min- 
gles with the ascendiDg crude sap or raw material. So there is no separate cir- 


do not know that the exudation of water into the earth, through 
the bark or at the extremities of these latter organs, has been 
proved, but the other known modes of carrying off the surplus 
do not seem adequate to dispose of it at the almost leafless 
period when it is most abundantly received, and it is possible 
that the roots may, to some extent, drain as well as flood the 
water-courses of their stem. Later in the season the roots 
absorb less, and the now developed leaves exhale an increased 
quantity of moisture into the air. In any event, all the water 
derived by the growing tree from the atmosphere and the 
ground is parted with by transpiration or exudation, after 
having surrendered to the plant the small proportion of matter 
required for vegetable growth which it held in solution or 
suspension.* The hygrometrical equilibrium is then restored, 
so far as this : the tree yields up again the moisture it had 
drawn from the earth and the air, though it dues not return it 

culation of the two kinds of sap ; and no crude sap exists separately in any 
part of the plant. Even in the root, where it enters, this mingles at once 
with some elaborated sap already there." — Gray, How Plants Groio, §273. 

* Ward's tight glazed cases for raising and especially for transporting plants, 
go far to prove that water only circulates through vegetables, and is again 
and again absorbed and transpired by organs appropriated to these functions. 
Seeds, growing grasses, shrubs, or trees planted in proper earth, moderately 
watered and covered with a glass bell or close frame of glass, live for months, 
and even years, with only the original store of air and water. In one of 
Ward's early experiments, a spire of grass and a fern, which sprang up in a 
corked bottle containing a little moist earth introduced as a bed for a snail, 
lived and flourished for eighteen years without a new supply of either fluid. 
In these boxes the plants grow till the enclosed air is exhausted of the gaseous 
constituents of vegetation, and till the water has yielded up the assimilable 
matter it held in solution, and dissolved and supplied to the roots the nutri- 
ment contained in the earth in which they are planted. After this, they con- 
tinue for a long time in a state of vegetable sleep, but if fresh air and water be 
introduced into the cases, or the plants be transplanted into open ground, 
they rouse themselves to renewed life, and grow vigorously, without appear- 
ing to have suffered from their long imprisonment. The water transpired by 
the leaves is partly absorbed by the earth directly from the air, partly con- 
densed on the glass, along which it trickles down to the earth, enters the roots 
again, and thus continually repeats the circuit. See Aus der Natur, 21, B. 
S. 537. 


each to each ; for the vapor carried off by transpiration greatly 
exceeds the quantity of water absorbed by the foliage from 
the atmosphere, and the amount, if any, carried back to the 
ground by the roots. 

The present estimates of some eminent vegetable physiologists 
in regard to the quantity of aqueous vapor exhaled by trees and 
taken up by the atmosphere are much greater than those of 
former inquirers. Direct and satisfactory experiments on this 
point are wanting, and it is not easy to imagine how they could 
be made on a sufficiently extensive and comprehensive scale. 
Our conclusions must therefore be drawn from observations on 
small plants, or separate branches of trees, and of course are 
subject to much uncertainty. Nevertheless, Schleiden, arguing 
from such analogies, comes to the surprising result, that a wood 
evaporates ten times as much water as it receives from atmos- 
pheric, precipitation.* In the Northern and Eastern States of 
the Union, the mean precipitation during the period of forest 
growth, that is from the swelling of the buds in the spring to 
the ripening of the fruit, the hardening of the young shot ts, 
and the full perfection of the other annual products of the tree, 
exceeds on the average twenty-four inches. Taking this esti- 
mate, the evaporation from the forest would be equal to a pre- 
cipitation of two hundred and forty inches, or very nearly one 
hundred and fifty standard gallons to the square foot of sur- 

The first questions which suggest themselves upon this state- 
ment are : what becomes of this immense quantity of water and 
from what source does the tree derive it ? We are told in reply 
that it is absorbed from the air by the humus and mineral soil of 
the wood, and supplied again to the tree through its roots, by a 
circulation analogous to that observed in Ward's air-tight cases. 

* Far Baum und Wald, pp. 40, 47, notes. Pfaff, too, experimenting on 
branches of a living oak, weighed immediately after being cut from the tree, 
and again after an exposure to the air for three minutes, and computing the 
superficial measure of all the leaves of the tree, concludes that an oak-tree 
evaporates, (hiring the season of growth, eight and a half times the mean 
amount of rain-fall on an area equal to that shaded by the tree. 


When we recall the effect produced on the soil even of 
a thick wood by a rain-fall of one inch, we find it hard to believe 
that two hundred and forty times that quantity, received by the 
ground between early spring and autumn, would not keep it in 
a state of perpetual saturation, and speedily convert the forest 
into a bog. 

ISTo such power of absorption of moisture by the earth from 
the atmosphere, or anything approaching it, has ever been 
shown by experiment, and all scientific observation contradicts 
the supposition. Schiibler found that in seventy-two hours 
thoroughly dried humus, which is capable of taking up twice 
its own weight of water in the liquid state, absorbed from the 
atmosphere only twelve per cent, of its weight of humidity ; 
garden-earth five and one-fifth per cent, and ordinary cultiva- 
ted soil two and one-third per cent. After seventy-two hours, 
and, in most of his experiments with thirteen different earths, 
after forty-eight hours, no further absorption took place. Wil- 
helm, experimenting with air-dried field-earth, exposed to air 
in contact with water and protected by a bell-glass, found that 
the absorption amounted in seventy-two hours to two per cent. 
and a very small fraction, nearly the whole of which was taken 
up in the first forty-eight hours. In other experiments with 
carefully heat-dried field-soil, the absorption was five per cent, 
in eighty-four hours, and when the water was first warmed to 
secure the complete saturation of the air, air-dried garden- 
earth absorbed five and one-tenth per cent, in seventy-two 

In nature, the conditions are never so favorable to the absorp- 
tion of vapor as in these experiments. The ground is more 
compact and of course offers less surface to the air, and, espe- 
cially in the wood, it is already in a state approaching saturation. 
Hence, both these physicists conclude that the quantity of aque- 
ous vapor absorbed by the earth from the air is so inconsider- 
able " that we can ascribe to it no important influence on vege- 
tation." * 

* Wiliielm, I)w Bodi ,, in, d das Wasser, pp. 14, 20. 


Besides this, trees often grow luxuriantly on narrow ridges, 
on stoop declivities, on partially decayed stumps many feet above 
the ground, on walls of high buildings, and on rocks, in situa- 
tions where the earth within reach of their roots could not possi- 
bly contain the tenth part of the water which, according to 
Schleiden and Pfaff, they evaporate in a day. There are, too, for- 
ests of great extent on high bluffs and well-drained table-lands, 
where there can exist, neither in the subsoil nor in infiltration 
from neighboring regions, an adequate source of supply for 
such consumption. It must be remembered, also, that in the 
wood the leaves of the trees shade each other, and only the 
highest stratum of foliage receives the full influence of heat 
and light ; and besides, the air in the forest is almost stagnant, 
while in the experiments of Unger, Marshal, Vaillant, Pfaff 
and others, the branches were freely exposed to light, sun, and 
atmospheric currents. Such observations can authorize no con- 
clusions respecting the quantitative action of leaves of forest 
trees in normal conditions. 

Further, allowing two hundred days for the period of forest 
vital action, the wood must, according to Schleiden's position, 
exhale a quantity of moisture equal to an inch and one-fifth of 
precipitation per day, and it is hardly conceivable that so large 
a volume of aqueous vapor, in addition to the supply from other 
sources, could be diffused through the ambient atmosphere 
without manifesting its presence by ordinary hygr< (metrical tests 
much more energetically than it has been proved to do, and in 
fact, the observations recorded by Ebermayer show that though 
the relative humidity of the atmosphere is considerably greater 
in the cooler temperature of the wood, its absolute humidity 
does not sensibly differ from that of the air in open ground.* 

* Ebermaykr, Die PhysikcMschen Einwirkungen des Wctides, i., pp. 150 
rt seqq. It may be well here to guard my readers against the common error 
which supposes that a humid condition of the air is necessarily indicated by 
the presence of fog or visible vapor. The air is rendered humid by containing 
tpor, and it becomes drier by bhe condensation of such, vapor into 
fog, composed of solid globules or of hollow vesicles of water — for it is a dis- 
pute d point whether the particles of fog are solid or 'vesicular. li 


The daily discharge of a quantity of aqueous vapor correspond- 
ing to a rain-fail of one inch and a fifth into the cool air of the 
forest would produce a perpetual shower, or at least drizzle, un- 
less, indeed, we suppose a rapidity of absorption and condensa- 
tion by the ground, and of transmission through the soil to the 
roots and through them and the vessels of the tree to the leaves, 
much greater than has been shown by direct observation. Not- 
withstanding the high authority of Schleiden, therefore, it seems 
impossible to reconcile his estimates with facts commonly ob- 
served and well established by competent investigators. Hence 
the important question of the supply, demand, and expenditure 
of water by forest vegetation must remain undecided, until it 
can be determined by something approaching to satisfactory 
direct experiment.* 

Balance of Conflicting Influences of Forest on Atmospheric 
Heat and Humidity. 

We have shown that the forest, considered as dead matter, 
tends to diminish the moisture of the air, by preventing the 
sun's rays from reaching the ground and evaporating the water 
that falls upon the surface, and also by spreading over the earth 
a spongy mantle which sucks up and retains the humidity it 
receives from the atmosphere, while, at the same time, this cov- 
ering acts in the contrary direction by accumulating, in a reser- 
voir not wholly inaccessible to vaporizing influences, the water 
of precipitation which might otherwise suddenly sink deep into 
the bowels of the earth, or flow by superficial channels to other 
climatic regions. AVe now see that, as a living organism, it 

though the ambient atmosphere may h old in suspension, in the form of fog, 
water enough to obscure its transparency, and to produce the sensation of 
moisture on the skin, the air, in which the finely divided water floats, may 
be charged with even less than an average proportion of humidity. 

* According to Cezanne, Surell, Etude stir !■ , ii., p. 

1 00, experiments reported in the Revue des IZn/.r it /'«.■ ■<",'„■ fur August, 1 , 
showed the evaporation from a living tree to be " almost insignificant." De- 
tails are not given. 


tends, on the one hand, to diminish, the humidity of the air by 
sometimes absorbing moisture from it, and, on the other, to in- 
crease that humidity by pouring out into the atmosphere, in a 
vaporous form, the water it draws up through its roots This 
last operation, at the same time, lowers the temperature of the 
air in contact with or proximity to the wood, by the same law 
as in other cases of the conversion of water into vapor. 

As I have repeatedly said, we cannot measure the value of 
any one of these elements of climatic disturbance, raising or 
lowering of temperature, increase or diminution of humidity, 
nor can we say that in any one season, any one year, or any one 
fixed cycle, however long or short, they balance and compen- 
sate each other. They are sometimes, but certainly not always, 
contemporaneous in their action, whether their tendency is in 
the same or in opposite directions, and, therefore, their influ- 
ence is sometimes cumulative, sometimes conflicting ; but, upon 
the whole, their general effect is to mitigate extremes of atmos- 
pheric heat and cold, moisture and drought. They serve as 
equalizers of temperature and humidity, and it is highly prob- 
able that, in analogy with most other works and workings of 
nature, they, at certain or uncertain periods, restore the equi- 
librium which, whether as lifeless masses or as living org 
isms, they may have temporarily disturbed.* 

* There is one fact which I have nowhere seen noticed, but which seems to 
me to have an important bearing on the question whether forests tend to 
maintain an equilibrium between the various causes of hygroscopic action, 
and consequently to keep the air within their precincts in an approximately 
constant condition, so far as this meteorological element is concerned. I 
refer to the absence of fog or visible vapor in thick woods in full leaf, even 
when the air of the neighboring open grounds is so heavily charged with con- 
densed vapor as completely to obscure the sun. The temperature of the at- 
mosphere in the forest is not subject to so sudden and extreme variations as 
that of cleared ground, but at the same time it is far from constant, and so 
large a supply of vapor as is poured out by the foliage of the trees could not 
fail to be sometimes condensed into fog by the same causes as in the case of 
the adjacent meadows, which are often covered with a dense mist while the 
forest-air remains clear, were there not some potent counteracting influence 
always in action. This influence, 1 believe, is to be found partly in the 
equalization of the temperature of the forest, and partly in the balance be- 


\Then, therefore, man destroys these natural harmonizers of 
climatic discords, he sacrifices an important conservative power, 
though it is far from certain that he has thereby affected the 
mean, however much he may have exaggerated the extremes of 
atmospheric temperature and humidity, or, in other words, may 
have increased the range and lengthened the scale of thermo- 
metric and hygrrometric variation. 

Special Influence of Woods on Precipitation. 

With the question of the action of forests upon temperature 
and upon atmospheric humidity is intimately connected that 
of their influence upon precipitation, which they may affect 
by increasing or diminishing the warmth of the air and by 
absorbing or exhaling uncombined gas and aqueous vapor. 
The forest being a natural arrangement, the presumption is 
that it exercises a conservative action, or at least a compen- 
sating one, and consequently that its destruction must tend to 
produce pluviometrical disturbances as well as thermometrical 
variations. And this is the opinion of perhaps the greatest 
number of observers. Indeed, it is almost impossible to sup- 
pose that, under certain conditions of time and place, the 
quantity and the periods of rain should not depend, more or 
less, upon the presence or absence of forests ; and without in- 
sisting that the removal of the forest has diminished the sum- 
total of snow and rain, we may well admit that it has lessened 
the quantity which annually falls within particular limits. 
Various theoretical considerations make this probable, the 
most obvious argument, perhaps, being that drawn from the 
generally admitted fact, that the summer and even the mean 
temj>erature of the forest is below that of the open country in 
the same latitude. If the air in a wood is cooler than that 
around it, it must reduce the temperature of the atmospheric 
stratum immediately above it, and, of course, whenever a satu- 

tween the humidity exhaled by the trees and that absorbed and condensed 
invisibly by the earth. 



rated current sweeps over it, it must produce precipitation 
which would fall upon it, or at a greater or less distance from it. 
We must here take into the account a very important consid- 
eration. It is not universally or even generally true, that the 
atmosphere returns its condensed humidity to the local source 
from which it receives it. The air is constantly in motion, 

howling tempests scour amain 

From sea to land, from land to sea ; * 

and, therefore, it is always probable that the evaporation drawn 
up by the atmosphere from a given river, or sea, or forest, or 
meadow, will be discharged by precipitation, not at or near the 
point where it rose, but at a distance of miles, leagues, or even 
degrees. The currents of the upper air are invisible, and they 
leave behind them no landmark to record their track. We 
know not whence they come, or whither they go. "We have a 
certain rapidly increasing acquaintance with the laws of gene- 
ral atmospheric motion, but of the origin and limits, the begin- 
ning and end of that motion, as it manifests itself at any par- 
ticular time and place, we know nothing. "We cannot say 
where or when the vapor, exhaled to-day from the lake on 
which we float, will be condensed and fall ; whether it will 
waste itself on a barren desert, refresh upland pastures, de- 
scend in snow on Alpine heights, or contribute to swell a 
distant torrent which shall lay waste square miles of fertile 
corn-land ; nor do we know whether the rain which feeds our 
brooklets is due to the transpiration from a neighboring forest, 
or to the evaporation from a far-off sea. If, therefore, it were 
proved that the annual quantity of rain and dew is now as 
great on the plains of Castile, for example, as it was when they 
were covered with the native forest, it would by no means 
follow that those woods did not augment the amount of precipi- 
tation elsewhere. 

* Und Stiirme brausen um die Wette 
Vom Meer aufs Land, vom Land aufs Meer. 

Goethe, Faust, Song of the Archangels. 


The whole problem of the pluviometrical influence of the 
forest, general or local, is so exceedingly complex and difficult 
that it cannot, with our present means of knowledge, be de- 
cided upon d priori grounds. It must now be regarded as a 
question of fact which would probably admit of scientific ex- 
planation if it were once established what the actual fact is. 
Unfortunately, the evidence is conflicting in tendency, and 
sometimes equivocal in interpretation, but I believe that a 
majority of the foresters and physicists who have studied the 
question are of opinion that in many, if not in all cases, the 
destruction of the woods has been followed by a diminution in 
the annual quantity of rain and dew. Indeed, it has long been 
a popularly settled belief that vegetation and the condensation 
and fall of atmospheric moisture are reciprocally necessary to 
each other, and even the poets sing of 

Afric's barren sand, 
Where nought can grow, because it raineth not, 
And where no rain can fall to bless the land, 
Because nought grows there. * 

Before going further with the discussion, however, it is well 
to remark that the comparative rarity or frequency of inunda- 
tions in earlier or later centuries is not necessarily, in most 
cases not probably, entitled to any weight whatever, as a proof 
that more or less rain fell formerly than now ; because the ac- 
cumulation of water in the channel of a river depends far less 
upon the quantity of precipitation in its valley, than upon the 
rapidity with which it is conducted, on or under the surface of 
the ground, to the central artery that drains the basin. But 
this point will be more fully discussed in a subsequent chapter. 

In writers on the subject we are discussing, we find many 

* Det golde Strog i Afrika, 

Der Intet voxe kan, da ei det regner, 
Og, omvendt, ingen Itegn kan falde, da 
Der Intet voser. 

Paltjdan-Muller, Adam Homo, ii., 408. 


positive assertions about the diminution of rain in countries 
which have been stripped of wood within the historic period, 
but these assertions very rarely rest upon any other proof than 
the doubtful recollection of unscientific observers, and I am 
unable to refer to a single instance where the records of the 
rain-gauge, for a considerable period before and after the fell- 
ing or planting of extensive woods, can be appealed to in sup- 
port of either side of the question. The scientific reputation 
of many writers who have maintained that precipitation has 
been diminished in particular localities by the destruction of 
forests, or augmented by planting them, has led the public to 
suppose that their assertions rested on sufficient proof. "We 
cannot affirm that in none of these cases did such proof exist, 
but I am not aware that it has ever been produced. * 

The effect of the forest on precipitation, then, is by no means 
free from doubt, and we cannot positively affirm that the total 
annual quantity of rain is even locally diminished or increased 

* Among recent writers, Clave, Schacht, Sir John F. W. Herschel, Hohen- 
stein, Barth, Asbjomsen, Boussingault, and others, maintain that forests tend 
to produce rain and clearings to dimmish it, and they refer to numerous 
facts of observation in support of this doctrine ; but in none of these does it 
appear that these observations are supported by actual pluviometrical measure. 
So far as I know, the earliest expression of the opinion that forests promote 
precipitation is that attributed to Christopher Columbus, in the Historic del 
S. D. Fernando Colombo, Venetia, 1571, cap. lviii., where it is said that the 
Admiral ascribed the daily showers wliich fell in the West Indies about vespers 
to " the great forests and trees of those countries," and remarked that the same 
effect was formerly produced by the same cause in the Canary and Madeira 
islands and in the Azores, but that " now that the many woods and trees that 
covered them have been felled, there are not produced so many clouds and 
rains as before." 

Mr. H. Harrisse, in his very learned and able critical essay, Fcrnand. 
Colomb, sa Vie et ses CEJuvres, Paris, 1872, has made it at least extremely 
probable that the Historie is a spurious work. The compiler may have found 
this observation in some of the wri tings of Columbus now lost, but however 
that may be, the fact, which Humboldt mentions in Cosmos with much in- 
terest, still remains, that the doctrine in question was held, if not by the great 
discoverer himself, at least by one of his pretended biographers, as early as 
the year 1571. 


by the destruction of the woods, though both theoretical con- 
siderations and the balance of testimony strongly favor the 
opinion that more rain falls in wooded than in open countries. 
One important conclusion, at least, upon the meteorological 
influence of forests is certain and undisputed : the proposition, 
namely, that, within their own limits, and near their own bor- 
ders, they maintain a more uniform degree of humidity in the 
atmosphere than is observed in cleared grounds. Scarcely less 
can it be questioned that they tend to promote the frequency 
of showers, and, if they do not augment the amount of precipi- 
tation, they probably equalize its distribution through the dif- 
ferent seasons.* 

* The strongest direct evidence which I am able to refer to in support of the 
proposition that the woods produce even a local augmentation of precipitation 
is furnished by the observations of Mathieu, sub-director of the Forest-School 
at Nancy. His pluviometrical measurements, continued for three years, 1868- 
1868, show that during that period the annual mean of rain-fall in the centre 
of the wooded district of Cinq-Tranchces, at Belle Fontaine on the borders of 
the forest, and at Amance, in an open cultivated territory in the same vicinity, 
was respectively as the numbers 1,000, 957, and 853. 

The alleged augmentation of rain-fall in Lower Egypt, in consequence of 
large x>lantations by Mehemet Ali, is very frequently appealed to as a proof of 
this influence of the forest, and this case has become a regular common-place 
in all discussions of the question. It is, however, open to the same objection 
as the alleged instances of the diminution of precipitation in consequence of 
the felling of the forest. 

This supposed increase in the frequency and quantity of rain in Lower 
Egypt is. I think, an error, or at least not an established fact. I have heard 
it disputed on the spot by intelligent Franks, whose residence in that countiy 
began before the plantations of Mehemet Ali and Ibrahim Pacha, and I have 
been assured by them that meteorological observations, made at Alexandria 
about the beginning of this century, show an annual fall of rain as great as is 
usual at this day. The mere fact that it did not rain during the French 
occupation is not conclusive. Having experienced a gentle shower of nearly 
twenty-four hours' duration in Upper Egypt, I inquired of the local governor 
in relation to the frequency of this phenomenon, and was told by him that not 
a drop of rain had fallen at that point for more than two years previous. 

The belief in the increase of rain in Egypt rests almost entirely on the 
observations of Marshal Marmout, and the evidence collected by him in 1838. 
His conclusions have been disputed, if not confuted, by Jomard and others, 


Total Climatic Influence of the Forest. 

Aside from the question of local disturbances and their 
compensations, it does not seem probable that the forests sensi- 
bly affect the general mean of atmospheric temperature of the 
globe, or the total quantity of precipitation, or even that they 
had this influence when their extent was vastly greater than at 
present. The waters cover about three-fourths of the face of 
the earth, and if we deduct the frozen zones, the peaks and 
crests of lofty mountains and their craggy slopes, the Sahara 
and other great African and Asiatic deserts, and all such other 
portions of the solid surface as are permanently unfit for the 
growth of wood, we shall find that probably not one-tenth of 
the total superficies of our planet was ever, at any one time in 

and are probably erroneous. See Foissac, Meteorologie, German translation, 
pp. 634-639. 

It certainly sometimes rains briskly at Cairo, but evaporation is exceedingly 
rapid in Egypt — as any one who ever saw a Fellah woman wash a napkin in 
the Nile, and dry it by shaking it a few moments in the air, can testify ; and a 
heap of grain, wet a few inches below the surface, would probably dry again 
without injury. At any rate, the Egyptian Government often has vast quan- 
tities of wheat stored at Boulak in uncovered yards through the winter, though 
it must be admitted that the slovenliness and want of foresight in Oriental 
life, public and private, are such that we cannot infer the safety of any practice 
followed in the East merely from its long continuance. 

Grain, however, may be long kept in the open air in climates much less dry 
than that of Egypt, without injury, except to the superficial layers ; for mois- 
ture does not penetrate to a great depth in a heap of grain once well dried and 
kept well aired. When Louis IX. was making his preparations for his cam- 
paign in the East, he had large quantities of wine and grain purchased in the 
Island of Cyprus, and stored up for two years to await his arrival. "When 
we were come to Cyprus," says Joinville, Ilistoirc de Saint Louis, ■<£ 12. ','■'>, 
" we found there greate foison of the Kynge's purveyance. . . The wheate 
and the barley they had piled up in greate heapes in the feeldes, and to looke 
vpon, they were like vnto mountaynes; for the raine, the whj'che hadde 
beaten vpon the wheate now a longe whyle, had made it to gproute on the 
toppe, so that it seemed as greene grasse. And whanne they were mynded to 
carvie it to Egypte, they brake that sod of greene herbe. and dyd finde under 
the same the wheate and the barley, as freshe as yf menne hadde but nowe 
thrashed it." 


the present geological period, covered with forests. Besides 
this, the distribution of forest land, of desert, and of water, is 
such as to reduce the possible influence of the woods to a low 
expression; for the forests are, in large proportion, situated in 
cold or temperate climates, where the action of the sun is com- 
paratively feeble both in elevating temperature and in promoting 
evaporation ; while, in the torrid zone, the desert and the sea — the 
latter of which always presents an evaporable surface — enormous- 
ly preponderate. It is, upon the whole, not probable that so small 
an extent of forest, so situated, could produce a sensible influ- 
ence on the general climate of the globe, though it might appre- 
ciably affect the local action of all climatic elements. The 
total annual amount of solar heat absorbed and radiated by the 
earth, and the sum of terrestrial evaporation and atmospheric 
precipitation, must be supposed constant ; but the distribution 
of heat and of humidity is exposed to disturbance in both time 
and place by a multitude of local causes, among which the 
presence or absence of the forest is doubtless one. 

So far as we are able to sum up the results, it would appear 
that, in countries in the temperate zone still chiefly covered 
with wood, the summers would be cooler, moister, shorter, the 
winters milder, drier, longer, than in the same regions after the 
removal of the forest, and that the condensation and precipita- 
tion of atmospheric moisture would be, if not greater in total 
quantity, more frequent and less violent in discharge. The 
slender historical evidence we possess seems to point to the same 
conclusion, though there is some conflict of testimony and of 
opinion on this point. 

Among the many causes which, as we have seen, tend to 
influence the general result, the mechanical action of the forest, 
if not more important, is certainly more obvious and direct than 
the immediate effects of its organic processes. The felling of 
the woods involves the sacrifice of a valuable protection against 
the violence of chilling winds and the loss of the shelter afforded 
to the ground by the thick coating of leaves which the forest 
sheds upon it and by the snow which the woods prevent from 


blowing away, or from melting in the brief thaws of winter. I 
have already remarked that bare ground freezes much deeper 
than that which is covered by beds of leaves, and when the 
earth is thickly coated with snow, the strata frozen before it 
fell begin to thaw. It is not uncommon to find the ground in 
the woods, where the snow lies two or three feet deep, entirely 
free from frost, when the atmospheric temperature has been 
for several weeks below the freezing-point, and for some days 
even below the zero of Fahrenheit. When the ground is 
cleared and brought under cultivation, the leaves are ploughed 
into the soil and decomposed, and the snow, especially upon 
knolls and eminences, is blown off, or perhaps half thawed, 
several times during the winter. The water from the melting 
snow runs into the depressions, and when, after a day or two 
of warm sunshine or tepid rain, the cold returns, it is consoli- 
dated to ice, and the bared ridges and swells of earth are deeply 
frozen.* It requires many days of mild weather to raise the 
temperature of soil in this condition, and of the air in contact 
with it, to that of the earth in the forests of the same climatic 
region. Flora is already plaiting her sylvan wreath before the 
corn-flowers which are to deck the garland of Ceres have waked 
from their winter's sleep ; and it is probably not a popular 
error to believe that, where man has substituted his artificial 
crops for the spontaneous harvest of nature, spring delays her 

* I have seen, in Northern New England, the surface of the open ground 
frozen to the depth of twenty-two mches, in the month of November, when in 
the forest-earth no frost was discoverable ; and later in the winter, I have 
known an exposed sand-knoll to remain frozen six feet deep, after the ground 
in the woods was completely thawed. 

f The conclusion arrived at by Noah Webster, in his very learned and able 
paper on the supposed change in the temperature of winter, read before the 
Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1 ]!»:), was as follows : " From a 
careful comparison of these facts, it appears that the weather, in modern win- 
ters, in the United States, is more inconstant than when the earth was covered 
with woods, at the first settlement of Europeans hi the country; that the 
warm weather of autumn extends farther into the winter months, and the 
cold weather of winter and spring encroaches upon the summer ; that, the 


There are, in the constitution and action of the forest, many 
forces, organic and inorganic, which unquestionably tend pow- 
erfully to produce meteorological effects, and it may, therefore, 
be assumed as certain that they must and do produce such 
effects, unless they compensate and balance each other, and 
herein lies the difficulty of solving the question. To some of 
these elements late observations give a new importance. For 
example, the exhalation of aqueous vapor by plants is now be- 
lieved to be .much greater, and the absorption of aqueous vapor 
by them much less, than was formerly supposed, and Tyndall's 
views on the relations of vapor to atmospheric heat give im- 
mense value to this factor in the problem. In like manner the 
low temperature of the surface of snow and the comparatively 
high temperature of its lower strata, and its consequent action 
on the soil beneath, and the great condensation of moisture by 
snow, are facts which seem to show that the forest, by protect- 
ing great surfaces of snow from melting, must inevitably exer- 
cise a great climatic influence. If to these influences we add 
the mechanical action of the woods in obstructing currents of 
wind, and diminishing the evaporation and refrigeration which 
such currents produce, we have an accumulation of forces 
which must manifest great climatic effects, unless — which is 
not proved and cannot be presumed — they neutralize each 
other. These are points hitherto little considered in the discus- 
sion, and it seems difficult to deny that as a question of argu- 
ment, the probabilities are strongly in favor of the meteorologi- 
cal influence of the woods. The evidence, indeed, is not satis- 
factory, or, to speak more accurately, it is non-existent, for there 
really is next to no trustworthy proof on the subject, but it 
appears to me a case where the burden of proof must be taken 

wind being more variable, snow is less permanent, and perhaps the same 
remark may be applicable to the ice of the rivers. These effects seem to 
result necessarily from the greater quantity of heat accumulated in the earth 
in summer sine i the ground has been cleared of wood and exposed to the rays 
of the sun. and to the greater depth of frost in the earth in winter by the 
exposure of its uncovered surface to the cold atmosphere." — Collection of 
Papers by Xcaii Webstek, p. 102. 


by those who maintain that, as a meteorological agent, the 
forest is inert. 

The question of a change in the climate of the Northern 
American States is examined in the able Meteorological Report 
of Mr. Draper, Director of the New York Central Park Obser- 
vatory, for 1871. The result arrived at by Mr. Draper is, that 
there is no satisfactory evidence of a diminution in the rain- 
fall, or of any other climatic change in the winter season, in 
consequence of clearing of the forests or other human action. 
The proof from meteorological registers is certainly insufficient 
to establish the fact of a change of climate, but, on the other 
hand, it is equally insufficient to establish the contrary. Mete- 
orological stations are too few, their observations, in many cases, 
extend over a very short period, and, for reasons I have already 
given, the great majority of their records are entitled to little 
or no confidence.* 

* Since these pages were written, the subject of forest meteorology has 
received the most important contribution ever made to it, in several series of 
observations at numerous stations in Bavaria, from the year 18G6 to 1871, 
published by Ebermayer, at Aschaffenburg, in 1873, under the title : Die 
Physikalisclien Einwirkungen dcs Waldes avf L'<ift und Boden, und seine Kit- 
matologische und Hygienische Bedeutung. I. Band. So far as observations of 
only five years' duration can prove anything, the following propositions, not 
to speak of many collateral and subsidiary conclusions, seem to be established, 
at least for the localities where the observations were made : 

1. The yearly mean temperature of wooded soils, at all depths, is lower than 
that of open grounds, p. 35. 

This conclusion, it may be remarked, is of doubtful applicability in regions 
of excessive climate like the Northern United States and Canada, where the 
Bnow keeps the temperature of the soil in the forest above the freezing-point, 
for a large part and sometimes the whole of the winter, while in unwooded 
ground the earth remains deeply frozen. 

2. The yearly mean atmospheric temperature, other things being equal, is 
lower in the forest than in cleared grounds, p. 84. 

3. Climates become excessive in consequence of extensive clearings, p. 117. 

4. The absolute humidity of the air in the forest is about the same as in 
open ground, while the relative humidity is greater iu the former than in the 
latter case, on account of the lower temperature of the atmosphere in the 
wood, p. 150. 

5. The evaporation from an exposed surface of water in the forest is sixty- 
four per cent, less than in unwooded grounds, pp. 159, 101. 


Influence of the Forest on the Humidity of the Soil. 

I have hitherto confined myself to the influence of the forest 
on meteorological conditions, a subject, as has been seen, full of 
difficulty and uncertainty. Its comparative effects on the tem- 
perature, the humidity, the texture and consistence, the con- 
figuration and distribution of the mould or arable soil, and, very 
often, of the mineral strata below, and on the permanence and 
regularity of springs and greater superficial water-courses, are 
m iich less disputable as well as more easily estimated and more 
important, than its possible value as a cause of strictly climatic 
equilibrium or disturbance. 

The action of the forest on the earth is chiefly mechanical, 
but the organic process of absorption of moisture by its roots 
affects the quantity of water contained in the vegetable mould 
and in the mineral strata near the surface, and, consequently, 
the consistency of the soil. In treating of the effects of trees 
on the moisture of the atmosphere, I have said that the forest, 
by interposing a canopy between the sky and the ground, and 
by covering the surface with a thick mantle of fallen leaves, at 
once obstructed insulation and prevented the radiation of heat 
from the earth. These influences go far to balance each other ; 
but familiar observation shows that, in summer, the forest-soil 
is not raised to so high a temperature as open grounds exposed 
to irradiation. For this reason, and in consequence of the me- 
chanical resistance opposed by the bed of dead leaves to the 
escape of moisture, we should expect that, except after recent 
rains, the superficial strata of woodland-soil would be more 

6. About twenty-six per cent, of the precipitation is intercepted and pre- 
vented from reaching the ground by the foliage and branches of forest trees, 
p. 194. 

7. In the interior of thick woods, the evaporation from water and from 
earth is much less than the precipitation, p. 210. 

8. The loss of the water of precipitation intercepted by the trees in the 
forest is compensated by the smaller evaporation from the ground, p. 2 1 9. 

9. In elevated regions and during the summer half of the year, woods tend 
to increase the precipitation, p. 202. 


humid than that of cleared land. This agrees with experience. 
The soil of the natural forest is always moist, except in the ex- 
tremest droughts, and it is exceedingly rare that a primitive 
wood suffers from want of humidity. How far this accumula- 
tion of water affects the condition of neighboring grounds by 
lateral infiltration, we do not know, but we shall see, in a 
subsequent chapter, that water is conveyed to great distances 
by this process, and we may hence infer that the influence in 
question is an important one. 

It is undoubtedly true that loose soils, stripped of vegetation 
and broken up by the plough or other processes of cultivation, 
may, until again carpeted by grasses or other plants, absorb 
more rain and snow-water than when they were covered by a 
natural growth ; but it is also true that the evaporation £r< >m 
such soils is augmented in a still greater proportion. Bain 
scarcely penetrates beneath the sod of grass-ground, but runs 
off over the surface ; and after the heaviest showers a ploughed 
field will often be dried by evaporation before the water can 
be carried off by infiltration, while the soil of a neighboring 
grove will remain half saturated for weeks together. Sandy 
soils frequently rest on a tenacious subsoil, at a moderate depth, 
as is usually seen in the pine plains of the United States, where 
pools of rain-water collect in slight depressions on the surface 
of earth the upper stratum of which is as porous as a sponge. 
In the open grounds such pools are very soon dried up by the 
sun and wind ; in the woods they remain unevaporated long 
enough for the water to diffuse itself laterally until it finds, in 
the subsoil, crevices through which it may escape, or slopes 
which it may follow to their outcrop or descend along them to 
lower strata. 

Drainage oy Hoots of Trees. 

Bccquerel notices a special function of the forest to which I 
have already alluded, but to which sufficient importance has 
not, until very recently, been generally ascribed. I refer to the 


mechanical action of the roots as conductors of the superfluous 
humidity of the superficial earth to lower strata. The roots of 
trees often penetrate through subsoil almost impervious to 
water, and in such cases the moisture, which would otherwise 
remain above the subsoil and convert the surface-earth into a 
bog, follows the roots downwards and escapes into more porous 
strata or is received by subterranean canals or reservoirs.""" 
When the forest is felled, the roots perish and decay, the orifices 
opened by them are soon obstructed, and the water, after having 
saturated the vegetable earth, stagnates on the surface and 
transforms it into ponds and morasses. Thus in La Brenne, a 
tract of 200,000 acres resting on an impermeable subsoil of 
argillaceous earth, which ten centuries ago was covered with 
forests interspersed with fertile and salubrious meadows and 
pastures, has been converted, by the destruction of the woods, 
into a vast expanse of pestilential pools and marshes. In 
Sologne the same cause has withdrawn from cultivation and 
human inhabitation not less than 1,100,000 acres of ground 
once well wooded, well drained, and productive. 

It is an important observation that the desiccating action of 
trees, by way of drainage or external conduction by the roots, 
is greater in the artificial than in the natural wood, and hence 
that the surface of the ground in the former is not characterized 
by that approach to a state of saturation which it so generally 
manifests in the latter. In the spontaneous wood, the leaves, 
fruits, bark, branches, and dead trunks, by their decayed 
material and by the conversion of rock into loose earth through 
the solvent power of the gases they develop in decomposition, 
cover the ground with an easily penetrable stratum of mixed 
vegetable and mineral matter extremely favorable to the 

* "The roots of vegetables," says d'Hericourt, "perform the office of 
draining in a manner analogous to that artificially practised in parts of Hol- 
land and the British islands. This method consists in driving deeply down 
into the soil several hundred stakes to the acre ; the water filters down along 
the stakes, and in some cases as favorable results have been obtained by this 
means as by horizontal drains." — Annates Forestieres, 18j7, p. 812. 


growth of trees, and at the same time too retentive of moisture 
to part with it readily to the capillary attraction of the roots. 
The trees, finding abundant nutriment near the surface, and so 
sheltered against the action of the wind by each other as not 
to need the support of deep and firmly fixed stays, send their 
roots but a moderate distance downwards, and indeed often 
spread them out like a horizontal network almost on the surface 
of the ground. In the artificial wood, on the contrary, the 
spaces between the trees are greater ; they are obliged to send 
their roots deeper both for mechanical support and in search 
of nutriment, and they consequently serve much more effectually 
as conduits for perpendicular drainage. 

It is only under special circumstances, however, that this 
function of the forest is so essential a conservative agent as in 
the two cases just cited. In a champaign region insufficiently 
provided with natural channels for the discharge of the waters, 
and with a subsoil which, though penetrable by the roots of 
trees, is otherwise impervious to water, it is of cardinal im- 
portance ; but though trees everywhere tend to carry off the 
moisture of the superficial strata by this mode of conduction, 
yet the precise condition of soil which I have described is not 
of sufficiently frequent occurrence to have drawn much attention 
to this office of the wood. In fact, in most soils, there are coun- 
teracting influences which neutralize, more or less effectually, 
the desiccative action of roots, and in general it is as true as 
it was in Seneca's time, that " the shadiest grounds are the 
moistest." * 

It is always observed in the American States, that clearing 
the ground not only causes running springs to disappear, but 
dries up the stagnant pools and the spongy soils of the low 
grounds. The first roads in those States ran along the ridges, 
when practicable, because there only was the earth dry enough 
to allow of their construction, and, for the same reason, the 
cabins of the first settlers were perched upon the hills. As the 
forests have been from time to time removed, and the face of 

* Seneca, Questions Naturales, iii. 11, 2. 


the earth laid open to the air and sun, the moisture has been 
evaporated, and the removal of the highways and of human 
habitations from the bleak hills to the sheltered valleys, is one 
of the most agreeable among the many improvements which 
later generations have witnessed in the interior of the Northern 

Recent observers in France affirm that evergreen trees exer- 
cise a special desiccating action on the soil, and cases are cited 
where large tracts of land lately planted with pines have been 
almost completely drained of moisture by some unknown action 
of the trees. It is argued that the alleged drainage is not due 
to the conducting power of the roots, inasmuch as the roots 
of the pine do not descend lower than those of the oak and 
other deciduous trees which produce no such effect, and it 
is suggested that the foliage of the pine continues to exhale 
through the winter a sufficient quantity of moisture to ac- 
count for the drying up of the soil. This explanation is 
improbable, and I know nothing in American experience of 
the forest which accords with the alleged facts. It is true 
that the pines, the firs, the hemlock, and all the spike-leaved 
evergreens prefer a dry soil, but it has not been observed 
that such soils become less dry after the felling of their trees. 
The cedars and other trees of allied families grow naturally in 
moist ground, and the white cedar of the Northern States, 
Th uya occidentalism is chiefly found in swamps. The roots of 
this tree do not penetrate deeply into the earth, but are spread 
out near the surface, and of course do not carry off the waters 
of the swamp by perpendicular conduction. On the contrary, 
by their shade, the trees prevent the evaporation of the super- 

* The Tuscan poet Giusti, who had certainly had little opportunity of observ- 
ing primitive conditions of nature and of man, was aware that such must have 
been the course of things in new countries. " You know," says he in a let- 
ter to a friend, " that the hills were first occupied by man, because stagnant 
waters, and afterwards continual wars, excluded men from the plains. But 
when tranquillity was established and means provided for the discharge of the 
waters, the low grounds were soon covered with human habitations." — Lettere, 
Firenze, 1864, p. 98. 


ficial water ; but when the cedars are felled, the swamp — which 
sometimes rather resembles a pool tilled with aquatic trees than 
a grove upon solid ground — often dries up so completely as to 
be fit for cultivation without an}- other artificial drainage than, 
in the ordinary course of cultivation, is given to other new 

The Forest in Winter. 

The influence of the woods on the flow of springs, and con- 
sequently on the supply for the larger water-courses, naturally 
connects itself with the general question of the action of the 
forest on the humidity of the ground. But the special condi- 
tion of the woodlands, as affected by snow and frost in the winter 
of excessive climates, like that of the United States, has not 
been so much studied as it deserves ; and as it has a most impor- 
tant bearing on the superficial hydrology of the earth, I shall 
make some observations upon it before I proceed to the direct 
discussion of the influence of the forest on the flow of springs. 

To estimate rightly the importance of the forest in our cli- 

* A special desiccative influence has long been ascribed to the maritime 
pine, which has been extensively planted on the dunes and sand-plains of west- 
ern France, and it is well established that, under certain conditions, all trees, 
whether evergreen or deciduous, exercise this function, but there is no con- 
vincing proof that in the cases now referred to there is any difference in the 
mode of action of the two classes of trees. An article by D'Arbois de Jubain- 
ville in the Revue des Faux et Forets for April, 1869, ascribing the same action 
to the Pinus sylcestris, his excited much attention in Europe, and the facts 
stated by this writer constitute the strongest evidence known to me in support 
of the alleged influence of evergreen trees, as distinguished from the draining 
by downward conduction, which is a function exercised by all trees, under 
ordinary circumstances, in proportion to their penetration of a bibulous sub- 
soil by tap or other descending roots. The question has been ably discussed by 
Beraud in the lievue des Deux Mondes for April, 1870, the residt being that 
the drying of the soil by pines is due simply to conduction by the roots, whatever 
may be the foliage of the tree. See post : Influence of tho Forest on Flow of 

It is however certain, I believe, that evergreens exhale more moisture in 
winter than leafless deciduous tiee-, and consequently some weight is to be as- 
cribed to this element. 


mate as a natural apparatus for accumulating the water that 
falls upon the surface and transmitting it to the subjacent 
strata, Ave must compare the condition and properties of its soil 
with those of cleared and cultivated earth, and examine the 
consequently different action of these soils at different seasons 
of the year. The disparity between them is greatest in climates 
where, as in the Northern American States and in the extreme 
North of Europe, the open ground freezes and remains imper- 
vious to water during a considerable part of the winter ; though, 
even in climates where the earth does not freeze at all, the 
woods have still an important influence of the same character. 
The difference is yet greater in countries which have regular 
wet and dry seasons, rain being very frequent in the former 
period, while, in the latter, it scarcely occurs at all. These 
countries lie chiefly in or near the tropics, but they are not 
wanting in higher latitudes; for a large part of Asiatic and 
even of European Turkey is almost wholly deprived of summer 
rains. In the principal regions occupied by European cultiva- 
tion, and where alone the questions discussed in this volume 
are recognized as having, at present, any practical importance, 
more or less rain falls at all seasons, and it is to these regions 
that, on this point as well as others, I chiefly confine my atten- 

Importance of Snow. 

Recent observations in Switzerland give a new importance 
to the hygrometrical functions of snow, and of course to the 
forest as its accumulator and protector. I refer to statements 
of the condensation of atmospheric vapor by the snows and 
glaciers of the Rhone basin, where it is estimated to be nearly 
equal to the entire precipitation of the valley. "Whenever the 
humidity of the atmosrjhere in contact with snow is above the 
point of saturation at the temperature to which the air is cooled 
by such contact, the superfluous moisture is absorbed by the 
snow or condensed and frozen upon its surface, and of course 


adds so much to the winter supply of water received from the 
snow by the ground. This quantity, in all probability, much 
exceeds the loss by evaporation, for during the period when 
the ground is covered with snow, the proportion of clear dry 
weather favorable to evaporation is less than that of humid 
days with an atmosphere in a condition to yield up its moisture 
to any bibulous substance cold enough to condense it.* 

In our Northern States, irregular as is the climate, the first 
autumnal snows pretty constantly fall before the ground is 
frozen at all, or when the frost extends at most to the depth 
of only a few inches.f In the woods, especially those situated 
upon the elevated ridges which supply the natural irrigation 
of the soil and feed the perennial fountains and streams, the 
ground remains covered with snow during the winter ; for the 
trees protect the snow from blowing from the general surface 
into the depressions, and new accessions are received before the 
covering deposited by the first fall is melted. Snow is of a 
color unfavorable for radiation, but, even when it is of con- 
siderable thickness, it is not wholly impervious to the rays of 
the sun, and for this reason, as well as from the warmth of 
lower strata, the frozen crust of the soil, if one has been formed, 
is soon thawed, and does not again fall below the freezing- 
point during the winter.;}: 

* The hard snow-crust, which in the early spring is a source of such keen 
enjoyment to the children and youth of the North — and to many older persons 
in whom the love of nature has kept awake a relish for the simple pleasures 
of rural life — is doubtless due to the congelation of the vapor condensed by 
the snow rather than to the thawing and freezing of the superficial stratum ; 
for when the surface is melted by the sun, the water is taken up by the ab- 
sorbent mass beneath before the temperature falls low enough to freeze it. 

f The hard autumnal frosts are usually preceded by heavy rains which 
thoroughly moisten the soil, and it is a common saying in the North that " the 
ground will not freeze till the swamps are full." 

\ Dr. Williams, of Vermont, made some observations on the comparative 
temperature of the soil in open and in wooded ground in the years 1 789 and 
1791, but they generally belonged to the warmer mouths, and I do not know 
that any extensive series of comparisons between the temperature of the 
girmnd in the woods and in the fields has been attempted in America. Dr. 



The snow in contact with the earth now begins to melt, with 
greater or less rapidity, according to the relative temperature 
of the earth and the air, while the water resulting from its dis- 
solution is imbibed by the vegetable mould, and carried off by 
infiltration so fast that both the snow and the layers of leaves 
in contact with it often seem comparatively dry, when, in fact, 
the under-surface of the former is in a state of perpetual thaw. 
No doubt a certain proportion of the snow is given off to the 
atmosphere by direct evaporation, but in the woods, the pro- 
tection against the sun by even leafless trees prevents much 
loss in this way, and besides, the snow receives much moisture 
from the air by absorption and condensation. Yery little 

Williams's thermometer was sunk to the depth of ten inches, and gave the fol- 
lowing results : 



of ground in 



of ground in 




























































On the 14 th of January, 1791, in a winter remarkable for its extreme 
severity, he found the ground, on a plain open field where the snow had been 
blown away, frozen to the depth of three feet and five inches ; in the woods 
where the snow was three feet deep, and where the soil had frozen to the 
depth of six inches before the snow fell, the thermometer, at six inches 
below the surface of the ground, stood at 39°. In consequence of the cover- 
ing of the snow, therefore, the previously frozen ground had been thawed 
and raised to seven degrees above the freezing-point. — Williams's Vermont, 
i., p. 74. 

Boussingault' s observations are important. Employing three thermometers, 


water runs off in the winter by superficial water-courses, except 
in rare cases of sudden thaw, and there can be no question that 
much the greater part of the snow deposited in the forest is 
slowly melted and absorbed by the earth. 

The immense importance of the forest, as a reservoir of this 
stock of moisture, becomes apparent, when we consider that a 
large proportion of the summer rain either flows into the valleys 
and the rivers, because it falls faster than the ground can im- 
bibe it ; or, if absorbed by the warm superficial strata, is evapo- 
rated from them without sinking deep enough to reach wells 
and springs, which, of course, depend much on winter rains 
and snows for their entire supply. This observation, though 
specially true of cleared and cultivated grounds, is not wholly 
inapplicable to the forest, particularly when, as is too often 
the case in Europe, the underwood and the decaying leaves are 

one with the bulb an inch below the surface of powdery snow ; one on the 
surf ace of the ground beneath the snow, then four inches deep ; and one in 
the open air, forty feet above the ground, on the north side of a building, he 
found, at 5 p.m., the first thermometer at —1.5° Centigrade, the second at 0°, 
and the third at +25°; at 7 a.m. the next morning, the first stood at —12°, 
the second at —3.5°, and the third at —3°; at 5.30 the same evening Xo. 1 
stood at —1.4°, No. 2 at 0°, and No. 3 at + 3°. Other experiments were 
tried, and though the temperature was affected by the radiation, which varied 
with the hour of the day and the state of the sky, the upper surface of the 
snow was uniformly colder than the lower, or than the open air. 

According to the Keport of the Department of Agriculture for May and June, 
1872. Mr. C. G. Prindle, of Vermont, in the preceding winter, found, for four 
successive days, the temperature immediately above the snow at 13° below 
zero ; beneath the snow, which was but four inches deep, at 19° above zero ; 
and under a drift two feet deep, at 27° above. 

On the borders and in the glades of the American forest, violets and other 
small plants begin to vegetate as soon as the snow has thawed the soil around 
their roots, and they are not unfrequently found in full flower under two or 
three feet of snow. — American N<it'indist, May, 18G0, pp. 155, 156. 

In very cold weather, when the ground is covered with light snow, flocks 
of the grouse of the Eastern States often plunge into the snow about sunset, 
and pass the night in this warm shelter. If the weather moderates before 
morning, a frozen crust is sometimes formed on the surface too strong to be 
broken by the birds, which consequently perish. 


The quantity of snow that falls in extensive forests, far from 
the open country, has seldom been ascertained by direct obser- 
vation, because there are few meteorological stations in or 
near the forest. According to Thompson,* the proportion of 
water which falls in snow in the Northern States does not ex- 
ceed one-fifth of the total precipitation, but the moisture de- 
rived from it is doubtless considerably increased by the atmos- 
pheric vapor absorbed by it, or condensed and frozen on its 
surface. I think I can say from experience — and I am con- 
firmed in this opinion by the testimony of competent observers 
whose attention has been directed specially to the point — that 
though much snow is intercepted by the trees, and the quantity 
on the ground in the woods is consequently less than in open 
land in the first part of the winter, yet most of what reaches 
the ground at that season remains under the protection of the 
wood until melted, and as it occasionally receives new suj^plies 
the depth of snow in the forest in the latter half of winter is 
considerably greater than in the cleared fields. Careful meas- 
urements in a snowy region in New England, in the month of 
February, gave a mean of 38 inches in the open ground and 
44 inches in the woods, f 

The general effect of the forest in cold climates is to assim- 

* Thompson's Vermont, Appendix, p. 8. 

\ As the loss of snow by evaporation has been probably exaggerated by 
popular opinion, an observation or two on the subject may not be amiss in 
this place. It is true that in the open grounds, in clear weather and with 
a dry atmosphere, snow and ice are evaporated with great rapidity even when 
the thermometer is much below the freezing-point ; and Darwin informs us 
that the snow on the summit of Aconcagua, 23,000 feet high, and of course 
in a temperature of perpetual frost, is sometimes carried off by evaporation. 
The surface of the snow in our woods, however, does not indicate much loss 
in this way. Veiy small deposits of snow-flakes remain unevaporated in the 
forest, for many days after snow which fell at the same time in the cleared 
field has disappeared without either a thaw to melt it or a wind powerful 
enough to drift it away. Even when bared of their leaves, the trees of a wood 
obstruct, in an important degree, both the direct action of the sun's rays on 
the snow and the movement of drying and thawing winds. 

Dr. Piper (Trees of America, p. 48) records the following observations : "A 
body of snow, one foot in depth and sixteen feet square, was protected from 


ilate the winter state of the ground to that of wooded regions 
under softer skies ; and it is a circumstance well worth notin»\ 
that in Southern Europe, where Nature has denied to the earth 
a warm winter-garment of floeculent snow, she has, by one of 
those compensations in which her empire is so rich, clothed the 
hillsides with umbrella and other pines, ilexes, cork-oaks, bays, 
and other trees of persistent foliage, whose evergreen leaves 
afford to the soil a protection analogous to that which it derives 
from snow in more northern climates. 

The water imbibed by the soil in winter sinks until it meets 
a more or less impermeable or a saturated stratum, and then, 
by unseen conduits, slowly finds its way to the channels of 
springs, or oozes out of the ground in drops which unite in 
rills, and so all is conveyed to the larger streams, and by them 
finally, to the sea. The water, in percolating through the vege- 
table and mineral layers, acquires their temperature, and is 
chemically affected by their action, but it carries very little 
matter in mechanical suspension. 

The process I have described is a slow one, and the supply 
of moisture derived from the snow, augmented by the rains of 
the following seasons, keeps the forest-ground, where the sur- 
face is level or but moderately inclined, in a state of approxi- 
mate saturation throughout almost the whole year. * 

the wind by a tight board fence about five feet high, while another body of 
snow, much more sheltered from the sun than the first, six feet in depth, and 
about sixteen feet square, was fully exposed to the wind. When the thaw 
came on, which lasted about a fortnight, the larger body of snow was entirely 
dissolved in less than a week, while the smaller body was not wholly gone at 
the end of the second week. 

" Equal quantities of snow were placed in vessels of the same kind and 
capacity, the temperature of the air being seventy degrees. In the one case, 
a constant current of air was kept passing over the open vessel, while the other 
was proteectd by a cover. The snow in the first was dissolved in sixteen 
minutes, while the latter had a small unthawed proportion remaining at the 
end of eighty-five minutes." 

The snow in the woods is protected in the same way, though not literally to 
the same extent, as by the fence in one of these cases and the cover in the other. 

* The statements I have made, here and elsewhere, respecting the humidity 


It may be proper to observe here that in Italy, and in many 
parts of Spain and France, the Alps, the Apennines, and the 
Pyrenees, not to speak of less important mountains, perform 
the functions which provident nature has in other regions assign- 
ed to the forest, that is, they act as reservoirs wherein is accu- 
mulated in winter a supply of moisture to nourish the parched 
plains during- the droughts of summer. Hence, however enor- 
mous may be the evils which have accrued to the above-men- 
tioned countries from the destruction of the woods, the absolute 
desolation which would otherwise have smitten them through the 
folly of man, has been partially prevented by those natural 
dispositions, by means of which there are stored up in the 
glaciers, in the snow-fields, and in the basins of mountains and 
valleys, vast deposits of condensed moisture which are after- 
wards distributed in a liquid form during the season in which 
the atmosphere furnishes a slender supply of the beneficent 
fluid so indispensable to vegetable and animal life.* 

Summer Rains, Importance of. 

Babinet quotes a French proverb : " Summer rain wets 
nothing," and explains it by saying that at that season the rain- 

of the soil in natural forests, have been, I understand, denied by Mr. T. Mee- 
han, a distinguished American naturalist, in a paper which I have not seen. 
He is quoted as maintaining, among other highly questionable propositions, 
that no ground is "so drj r in its subsoil as that which sustains a forest on its 
surface." In open, artificially planted woods, with a smooth and regular sur- 
face, and especially in forests where the fallen leaves and branches are annu- 
ally burnt or carried off, both the superficial and the subjacent strata may, 
under certain circumstances, become dry, but this rarely, if ever, happens in a 
wood of spontaneous growth, undeprived of the protection afforded by its own 
droppings, and of the natural accidents of surface which tend to the retention 
of water. See, on this point, a very able article by Mr. Henry Stewart, in 
the New York Tribune of November 25, 1873. 

* The accumulation of snow and ice upon the Alps and other mountains — 
which often fills up valleys to the height of hundreds of feet; — is due not 
only to the fall of congealed and crystallized vapor in the form of snow, to the 
condensation of atmospheric vapor on the surface of snow-fields and glaciers, 
and to a temperature which prevents the rapid melting of snow, but also to 


water is " almost entirely carried off by evaporation." " The 
rains of summer," he adds, " however abundant they may be, 
dr. not penetrate the soil beyond the depth of six or eight 
inches. In summer the evaporating power of the heat is five 
or six times greater than in winter, and this force is exerted by 
an atmosphere capable of containing five or six times as much 
vapor as in winter." "A stratum of snow which prevents 
evaporation [from the ground], causes almost all the water 
that composes it to filter into the earth, and forms a provision 
for fountains, wells, and streams which could not be furnished 
by any quantity whatever of summer rain. This latter, useful 
to vegetation like the dew, neither penetrates the soil nor 
accumulates a store to supply the springs and to be given out 
again into the open air." * 

the well-known fact that, at least up to the height of 10,000 feet, rain and snow 
are more abundant on the mountains than at lower levels. 

But another reason may be suggested for the increase of atmospheric hu- 
midity, and consequently of the precipitation of aqueous vapor on mountain 
chains. In discussing the influence of mountains on precipitation, meteorologists 
have generally treated the popular belief, that mountains " attract" to them 
clouds floating within a certain distance from them, as an ignorant prejudice, 
and they ascribe the appearance of clouds about high peaks solely to the con- 
densation of the humidity of the air carried by atmospheric currents up the 
slopes of the mountain to a colder temperature. But if mountains do not 
really draw clouds and invisible vapors to them, they are an exception to the 
universal law of attraction. The attraction of the small Mount Sheliallien was 
found sufficient to deflect from the perpendicular, by a measurable quantity, 
a plummet weighing but a few ounces. Why, then, should not greater masses 
attract to them volumes of vapor weighing many tons, and floating freely in 
the atmosphere within moderate distances of the mountains ? 

* Kd/i7fs et Lectures, vol. vi., p. 118. The experiments of Johnatrup in 
the vicinity of Copenhagen, where the mean annual precipitation is 23^ 
inches, and where the evaporation must be less than in the warmer and drier 
atmosphere of France, form the most careful series of observations on this 
subject which I have met with. Johnstrup found that at the depth of a 
metre and a half (59 inches) the effects of rain and evaporation were almost 
imperceptible, and became completely so at a depth of from two to three 
metres (G.V to 10 feet). During the summer half of the year the evaporation 
rather exceeded the rainfall ; during the winter half the entire precipitation 
was absorbed by the soil and transmitted to lower strata by infiltration. The 


This conclusion, however applicable to the climate and to the 
soil of France, is too broadly stated to be received as a general 
truth ; and in countries like the United States, where rain is 
comparatively rare during the winter and abundant during the 
summer half of the year, common observation shows that the 
quantity of water furnished by deep wells and by natural springs 
depends almost as much upon the rains of summer as upon those 
of the rest of the year, and consequently that a large portion of 
the rain of that season must find its way into strata too deep for 
the water to be wasted by evaporation.* 

stratum between one metre and a half (59 inches) and three metres (10 feet) 
from the surface was then permanently in the condition of a saturated 
sponge, neither receiving nor losing humidity during the summer half of the 
year, but receiving from superior, and giving oft* to lower, strata an equal 
amount of moisture during the winter half. — Jouxstrup, Om Fugtighedens 
Bevmgdse i den naturlige Jordbund. Kpbehhavn, 18G6. 

Dalton's experiments in the years 1796, 1797, and 1798 appeared to show 
that the mean absorption of the downfall by the earth in those years was 
twenty-nine per cent. 

Dickinson, employing the same apparatus for eight years, found the absorp- 
tion to vary widely in different years, the mean being forty-seven per cent. 

Charnock's experiments in two years show an absorption of from seventeen 
to twenty-seven per cent. 

* According to observations at one hundred military stations in the United 
States, the precipitation ranges from three and a quarter inches at Fort Yuma 
in California to about seventy-two inches at Fort Pike, Louisiana, the mean 
for the entire territory, not including Aliaska, being thirty-six inches. In the 
different sections of the Union it is as follows : 

North-eastern States 41 inches. 

New York 36 

Middle States 4(H 

Ohio 40 

Southern States 51 

S. W. States and Indian Territories 39| 

Western States and Territories 30 

Texas and New Mexico 24J 

California 18^ 

Oregon and Washington Territory 50 

The mountainous regions, it appears, do not receive the greatest amount of 
precipitation. The average downfall of the Southern States bordering on the 


Besides, even admitting that the water from summer rains is 
so completely evaporated as to contribute nothing directly to 
the supply of springs, it at least tends indirectly to maintain their 
flow, because it saturates in part the atmosphere, and at the 
same time it prevents the heat of the sun from drying the earth 
to still greater depths, and bringing within the reach of evapo- 
ration the moisture of strata which ordinarily do not feel the 
effects of solar irradiation. 

Influence of the Forest on the Flow of Springs. 

It is an almost universal and, I believe, well-founded opinion, 
that the protection afforded by the forest against the escape of 
moisture from its soil by superficial flow and evaporation insures 
the permanence and regularity of natural springs, not only 
within the limits of the wood, but at some distance beyond its 
borders, and thus contributes to the supply of an element essen- 
tial to both vegetable and animal life. As the forests are 
destroyed, the springs which flowed from the woods, and, conse- 
quently, the greater water-courses fed by them, diminish both 
in number and in volume. This fact is so familiar throughout 
the American States and the British Provinces, that there are 
few old residents of the interior of those districts who are not 
able to testify to its truth as a matter of personal observation. 
My own recollection suggests to me many instances of this sort, 
and I remember one case where a small mountain spring, which 
disappeared soon after the clearing of the ground where it rose, 
was recovered about twenty years ago, by simply allowing the 
bushes and young trees to grow up on a rocky knoll, not more 

Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico exceeds the mean of the whole United States, 
being no less than fifty-one inches, while on the Pacific coast it ranges from 
fifty to fifty- six inches. 

As a general rule, it may be stated that at the stations on or near the pea- 
coast the precipitation is greatest in the spring months, though there are sev- 
eral exceptions to this remark, and af a large majority of the stations the 
downfall is considerably greater in the summer months than at any other 


than half an acre in extent, immediately above the spring. The 
ground was hardly shaded before the water reappeared, and it 
has ever since continued to flow without interruption. The hills 
in the Atlantic States formerly abounded in springs and brooks, 
but in many parts of these States which were cleared a genera- 
tion or two ago, the hill-pastures now suffer severely from 
drought, and in dry seasons furnish to cattle neither grass nor 

Almost every treatise on the economy of the forest adduces 
facts in support of the doctrine that the clearing of the woods 
tends to diminish the flow of springs and the humidity of the 
soil, and it might seem unnecessary to bring forward further 
evidence on this point.* But the subject is of too much practi- 
cal importance and of too great philosophical interest to be 
summarily disposed of ; and it ought to be noticed that there is 
at least one case — that of some loose sandy soils which, as ob- 
served by Yalles,t when bared of wood very rapidly absorb 
and transmit to lower strata the water they receive from the at- 
mosphere — where the removal of the forest may increase the 
flow of springs at levels below it, by exposing to the rain and 
melted snow a surface more bibulous, and at the same time less 
retentive, than its original covering. Under such circumstances, 
the water of precipitation, which had formerly been absorbed 
by the vegetable mould and retained until it was evaporated, 
might descend through porous earth until it meets an imperme- 

* " Why go so far for the proof of a phenomenon that is repeated every day 
under our own eyes, and of which every Parisian may convince himself, with- 
out venturing beyond the Bois de Boulogne or the forest of Meudon ? Let him, 
after a few rainy days, pass along the Chevreuse road, which is bordered on 
the right by the wood, on the left by cultivated fields. The fall of water 
and the continuance of the rain have been the same on both sides ; but the 
ditch on the side of the forest will remain filled with water proceeding from 
the infiltration through the wooded soil, long after the other, contiguous to 
the open ground, has performed its office of drainage and become dry. The 
ditch on the left will have discharged in a few hours a quantity of water, 
which the ditch on the right requires- several days to receive and carry down 
to the valley." — Clave, Etudes, etc., pp. 53, 54. 

f Valles, Etudes sur les Inoiidatioas, p. 472. 


able stratum, and then be conducted along it, until, finally, at the 
outcropping of this stratum, it bursts from a hillside as a run- 
ning spring. But such instances are doubtless too rare to form 
a frequent or an important exception to the general law, because 
it is very seldom the case that such a soil as has just been sup- 
posed is covered by a layer of vegetable earth thick enough to 
retain, until it is evaporated, all the rain that falls upon it, with- 
out imparting any water to the strata below it. 

If we look at the point under discussion as purely a question 
of fact, to be determined by positive evidence and not by argu- 
ment, the observations of Boussingault are, both in the circum- 
stances they detail and in the weight to be attached to the 
testimony, among the most important yet recorded. The interest 
of the question will justify me in giving, nearly in Boussin- 
gault's own words, the facts and some of the remarks with which 
he accompanies the detail of them. " In many localities," he 
observes,* " it has been thought that, within a certain number 
of years, a sensible diminution has been perceived in the volume 
of water of streams utilized as a motive-power ; at other points, 
there are grounds for believing that rivers have become shal- 
lower, and the increasing breadth of the belt of pebbles along 
their banks seems to prove the loss of a part of their water ; and, 
finally, abundant springs have almost dried up. These obser- 
vations have been principally made in valleys bounded by high 
mountains, and it has been noticed that this diminution of the 
waters has immediately followed the epoch when the inhabitants 
have begun to destroy, unsparingly, the woods which were 
spread over the face of the land. 

" And here lies the practical point of the question ; for if it 
is once established that clearing diminishes the volume of 
streams, it is less important to know to what special cause this 
effect is due. The rivers which rise within the valley of Ara- 
gua, having no outlet to the ocean, form, by their union, the 
Lake of Tacarigua or Valencia, having a length of about two 
leagues and a half [= 7 English miles]. 

* Economic Rurale, t. ii., p. 730. 


" At the time of Humboldt's visit to the valley of Aragua, 
the inhabitants were struck by the gradual diminution which 
the lake had been undergoing for thirty years. In fact, by 
comparing the descriptions given by historians with its actual 
condition, even making large allowance for exaggeration, it 
was easy to see that the level was considerably depressed. The 
facts spoke for themselves. Oviedo, who, toward the close of 
the sixteenth century, had often traversed the valley of Ara- 
gua, says positively that New Valencia was founded, in 1555, 
at half a league from the Lake of Tacarigua ; in 1S00, Hum- 
boldt found this city 5,260 metres [= 3£ English miles] from 
the shore. 

" The aspect of the soil furnished new proofs. Many hil- 
locks on the plain retain the name of islands, which they more 
justly bore when they were surrounded by water. The ground 
laid bare by the retreat of the lake was converted into admi- 
rable plantations ; and buildings erected near the lake showed 
the sinking of the water from year to year. In 1796, new 
islands made their appearance. A fortress built in 1710 on 
the island of Cabrera, was now on a peninsula ; and, finally, 
on two granitic islands, those of Cura and Cabo Blanco, Hum- 
boldt observed among the shrubs, some metres above the 
water, fine sand filled with helicites. 

" These clear and positive facts suggested numerous expla- 
nations, all assuming a subterranean outlet, which permitted 
the discharge of the water to the ocean. Humboldt disposed 
of these hypotheses, and did not hesitate to ascribe the dimi- 
nution of the waters of the lake to the numerous clearings 
which had been made in the valley of Aragua within half a 

Twenty-two years later, Boussingault explored the valley 
of Aragua. For some years previous, the inhabitants had ob- 
served that the waters of the lake were no longer retiring, but, 
on the contrary, were sensibly rising. Grounds, not long 
before occupied by plantations, were submerged. The islands 
of JSuevas Aparecidas, which appeared above the surface in 


1796, had again become shoals dangerous to navigation. Ca- 
brera, a tongue of land on the north side of the valley, was so 
narrow that the least rise of the water completely inundated 
it. A protracted north wind sufficed to flood the road between 
Maracay and New Valencia. The fears which the inhabitants 
of the shores had so long entertained were reversed. Those 
who had explained the diminution of the lake by the suppo- 
sition of subterranean channels were suspected of blocking 
them up, to prove themselves in the right. 

During the twenty-two years which had elapsed, the valley 
of Aragua had been the theatre of bloody struggles, and war 
had desolated these smiling lands and decimated their popula- 
tion. At the first cry of independence a great number of 
slaves found their liberty by enlisting under the banners of 
the new republic ; the great plantations were abandoned, and 
the forest, which in the tropics so rapidly encroaches, had soon 
recovered a large proportion of the soil which man had 
wrested from it by more than a century of constant and pain- 
ful labor. 

Boussingault proceeds to state that two lakes near tlbate, 
in New Granada, had formed but one, a century before his 
visit ; that the waters were gradually retiring, and the plan- 
tations extending over the abandoned bed ; that, by inquiry of 
old hunters and by examination of parish records, he found that 
extensive clearings had been made and were still going on. 

He found, also, that the length of the Lake of Fuquene, in 
the same valley, had, within two centuries, been reduced from 
ten leagues to one and a half, its breadth from three leagues to 
one. At the former period, the neighboring mountains were 
well wooded, but at the time of his visit the mountains had 
been almost entirely stripped of their wood. Our author adds 
that other cases, similar to those already detailed, might be 
cited, and he proceeds to show, by several examples, that the 
waters of other lakes in the same regions, where the valleys 
had always been bare of wood, or where the forests had not 
been disturbed, had undergone no change of level. 


Boussingault further states that the lakes of Switzerland 
have sustained a depression of level since the too prevalent 
destruction of the woods, and arrives at the general conclusion 
that, " in countries where great clearings have been made, 
there has most probably been a diminution in the living waters 
which flow upon the surface of the ground." This conclusion 
he further supports by two examples : one, where a fine spring, 
at the foot of a wooded mountain in the Island of Ascension, 
dried up when the mountain was cleared, but reappeared when 
the wood was replanted ; the other at Marmato, in the province 
of Popayan, where the streams employed to drive machinery 
were much diminished in volume, within two years after the 
clearing of the heights from which they derived their supplies. 
This latter is an interesting case, because, although the rain- 
<rauores, established as soon as the decrease of water began to 
excite alarm, showed a greater fall of rain for the second 
year of observation than the first, yet there was no appre- 
ciable increase in the flow of the mill-streams. From these 
cases, the distinguished physicist infers that very restricted 
local clearings may diminish and even suppress springs 
and brooks, without any reduction in the total quantity of 

It will have been noticed that these observations, with the 
exception of the last two cases, do not bear directly upon the 
question of the diminution of springs by clearings, but they 
logically infer it from the subsidence of the natural reservoirs 
which springs once filled. There is, however, no want of posi- 
tive evidence on this subject. 

Marchand cites the following instances : " Before the felling 
of the woods, within the last few years, in the valley of the 
Soulce, the Combe-es-Mounin and the Little Yalley, the Some 
furnished a regular and sufficient supply of water for the iron- 
works of Unterwyl, which was almost unaffected by drought or 
by heavy rains. The Some has now become a torrent, every 
shower occasions a flood, and after a few days of fine weather, 
the current falls so low that it has been necessary to change 


the water-wheels, because those of the old construction are no 
longer able to drive the machinery, and at last to introduce a 
steam-engine to prevent the stoppage of the works for want of 

" "When the factory of St. Ursanne was established, the 
river that furnished its power was abundant, and had, from 
time immemorial, sufficed for the machinery of a previous 
factory. Afterwards, the woods near its sources were cut. 
The supply of water fell off in consequence, the factory 
wanted water for half the year, and was at last obliged to stop 

" The spring of Combefoulat, in the commune of Seleate, was 
well known as one of the best in the country ; it was remark- 
ably abundant, and sufficient, in the severest droughts, to 
supply all the fountains of the town ; but as soon as consider- 
able forests were felled in Combe-de-pre Martin and in the 
valley of Combefoulat, the famous spring, which lies below 
these woods, has become a mere thread of water, and disappears 
altogether in times of drought. 

" The spring of Varieux, which formerly supplied the castle 
of Pruntrut, lost more than half its water aftei the clearing of 
Varieux and Rougeoles. These woods have been replanted, 
the young trees are growing well, and, with the woods, the 
waters of the spring are increasing. 

" The Dog Spring between Pruntrut and Brcssan court has 
entirely vanished since the surrounding forest-grounds were 
brought under cultivation. 

" The Wolf Spring, in the commune of Soubey, furnishes a 
remarkable example of the influence of the woods upon foun- 
tains. A few years ago this spring did not exist. At the place 
where it now rises, a small thread of water was observed after 
very long rains, but the stream disappeared with the rain. The 
spot is in the middle of a very steep pasture inclining to the 
south. Eighty years ago, the owner of the land, perceiving 
that young firs were shooting up in the upper part of it, de- 
termined to let them grow, and they soon formed a flourishing 


grove. As soon as they were well grown, a fine spring ap- 
peared in place of the occasional rill, and furnished abundant 
water in the longest droughts. For forty or fifty years this 
spring was considered the best in the Clos du Doubs. A few 
years since, the grove was felled, and the ground turned again 
to a pasture. The spring disappeared with the wood, and is 
now as dry as it was ninety years ago." * 

Siemoni ^ives the folio wins: remarkable facts from his own 
personal observation : 

" In a rocky nook near the crest of a mountain in the Tuscan 
Apennines, there flowed a clear, cool, and perennial fountain, 
uniting three distinct springs in a single current. The ancient 
beeches around and particularly above the springs were felled. 
On the disappearance of the wood, the springs ceased to flow, 
except in a thread of water in rainy weather, greatly inferior 
in quality to that of the old fountain. The beeches were 
succeeded by firs, and as soon as they had grown sufficiently 
to shade the soil, the springs began again to flow, and they 
gradually returned to their former abundance and quality. f 

This and the next preceding case are of great importance 
both as to the action of the wood in maintaining springs, and 
particularly as tending to prove that evergreens do not exercise 
the desiccative influence ascribed to them in Trance. The latter 
instance shows, too, that the protective influence of the wood 
extends far below the surface, for the quality of the water was 
determined, no doubt, by the depth from which it was drawn. 
The slender occasional supply after the beeches were cut was 
rain-water which soaked through the superficial humus and 
oozed out at the old orifices, carrying the taste and temperature 
of the vegetable soil with it ; the more abundant and grateful 
water which flowed before the beeches were cut, and after the 
firs were well grown, came from a deeper source and had been 
purified, and cooled to the mean temperature of the locality, 
by filtering through strata of mineral earth. 

* Ueber die Entwaldung der Gebirge, pp. 20 et seqq. 
f Manuale cVArte Forcstale. 2 1:l edizione, p. 492. 


" The influence of the forest on springs." says Hummel, " is 
strikingly shown by an instance at Heilbronn. The woods on 
the hills surrounding the town are cut in regular succession 
every twentieth year. As the annual cuttings approach a cer- 
tain point, the springs yield less water, some of them none at 
all ; but as the young growth shoots up, they flow more and 
more freely, and at length bubble up again in all their original 
alum dance." * 

Dr. Piper states the following case : " "Within about half a 
mile of my residence there is a pond upon which mills have been 
standing for a long time, dating back, I believe, to the first 
settlement of the town. These have been kept in constant 
operation until within some twenty or thirty years, when the 
supply of water began to fail. The pond owes its existence to 
a stream that has its source in the hills which stretch some 
miles to the south. Within the time mentioned, these hills, 
which were clothed with a dense forest, have been almost en- 
tirely stripped of trees ; and to the wonder and loss of the mill- 
owners, the water in the pond has failed, except in the seas< >n 
of freshets; and, what was never heard of before, the stream 
itself has been entirely dry. "Within the last ten years a new 
growth of wood has sprung up on most of the land formerly 
occupied by the old forest ; and now the water runs through 
the year, notwithstanding the great droughts of the last few 
years, going back from 1856." 

Dr. Piper quotes from a letter of William C. Bryant the 
following remarks : " It is a common observation that our sum- 
mers are becoming drier and our streams smaller. Take the 
t luyahoga asan illustration. Fifty years ago large barges loaded 
with goods went up and down that river, and one of the vessels 
engaged in the battle of Lake Erie, in which the gallant 
Perry was victorious, was built at Old Portage, six miles north 
of Albion, and floated down to the lake. Now, in an ordinary 
stage of the water, a canoe or skiff can hardly pass down the 
stream. Many a boat of fifty tons burden has been built and 

* Phymchi , p. -VI. 


loaded in the Tuscarawas, at New Portage, and sailed to New 
Orleans without breaking bulk. Now, the river hardly affords 
a supply of water at New Portage for the canal. The same 
may be said of other streams — they are drying up. And from 
the same cause — the destruction of our forests — our summers 
are growing drier and our winters colder." * 

No observer has more carefully studied the influence of the 
forest upon the flow of the waters, or reasoned more ably on 
the ascertained phenomena, than Cantegril. The facts presented 
in the following case, communicated by him to the Ami des 
Sciences for December, 1859, are as nearly conclusive as any 
single instance well can be : 

" In the territory of the commune of Labniffuiere there is 
a forest of 1,834 hectares [4,530 acres], known by the name of 
the Forest of Montaut, and belonging to that commune. It 
extends along the northern slope of the Black Mountains. The 
soil is granitic, the maximum altitude 1,243 metres [4,140 feet], 
and the inclination ranges between 15 and 60 to 100. 

" A small current of water, the brook of Caiman, takes its 
rise in this forest, and receives the waters of two-thirds of its 
surface. At the lower extremity of the wood and on the 
stream are several fulleries, each requiring a force of eight 
horse-power to drive the water-wheels which work the stamp- 
ers. The commune of Labruguiere had been for a long time 
famous for its opposition to forest laws. Trespasses and abuses 
of the right of pasturage had converted the wood into an im- 
mense waste, so that this vast property now scarcely sufficed to 
pay the expense of protecting it, and to furnish the inhabitants 
with a meagre supply of fuel. While the forest was thus ruined, 
and the soil thus bared, the water, after every abundant rain, 
made an eruption into the valley, bringing down a great quantity 
of pebbles which still clog the current of the Caunan. The 
violence of the floods was sometimes such that they were 
obliged to stop the machinery for some time. During the sum- 
mer another inconvenience was felt. If the dry weather con- 
* The Trees of America, pp. 50, 51. 


tinned a little longer than nsnal, the delivery of water became 
insignificant. Each f ullery could for the most part only em- 
ploy a single set of stampers, and it was not unusual to see the 
work entirely suspended. 

" After 1840, the municipal authority succeeded in enlight- 
ening the population as to their true interests. Protected by a 
more watchful supervision, aided by well-managed replantation, 
the forest has continued to improve to the present day. In 
proportion to the restoration of the forest, the condition of 
the manufactories has become less and less precarious, and the 
action of the water is completely modified. For example, sud- 
den and violent floods, which formerly made it necessary to 
stop the machinery, no longer occur. There is no increase in 
the delivery until six or eight hours after the beginning of the 
rain ; the floods follow a regular progression till they reach 
their maximum, and decrease in the same manner. Finally, 
the fulleries are no longer forced to suspend work in summer ; 
the water is always sufficiently abundant to allow the envploy- 
ment of two sets of stampers at least, and often even of three. 

" This example is remarkable in this respect, that, all other 
circumstances having remained the same, the changes in the 
action of the stream can be attributed only to the restoration 
of the forest — changes which may be thus summed up : dimi- 
nution of flood- water during rains — increase of delivery al 
other seasons." 

Becquerel and other European writers adduce numerous 
other cases where the destruction of forests has caused the dis- 
appearance of springs, a diminution in the volume of rivers, 
and a lowering of the level of lakes, and in fact, the evidence 
in support of the doctrine I have been maintaining on this 
subject seems to be as conclusive as the nature of the case ad- 
mits.* AYe cannot, it is true, arrive at the same certainty and 
precision of result in these inquiries as in those branches of 

* See, in the Revue des Eaux et Forels for April, 1867, an article entitled 
De V influence des Forets sur le Regime des Eaux, and the papers in previous 
numbers of the same journal therein referred to. 


physical research where exact quantitative appreciation is pos- 
sible, and we must content ourselves with probabilities and 
approximations. We cannot positively affirm that the precipi- 
tation in a given locality is increased by the presence, or 
lessened by the destruction, of the forest, and from our igno- 
rance of the subterranean circulation of the waters, we cannot 
predict, with certainty, the drying up of a particular spring as 
a consequence of the felling of the wood which shelters it ; 
but the general truth, that the flow of springs and the normal 
volume of rivers rise and fall with the extension and the diminu- 
tion of the woods where they originate and through which they 
rim, is as well established as any proposition in the science of 
physical geography.* 

* Some years ago it was popularly believed that the volume of the Missis- 
sippi, like that of the Volga and other rivers of the Eastern Hemisphere, was 
diminished by the increased evaporation from its basin and the drying up of 
the springs in consequence of the felling of the forests in the vicinity of the 
sources of its eastern affluents. The boatmen of this great river and other 
intelligent observers now assure us, however, that the mean and normal level 
of the Mississippi has risen within a few years, and that in consequence the 
river is navigable at low water for boats of greater draught and at higher 
points in its course than was the case twenty-five years ago. 

This supposed increase of volume has been attributed by some to the recent 
re-wooding of the prairies, but the plantations thus far made are not yet 
sufficiently extensive to produce an appreciable effect of this nature ; and 
besides, while young trees have covered some of the prairies, the destruction of 
the forest has been continued perhaps in a greater proportion in other parts of 
the basin of the river. A more plausible opinion is that the substitution of 
ground that is cultivated, and consequently spongy and absorbent, for the 
natural soil of the prairies, has furnished a reservoir for the rains which are 
absorbed by the earth and carried gradually to the river by subterranean flpw, 
instead of running off rapidly from the surface, or, as is more probable, instead 
of evaporating or being taken up by the vigorous herbaceous vegetation which 
covers the natural prairie. 

A phenomenon so contrary to common experience, as would be a permanent 
increase in the waters of a great river, will not be accepted without the most 
convincing proofs. The present greater facility of navigation may be attrib- 
uted to improvements in the model of the boats, to the removing of sand- 
banks and other impediments to the flow of the waters, or to the confining of 
these waters in a narrower channel, by extending the embankments of the 
river, or to yet other causes. 


Of the converse proposition, namely, that the planting of 
new forests gives rise to new springs and restores the regular 
now of rivers, I find less of positive proof, however probable it 
may be that such effects would follow.* A reason for the 
want of evidence on the subject may be, that, under ordinary 
circumstances, the process of conversion of bare ground to soil 
with a well-wooded surface is so gradual and slow, and the 
time required for a fair experiment is consequently so long, 
that many changes produced by the action of the new geo- 
graphical element escape the notice and the memory of ordi- 

So remarkable a change could not have escaped the notice of Humphreys 
and Abbot, whose most able labors comprise the years 1850-1S61, had it 
occurred during that period or at any former time within the knowledge of 
the many observers they consulted ; but no such fact is noticed in their ex- 
haustive report. However, even if an increase in the volume of the Mississippi, 
for a period of ten or twenty years, were certain, it would still be premature to 
consider this increase as normal and constant, since it might very well be 
produced by causes yet unknown and analogous to those which intluence the 
mysterious advance and retreat of those Alpine ice-rivers, the glaciers. Among 
such causes we may suppose a long series of rainy seasons in regions where 
important tributaries have their far-off and almost unknown sources ; and 
with no less probability, we may conceive of the opening of communications 
with great subterranean reservoirs, which may from year to year empty large 
quantities of water into the bed of the stream ; or the closing up of orilices 
through which a considerable portion of the water of the river once made its 
way for the supply of such reservoirs. — See upon this point, Chap. IV. , Of 
Subterranean Waters; post. 

* According to the Report of the Department of Agriculture for February, 
1872, it is thought in the Far West that the young plantations have already 
influenced the water-courses in that region, and it is alleged that ancient 
river-beds, never known to contain water since the settlement of the countiy, 
have begun to flow since these plantations were commenced. See also Hay- 
DEN, He/port on Geological Survey of Wyoming, 1$70, p. 104, and Bryant, 
Forest Trees, 1871, chap. iv. 

In the Voyage autour du Monde of the Comte de Beauvoir, chap, x., this 
passage occurs: Dr. Miiller, Director of the Botanic Garden at Melbourne, 
'■lias distributed through the interior of Australia millions of seedling trees 
from his nurseries. Small rivulets are soon formed under the young v. 
the results are superb, and the observation of every successive year cord 
them. On bare soils he has created, at more than a hundred points, fo- 
und water-courses." 


nary observers. The growth of a forest, including the formation 
of a thick stratum of vegetable mould beneath it, is the work of 
a generation, its destruction may be accomplished in a day ; and 
hence, while the results of the one process may, for a consider- 
able time, be doubtful if not imperceptible, those of the other 
are immediate and readily appreciable. Fortunately, the plan- 
tation of a wood produces other beneficial consequences which 
are both sooner realized and more easily estimated ; and though 
he who drops the seed is sowing for a future generation as well 
as for his own, the planter of a grove may hope himself to reap 
a fair return for his expenditure and his labor. 

Influence of the Forest on Inundations and Torrents. 

Inasmuch as it is not yet proved that the forests augment or 
diminish the precipitation in the regions they principally cover, 
avo cannot positively affirm that their presence or absence in- 
creases or lessens the total volume of the water annually de- 
livered by great rivers or by mountain torrents. It is never- 
theless certain that they exercise an action on the discharge of 
the water of rain and snow into the valleys, ravines, and other 
depressions of the surface, where it is gathered into brooks and 
finally larger currents, and consequently influence the char- 
acter of floods, both in rivers and in torrents. For this reason, 
river inundations and the devastations of torrents, and the 
geographical effects resulting from them, so far as they are 
occasioned or modified by the action of forests or of the destruc- 
tion of the woods, may properly be discussed in this chapter, 
though they might seem otherwise to belong more appropri- 
ately to another division of this work. 

Besides the climatic question, which I have already suffici- 
ently discussed, and the obvious inconveniences of a scanty 
supply of charcoal, of fuel, and of timber for architectural and 
naval construction and for the thousand other uses to which 
wood is applied in rural and domestic economy, and in the 
various industrial processes of civilize! life, the attention of 


European foresters and public economists has been specially 
drawn to three points, namely : the influence of the forests on 
the permanence and regular flow of springs or natural foun- 
tains ; on inundations by the overflow of rivers ; and on the 
abrasion of soil and the transportation of earth, gravel, pebbles, 
and even of considerable masses of rock, from higher to lower 
levels, by torrents. There are, however, connected with this 
general subject, several other topics of minor or strictly local 
interest, or of more uncertain character, which I shall have 
occasion more fully to speak of hereafter. 

The first of these three principal subjects — the influence of 
the woods on springs and other living waters — has been 
already considered ; and if the facts stated in that discussion are 
well established, and the conclusions I have drawn from them 
are logically sound, it would seem to follow, as a necessary 
corollary, that the action of the forest is as important in dimin- 
ishing the frequency and violence of river-floods as in securing 
the permanence and equability of natural fountains ; for any 
cause which promotes the absorption and accumulation of the 
water of precipitation by the superficial strata of the soil, to be 
slowly given out by infiltration and percolation, must, by pre- 
venting the rapid flow of surface-water into the natural channels 
of drainage, tend to check the sudden rise of rivers, and, con- 
sequently, the overflow of their banks, which constitutes what 
is called inundation. 

The surface of a forest, in its natural condition, can never 
pour forth such deluges of water as flow from cultivated soil. 
Humus, or vegetable mould, is capable of absorbing almost 
twice its own weight of water. The soil in a forest of decid- 
uous foliage is composed of humus, more or less unmixed, to 
the depth of several inches, sometimes even of feet, and this 
stratum is usually able to imbibe all the water possibly result- 
ing from the snow which at any one time covers, or the rain 
which in any one shower falls upon, it. But the vegetable 
mould does not cease to absorb water when it becomes satu- 
rated, for it then gives off a portion of its moisture to the min- 


eral earth below, and thus is ready to receive a new supply ; 
and, besides, the bed of leaves not yet converted to mould takes 
up and retains a very considerable proportion of snow-water, as 
well as of raiu. 

The stems of trees, too, and of underwood, the trunks and 
stumps and roots of fallen timber, the mosses and fungi and the 
numerous inequalities of the ground observed in all forests, 
oppose a mechanical resistance to the flow of water over the 
surface, which sensibly retards the rapidity of its descent down 
declivities, and diverts and divides streams which may have 
already accumulated from smaller threads of water.* 

* In a letter addressed to the Minister of Public Works, after the terrible 
inundations of 1857, the late Emperor of France thus happily expressed him- 
self : "Before we seek the remedy for an evil, we inquire into its cause. 
Whence come the sudden floods of our rivers ? From the water which falls 
on the mountains, not from that which falls on the plains. The waters which 
fall on our fields produce but few rivulets, but those which fall on our roofs 
and are collected in the gutters, form small streams at once. Now, the roofs 
are mountains —the gutters are valleys." 

"To continue the comparison," observes D'Hericourt, "roofs are smooth 
and impermeable, and the rain-water pours rapidly off from their surfaces ; 
but this rapidity of flow would be greatly diminished if the roofs were carpeted 
with mosses and grasses ; more still, if they were covered with dry leaves, 
little shrubs, strewn branches, and other impediments — in short, if they were 
wooded." — Annales Forestieres, Dee. 1857, p. 311. 

The mosses and fungi play a more important part in regulating the humid- 
ity of the air and of the soil than writers on the forest have usually assigned 
to them. They perish with the trees they grow on ; but, in many situations, 
nature provides a compensation for the tree-mosses and fungi in ground 
species, which, on cold soils, especially those with a northern exposure, spring 
itp abundantly both before the woods are felled, and when the land is cleared 
and employed for pasturage, or deserted. These humble plants discharge a 
portion of the functions appropriated to the wood, and while they render the 
soil of improved lands much less fit for agricultural use, they, at the same time, 
prepare it for the growth of a new harvest of trees, when the infertility they 
produce shall have driven man to abandon it and suffer it to relapse into the 
hands of nature. 

In primitive forests, when the ground is not too moist to admit of a dense 
growth of trees, the soil is generally so thickly covered with leaves that there 
is little room for ground mosses and mushrooms. In the more open artificial 
woods of Europe these forms of vegetation, as well as many more attractive 


The value of the forest as a mechanical check to a too rapid 
discharge of rain-water was exemplified in numerous instances 
in the great floods of 1866 and 1S6S, in France and Switzerland, 
and I refer to the observations made on those occasions as of 
special importance because no previous inundations in those 
countries had been so carefully watched and so well described 
by competent investigators. In the French Department of 
Lozere, which was among those most severely inj ured by the 
inundation of 1S66 — an inundation caused by diluvial rains, 
not by melted snow — it was everywhere remarked that " grounds 
covered with wood sustained no damage even on the steepest 
slopes, while in cleared and cultivated fields the very soil 
was washed away and the rocks laid bare by the pouring 
rain." * 

The Italian journals of the day state that the province of 
Brescia and a part of that of Bergamo, which have heretofore 
been exposed to enormous injury, after every heavy rain, from 
floods of the four principal streams which traverse them, in a 
great degree escaped damage in the terrible inundation of Oc- 
tober, 1872, and their immunity is ascribed to the forestal im- 
provements executed by the former province, within ten or 
twelve years, in the Yal Camonica and in the upper basins of 
the other rivers which drain that territory. Similar facts were 
noticed in the extraordinary floods of September and October, 
1868, in the valley of the Upper Rhine, and Coaz makes the 
interesting observation that not even dense greensward was 
so efficient a protection to the earth as trees, because the 

plants, are more frequent than in the native groves of America. See, on cryp- 
togamic and other wood plants, Rossmassler, Der Wald, pp. 32 et segg., and 
on the importance of such vegetables in checking the How of water. Mi :ngotti, 
Idraulicii Fisica e Sperimentaie, chapters xvi. and xvii. No writer known to 
me has so well illustrated this function of forest vegetation as Mengotti. though 
both he and Rossmassler ascribe to plants a power of absorbing water from 
the atmosphere which they do not possess, or rather can only rarely exer- 

* See, for other like observations, an article entitled Le Rehoisement it let 
Inondatiom, in the Revue des Eaux <t Forits of September, 1868. 


water soaked through the sod and burst it up by hydrostatic 

The importance of the mechanical resistance of the wood to 
the flow of water over the surface has, however, been exagge- 
rated by some writers. Rain-water is generally absorbed by 
the forest-soil as fast as it falls, and it is only in extreme cases 
that it gathers itself into a superficial sheet or current overflow- 
ing the ground. There is, nevertheless, besides the absorbent 
power of the soil, a very considerable mechanical resistance to 
the transmission of water beneath the surface through and 
along the superior strata of the ground. This resistance is 
exerted by the roots, which both convey the water along their 
surface downwards, and oppose a closely wattled barrier to its 
descent along the slope of the permeable strata which have 
absorbed it.f 

* Die Hochwasser in 1868 im Bilndnerisclien Rheingebiet, pp. 12, 68. 

Observations of Forster, cited by Cezanne from the Annates Forestieres for 
1S59, j3. 358, are not less important than those adduced in the text. The 
field of these observations was a slope of 45° divided into three sections, one 
luxuriantly wooded from summit to base with oak and beech, one completely 
cleared through its whole extent, and one cleared in its upper portion, but re- 
taining a wooded belt for a quarter of the height of the slope, which was from 
1,800 to 1,800 feet above the brook at its foot. 

In the first section, comprising six-sevenths of the whole surface, the rains 
had not produced a single ravine ; in the second, occupying about a tenth of the 
ground, were three ravines, increasing in width from the summit to the 
valley beneath, where they had, all together, a cross-section of GOO square feet ; 
in the third section, of about the same extent as the second, four ravines had 
been formed, widening from the crest of the slope to -the belt of wood, where 
they gradually narrowed and finally disappeared. 

For important observations to the same purpose, see Marchakd, Les Tor- 
rents des Alpes, in Revue des Eaux el Forets for September, 1871. 

f In a valuable report on a bill for compelling the sale of waste communal 
lands, now pending in the Parliament of Italy, Senator Torelli, an eminent 
man of science, calculates that four-fifths of the precipitation in the forest are 
absorbed by the soil, or detained by the obstructions of the surface, only one- 
fifth being delivered to the rivers rapidly enough to create danger of floods, 
while in open grounds, in heavy rains, the proportions are reversed. Supijos- 
ing a rain-fall of four inches, an area measuring 100,000 acres, or a little more 


Rivera fed by springs and shaded by woods are comparatively 
uniform in volume, in temperature, and in chemical compo- 
sition.* Their banks are little abraded, nor are their courses 
much obstructed by fallen timber, or by earth and gravel 
washed down from the highlands. Their channels are subject 
only to slow and gradual changes, and they carry down to the 
lakes and the sea no accumulation of sand or silt to fill up their 
outlets, and, by raising their beds, to force them to spread over 
the low grounds near their mouth.f 

Causes of Inundations. 

The immediate cause of river inundations is the flow of 
superficial and subterranean waters into the beds of rivers fas- 
ter than those channels can discharge them. The insufficiency 
of the channels is occasioned partly by their narrowness and 
partly by obstructions to their currents, the most frequent of 

than four American townships, would receive 53,777,777 cubic yards of water. 
Of this quantity it would retain, or rather detain, if wooded, 41,000,000 yards; 
if bare, only 11,000,000. The difference of discharge from wooded and un- 
wooded soils is perhaps exaggerated in Col. Torelli's report, but there is no 
doubt that in very many cases it is great enough to prevent, or to cause, de- 
structive inundations. 

* Dumont gives an interesting extract from the Misopcgon of the Emperor 
Julian, showing that, in the fourth century, the Seine— the level of which 
now varies to the extent of thirty feet between extreme high and extreme low 
water mark — was almost wholly exempt from inundations, arid flowed with a 
uniform current through the whole year. "Ego olim eram in hibemis apud 
caram Lutetiam, [sic] enim G-alli Parisiorum oppidum appellant, quae insula 
est non magna, in fluvio sita, qui earn omni ex parte cingit. Pontes sublicii 
utrinque ad earn ferunt, raroque fluvius minuitur ac crescit; sed qualis estate, 
talis esse solet hyeme." — Des Travaux Publics dans lear Rapports aveo FAyri- 
cidture, p. 361, note. 

As Julian was six years in Gaul, and his principal residence was at Paris, 
his testimony as to the habitual condition of the Seine, at a period when the 
provinces where its sources originate were well wooded, is very valuable. 

f Forest rivers seldom if ever form large sedimentary deposits at their 
points of discharge into lakes or larger streams, such accumulations beginning, 
or ;it least advancing far more rapidly, after the valleys are cleared. 


which is the deposit of sand, gravel, and pebbles in their beds 
by torrential tributaries during the floods.* 

In accordance with the usual economy of nature, we should 
presume that she had everywhere provided the means of dis- 
charging, without disturbance of her general arrangements or 
abnormal destruction of her products, the precipitation which 
she sheds upon the face of the earth. Observation confirms this 
presumption, at least in the countries to which I confine my 
inquiries ; for, so far as we know the primitive conditions of 
the regions brought under human occupation within the histori- 
cal period, it appears that the overflow of river-banks was much 
less frequent and destructive than at the present day, or, at 
least, that rivers rose and fell less suddenly, before man had re- 
moved the natural checks to the too rapid drainage of the basins 
in which their tributaries originate. The affluents of rivers 
draining wooded basins generally transport, and of course let 
fall, little or no sediment, and hence in such regions the 
special obstruction to the currents of water-courses to which I 

* The extent of the overflow and the violence of the current in river-floods 
are much affected by the amount of sedimentary matter let fall in their chan- 
nels by their affluents, which have usually a swifter flow than the main stream, 
and consequently deposit more or less of their transported material when they 
join its more slowly-moving waters. Such deposits constitute barriers which 
at first check the current and raise its level, and of course its violence at 
lower points is augmented, both by increased volume and by the solid material 
it carries with it, when it acquires force enough to sweep away the obstruc- 
tion. — Risler, Stir V Influence des Forets sur les cours <Vcau, in Revue des 
Eaux et Forets, 10th January, 1870. 

In the flood of 1868 the torrent Illgraben, which had formerly spread its 
water and its sediment over the surface of a vast cone of dejection, having 
been forced, by the injudicious confinement of its current to a single channel, 
to discharge itself more directly into the Rhone, carried down a quantity of 
gravel, sand, and mud, sufficient to dam that river for a whole hour, and in 
the same great inundation the flow of the Rhine at Thusis was completely 
arrested for twenty minutes by a similar discharge from the Nolla. Of course, 
when the dam yielded to the pressure of the accumulated water, the damage 
to the country below was far greater than it would have been had the currents 
of the rivers not been thus obstructed. — Marciiand, Les Torrents des Alpes, 
in Revue des Eaux et Forets, Sept., 1871. 


have just alluded does not occur. The banks of the rivers and 
smaller streams in the North American colonies were formerly- 
little abraded by the currents.* Even now the trees come down 
almost to the water's edge along the rivers, in the larger forests 
of the United States, and the surface of the streams seems 
liable to no great change in level or in rapidity of current. f 

* In primitive countries, running streams are very generally fringed by 
groves, for almost every river is, as Pliny, Nat. Hist., v. 10, says of the 
Upper Nile, an opifex silmrum, or, to use the quaint and picturesque language 
of Holland's translation, " makes shade of -woods as he goeth." 

f A valuable memoir by G. Doni, in the Iiiirista Forestale for October, 13Go, 
p. 438, is one of the best illustrations I can cite of the influence of forests in 
regulating and equalizing the flow of running water, and of the comparative 
action of water-courses which drain wooded valleys and valleys bared of 
trees, with regard to the erosion of their banks and the transportation of 

" The Sestajone," remarks this writer, "and the Lima, are two considerable 
torrents which collect the waters of two great valleys of the Tuscan Apennines, 
and empty them into the Serchio. At the junction of these two torrents, 
from which point the combined current takes the name of Lima, a curi- 
ous phenomenon is observed, which is in part easily explained. In rainy 
weather the waters of the Sestajone are in volume only about one-half those 
of the Lima, and while the current of the Lima is turbid and muddy, that of 
the Sestajone appears limpid and I might almost say drinkable. In clear 
weather, on the contrary, the waters of the Sestajone are abundant and about 
double those of the Lima. Now the extent of the two valleys is nearly equal, 
but the Sestajone winds down between banks clothed with firs and beeches, 
while the Lima flows through a valley that has been stripped of trees, and in 
great part brought under cultivation." 

The Sestajone and the Lima are neither of them what is technically termed 
a torrent — a name strictly applicable only to streams whose current is not 
derived from springs and perennial, but is the temporaiy effect of a sudden 
accumulation of water from heavy rains or from a rapid melting of the snows, 
while their beds are dry, or nearly so, at other times. The Lima, however, in a 
large proportion of its course, has the erosive character of a torrent, for the 
amount of sediment which it carries down, even when it is only moderately 
swollen by rains, surpasses almost everything of the kind which I have observ- 
ed, under analogous circumstances, in Italy. 

Still more striking is the contrast in the regime of the Saint-Phaloz and the 
Combe -d'Yeuse in the Department of Vancluse, the latter of which became 
subject to the most violent torrential floods after the destruction of the woods 
of its basin between 1823 and 1833, but has now been completely subdued, and 


Inundations in Winter. 

In the Northern United States, although inundations are not 
very unf requently produced by heavy rains in the height of sum- 
mer, it will be found generally true that the most rapid rise of 
the waters, and, of course, the most destructive " freshets," as they 
are called in America, are occasioned by the sudden dissolution 
of the snow before the open ground is thawed in the spring. 
It frequently happens that a powerful thaw sets in after a long 
period of frost, and the snow which had been months in accu- 
mulating is dissolved and carried off in a few hours. When 
the snow is deep, it, to use a popular expression, " takes the 
frost out of the ground " in the woods, and, if it lies long 
enough, in the fields also. But the heaviest snows usually fall 
after midwinter, and are succeeded by warm rains or sunshine, 
which dissolve the snow on the cleared land before it lias had 
time to act upon the frost-bound soil beneath it. In this case, 
the snow in the woods is absorbed as fast as it melts, by the 
soil it has protected from freezing, and does not materially con- 
tribute to swell the current of the rivers. If the mild weather, 
in which great snow-storms usually occur, does not continue 
and become a regular thaw, it is almost sure to be followed by 
drifting winds, and the inequality with which they distribute 
the snow over the cleared ground leaves the ridges of the surface- 
soil comparatively bare, while the depressions are often filled 
with drifts to the height of many feet. The knolls become 
frozen to a great depth ; succeeding partial thaws melt the sur- 
f ace-snow, and the water runs down into the furrows of 
ploughed fields, and other artificial and natural hollows, and 
then often freezes to solid ice. In this state of tilings, almost 
the entire surface of the cleared land is impervious to water, 
and from the absence of trees and the general smoothness of 

its waters brought to a peaceful flow, by replanting its valley. See Labus- 
siI'.ke, fievue Agric. et Forestilre de Provence, 18G6, and Revue des Eaux et 
Fonts, 1806. 


the ground, it offers little mechanical resistance to superficial 
currents. If, under these circumstances, warm weather accom- 
panied by rain occurs, the rain and melted snow are swiftly 
hurried to the bottom of the valleys and gathered to raging 

It ought further to be considered that, though the lighter 
ploughed soils readily imbibe a great deal of water, yet grass- 
lands, and all the heavy and tenacious earths, absorb it in 
much smaller quantities, and. less rapidly than the vegetable 
mould of the forest. Pasture, meadow, and clayey soils, 
taken together, greatly predominate over sandy ploughed fields, 
in all large agricultural districts, and hence, even if, in the case 
we are supposing, the open ground chance to have been thawed 
before the melting of the snow which covers it, it is already 
saturated with moisture, or very soon becomes so, and, of course, 
cannot relieve the pressure by absorbing more water. The con- 
sequence is that the face of the country is suddenly flooded 
with a quantity of melted snow and rain equivalent to a fall of 
six or eight inches of the latter, or even more. This runs un- 
obstructed to rivers often still-bound with thick ice, and thus 
inundations of a fearfully devastating character are produced. 
The ice bursts, from the hydrostatic pressure from below, or is 
violently torn up by the current, and is swept by the impetu- 
ous stream, in large masses and with resistless fury, against 
banks, bridges, dams, and mills erected near them. The bark 
of the trees along the rivers is often abraded, at a height 
of many feet above the ordinary water-level, by cakes of float- 
ing ice, which are at last stranded by the receding flood on 
meadow or ploughland, to delay, by their chilling influence, the 
advent of the tardy spring. 

Another important effect of the removal of the forest shelter 
in cold climates may be noticed here. We have observed that 
the ground in the woods either does not freeze at all, or that if 
frozen it is thawed by the first considerable snow-fall. On the 
contrary, the open ground is usually dozen when the first 
spring freshet occurs, but is soon thawed by the warm rain 


and melting snow. Nothing more effectually disintegrates a 
cohesive soil than freezing and thawing, and the surface of 
earth which has jnst undergone those processes is more subject 
to erosion by running water than under any other circumstances. 
Hence more vegetable mould is washed away from cultivated 
grounds in such climates by the spring floods than by the heaviest 
rain at other seasons. 

In the warm climates of Southern Europe, as I have already 
said, the functions of the forest, so far as the disposal of the 
water of precipitation is concerned, are essentially the same at 
all seasons, and are analogous to those which it performs in the 
Northern United States in summer. Hence, in the former 
countries, the winter floods have not the characteristics which 
mark them in the latter, nor is the conservative influence of 
the woods in winter relatively so important, though it is equally 

If the summer floods in the United States are attended with 
less pecuniary damage than those of the Loire and other rivers 
of France, the Po and its tributaries in Italy, the Emrae and 
her sister torrents which devastate the valleys of Switzerland, 
it is partly because the banks of American rivers are not yet 
lined with towns, their shores and the bottoms which skirt them 
not yet covered with improvements whose cost is counted by 
millions, and, consequently, a smaller amount of property is ex- 
posed to injury by inundation. But the comparative exemp- 
tion of the American people from the terrible calamities which 
the overflow of rivers has brought on some of the fairest por- 
tions of the Old World, is, in a still greater degree, to be 
ascribed to the fact that, with all our thoughtless improvidence, 
we have not yet bared all the sources of our streams, not yet 
overthrown all the barriers which nature has erected to restrain 
her own destructive energies. Let us be wise in time, and 
profit by the errors of our older brethren ! 

The influence of the forest in preventing inundations has 
been very generally recognized, both as a theoretical inference 
and as a fact of observation ; but the eminent eno-meer Belsrand 
16 & 


and his commentator Valles have deduced an opposite result 
from various facts of experience and from scientific consider- 
ations. They contend that the superficial drainage is more reg- 
ular from cleared than from wooded ground, and that clearing 
diminishes rather than augments the intensity of inundations. 
Neither of these conclusions appears to be warranted by their 
data or their reasoning, and they rest partly upon facts, which, 
truly interpreted, are not inconsistent with the received opinions 
on these subjects, partly upon assumptions which are contra- 
dicted by experience. Two of these latter are, first, that the fallen 
leaves in the forest constitute an impermeable covering of the 
soil over, not through, which the water of rains and of melting 
snows flows off, and secondly, that the roots of trees penetrate 
and choke up the fissures in the rooks, so as to impede the pas- 
sage of water through channels which nature has provided for 
its descent to lower strata. 

As to the first of these, we may appeal to familiar facts within 
the personal knowledge of every man acquainted with the 
operations of sylvan nature. Rain-water never, except in very 
trifling quantities, flows over the leaves in the woods in summer 
or autumn. Water runs over them only in the spring, in the 
rare cases when they have been pressed down smoothly and 
compactly by the weight of the snow — a state in which they re- 
main only until they are dry, when shrinkage and the action of 
the wind soon roughen the surface so as effectually to stop, by 
absorption, all flow of water. I have observed that when a sud- 
den frost succeeds a thaw at the close of the winter, after the 
snow has principally disappeared, the water in and between 
the layers of leaves sometimes freezes into a solid crust, which 
allows the flow of water over it. But this occurs only in de- 
pressions and on a very small scale ; and the ice thus formed is 
so soon dissolved that no sensible effect is produced on the 
escape of water from the general surface. 

As to the influence of roots upon drainage, we have seen that 
there is no doubt that they, independently of their action as ab- 
sorbents, mechanically promote it. Not only does the water of 


the soil follow them downwards, but their swelling growth 
powerfully tends to enlarge, not to obstruct, the crevices of 
rock into which they enter ; and as the fissures in rocks are 
longitudinal, not mere circular orifices, every line of additional 
width gained by the growth of roots within them increases the 
area of the crevice in proportion to its length. Consequently, 
the widening of a fissure to the extent of one inch might give 
an additional drainage equal to a square foot of open tubing. 

The observations and reasonings of Belgrand and Valles, 
though their conclusions have not been accepted by many, are 
very important in one point of view. These writers insist much 
on the necessity of taking into account, in estimating the rela- 
tions between precipitation and evaporation, the abstraction of 
water from the surface and surface-currents, by absorption and in- 
filtration — an element unquestionably of great value, but hitherto 
much neglected by meteorological inquirers, who have very often 
reasoned as if the surface-earth were either impermeable to 
water or already saturated with it ; whereas, in fact, it is a 
sjwnge, always imbibing humidity and always giving it off, not 
by evaporation only, but by infiltration and percolation. 

The remarkable historical notices of inundations in France 
in the Middle Ages collected by Champion* are considered by 
many as furnishing proof, that when that country was much 
more generally covered with wood than it now is, destructive 
inundations of the French rivers were not less frequent than 
they are in modern days. But this evidence is subject to this 
among other objections : we know, it is true, that the forests 
of certain departments of France were anciently much more 
extensive than at the present day ; but we know also that in 
many portions of that country the soil has been bared of its 
forests, and then, in consequence of the depopulation of great 
provinces, left to reclothe itself spontaneously with trees, many 

* Les Inondatwns en France depute he Vie siecle jusqu'd nos jours. 6 vols. 
8vo. Paris, 1858-64. See a very able review of this learned and important 
work by Prof. Messedaglia, read before the Academy of Agriculture at Verona 
in 1864. 


times during the historic period; and our acquaintance with 
the forest topography of ancient Gaul or of mediaeval France is 
neither sufficiently extensive nor sufficiently minute to permit 
us to say, with certainty, that the sources of this or that partic- 
ular river were more or less sheltered by wood at any given 
time, ancient or mediaeval, than at present.* I say the sources 
of the rivers, because the floods of great rivers are occasioned 
by heavy rains and snows which fall in the more elevated re- 
gions around the primal springs, and not by precipitation in the 
main valleys or on the plains bordering on the lower course. 

The destructive effects of inundations, considered simply as a 
mechanical power by which life is endangered, crops destroyed, 
and the artificial constructions of man overthrown, are very 
terrible. Thus far, however, the flood is a temporary and by 
no means an irreparable evil, for if its ravages end here, the 
prolific powers of nature and the industry of man soon restore 
what had been lost, and the face of the earth no longer shows 
traces of the deluge that had overwhelmed it. Inundations 
have even their compensations. The structures they destroy 
are replaced by better and more secure erections, and if they 
sweep off a crop of corn, they not unfrequently leave behind 
them, as they subside, a fertilizing deposit which enriches the 
exhausted field for a succession of seasons, f If, then, the too 

* Alfred Maury has, nevertheless, collected, in his erudite and able work, 
Les Forets ile la Gavle et de Vancienne France, Paris, 1867, an immense 
amount of statistical detail on the extent, the distribution, and the destruction 
of the forests of France, but it still remains true that we can very seldom 
pronounce on the forestal condition of the upper valley of a particular river at 
the time of a given inundation in the ancient or the medieval period. 

f The productiveness of Egypt has been attributed too exclusively to the 
fertilizing effects of the slime deposited by the inundations of the Nile ; for 
in that climate a liberal supply of water would produce good crops on almost 
any ordinary sand, while, without water, the richest soil would yield nothing. 
The sediment deposited annually is but a very small fraction of an inch in 
thickness. It is alleged that iu quantity it would be hardly sufficient for a 
good top-dressing, and that in quality it is not chemically distinguishable 
from the soil inches or feet below the surface. But to deny, as some writers 
have done, that the slime has any fertilizing properties at all, is as great an 


rapid flow of the surface-waters occasioned no other evil than 
to produce, once in ten years upon the average, an inundation 
which should destroy the harvest of the low grounds along the 
rivers, the damage would be too inconsiderable, and of too 
transitory a character, to warrant the inconveniences and the 
expense involved in the measures which the most competent 
judges in many parts of Europe believe the respective govern- 
ments ought to take to obviate it. 

Destructive Action of Torrents. 

But the great, the irreparable, the appalling mischiefs which 
have already resulted, and which threaten to ensue on a still 
more extensive scale hereafter, from too rapid superficial drain- 
age, are of a properly geographical, we may almost say geologi- 
cal, character, and consist primarily in erosion, displacement, and 
transportation of the superficial strata, vegetable and mineral — 
of the integuments, so to speak, with which nature has clothed 

error as the opposite one of ascribing all the agricultural wealth of Egypt to 
that single cause of productiveness. Fine soils deposited by water are almost 
uniformly rich in all climates ; those brought down by rivers, carried out into 
salt-water, and then returned again by the tide, seem to be more permanently 
fertile than any others. The polders of the X etherland coast are of this char- 
acter, and the meadows iu Lincolnshire, which have been covered with slime 
by warping, as it is called, or admitting water over them at high tide, are 
remarkably productive. 

Recent analysis is said to have detected in the water of the Nile a quantity 
of organic matter — derived mainly, no doubt, from the decayed vegetation it 
bears down from its tropical course — sufficiently large to furnish an impor- 
tant supply of fertilizing ingredients to the soil. 

It is computed that the Durance — a river fed chiefly by torrents, of great 
erosive power — carries down annually solid material enough to cover 272,000 
acres of soil with a deposit of two-fifths of an inch in thickness, and that this 
deposit contains, in the combination most favorable to vegetation, more azote 
than 110,000 tons of guano, and more carbon than 121,000 acres of woodland 
would assimilate in a year. ElieIe Recltjs, La Terre, vol. i., p. 407. On 
the chemical composition, epiantity, and value of the solid matter transported 
by river, see Herve Mangon, Sur VEmploi des Eaux chins les Irrigations, 8vo. 
Paris, 1809, pp. 132 et s qq. Duponciiel,, Traite iVIIydraulique et de Geo- 
logic Agricoles. Paris, 18G8, chap, i., xii., and xiii. 


tlie skeleton frame-work of the globe. It is difficult to convey 
by description an idea of the desolation of the regions most ex- 
posed to the ravages of torrent and of flood ; and the thou- 
sands who, in these days of swift travel, are whirled by steam 
near or even through the theatres of these calamities, have but 
rare and imperfect opportunities of observing the destructive 
causes in action. Still more rarely can they compare the past 
with the actual condition of the provinces in question, and trace 
the progress of their conversion from forest-crowned hills, 
luxuriant pasture grounds, and abundant cornfields and vine- 
yards well watered by springs and fertilizing rivulets, to bald 
mountain ridges, rocky declivities, and steep earth-banks fur- 
rowed by deep ravines with beds now dry, now filled by tor- 
rents of fluid mud and gravel hurrying down to spread them- 
selves over the plain, and dooming to everlasting barrenness the 
once productive fields. In surveying such scenes, it is difficult 
to resist the impression that nature pronounced a primal curse 
of perpetual sterility and desolation upon these sublime but 
fearful wastes, difficult to believe that they were once, and but 
for the folly of man might still be, blessed with all the natural 
advantages which Providence has bestowed upon the" most 
favored climes. But the historical evidence is conclusive as to 
the destructive changes occasioned by the agency of man upon 
the flanks of the Alps, the Apennines, the Pyrenees, and other 
mountain ranges in Central and Southern Europe, and the pro- 
gress of physical deterioration has been so rapid that, in some 
localities, a single generation has witnessed the beginning and 
the end of the melancholy revolution. 

I have stated, in a general way, the nature of the evils in 
question, and of the processes by which they are produced ; but 
I shall make their precise character and magnitude better un- 
derstood by presenting some descriptive and statistical details 
of facts of actual occurrence. I select for this purpose the 
south-eastern portion of France, not because that territory has 
suffered more severely than some others, but because its de- 
terioration is comparatively recent, and has been watched and 


described by very competent and trustworthy observers, whose 
reports are more easily accessible than those published in other 

The provinces of Dauphiny and Provence comprise a territory 
of fourteen or fifteen thousand square miles, bounded north-west 
by the Isere, north-east and east by the Alps, south by the Medi- 
terranean, west by the Ehone, and extending from 42° to about 
45° of north latitude. The surface is generally hilly and even 
mountainous, and several of the peaks in Dauphiny rise above 
the limit of perpetual snow. Except upon the mountain ridges, 
the climate, as compared with that of the United States in the 
same latitude, is extremely mild. Little snow falls, except 
upon the higher mountains, the frosts are light, and the sum- 
mers long, as might, indeed, be inferred from the vegetation ; 
for in the cultivated districts, the vine and the fig everywhere 
flourish ; the olive thrives as far north as 43^°, and upon the 
coast grow the orange, the lemon, and the date-palm. The forest 
trees, too, are of southern type, umbrella pines, various species 
of evergreen oaks, and many other trees and shrubs of per- 
sistent broad-leaved foliage, characterizing the landscape. 

The rapid slope of the mountains naturally exposed these 
provinces to damage by torrents, and the Romans diminished 
their injurious effects by erecting, in the beds of ravines, bar- 
riers of rocks loosely piled up, which permitted a slow escape 
of the water, but compelled it to deposit above the dikes the 
earth and gravel with which it was chargcd.f At a later 

* Streffleur (Ueber die Natur iind die Wirkungen der Wildbcic7ie, p. 3) 
maintains that all the observations and speculations of French authors on the 
nature of torrents had been anticipated by Austrian writers. In proof of this 
assertion he refers to the works of Franz von Zallinger, 1778, Von Arretin, 
1808, Franz Duile, 182G, all published at Innsbruck, and Hagen's Beschrei- 
bung neuerer Wasserbauwer/ce, Konigsberg, 1826, none of which works are 
known to me. It is evident, however, that the conclusions of Surell and 
other French writers whom I cite, are original results of personal investiga- 
tion, and not borrowed opinions. 

f Whether Palissy was acquainted with this ancient practice, or whether it 
was one of those original suggestions of which his works are so full, I know 


period the Crusaders brought home from Palestine, with much 
other knowledge gathered from the wiser Moslems, the art of 
securing the hillsides and making them productive by terracing 
and irrigation. The forests which covered the mountains se- 
cured an abundant flow of springs, and the process of clearing 
the soil went on so slowly that, for centuries, neither the want of 
timber and fuel, nor the other evils about to be depicted, were 
seriously felt. Indeed, throughout the Middle Ages, these pro- 
vinces were well wooded, and famous for the fertility and 
abundance, not only of the low grounds, but of the hills. 

Such was the state of things at the close of the fifteenth cen- 
tury. The statistics of the seventeenth show that while there 
had been an increase of prosperity and population in Lower 
Provence, as well as in the correspondingly situated parts of 
the other two provinces I have mentioned, there was an alarming 
decrease both in the wealth and in the population of Upper Pro- 
vence and Dauphiny, although, by the clearing of the forests, a 
great extent of plough-land and pasturage had been added to 
the soil before reduced to cultivation. It was found, in fact, 
that the augmented violence of the torrents had swept away, or 
buried in sand and gravel, more land than had been reclaimed 
by clearing ; and the taxes computed by fires or habitations 
underwent several successive reductions in consequence of the 
gradual abandonment of the wasted soil by its starving occu- 
pants. The growth of the large towns on and near the Phone 
and the coast, their advance in commerce and industry, and the 

not, but in his treatise, Des Eaux et Fontaines, he thus recommends it, by 
way of reply to the objections of " Thcorique," who had expressed the fear 
that "the waters which rush violently down from the heights of the moun- 
tain would bririg with them much earth, Band, and other things," and thus spoil 
the artificial fountain that "Practique" was teaching him to make: "And 
for hindrance of the mischiefs of great waters which may be gathered in 
few hours by great storms, when thou shalt have made ready thy parterre to 
receive the water, thou must lay great stoin a athwart the deep channels 
which lead to thy parterre. And so the force of the rushing currents shall be 
deadened, and thy water shall flow peacefully into his cisterns." — U<Juvrc3 
Completes, p. 173. 


consequently enlarged demand for agricultural products, ought 
naturally to have increased the rural population and the value 
of their lands ; but the physical decay of the uplands was such 
that considerable tracts were deserted altogether, and in Upper 
Provence, the fires which in 1471 counted S97, were reduced 
to 747 in 1699, to 728 in 1733, and to 635 in 1770." 

Surell — whose admirable work, Etude sur les Torrents des 
TIautes Alpes, first published in lS41,f j)resents a most appall- 
ing picture of the desolations of the torrent, and, at the same 
time, the most careful studies of the history and essential char- 
acter of this great evil — in speaking of the valley of Devoluy, 
on page 152, says : " Everything concurs to show that it was 
anciently wooded. In its peat-bogs are found buried trunks of 
trees, monuments of its former vegetation. In the framework 
of old houses, one sees enormous timber, which is no longer to 
be found in the district. Many localities, now completely bare, 
still retain the name of ' wood,' and one of them is called, in 
old deeds, Coinba nigra [Black forest or dell], on account of its 
dense woods. These and many other proofs confirm the local 
traditions which are unanimous on this point. 

" There, as everywhere in the Upper Alps, the clearings be- 
gan on the flanks of the mountains, and were gradually ex- 
tended into the valleys and then to the highest accessible peaks. 
Then followed the Revolution, and caused the destruction of 
the remainder of the trees which had thus far escaped the 
woodman's axe." 

In a note to this passage the writer says : " Several persons 
have told me that they had lost flocks of sheep, bj straying, in 
the forests of Mont Auroux, which covered the flanks of the 
mountain from La Cluse to Ap-neres. These declivities are 
now as bare as the palm of the hand." 

* These facts I take from the La Provence au point de vue des Bois, des 
Torrents et des Inondations, of Charles de Ribbe, one of the highest author- 

f A second edition of this work, with an additional volume of great value by 
Ernest Cezanne, was published at Paris, in two 8vo volumes, in 1871-72. 


The ground upon the steep mountains being once bared of 
trees, and the underwood killed by the grazing of horned cat- 
tle, sheep, and goats, every depression becomes a water-course. 
" Every storm," says Surell, page 153, " gives rise to a new 
torrent.* Examjjles of such are shown, which, though not yet 
three years old, have laid waste the finest fields of their valleys, 
and whole villages have narrowly escaped being swept into 
ravines formed in the course of a few hours. Sometimes the 
flood pours in a sheet over the surface, without ravine or even 
bed, and ruins extensive grounds, which are abandoned for- 

I cannot follow Surell in his description and classification of 
torrents, and I must refer the reader to his instructive work 
for a full exposition of the theory of the subject. In order, 
however, to show what a concentration of destructive energies 
may be effected by felling the woods that clothe and support 
the sides of mountain abysses, I cite his description of a valley 
descending from the Col Isoard, which he calls " a complete 
type of a basin of reception," that is, a gorge which serves as a 
common point of accumulation and discharge for the waters 
of several lateral torrents. " The aspect of the monstrous chan- 
nel," says he, " is frightful. Within a distance of less than 
two English miles, more than sixty torrents hurl into the depths 
of the gorge the debris torn from its two flanks. The smallest 
of these secondary torrents, if transferred to a fertile valley, 
would be enough to ruin it." 

The eminent political economist Elanqui, in a memoir read 
before the Academy of Moral and Political Science on the ^r>th 
of November, 1S43, thus expresses himself: "Important as 
are the causes of impoverishment already described, they arc 
not to be compared to the consecpiences which have followed 

* No attentive observer can frequent the southern flank of the Piedmon- 
tese Alps or the French province of Dauphiny, for half a dozen j r ears. with- 
out witnessing with his own eyes the formation and increase of new torrents. 
I can bear personal testimony to the conversion of more than one grassy slope 
into the bed of a furious torrent by baring the hills above of their woods. 


from the two inveterate evils of the Alpine provinces of 
Trance, the extension of clearing and the ravages of torrents. 
The most important result of this destruction is this : 
that the agricultural capital, or rather the ground itself — 
which, in a rapidly increasing degree, is daily swept away by 
the waters — is totally lost. Signs of unparalleled destitution 
are visible in all the mountain zone, and the solitudes of those 
districts are assuming an indescribable character of sterility 
and desolation. The gradual destruction of the woods has, in 
a thousand localities, annihilated at once the springs and the 
fuel. Between Grenoble and Briancon, in the valley of the 
Romanche, many villages are so destitute of wood that the} r are 
reduced to the necessity of baking their bread with sun-dried 
cow-dung, and even this they can afford to do but once a year. 

" Whoever has visited the valley of Barcelonette, those of 
Embrun, and of Yerdun, and that Arabia Petrsea of the de- 
partment of the Upper Alps, called Devoluy, knows that there 
is no time to lose — that in fifty years from this date France 
will be separated from Savoy, as Egypt from Syria, by a 
desert." * 

It deserves to be specially noticed that the district here 
referred to, though now among the most hopelessly waste in 
France, was very productive even down to so late a period as 
the commencement of the French Revolution. Arthur Young, 
wiiting in 1789, says : " About Barcelonette and in the high- 
est parts of the mountains, the hill-pastures feed a million of 
sheep, besides large herds of other cattle ; " and he adds : 
" With such a soil and in such a climate, we are not to sup- 
pose a country barren because it is mountainous. The valleys 
I have visited are, in general, beautiful." f He ascribes the 

* Ladoucette says the peasant of Devoluy " often goes a distance of five 
hours over rocks and precipices for a single [man's] load of wood ; " and he re- 
marks on another page, that " the justice of peace of that canton had, in 
the course of forty-three years, bat once heard the voice of the nightingale." — 
Histoire, etc., des Unites Alpes, pp. 220, 4:J4. 

f The valley of Ernbrun, now almost completely devastated, was once re- 
markable for its fertility. In 180(3, Hericart de Thury said of it : "In this 


same character to the provinces of Dauphiny, Provence, and 
Auvergne, and, though he visited, with the eye of an attentive 
and practised observer, many of the scenes since blasted with 
the wild desolation described by Blanqui, the Durance and a 
part of the course of the Loire are the only streams he men- 
tions as inflicting serious injury by their floods. The ravages 
of the torrents had, indeed, as we have seen, commenced earlier 
in some other localities, but we are authorized to infer that they 
were, in Young's time, too limited in range, and relatively too 
insignificant, to require notice in a general view of the pro- 
vinces where they have now ruined so large a proportion of 
the soil. 

But I resume my citations. 

" I do not exaggerate," says Blanqui. " When I shall have 
finished my description and designated localities by their 
names, there will rise, I am sure, more than one voice from the 
spots themselves, to attest the rigorous exactness of this picture 
of their wretchedness. I have never seen its equal even in the 
Kabyle villages of the province of Constantine ; for there you 
can travel on horseback, and you find grass in the spring, 
whereas in more than fifty communes in the Alps there is abso- 
lutely nothing. 

"The clear, brilliant, Alpine sky of Embrun, of Gap, of 
Barcelonette, and of Digne, which for months is without a 
cloud, produces droughts interrupted only by diluvial rains 
like those of the tropics. The abuse of the right of pasturage 
and the felling of the woods have stripped the soil of all its 
grass and all its trees, and the scorching sun bakes it to the 
consistence of porphyry. When moistened by the rain, as it 
has neither support nor cohesion, it rolls down to the valleys 
sometimes in floods resembling black, yellow, or reddish lava, 
sometimes in streams of pebbles, and even huge blocks of 
stone, which pour down with a frightful roar, and in their 

magnificent valley nature had been prodigal of her gifts. Its inhabfl suits havo 
blindly revelled in her favors, and fallen asleep in the midst of her profusion." 
— BeC'QTJEEEL, .Des CUmats, etc., p. 314. 


Swift course exhibit the most convulsive movements. If yon 
overlook from an eminence one of these landscapes furrowed 
with so many ravines, it presents only images of desolation 
and of death. Yast deposits of flinty pebbles, many feet in 
thickness, which have rolled down and spread far over the 
plain, surround large trees, bury even their tops, and rise 
above them, leaving to the husbandman no longer a ray of 
hope. One can imagine no sadder spectacle than the deep 
fissures in the flanks of the mountains, which seem to have 
burst forth in eruption to cover the plains with their ruins. 
These gorges, under the influence of the sun which cracks and 
shivers to fragments the very rocks, and of the rain which 
sweeps them down, penetrate deeper and deeper into the heart 
of the mountain, while the beds of the torrents issuing from 
them are sometimes raised several feet in a single year, by 
the debris, so that they reach the level of the bridges, which, 
of course, are then carried off. The torrent-beds are recog- 
nized at a great distance, as they issue from the mountains, 
and they spread themselves over the low grounds, in fan- 
shaped expansions, like a mantle of stone, sometimes ten thou- 
sand feet wide, rising high at the centre, and curving towards 
the circumference till their lower edges meet the plain. 

" Such is their aspect in dry weather. But no tongue can 
give an adequate description of their devastations in one of 
those sudden floods which resemble, in almost none of their 
phenomena, the action of ordinary river-water. They are now 
no longer overflowing brooks, but real seas, tumbling down in 
cataracts, and rolling before them blocks of stone, which are 
hurled forwards by the shock of the waves like balls shot out 
by the explosion of gunpowder. Sometimes ridges of peb- 
bles are driven down when the transporting torrent does not 
rise high enough to show itself, and then the movement is 
accompanied with a roar louder than the crash of thunder. 
A furious wind precedes the rushing water and announces 
its approach. Then comes a violent eruption, followed by a 
flow of muddy waves, and after a few hours all returns to the 


dreary silence which at periods of rest marks these abodes of 

" The elements of destruction are increasing in violence. 
The devastation advances in geometrical progression as the 
higher slopes are bared of their wood, and ' the ruin from 
above,' to use the words of a peasant, ' helps to hasten the deso- 
lation below.' 

" The Alps of Provence present a terrible aspect. In the 
more equable climate of Xorthern France, one can form no 
conception of those parched mountain gorges where not even 
a bush can be found to shelter a bird, where, at most, the 
wanderer sees in summer here and there a withered lavender, 
where all the springs are dried up, and where a dead silence, 
hardly broken by even the hum of an insect, prevails. But if 
a storm bursts forth, masses of water suddenly shoot from the 
mountain heights into the shattered gulfs, waste without irri- 
gating, deluge without refreshing the soil they overflow in 
their swift descent, and leave it even more seared than it was 
from want of moisture. Man at last retires from the fearful 
desert, and I have, the present season, found not a living soul 
in districts where I remember to have enjoyed hospitality thirty 
years ago." 

In 1853, ten years after the date of Blanqui's memoir, M. de 
Bonville, prefect of the Lower Alps, addressed to the Govern- 
ment a report in which the following passages occur : 

" It is certain that the productive mould of the Alps, swept 

* These explosive gushes of mud and rock appear to be occasioned by the 
caving-in of large masses of earth from the banks of the torrent, which dam 
up the stream and check its flow until it has acquired volume enough to burst 
the barrier and carry all before it. In 1827, such a sudden eruption of a 
torrent, after the current had appeared to have ceased, swept off forty-two 
houses and drowned twenty-eight persons in the village of Goucelin, near 
Grenoble, and buried with rubbish a great part of the remainder of the 

The French traveller, D'Abbadic, relates precisely similar occurrences as not 
unfrequent in the mountains of Abyssinia.— Surell, Etudes, etc., 2d edition, 
pp. 224, 295. 


off bv the increasing violence of that curse of the mountains, 
the torrents, is daily diminishing with fearful rapidity. All 
our Alps are wholly, or in large proportion, bared of wood. 
Their soil, scorched by the sun of Provence, cut up by the 
hoofs of the sheep, which, not finding on the surface the grass 
they require for their sustenance, gnaw and scratch the ground 
in search of roots to satisfy their hunger, is periodically washed 
and carried off by melting snows and summer storms. 

" I will not dwell on the effects of the torrents. For sixty 
years they have been too often depicted to require to be 
further discussed, but it is important to show that their ravages 
are daily extending the range of devastation. The bed of the 
Durance, which now in some places exceeds a mile and a 
quarter in width, and, at ordinary times, has a current of water 
less than eleven yards wide, shows something of the extent of 
the damage.* Where, ten years ago, there were still woods and 
cultivated grounds to be seen, there is now but a vast torrent ; 
there is not one of our mountains which has not at least one 
torrent, and new ones are daily forming. 

"An indirect proof of the diminution of the soil is to be 
found in the depopulation of the country. In 1S52 I reported 
to the General Council that, according to the census of that 
year, the population of the department of the Lower Alps 
had fallen off no less than 5,000 souls in the five years between 
1S46 and 1851. 

" Unless prompt and energetic measures are taken, it is easy 
to fix the epoch when the French Alps will be but a desert. 
The interval between 1851 and 1S56 will show a further de- 
crease of population. In 1862 the ministry will announce a 

* In the days of the Roman Empire the Durance was a navigable, or at least 
a boatable, river, with a commerce so important that the boatmen upon it 
formed a distinct corporation. — Ladoucette, Histoire, etc., des Hautes Abpcs, 
p. 354. 

Even as early as 1789 the Durance was computed to have already covered 
with gravel and pebbles not less than 130,000 acres, "which, but for its inun- 
dations, would have been the finest land in the province." — Arthur Young, 
Travels in France, vol. i., ch. i. 


continued and progressive reduction in the number of acres 
devoted to agriculture ; every year will aggravate the evil, 
and in half a century France will count more ruins, and a de- 
partment the less." 

Time has verified the predictions of De Bonville. The later 
census returns show a progressive diminution in the population 
of the departments of the Lower Alps, the Isere, Drome, 
Ariege, the Upper and the Lower Pyrenees, Lozere, the Ar- 
dennes, Doubs, the Yosges, and, in short, in all the provinces 
formerly remarkable for their forests. This diminution is not 
to be ascribed to a passion for foreign emigration, as in Ireland, 
and in parts of Germany and of Italy ; it is simply a transfer 
of population from one part of the empire to another, from 
soils which human folly has rendered uninhabitable, by ruth- 
lessly depriving them of their natural advantages and securi- 
ties, to provinces where the face of the earth was so formed by 
nature as to need no such safeguards, and where, consequently, 
she preserves her outlines in spite of the wasteful improvidence 
of man.* 

Floods of the Ardeche. 

The River Ardeche, in the French department of that name, 
has a perennial current in a considerable part of its course, and 
therefore is not, technically speaking, a torrent; but the peculiar 
character and violence of its floods is due to the action of the 
torrents which discharge themselves into it in its upper valley, 
and to the rapidity of the flow of the water of precipitation 

* Between 1851 and 1856 the population of Languedoc and Provence had 
increased by 101,000 souls. The augmentation, however, was wholly in the 
provinces of the plains, where all the principal cities are found. In these 
provinces the increase was 201,000, while in the mountain provinces there was 
a diminution of 103,000. The reduction of the area of arable land is perhaps 
even more striking. In 1842 the department of the Lower Alps possessed 
99,000 hectares, or nearly 245,000 acres, of cultivated soil. In 1852 it had 
but 74,000 hectares. In other words, in ten years 25,000 hectares, or 61,000 
acres, had been washed away, or rendered worthless for cultivation, by torrents 
and the abuses of pasturage. — CLAY . Etudes, pp. 60, 67. 


from the surface of a basin now almost bared of its once luxu- 
riant woods.* A notice of these floods may therefore not inap- 
propriately be introduced in this place. 

The floods of the Ardeche and other mountain streams are 
attended with greater immediate danger to life and property 
than those of rivers of less rapid flow, because their currents are 
more impetuous, and they rise more suddenly and with less pre- 
vious warning. At the same time, their ravages are confined 
within narrower limits, the waters retire sooner to their accus- 
tomed channel, and the danger is more quickly over, than in 
the case of inundations of larger rivers. The Ardeche drains 
a basin of 600,238 acres, or a little less than nine hundred and 
thirty-eight square miles. Its remotest source is about seventy- 
five miles, in a straight line, from its junction with the Rhone, 
and springs at an elevation of four thousand feet above that 
point. At the lowest stage of the river, the bed of the Chassezac, 
its largest and longest tributary, is in many places completely 
dry on the surface — the water being sufficient only to supply 
the subterranean channels of infiltration — and the Ardeche it- 
self is almost everywhere fordable, even below the mouth of 
the Chassezac. But in floods, the river has sometimes risen 
more than sixty feet at the Pont d'Arc, a natural arch of two 
hundred feet chord, which spans the stream below its junction 
with all its important affluents. At the height of the inunda- 
tion of 1857, the quantity of water passing this point — after 
deducting thirty per cent, for material transported with the 
current and for irregularity of flow — was estimated at 8,845 

* The original forests in which the basin of the Ardeche was rich have been 
rapidly disappearing for many years, and the terrific violence of the inunda- 
tions which are now laying it waste is ascribed, by the ablest investigators, to 
that cause. In an article inserted in the Annates Forestieres for 1843, quoted 
by Hohenstein, Der Wald, p. 177, it is said that about one-third of tbe area 
of the department had already become absolutely barren, in consequence of 
clearing, and that the destruction of the woods was still going on with great 
rapidity. Xew torrents were constantly forming, and they were estimated to 
have covered more than 70,000 acres of good land, or one- eighth of the sur- 
face of the department, with sand and gravel. 



cubic yards to the second, and between twelve o'clock at noon 
on the 10th of September of that year and ten o'clock the next 
morning, the water discharged through the passage in question 
amounted to more than 450,000,000 cubic yards. This quan- 
tity, distributed equally through the basin of the river, would 
cover its entire area to a depth of more than five inches. 

The Ardeche rises so suddenly that, in the inundation of 
1S16, the women who were washing in the bed of the river had 
not time to save their linen, and barely escaped with their 
lives, though they instantly fled upon hearing the roar of the 
approaching flood. Its waters and those of its affluents fall 
almost as rapidly, for in less than twenty-four hours after the 
rain has ceased in the Cevennes, where it rises, the Ardeche 
returns within its ordinary channel, even at its junction with 
the Rhone. In the flood of 1772, the water at La Beaume de 
Ruoms, on the Beaume, a tributary of the Ardeche, rose thirty- 
five feet above low water, but the stream was again fordable 
on the evening of the same day. The inundation of 1827 was, 
in this respect, exceptional, for it continued three days, during 
which period the Ardeche poured into the Rhone 1,305,000,000 
cubic yards of water. 

The Nile delivers into the sea 101,000 cubic feet or 3,711 
cubic yards per second, on an average of the whole year. * 
This is equal to 323,222,100 cubic yards per day. In a single 
day of flood, then, the Ardeche, a river too insignificant to be 

* Sir John F. W. Heusciiel, citing Talabot as his authority, Physical 
GeograpJiy (24). 

In an elaborate paper on "Irrigation,"' printed in the United States Patent 
Report for 1860, p. 169, it is stated that the volume of water poured into the 
^Mediterranean by the Nile in twenty-four hours, at low water, is 150,566,- 
892,308 cubic metres; at high water, 705,514,667,440 cubic metres. Taking 
the mean of these two numbers, the average daily delivery of the Nile would 
be 428,081,059,808 cubic metres, or more than :)."i0,000,00(),000 cubic yards. 
There is some enormous mistake, probably a typographical error, in this state- 
ment, which makes the delivery of the Nile seventeen hundred times as great 
as computed by Talabot, and more than physical geographers have estimated 
the quantity supplied by all the rivers on the face of the globe. 


known except in the local topography of France, contributed 
to the Rhone once and a half, and for three consecutive days 
once and one third, as much as the average delivery of the Nile 
during the same periods, though the basin of the latter river 
probably contains 1,000,000 square miles of surface, or more 
than one thousand times as much as that of the former. 

The average annual precipitation in the basin of the Ar- 
deche is not greater than in many other parts of Europe, but 
excessive quantities of rain frequently fall in that valley in the 
autumn. On the 9th of October, 1827, there fell at Joyeuse, 
on the Beaume, no less than thirty-one inches between three 
o'clock in the morning and midnight. Such facts as this ex- 
plain the extraordinary suddenness and violence of the floods 
of the Ardeche, and the basins of many other tributaries of the 
Rhone exhibit meteorological phenomena not less remarkable.* 

* The Drac, a torrent emptying into the Isere a little below Grenoble, has 
discharged 5,200, the Isere, which receives it, 7,800 cubic yards, and the 
Durance, above its junction with the Isere, an equal quantity, per second. — 
Montluisant, Note sur les Dessechements, etc., Annales des Pouts et Chaussees, 
1833, 2me sernestre, p. 288. 

The Upper Rhone, which drains a basin of about 1,900 square miles, includ- 
ing seventy-one glaciers, receives many torrential affluents, and rain-storms 
and thaws are sometimes extensive enough to affect the whole tributary 
system of its narrow valley. In such cases its current swells to a great 
volume, but previously to the floods of the autumn of 1868 it was never known 
to reach a discharge of 2,600 cubic yards to the second. On the 28th of Sep- 
tember in that year, however, its delivery amounted to 3,700 cubic yards to 
the second, which is about equal to the mean discharge of the Nile. — BericMe 
der Meperten- Commission uber die Uebersclucemmungen im Jalir 1S6S, pp. 
174, 175. 

The floods of some other French rivers, which have a more or less torren- 
tial character, scarcely fall behind those of the Rhone. The Loire, above 
Roanne, has a basin of 2,471 square miles, or about twice and a half the area 
of that of the Ardeche. In some of its inundations it has delivered above 
9, 500 cubic yards per second, or 400 times its low- water discharge. — Belgr and, 
De V Influence des Forets, etc., Annates des Fonts et Chaussees, 1854, ler sernes- 
tre, p. 15, note. 

The ordinary low-water discharge of the Seine at Paris is nearly 100 cubic 
yards per second. Belgrand gives a list of eight floods of bhat river within 
the last two centuries, in which it has delivered thirty times that quantity. 


The Rhone, therefore, is naturally subject to great and sudden 
inundations, and the same remark may be applied to most of 
the principal rivers of France, because the geographical char- 
acter of all of them is approximately the same. 

The volume of water in the floods of most great rivers is de- 
termined by the degree in which the inundations of the differ- 
ent tributaries are coincident in time. Were all the affluents 
of the Lower Rhone to pour their highest annual floods into its 
channel at once — as the smaller tributaries of the Upper Rhone 
sometimes do — were a dozen Niles to empty themselves into its 
bed at the same moment, its water would rise to a height and 
rush with an impetus that would sweep into the Mediterranean 
the entire population of its banks, and all the works that 
man has erected upon the plains which border it. But such a 
coincidence can never happen. The tributaries of this river 
run in very different directions, and some of them are swollen 
principally by the melting of the snows about their sources, 
others almost exclusively by heavy rains. "When a damp south- 
east wind blows up the valley of the Ardeche, its moisture is con- 
densed, and precipitated in a deluge upon the mountains which 
embosom the headwaters of that stream, thus producing a flood, 
while a neighboring basin, the axis of which lies transversely 
or obliquely to that of the Ardeche, is not at all affected.* 

* " There is no example of a coincidence between great floods of the 
Ardeche and of the Rhone, all the known inundations of the former having 
taken place when the latter was very low." — Mardigny, Memoire sur les Inun- 
dations des Rivieres de V Ardeche, p. 26. 

The same observation may be applied to the tributaries of the Po, their 
floods being generally successive, not contemporaneous. The swelling of the 
affluents of the Amazon, and indeed of most large rivers, is regulated by a 
similar law. See Messedaglia, Analisi dcW opera di Champion, etc., p. 103. 

The floods of the affluents of the Tiber form an exception to this law, being 
generally coincident, and this is one of the explanations of the frequency of 
destructive inundations in that river. — Lomb.vudini, Guida alio Studio d(W 
Idrohgin, ff. 08 ; same author, Esame dcffli studi sul Trrcre. 

I take this occasion to acknowledge myself indebted to Mardigny's interest- 
ing memoir just quoted for all the statements I make respecting the floods of 
the Ardeche. except the comparison of the volume of its waters with that of 
the Nile. 


It is easy to see that the damage occasioned by such floods as 
I have described must be almost incalculable, and it is by no 
means confined to the effects produced by overflow and the 
mechanical force of the superficial currents. In treating of 
the devastations of torrents, I have hitherto confined myself 
principally to the erosion of surface and the transportation of 
mineral matter to lower grounds by them. The general action 
of torrents, as thus far shown, tends to the ultimate elevation of 
their beds by the deposit of the earth, gravel, and stone conveyed 
by them; but until they have thus raised their outlets so as sen- 
sibly to diminish the inclination of their channels — and some- 
times when extraordinary floods give the torrents momentum 
enough to sweep away the accumulations which they have 
themselves heaped up — the swift flow of their currents, aided 
by the abrasion of the rolling rocks and gravel, scoops their 
beds constantly deeper, and they consequently not only under- 
mine their banks, but frequently sap the most solid foundations 
which the art of man can build for the support of bridges and 
hydraulic structures.* 

In the inundation of 1S57, the Ardeche destroyed a stone 

* In some cases where the bed of rapid Alpine streams is composed of very 
hard rock — as is the case in many of the valleys once filled by ancient glaciers 
— and especially where they are fed by glaciers not overhung by crumbling 
cliffs, the channel may remain almost unchanged for centuries. This is observ- 
able in many of the tributaries of the Dora Baltea, which drains the valley of 
Aosta. Several of these small rivers are spanned by more or less perfect 
Roman bridges — one of which, that over the Lys at Pont St. Martin, is still in 
good repair and in constant use. An examination of the rocks on which the 
abutments of this and some other similar structures are founded, and of the 
channels of the rivers they cross, shows that the beds of the streams cannot 
have been much elevated or depressed since the bridges were built. In other 
cases, as at the outlet of the Val Tournanche at Chatillon, where a single rib 
of a Roman bridge still remains, there is nothing to forbid the supposition 
that the deep excavation of the channel may have been partly effected at a 
much later period. 

The Roman aqueduct known as the Pont du Gard, near Nismes, was built, 
in all probability, nineteen centuries ago. The bed of the river Gardon, a 
rather swift stream, which flows beneath it, can have suffered but a slight 
depression since the piers of the aqueduct were founded. 


bridge near La Beaume, which had been built about eighty years 
before. The resistance of the piers, which were erected on piles, 
the channel at that point being of gravel, produced an eddying 
current that washed away the bed of the river above them, and 
the foundation, thus deprived of lateral support, yielded to the 
weight of the bridge, and the piles and piers fell up-stream. 

By a curious law of compensation, the stream which, at Hood, 
scoops out cavities in its bed, often fills them up again as soon as 
the diminished velocity of the current allows it to let fall the 
sand and gravel with which it is charged, so that when the 
waters return to their usual channel, the bottom shows no sign 
of having been disturbed. In a flood of the Escontay, a tribu- 
tary of the Rhone, in 1S46, piles driven sixteen feet into its 
gravelly bed for the foundation of a pier were torn up and car- 
ried off, and yet, when the river had fallen to low- water mark, the 
bottom at that point appeared to have been raised higher than 
it was before the flood, by new deposits of sand and gravel, 
while the cut stones of the half-built pier were found buried to 
a great depth in the excavation which the water had first washed 
out. The gravel with which rivers thus restore the level of their 
beds is principally derived from the crushing of the rocks brought 
down by the mountain torrents, and the destructive effects of 
inundations are immensely diminished by this reduction of large 
stones to minute fragments. If the blocks hurled down from 
the cliffs were transported unbroken to the channels of large 
rivers, the mechanical force of their movement would be irresist- 
ible. They would overthrow the strongest barriers, spread 
themselves over a surface as wide as the flow of the waters, 
and convert the most smiling valleys into scenes of the wildest 

As I have before remarked, I have taken my illustrations of 
the action of torrents and mountain streams principally from 
French authorities, because the facts recorded by them are 
chiefly of recent occurrence, and as they have been collected 
with much care and described with great fulness of detail, the 
information furnished by them is not only more trustworthy, but 


both more complete and more accessible than that which can 
be gathered from any other source. It is not to be supposed, 
however, that the countries adjacent to France have escaped the 
consequences of a like improvidence. The southern flanks of 
the Alps, and, in a less degree, the northern slope of these 
mountains and the whole chain of the Pyrenees, afford equally 
striking examples of the evils resulting from the wanton sacrifice 
of nature's safeguards. But I can afford space for few details, 
and as an illustration of the extent of these evils in Italy, 1 shall 
barely observe that it was calculated ten years ago that four- 
tenths of the area of the Ligurian provinces had been washed 
away or rendered incapable of cultivation in consequence of the 
felling of the woods.* 

Highly colored as these pictures seem, they are not exagge- 
rated, although the hasty tourist through Southern France, 
Switzerland, the Tyrol, and Northern Italy, finding little in his 
high-road experiences to justify them, might suppose them so. 
The lines of communication by locomotive-train and diligence 
lead generally over safer ground, and it is only when they ascend 
the Alpine passes aud traverse the mountain chains, that scenes 
somewhat resembling those just described fall under the eye of 
the ordinary traveller. But the extension of the sphere of de- 
vastation, by the degradation of the mountains and the trans- 
portation of their debris, is producing analogous effects upon 
the lower ridges of the Alps and the plains which skirt them ; 
and even now one needs but an hour's departure from some 
great thoroughfares to reach sites where the genius of destruc- 
tion revels as wildly as in the most frightful of the abysses 
which Blanqui has painted, f 

* Annali di Agricoltura, Imlustria e Commercio, vol. i. , p. 77. Similar in- 
stances of the erosive power of running water might be collected by hundreds 
from the narratives of travellers in warm countries. The energy of the tor- 
rents of the Himalayas is such that the brothers Schlagintweit believe that 
they will cut gorges through that lofty chain wide enough to admit the pas- 
sage of currents of warm wind from the south, and thereby modify the cli- 
mate of the countries lying to the north of the mountains. 

f The Skalara-Tobel, for instance, near Coire. See the description of this 


There is one effect of tlie action of torrents which few trav- 
ellers on the Continent are heedless enough to pass without 
notice. I refer to the elevation of the beds of mountain streams 
in consequence of the deposit of the debris with which they 
are charged. To prevent the spread of sand and gravel over 

and other like scenes in BERXEPScn, Die Alpen, pp. 1G9 et seqq., or in Stephen's 
English translation. 

About an hour from Thusis, on the Spliigen road, " opens the awful chasm 
of the Nolla which a hundred years ago poured its peaceful waters through 
smiling meadows protected by the wooded slopes of the mountains. But the 
woods were cut down and with them departed the rich pastures, the pride of- 
the valley, now covered with piles of rock and rubbish swept down from eke 
mountains. This result is the more to be lamented as it was entirely com- 
passed by the improvidence of man in thinning the forests." — Morell, Scien- 
tific Guide to Switzerland, p. 100." 

The recent change in the character of the Mella — a river anciently so re- 
markable for the gentleness of its current that it was specially noticed by 
Catullus as flowing moUi flumine— deserves more than a passing remark. This 
river rises in the mountain-chain east of Lake Iseo, and traversing the district 
of Brescia, empties into the Oglio after a course of about seventy miles. The 
iron -works in the upper valley of the Mella had long created a considerable 
demand for wood, but their operations were not so extensive as to occasion 
any very sudden or general destruction of the forests, and the only evil expe- 
rienced from the clearings was the gradual diminution of the volume of the 
river. Within the last thirty years, the superior quality of the arms manu- 
factured at Brescia has greatly enlarged the sale of them, and very naturally 
stimula' ed the activity of both the forges and of the colliers who supply them, 
and the hillsides have been rapidly stripped of their timber. Up to 1850. no 
destructive inundation of the Mella had been recorded. Buildings in great 
numbers had been erected upon its margin, and its valley was conspicuous for 
its rural beauty and its feitility. But when the denudation of the mountains 
had reached a certain point, avenging nature began the work of retribution. 
In the spring and summer of 1850 several new torrents were suddenly formed 
in the upper tributary valleys, and on the 14th and 15th of August in that 
year a fall of rain, not heavier than had been often experienced, produced a 
flood which not only inundated much ground never before overflowed, but 
destroyed a great number of bridges, dams, factories, and other valuable 
structures, and, what was a far more serious evil, swept oil from the rocks an 
incredible extent of soil, and converted one of the most beautiful vail.; 
the Italian Alps into a ravine almost as bare and as barren as the savagest 
gorge of Southern France. The pecuniary damage was estimated at many 
millions of francs, and the violence of the catastrophe was deemed so extraor- 


the fields and the deluging overflow of the raging waters, the 
streams are confined by walls and embankments, which are 
gradually built higher and higher as the bed of the torrent is 
raised, so that, to reach a river, you ascend from the fields be- 
side it; and sometimes the ordinary level of the stream is 
above the streets and even the roofs of the towns through 
which it passes.* 

The traveller who visits the depths of an Alpine ravine, 
observes the length and width of the gorge and the great 
height and apparent solidity of the precipitous walls which 
bound it, and calculates the mass of rock required to fill the 
vacancy, can hardly believe that the humble brooklet which 
purls at his feet has been the principal agent in accomplishing 
this tremendous erosion. Closer observation will often teach 
him, that the seemingly unbroken rock which overhangs the 
valley is full of cracks and fissures, and really in such a state 

dinary, even in a country subject to similar visitations, that the sympathy 
excited for the sufferers produced, in five months, voluntary contributions for 
their relief to the amount of nearly $200,000. — Belle Inondazioni del Mella, 
etc., nella notte del 14 al 15 Agosto, 1850. 

The author of this pamphlet has chosen as a motto a passage from the Vvd- 
gate translation of Job, which is interesting as showing accurate observation 
of the action of the torrent : ' ' Mons cadens definit, et saxum transf ertur de 
loco suo ; lapides excavant aquae et alluvione paullatim terra consumitur." — 
Job xiv. 18, 19. 

The English version is much less striking, and gives a different sense. 

The recent date of the change in the character of the Mella is contested, 
and it is possible that, though the extent of the revolution is not exaggerated, 
the rapidity with which it has taken place may have been. 

* Streffleur quotes from Duile the following observations: " The channel 
of the Tyr wlese brooks is often raised much above the valleys through which 
they flow. The bed of the Fersina is elevated high above the city of Trent, 
which lies near it. The Villerbach flows at a much more elevated level than 
that of the market-place of Neumarkt and Vill, and threatens to overwhelm 
both of them with its waters. The Talfer at Botzen is at least even with the 
roofs of the adjacent town, if not above them. The tower-steeples of the 
villages of Schlanders, Kortsch, and Laas. are lower than the surface of the 
Gadribaeh. The Saldurbach at Schluderns menaces the far lower village with 
i action, and the chief town, Schwaz, is in similar danger from the Lahn- 
bach." — Stkeffleur, Ueber die WJdbachc, etc., p. 7. 

266 action or toeeents. 

of disintegration that every frost must bring down tons of it. 
If he compute the area of the basin which finds here its only 
discharge, he will perceive that a sudden thaw of the winter's 
deposit of snow, or one of those terrible discharges of rain so 
common in the Alps, must send forth a deluge mighty enough 
to sweep down the largest masses of gravel and of rock. The 
simple measurement of the cubical contents of the semicircular 
hillock which he climbed before he entered the gorge, the 
structure and composition of which conclusively show that it 
must have been washed out of this latter by torrential action, 
will often account satisfactorily for the disposal of most of the 
matter which once filled the ravine. 

"When a torrent escapes from the lateral confinement of its 
mountain walls and pours out of the gorge, it spreads and 
divides itself into numerous smaller streams which shoot out 
from the mouth of the ravine as from a centre, in different 
directions, like the ribs of a fan from the pivot, each carrying 
with it its quota of stones and gravel. The plain below the 
point of issue from the mountain is rapidly raised by newly- 
formed torrents, the elevation depending on the inclination of 
the bed and the form and weight of the matter transported. 
Every flood both increases the height of this central point and 
extends the entire circumference of the deposit. 

Other things being equal, the transporting power of the 
water is greatest where its flow is most rapid. This is usually 
in the direction of the axis of the ravine. The stream retain- 
ing most nearly this direction moves with the greatest momen- 
tum, and consequently transports the solid matter with which 
it is charged to the greatest distance. 

The untravelled reader will comprehend this the better when 
he is informed that the southern slope of the Alps generally 
rises suddenly out of the plain, with no intervening hill to 
break the abruptness of the transition, except those consisting of 
comparatively small heaps of its own debris brought down by 
ancient glaciers or recent torrents. The torrents do not wind 
down valleys gradually widening to the rivers or the sea, but 


leap at once from the flanks of the mountains upon the plains 
below. This arrangement of surfaces naturally facilitates the 
formation of vast deposits at their points of emergence, and the 
centre of the accumulation in the case of very small torrents is 
not unfrequently a hundred feet high, and sometimes very 
much more. 

The deposits of the torrent which has scooped out the Nant- 
zen Thai, a couple of miles below Brieg in the Yalais, have 
built up a semicircular hillock, which most travellers by the 
Simplon route pass over without even noticing it, though it is 
little inferior in dimensions to the great cones of dejection 
described by Blanqui. The principal course of the torrent hav- 
ing been — I know not whether spontaneously or artificially — 
diverted towards the west, the eastern part of the hill has been 
gradually brought under cultivation, and there are many trees, 
fields, and houses upon it ; but the larger western part is furrow- 
ed with channels diverging from the summit of the deposit at 
the outlet of the Nantzen Thai, which serve as the beds of the 
water-courses into which the torrent has divided itself. All 
this portion of the hillock is subject to inundation after long 
and heavy rain, and as I saw it in the great flood of October, 
1SG6, almost its whole surface seemed covered with an unbroken 
sheet of rushing water. 

The semi-conical deposit of detritus at the mouth of the 
Litznerthal, a lateral branch of the valley of the Adige, at the 
point where the torrent pours out of the gorge, is a thousand 
feet high and, measuring along the axis of the principal current, 
two and a half miles long.* The solid material of this hillock — 
which it is hardly an exaggeration to call a mountain, the work 
of a single insignificant torrent and its tributaries — including 
what the river which washes its base has carried off in a com- 
paratively few years, probably surpasses the mass of the stu- 
pendous pyramid of the Matterhorn. 

In valleys of ancient geological formation, which extend 

♦Sonklar, Die OeUthaler OeMrgsgruppe, 1861, p. 231. 


into tho very heart of the mountains, the streams, though 
rapid, have often lost the true torrential character, if, indeed, 
they ever possessed it. Their beds have become approximate- 
ly constant, and their walls no longer crumble and fall into the 
waters that wash their bases. The torrent-worn ravines, of 
which I have spoken, are of later date, and belong more prop- 
erly to what may be called the crust of the Alps, consisting of 
loose rocks, of gravel, and of earth, strewed along the surface 
of the great declivities of the central ridge, and accumulated 
thickly between their solid buttresses. But it is on this crust 
that the mountaineer dwells. Iiere are his forests, here his 
pastures, and the ravages of the torrent both destroy his world, 
and convert it into a source of overwhelming desolation to the 
plains below. 

I do not mean to assert that all the rocky valleys of the Alp's 
have been produced by the action of torrents resulting from 
the destruction of the forests. The greater, and many of the 
smaller channels, by which that chain is drained, owe their 
origin to higher causes. They are primitive fissures, ascribable 
to disruption in upheaval or other geological convulsion, 
widened and scarped, and often even polished, so to speak, by 
the action of glaciers during the ice period, and but little 
changed in form by running water in later eras. 

It has been contended that all rivers which take their rise in 
mountains originated in torrents. These, it is said, have 
lowered the summits by gradual erosion, and, with the material 
thus derived, have formed shoals in the sea which once beat 
against the cliffs ; then, by successive deposits, gradually raised 
them above the surface, and finally expanded them into broad 
plains traversed by gently flowing streams. If we could go 
back to earlier geological periods, we should find this theory 
often verified, and we cannot fail to see that the torrents go on 
at the present hour, depressing still lower the ridges of the 
Alps and the Apennines, raising still higher the plains of Lom- 
bard}' and Provence, extending the coast still farther into the 
Adriatic and the Mediterranean, reducing the inclination of 


their own beds and the rapidity of their now, and thus tending 
to become river-like in character. 

"We cannot measure the share which human action has had 
in augmenting the intensity of causes of mountain degradation, 
and of the formation of plains and marshes below, but we know 
that the clearing of the woods has, in some cases, produced, 
within two or three generations, effects as blasting as those 
generally ascribed to geological convulsions, and has laid waste 
the face of the earth more hopelessly than if it had been buried 
by a current of lava or a shower of volcanic sand. ISlew tor- 
rents are forming every year in the Alps. Tradition, written 
records, and analogy concur to establish the belief that the 
ruin of most of the now desolate valleys in those mountains 
is to be ascribed to the same cause, and authentic descrip- 
tions of the irresistible force of the torrent show that, aided by 
frost and heat, it is adequate to level Mont Blanc and Monte 
Rosa themselves, unless new upheavals shall maintain their 

There are cases where torrents cease their ravages of them- 
selves, in consequence of some change in the condition of the 
basin where they originate, or of the face of the mountain at a 
higher level, while the plain or the sea below remains in sub- 
stantially the same state as before. If a torrent rises in a small 
valley containing no great amount of earth and of disintegrated 
or loose rock, it may, in the course of a certain period, wash 
out all the transportable material, and if the valley is then left 
with solid walls, it will cease to furnish debris to be carried 
down by floods. If, in this state of things, a new channel be 
formed at an elevation above the head of the valley, it may 
divert a part or even the whole of the rain-water and melted 
snow which would otherwise have flowed into it, and the once 
furious torrent now sinks to the rank of a humble and harmless 
brooklet. " In traversing this department," says Surell, " one 
often sees, at the outlet of a gorge, a flattened hillock, with a 
fan-shaped outline and regular slopes ; it is the bed of dejec- 
tion of an ancient torrent. It sometimes requires long and 


careful study to detect the primitive form, masked as it is by 
groves of trees, by cultivated fields, and often by houses, but, 
when examined closely, and from different points of view, its 
characteristic figure manifestly appears, and its true history 
cannot be mistaken. Along the hillock flows a streamlet, issu- 
ing from the ravine, and quietly watering the fields. This was 
originally a torrent, and in the background may be discovered 
its mountain basin. Such extinguished torrents, if I may use 
the expression, are numerous." * 

But for the intervention of man and domestic animals, these 
latter beneficent revolutions would occur more frequently, pro- 
ceed more rapidly. The new scarped mountains, the hillocks 
of debris, the plains elevated by sand and gravel spread over 
them, the shores freshly formed by fluviatile deposits, would 
clothe themselves with shrubs and trees, the intensity of the 
causes of degradation would be diminished, and nature would 
thus regain her ancient equilibrium. But these processes, 
under ordinary circumstances, demand, not years, generations, 
but centuries ; f and man, who even now finds scarce breathing- 
room on this vast globe, cannot retire from the Old World to 
some yet undiscovered continent, and wait for the slow action 

* Surell, Les Torrents des Haute* Alpes, chap. xxiv. In suck cases, the 
clearing of the ground, which, in consequence of a temporary diversion of the 
waters, or from some other cause, has become rewooded, sometimes renews 
the ravages of the torrent. Thus, on the left bank of the Durance, a wooded 
declivity had been formed by the debris brought down by torrents, which had 
extinguished themselves after having swept off much of the superficial strata 
of the mountain of Morgon. ' ' All this district was covered with woods, which 
have now been thinned out and are perishing from day to day ; consequently, 
the torrents have recommenced their devastations, and if the clearings con- 
tinue, this declivity, now fertile, will be ruined, like so many others." — Ibid., 
p. 155. 

\ Where a torrent has not been long in operation, and earth still remains 
mixed with the rocks and gravel it heaps up at its point of en nota- 

tion soon starts up and prospers, if protected from encroachment. In Pro- 
vence, " several communes determined, about ten years ago, to reserve the 
soils thus wasted, that is, to abandon them for a certain time, to spontaneous 
vegetation, which was not slow in making its appearance." — BecQTJBREL, 
Des Climate, p. 315. 


of snch causes to replace, by a new creation, the Eden he has 

Crushing Force of Torrents. 

I must here notice a mechanical effect of the rapid flow of 
the torrent, which is of much importance in relation to the des- 
olating action it exercises by covering large tracts of cultivated 
ground with infertile material. The torrent, as we have seen, 
shoots or rolls forwards, with great velocity, masses and frag- 
ments of rock, and sometimes rounded pebbles from more an- 
cient formations. Every inch of this violent movement is 
accompanied with crushing concussion, or, at least, with great 
abrasion of the mineral material, and, as you follow it along 
the course of the waters which transport it, you find the stones 
gradually rounding off in form, and diminishing in size, until 
they pass successively into gravel, and, in the beds of the rivers 
to which the torrents convey it, sand, and lastly impalpable 

There are few operations of nature where the effect seems 
more disproportioned to the cause than in this crushing and 
comminution of rock in the channel of swift waters. Igneous 
rocks are generally so hard as to be wrought with great diffi- 
culty, and they bear the weight of enormous superstructures 
without yielding to the pressure ; but to the torrent they are 
as wheat to the millstone. The streams which pour down the 
southern scarp of the Mediterranean Alps along the Riviera di 
Ponente, near Genoa, have short courses, and a brisk walk of a 
couple of hours or even less takes you from the sea-beach to 
the headspring of many of them. In their heaviest floods, they 
bring rounded masses of serpentine quite down to the sea, but 
at ordinary high water their lower course is charged only with 
finely divided particles of that rock. Hence, while, near their 
sources, their channels are filled with pebbles and angular frag- 
ments, intermixed with a little gravel, the proportions are re- 
versed near their mouths, and, just above the points where 
their outlets are partially choked by the rolling shingle of the 


beach, their beds are composed of sand and gravel to the 
almost total exclusion of pebbles. 

Gugliehuini argued that the gravel and sand of the beds of 
running streams were derived from the trituration of rocks by 
the action of the currents, and inferred that this action was 
generally sufficient to reduce hard rock to sand in its passage 
from the source to the outlet of rivers. Frisi controverted this 
opinion, and maintained that river-sand was of more ancient 
origin, and he inferred from experiments in artificially grinding 
stones that the concussion, friction, and attrition of rock in 
the channel of running waters were inadequate to its com- 
minution, though he admitted that these same causes might re- 
duce silicions sand to a fine powder capable of transportation 
to the sea by the currents.* Frisi's experiments were tried 
upon rounded and polished river-pebbles, and prove nothing 
with regard to the action of torrents upon the irregular, more 
or less weathered, and often cracked and shattered rocks which 
lie loose in the ground at the head of mountain valleys. The 
fury of the waters and of the wind which accompanies them 
in the floods of the French Alpine torrents is such, that large 
blocks of stone are hurled out of the bed of the stream to the 
height of twelve or thirteen feet.f The impulse of masses 
driven with such force overthrows the most solid masonry, and 
their concussion cannot fail to be attended with the crushing 
of the rocks themselves. 

The greatest depth of the basin of the Ardeche is seventy- 
five miles, but most of its tributaries have a much shorter 
course. "These affluents," says Mardigny, " hurl into the bed 
of the Ardeche enormous blocks of rock, which this river, in its 

* Fiust, Del modo di regolare i Fiumi e i Torrentl, pp. 4-19. See in Lom- 
bvrdini, Sulle Inondazioni in Francia, p. 87, notices of the action of cur- 
rents transporting only fine material in wearing clown hard rock. In the 
sluices for gold-washing in California having a grade of 1 to 14^, and paved 
with the hardest stones, the wear of the bottom is at the rate of two inches 
in three months. — RAYMOND, Mini "•'' Statistics, 1870, p. 480. 

\ SuREiiii, tltudesurles Torrents, pp. ;ll— 36. 


turn, bears onwards, and grinds down, at high water, so that its 
current rolls only gravel at its confluence with the Rhone." * 

Duponchel makes the following remarkable statement: "The 
river Herault rises in a granitic region, but soon reaches calca- 
reous formations, which it traverses for more than sixty kilome- 
tres, rolling through deep and precipitous ravines, into which the 
torrents are constantly discharging enormous masses of pebbles 
belonging to the hardest rocks of the Jurassian period. These 
debris, continually renewed, compose, even below the exit of 
the gorge where the river enters into a regular channel cut in a 
tertiary deposit, broad beaches, prodigious accumulations of 
rolled pebbles, extending several kilometres down the stream, 
but they dimmish in size and weight so rapidly that above the 
mouth of the river, which is at a distance of thirty or thirty-five 
kilometres from the gorge, every trace of calcareous matter has 
disappeared from the sands of the bottom, which are exclusive- 
ly silicious." f 

Similar effects of the rapid flow of water and the concussion 
of stones against each other in river-beds may be observed in 
almost every Alpine gorge which serves as the channel of a 
swift stream. The tremendous cleft through which the well- 
known Yia Mala is carried receives, every year, from its own 
crumbling walls and from the Hinter E-hein and its mild tribu- 
taries, enormous quantities of rock, in blocks and boulders. In 
fact, the masses hurled into it in a single flood like those of 
1S6S would probably fill it up, at its narrow points, to the 

* At Rinkenberg, on the right bank of the Vorder Rhein, in the flood of 
1863, a block of stone computed to weigh nearly 9,000 cwt. was carried bodily 
forwards, not rolled, by a torrent, a distance of three-quarters of a mile. — 
Coaz, die Hochwasser im 1868, p. 54. 

Memoir e sur les Inondations des Rivieres de VArdeclie, p. 16. "The terrific 
roar, the thunder of the raging torrents proceeds principally from the stones 
which are rolled along in the bed of the stream. This movement is attended 
with such powerful attrition that, in the Southern Alps, the atmosphere of 
valleys where the limestone contains bitumen, has, at the time of floods, the 
marked bituminous smell produced by rubbing pieces of such limestone to- 
gether." — Wessely, Die Oesterreichisclien Alpenldiider, i., p. 113. 

f Atant-projet pour la creation iV un sol fertile, p. 20. 


level of the road 400 feet above its bottom, were not the stones 
crushed and carried off by the force of the current. Yet below 
the outlet at Tliusis only small rounded boulders, pebbles, and 
gravel, not rock, are found in the bed of the river. The Swiss 
glaciers bring down thousands of cubic yards of hard ruck 
every season. Where the glacier ends in a plain or wide valley, 
the rocks are accumulated in a terminal moraine, but in numer- 
ous instances the water which pours from the ice-river has force 
enough to carry down to larger streams the masses delivered by 
the glacier, and there they, with other stones washed out from 
the earth by the current, are ground down, so that few of the 
affluents of the Swiss lakes deliver into them anything but fine 
sand and slime. 

Great rivers carry no boulders to the sea, and, in fact, receive 
none from their tributaries. Lombardini found, twenty years 
ago, that the mineral matter brought down to the Po by its 
tributaries was, in general, comminuted to about the same degree 
of fineness as the sands of its bed at their points of discharge. 
In the case of the Trebbia, which rises high in the Apennines 
and empties into the Po at Piacenza, it was otherwise, that 
river rolling pebbles and coarse gravel into the channel of the 
principal stream. The banks of the other affluents — excepting 
some of those which discharge their waters into the great lakes — 
then either retained their woods, or had been so long clear of 
them that the torrents had removed most of the disintegrated 
and loose rock in their upper basins. The valley of the Trebbia 
had been recentby cleared, and all the forces which tend to the 
degradation and transportation of rock were in full activity.* 

Transporting Poioer of Water. 
But the geographical effects of the action of torrents are not 

* Since the date of Lorabardini's observations, many Alpine valleys have been 
stripped of their woods. It would be interesting to know whether any sensi- 
ble change has been produced in the character or quantity of the matter trans- 
ported by the rivers to the Po. — Notice svr I « Rivieres <le la Lombardie, . 1 ■/- 
iiaks des Pants et Chaussees, 1847, ler semestre, p. 131. 


confined to erosion of earth and comminution of rock ; for 
they and the rivers to which they contribute transport the de- 
bris of the mountains to lower levels and spread them out over 
the dry land and the bed of the sea, thus forming alluvial de- 
posits, sometimes of a beneficial, sometimes of an injurious, 
character, and of vast extent.* 

A mountain rivulet swollen by rain or melted snow, when it 
escapes from its usual channel and floods the adjacent fields, 
naturally deposits pebbles and gravel upon them ; but even at 
low water, if its course is long enough for its grinding action 
to have full scope, it transports the solid material with which it 
is charged to some larger stream, and there lets it fall in a state 
of minute division, and at last the spoil of the mountain is used 
to raise the level of the plains or carried down to the sea. 

An instance that fell under my own observation, in 1S57, will 
serve to show something of the eroding and transporting power 
of streams which, in these respects, fall incalculably below the 
torrents of the Alps. In a flood of the Ottaquechee, a small 
river which flows through Woodstock, Vermont, a mill-dam on 
that stream burst, and the sediment with which the pond was 
filled, estimated after careful measurement at 13,000 cubic 
yards, was carried down by the current. Between this dam 
and the slackwater of another, four miles below, the bed of the 
stream, which is composed of pebbles interspersed in a few 
places with larger stones, is about sixty-five feet wide, though, 
at low water, the breadth of the current is considerably less. 
The sand and fine gravel were smoothly and evenly distributed 
over the bed to a width of fifty-five or sixty feet, and, for a dis- 
tance of about two miles, except at two or three intervening 
rapids, filled up all the interstices between the stones, covering 
them to the depth of nine or ten inches, so as to present a regu- 

* Lorentz, in an official report quoted by Marchand, says : " The felling of 
the woods produces torrents which cover the cultivated soil with pebbles and 
fragments of rock, and they do not confine their ravages to the vicinity of the 
mountains, but extend them into the fertile fields of Frovence and other de- 
partments, to the distance of forty or fifty leagues." — Entwaldung der Gebirge, 
p. 17. 


larly formed concave channel, lined with sand, and reducing 
the depth of water, in some places, from five or six feet to 
fifteen or eighteen inches. Observing this deposit after the 
river had subsided and become so clear that the bottom could 
be seen, I supposed that the next flood would produce an ex- 
traordinary erosion of ihe banks and some Dermanent changes 
in the channel of the stream, in consequence of the elevation 
of the bed and the filling up of the spaces between the stones 
through which formerly much water had flowed ; but no such 
result followed. The spring freshet of the next year entirely 
washed out the sand its predecessor had left, deposited some of 
it in ponds and still- water reaches below, carried the residue be- 
yond the reach of observation, and left the bed of the river 
almost precisely in its former condition, though, of course, with 
the displacement of the pebbles which every flood produces in 
the channels of such streams. The pond, though often pre- 
viously discharged by the breakage of the dam, had then been 
undisturbed for about twenty-five years, and its contents 
consisted almost entirely of sand, the rapidity of the cur- 
rent in floods being such that it would let fall little lighter 
sediment, even above an obstruction like a dam. The quantity 
I have mentioned evidently bears a very inconsiderable propor- 
tion to the total erosion of the stream during that period, be- 
cause the wash of the banks consists chiefly of fine earth rather 
than of sand, and after the pond was once filled, or nearly so, 
even this material could no longer be deposited in it. The fact 
of the complete removal of the deposit I have described be- 
tween the two dams in a single freshet, shows that, in spite of 
considerable obstruction from roughness of bed, large quantities 
of sand may be taken up and carried off by streams of no great 
rapidity of inclination ; for the whole descent of the bed of the 
river between the two dams — a distance of four miles — is but 
sixty feet, or fifteen feet to the mile.* 

* In a sheet-iron siphon, 1,000 feet long - , with a diameter of four inches, 
having the entrance 18 feet, the orifice of discharge 40 feet below the summit 
of the curve, employed in draining- a mine in California, the force of the current 


The facts which I have adduced may aid us in forming an 
idea of the origin and mode of transportation of the prodigious 
deposits at the mouth of great rivers like the Mississippi, the 
Nile, the Ganges, and the Hoang-Ho,the delta of which last river, 
composed entirely of river sediment, has a superficial extent of 
not less than 96,500 square miles. But we shall obtain a clearer 
conception of the character of this important geographical pro- 
cess by measuring, more in detail, the mass of earth and rock 
which a well-known river and its tributaries have washed from 
the mountains and transported to the plains or the sea, within 
the historic period. 

The Po and its Deposits. 

The current of the Paver Po, for a considerable distance after 
its volume of water is otherwise sufficient for continuous navi- 
gation, is too rapid for that purpose until near Cremona, where 
its velocity becomes too much reduced to transport great quan- 
tities of mineral matter, except in a state of minute division. 
Its southern affluents bring down from the Apennines a large 
quantity of fine earth from various geological formations, while 
its Alpine tributaries west of the Ticino are charged chiefly 
with rock ground down to sand or gravel. The bed of the river 
has been somewhat elevated by the deposits in its channel, 
though not by any means above the level of the adjacent plains 
as has been so often represented. The dikes, which confine the 
current at high water, at the same time augment its velocity 
and compel it to carry most of its sediment to the Adriatic. It 
has, therefore, raised neither its own channel nor its alluvial 
shores, as it would have done if it had remained unconfined. 
But, as the surface of the water in floods is above the general 
level of the plains through which it flows, the Po can, at that 
period, receive no contributions of earth from the washing of 

was such as to carry through the tube great quantities of sand and coarse 
gravel, some of the grains of which were as large as an English walnut. — Ray- 
mond, Mining Statistics, 1870, p. 602. 


the fields of Lombardy, and there is no doubt that a large pro- 
portion of the sediment it now deposits at its mouth descended 
from the Alps in the form of rock, though reduced by the 
grinding action of the waters, in its passage seaward, to the 
condition of fine sand, and often of silt. 

We know little of the history of the Po, or of the geography 
of the coast near the point where it enters the Adriatic, at any 
period more than twenty centuries before our own. Still less 
can we say how much of the plains of Lombardy had been 
formed by its action, combined with other causes, before man 
accelerated its levelling operations by felling the first woods on 
the mountains whence its waters are derived. But we know 
that since the Roman conquest of Northern Italy, its deposits 
have amounted to a quantity which, if recemented into rock, 
recombined into gravel, common earth, and vegetable mould, 
and restored to the situations where eruption or upheaval origi- 
nally placed or vegetation deposited it, would fill up hundreds 
of deep ravines in the Alps and Apennines, change the plan 
and profile of their chains, and give their southern and north- 
ern faces respectively a geographical aspect very different from 
that they now present. Ravenna, forty miles south of the prin- 
cipal mouth of the Po, was built like Venice, in a lagoon, and 
the Adriatic still washed its walls at the commencement of the 
Christian era. The mud of the Po has filled up the lagoon, 
and Ravenna is now four miles from the sea. The town of 
Adria, which lies between the Po and the Adige, at the dis- 
tance of some four or five miles from each, was once a harbor 
famous enough to have given its name to the Adriatic Sea,, and 
it was still accessible to large vessels, if not by the open sea at 
least by lagoons, in the time of Augustus. The combined ac- 
tion of the two rivers has so advanced the coast-line that Adria 
is now more than fourteen miles inland, and, in other places, 
the deposits made within the same period by these and other 
neighboring streams have a width of twenty miles. 

What proportion of the earth with which they are charged 
these rivers have borne out into deep* water, during the last two 


thousand years, we do not know, but as they still transport 
enormous quantities, as the North Adriatic appears to have 
shoaled rapidly, and as long islands, composed in great part of 
nuviatile deposits, have formed opposite their mouths, it must 
evidently have been very great. The floods of the Po occur 
but once, or sometimes twice, in a year.* At other times, its 
waters are comparatively limpid and seem to hold no great 
amount of mud or line sand in mechanical suspension ; but at 
high water it contains a large proportion of solid matter, and, 
according to Lombardini, it annually transports to the shores 
of the Adriatic not less than 42,760,000 cubic metres, or very 
nearly 55,000,000 cubic yards, which carries the coast-line out 

* In the earlier mediaeval centuries, when the declivities of the mountains 
still retained a much larger proportion of their woods, the moderate annual 
floods of the Po were occasioned by the melting- of the snows on the lower 
slopes, and, according to a passage of Tasso quoted by Castellani (DdV In- 
fluenza ddle Selce, i., p. 58, note), they took place in May. The usually more 
violent inundations of later ages are due to rains, the waters of which are no 
longer retained by a forest-soil, but conveyed at once to the rivers — and they 
occur almost uniformly in the autumn or late summer. Castellani, on the 
page just quoted, says that even so late as about 1780, the Po required a heavy 
rain of a week to overflow its banks, but that forty years later it was some- 
times raised to full flood in a single day. 

Pliny says : " The Po, which is inferior to no river in swiftness of current, 
is in flood about the rising of the dog-star, the snow then melting, and though 
so rapid in flow, it washes nothing from the soil, but leaves it increased in fer- 
tility." — Natural History, Book iii., 20. 

The first terrible inundation of the Po in 1872 took place in May, and ap- 
pears to have been occasioned by heavy rains on the southern flank of the 
Alps, and to have received little accession from suow. The snow on the higher 
Alps does not usually thaw so as to occasion floods before August, and often 
considerably later. The more destructive flood of October, 1872, was caused 
both by thaws in the high mountains and by an extraordinary fall of rain. 
See River Embankments ; post. 

Pliny's remark as to enrichment of the soil by the floods appears to be veri- 
fied in the case of that of October, 1872, for it is found that the water has 
left very extensively a thick deposit of slime on the fields. 

See a list of the historically known great inundations of the Po by the 
engineer Zuccholli in Torelli, Progetto di Legge per la Vcndita di Beni 
ineolti. Eoma, 1872. 


into the sea at the rate of more than 200 feet in a year.* The 
depth of the annual deposit is stated at eighteen centimetres, or 
rather more than seven inches, and it would cover an area of 
not much less than ninety square miles with a layer of that 
thickness. The Adige, also, brings every year to the Adriatic 
many million cubic yards of Alpine detritus, and the contribu- 
tions of the Brenta from the same source are far from incon- 
siderable. The Adriatic, however, receives but a small propor- 
tion of the soil and rock washed away from the Italian slope of 
the Alps and the northern declivity of the Apennines by tor- 
rents. Nearly the whole of the debris thus removed from the 
southern face of the Alps between Monte Rosa and the sources 
of the Adda — a length of watershed f not less than one hun- 
dred and fifty miles — is arrested by the still waters of the Lakes 

* This change of coast-line cannot be ascribed to upheaval, for a compari- 
son of the level of old buildings — as, for instance, the church of San Vitale and 
the tomb of Thcodoric at Ravenna — with that of the sea, tends to prove a de- 
pression rather than an elevation of their foundations. 

A computation by a different method makes the deposits at the mouth of 
the Po 2,123,000 metres less ; but as both of them omit the gravel and silt 
carried down at ordinary and low water, we are safe in assuming the larger 

f Sir John F. W. Herschel {Physical Geography, 137, and elsewhere) spells this 
word tcater-sched, because he considers it a translation, or rather an adoption, 
of the German " Wasser-scheide, separation of the waters, not watershed the 
slope down which the waters run." As a point of historical etymology, it is 
probable that the word in question was suggested to those who first used it by 
the German Wa-sserscheide ; but the spelling watcrsched, proposed by Her- 
schel, is objectionable, both because sch is a combination of letters wholly un- 
known to modern English orthography and properly representing no sound re- 
cognized in English orthoepy, and for the still better reason that water-ski d, 
in the sense of dicision-of-thc-waters, has a legitimate English etymology. 

The Anglo-Saxon sceadan meant both to separate or divide, and to shade or 
shelter. It is the root of the English verbs to shed and to shade, and in the 
former meaning is the A. S. equivalent of the German verb scheiden. 

Shed in Old English had the meaning to separate or distinguish. It is so 
used in the Owl and the Nightingale, v. 197. Palsgrave (Lesclarcissement, etc., 
p. 717) defines I shede, I departe thinges asonder; and the word still means 
to divide in several English local dialects. Hence, watershed, the division or 
separation of the waters, is good English both in etymology and in spelling. 


Maggiore and Como, and some smaller lacustrine reservoirs, and 
never reaches the sea. The Po is not continuously embanked 
except for the lower half of its course. Above Cremona, there- 
fore, it spreads and deposits sediment over a wide surface, and 
the water withdrawn from it for irrigation at lower points, as 
well as its inundations in the occasional ruptures of its banks, 
carry over the adjacent soil a large amount of slime. * 

If to the estimated annual deposits of the Po at its mouth, 
we add the earth and sand transported to the sea by the Adige, 
the Brenta, and other less important streams, the prodigious 
mass of detritus swept into Lago Maggiore by the Tosa, the 
Maggia, and the Ticino, into the lake of Como by the Maira 
and the Adda, into the lakes of Garda, Lugano, Iseo, and Idro, 
by their affiuents,t and the yet vaster heaps of pebbles, gravel, 
and earth permanently deposited by the torrents near their 
points of eruption from mountain gorges, or spread over the 
wide plains at lower levels, we may safely assume that we have 
an aggregate of not less than ten times the quantity carried to 
the Adriatic by the Po, or 550,000,000 cubic yards of solid 
matter, abstracted every year from the Italian Alps and the 
Apennines, and removed out of their domain by the force of 
running water. ^ 

* The quantity of sediment deposited by the Po on the plains which border 
it, before the construction of the continuous dikes and in the floods which oc- 
casionally burst through them, is vast, and the consequent elevation of those 
plains is very considerable. I do not know that this latter point has been 
made a subject of special investigation, but vineyards, with the vines still at- 
tached to the elms which supported them, have been found two or three yards 
below the present surface at various points on the j>lams of Lombardy. 

f The Po receives about four-tenths of its waters from these lakes. See 
Lomcaf.dixi, Dei cangiamenti nella condizione del Po, p. 29. All the sedi- 
ment carried into the lakes by their tributaries is deposited in them, and the 
water which flows out of them is perfectly limpid. From their proximity to 
the Alps and the number of torrents which empty into them, they no doubt 
receive vastly more transported matter than is contributed to the Po by the 
six-tenths of its waters received from other sources. 

% Mengotti estimated the mass of solid matter annually "united to the wa- 
ters of the Po " at 822,000,000 cubic metres, or nearly twenty times as much 


The present rate of deposit at the mouth of the Po has con- 
tinue'! since the year 1(3<)0, the previous advance of the coast, 
after the year 1200, having been only one-third as rapid. The 
great increase of erosion and transport is ascribed by Lombar- 
dini chiefly to the destruction of the forests in the basin of that 
river and the valleys of its tributaries, since the beginning of 
the seventeenth century."" We have no data to show the rate 
of deposit in any given century before the year 1200, and it 
doubtless varied according to the progress of population and 
the consequent extension of clearing and cultivation. The 
transporting power of torrents is greatest soon after their for- 
mation, because at that time their points of delivery are lower, 
and, of course, their general slope and velocity more rapid, 
than after years of erosion above, and deposit below, have 
depressed the beds of their mountain valleys, and elevated the 
channels of their lower course. Their eroding action also is 
most powerful at the same period, both because their mechan- 
ical force is then greatest, and because the loose earth and 
stones of freshly cleared forest-ground are most easily removed. 
• Many of the Alpine valleys west of the Ticino — that of the 
Dora Baltea, for instance — were nearly stripped of their forests 
in the days of the Roman Empire, others in the Middle Ages, 
and, of course, there must have been, at different periods before 
the year 1200, epochs when the erosion and transportation of 
solid matter from the Alps and the Apennines were at least as 
great as since the year 1600. 

Upon the whole, we shall not greatly err if we assume that, 
for a period of not less than two thousand years, the walls of 
the basin of the Po — the Italian slope of the Alps, and the 

as, according to Lombardini, that river delivers into the Adriatic. Castellani 
supposes the computation of Mengotti to fall much below the truth, and there 
can be no doubt that a vastly larger quantity of earth and gravel is washed 
down from the Alps and the Apennines than is carried to the sea. — CASTEL- 
LANI, DeW Immcdiata Influenza delle Selccsul corso delle Acque, i., pp. 42, 43. 

I have contented myself with assuming less than one-half of Mengotti's esti- 

* Baumgauten, An. des Fonts et Chaussees, 1847, ler semestre, p. 175. 


northern and north-eastern declivities of the Apennines — have 
annually sent down into the lakes, the plains, and the Adriatic, 
not less than 375,000,000 cubic yards of earth and disintegrated 
rock. We have, then, an aggregate of 750,000,000,000 cubic 
yards of such material, which, allowing to the mountain surface 
in question an area of 50,000,000,000 square yards, would 
cover the whole to the depth of fifteen yards.* There are very 
large portions of this area, where, as we know from ancient 
remains — roads, bridges, and the like — from other direct testi- 
mony, and from geological considerations, very little degrada- 
tion has taken place within twenty centuries, and hence the 
quantity to be assigned to localities where the destructive causes 
have been most active is increased in proportion. 

If this vast mass of pulverized rock and earth were restored 
to the localities from which it was derived, it certainly would 
not obliterate valleys and gorges hollowed out by great geo- 
logical causes, but it would reduce the length and diminish the 
depth of ravines of later formation, modify the inclination of 
their walls, reclothe with earth many bare mountain ridges, 
essentially change the line of junction between plain and 
mountain, and carry back a long reach of the Adriatic coast 
many miles to the west.f 

It is, indeed, not to be supposed that all the degradation of 

* The total superficies of the basin of the Po, down to Ponte Lagoscuro 
[Ferrara] — a point where it has received all its affluents — is 6,938,200 hec- 
tares, that is, 4,105,600 in mountain lands, 2,832,600 in plain lands. — 
Dumont, Travaux Publics, etc., p. 272. 

These latter two quantities are equal respectively to 10,145,348, and 
6,999,038 acres, or 15,852 and 10,937 square miles. 

f I do not use these quantities as factors the value of which is precisely 
ascertained ; nor, for the purposes of the present argument, is quantitative 
exactness important. I employ numerical statements simply as a means of 
aiding the imagination to form a general and certainly not extravagant idea of 
the extent of geographical revolutions which man has done much to accelerate, 
if not, strictly speaking, to produce. 

There is an old proverb, ])'>hiH latet in generalibus, ami Arthur Young is not 
the only public economist who has warned his readers against the deccitfulness 
of round numbers. I think, on the contrary, that vastly more error has been 
produced by the affectation of precision in cases where precision is impossible. 


the mountains is due to the destruction of the forests — that the 
flanks of every Alpine valley in Central Europe below the 
snow-line were once covered with earth and green with woods, 
but there are not many particular cases in which we can, with 
certainty, or even with strong probability, affirm the contrary. 

Mountain Slides. 
Terrible as are the ravages of the torrent and the river-flood, 

the destruction of the woods exposes human life and industry 
to calamities even more appalling than those which I have yet 
described. The slide in the Notch of the White Mountains, by 
which the Willey family lost their lives, is an instance of the 
sort I refer to, though I am not able to say that in this particu- 
lar case the slip of the earth and rock was produced by the 
denudation of the surface. It may have been occasioned by 
this cause, or by the construction of the road through the Notch, 
the excavations for which, perhaps, cut through the natural 
buttresses that supported the sloping strata above. 

Not to speak of the fall of earth when the roots which held 
it together, and the bed of leaves and mould which sheltered 

In all the great operations of terrestrial nature, the elements are so numerous 
and so difficult of exact appreciation, that, until the means of scientific obser- 
vation and measurement are much more perfected than they now arc, we 
must content ourselves with general approximations. I say terreatrial nature, 
because in cosmical movements we have fewer elements to deal with, and may 
therefore arrive at much more rigorous proportional accuracy in determination 
of time and place than we can in fixing and predicting the quantities and the 
epochs of variable natural phenomena on the earth's surface. 

Travellers are often misled by local habits in the use of what may be called 
representative numbers, where a definite is put for an indefinite quantity. A 
Greek, who wished to express the notion of a great but undetermined num- 
ber, used "myriad, or ten thousand; " a Roman, " six hundred ; " an Orien- 
tal, "forty," or, at present, very commonly, "fifteen thousand." Many a 
tourist has gravely repeated, as an ascertained fact ; the vague statement of 
the Arabs and the monks of Mount Sinai, that the ascent from the convent 
of St. Catherine to the summit of Gebel Moosa counts "fifteen thousand" 
sti ps, though the difference of level is two thousand feet; and the " !'. .. 
Thieves, the ' ' forty " inartyr-mouks of the convent of El Arbain — not to 


it both from disintegrating frost and from sudden drenching 
and dissolution by heavy showers, are gone, it is easy to see 
that, in a climate with severe winters, the removal of the for- 
est, and, consequently, of the soil it had contributed to form, 
might cause the displacement and descent of great masses of 
rock. The woods, the vegetable mould, and the soil beneath, 
protect the rocks they cover from the direct action of heat and 
cold, and from the expansion and contraction which accompany 
them. Most rocks, while covered with earth, contain a con- 
siderable quantity of water.* A fragment of rock pervaded 
with moisture cracks and splits, if thrown into a furnace, and 

speak of a similar use of this numeral in more important cases — have often 
been understood as expressions of a known number, when in fact they mean 
simply many. The number " fifteen thousand" has found its way to Rome, 
and De Quincey seriously informs us, on the authority of a lady who had 
been at much pains to ascertain the exact truth, that, including closets large 
enough for a bed, the Vatican contains fifteen thousand rooms. Any one who 
has observed the vast dimensions of most of the apartments of that structure 
will admit that we make a very small allowance of space when we assign a 
square rod, sixteen and a half feet square, to each room upon the average. 
On an acre, there might be one hundred and sixty such rooms, including parti- 
tion walls ; and, to contain fifteen thousand of them, a building must cover 
more than nine acres, and be ten stories high, or possess other equivalent 
dimensions, which, as every traveller knows, many times exceeds the truth. 

The value of a high standard of accuracy in scientific observation can 
hardly be overrated ; but habits of rigorous exactness will never be formed 
by an investigator who allows himself to trust implicitly to the numerical 
precision of the results of a few experiments. The wonderful accuracy of 
geodetic measurements in modern times is, in general, attained by taking the 
mean of a great number of observations at every station, and this final pre- 
cision is but the inutual balance and compensation of numerous errors. 

The pretended exactness of statistical tables is too often little better than 
an imposture ; and those founded not on direct estimation by competent ob- 
servers, but on the report of persons who have no particular interest in know- 
ing the truth, but often have a motive for distorting it, are commonly to be 
regarded as but vague guesses at the actual fact. 

* Rock is permeable by water to a greater extent than is generally sup- 
posed. Freshly quarried marble, and even granite, as well as most other 
stones, are sensibly heavier, as well as softer and more easily wrought, than 
after they are dried and hardened by air-seasoning. Many sandstones are 
porous enough to serve as filters for liquids, and much of that of Upper Egypt 


sometimes with a loud detonation ; and it is a familiar ob- 
servation that the fire, in burning over newly cleared lands, 
breaks up and sometimes almost pulverizes the stones. This 
effect is due partly to the unequal expansion of the stone, partly 
to the action of heat on the water it contains in its pores. The 
sun, suddenly let in upon rock which had been covered with 
moist earth for centuries, produces more or less disintegration 
in the same way, and the stone is also exposed to chemical influ- 
ences from which it was sheltered before. But in the climate 
of the United States as well as of the Alps, frost is a still more 
powerful agent in breaking up mountain masses. The soil 
that protects the lime and sandstone, the slate and the granite 
from the influence of the sun, also prevents the water which 
filters into their crevices and between their strata from freez- 
ing in the hardest winters, and the moisture descends, in a 
liquid form, until it escapes in springs, or passes off by deep 
subterranean channels. But when the ridges are laid bare, the 
water of the autumnal rains fills the minutest pores and veins 
and fissures and lines of separation of the rocks, then suddenly 
freezes, and bursts asunder huge, and apparently solid blocks 
of adamantine stone.* Where the strata are inclined at a con- 
siderable angle, the freezing of a thin film of water over a large 

and Nubia hisses audibly when thrown into water, from the escape of the air 
forced out of it by hydrostatic pressure and the capillary attraction of the 
pores for water. 

Even the denser silicious stones are penetrable by fluids and the coloring 
matter they contain, to such an extent that agates and other forms of silex 
may be artificially stained through their substance. The colors of the stones 
cut at Oberstein are generally produced, or at least heightened, by art. This 
art was known to and practised by the ancient lapidaries, and it has been re- 
vived in recent times. 

* Palissy had observed the action of frost in disintegrating rock, and he 
thus describes it, in his essay on the formation of ice : "I know that the 
Btones of the mountains of Ardennes be harder than, marble. Nevertheless, 
the people of that country do not quarry the said stones in winter, for that 
they be subject to frost ; and many times the rocks have been seen to fall 
without being cut, by means whereof many people have been killed, when 
the said rocks were thawing." Palissy was ignorant of the expansion of 
water in freezing — in fact, he supposed that the l.iechanical force exerted by 


interstratal area might occasion a slide that should cover miles 
with its ruins ; and similar results might be produced by the 
simple hydrostatic pressure of a column of water, admitted, by 
the removal of the covering of earth, to flow into a crevice 
faster than it could escape through orifices below. 

Earth or rather mountain slides, compared to which the ca- 
tastrophe that buried the "Willey family in New Hampshire was 
but a pinch of dust, have often occurred in the Swiss, Italian, 
and French Alps. The land-slip, which overwhelmed, and 
covered to the depth of seventy feet, the town of Plurs in the 
valley of the Maira, on the night of the 4th of September, 1618, 
sparing not a soul of a population of 2,430 inhabitants, is one 
of the most memorable of these catastrophes, and the fall of 
the Eossberg or Eufiberg, which destroyed the little town of 
Goldau in Switzerland, and 450 of its people, on the 2d of 
September, 1S06, is almost equally celebrated. In 1771, ac- 
cording to Wessely, the mountain-peak Piz, near Alleghe in 
the province of Belluno, slipped into the bed of the Gordevole, 
a tributary of the Piave, destroying in its fall three hamlets and 
sixty lives. The rubbish filled the valley for a distance of nearly 
two miles, and, by damming up the waters of the Gordevole 
formed a lake about three miles long, and a hundred and fifty 
feet deep, which still subsists, though reduced to half its origi- 
nal length by the wearing down of its outlet.* 

The important provincial town of Yeleia, near Piacenza, 
where many interesting antiquities have been discovered within 

freezing-water was due to compression, not dilatation — and therefore he as- 
cribes to thawing- alone effects resulting not less from congelation. 

Various forces combine to produce the stone avalanches of the higher Alps, 
the fall of which is one of the greatest dangers incurred by the adventurous 
explorers of those regions — the direct action of the sun upon the stone, the 
expansion of freezing-water, and the loosening of masses of rock by the thaw- 
ing of the ice which supported them or held them together. 

* Y\ t essely, Die Oesberrekhlsehcn Alpenldrider und Hire Forste, pp. 125, 
12'3. Wessely records several other more or less similar occurrences in the 
Austrian Alps. Some of them, certainly, are not to be ascribed to the removal 
of the woods, but in most cases they are clearly traceable to that cause. 
See Revue des Eaux et Forcts for 18S9, pp. 182, 205. 


a few years, was buried by a vast land-slip, probably about the 
time of Probus, but no historical record of the event has sur- 
vived to us. 

On the 14th of February, 1855, the hill of Belmonte, a little 
below the parish of San Stefano, in Tuscany, slid into the val- 
ley of the Tiber, which consequently flooded the village to the 
depth of fifty feet, and was finally drained off by a tunnel. 
The mass of debris is stated to have been about 3,500 feet long, 
1,000 wide, and not less than 600 high.* 

Occurrences of this sort have been so numerous in the Alps and 
Apennines, that almost every Italian mountain commune has its 
tradition, its record, or its still visible traces of a great land-slip 
within its own limits. The old chroniclers contain frequent 
notices of such calamities, and Giovanni Villani even records 
the destruction of fifty houses and the loss of many lives by a 
slide of what seems to have been a spur of the hill of San 
Giorgio in the city of Florence, in the year 12S4.f 

Such displacements of earth and rocky strata rise to the mag- 
nitude of geological convulsions, but they are of so rare occur- 
rence in countries still covered by the primitive forest, so com- 
mon where the mountains have been stripped of their native 
covering, and, in many cases, so easily explicable by the drench- 
ing of incohesive earth from rain, or the free admission of 
water between the strata of rocks — both of which a coating 
of vegetation would have prevented — that we are justified in 
ascribing them for the most part to the same cause as that to 
which the destructive effects of mountain torrents are chiefly 
due — the felling of the woods4 

* BiANCni, Appendix to the Italian translation of Mrs. Sojierville's 
Physical Geograjjliy, p. xxxvi. 

f Cronica di Giovanni Villani, lib. vii., cap. 97. For descriptions of 
other slides in Italy, see same author, lib. xi., cap. 26; Fanpani, Antologia 
Italia nn, parte ii., p. 95 ; Giuliani, Linguaggioviuente dolla Toscana, 1805, 
lettera 63. 

X There is good reason for thinking that many of the earth and rock slides 
in the Alps occurred at an earlier period than the origin of the forest vegeta- 
tion which, in later ages, covered the Hanks of those mountains. Sec Bericht 


In nearly every case of this sort the circumstances of which 
are known — except the rare instances attributable to earth- 
quakes — the immediate cause of the slip has been the imbibi- 
tion of water in large quantities by bare earth, or its introduc- 
tion between or beneath solid strata. If water insinuates itself 
between the strata, it creates a sliding surface, or it may, by 
its expansion in freezing, separate beds of rock, which had 
been nearly continuous before, widely enough to allow the 
gravitation of the superincumbent mass to overcome the re- 
sistance afforded by inequalities of face and by friction ; if it 
finds its way beneath hard earth or rock reposing on clay or 
other bedding of similar properties, it converts the supporting 
layer into a semi-fluid mud, which opposes no obstacle to the 
sliding of the strata above. 

The upper part of the mountain which buried Goldau was 
composed of a hard but brittle conglomerate, called nagelflue, 
resting on an unctuous clay, and inclining rapidly towards the 
village. Much earth remained upon the rock, in irregular 
masses, but the woods had been felled, and the water had free 
access to the surface, and to the crevices which sun and frost 
had already produced in the rock, and, of course, to the slimy 
stratum beneath. The whole summer of 1806 had been very 
wet, and an almost incessant deluge of rain had fallen the day 
preceding the catastrophe, as well as on that of its occurrence. 
All conditions, then, were favorable to the sliding of the rock, 
and, in obedience to the laws of gravitation, it precipitated itself 
into the valley as soon as its adhesion to the earth beneath it 
was destroyed by the conversion of the latter into a viscous 
paste. The mass that fell measured between two and a half 
and three miles in length by one thousand feet in width, and 

uber die Untersuchung der ScJiweizerischen Ilochgebirgswaldungeii, 1882, p.. 

Where more recent slides have been again clothed with woods, the trees, 
shrubs, and smaller plants which spontaneously grow upon them are usually of 
different species from those observed upon soil displaced at remote periods. 
This difference is so marked that the site of a slide can often be recognized at 
a great distance by the general color of the foliage of its vegetation. 


its average thickness is thought to have been about a hundred 
feet. The highest portion of the mountain was more than 
three thousand feet above the village, and the momentum 
acquired by the rocks and earth in their descent carried huge 
blocks of stone far up the opposite slope of the Rigi. 

The Piz, which fell into the Cordevole, rested on a steeply 
inclined stratum of limestone, with a thin layer of calcareous 
marl intervening, which, by long exposure to frost and the in- 
filtration of water, had lost its original consistence, and become 
a loose and slippery mass instead of a cohesive and tenacious 

Protection against Avalanches. 

In Switzerland and other snowy and mountainous countries, 
forests render a most important service by preventing the for- 
mation and fall of destructive avalanches, and in many parts 
of the Alps exposed to this catastrophe, the woods are pro- 
tected, though too often ineffectually, by law. I^o forest, in- 
deed, could arrest a large avalanche once in full motion, but 
the mechanical resistance afforded by the trees prevents their 
formation, both by obstructing the wind, which gives to the 
dry snow of the Staitb-Zawine, or dust-avalanche, its first im- 
pulse, and by checking the disposition of moist snow to gather 
itself into what is called the Rutsch-Lawine, or sliding ava- 
lanche. Marchand states that, the very first winter after the 
felling of the trees on the higher part of a declivity between 
Saanen and Gsteig where the snow had never been known to 
slide, an avalanche formed itself in the clearing, thundered 
down the mountain, and overthrew and carried with it a 
hitherto unviolated forest to the amount of nearly a million 
cubic feet of timber.* Elisee Iieclus informs us in his re- 
markable work, La Terre, vol. i., p. 212, that a mountain, which 
rises to the south of thePyremean village Araguanet in the upper 
valley of the Neste, having been partially si ripped of its woods, 
a formidable avalanche rushed down from a plateau above in 

* Entwaldung dt r Gebirge, p. 11. 


1S16, and swept off more than 15,000 pine-trees. The path 
once opened down the flanks of the mountain, the evil is almost 
beyond remedy. The snow sometimes carries off the earth 
from the face of the rock, or, if the soil is left, fresh slides 
every winter destroy the young plantations, and the restoration 
of the wood becomes impossible. The track widens with every 
new avalanche. Dwellings and their occupants are buried in 
the snow, or swept awa} r by the rushing mass, or by the furious 
blasts it occasions through the displacement of the air ; roads 
and bridges are destroyed ; rivers blocked up, which swell till 
they overflow the valley above, and then, bursting their snowy 
barrier, flood the fields below with all the horrors of a winter 

* The importance of the wood in preventing avalanches is well illustrated 
by the fact that, where the forest is wanting, the inhabitants of localities ex- 
posed to snow-slides often supply the place of the trees by driving stakes 
through the snow into the ground, and thus checking its propensity to slip. 
The woods themselves are sometimes thus protected against avalanches 
originating on slopes above them, and as a further security, small trees are 
cut down along the upper line of the forest, and laid against the trunks of 
larger trees, transversely to the path of the slide, to serve as a fence or dam 
to the motion of an incipient avalanche, which may by this means be arrested 
before it acquires a destructive velocity and force. 

In the volume cited in the text, Reclus informs us that " the village and 
the great thermal establishment of Bareges in the Pyrenees were threatened 
yearly by avalanches which precipitated themselves from a height of 1,200 
metres and at an angle of 35 degrees ; so that the inhabitants had been obliged 
to leave large spaces between the different quarters of the town for the free 
passage of the descending masses. Attempts have been recently made to 
prevent these avalanches by means similar to those employed by the Swiss 
mountaineers. They cut terraces three or four yards in width across the 
mountain slopes and supported these terraces by a row of iron piles. Wattled 
fences, with here and there a wall of stone, shelter the young shoots of trees, 
which grow up by degrees under the protection of these defences. Until 
natural trees are ready to arrest the snows, these artificial supports take 
their place and do their duty very well. The only avalanche which swept 
down the slope in the year 1860, when these works were completed, did not 
amount to 350 cubic yards, while the masses which fell before this work was 
undertaken contained from 75,000 to 80,000 cubic yards." — La Terre, vol. i., 
p. 233. 


Minor Uses of the Forest. 

Besides the important conservative influences of the forest 
and its value as the source of supply of a material indispensa- 
ble to all the arts and industries of human life, it renders other 
services of a less obvious and less generally recognized char- 

Woods often subserve a valuable purpose in preventing the 
fall of rocks, by mere mechanical resistance. Trees, as well as 
herbaceous vegetation, grow in the Alps upon declivities of 
surprising steepness of inclination, and the traveller sees both 
luxuriant grass and flourishing woods on slopes at which the 
soil, in the dry air of lower regions, would crumble and fall by 
the weight of its own particles. When loose rocks lie scattered 
on the face of these declivities, they are held in place by the 
trunks of the trees, and it is very common to observe a stone 
that weighs hundreds of pounds, perhaps even tons, resting 
against a tree which has stopped its progress just as it was be- 
ginning to slide down to a lower level. When a forest in such 
a position is cut, these blocks lose their support, and a single 
wet season is enough not only to bare the face of a considerable 
extent of rock, but to cover with earth and stone many acres of 
fertile soil below.* 

In alluvial plains and on the banks of rivers trees are ex- 
tremely useful as a check to the swift flow of the water in inun- 
dations, and the spread of the mineral material it transports ; 
but this will be more appropriately considered in the chapter 
on the Waters ; and another most important use of the woods, 
that of confining the loose sands of dunes and plains, will be 
treated of in the chapter on the Sands. 

* See in Kohl, Alpenreisen, i., 120, an account of the rain of fields and pas- 
tures, and even of the destruction of a broad belt of forest, by the fall of rocks 
in consequence of cutting a few large trees. Cattle are very often killed in 
Switzerland by rock-avalanches, and their owners secure themselves from loss 
by insurance against this risk as against damage by fire or hail. 


Small Forest Plants, and Vitality of Seed. 

Another function of the woods, to which I have barely 
alluded, deserves a fuller notice than can be bestowed upon it 
in a treatise the scope of which is purely economical. The 
forest is the native habitat of a large number of humbler plants, 
to the growth and perpetuation of which its shade, its humidi- 
ty, and its vegetable mould appear to be indispensable necessi- 
ties.* We cannot positively say that the felling of the woods 
in a given vegetable province would involve the final extinction 
of the smaller plants which are found only within their pre- 
cincts. Some of these, though not naturally propagating them- 
selves in the open ground, may perhaps germinate and grow 

* "A hundred and fifty paces from my house is a hill of drift-sand, on 
which stood a few scattered pines {Pinus sylvestris). Sempermvum tecto- 
rum in abundance, Statice armeria, Ammone vernalis, Dianthus carthusiano- 
rum,, with other sand-plants, were growing there. I planted the hill with a 
few birches, and all the plants I have mentioned completely disappeared, 
though there were many naked spots of sand between the trees. It should 
be added, however, that the hillock is more thickly wooded than before. 
. . . It seems then that Sempervivum tectorum, etc., will not bear the 
neighborhood of the birch, though growing well near the Pinus sylvestris. I 
have found the large red variety of Agaricus deliciosus only among the roots 
of the pine ; the greenish-blue Agaricus deliciosus among alder roots, but not 
near any other tree. Birds have their partialities among trees and shrubs. 
The Silvice prefer the Pinus Larix to other trees. In my garden this Pinus is 
never without them, but I never saw a bird perch on Thuja occidentalis or 
Juniperus sabina, although the thick foliage of these latter trees affords birds 
a better shelter than the loose leafage of other trees. Not even a wren ever 
finds its way to one of them. Perhaps the scent of the Thuja and the Juni- 
perus is offensive to them. I have spoiled one of my meadows by cutting 
away the bushes. It formerly bore grass four feet high, because many um- 
belliferous plants, such as Heracleum spondyliimi, Spircea ulmaria, Laserpi- 
tiurn lot/folia, etc., grew in it. Under the shelter of the bushes these plants 
ripened and bore seed, but they gradually disappeared as the shrubs were ex- 
tirpated, and the grass now does not grow to the height of more than two 
feet, because it is no longer obliged to keep pace with the umbellifera which 
flourished among it." See a paper by J. G. Buttner, of Kurland, in Berg- 
Haus's Geographisches Jahrbuch, 1852, No. 4, pp. 14, 15. 

These facts are interesting: as illustrating the multitude of often obsecur 


under artificial stimulation and protection, and finally become 
hardy enough to maintain an independent existence in very 
different circumstances from those which at present seem essen- 
tial to their life. 

Besides this, although the accounts of the growth of seeds, 
which have lain for ages in the ashy dryness of Egyptian cata- 
combs, are to be received with great caution, or, more proba- 
bly, to be rejected altogether, yet their vitality seems almost 
imperishable while they remain in the situations in which nature 
deposits them. When a forest old enough to have witnessed 
the mysteries of the Druids is felled, trees of other species 

conditions upon which the life or vigorous growth of smaller organisms de- 
pends. Particular species of truffles and of mushrooms are found associated 
with particular trees, without being, as is popularly supjjosed, parasites deriv- 
ing their nutriment from the dying or dead roots of those trees. The success 
of Roiisseau's experiments seem decisive on this point, for he obtains larger 
crops of truffles from ground covered with young seedling oaks than from that 
filled with roots of old trees. See an article on Mont Ventoux, by Charles 
Martins, in the Revue des Deux Mondes, Avril, 1863, p. 626. 

It ought to be much more generally known than it is, that most if not all 
mushrooms, even of the spacies reputed poisonous, may be rendered harmless 
and healthful as food by soaking them for two hours in acidulated or salt 
water. The water requires two or three spoonfuls of vinegar or two spoon- 
fuls of gray salt to the quart, and a quart of water is enough for a pound of 
sliced mushrooms. After thus soaking, they are well washed in fresh water, 
thrown into cold water, which is raised to the boiling-point, and, after re- 
maining half an hour, taken out and again washed. Gerard, to prove that 
*' crumpets is wholesome," ate one hundred and seventy-five pounds of the 
most poisonous mushrooms thus prepared, in a single month, fed his family 
ad libitum with the same, and finally administered them, in heroic doses, to 
the members of a committee appointed by the Council of Health of the city 
of Paris. See Figuiek, DAnnee Scientifique, 1862, pp. 353, 384. It should be 
observed that the venomous principle of poisonous mushrooms is not decom- 
posed and rendered innocent by the process described in the note. It is merely 
extracted by the acidulated or saline water employed for soaking the plants, 
and care should be taken that this water be tin-own away out of the reach 
of mischief. 

It has long been known that the Russian peasantry eat, with impunity, 
mushrooms of species everywhere else regarded as very poisonous. Is i1 
probable that the secret of rendering them harmless — which was known t i 
Pliny, though since forgotten in Italy — is possessed by the rustic Muscovi 


spring up in its place ; and when they, in their turn, fall he- 
fore the axe, sometimes even as soon as they have spread their 
protecting shade over the surface, the germs which their prede- 
cessors had shed years, perhaps centimes before, sprout up, and 
in due time, if not choked by other trees belonging to a later 
stage in the order of natural succession, restore again the origi- 
nal wood. In these cases, the seeds of the new crop may have 
been brought by the wind, by birds, by quadrupeds, or by other 
causes ; but, in many instances, this explanation is not probable. 

When newly cleared ground is burnt over in the United 
States, the ashes are hardly cold before they are covered with 
a crop of fire-weed, Senecio hieracifolius, a tall, herbaceous 
plant, very seldom seen growing under other circumstances, and 
often not to be found for a distance of many miles from the 
clearing. Its seeds, whether the fruit of an ancient vegetation 
or newly sown by winds or birds, require either a quickening 
by a heat which raises to a certain high point the temperature 
of the stratum where they lie buried, or a special pabulum fur- 
nished only by the combustion of the vegetable remains that 
cover the ground in the woods. 

Earth brought up from wells or other excavations soon pro 
duces a harvest of plants often very unlike those of the local 
flora, and Hay den informs us that on our great Western desert 
plains, " wherever the earth is broken up, the wild sun-flower 
{Heliantlius) and others of the taller-growing plants, though 
previously unknown in the vicinity, at once spring up, almost 
as if spontaneous generation had taken place." * 

Moritz Wagner, as quoted by Wittwer,f remarks in his de- 
scription of Mount Ararat : " A singular phenomenon to which 
my guide drew my attention is the appearance of several 
plants on the earth-heaps left by the last catastrophe [an earth- 
quake], which grow nowhere else on the mountain, and had 
never been observed in this region before. The seeds of these 
plants were probably brought by birds, and found in the loose, 

* Geological Survey of Wyoming, p. 455. 
f PhysikaliscJie Geographic, p. 48G. 


clayey soil remaining from the streams of mud, the conditions 
of growth which the other soil of the mountain refused them." 
This is probable enough, but it is hardly less so that the flowing 
mad brought them up to the influence of air and sun, from depths 
where a previous convulsion had buried them ages before. 
Seeds of small sylvan plants, too deeply buried by successive 
J avers of forest foliage and the mould resulting from its decom- 
position to be reached by the plough when the trees are gone 
and the ground brought under cultivation, may, if a wiser pos- 
terity replants the wood which sheltered their parent stems, 
germinate and grow, after lying for generations in a state of 
suspended animation. 

Darwin says : " On the estate of a relation there was a large 
and extremely barren heath, which had never been touched by 
the hand of man, but several hundred acres of exactly the same 
nature had been enclosed twenty-five years previously and 
planted with Scotch fir. The change in the native vegetation 
of the planted part of the heath was most remarkable — more 
than is generally seen in passing from one quite different soil 
to another ; not only the proportional numbers of the heath- 
plants were wholly changed, but twelve sj>ecies of plants (not 
counting grasses and sedges) flourished in the plantation which 
could not be found on the heath." * Had the author informed 
us that these twelve plants belonged to species whose seeds 
enter into the nutriment of the birds which appeared with the 
young wood, we could easily account for their presence in the 
soil ; but he says distinctly that the birds were of insectivorous 
species, and it therefore seems more probable that the seeds had 
been deposited when an ancient forest protected the growth of 
the plants which bore them, and that they sprang up to now life 
when a return of favorable conditions awaked them from a sleep 
of centuries. .Darwin indeed says that the heath " had never 
been touched by the hand of man." Perhaps not, after it be- 
came a heath ; but what evidence is there to control the general 
presumption that this heath was preceded by a forest, in whose 

* Origin of Sjwcies, American edition, p. 69. 


shade the vegetables which dropped the seeds in question might 
have grown % * 

Although, therefore, the destruction of a wood and the re- 
claiming of the soil to agricultural uses suppose the death of 
its smaller dependent flora, these revolutions do not exclude 
the possibility of its resurrection. In a practical view of the 
subject, however, we must admit that when the woodman fells 
a tree he sacrifices the colony of humbler growths which had 
vegetated under its protection. Some wood-plants are known 
to possess valuable medicinal properties, and experiment may 
show that the number of these is greater than we now suppose. 
Few of them, however, have any other economical value than 

* Writers on vegetable physiology record numerous instances where seeds 
have grown after lying dormant for ages. The following cases are mentioned 
by Dr. Dwight {Travels, ii., pp. 438, 439). 

"The lands [in Panton, Vermont], which have here been once cultivated, 
and again permitted to lie waste for several years, yield a rich and fine growth of 
hickory [Carya porcina]. Of this wood there is not, I believe, a single tree 
in any original forest within fifty miles from this spot. The native growth was 
here white pine, of which I did not see a single stem in a whole grove of hick- 

The hickory is a walnut, bearing a fruit too heavy to be likely to be earned 
fifty miles by birds, and besides, I believe it is not eaten by any bird indige- 
nous to Vermont. We have seen, however, on a former page, that birds trans- 
port the nutmeg, which when fresh is probably as heavy as the walnut, from 
one island of the Indian archipelago to another. 

"A field, about five miles from Northampton, on an eminence called Rail 
Hill, was cultivated about a century ago. The native growth here, and in all 
the surrounding region, was wholly oak, chestnut, etc. As the field belonged 
to my grandfather, I had the best opportunity of learning its history. It con- 
tained about five acres, in the form of an irregular parallelogram. As the 
savages rendered the cultivation dangerous, it was given up. On this ground 
there sprang up a grove of white pines covering the field and retaining its fig- 
ure exactly. So far as I remember, there was not in it a single oak or chestnut 
tree. . . . There was not a single pine whose seeda were, or, probably, had 
for ages been, sufficiently near to have been planted on this spot. The fact 
that these white pines covered this field exactly, so as to preserve both its ex- 
tent and its figure, and that there were none in the neighborhood, are decisive 
proofs that cultivation brought up the seeds of a former forest within the 
limits of vegetation, and gave them an opportunity to germinate." 

See, on the Succession of the Forest, Thoreatj, Excursions, p. 135 et seqq. 


that of furnishing a slender pasturage to cattle allowed to 
roam in the woods ; and even this small advantage is far more 
than compensated by the mischief done to the young trees by 
browsing animals. Upon the whole, the importance of this' 
class of vegetables, as physic or as food, is not such as to fur- 
nish a very telling popular argument for the conservation of the 
forest as a necessary means of their perpetuation. More potent 
remedial agents may supply their place in the materia medica, 
and an acre of grass-land yields more nutriment for cattle than 
a range of a hundred acres of forest. But he whose sympathies 
with nature have taught him to feel that there is a fellowship 
between all God's creatures; to love the brilliant ore better 
than the dull ingot, iodic silver and crystallized red copper 
better than the shillings and the pennies forged from them by 
the coiner's cunning ; a venerable oak-tree than the brandy-cask 
wdiose staves are split out from its heart-wood ; a bed of ane- 
mones, hepaticas, or wood violets than the leeks and onions 
which he may grow on the soil they have enriched and in the 
air they made fragrant — he who has enjoyed that special train 
ing of the heart and intellect which can be acquired only in the 
mi violated sanctuaries of nature, "where man is distant, but 
God is near" — will not rashly assert his right to extirpate a 
tribe of harmless vegetables, barely because their products 
neither tickle his palate nor fill his pocket ; and his regret at 
the dwindling area of the forest solitude will be augmented by 
the reflection that the nurselings of the woodland perish with 
the pines, the oaks, and the beeches that sheltered them.* 

Although, as I have said in a former chapter, birds do not 
frequent the deeper recesses of the wood, yet a very large pro- 

* Quaint old Valvasor had observed the subduing influence of nature's soli- 
tudes. In describing- the lonely Canker-Thai, which, though rocky, was is 
his time well wooded with " fir, larches, beeches and other trees," he says ; 
" Gladsomeness and beauty, which dwell in many valleys, may not be looked 
for there. The journey through it is cheerless, melancholy, wearisome, and 
Berveth to temper and mortify over-joyousness of thought. ... In sum it is 
a very desert, wherein the wildness of human pride doth grow tame." — Ehre 
der Grain, i. , p. 13G, b. 


portion of them build their nests in trees, and find in their 
foliao-e and branches a secure retreat from the inclemencies of 
the seasons and the pursuit of the reptiles and quadrupeds 
which prey upon them. The borders of the forests are vocal 
with song ; and when the gray and dewy morning calls the 
creeping things of the earth out of their night-cells, it summons 
from the neighboring wood legions of their winged enemies, 
which swoop down upon the fields to save man's harvests by 
devouring the destroyiug worm, and surprising the lagging 
beetle in his tardy retreat to the dark cover where he lurks 
through the hours of daylight. 

The insects most injurious to the rural industry of the garden 
and the ploughland do not multiply in or near the woods. The 
locust, which ravages the East with its voracious armies, is bred 
in vast open plains which admit the full heat of the sun to 
hasten the hatching of the eggs, gather no moisture to destroy 
them, and harbor no bird to feed upon the larvae.* It is only 
since the felling of the forests of Asia Minor and Cyrene that 
the locust has become so fearfully destructive in those coun- 
tries ; and the grasshopper, which now threatens to be almost 
as great a pest to the agriculture of some North American soils, 
breeds in seriously injurious numbers only where a wide extent 
of surface is bare of woods. 

General Functions of Forests. 

In the preceding pages we have seen that the electrical and 
chemical action of the forest, though obscure, exercises proba- 
bly a beneficial, certainly not an injurious, influence on the 
composition and condition of the atmosphere ; that it serves as 

* Smela, in the government of Kiew, has, for some years, not suffered at 
all from the locusts, which formerly came every year in vast swarms, and the 
curculio, so injurious to the turnip crops, is less destructive there than in 
other parts of the province. This improvement is owing partly to the more 
thorough cultivation of the soil, partly to the groves which are intersperse d 
among the ploughlands. . . . When in the midst of the plains woods 
shall be planted and filled with insectivorous birds, the locusts will cease to be 
a plague and a terror to the farmer.— Eentzsch, Der Wald, pp. 43, 46. 


a protection against the diffusion of miasmatic exhalations and 
malarious poisons; that it performs a most important func- 
tion as a mechanical shelter from blasting winds to grounds 
and crops in the lee of it ; that, as a conductor of heat, it tends to 
equalize the temperature of the earth and the air ; that its dead 
products form a mantle over the surface, which protects the 
earth from excessive heat and cold ; that the evaporation from 
the leaves of living trees, while it cools the air around them, 
diffuses through the atmosphere a medium which resists the 
escape of warmth from the earth by radiation, and hence that 
its general effect is to equilibrate caloric influences and mode- 
rate extremes of temperature. 

We have seen, further, that the forest is equally useful as a re- 
gulator of terrestrial and of atmospheric humidity, preventing by 
its shade the drying up of the surface by parching winds and 
the scorching rays of the sun, intercepting a part of the pre- 
cipitation, and pouring out a vast quantity of aqueous vapor 
into the atmosphere ; that if it does not increase the amount of 
rain, it tends to equalize its distribution both in time and in 
place ; that it preserves a hygrometric equilibrium in the 
superior strata of the earth's surface; that it maintains and 
regulates the flow of springs and rivulets ; that it checks the 
superficial discharge of the waters of precipitation and conse- 
quently tends to prevent the sudden rise of rivers, the violence 
of floods, the formation of destructive torrents, and the abrasion 
of the surface by the action of running water ; that it impedes 
the fall of avalanches and of rocks, and destructive slides of the 
superficial strata of mountains ; that it is a safeguard against 
the breeding of locusts, and finally that it furnishes nutriment 
and shelter to many tribes of animal and of vegetable life 
which, if not necessary to man's existence, are conducive to his 
rational enjoyment. In fine, in well-wooded regions, and in 
inhabited countries where a due proportion of soil is devoted to 
the growth of judiciously distributed forests, natural destruc- 
tive tendencies of all sorts are arrested or compensated, and 
man, bird, beast, fish, and vegetable alike find a constant uni- 


formity of condition most favorable to the regular and harmo- 
nious coexistence of them all. 

General Conseque?ices of the Destruction of the Forest. 

With the extirpation of the forest, all is changed. At one 
season, the earth parts with its warmth by radiation to an open 
sky — receives, at another, an immoderate heat from the unob- 
structed rays of the sun. Hence the climate becomes excessive, 
and the soil is alternately parched by the fervors of summer, 
and seared by the rigors of winter. Bleak winds sweep unre- 
sisted over its surface, drift away the snow that sheltered it 
from the frost, and dry up its scanty moisture. The precipita- 
tion becomes as irregular as the temperature ; the melting 
snows and vernal rains, no longer absorbed by a loose and 
bibulous vegetable mould, rush over the frozen surface, and 
pour down the valleys seawards, instead of filling a retentive 
bed of absorbent earth, and storing up a supply of moisture to 
feed perennial springs. The soil is bared of its covering of 
leaves, broken and loosened by the plough, deprived of the 
fibrous rootlets which held it together, dried and pulverized by 
sun and wind, and at last exhausted by new combinations. 
The face of the earth is no longer a sponge, but a dust-heap, 
and the floods which the waters of the sky pour over it hurry 
swiftly along its slopes, carrying in suspension vast quantities 
of earthy particles which increase the abrading power and 
mechanical force of the current, and, augmented by the sand and 
gravel of falling banks, fill the beds of the streams, divert them 
into new channels, and obstruct their outlets. The rivulets, 
wanting their former regularity of supply and deprived of the 
protecting shade of the woods, are heated, evaporated, and 
thus reduced in their summer currents, but swollen to rao-incr 
torrents in autumn and in spring. From these causes, there is 
a constant degradation of the uplands, and a consequent eleva- 
tion of the beds of water-courses and of lakes by the deposition 
of the mineral and vegetable matter carried down by the 
waters. The channels of great rivers become unnavigable, their 


estuaries are choked up, and harbors which once sheltered large 
navies are shoaled by dangerous sand-bars. The earth, stripped 
of its vegetable glebe, grows less and less productive, and, con- 
sequently, less able to protect itself by weaving a new network 
of roots to bind its particles together, a new carpeting of turf 
to shield it from wind and sun and scouring rain. Gradually 
it becomes altogether barren. The washing of the soil from 
the mountains leaves bare ridges of sterile rock, and the rich 
organic mould which covered them, now swept down into the 
clank low grounds, promotes a luxuriance of aquatic vegetation 
that breeds fever, and more insidious forms of mortal disease, 
by its deca} r , and thus the earth is rendered no longer fit for 
the habitation of man.* 

To the general truth of this sad picture there are many ex- 
ceptions, even in countries of excessive climates. Some of 
these are due to favorable conditions of surface, of geological 
structure, and of the distribution of rain ; in many others, the 
evil consequences of man's improvidence have not yet been ex- 
perienced, only because a sufficient time has not elapsed, since 
the felling of the forest, to allow them to develop themselves. 
But the vengeance of nature for the violation of her harmonies, 
though slow, is sure, and the gradual deterioration of soil and 
climate in such exceptional regions is as certain to result from 
the destruction of the woods as is any natural effect to follow its 

Due Proportion of Woodland. 

The proportion of woodland that ought to be permanently 
maintained for its geographical and atmospheric iniluences 
varies according to the character of soil, surface, and climate. 

* Almost every narrative of travel in those countries which were the earliest 
seats of civilization, contains evidence of the truth of these general statements, 
and this evidence is presented with more or less detail in most of the special 
works on the forest which I have occasion to cite. I may refer particularly to 
IIoiiknstein, Der Wald, 1SG0, as full of important facts on this subject. See 
also Caimi, C'enni sutta Impartanza del Bosclil, for some statistics, not readily 
found elsewhere, on this and other topics connected with the forest. 


In countries with, a humid sky, or moderately undulating sur- 
face and an equable temperature, a small extent of forest, 
enough to serve as a mechanical screen against the action of 
the wind in localities where such protection is needed, suffices. 
But most of the territory occupied by civilized man is exposed, 
by the character of its surface and its climate, to a physical 
degradation which cannot be averted except b} r devoting a large 
amount of soil to the growth of the woods. 

From an economical point of view, the question of the due 
proportion of forest is not less complicated or less important 
than in its purely physical aspects. Of all the raw materials 
■which nature supplies for elaboration by human art, wood is 
undoubtedly the most useful, and at the same time the most 
indispensable to social progress.* 

The demand for wood, and of course the quantity of forest 
required to furnish it, depend upon the supply of fuel from 
other sources, such as peat and coal, upon the extent to which 
stone, brick, or metal can advantageously be substituted for 
wood in building, upon the development of arts and industries 
employing wood and other forest products as materials, and 

* In an imaginary dialogue in the Meoepte Veritable, the author, Palissy, 
having expressed his indignation at the folly of men in destroying the woods, 
his interlocutor defends the policy of felling them, by citing the example of 
" divers bishops, cardinals, priors, abbots, monkeries and chapters, which, by 
cutting their woods, have made three profits," the sale of the timber, the rent 
of the ground, and the " good portion" they received of the grain grown by 
the peasants upon it. To this argument Palissy replies : "I cannot enough 
detest this thing, and I call it not an error, but a curse and a calamity to all 
France ; for when forests shall be cut, all arts shall cease, and they which 
practise them shall be driven out to eat grass with Nebuchadnezzar and the 
beasts of the field. I have divers times thought to set down in writiug the 
arts which shall perish when there shall be no more wood ; but when I had 
written down a great number, I did perceive that there could be no end of my 
writing, and having diligently considered, I found there was not any which 
could be followed without wood." . . " And truly I could well allege to 
thee a thousand reasons, but 'tis so cheap a philosophy, that the very chamber- 
wenches, if they do but think, may see that without wood, it is not possil le 
io exercise any manner of human art or cunning." — (Eavres de Bernard 
Palissy. Paris, 1844, p. 89. 


upon the cost of obtaining them from other countries, or upon 
their commercial value as articles of export. 

Upon the whole, taking civilized Europe and America 
together, it is probable that from twenty to twenty-five per 
cent, of well-wooded surface is indispensable for the mainte- 
nance of normal physical conditions, and for the supply of ma- 
terials so essential to every branch of human industry and every 
form of social life as those which compose the harvest of the 

There is probably no country — there are few large farms 
even — where at least one-fourth of the soil is not either unfit 
for agricultural use, or so unproductive that, as pasture or 
as ploughland, it yields less pecuniary return than a thrifty 
wood. Every prairie has its sloughs where willows and poplars 
would find a fitting soil, every Eastern farm its rocky nooks and 
its barren hillsides suited to the growth of some species from 
our rich forest flora, and everywhere belts of trees might ad- 
vantageously be planted along the roadsides and the boundaries 
and dividing fences. In most cases, it will be found that trees 
may be made to grow well where cultivated crops will not re- 
pay the outlay of tillage, and it is a very plain dictate of sound 
economy that if trees produce a better profit than the same 
ground would return if devoted to grass or grain, the wood 
should be substituted for the field. 

Woodland in European Countries. 

In 1862, Rentzsch calculated the proportions of woodland in 

different European countries as follows : * 

Norway G6 per cent. 

Sweden GO " 

Russia 30.90 " 

Germany 2(5.58 " 

Belgium 18.52 " 

France 10.79 " 

Switzerland 15 " 

* Bcr Wold, pp. 123, 124. 


Sardinia 12. 29 per cent. 

Neapolitan States 9.43 " 

Holland 7.10 " 

Spain 5.52 " 

Denmark 5.50 " 

Great Britain 5 " 

Portugal 4.40 " 

The large proportion of woodland in Norway and Sweden is 
in a great measure to be ascribed to the mountainous character 
of the surface, which renders the construction of roads difficult 
and expensive, and hence the forests are comparatively inac- 
cessible, and transportation is too costly to tempt the inhabit- 
ants to sacrifice their woods for the sake of supplying distant 

The industries which employ wood as a material have only 
lately been much developed in these countries, and though the 
climate requires the consumption of much wood as a fuel, the 
population is not numerous enough to create, for this purpose, 
a demand exceeding the annually produced supply, or to need 
any great extension of cleared ground for agricultural purposes. 
Besides this, in many places peat is generally employed as do- 
mestic fuel. Hence, though Norway has long exported a con- 
siderable quantity of lumber,* and the iron and copper works 
of Sweden consume charcoal very largely, the forests have not 
diminished rapidly enough to produce very sensible climatic or 
even economical evils. 

At the opposite end of the scale we find Holland, Denmark, 
Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal. In the three first-named 
countries a cold and humid climate renders the almost con- 
stant maintenance of domestic fires a necessity, while in Great 

* Raihvay-ties, or, as they are called in England, sleepers, are largely ex- 
ported from Norway to India, and sold at Calcutta at a lower price than tim- 
ber of equal quality can be obtained from the native woods. — Reports on Forest 
Conservancy, vol. i., pt. ii., p. 1533. 

From 1861 to 1870 Norway exported annually, on the average, more than 
60,000,000 cubic feet of lumber. — Wulfsberg, Norges Velstandskilder. Chris- 
tiania, 1872. 



Britain especially the demand of the various industries which 
depend on wood as a material, or on mechanical power derived 
from heat, are very great. Coal and peat serve as a combustible 
instead of wood in them all, and England imports an immense 
quantity of timber from her foreign possessions. Fortunately, 
the character of soil, surface, and climate renders the forest of 
less importance as a geographical agent in these northern re- 
gions than in Spain and Portugal, where all physical conditions 
concur to make a large extent of forest an almost indispensable 
means of industrial progress and social advancement. 

Rentzsch, in fact, ascribes the political decadence of Spain 
almost wholly to the destruction of the forest. " Spain," ob- 
serves he, " seemed destined by her position to hold dominion 
over the world, and this in fact she once possessed. But she has 
lost her political ascendancy, because, during the feeble adminis- 
tration of the successors of Philip II., her exhausted treasury 
could not furnish the means of creating new fleets, the destruc- 
tion of the woods having raised the price of timber above the 
means of the state."* On the other hand, the same writer 
argues that the wealth and prosperity of modern England are 
in great part due to the supply of lumber, as well as of other 
material for ship-building, which she imports from her colonies 

* Der Wald, p. 63. Antonio Ponz (Viage de Espaiia, i., prologo, p. lxiii.), 
says : " Nor would this be so great an evil, were not some of tliera declaimers 
against trees, thereby proclaiming themselves, in some sort, enemies of the 
works of God, who gave us the leafy abode of Paradise to dwell in, where we 
should be even now sojourning, but for the first sin, which expelled us from 

I do not know at what period the two Castiles wei-e bared of their woods, 
but the Spaniard's proverbial "hatred of a tree" is of long standing. Her- 
rera combats this foolish prejudice ; and Ponz, in the prologue to the ninth 
volume of his journey, says that many carried it so far as wantonly to destroy 
the shade and ornamental trees planted by the municipal authorities. " Trees," 
they contended, and still believe, "breed birds, and birds eat up the grain." 
Our author argues against the supposition of the " breeding of birds by trees," 
which, he says, is as absurd as to believe that an elm-tree can jdeld pears ; 
and he charitably suggests that the expression is, perhaps, a mauu're de dire, 
a popular phrase, signifying simply that trees harbor birds. 


and other countries with which she maintains commercial rela- 

Forests of Great Britain. 

The proportion of forest is very small in Great Britain, where, 
as I have said, on the one hand, a prodigious industrial activity 
requires a vast supply of ligneous material, but where, on the 
other, the abundance of coal, which furnishes a sufficiency of 
fuel, the facility of importation of timber from abroad, and the 
conditions of climate and surface combine to reduce the neces- 
sary quantity of woodland to its lowest expression. 

With the exception of Russia, Denmark, and parts of Ger- 
many, no European countries can so well dispense with the 
forests, in their capacity of conservative influences, as England 
and Ireland. Their insular position and latitude secure an 
abundance of atmospheric moisture ; the general inclination of 
surface is not such as to expose it to special injury from tor- 
rents, and it is probable that the most important climatic ac- 
tion exercised by the forest in these portions of the British em- 
pire, is in its character of a mechanical screen against the effects 
of wind. The due proportion of woodland in England and 
Ireland is, therefore, a question not of geographical, but almost 
purely of economical, expediency, to be decided by the com- 
parative direct pecuniary return from forest-growth, pasturage, 
and ploughland. 

Contrivances for economizing fuel came later into use in 
the British Islands than on the Continent. Before the intro- 
duction of a system of drainage, the soil, like the sky, was, in 
general, charged with humidity ; its natural condition was un- 
favorable for the construction and maintenance of substantial 
common roads, and the transportation of so heavy a material 
as coal, by land, from the remote counties where alone it was 
mined in the Middle Ages, was costly and difficult. For all 
these reasons, the consumption of wood was large, and appre- 
hensions of the exhaustion of the forests were excited at an 
early period. Legislation there, as elsewhere, proved ineffectual 


to protect them, and many authors of the sixteenth century ex- 
press fears of serious evils from the wasteful economy of the 
people in this respect. Harrison, in his curious chapter " Of 
Woods and Marishes" in Holinshed's compilation, complains 
of the rapid decrease of the forests, and adds: "Howbeit thus 
much I dare afhrme, that if woods go so fast to decaie in the 
next hundred yeere of Grace, as they haue doone and are like 
to doo in this, . . . it is to be feared that the fennie 
bote, broome, turfe, gall, heath, firze, brakes, whinnes, ling, 
dies, hassacks, flags, straw, sedge, reed, rush, and also seacoU, 
will be good merchandize euen in the citie of London, where- 
unto some of them euen now haue gotten readie passage, and 
taken vp their innes in the greatest merchants' parlours. . . . 
I would wish that I might line no longer than to see foure 
things in this land reformed, that is : the want of discipline in 
the church : the couetous dealing of most of our merchants in 
the preferment of the commodities of other countries, and 
hinderance of their owne : the holding of faires and markets 
vpon the sundaie to be abolished and referred to the wednes- 
daies : and that euerie man, in whatsoeuer part of the cham- 
paine soile enioieth fortie acres of land, and ypwards, after that 
rate, either by free deed, copie hold, or fee farme, might plant 
one acre of wood, or sowe the same with oke mast, hasell, 1 ;cech, 
and sufficient prouision be made that it may be cherished and 
kept. But I feare me that I should then line too long, and so 
long, that I should either be wearie of the world, or the world 
of me." * 

* noLiNsiiED, reprint of 1807, i., pp. 357, 858. It is evident from this 
passage, and from another on page 397 of the same volume, that, though sea- 
coal was largely exported to the Continent, it had not yet come into general 
use in England. It is a question of much interest, when mineral coal was first 
employed in England for fuel. I can find no evidence that it was used as a 
combustible until more than a century, after the Norman conquest. It has 
been said that it was known to the Anglo-Saxon popiilation, but I am ac- 
quainted with no passage in the literature of that people which proves this. 
The dictionaries explain the Anglo-Saxon word grcefa by sea-coal. I have met 
with this word in no Anglo-Saxon work, except in the Cltroniclc, a.d. 852, 


Evelyn's " Silva," the fii*st edition of which appeared in 16G4, 
rendered an extremely important service to the cause of the 
woods, and there is no doubt that the ornamental plantations in 
which England far surpasses all other countries, are, in some 
measure, the fruit of Evelyn's enthusiasm. In England, how- 

f rom a manuscript certainly not older than the 12th century, and in two citations 
from Anglo-Saxon charters, one published by Kemble in Codex Dlplomaticus, 
the other by Thorpe in Dvplomata/rium Anglicum, in all -which passages it more 
probably means peat than mineral coal. According to Way, Prom/ptorvam 
Pi irrulorum, p. 506, note, the Catholicon Anglicanum has "A turfe grafte, 
turbarium.' n Grafte is here evidently the same word as the A. -S. gi'cefa, 
and the Danish Toreegraf. a turf-pit. confirms this opinion. Coal is not men- 
tioned in King Alfred's Bede, in xseckarn, in Glanville or in Robert of Glouces- 
ter, though the two latter writers speak of the allied mineral, jet, and are very 
full in their enumeration of the mineral productions of the island. 

In a Latin poem ascribed to Giraldus Cambrensis, who died after the year 
1220, but found also in the manuscripts of Walter Mapes (see Camden Society 
edition, pp. 131 and 350), and introduced into Higden's Polychronicon (Lon- 
don, 1865, pp. 398, 399), carbo sub terra cortice, which can mean nothing but 
pit-coal, is enumerated among the natural commodities of England. Some of 
the translations of the 13th and 14th century render carbo by cool or col, some 
by gold, and some omit this line, as well as others unintelligible to the trans- 
lators. Hence, although Giraldus was acquainted with coal, it certainly was 
not generally known to English writers until at least a century after the time 
of that author. 

The earliest mediaeval notice of mineral coal I have met with is in a pas- 
sage cited by Ducauge from a document of the year 1198, and it is an etymolo- 
gical observation of some interest, that carbones ferrei, as sea-coal is called in 
the document, are said by Ducange to have been known in France by the popu- 
lar name of nulla , a word evidently identical with the modern French Jiouille 
and the Cornish Huel, which in the form wheal is an element in the name of 
many mining localities. 

England was anciently remarkable for its forests, but Caesar says it wanted 
the fagvs and the abies. There can be no doubt that fagus means the beech, 
which, as the remains in the Danish peat-mosses show, is a tree of late intro- 
duction into Denmark, where it succeeded the fir, a tree not now native to 
that country. The succession of forest crops seems to have been the same in 
England; for Harrison, p. 359, speaks of the " great store of firre" found 
lying "at their whole lengths " in the "fens and marises " of Lancashire and 
other counties, where not even bushes grew in his time. We cannot be sure 
what species of evergreen Caesar intended by abies. The popular designations 
of spike-leaved trees are always more vague and uncertain in their application 


ever, arboriculture, the planting and nursing of single trees, has, 
until comparatively recent times, been better understood than 
sylviculture, the sowing and training of the forest. But this 
latter branch of rural improvement now receives great attention 
from private individuals, though, so far as I know, not from the 

than those of broad-leaved trees. Firms, pine, has been very loosely employed 
even in botanical nomenclature, and Kiefer, FicMe, and Tanne are often con- 
founded in German. — Rossmassler, Der Wald, pp. 256, 289, 324. A similar 
confusion in the names of this family of trees exists in India. Dr. Cleghom, 
Inspector-General of the Indian Forests, inf orms us in his official Circular No. 
2, that the name of deodar is applied in some provinces to a cypress, in some 
to a cedar, and in others to a juniper. If it were certain that the abies of 
Cresar was the fir formerly and still found in peat-mosses, and that he 
was right in denying the existence of the beech in England in his time, 
the observation would be very important, because it would fix a date at 
which the fir had become extinct, and the beech had not yet appeared in the 

The English oak, though strong and durable, was not considered generally 
suitable for finer work in the sixteenth century. There were, however, ex- 
ceptions. " Of all in Essex," observes Harrison, Ilolinshed, i., p. 357, " that 
growing in Bardfield parke is the finest for ioiners craft : for oftentimes haue 
I seene of their workes made of that oke so fine and faire, as most of the 
wainescot that is brought hither out of Danske [Danzig] ; for our wainescot is 
not made in England. Yet diuerse haue assaied to deale with our okes to 
that end, but not with so good successe as they haue hoped, bicause the ab or 
iuice will not so soone be remoued and cleane drawne out. which some attri- 
bute to want of time in the salt water." 

This passage is also of interest as showing that soaking in salt-water, as a 
mode of seasoning, was practised in Harrison's time. 

But the importation of wainscot, or boards for ceiling, panelling, and other- 
wise finishing rooms, which was generally of oak, commenced at least three 
centuries before the time of Harrison. On page 20-1 of the Liber Albus men- 
tion is made of ' ' squared oak timber, " brought in from the country by carts, 
and of course of domestic growth, as free of city duty or octroi, and of " plank-* 
of oak" coming in in the same way as paying one plank a cart-load. But in 
the chapter on the " Customs of Billyngesgate," pp. 208, 209, relating to goods 
imported from foreign countries, an import duty of one halfpenny is imposed 
on every hundred of boards called " weynscotte " — a term formerly applied 
only to oak — and of one penny on every hundred of boards called " Rygholt." 
The editor explains " Rygholt" as " wood of Riga." This was doubtless pine 
or fir. The year in which these provisions were made does not appear, but 
they belong to the reign of Henry III. 


INTational Government, except in the East Indian provinces, 
where the forestal department has assumed great iniportance.* 

In fact, England is, I believe, the only European country 
where private enterprise has pursued sylviculture on a really 
great scale, though admirable examples have been set in many 
others. In England the law of primogeniture, and other insti- 
tutions and national customs which tend to keep large estates 
long undivided and in the same line of inheritance, the wealth 
of the landholders, the special adaptation of the climate to the 
growth of forest-trees, and the difficulty of finding safe and pro- 
fitable investments of capital, combine to afford encouragements 
for the plantation of forests, wdiich scarcely exist elsewhere in 
the same degree. 

In Scotland, where the country is for the most part broken 
and mountainous, the general destruction of the forests has 
been attended with very serious evils, and it is in Scotland that 
many of the most extensive British forest plantations have now 
been formed. But although the inclination of surface in Scot- 
land is rapid, the geological constitution of the soil is not of a 
character to promote such destructive degradation by running 
water as in Southern France, and it has not to contend with 
the parching droughts by which the devastations of the torrents 
are rendered more injurious in those provinces. 

It is difficult to understand how either law or public opinion, in 
a country occupied by a dense and intelligent population, and, 
comparatively speaking, with an infertile soil, can tolerate the 

* The improvidence of the population under the native and early foreign 
governments has produced great devastations in the forests of the British East 
Iudian provinces, and the demands of the railways for fuel and timber have 
greatly augmented the consumption of lumber, and of course contributed to 
the destruction of the woods. The forests of British India are now, and for 
several years have been, under the control of an efficient governmental organi- 
zation, with great advantage both to the government and to the general private 
interests of the people. 

The official Reports on Forest Conservancy from May, 1862, to August, 1871, 
in 4 vols, folio, contain much statistical and practical information on all sub- 
jects connected with the administration of the forest. 


continued withdrawal of a great portion of the territory from the 
cultivation of trees and from other hinds of rural economy, 
merely to allow wealthy individuals to amuse themselves with 
field-sports. In Scotland, 2,000,000 acres, as well suited to the 
growth of forests and for pasture as is the soil generally, are 
withheld from agriculture, that they may be given up to herds of 
deer protected by the game laws. A single nobleman, for ex- 
ample, thus appropriates for his own pleasures not less than 100,- 
000 acres.* In this way one-tenth of all the land of Scotland is 
rendered valueless in an economical point of view — for the re- 
turns from the sale of the venison and other game scarcely 
suffice to pay the game-keepers and other incidental expenses — 
and in these so-called forests there grows neither building tim- 
ber nor fire-wood worth the cutting, as the animals destroy the 
young shoots. 

Forests of France. 

The preservation of the woods was one of the wise measures 
recommended to France by Sully, in the time of Henry IV., 
but the advice was little heeded, and the destruction of the 
forests went on with such alarming rapidity, that, two genera- 
tions later, Colbert uttered the prediction: "France will 
perish for want of wood." Still, the extent of wooded soil 
was very great, and the evils attending its diminution were 
not so sensibly felt, that either the government or public opin- 
ion saw the necessity of authoritative interference, and in 
1750 Mirabeau estimated the remaining forests of the king- 
dom at seventeen millions of hectares [42,000,000 acres]. In 
I860 they were reduced to eight millions [19,709,000 acres], 
or at the rate of 82,000 hectares [202,600 acres] per year. 
Troy, from whose valuable pamphlet, Etude sur le Heboid* m, nt 
des Montagues, I take these statistical details, supposes that 
Mirabeau's statement may have been an extravagant one, but 
it still remains certain that the waste has been enormous ; for 

* Robertson, Our Deer Forests. Loudon, 1867. 


it is known that, in some departments, that of Ariege, for in- 
stance, clearing has gone on during the last half-century at the 
rate of three thousand acres a year, and in all parts of the 
empire trees have been felled faster than they have grown. * 
The total area of France in Miraheau's time, excluding Savoy, 
but including Alsace and Lorraine, was about one hundred and 
thirty-one millions of acres. The extent of forest supposed by 
Mirabeau would be about thirty-two per cent, of the whole ter- 
ritory. In a country and a climate where the conservative 
influences of the forest are so necessary as in France, trees 
must cover a large surface and be grouped in large masses, in 
order to discharge to the best advantage the various functions 
assigned to them by nature. The consumption of wood is 
rapidly increasing in that empire, and a large part of its terri- 
tory is mountainous, sterile, and otherwise such in character or 
situation that it can be more profitably devoted to the growth 
of wood than to any agricultural use. Hence it is evident that 
the proportion of forest in 1750, taking even Mirabeau's large 

* Among the indirect proofs of the comparatively recent existence of exten- 
sive forests in France, may be mentioned the fact that wolves were abundant, 
not very long since, in parts of the empire where there are now neither wolves 
nor woods to shelter them. Arthur Young more than once speaks of the ' ' in- 
numerable multitudes " of these animals which infested France in 1789, and 
George Sand states, in the Ilistoire de ma Vie, that some years after the res- 
toration of the Bourbons, they chased travellers on horseback in the southern 
provinces, and literally knocked at the doors of her father-in-law's country 
seat. Eugenie de Guerin, writing from Rayssac in Languedoc in 1831 speaks 
of hearing the wolves fighting with dogs in the night under her very windows. 
Lettres, 2d ed., p. 6. 

There seems to have been a tendency to excessive clearing in Central and 
Western, earlier than in South-eastern, France. Bernard Palissy, in the Eecepte 
Veritable, first printed in 1503, thus complains : "When I consider the value 
of the least clamp of trees, or even of thorns, I much marvel at the great 
ignorance of men, who, as it seemeth, do nowadays study only to break down, 
fell, and waste the fair forests which their forefathers did guard so choicely. 
I would think no evil of them for cutting down the woods, did they but re- 
plant again some part of them ; but they care nought for the time to corne, 
neither reck they of the great damage they do to their children which shall 
come after them." — (Euvres Com%i 1 Me& de Bernard Palisst, 1844, p. 88. 


estimate, was not very much too great for permanent main- 
tenance, though doubtless the distribution was so unequal that 
it would have been sound policy to fell the woods and clear 
land in some provinces, while large forests should have been 
planted in others.* During the period in question France 
neither exported manufactured wood or rough timber, nor de- 
rived important collateral advantages of any sort from the de- 
struction of her forests. She is consequently impoverished and 
crippled to the extent of the difference between what she actu- 
ally possesses of wooded surface and what she ought to have 
retained, f 

The force of the various considerations which have been suff- 
gested in regard to the importance of the forest has been gene- 
rally felt in France, and the subject has been amply debated in 

* The view I have taken of this point is confirmed by the careful investiga- 
tions of Rentzsch, who estimates the proper proportion of woodland to entire 
surface at twenty-three per cent, for the interior of Germany, and supposes 
that near the coast, where the air is supplied with humidity by evaporation 
from the sea, it might safely be reduced to twenty per cent. See Rentzsch's 
veiy valuable prize essay, Der Wald im Haushalt der Natur und der Volks- 
wirthschaft, cap. viii. 

The due proportion in France would considerably exceed that for the Ger- 
man States, because France has relatively more surface unfit for any growth 
but that of wood, because the form and geological character of her mountains 
expose her territory to much greater injury from torrents, and because at least 
her southern provinces are more frequently visited both by extreme droughts 
and by deluging rams. 

f In 1863, France imported lumber to the value of twenty-five and a half 
millions of dollars, and exported to the amount of six and a half millions of 
dollars. The annual consumption of France was estimated in 1800 at 212,- 
000,000 cubic feet for building and manufacturing, and 1,588,500,000 for fire- 
wood and charcoal. The annual product of the forest-soil of France does not 
exceed 70,000,000 cubic feet of wood fit for industrial use, and 1,300,000,000 
cubic feet consumed as fuel. This estimate does not include the product of 
scattered trees on private grounds, but the consumption is estimated to exceed 
the production of the forests by the amount of about twenty millions of dol- 
lars. It is worth noticing that the timber for building and manufacturing 
produced in France comes almost wholly from the forests of the state or of 
the communes. — Jules Clav£, in Revue des Deux Mondes for March 1, I860, 
p. 207. 


special treatises, in scientific journals, and by the public press, 
as well as in the legislative body of that country. Perhaps no 
one point has been more prominent in the discussions than the 
influence of the forest in equalizing and regulating the flow of 
the water of precipitation. Opinion is still somewhat divided 
on this subject, but the value of the woods as a safeguard against 
the ravages of torrents is universally acknowledged, and it is 
hardly disputed that the rise of river-floods is, even if as great, at 
least less sudden in streams having their sources in well- wooded 

Upon the whole, the conservative action of the woods in re- 
gard to torrents and to inundations has been generally recognized 
by the public of France as a matter of prime importance, and 
the Government of the empire has made this principle the basis 
of a special system of legislation for the protection of existing 
forests, and for the formation of new. The clearing of wood- 
land, and the organization and functions of a police for its pro- 
tection, are regulated by a law bearing date June 18th, 1859, 
and provision was made for promoting the restoration of private 
woods by a statute adopted on the 28th of July, 1860. The 
former of these laws passed the legislative body by a vote of 
246 against 4, the latter with but a single negative voice. The 
influence of the Government, in a country where the throne is 
so potent as in France, would account for a large majority, but 
when it is considered that both laws, the former especially, in- 
terfere very materially with the rights of private domain, the 
almost entire unanimity with which they were adopted is proof 
of a very general popular conviction, that the protection and 
extension of the forests is a measure more likely than any 
other to arrest the devastations of the torrents and check the vio- 
lence, if not to prevent the recurrence, of destructive river inun- 
dations. The law of July 28th, 1860, appropriated 10,000,000 
francs, to be expended, at the rate of 1,000,000 francs per year, 
in executing or aiding the replanting of woods. It is computed 
that this appropriation — which, considering the vast importance 
of the subject, does not seem extravagant for a nation rich 


enough to be able to expend annually six hundred times that 
sum in the maintenance of its military establishments in times 
of peace — will secure the creation of new forest to the extent of 
about 200,000 acres, or one fourteenth part of the soil, where the 
restoration of the woods is thought feasible, and, at the same 
time, specially important as a security against the evils ascribed, 
in a great measure, to its destruction.* 

In 1865 the Legislative Assembly passed a bill amendatory of 
the law of 1S60, providing, among other things, for securing the 
soil in exposed localities by grading, and by promoting the 
growth of grass and the formation of greensward over the sur- 
face. This has proved a most beneficial measure, and its adop- 
tion under corresponding conditions in the United States is 
most highly to be recommended. The leading features of the 
system are : 

1. Marking out and securing from pasturage and all other 
encroachments a zone along the banks and around the head of 

2. Turfing this zone, which in France accomplishes itself, if 
not spontaneously, at least with little aid from art. 

3. Consolidation of the scarps of the ravines by grading and 
wattling and establishing barriers, sometimes of solid masonry, 
but generally of fascines or any other simple materials at hand, 
across the bed of the stream. 

* In. 1848 the Government of the so-called French Republic sold to the Bank 
of France 187,000 acres of public forests, and notwithstanding- the zeal with 
which the Imperial Government had pressed the protective legislation of I860, 
it introduced into the Legislative Assembly in 1S65 a bill for the sale, and con- 
sequently destruction, of the forests of the state to the amount of one hundred 
million francs. The question was much debated in the Assembly, and public 
opinion manifested itself so energetically against the measure that the ministry 
felt itself compelled to withdraw it. See the discussions in /.' n des 

Forets de VEtat. Paris, 1805. 

The late Imperial Government sold about 170,000 acres of woodland between 
1852 and 1866, both inclusive. The other Governments, since the restoration of 
the Bourbons in 1814, alienated more than 700,000 acres of the public forests, 
exclusive of sales between 1836 and 1857, which are not reported. — Ann 
(lea Eii'i.r 1 1 l^in'ts, 1872. p. 9. 


4. Cutting "banquettes or narrow terraces along the scarps, and 
planting rows of small deciduous trees and arborescent shrubs 
upon them, alternating with belts of grass obtained by turfing 
with sods or sowing grass-seeds. Planting the banquettes and 
slopes with bushes, and sowing any other vegetables with tena- 
cious roots, is also earnestly recommended.* 

Remedies against Torrents. 

The rural population, which in France is generally hostile to all 
forest laws, soon acquiesced in the adoption of this system, and its 
success has far surpassed all expectation. At the end of the year 
1S6S about 190,000 acres had been planted with trees, f and nearly 
7,000 acres well turfed over in the Department of the Hautes 
Alpes. Many hundred ravines, several of which had been the 
channels of formidable torrents, had been secured by barriers, 
grading and planting, and according to official reports the aspect 
of the mountains in the Department, wherever these methods 
were employed, had rapidly changed. The soil had acquired 
such stability that the violent rains of 1868, so destructive else- 
where, produced no damage in the districts which had been 
subjected to these operations, and numerous growing torrents 
which threatened irreparable mischief had been completely ex- 
tinguished, or at least rendered altogether harmless.:}: 

Besides the processes directed by the Government of France, 

* See a description of similar processes recommended and adopted by Men- 
gotti, in his Idraulica, vol. ii. , chap. xvii. 

f Travellers spending the winter at Nice may have a good opportunity of 
studying the methods of forming and conducting the rewooding of mountain 
slopes, under the most unfavorable conditions, by visiting Mont Boron, in the 
immediate vicinity of that city, and other coast plantations in that province, 
where great difficulties have been completely overcome by the skill and per- 
severance of French foresters. See Les Forets des Maures, Revue des Eaux et 
Forets, January, 1869. 

% For ample details of processes and results, see the second volume of Su- 
rell, Etude mr les Torrents, Paris, 1872, and a Report by De La Grye, in 
the Revue des Eaux et Forets for January, 1869. 


various subsidiary measures of an easily and economically prac- 
ticable character have been suggested. Among them is one 
which has long been favorably known in our Southern States 
under the name of circling, and the adoption of which in hilly 
regions in other States is to be strongly recommended. 

It is simply a method of preventing the wash of surface by 
rains, and at the same time of providing a substitute for irriga- 
tion of steep pasture-grounds, consisting in little more than in 
rrmnino- horizontal furrows along the hillsides, thus converting 
the scarp of the hills into a succession of small terraces which, 
when once turfed over, are very permanent. Experience is said 
to have demonstrated that this simple process at least partially 
checks the too rapid flow of surface-water into the valleys, and, 
consequently, in a great measure obviates one of the most prom- 
inent causes of inundations, and that it suffices to retain the 
water of rains, of snows, and of small springs, long enough for 
the irrigation of the soil, thus increasing its product of herbage 
in a fivefold proportion.* 

As a further recommendation, it may be observed that this 
process is an admirable preparation of the ground for forest 
plantations, as young trees planted on the terraces would derive 
a useful protection from the form of the surface and the coat- 
ing of turf, and would also find a soil moist enough to secure 
their growth. 

Forests of Italy. 

According to the most recent statistics, Italy has 17.64 per 
cent, of woodland.f a proportion which, considering the char- 
acter of climate and surface, the great amount of soil which is 
fit for no other purpose than the growth of trees, and the fact 
that much of the land classed as forest is either very imper- 
fectly wooded, or covered with groves badly administered, and 
not in a state of progressive improvement, might advanta- 

* Tkoy, i'.tu&e sur le Reboisement des Montagues, §§ 6, 7, 21. 

f Siemoni, Manuals dCArte F&restalc, 2 ediz., Firenze, 1872, p. 542. 


geously be doubled. Taking Italy as a whole, we may say that 
she is eminently fitted by climate, soil, and superficial forma- 
tion, to the growth of a varied and luxuriant arboreal vegeta- 
tion, and that in the interests of self-protection, the promotion of 
f orestal industry is among the first duties of her people. There 
are in "Western Piedmont valleys where the felling of the woods 
has produced consequences geographically and economically as 
disastrous as in South-eastern France, and there are many other 
districts in the Alps and the Apennines where human improvi- 
dence has been almost equally destructive. Some of these regions 
must be abandoned to absolute desolation, and for others the 
opportunity of physical restoration is rapidly passing away. 
But there are still millions of square miles which might profit- 
ably be planted with forest-trees, and thousands of acres of 
parched and barren hillside, within sight of almost every Italian 
provincial capital, which might easily and shortly be reclothed 
with verdant woods.* 

The denudation of the Central and Southern Apennines and 
of the Italian declivity of the Western Alps began at a period 
of unknown antiquity, but it does not seem to have been car- 
ried to a very dangerous length until the foreign conquests and 
extended commerce of Rome created a greatly increased cle- 

* To one accustomed to the slow vegetation of less favored climes, the ra- 
pidity of growth in young plantations in Italy seems almost magical. The trees 
planted along the new drives and avenues in Florence have attained in three 
or four years a development which would require at least ten in our Northern 
States. This, it is true, is a special case, for the trees have been planted and 
tended with a skill and care which cannot be bestowed upon a forest ; but the 
growth of trees little cared for is still very rapid in Italy. According to Tos- 
canelli, Economia rurale nella Provincia di Pisa, p. 8, note — one of the most 
complete, curious, and instructive pictures of rural life which exists in any 
literature — the white poplar, Populus alba, attains in the valley of the Serchio a 
great height, with a mean diameter of two feet, in twenty years. Selmi states 
in his Miasma Palustre, p. 115, that the linden reaches a diameter of sixteen 
inches in the same period. The growth of foreign trees is sometimes extremely 
luxuriant in Italy. Two Atlas cedars, at the well-known villa of Careggi, near 
Florence, grown from seed sown in 1850, measure twenty inches in diameter, 
above the swell of the roots, with an estimated height of sixty feet. 


inand for wood for tlie construction of ships and for military 
material.* The Eastern Alps, the "Western Apennines, and the 
Maritime Alps retained their forests much later; but even here 
the want of wood, and the injury to the plains and the naviga- 
tion of the rivers by sediment brought down by the torrents, 
led to legislation for the protection of the forests, by the 
Republic of Venice, at various periods between the fifteenth and 
the nineteenth centuries, f by that of Genoa as early at least as 
the seventeenth ; and both these Governments, as well as several 
others, passed laws requiring the proprietors of mountain-lands 
to replant the woods. These, however, seem to have been little 

* An interesting example of the collateral effects of the destruction of the 
forests in ancient Italy may be found in old Roman architecture. In the 
oldest brick constructions of Rome the bricks are very thin, very thoroughly 
burnt, and laid with a thick stratum of mortar between the courses. A few 
centuries later tho bricks were thicker and less well burnt, and the layers of 
mortar were thinner. In the Imperial period the bricks were still thicker, 
generally soft-burnt, and with little mortar between the courses. This fact, 
I think, is due to the abundance and cheapness of fuel in earlier, and its 
growing scarceness and dearness in later, ages. When wood cost little, con- 
structors could afford to burn their brick thoroughly, and to burn and use a 
great quantity of lime. As the price of fire-wood advanced, they were able 
to consume less fuel in brick- and lime-kilns, and the quality and quantity of 
brick and lime used in building were gradually reversed in proportion. 

The multitude of geographical designations in Italy which indicate the 
former existence of forests show that even in the Middle Ages there were 
woods where no forest-trees are now to be found. There are hundreds of names 
of mediaeval towns derived from abc te, acero, earpino, eastagiw, fagglo. frassino, 
pino, querela, and other names of trees. 

f See A. de Berenger's valuable Saggio Storico delta Legislasione Veneta 
Forestale. Venezia, 1863. 

We do not find in tho Venetian forestal legislation much evidence that geo- 
graphical arguments were taken into account by the lawgivers, who seoin to 
have had an eye only to economical considerations. 

According to Hummel, the desolation of the Karst, the high plateau lying 
north of Trieste, now one of the most parched and barren districts in Europe, 
is owing to the felling of its woods, centimes ago, to build the navies of Venice. 
" Where the miserable peasant of the Karst now sees nothing but bare rock 
swept and scoured by the raging Bora, the fury of this wind was once subdued 
by mighty firs, which Venice recklessly cut down to build her fleets." — Phy- 
sisclie Geograpliie, p. 32. 


observed, and it is generally true that the present condition of 
the forest in Italy is much less due to the want of wise legisla- 
tion for its protection than to the laxity of the Governments in 
enforcing their laws. 

It is very common in Italy to ascribe to the French occupa- 
tion under the first Empire all the improvements and all the 
abuses of recent times, according to the political sympathies of 
the individual ; and the French are often said to have prostra- 
ted every forest which has clisa]3peared within this century. 
But, however this may be, no energetic system of repression 
or restoration was adopted by any of the Italian States after the 
downfall of the Empire, and the taxes on forest property in 
some of them were so burdensome that rural municipalities 
sometimes proposed to cede their common woods to the Gov- 
ernment, without any other compensation than the remission of 
the taxes imposed on forest-lands.* Under such circumstances, 
woodlands would soon become disafforested, and where facili- 
ties of transportation and a good demand for timber have in- 
creased the inducements to fell it, as upon the borders of the 
Mediterranean, the destruction of the forest and all the evils 
which attend it have gone on at a seriously alarming rate. 

Gallenga gives a striking account of the wanton destruction 
of the forests in Northern Italy within his personal recollection,! 
and there are few Italians past middle life whose own memory 
will not supply similar reminiscences. The clearing of the 
mountain valleys of the provinces of Bergamo and of Brescia is 
recent, and Lombardini informs us the felling of the woods in 
the Valtelline commenced little more than forty years ago. 

Although no country has produced more able writers on the 

* See the Politemico for the month of May, 1862, p. 234. 

f ' ' Far away in the darkest recesses of the mountains a kind of universal 
conspiracy seems to have been got up among these Alpine people, — a destruc- 
tive mania to hew and sweep down everything that stands on roots." — Country 
JJfp in Piedmont, p. 134. 

" There are huge pyramids of mountains now bare and bleak from base to 
summit, which men still living and still young remember seeing richly man^ 
tied with all but primeval forests." — Ibid. , p. 135. 



value of the forest and the general consequences of its destruc- 
tion than Italy, yet the specific geographical importance of the 
woods, except as a protection against inundations, has not 
been so clearly recognized in that country as in the States bor- 
dering it on the north and west. It is true that the face 
of nature has been as completely revolutionized by man, and 
that the action of torrents has created almost as wide and as 
hopeless devastation in Italy as in France ; but in the French 
Empire the recent desolation produced by clearing the forests 
is more extensive, has been more suddenly effected, has occurred 
in less remote and obscure localities, and, therefore, excites a 
livelier and more general interest than in Italy, where public 
opinion does not so readily connect the effect with its true cause. 
Italy, too, from ancient habit, employs little wood in architec- 
tural construction ; for generations she has maintained no 
military or commercial marine large enough to require ex- 
haustive quantities of timber,* and the mildness of her climate 
makes small demands on the woods for fuel. Besides these 
circumstances, it must be remembered that the sciences of obser- 
vation did not become knowledges of practical application till 
after the mischief was already mainly done and even forgotten 
in Alpine Italy, while its evils were just beginning to be sensibly 
felt in France when the claims of natural philosophy as a liberal 
study were first acknowledged in modern Europe. The former 
political condition of the Italian Peninsula would have effectu- 
ally prevented the adoption of a general system of forest econo- 

* The great naval and commercial marines of Venice and of Genoa must 
have occasioned an immense consumption of lumber in the Middle Ages, and 
■i nturies immediately succeeding those commonly embraced in that desig- 
nation. The marine construction of that period employed larger timbers than 
the modern naval architecture of most commercial countries, but apparently 
without a proportional increase of strength. The old modes of ship-building 
have been, to a considerable extent, handed down to very recent times in the 
Mediterranean, and though better models and modes of construction are now 
< mployed in Italian shipyards, an American or an Englishman looks with aston- 
ishment at the huge beams and thick planks so often employed in the con- 
st ructv >n of v«ry small vessels navigating that sea, and not yet old enough to 
be broken up as unseaworthy. 


my, however clearly the importance of a wise administration of 
this great public interest might have been understood. The 
woods which controlled and regulated the flow of the river- 
sources were very often in one jurisdiction, the plains to be 
irrigated, or to be inundated by floods and desolated by tor- 
rents, in another. Concert of action, on such a subject, between 
a multitude of jealous petty sovereignties, was obviously impos- 
sible, and nothing but the permanent union of all the Italian 
States under a single government can render practicable the 
establishment of such arrangements for the conservation and 
restoration of the forests, and the regulation of the flow of the 
waters, as are necessary for the full development of the yet 
unexhausted resources of that fairest of lands, and even for the 
maintenance of the present condition of its physical geography. 

The Forests of Germany. 

Germany, including a considerable part of the Austrian 
Empire, from character of surface and climate, and from the 
attention which has long been paid in all the German States to 
sylviculture, is in a far better condition in this respect than its 
more southern neighbors ; and though in the Alpine provinces 
of Bavaria and Austria the same improvidence which marks 
the rural economy of the corresponding districts of Switzerland, 
Italy, and France, has produced effects hardly less disastrous,* 

* As an instance of the scarcity of fuel in some parts of the territory of 
Bavaria, where, not long since, wood abounded, I may mention the fact that 
the water of salt-springs is, in some instances, conveyed to the distance of 
sixty miles, in iron pipes, to reach a supply of fuel for boiling it down. 

In France, the juice of the sugar-beet is sometimes carried three or four 
miles in pipes for the same reason. 

Many of my readers may remember that it was not long ago proposed to 
manufacture the gas for the supply of London at the mouths of the coal- 
mines, and convey it to the city in pipes, thus saving the transportation of the 
coal ; but as the coke and mineral tar would still have remained to be dis- 
posed of, the operation would probably not have proved advantageous. 

Great economy in the production of petroleum has resulted from the appli- 
cation of cast-iron tubes to the wells, instead of barrels ; the oil is thus carried 


yet, as a whole, the German States, as Siemoni well observes, 
must be considered as in this respect the model countries of 
Europe. Not only is the forest area in general maintained 
without diminution, but new woods are planted where they are 
specially needed,* and, though the slow growth of forest-trees in 
those climates reduces the direct pecuniary returns of woodlands 
to a minimum, the governments wisely persevere in encouraging 
this industry. The exportation of sawn lumber from Trieste is 
large, and in fact the Turkish and Egyptian markets are in 
great part supplied from this source. f 

Forests of Russia. 

Russia, which we habitually consider as substantially a forest 
country — which has in fact a large proportion of woodland — is 
beginning to suffer seriously for want of wood. Jourdier 
observes : " Instead of a vast territory with immense forests, 
which we expect to meet, one sees only scattered groves thinned 
by the wind or by the axe of the moujik, grounds cut over and 
more or less recently cleared for cultivation. There is probably 
not a single district in Russia which has not to deplore the 
ravages of man or of fire, those two great enemies of Muscovite 
sylviculture. This is so true, that clear-sighted men already 
foresee a crisis which will become terrible, unless the discovery 

over the various inequalities of surface for three or four miles to the tanks on 
the railroads, and forced into them by steam-engiries. The price of transport 
is thus reduced one-fifth. 

* The Austrian Government is making energetic efforts for the propagation 
of forests on the desolate waste of the Karst. The difficulties from drought 
and from the violence of the winds, which might prove fatal to young and 
even to somewhat advanced plantations, are very serious, but in 1800 upwards 
of 400,000 trees had been planted and great quantities of seeds sown. Thus 
far, the results of this important experiment are said to be encouraging. See 
the Ghronique ForesUere in the Revue dcs Eaux et Forets, Feb. 1870. 

f For information respecting the forests of Germany, as well as other 
European countries, see, besides the works already cited, the very valuable 
Manuale d'Arle Forestale of Siemoni, 2de edizione, Firenze, 1872. 


of great deposits of some new combustible, as pit-coal or anthra- 
cite, shall diminish its evils." * 

* Clavj£, Etudes sur V&xmomie Forestiere, p. 261. Clave adds (p. 262) : 
" The Russian forests are very unequally distributed through the territory of 
this vast empire. In the north they forra immense masses, and cover whole 
provinces, while in the south they are so completely wanting that the inhabit- 
ants have no other fuel than straw, dung - , rushes, and heath." . . . '• At 
Moscow, firewood costs thirty per cent, more than at Paris, while, at the dis- 
tance of a few leagues, it sells for a tenth of that price." 

This state of things is partly due to the want of facilities of transportation, 
and some parts of the United States are in a similar condition. During a 
severe winter, ten or twelve years ago, the sudden freezing of the canals and 
rivers, before a large American town had received its usual supply of fuel, 
occasioned an enormous rise in the price of wood and coal, and the poor 
suffered severely for want of it. Within a few hours of the city were large 
forests and an abundant stock of firewood felled and prepared for burning. 
This might easily have been carried to town by the railroads which passed 
through the woods ; but the managers of the roads refused to receive it as 
freight, because a rival market for wood might raise the price of the fuel 
they employed for their locomotives. Truly, our railways " want a master." 

Hohenstein, who was long professionally employed as a forester in Russia, 
describes the consequences of the general war upon the woods in that country 
as already most disastrous, and as threatening still more ruinous evils. The 
river Volga, the life artery of Russian internal commerce, is drying up from 
this cause, and the great Muscovite plains are fast advancing to a desolation 
like that of Persia. — Der Wald, p. 223. 

The level of the Caspian Sea is eighty-three feet lower than that of the Sea 
of Azofr, and the surface of Lake Aral is fast sinking. Von Baer maintains 
that the depression of the Caspian was produced by a sudden subsidence, 
from geological causes, and not gradually by excess of evaporation over sup- 
ply. See Kaspische Studien, p. 25. But this subsidence diminished the area 
and consequently the evaporation of that sea, and the rivers which once main- 
tained its ancient equilibrium ought to have raised it to its former level, if 
their own flow had not been diminished. It is, indeed, not proved that the lay- 
ing bare of a wooded country diminishes the total annual precipitation upon 
it ; but it is certain that the summer delivery of water from the surface of a 
champaign region, like that through which the Volga, its tributaries, and the 
feeders of Lake Aral, flow, is lessened by the removal of its woods. Hence, 
though as much rain may still fall in the valleys of those rivers as when their 
whole surface was covered with forests, more moisture may be carried off by 
evaporation, and a less quantity of water be discharged by t :e rivers since 
their basins were cleared, and therefore the present condition of the inland 
waters in question may be due to the removal of the forests in their valleys 
and the adjacent plains. 


Forests of United States. 

I greatly doubt whether any one of the American States, ex- 
cept, perhaps, Oregon, has, at this moment, more woodland than 
it ought permanently to preserve, though, no doubt, a different 
distribution of the forests in all of them might be highly ad- 
vantageous. It is, perhaps, a misfortune to the American Union 
that the State Governments have so generally disposed of their 
original domain to private citizens. It is true that public pro- 
perty is not sufficiently respected in the United States ; and 
within the memory of almost every man of mature age, timber 
was of so little value in the northernmost States that the own- 
ers of private woodlands submitted, almost without complaint, 
to what would be regarded elsewhere as very aggravated tres- 
passes upon them.* Persons in want of timber helped them- 
selves to it wherever they could find it, and a claim for dam- 
ages, for so insignificant a wrong as cutting down and carrying off 
a few pine or oak trees, was regarded as a mean-spirited act in 
a proprietor. The habits formed at this period are not alto- 
gether obsolete, and even now the notion of a common right of 
property in the woods still lingers, if not as an opinion at least 
as a sentiment. Under such circumstances it has been difficult 
to protect the forest, whether it belong to the State or to indi- 

* According to the maxims of English jurisprudence, the common law con- 
sists of general customs so long established that " the memory of man runneth 
not to the contrary." In other words, long custom makes law. In new coun- 
tries, the change of circumstances creates new customs, and, in time, new 
law, without the aid of legislation. Had the American colonists observed a 
more sparing economy in the treatment of their woods, a new code of custom- 
ary forest-law would have sprung up and acquired the force of a statute. 
Popular habit was fast elaborating the fundamental principles of such a code, 
when the rapid increase in the value of timber, in consequence of the reckless 
devastation of the woodlands, made it the interest of the proprietors to inter- 
fere with this incipient system of forest jurisprudence, and appeal to the rules 
of English law for the protection of their woods. The courts have sustained 
these appeals, and forest property is now legally as inviolable as any other, 
though common opinion still combats the course of judicial decision on such 


viduals. Property of this kind is subject to plunder, as well as 
to frequent damage by fire. The destruction from these causes 
would, indeed, considerably lessen, but would by no means 
wholly annihilate the climatic and geographical influences of 
the forest, or ruinously diminish its yalue as a regular source of 
supply of fuel and timber. 

It is evidently a matter of the utmost importance that the 
public, and especially land-owners, be roused to a sense of the 
dangers to which the indiscriminate clearing of the woods may 
expose not only future generations, but the very soil itself. 
Some of the American States, as well as the Governments of 
many European colonies, still retain the ownership of great 
tracts of primitive woodland. The State of New York, for ex- 
ample, has, in its north-eastern counties, a vast extent of terri- 
t> >ry in which the lumberman has only here and there estab- 
lished his camp, and where the forest, though interspersed with 
permanent settlements, robbed of some of its finest pine groves, 
and often ravaged by devastating fires, still covers far the lar- 
gest proportion of the surface. Through this territory the soil 
is generally poor, and even the new clearings have little of the 
luxuriance of harvest which distinguishes them elsewhere. 
The value of the land for agricultural uses is therefore very 
small, and few purchases are made for any other purpose than 
to strip the soil of its timber. It has been often proposed that 
the State should declare the remaining forest the inalienable 
property of the commonwealth, but I believe the motive of the 
suggestion has originated rather in poetical than in economical 
views of the subject. Both these classes of considerations have 
a real worth. It is desirable that some large and easily access- 
ible region of American soil should remain, as far as possible, 
in its primitive condition, at once a museum for the instruction 
of the student, a garden for the recreation of the lover of na- 
ture, and an asylum where indigenous tree, and humble plant 
that loves the shade, and fish and fowl and four-footed beast, 
may dwell and perpetuate their kind, in the enjoyment of such 
imperfect protection as the laws of a people jealous of restraint 


can afford them. The immediate loss to the public treasury 
from the adoption of this policy would be inconsiderable, for 
these lands are sold at low rates. The forest alone, economi- 
cally managed, would, without injury, and even with benefit to 
its permanence and growth, soon yield a regular income larger 
than the present value of the fee. 

The collateral advantages of the preservation of these forests 
would be far greater. Nature threw up those mountains and 
clothed them with lofty woods, that they might serve as a reser- 
voir to supply with perennial waters the thousand rivers and 
rills that are fed by the rains and snows of the Adirondack^, 
and as a screen for the fertile plains of the central counties 
against the chilling blasts of the north wind, which meet no 
other barrier in their sweep from the Arctic pole. The climate 
of Northern New York even now presents greater extremes of 
temperature than that of Southern France. The long-contin- 
ued cold of winter is more intense, the short heats of summer 
even fiercer than in Provence, and hence the preservation of 
every influence that tends to maintain an equilibrium of tempe- 
rature and humidity is of cardinal importance. The felling <>f 
the Adirondack woods would ultimately involve for Northern 
and Central New York consequences similar to those which ha\e 
resulted from the laying bare of the southern and western de- 
clivities of the French Alps and the spurs, ridges, and detached 
peaks in front of them. 

It is true that the evils to be apprehended from the clearing 
of the mountains of New York may be less in degree than 
those which a similar cause has produced in Southern France, 
where the intensity of its action has been increased by the 
inclination of the mountain declivities, and by the peculiar 
ge< (logical constitution of the earth. The degradation of the 
soil is, perhaps, not equally promoted by a combination of the 
same circumstances, in any of the American Atlantic States, 
but still they have rapid slopes and loose and friable soils 
i ■ >ugli to render widespread desolation certain, if the further 
destruction of the woods is not soon arrested. The effects of 


clearing are already perceptible in the comparatively unvio- 
lated region of which I am speaking. The rivers which rise 
in it flow with diminished currents in dry seasons, and with 
augmented volumes of water after heavy rains. They bring 
down larger quantities of sediment, and the increasing ob- 
structions to the navigation of the Hudson, which are extend- 
ing themselves down the channel in proportion as the fields are 
encroaching upon the forest, give good grounds for the fear of 
irreparable injury to the commerce of the important towns on 
the upper waters of that river, unless measures are taken to 
prevent the expansion of " improvements " which have already 
been carried beyond the demands of a wise economy. 

In the Eastern United States the general character of the 
climate, soil, and surface is such, that for the formation of very 
destructive torrents a much longer time is required than would 
be necessary in the mountainous provinces of Italy or of France. 
But the work of desolation has begun even there, and wher- 
ever a rapid mountain-slope has been stripped of wood, incipi- 
ent ravines already plough the surface, and collect the pre- 
cipitation in channels which threaten serious mischief in the 
future. There is a peculiar action of this sort on the sandy sur- 
face of pine-forests and in other soils that unite readily with 
water, which has excited the attention of geographers and 
geologists. Soils of the first kind are found in all the Eastern 
States ; those of the second are more frequent in the exhausted 
counties of Maryland, where tobacco is cultivated, and in the 
more southern territories of Georgia and Alabama. In these 
localities the ravines which appear after the cutting of the forest, 
through some accidental disturbance of the surface, or, in some 
formations, through the cracking of the soil in consequence of 

great drought or heat, enlarge and extend themselves with fear- 
is o Jo 

ful rapidity. 

In Georgia and in Alabama, Lyell saw " the beginning of the 
formation of hundreds of valleys in places where the primitive 
forest had been recently cut down." One of these, in Georgia, 
in a soil composed of clay and sand produced by the decompo- 


sition in situ of hornblendic gueiss with layers and veins of 
quartz, " and which did not exist before the felling of the 
forest twenty years previous," he describes as more than 55 feet 
in depth, 300 yards in length, and from 20 to ISO feet in 
breadth. Our author refers to other cases in the same States, 
" where the cutting down of the trees, which had prevented the 
rain from collecting into torrents and running off in sudden 
land-floods, has given rise to ravines from 70 to 80 feet deep." * 
Similar results often follow in the North-eastern States from 
cutting the timber on the " pine plains," where the soil is usually 
of a sandy composition and loose texture. 

American Forest-Trees. 

The remaining forests of the Northern States and of Canada 
no longer boast the mighty pines which almost rivalled the 
gigantic sequoia and redwood of California ; and the growth 
of the larger forest-trees is so slow, after they have attained t< i 
a certain size, that if every pine and oak were spared for two 
centuries, the largest now standing would not reach the stature 
of hundreds recorded to have been cut within two or three 
generations. \ Dr. Williams, who wrote about sixty years ago, 

* Lyell, Principles of Geotogy, 10th ed., vol. i., 345-6. 

f The growth of the white pine, on a good soil and in open ground, is 
rather rapid until it reaches the diameter of a couple of feet, after which it 
is much slower. The favorite habitat of this tree is light, sandy earth. On 
this soil, and in a dense wood, it requires a century to attain the diameter of 
a y:i d. Emerson (Trees of Massachusetts, p. 65), says that a pine of this 
species, near Paris, " thirty years planted, is eighty feet high, with a diameter 
of three feet." He also states that ten white pines planted at Cambridge, 
Massachusetts, in 1809 or 1810, exhibited, in the winter of 1841 and 1843, an 
average of twenty inches diameter at the ground, the two largest measuring, 
at the height of three feet, four feet eight inches in circumference ; and he 
mentions another pine growing in a rocky swamp, which, at the age of thirty- 
two years, ''gave seven feet in circumference at the but, with a height of 
eixty-two feet six inches." This latter I suppose to be a seedling, the others 
transplanted trees, which might have been some years old when placed where 
they finally grew. 

The following case came under my own observation : In 1824 a pine-tree, 



states the following as the dimensions of " such trees as are 
esteemed large ones of their kind in that part of America " 
[Vermont], qualifying his account with the remark that his 
measurements " do not denote the greatest which nature has 
produced of their particular species, but the greatest which arc 
to be found in most of our towns." 


Pine 6 feet, 

Maple 5 " 9 inches, 

Buttonwood 5 " 6 " 

Elm 5 " 

Hemlock 4 " 9 " 

Oak 4 " 

Basswood 4 " 

Ash 4 " 

Birch 4 " 


247 feet. 

From 100 to 200 feet. 

He adds a note saying that a white pine was cut in Dun- 
stable, JSTew Hampshire, in the year 1736, the diameter of 
which was seven feet and eight inches. Dr. Dwight says that 
a fallen pine in Connecticut was found to measure two hun- 

so small that a young lady, with the help of a lad, took it up from the ground 
and carried it a quarter of a mile, was planted near a house in a town in 
Vermont. It was occasionally watered, but received no other special treat- 
ment. I measured this tree in 18G0, and found it, at four feet from the 
ground, and entirely above the spread of the roots, two feet and four inches 
in diameter. A new measurement in 1 871 gave a diameter of two feet eight 
inches, being an increase of four inches in eleven years, a slower rate than 
that of preceding years. It could not have been more than three inches 
through when transplanted, and up to 1860 must have increased its diameter 
at the rate of about seven-tenths of an inch per year, almost double its later 
growth. In 1871 the crown had a diameter of 62 feet. 

In the same neighborhood, elms transplanted in 1803, when they were not 
above three or four inches through, had attained, in 1871, a diameter of from 
four feet to four feet two inches, with a spread of crown of from 90 to 112 
feet. Sugar-maples, transplanted in 1822, at about the same size, measured 
two feet three inches through. This growth undoubtedly considerably ex- 
ceeds that of trees of the same species in the natural forest, though the 
transplanted trees had received no other fertilizing application than an un- 
limited supply of light and air. 


dred and forty -seven feet in height, and adds : " A few years 
since, such trees were in great numbers along the northern 
parts of Connecticut River." In another letter, he speaks of 
the white pine as " frequently six feet in diameter, and two 
hundred and fifty feet in height," and states that a pine had 
been cut in Lancaster, New Hampshire, which measured two 
hundred and sixty-four feet. Emerson wrote in 1846 : " Fifty 
years ago, several trees growing on rather dry land in Bland- 
ford, Massachusetts, measured, after they were felled, two hun- 
dred and twenty-three feet." All these trees are surpassed by 
a pine felled at Hanover, New Hampshire, about a hundred 
years ago, and described as measuring two hundred and seventy- 
four feet.* These descriptions, it will be noticed, apply to 
trees cut from seventy to one hundred and forty years since. 

Persons, whom observation has rendered familiar with the 
present character of the American forest, will be struck with 
the smallness of the diameter which Dr. Williams and Dr. 
Dwight ascribe to trees of such extraordinary height. Indi- 
viduals of the several species mentioned in Dr. Williams's table 
are now hardly to be found in the same climate, exceeding 
one-half or at most two-thirds of the height which he assigns 
to them ; but, except in the case of the oak and the pine, the 
diameter stated by him would not be thought very extraordi- 
nary in trees of far less height, now standing. Even in the 
species I have excepted, those diameters, with half the heights 
of Dr. Williams, might perhaps be paralleled at the present 
time ; and many elms, transplanted, at a diameter of six inches, 
within the memory of persons still living, measure four and 
sometimes even five feet through. For this change in the 
growth of forest-trees there are two reasons : the one is, that 
the great commercial value of the pine and the oak have caused 
the destruction of all the best — that is, the tallest and straight- 
est — specimens of both; the other, that the thinning of the 

* WILLIAMS, EMoryof Vermont, ii. , p. 53. Dwigiit's Travels, iv., p. 21, 
and iii. , p. 36. Emerson, Trees of Massachusetts, p. 61. Parish, Life of 
President Wheeloek, p. 56. 


woods by the axe of the lumberman has allowed the access of 
light and heat and air to trees of humbler worth and lower 
stature, which have survived their more towering brethren. 
These, consequently, have been able to expand their crowns 
and swell their stems to a degree not possible so long as they 
were overshadowed and stifled by the lordly oak and pine. 
While, therefore, the ]STew England forester must search long 
before he finds a pine 

fit to be the mast 
Of some great ammiral, 

beeches and elms and birches, as sturdy as the mightiest of 
their progenitors, are still no rarity.* 

California fortunately still preserves her magnificent se- 
quoias, which rise to the height of three hundred feet, and 

* The forest-trees of the Northern States do not attain to extreme longevity 
in the dense woods. Dr. Williams found that none of the huge pines, the age 
of which he ascertained, exceeded three hundred and fifty or four hundred 
years, though he quotes a friend who thought he had noticed trees consider- 
ably older. The oak lives longer than the pine, and the hemlock -spruce is 
perhaps equally long lived. A tree of this latter species, cut within ray knowl- 
edge in a thick wood, counted four hundred and eighty -six, or, according to 
another observer, five hundred annual circles. 

Great luxuriance of animal and vegetable production is not commonly ac- 
companied by long duration of the individual. The oldest men are not found 
in the crowded city ; and in the tropics, where life is prolific and precocious, 
it is also short. The most ancient forest-trees of which we have accounts 
have not been those growing in thick woods, but isolated specimens, with no 
taller neighbor to intercept the light and heat and air, and no rival to share 
the nutriment afforded by the soil. 

The more rapid growth and greater dimensions of trees standing m 
boundary of the forest, are matters of familiar observation. ' ' Long experi- 
ence has shown that trees growing on the confines of the wood may be cut at 
sixty years of age as advantageously as others of the same species, reared in 
the depth of the forest, at a hundred and twenty. We have often remarked, 
in our Alps, that the trunk of trees upon the border of a grove is most de- 
veloped or enlarged upon the outer or open side, where the branches extend 
themselves farthest, while the concentric circles of growth are most uniform 
in those entirely surrounded by other trees, or standing entirely alone." — A. 
and G. Villa, Necessita dd Bosnia, pp. 17, IS. 


sometimes, as we are assured, even to three hundred and sixty 
and four hundred feet, and she has also pines and cedars of 
scarcely inferior dimensions. The public being now convinced 
of the importance of preserving these colossal trees, it is very 
probable that the fear of their total destruction may prove 
groundless, and we may still hope that some of them may 
survive even till that distant future when the skill of the forester 
shall have raised from their seeds a progeny as lofty and as 
majestic as those which now exist.* 

European and American Trees compared. 

The woods of North America are strikingly distinguished 
from those of Europe by the vastly greater variety of species 
they contain. According to Clave, there are in "France and 
in most parts of Europe only about twenty forest-trees, five 
or six of which are spike-leaved and resinous, the remainder 
broad-leaved." \ Our author, however, doubtless means genera, 
though he uses the word especes. Rossmassler enumerates firry- 
seven species of forest-trees as found in Germany, but some of 
these are mere shrubs, some are fruit and properly garden 
trees, and some others are only varieties of familiar species. 
The valuable manual of Parade describes about the same num- 
ber, including, however, two of American origin — the locust, 
Rdbwda pseudacacia, and the "Weymouth or white pine, Phi us 
strobus — and the cedar of Lebanon from Asia, which, or at 
least a very closely allied species, is indigenous in Algeria 
also. We may then safely say that Europe does not possess 

* California must surrender to Australia the glory of possessing the tallest 
trees. According to Dr. Mueller, Director of the Government Botanic Gar- 
den at Melbourne, a Eucalyptus, near Healesville, measured 480 feet in height. 
Lat'>r accounts speak of trees of the same species fully 500 feet in height. 
See Sciileidest, Far Banm und WcM, p. 21. 

If we may credit late reports, the growth of the eucalyptus is so rapid in 
California, that the child is perhaps now born who will see the tallest sequoia 
overtopped by this new vegetable emigrant from Australia. 

f i'.O.iihs Forcstieres, p. 7. 


above forty or fifty native trees of such economical value as 
to be worth the special care of the forester, while the oak alone 
numbers more than thirty species in the United States,* and 
some other North American genera are almost equally diversi- 

* For full catalogues of American forest-trees, and remarks on their geo- 
graphical distribution, consult papers on the subject by Dr. J. G. Cooper, in 
the Report of the Smithsonian Institution for 1858, and the Report of the 
United States Patent Office, Agricultural Division, for 1860. 

f Although Spenser's catalogue of trees occurs in the first canto of the first 
book of the "Faery Queene" — the only canto of that exquisite poem actually 
read by most students of English literature — it is not so generally familiar as 
to make the quotation of it altogether superfluous : 


Enforst to seeke some covert nigh at hand, 

A shadie grove not farr away they spide, 

That promist ayde the tempest to withstand ; 

Whose loftie trees, yclad with sommers pride, 

Did spred so broad, that heavens light did hide, 

Not perceable with power of any starr : 

And all within were pathes and alleies wide, 

With footing worne. and leading inward farr ; 

Faire harbour that them seems ; so in they entered ar. 

And foorth they passe, with pleasure forward led, 
Joying to heare the birdes sweete harmony, 
Which therein shrouded from the tempest dred, 
Seemd in their song to scorne the cruell sky. 
Much can they praise the trees so straight and hy, 
The sayling pine ; the cedar stout and tall ; 
The vine-propp elm ; the poplar never dry ; 
The builder oake, sole king of forrests all ; 
The aspine good for staves ; the cypresse funerall ; 


The laurel], meed of mightie conquerours 

And poets sage ; the firre that weepeth still ; 

The willow, worne of forlorn paramours ; 

The eugh, obedient to the benders will ; 

The birch for shaftes ; the sallow for the mill ; 

The mirrhe sweete-bleeding in the bitter wound ; 

The warlike beech ; the a;-h for nothing ill ; 

The fruitfull olive ; and the platane round ; 

The carver holme ; the maple sccldom inward sound. 

Although the number of species of American forest-trees is much larger 
than of European, yet the distinguishable varieties are relatively more numer- 

330 trees or Europe and America compared. 

"Wliile the American forest flora has made large contribu- 
tions to that of Europe, comparatively few European trees have 
been naturalized in the United States, and as a general rule the 
indigenous trees of Europe do not succeed well in our climate. 
The European mountain-ash — which in beaut}', dimensions, and 
healthfulness of growth is superior to our own * — the horse- 
chestnut, and the abele, or silver poplar, are valuable additions 
to the ornamental trees of North America. The Swiss arve or 
zirbelkiefer, Pinus ce?nhra, which yields a well-flavored edible 
seed and furnishes excellent wood for carving, the umbrella- 
pine, f which also bears a seed agreeable to the taste, and 
which, from the color of its foliage and the beautiful form of 
its dome-like crown, is among the most elegant of trees, the 
white birch of Central Europe, with its pendulous branches 
almost rivalling those of tbe weeping willow in length, flexi- 
bility, and gracefulness of fall, and, especially, the " cypresse 
funerall," might be introduced into the United States with 
great advantage to the landscape. The European beech and 
chestnut furnish timber of far better quality than that of their 
American congeners. The fruit of the European chestnut, 
though inferior to the American in sweetness and flavor, is 

ous in the Old World, even in the case of trees not generally receiving special 
cure. This multiplication of varieties is no doubt a result, though uot a 
foreseen or intended one, of human action ; for the ordinary operations of 
European forest economy expose young trees to different conditions from 
those presented by nature, and new conditions produce new forms. All Euro- 
pean woods, except in the remote North, even if not technically artificial for- 
ests, acquire a more or less artificial character from the governing hand of man, 
and the effect of this interference is seen in the constant deviation of trees 
from the original type. The holly, for example, even when growing as abso- 
lutely wild as any tree can ever grow in countries long occupied by man, pro- 
duces numerous varieties, and twenty or thirty such, not to mention inter- 
mediate shades, are described and named as recognizably different, in treatises 
on the forest-trees of Europe. 

* In the Northern Tyrol mountain-ashes fifteen inches in diameter are not 
uncommon. The berries are distilled with grain to flavor the spirit. 

f The mountain ranges of our c.\! < me West produce a pine closely resembling 
the European umbrella-pine. 


larger, and is an important article of diet among the French 
and Italian peasantry. The walnut of Europe, though not 
equal to some of the American species in beauty of growth or 
of wood, or to others in strength and elasticity of fibre, is valua- 
ble for its timber and its oil.* The maritine pine, which has 
proved of such immense use in fixing drifting sands in France, 

* The walnut is a more valuable tree than is generally supposed. It yields 
one-third of the oil produced in France, and in this respect occupies an inter- 
mediate position between the olive of the south and the oleaginous seeds of 
the north. A hectare (about two and a half acres) will produce nuts to the 
value of five hundred francs a year, which cost nothing but the gathering. 
Unfortunately, its maturity must be long waited for, and more nut-trees are 
felled than planted. The demand for its wood in cabinet-work is the princi- 
pal cause of its destruction. See Lavergne, Ec-onomie Rurale de la France, 
p. 253. 

According to Cosimo Ridolfi (Lezioni Orali, ii. , p. 424), France obtains three 
times as much oil from the walnut as from the olive, and nearly as much as 
from all oleaginous seeds together. He states that the walnut bears nuts at 
the age of twenty years, and yields its maximum product at seventy, and that a 
hectare of ground, with thirty trees, or twelve to the acre, is equal to a capital 
of twenty-five hundred francs. 

The nut of this tree is known in the United States as the "English walnut." 
The fruit and the wood much resemble those of the American black walnut, 
Juglans nigra, but for cabinet-work the American is the more beautiful 
material, especially when the large knots are employed. The timber of the 
European species, when straight-grained, and clear, or free from knots, is, for 
ordinary purposes, better than that of the American black walnut, but bears 
no comparison with the wood of the hickory, when strength combined with 
elasticity is required, and its nut is very inferior in taste to that of the shag- 
bark, as well as to the butternut, which it somewhat resembles. 

" The chestnut is more valuable still, for it produces on a sterile soil, which, 
without it, would yield only ferns and heaths, an abundant nutriment for 
man.'' — Lavergne, Economic Rurale de la France, p. 253. 

I believe the varieties developed by cultivation are less numerous hi the 
walnut than in the chestnut, which latter tree is often grafted in Southern 

The chestnut crop of France was estimated in 1848 at 3,478,000 hectolitres, 
or 9,877,520 Winchester bushels, and valued at 13,528,000 francs, or more than 
two million and a half dollars. In Tuscany the annual yield is computed at 
about 550,000 bushels. 

The Tuscan peasants think the flour of the dried chestnut not less nutritious 
than Indian cornmeal, and it sells at the same price, or about three cents per 
English pound, in the mountains, and four cents in the towns. 



may perhaps be Letter adapted to this purpose than any of the 
pines of the Xew World, and it is of great importance for its 
turpentine, resin, and tar. The epieea, or common fir, Abies 
picea, Abies excelsa, Picea excelsa, abundant in the mountains 
of France and the contiguous country, is known for its product, 
Burgundy pitch, and, as it flourishes in a greater variety of soil 
and climate than almost any other spike-leaved tree, it might 
be well worth transplantation.* The cork oak has been intro- 
duced into California and some other parts of the United 
States, I believe, and would undoubtedly thrive in the Southern 
section of the Union.f 

* This fir is remarkable for its tendency to cicatrize or heal over its stumps, 
a property which it possesses in common with some other firs, the maritime 
pine, and the European larch. When these trees grow in thick clumps, their 
roots are apt to unite by a species of natural grafting, and if one of them be 
felled, although its own proper rootlets die, the stump may continue, some- 
times for a century, to receive nourishment from the radicles of the surround- 
ing trees, and a dome of wood and bark of considerable thickness be formed 
over it. The healing is, however, only apparent, for the entire stump, except 
the outside ring of annual growth, soon dies, and even decays within its cover- 
ing, without sending out new shoots. See Monthly Report, Department of 
Agriculture, for October, 1872. 

f At the age of twelve or fifteen years, the cork-tree is stripped of its outer 
bark for the first time. This first yield is of inferior quality, and is employed 
for floats for nets and buoys, or burnt for lampblack. After this, a new layer 
of cork, an inch or an inch and a quarter in thickness, is formed about once in 
ten years, and is removed in large sheets without injury to the tree, which 
lives -a hundred and fifty years or more. According to Clave (p. 252), the 
annual product of a forest of cork oaks is calculated at about GGO kilogrammes, 
worth 150 francs, to the hectare, which, deducting expenses, leaves a profit 
of 100 francs. This is about equal to 250 pound weight, and eight dollars 
profit to the acre. The cork oaks of the national domain in Algeria cover 
about 500,000 acres, and are let to individuals at rates which are expected, 
when the whole is rented, to yield to the state a revenue of about $2,000,000. 

George Sand, in the Sistoire de ma Vie, speaks of the cork-forests in 
Southern France as among the most profitable of rural possessions, and states, 
what I do not remember to have seen noticed elsewhere, that Russia is the 
best customer for cork. The large sheets taken from the trees are slit into 
thin plates, and used to line the walls of apartments in that cold climate. On 
the cultivation and management of the cork oak, see Des Incendies et dc la 
culture du Chet 6-Uige, in Revue des Eaux et Fonts for February, 1809. 


In the walnut, the chestnut, the cork oak, the mulberry, the 
olive, the orange, the lemon, the fig, and the multitude of other 
trees which, by their fruit, or by other products, yield an annual 
revenue, nature has provided Southern Europe with a partial com- 
pensation for the loss of the native forest. It is true that these 
trees, planted as most of them are at such distances as to admit 
of cultivation, or of the growth of grass among them, are but an 
inadequate substitute for the thick and shady wood ; but they 
perform to a certain extent the same offices of absorption and 
transpiration, they shade the surface of the ground, they serve 
to break the force of the wind, and on many a steep declivity, 
many a bleak and barren hillside, the chestnut binds the soil 
together with its roots, and prevents tons of earth and gravel 
from washing down upon the fields and the gardens. Fruit- 
trees are not wanting, certainly, north of the Alps. The apple, 
the pear, and the prune are important in the economy both of 
man and of nature, but they are far less numerous in Switzerland 
and Northern France than are the trees I have mentioned in 
Southern Europe, both because they are in general less remu- 
nerative, and because the climate, in higher latitudes, does not 
permit the free introduction of shade trees into grounds occu- 
pied for agricultural purposes.* 

* The walnut, the chestnut, the apple, and the pear are common to the bor- 
der between the countries I have mentioned, but the range of the other trees 
is bounded by the Alps, and by a well-defined and sharply drawn line to the 
west of those mountains. From some peculiarity in the sky of Europe, culti- 
vated plants will thrive, iD Northern Italy, in Southern France, and even in 
Switzerland, under a depth of shade where no crop, not even grass, worth 
harvesting, would grow in the United States with an equally high summer 
temperature. Hence the cultivation of all these trees is practicable in Europe 
to a greater extent than would be supposed reconcilable with the interests of 
agriculture. Some idea of the importance of the olive orchards may be formed 
from the fact that Sicily alone, an island scarcely exceeding 10,000 square 
miles in area, of which one-third at least is absolutely barren, has exported to 
the single port of Marseilles more than 2,000,000 pounds weight of olive-oil per 
year, for the last thirty years. 

According to Cosimo Itidolfi, Lezioni Orali, vol. ii., p. 340, in a favorable soil 
and climate the average yield of oil from poorly manured trees, which com- 
pose the great majority, is six English pounds, while with the best cultivation it 


The multitude of species, intermixed as they are in their 
spontaneous growth, gives the American forest landscape a 
variety of aspect not often seen in the woods of Europe, and 
the gorgeous tints, which nature repeats from the dying dolphin 
to paint the falling leaf of the American maples, oaks, and ash 
trees, clothe the hillsides and fringe the water-courses with a 
rainbow splendor of foliage, unsurpassed by the brightest 
groupings of the tropical flora. It must be confessed, however, 
that both the northern and the southern declivities of the Alps 
exhibit a nearer approximation to this rich and multifarious 
coloring of autumnal vegetation than most American travellers 
in Europe are willing to allow ; and, besides, the small decidu- 
ous shrubs which often carpet the forest-glades of these moun- 
tains are dyed with a ruddy and orange glow, which, in the 
distant landscape, is no mean substitute for the scarlet and 
crimson and gold and amber of the transatlantic woodland.* 

I admit, though not without reluctance, that the forest-trees 

rises to twenty-three pounds. The annual production of olive-oil in the whole 
of Italy is estimated at upwards of 850,000.000 pounds, and if we allow twelve 
pounds to the tree, we have something more than 70,000,000 trees. The real 
number of trees is, however, much greater than this estimate, for in Tuscony 
and many other parts of Italy the average yield of oil per tree does not exceed 
two pounds, and there are many millions of young trees not yet in bearing. 
Probably we shall not exaggerate if we estimate the olive trees of Italy at 
100,000,000, and as there are about a hundred trees to the acre, the quantity 
of land devoted to the cultivation of the olive may be taken at a million acres. 
Although olive-oil is much used in cookery in Italy, lard is preferred as more 
nutritious. Much American lard is exported to South-eastern Italy, and olive- 
oil is imported in return. 

* The most gorgeous autumnal coloring I have observed in the vegetation of 
Europe has been in the valleys of the Durance and its tributaries in Dauphiny. 
I must admit that neither in variety nor in purity and brilliancy of tint, does 
this coloring fall much, if at all, short of that of the New England woods. 
But there is this difference : in Dauphiny, it is only in small shrubs that this 
rich painting is seen, while in North America the foliage of large trees is dyed 
in full splendor. Hence the American woodland has fewer broken lights and 
more of what painters call breadth of coloring. Besides this, the arrangement 
of the leafage in large globular or conical masses, affords a wider scale of light 
and shade, thus aiding now the gradation now the contrast of tints, and gives 


of Central and Southern Europe have a great advantage over 
our own in the corresponding latitudes, in density of foliage as 
well as in depth of color and persistence of the leaves in 
deciduous species. An American, who, after a long absence 
from the United States, returns in the full height of summer, 
is painfully surprised at the thinness and poverty of the leafage 
even of the trees which he had habitually regarded as specially 
umbrageous, and he must wait for the autumnal frosts before 
he can recover his partiality for the glories of his native woods. 
None of our north-eastern evergreens resemble the umbrella 
pine sufficiently to be a fair object of comparison with it. A 
cedar, very common above the Highlands on the Hudson, and 
elsewhere, is extremely like the cypress, straight, slender, with 
erect, compressed ramification, and feathered to the ground, but 
its foliage is neither so dark nor so dense, the tree does not 
attain the majestic height of the cypress, nor has it the lithe 
flexibility of that tree.* In mere shape, the Lombardy poplar 
nearly resembles this latter, but it is almost a profanation to 
compare the two, especially when they are agitated by the 
wind ; for under such circumstances, the one is the most 

the American October landscape a softer and more harmonious tone than 
murks the humble shrubbery of the forest hillsides of Dauphiny. 

Thoreau — who was not, like some very celebrated landscape critics of the 
present day, an outside spectator of the action and products of natural forces, 
but, in the old religious sense, an observer of organic nature, living, more than 
almost any other descriptive writer, among and with her children — has a very 
eloquent paper on the "Autumnal Tints" of the New England landscape. — 
See his Excursions, pp. 215 et seqq. 

Few men have personally noticed so many facts in natural history accessible 
to unscientific observation as Thoreau, and yet he had never seen that very 
common and striking spectacle, the phosphorescence of decaying wood, until, 
in the latter years of his life, it caught his attention in a bivouac in the forests 
of Maine. He seems to have been more excited by this phenomenon than by 
any other described in his works. It must be a capacious eye that takes in all 
the visible facts in the history of the most familiar natural object. — The Maine 
Woods, p. 184. 

* The cold winter, or rather spring, of 1872 proved fatal to many cypresses as 
well as olive trees in the Val d'Arno. The cypress, therefore, could be intro- 
duced only into California and our Southern States. 


majestic, the other the most ungraceful, or — if I may apply 
such an expression to anything but human affectation of 
movement— the most awkward of trees. The poplar trembles 
before the blast,, flutters, struggles wildly, dishevels its foliage, 
gropes around with its feeble branches, and hisses as in 
impotent passion. The cypress gathers its limbs still more 
closely to its stem, bows a gracious salute rather than an hum- 
ble obeisance to the tempest, bends to the wind with an elasti- 
city that assures you of its prompt return to its regal attitude, 
and sends from its thick leaflets a murmur like the roar of the 
far-off ocean. 

The cypress and the umbrella-pine are not merely conven- 
tional types of the Italian landscape. They are essential ele- 
ments in a field of rural beauty which can be seen in perfec- 
tion only in the basin of the Mediterranean, and they are as 
characteristic of this class of scenery as is the date-palm of the 
oases of the Eastern desert. There is however, this difference : 
a single cypress or pine is often enough to shed beauty over a 
wide area; the palm is a social tree, and its beauty is not so 
much that of the individual as of the group."" The frequency 
of the cypress and the pine — combined with the fact that the 
other trees of Southern Europe which most interest a stranger 
from the north, the orange and the lemon, the cork oak, the 
ilex, the myrtle, and the laurel, are evergreens — goes far to ex- 
plain the beauty of the winter scenery of Italy. Indeed, it is 
only in the winter that a tourist who confines himself to wheel- 
carriages and high roads can acquire any notion of the face of 

* European poets, whose knowledge of the date-palm is not founded on per- 
sonal observation, often describe its trunk as not only slender, but particularly 
Straight. Nothing can be farther from the truth. When the Orientals com- 
pare the form of a beautiful girl to the stem of the palm, they do not repre- 
sent it as rig-idly straight, but on the contrary as made up of graceful curves, 
which seem less like permanent outlines than like flowing motion. In a palm 
grove, the trunks, so far from standing planted upright like the candles of a 
chandelier, bend in a vast variety of curves, now leaning towards, now diverg- 
ing from, now crossing, each other, aid among a hundred you will hardly see 
two whose axes are parallel. 


the earth, and form any proper geographical image of that 
country. At other seasons, not high walls only, but equally im- 
pervious hedges, and now, unhappily, acacias thickly planted 
along the railway routes, confine the view so completely, that 
the arch of a tunnel, or a night-cap over the traveller's eyes, is 
scarcely a more effectual obstacle to the gratification of his 

The Forest does not furnish Food for Man. 

In a region absolutely covered with trees, human life could 
not long be sustained, for want of animal and vegetable food. 
The depths of the forest seldom furnish either bulb or fruit 
suited to the nourishment of man ; and the fowls and beasts on 
which he feeds are scarcely seen except upon the margin of the 
wood, for here only grow the shrubs and grasses, and here only 
are found the seeds and insects, which form the sustenance of 
the non-carnivorous birds and quadrupeds.f 

* Besides this, in a country so diversified in surface as Italy, with the exception 
of the champaign region drained by the Po, every new field of view requires 
either an extraordinary coup (Vceil in the spectator, or a long study, in order to 
master its relief, its plans, its salient and retreating angles. In summer, ex- 
cept of course in the bare mountains, the universal greenery confounds light 
and shade, distance and foreground ; and though the impression upon a trav- 
eller, who journeys for the sake of " sensations," may be strengthened by the 
mysterious annihilation of all standards for the measurement of space, yet 
the superior intelligibility of the winter scenery of Italy is more profitable to 
those who see with a view to analyze. 

f Clave, as well as many earlier writers, supposes that primitive man de- 
rived his nutriment from the spontaneous productions of the wood. "Itia 
to the forests," says he, " that man was first indebted for the means of sub- 
sistence. Exposed alone, without defence, to the rigor of the seasons, a3 
well as to- the attacks of animals stronger and swifter than himself, he found 
in them his first shelter, drew from them his first weapons. In the first period 
of humanity, they provided for all his wants : they furnished him wood for 
warmth, fruits for food, garments to cover his nakedness, arms for his de- 
fence." — Etudes 8UT VKconomie Forcstiere, p, 13. 

But the history of savage life, as far as it is known to us, presents man in 
that condition as inhabiting only the borders of the forest and the open 


First Removal of the Forest. 

When multiplying man had filled the open grounds along 
the margin of the rivers, the lakes, and the sea, and sufficiently 
peopled the natural meadows and savannas of the interior, 
where such existed, he could find room for expansion and .fur- 
ther growth only by the removal of a portion of the forest 
that hemmed him in. The destruction of the woods, then, was 
man's first geographical conquest, his first violation of the har- 
monies of inanimate nature. 

grounds that skirt the waters and the woods, and as finding- only there the 
aliments which make up his daily bread. The villages of the North American 
Indians were upon the shores of rivers and lakes, and their weapons and other 
relics are found only in the narrow open grounds which they had burned over 
and cultivated, or in the margin of the woods around their hamlets. 

Except upon the banks of rivers or of lakes, the woods of the interior of 
North America, far from the habitations of man, are almost destitute of animal 
life. Dr. Newberry, describing the vast forests of the yellow pine of the West, 
Pin us ponderosa, remarks : " In the arid and desert regions of the interior basin, 
we made whole days' marches in forests of yellow pine, of which neither the 
monotony was broken by other forms of vegetation, nor its stillness by the 
flutter of a bird or the hum of an insect." — Pacific Railroad Report, vol. vi., 
1857. Dr. Newberry's Report on Botany, p. 37. 

Cheadle and Milton's North-west Passage confirms these statements. Val- 
vasor says, in a paragraph already quoted, " In my many journeys through 
this valley, I did never have sight of so much as a single bird." 

The wild fruit and nut trees, the Canada plum, the cherries, the many species 
of walnut, the butternut, the hazel, yield very little, frequently nothing, so long 
aa they grow in the woods; and it is only when the trees around them are 
cut down, or when they grow in pastures, that they become productive. The 
berries, too — the strawberry, the blackberry, the raspberry, the whortleberry, 
scarcely bear fruit at all except in cleared ground. 

The rank forests of the tropics are as unproductive of human aliment as 
the less luxuriant woods of the temperate zone. In Strain's unfortunate ex- 
pedition across the great American isthmus, where the journey lay principally 
through thick woods, several of the party died of starvation, and for many 
days the survivors were forced to subsist on the scantiest supplies of unnutri- 
tious vegetables perhaps never before employed for food by man. See the 
interesting account of that expedition in Harper's Magazine for March, April, 
and May, 1855. 


Primitive man had little occasion to fell trees for fuel, or for 
the construction of dwellings, boats, and the implements of his 
rude agriculture and handicrafts. Windfalls would furnish a 
thin population with a sufficient supply of such material, and 
if occasionally a growing tree was cut, the injury to the forest 
would be too insignificant to be at all appreciable. 

The accidental escape and spread of fire, or, possibly, the 
combustion of forests by lightning, must have first suggested 
the advantages to be derived from the removal of too abun- 
dant and extensive woods, and, at the same time, have pointed 
out a means by which a large tract of surface could readily be 
cleared of much of this natural incumbrance. As soon as agri- 
culture had commenced at all, it would be observed that the 
growth of cultivated plants, as well as of many species of wild 
vegetation, was particularly rapid and luxuriant on soils which 
had been burned over, and thus a new stimulus would be 
given to the practice of destroying the woods by fire, as a 
means of both extending the open grounds, and making the 
acquisition of a yet more productive soil. After a few har- 
vests had exhausted the first rank fertility of the virgin mould, 
or when weeds and briers and the sprouting roots of the trees 
had begun to choke the crops of the half-subdued soil, the 
ground would be abandoned for new fields won from the forest 
by the same means, and the deserted plain or hillock would 
soon clothe itself anew with shrubs and trees, to be again sub- 
jected to the same destructive process, and again surrendered 
to the restorative powers of vegetable nature.* This rude 

* In many parts of the North American States, the first white settlers 
found extensive tracts of thin woods, of a very park-like character, called 
" oak-openings," from the predominance of different species of that tree upon 
them. These were the semi-artificial pasture-grounds of the Indians, brought 
into that state, and so kept, by partial clearing, and by the annual burning of 
the gTass. The object of this operation was to attract the deer to the fresh 
herbage which sprang up after the fire. The oaks bore the annual scorching 
at least for a certain time ; but if it had been indefinitely continued, they 
would very probably have been destroyed at last. The soil would have thou been 
much in the prairie condition, and would have needed nothing but giay.iug for 


economy would be continued for generations, and, wasteful as it 
is, is still largely pursued in Northern Sweden, Swedish Lap- 
land, and sometimes even in France and the United States.* 

Principal Causes of the Destruction of the Forest. 

The needs of agriculture are the most familiar cause of the 
destruction of the forest in new countries ; for not only does 
an increasing population demand additional acres to grow the 
vegetables which feed it and its domestic animals, but the slov- 
enly husbandry of the border settler soon exhausts the luxuri- 
ance of his first fields, and compels him to remove his household 
gods to a fresher soil. The extent of cleared ground required 
for agricultural use depends very much on the number and 
kinds of the cattle bred. "We have seen, in a former chapter, 
that, in the United States, the domestic quadrupeds amount to 
more than a hundred millions, or nearly three times the num- 
ber of the human population of the Union. In many of the 

a long succession of years to make the resemblance perfect. That the an- 
nual fires alone occasioned the peculiar character of the oak-openings, is 
proved by the fact that as soon as the Indians had left the country, young 
trees of many species sprang up and grew luxuriantly upon them. See a 
very interesting account of the oak-openings in D wight's Travels, iv., pp. 

* The practice of burning over woodland, at once to clear and manure the 
ground, is called in Swedish svedjunde, a participial noun from the verb 
att svedja, to burn over. Though vised in Sweden as a preparation for crops 
of rye or other grain, it is employed in Lapland more frequently to secure an 
abundant growth of pasturage, which follows in two or three years after the 
fire ; and it is sometimes resorted to as a mode of driving the Laplanders and 
their reindeer from the vicinity of the Swedish backwoodsman's grass-grounds 
and hay-stacks, to which they are dangerous neighbors. The forest, indeed, 
rapidly recovers itself, but it is a generation or more before the reindeer-moss 
grows again. When the forest consists of pine, tall, the ground, instead of 
being rendered fertile by this process, becomes hopelessly barren, and for a 
long time afterwards produces nothing but weeds and briers. — L.estadits, Om 
Uppodlingar i Lappmarken, p. 15. See also Schubert, Rem iSvcrge, ii., p. 

In some parts of France this practice is so general that Clave says: "In 
the department of Ardennes it (le sartagc) is the basis of agriculture." 


Western States, the swine subsist more or less on acorns, nuts, 
and other products of the woods, and the prairies, or natural 
meadows of the Mississippi valley, yield a large amount of food 
for beast, as well as for man. With these exceptions, all this 
vast army of quadrupeds is fed wholly on grass, grain, pulse, 
and roots grown on soil reclaimed from the forest by European 
settlers. It is true that the flesh of domestic quadrupeds en- 
ters very largely into the aliment of the American people, and 
greatly reduces the quantity of vegetable nutriment which they 
would otherwise consume, so that a smaller amount of agricul- 
tural product is required for immediate human food, and, of 
course, a smaller extent of cleared land is needed for the growth 
of that product, than if no domestic animals existed. But the 
flesh of the horse, the ass, and the mule is not consumed by 
man, and the sheep is reared rather for its fleece than for food. 
Besides this, the ground required to produce the grass and 
grain consumed in rearing and fattening a grazing quadruped, 
would yield a far larger amount of nutriment, if devoted to 
the growing of breaclstuffs, than is furnished by his flesh ; and, 
upon the whole, whatever advantages may be reaped from the 
breeding of domestic cattle, it is plain that the cleared land de- 
voted to their sustenance in the originally wooded part of the 
United States, after deducting a quantity sufficient to produce 
an amount of aliment equal to their flesh, still greatly exceeds 
that cultivated for vegetables, directly consumed by the people 
of the same regions ; or, to express a nearly equivalent idea in 
other words, the meadow and the pasture, taken together, much 
exceed the ploughland.* 

* The two ideas expressed in the text are not exactly equivalent, because, 
though the consumption of animal food diminishes the amount of vege- 
table aliment required for human use, yet the animals themselves consume 
a great quantity of grain and roots grown on ground ploughed and cultivated 
as regularly and as laboriously as any other. 

The 280,000,000 bushels of oats raised in the United States in 1870, and fed 
to the 7,000,000 horses, the potatoes, the turnips, and the maize employed in 
fattening the oxen, the sheep, and the swine slaughtered the same year, oc- 
cupied an extent of ground which, cultivated by hand- labor and with Chinese 


Governments and military commanders have at different 
periods deliberately destroyed forests by fire or the axe, because 
they afforded a retreat to robbers, outlaws, or enemies, and this 
was one of the hostile measures practised by both Julius Caisar 
and the Gauls in the Homan w r ar of conquest against that peo- 
ple. It was also resorted to in the Mediterranean provinces of 
France, then much infested by robbers and deserters, as late as 
the reign of Napoleon I., and is said to have been employed by 
the early American colonists in their exterminating wars with 
the native Indians.* 

In the Middle Ages, as well as in earlier and later centuries, 
attempts have been made to protect the woods by law,f as 

industry and skill, would probably have produced a quantity of vegetable 
food equal in alimentary power to the flesh of the quadrupeds killed for do- 
mestic use. Hence, so far as the naked question of amount of aliment is 
concerned, the meadows and the pastures might as well have remained in the 
forest condition. It must, however, be borne in mind that animal labor, if 
not a necessary, is probably an economical, force in agricultural occupations, 
and that without animal manure many branches of husbandry could hardly 
be carried on at all. At the same time, the introduction of machinery into 
rural industry, and of artificial, mineral, and fossil manures, is working great 
revolutions, and we may find at some future day that the ox is no longer 
necessary as a help to the farmer. 

* For many instances of this sort, see Maury, Les ForeU de la Gaule, pp. 3-5, 
and Becquerel, Des CMmats, etc., pp. 301-303. In 166-1 the Swedes made 
an incursion into Jutland and felled a considerable extent of forest. After 
they retired, a survey of the damage was had, and the report is still extant. 
The number of trees cut was found to be 120,000, and as an account was taken 
of the numbers of each species of tree, the document is of much interest in 
the history of the forest, as showing the relative proportions between the 
different trees which at that time composed the wood. See VAUPELL, 
Bdgt ns Tndvandring, p. 35, and Notes, p. 55. 

f Stanley, quoting Selden, De Jure Natural!, lib. vi., and Fabricius, Cod. 
Pseudap,, V. T. , i. 874, mentions a noteworthy Hebrew tradition of uncertain 
date, but unquestionably very ancient, which is one of the oldest proofs of a 
public respect for the woods. 

"A Hebrew tradition attributes to Joshua ten statutes, containing precise 
regulations for the protection of the property of every tribe and of every head 
of a family against irregular depredations. Small quadrupeds were allowed to 
pasture in dense woods, not in thin ones; but no animal could feed in any 
forest without the consent of the proprietor of the soil. Every Hebrew might 


necessary for trie breeding of deer, wild boars, and other game, 
or for the more reasonable purpose of furnishing a supply of 
building timber and fuel for future generations. It was 
reserved for more advanced ages to appreciate the geographical 
importance of the woods, and it is only in the most recent 
times, only in a few countries of Europe, that the general 
destruction of the forests has been recognized as the most 
potent among the many causes of the physical deterioration of 
the earth.* 

Royal Forests and Game Laws. 

The French authors I have quoted, as well as many other 
writers of the same nation, refer to the French Revolution as hav- 
ing given a new impulse to destructive causes which were already 
threatening the total extermination of the woods.f The general 
crusade against the forests, which accompanied that important 
event, is to be ascribed, in a considerable degree, to political re- 
pick up fallen boughs and twigs, but was not permitted to cut them. Trees 
might be pruned for the trimmings, with the exception of the olive and other 
fruit-trees, and provided there was sufficient shade in the place." — Lectures on 
the History of the Jewish Church, part i., p. 271. 

Alfred Maury mentions several provisions taken from the laws of the Indian 
legislator Manu, on the same subject. — Les Forets de la Oaule, p. 9. 

The very ancient Tables of Heraclea contain provisions for the protection 
of woods, but whether these referred only to sacred groves, to public forests, 
or to leased lands, is not clear. 

* "We must perhaps make an exception in favor of the Emperor Constantine, 
who commenced the magnificent series of aqueducts and cisterns which still 
supply Constantinople with water, and enacted strict laws for the protection of 
the forest of Belgrade, in which rise the springs that feed the aqueducts. See 
an article by Mr. H. A. Homes on the Water-Supply of Constantinople in the 
Albany Argus of June 6, 1872. 

f Religious intolerance had produced similar effects in France at an earlier 
peiiod. "The revocation of the edict of Nantes and the dragonnades occa- 
sioned the sale of the forests of the unhappy Protestants, who fled to seek in 
foreign lands the liberty of conscience which was refused to them in France. 
The forests were soon felled by the purchasers, and the soil in part brought 
under cultivation." — Becqtjerel, Des Climats, etc., p. 303. 


sentments. The forest codes of the mediaeval kings, and the local 
" coutumes " of feudalism, contained many severe and even in- 
human provisions, adopted rather for the preservation of game 
than from any enlightened views of the more important func- 
tions of the woods. Ordericns Yitalis informs us that William 
the Conqueror destroyed sixty parishes and drove out their in- 
habitants, in order that he might turn their lands into a forest,* 
to be reserved as a hunting-ground for himself and his posterity, 
and lie punished with death the killing of a deer, wild boar, or 
even a hare. His successor, William Rufus, according to the 
Ilistoire des Dues de N'ormandie etdes Rois d? Angleterre, p. 67, 
" was hunting one day in a new forest, which he had caused to be 
made out of eighteen parishes that he had destroyed, when, by 
mischance, he was killed by an arrow wherewith Tyre us de 
Rois [Sir Walter Tyrell] thought to slay a beast, but missed 
the beast, and slew the king, who was beyond it. And in 
this very same forest, his brother Richard ran so hard against 
a tree that he died of it. And men commonly said that these 
things were because they had so laid waste and taken the said 

These barbarous acts, as Bonnemere observes,! were simply 
the transfer of the customs of the French kings, of their vassals, 
and even of inferior gentlemen, to concpiered England. " The 

* The American reader must be reminded that, in the language of the chase 
and of the English law, a "forest" is not necessarily a wood. Any large 
extent of ground, withdrawn from cultivation, reserved for the pleasures of 
the chase, and allowed to clothe itself with a spontaneous growth, serving as 
what is technically called " cover" for wild animals, is, in the dialects I have 
mentioned, a forest. When, therefore, the Norman kings afforested the grounds 
referred to in the text, it is not to be supposed that they planted them with 
trees, though the protection afforded to them by the game laws would, if cattle 
had been kept out, soon have converted them into real woods. 

f Histoire des Pay sans, ii. , p. 190. The work of Bonnemere is of great value 
to those who study the history of mediaeval Europe from a desire to know its 
real character, and not in the hope of finding apparent facts to sustain a false 
;;i <1 dangerous theory. Bonnemere is one of the few writers who, like Miche- 
let, have been honest enough and bold enough to speak the truth with regard 
to the relations between the church and the people in the Middle Age6. 


death of a hare," says our author, " was a hanging matter, the 
murder of a plover a capital crime. Death was inflicted on 
those who spread nets for pigeons ; wretches who had drawn 
a bow upon a stag were to be tied to the animal alive ; and 
among the seigniors it was a standing excuse for having killed 
game on forbidden ground, that they aimed at a serf." The 
feudal lords enforced these codes with unrelenting rigor, and 
not unfrequently took the law into their own hands. In the 
time of Louis IX., according to William of Nangis, " three 
noble children, born in Flanders, who were sojourning at the 
abbey of St. Nicholas in the Wood, to learn the speech of 
France, went out into the forest of the abbey, with their bows 
and iron-headed arrows, to disport them in shooting hares, 
chased the game, which they had started in the wood of the 
abbey, into the forest of En gu errand, lord of Coney, and were 
taken by the sergeants which kept the wood. When the fell 
and pitiless Sir Enguerrand knew this, he had the children 
straightway hanged without any manner of trial." " The mat- 
ter being brought to the notice of good King Louis, Sir En- 
guerrand was summoned to appear, and, finally, after many 
feudal shifts and dilatory pleas, brought to trial before Louis 
himself and a special council. Notwithstanding the opposition 
of the other seigniors, who, it is needless to say, spared no 
efforts to save a peer, probably not a greater criminal than 
themselves, the king was much inclined to inflict the punish- 
ment of death on the proud baron. " If he believed," said he, 
" that our Lord would be as well content with hanc;ino; as with 
pardoning, he would hang Sir Enguerrand in spite of all his 
barons ; " but noble and clerical interests unfortunately pre- 
vailed. The king was persuaded to inflict a milder retribution, 
and the murderer was condemned to pay ten thousand livres in 
coin, and to " build for the souls of the three children two 

* It is painful to add that a similar outrage was perpetrated a very few 
years ago, in one of the European states, by a prince of a family now de- 
throned. In this case, however, the prince killed the trespasser with his own 
hand, his sergeants refusing to execute his mandate. 


chapels wherein mass should be said every day." * The hope 
of shortening the purgatorial term of the young persons, by the 
religious rites to be celebrated in the chapels, was doubtless 
the consideration which operated most powerfully on the mind 
of the king ; and Europe lost a great example for the sake of 
a mass. 

The desolation and depopulation, resulting from the exten- 
sion of the forest and the enforcement of the game laws, ip 
duced several of the French kings to consent to some relaxation 
of the severity of these latter. Francis L, however, revived 
their barbarous provisions, and, according to Bonnemere, even 
so good a monarch as Henry IY. re-enacted them, and " signed 
the sentence of death upon peasants guilty of having defended 
their fields against devastation by wild beasts." " A fine of 
twenty livres," he continues, " was imposed on every one shoot- 
ing at pigeons, which, at that time, swooped down by thousands 
upon the new-sown fields and devoured the seed. But let us 
count even this a progress, for we have seen that the murder of 
a pigeon had been a capital crime." f 

Not only were the slightest trespasses on the forest domain — 
the cutting of an oxgoad, for instance — severely punished, but 
game animals were still sacred when they had wandered from 

* Guillaume de Nangis, as quoted in the notes to Joixville, NbuveBe 
■Hon des Memoires, etc., par Michaud et Poujoulat, premiere serio, i., p. 

Persons acquainted with the character and influence of the medieval clergy 
v.ill hardly need to be informed that the ten thousand livres never foxmd 
their way to the royal exchequer. It was easy to prove to the simple-minded 
king that, as the profits of sin were a monopoly of the church, he ought not 
to derive advantage from the commission of a crime by one of his subjects ; 
and the priests were cunning enough both to secure to themselves the amount 
of the fine, and to extort from Louis large additional grants to carry out the 
purposes to which they devoted the money. " And though the king did take 
the moneys," says the chronicler, "he put them not into hia treasury, but 
turned them into good works ; for he builded therewith the maison-Dieu of 
Pontoise, and endowed the same with rents and lands ; also the schools and 
the dormitory of the friars preachers of Paris, and the monastery of the 
Minorite friars. '' 

f ills! ■//,;> des Paysans, ii., p. 200. 

GA3IE LAWS. 30 3 

their native precincts and were ravaging the fields of the 
peasantry. A herd of deer or of wild boars often consumed or 
trod down a harvest of grain, the sole hope of the year for a 
whole family ; and the simple driving out of such animals from 
this costly pasturage brought dire vengeance on the head of the 
rustic, who had endeavored to save his children's bread from 
their voracity. " At all times," says Paul Louis Courier, speak- 
ing in the name of the peasants of Chambord, in the " Simple 
Discours," " the game has made war upon us. Paris was block- 
aded eight hundred years by the deer, and its environs, now so 
rich, so fertile, did not yield bread enough to support the game- 
keepers." * The Tiers Etat declared, in 1789, " the most ter- 

* The following details from Bonnemere will serve to give a more complete 
idea of the vexatious and irritating nature of the game laws of France. The 
officers of the chase went so far as to forbid the pulling up of thistles and 
weeds, or the mowing of any unenclosed ground before St. John's day (24th 
June), in order that the nests of game birds might not be disturbed. It 
was unlawful to fence-in any grounds in the plains where royal residences 
were situated ; thorns were ordered to be planted in all fields of wheat, bar- 
ley, or oats, to prevent the use of ground-nets for catching the birds which 
consumed, or were believed to consume, the grain, and it was forbidden to 
cut or pull stubble before the first of October, lest the partridge and the quail 
might be deprived of their cover. For destroying the eggs of the quail, a fine 
of one hundred livres was imposed for the first offence, double that amount 
for the second, and for the thiril the culprit was flogged and banished for five 
years to a distance of six leagues from the forest. — Uistoire des Pay&ans, ii., 
p. 202, text and notes. 

Neither these severe penalties, nor any provisions devised by the ingenuity 
of modern legislation, have been able effectually to repress poaching. " The 
game laws," says Clave, "have not delivered us from the poachers, who kill 
twenty times as much game as the sportsmen. In the forest of Fontamebleau, 
as in all those belonging to the state, poaching is a very common and a very 
profitable offence. It is in vain that the gamekeepers are on the alert night 
and day, they cannot prevent it. Those who follow the trade begin by care- 
fully studying the habits of the game. They will lie motionless on the 
ground, by the roadside or in thickets, for whole days, watching the paths 
most frequented by the animals," etc. — Revue des Deux Mondes, Mai, I860, p. 

The writer adds many details on this subject, and it appears that, as there 
are "beggars on horseback " in South America, there are poachers in carriages 
in France. 



rible scourge of agriculture is the abundance of wild game, 
a consequence of the privileges of the chase ; the fields are 
wasted, the forests ruined, and the vines gnawed down to the 

Effects of the French Revolution. 

The abrogation of the game laws and of the harsh provisions 
of the forestal code was one of the earliest measures of the 
revolutionary government ; and the removal of the ancient 
restrictions on the chase and of the severe penalties imposed « >n 
trespassers upon the public forests, was immediately followed 1 >y 
unbridled license in the enjoyment of the newly conceded 

In the popular mind the forest was associated with all the 
abuses of feudalism, and the evils the peasantry had suffered 
from the legislation which protected both it and the game it 
sheltered, blinded them to the still greater physical mischiefs 
which its destruction was to entail upon them. No longer 
under the safeguard of the law, the crown forests and those of 
the great lords were attacked with relentless fury, unscrupu- 
lously plundered and wantonly laid waste, and even the rights 
of property in small private woods ceased to be respect 
Various absurd theories, some of which are not even yet 
exploded, M-ere propagated with regard to the economical 
advantages of converting the forest into pasture and plough- 
land, the injurious effects of the woods upon climate, health, 
facility of internal communication, and the like. Thus resent- 
ful memory of the wrongs associated with the forest, popular 
ignorance, and the cupidity of speculators cunning enough to 

* "Whole trees were sacrificed for the most insignificant purposes; the 

peasants would cut down two firs to make a single pair of wooden shoes." — 

[ELET, as quoted by < '• des, p. 34. 

A similar wastefulness formo-ly prevailed in Russia, though not from the 

■ cause. It St. Piem 's time, the pi: br< light to St. Pet» rsburg were 

not sawn, but hewn with the axe, and a tree furnished but a single, plank. 


turn these circumstances to profitable account, combined to 
hasten the sacrifice of the remaining woods, and a waste was 
produced which hundreds of years and millions of treasure will 
hardly repair. 

In the era of savage anarchy which followed the benefi- 
cent reforms of 1789, economical science was neglected, and 
statistical details upon the amount of the destruction of woods 
during that period are wanting. But it is known to have been 
almost incalculably rapid, and the climatic and financial evils, 
which elsewhere have been a more gradual effect of this 
cause, began to make themselves felt in France within three or 
four years after that memorable epoch.* 

Increased Demand for Lumber. 

With increasing population and the development of new in- 
dustries, come new drains upon the forest from the many arts 
for which wood is the material. The demands of the near and 
the distant market for this product excite the cupidity of the 
hardy forester, and a few years of that wild industry of which 
Springer's " Forest Life and Forest Trees " so vividly depicts 
the dangers and the triumphs, suffice to rob the most inaccessible 
glens of their fairest ornaments. The value of timber increases 
with its dimensions in almost geometrical proportion, and the 
tallest, most vigorous, and most symmetrical trees fall the first 
sacrifice. This is a fortunate circumstance for the remainder 
of the wood ; for the impatient lumberman contents himself 
with felling a few of the best trees, and then hurries on to 
take his tithe of still virgin groves. 

* See Becqtjerel, Memoire sur les Forets, in the Mem. de VAcademie 
des Sciences, t. xxxv., p. 411 et seqq. 

Similar circumstances produced a like result, though on a far smaller scale, 
in Italy, at a very recent period. Gallenga says : "The destruction of the 
majestic timber [between the Yals Sesia and Sessera] dates no farther back than 
1848, when, on the first proclamation of the Constitution, the ignorant boor 
had taken it for granted that all the old social ties wovdd be loosened, and 
therefore the old forestdaws should be at once set at naught." — Country Life 
in Piedmont, p. 136. 


The vast extension of railroads, of manufactures and the 
mechanical arts, of military armaments, and especially of the 
commercial fleets and navies of Christendom, within the pres- 
ent century, has incredibly augmented the demand for wood,* 

* Let us take the supply of timber for railroad-ties. According to Clave 
(p. 248), France had, in 1862, 9.000 kilometres of railway in operation, 7,000 
in construction, half of which is built with a double track. Adding turn-outs 
and extra tracks at stations, the number of ties required for a single track is 
stated at 1,200 to the kilometre, or, as Clave computes, for the entire network 
of France. 58,000,000. This number is too large, for 16,000 + 8,000 for the 
double track halfway = 24,000, and 24,000 x 1,200 = 28,800,000. In an article 
in the Revue des Deux Mondes, July, 1863, Gandy states that 2,000,000 trees 
had been felled to furnish the ties for the French railroads, and as the ties 
must be occasionally renewed, and new railways have been constructed since 
1863, we may probably double this number. 

The United States had in operation on the first of January, 1872, 61,000 
miles, or about 97,000 kilometres, of railroad. Allowing the same proportion as in 
France, the American railroads required 116,400,000 ties. The Report of the 
Agricultural Department of the United States for November and December, 
1869, estimates the number of ties annually required for our railways at 30,- 
000,000, and supposes that 150,000 acres of the best woodland must be felled 
to supply this number. This is evidently an error, perhaps a misprint for 
15,000. The same authority calculates the annual expenditure of the Ameri- 
can railroads for lumber for buildings, repairs, and cars, at $38,000,000, and 
for locomotive fuel, at the rate of 19,000 cords of wood per day, at $50,- 

The walnut trees cut in Italy and France to furnish gunstocks to the Ameri- 
can army, during our late civil war, would alone have formed a considerable 
forest. A single establishment in Northern Italy used twenty-eight thousand 
large walnut trees for that purpose in the years 1862 and 1863. 

The consumption of wood for lucifer matches is enormous, and I have heard 
of several instances where tracts of pine forest, hundreds and even thousands 
of acres in extent, have been purchased and felled, solely to supply timber 
for this purpose. The United States government tax, at one cent per hun- 
dred, produces $2,000,000 per year, which shows a manufacture of 20,000,- 
000,000 matches. Allowing nothing for waste, there are about fifty matches 
to the cubic inch of wood, or 86,400 to the cubic foot, making in all upwards 
of 230,000 cubic feet, and, as only straight-grained wood, free from knots, can 
be used for this purpose, the sacrifice of not less than three or four thousand 
well-grown pines is required for this purpose. 

If we add to all this the supply of wood for telegraph-posts, wooden pave- 
ments, wooden wall tapestry-paper, shoe-pegs, and even wooden nails, which 
have lately come into use — not to speak of numerous other recent applications 


and but for improvements in metallurgy and the working 
of iron, which have facilitated the substitution of that metal 

of this material which American ingenuity has devised— we have an amount 
of consumption, for entirely new purposes, which is really appalling. 

Wooden field and garden fences are very generally used in America, and 
some have estimated the consumption of wood for this purpose as not less 
than that for architectural uses. 

Fully one-half our vast population is lodged in wooden houses, and barns 
and country out-houses of all descriptions are almost universally of the same 

The consumption of wood in the United States as fuel for domestic pur- 
poses, for charcoal, for brick and lime kilns, for breweries and distilleries, for 
steamboats, and many other uses, defies computation, and is vastly greater 
than is employed in Europe for the same ends. For instance, in rural Swit- 
zerland, cold as is the winter climate, the whole supply of wood for domestic 
fires, dairies, breweries, distilleries, brick and lime kilns, fences, furniture, 
tools, and even house-building and small smitheries, exclusive of the small 
quantity derived from the trimmings of fruit-trees, grape-vines, and hedges, 
and f rom decayed fences and buildings, does not exceed two hundred and 
thirty cubic feet, or less than two cords a year, per household. — See Bericht iiber 
die Untersuchung der Schiceiz Hochgebirgswaldungen, pp. 85-89. In 1789, 
Arthur Young estimated the annual consumption of firewood by single fami- 
lies in France at from two and a half to ten Paris cords of 134 cubic feet. — 
Travels, vol. ii. , chap. xv. 

The report of the Commissioners on the Forests of Wisconsin, 1867, allows 
three cords of wood to each person for household fires alone. Taking fami- 
lies at an average of five persons, we have eight times the amount consumed 
by an equal number of persons in Switzerland for this and all other purposes 
to which this material is ordinarily applicable. I do not think the consump- 
tion in the North-eastern States is at all less than the calculation for Wis- 

Evergreen trees are often destroyed in immense numbers in the United Sates 
for the purpose of decoration of churches and on other festive occasions. 
The New York city papers reported that 113,000 young evergreen trees, be- 
sides 20,000 yards of small branches twisted into festoons, were sold in the 
markets of that city, for this use, at Christmas, in 1869. At the Cincinnati 
Industrial Exhibition of 1872, three miles of evergreen festoons were hung 
upon the beams and rafters of the " Floral Hall." 

Important statistics on the consumption and supply of wood in the United 
States will be found in a valuable paper by the Rev. Frederick Starr, Jr. , in 
the Transactions of the Agricultural Society for . 

Of course, there is a vast consumption of ligneous material for all these uses 
in Europe, but it is greatly less than at earlier periods. The waste of wood 


for wood, tiie last twenty-five years would have almost stripped 
Europe of her last remaining tree fit for these uses.* 

in European carpentry was formerly enormous, the beams of houses being 
both larger and more numerous than permanence or stability required. In 
examining the construction of the houses occupied by the eighty families 
which inhabit the village of Faucigny, in Savoy, in 1854, the forest inspector 
found that fifty thousand trees had been employed in building them. The 
builders " seemed," says Hudry-Menos, "to have tried to solve the problem 
of piling upon the walls the largest quantity of timber possible without crush- 
ing them." — Revue des Deux Mondes, 1st June, 1864, p. G01. 

European statistics present comparatively few facts on this subject, of 
special interest to American readers, but it is v* orth noting that France em- 
ploys 1,500,000 cubic feet of oak per year for brandy and wine casks, which is 
about half her annual consumption of that material ; and it is not a wholly 
insignificant fact that, according to Rentzsch, the quantity of wood used in 
parts of Germany for small carvings and for children's toys is so large, that the 
export of such objects from the town of Sonneberg alone, amounted, in 1853, 
to 60,000 centner, or three thousand tons' weight. — DerWdd, p. 68. 

In an article in the Revue des Eaux et Forcts for November, 1868, it is 
stated that 200,000 dozens of drums for boys are manufactured per month in 
Paris. This is equivalent to 28,800,000 per year, for which 56,000,000 
drumsticks are required, and the writer supposes that the annual growth of 
50,000 acres of woodland would not more than supply the material. In the 
same article the consumption of matches in France is given at 7,200,000,- 
000, and the qu-mtity of lumber annually required for this manufacture is 
computed at 80,000 stores, or cubic metres — evidently an erroneous calculation. 

* Besides the substitution of iron for wood, a great saving of consumption 
of this latter material has been effected by the revival of ancient methods of in- 
creasing its durability, and the invention of new processes for the same purpose. 
The most effectual preservative yet discovered for wood employed on laud, is 
sulphate of copper, a solution of which is introduced into the pores of the 
wood while green, by soaking, by forcing-pumps, or, most economically, by 
the simple pressure of a column of the fluid in a small pipe connected with the 
end of the piece of timber subjected to the treatment. Clave (Etudes Fo- 
restie/rfi, pp. 240-249) gives an interesting account of the various processes em- 
ployed for rendering wood imperishable, and Btates that railroad-ties injected 
with sulphate of copper in 1846, were found absolutely unaltered in 1855 ; and 
telegraphic posts prepared two years earlier, are now in a state of perfect 

For many purposes, the method of injection is too expensive, and some 
simpler process is much to be desired. The question of the proper time of 
felling timber is not settled, and the best modes of air, water, and steam 
seasoning are not yet fully ascertained. Experiments on these subjects would 


I have spoken of the foreign demand for American agricul- 
tural products as having occasioned an extension of cultivated 
ground, which had led to clearing land not required by the 
necessities of home consumption. But the forest itself has he- 
roine, so to speak, an article of exportation. England, as we 
have seen, imported oak and pine from the Baltic ports more 
than six hundred years ago. She has since drawn largely on 
the forests of Norway, and for many years has received vast 
quantities of lumber from her American possessions. 

The unparalleled facilities for internal navigation, afforded 
by the numerous rivers of the present and former British colo- 
nial possessions in North America, have proved very fatal to the 
forests of that continent. Quebec became many years ago a 

be well worth the patronage of Governments in new countries, where they can 
be very easily made, without the necessity of much waste of valuable mate- 
rial, and without expensive arrangements for observation. 

practice of stripping living trees of their bark some years before tbey 
are felled, is as old as the time of Vitruvius, but is much less followed than it 
deserves, partly because the timber of trees so treated inclines to crack and 
split, and partly because it becomes so hard as to be wrought with consider- 
able difficulty. 

In America, economy in the consumption of fuel has been much promoted 
by the substitution of coal for wood, the general use of stoves both for wood 
and coal, and recently by the employment of anthracite in the furnaces of 
stationary and locomotive steam-engines. All the objections to the use of 
anthracite for this latter purpose appear to have been overcome, and the im- 
provements in its combustion have been attended with a great pecuniary sav- 
ing, and with much advantage to the preservation of the woods. 

The employment of coal has produced a great reduction in the consumption 
of firewood in Paris. In 1815, the supply of firewood for the city required 
1, COO, 000 uteres, or cubic metres; in 1859 it had fallen to 501,805, while, in 
the meantime, the consumption of coal had risen from 600,000 to 4,320,000 
metrical quintals. See Glave, Etudes, p. 212. 

In 1869 Paris consumed 951,157 steres of firewood, 4.902,414 hectolitres, 
or more than 13,000,000 bushels, of charcoal, and 6,872,000 metrical quintals, 
or more than 7,000,000 tons of mineral coal. — Annuaire de la Revue des Eaux 
et ForSts for 1872, p. 26. 

The increase in the price of firewood at Paris, within a century, has been 
comparatively small, while that of timber and of sawed lumber has increased 


centre for a lumber trade, which, in the bulk of its material, and, 
consequently, in the tonnage required for its transportation, 
rivalled the commerce of the greatest European cities. Immense 
rafts were collected at Quebec from the great Lakes, from the 
Ottawa, and from all the other tributaries which unite to swell 
the current of the St. Lawrence and help it to struggle against 
its mighty tides.* Ships, of burden formerly undreamed of, 
have been built to convey the timber to the markets of Europe, 
and during the summer months the St. Lawrence is almost as 
crowded with shipping as the Thames, f 

* The tide rises at Quebec to the height of twenty-five feet, and when it is 
aided by a north-east wind, it flows with almost irresistible violence. Rafts 
containing several hundred thousand cubic feet of timber are often caught by 
the flood-tide, torn to pieces, and dispersed for miles along the shores. 

f One of these, the Baron of Renfrew — so named from one of the titles of 
the kings of England — -built forty or fifty years ago, measured 5,000 tons. 
They were little else than rafts, being almost solid masses of timber designed 
to be taken to pieces and sold as lumber on arriving at their port of desti- 

The lumber trade at Quebec is still very large. According to an article in 
the Revue des Deux Mondes, that city exported, in 1860, 30,000,000 cubic feet 
of squared timber, and 400,000,000 square feet of " planches." The thickness 
of the boards is not stated, but I believe they are generally cut an inch and a 
quarter thick for the Quebec trade, and as they shrink somewhat in drying, 
we may estimate ten square for one cubic foot of boards. This gives a total of 
70,000,000 cubic feet. The specific gravity of white pine is .554, and the 
weight of this quantity of lumber, very little of which is thoroughly seasoned, 
would exceed a million of tons, even supposing it to consist wholly of wood as 
light as pine. 

The London Times of Oct. 10, 1871, states the exportation of lumber from 
Canada to Europe, in 1870, at 200,000,000 cubic feet, and adds that more than 
three times that quantity was sent from the same province to the United 
States. A very large proportion of this latter quantity goes to Burlington, 
Vermont, whence it is distributed to other parts of the Union. 

There must, I think, be some error or exaggeration in these figures. Perhaps 
instead of cubic feet we should read square feet. Two hundred millions of 
cubic feet of timber would require more than half the entire tonnage of Eng- 
land for its transportation. 

I suppose the quantities in the following estimates, from a carefully prepared 
article in the St. Louis Republican, must be understood as meaning square or 
i ficial feet, board measure, allowing a thickness of one inch : 

"The lumber trade of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, for the year 


Effects of Forest Fires. 

The operations of the lumberman involve other dangers to 
the woods besides the loss of the trees felled by him. The 
narrow clearings around his shanties form openings which let 
in the wind, and thus sometimes occasion the overthrow of 
thousands of trees, the fall of which dams up small streams, 
and creates bogs by the spreading of the waters, while the de- 
caying trunks facilitate the multiplication of the insects which 
breed in dead wood and are, some of them, injurious to living 
trees. The escape and spread of camp-fires, however, is the 
most devastating of all the causes of destruction that find their 
origin in the operations of the lumberman. The proportion of 
trees fit for industrial uses is small in all primitive woods. Only 
these fall before the forester's axe, but the fire destroys, almost in- 
discriminately, every age and every species of tree.* While, then, 

1869, shows the amount cut as being 2,029,872,255 feet for the State of 
Michigan, and 317,400,000 feet for the State of Minnesota, and 964,600,000 
feet for the State of Wisconsin. This includes the lake shore and the whole 
State of Wisconsin, which heretofore has been difficult to get a report from. 
The total amount cut in these States was 3,311,372,255 feet, and that to 
obtain this quantity there have been shipped 883,032 acres, or 1,380 square 
miles of pine have been removed. It is calculated that 4,000,000 acres of land 
still remain unstripped in Michigan, which will yield 15,000,000,000 feet of lum- 
ber ; while 3,000,000 acres are still standing in Wisconsin, which will yield 11.- 
250,000,000 feet, and that which remains in Minnesota, taking the estimate of a 
few years since of that which was surveyed and unexplored, after deducting 
the amount cut the past few years, we find 3,630,000 acres to be the proper 
estimate of trees now standing which will yield 32,362,500,000 feet of lumber. 
This makes a total of 15,630,000 acres of pine lands, which remain standing in 
the above States, that will yield 58,612,500,000 feet of lumber, and it is thought 
that fifteen or twenty years will be required to cut and send to market the 
trees now standing." 

See also Bryant, Forest Trees, chap. iv. 

* Trees differ in their power of resisting the action of forest fires. Differ- 
ent woods vary greatly in combustibility, and even when the bark is scarcely 
scorched, trees are, partly in consequence of physiological character, and 
partly from the greater or less depth at which their roots habitually lie belovv 
the surf ace, differently affected by running fires. The white pine, 7 


without fatal injury to the younger growths, the native forest will 
bear several " cuttings over " in a generation — for the increasing 
value of lumber brings into use, every four or five years, a 
quality of timber which had been before rejected as unmarket- 
able — a fire may render the declivity of a mountain unproduc- 
tive for a century." 

Aside from the destruction of the trees and the laying bare of 
the soil, and consequently the freer admission of sun, rain, and air 
to the ground, the fire of itself exerts an important influence on 
its texture and condition. It cracks and sometimes even pulveri- 
sers, as it is the most valuable, is also perhaps the most delicate tree of the 
American forest, while its congener, the Northern pitch-pine, Pin US rigida, is 
less injured by fire than any other tree of that country. I have heard expe- 
rienced lumbermen maintain that the growth of this pine was even accele- 
rated by a fire brisk enough to destroy all other trees, and I have myself 
it still flourishing after a conflagration which had left not a green leaf but its 
own in the wood, and actually throwing out fresh foliage, when the old had 
been quite burnt off and the bark almost converted into charcoal. The wood 
of the pitch-pine is of comparatively little value for the joiner, but it is useful 
for very many purposes. Its rapidity of growth in even poor soils, its hardi- 
hood, and its abundant yield of resinous products, entitle it to much more 
consideration, as a plantation tree, than it has hitherto received in Europe or 

* Between sixty and seventy years ago, a steep mountain with which I am 
familiar, composed of metaniorphic rock, and at that time covered with a 
thick coating of soil and a dense primeval forest, was accidentally burnt over. 
The fire took place in a very dry season, the slope of the mountain was too 
rapid to retain much water, and the conflagration was of an extraordinarily 
fierce character, consuming the wood almost entirely, burning the leaves and 
combustible portion of the mould, and in many places cracking and disinte- 
grating the rock beneath. The rains of the following autumn carried off 1 
of the remaining soil, and the mountain-side was nearly bare of wood for 
two or three years afterwards. At length a new crop of trees sprang up and 
grew vigorously, and the mountain is now thickly covered again. But the 
depth of mould and earth is too small to allow the trees to reach maturity. 
When they attain to the diameter of about six inches, they uniformly die. and 
this they will no doubt continue to do until the decay of loaves and wood on 
the surface, and the decomposition of the subjacent rock, shall have fori 
perhaps hundreds of years hence, i stratum of soil thick enough to support a 

full-grown forest. Under favorable <• iitions, however, as in the case <>f the 

fire of Miramichi, a burnl Eore i itself rapidly and permanently. 


zes the rocks and stones upon and near the surface ; * it con- 
sumes a portion of the half -decayed vegetable mould which 
served to hold its mineral particles together and to retain the 
water of precipitation, and thus loosens, pulverizes, and dries 
the earth ; it destroys reptiles, insects, and worms, with their 
eggs, and the seeds of trees and of smaller plants ; it supplies, 
in the ashes which it deposits on the surface, important ele- 
ments for the growth of a new forest clothing, as well as of the 
usual objects of agricultural industry ; and by the changes thus 
produced, it fits the ground for the reception of a vegetation 
different in character from that which had spontaneously cov- 
ered it. These new conditions help to explain the natural 
succession of forest crops, so generally observed in all woods 
cleared by fire and then abandoned. There is no doubt, how- 
ever, that other influences contribute to the same result, be- 
cause effects more or less analogous follow when the trees are 
destroyed by other causes, as by high winds, by the woodman's 
axe, and even by natural decay, t 

* In the burning over of a hill-forest in the Lower Ehgadine, in September, 
1805, the fire was so intense as to shatter and calcine the rocks on the slope, 
and their fragments were precipitated into the valley below. — Bivista Fo- 
restale del Regno cP Italia, Ottobre, 1805, p. 474. 

f The remarkable mounds and other earthworks constructed in the valley 
of the Ohio and elsewhere in the territory of the United States, by a people 
apparently more advanced in culture than the modern Indian, were overgrown 
with a dense clothing of forest when first discovered by the whites. V>\\b 
though the ground where they were erected must have been occupied by a 
large population for a considerable length of time, and therefore en1 i 
cleared, the trees which grew upon the ancient fortresses and the adj > 
lands were not distinguishable in species, or even in dimensions and charact r 
of growth, from the neighboring forests, where the soil seemed never to have 
been disturbed. This apparent exception to the law of change of crop in 
natural forest growth was ingeniously explained by General Harrison's sugges- 
tion, that the lapse of time since the era of the mound-builders was so 
as to have embraced several successive generations of trees, and occasion 1, 
by their rotation, a return to the original vegetation. 

The successive changes in the spontaneous growth of the forest, as proved 
by the character of the wood found in bogs, are such as to have suggi 
theory of a considerable change of climate during the human period. But 


Another evil, sometimes of serious magnitude, which attends 
the operations of the lumberman, is the injury to the banks of 
rivers from the practice of floating. I do not here allude to 
rafts, which, being under the control of those who navigate 
them, may be so guided as to avoid damage to the shore, but 
to masts, logs, and other pieces of timber singly entrusted to 
the streams, to be conveyed by their currents to sawmill ponds, 

this theory cannot be admitted upon the evidence in question. In fact, the 
order of succession — for a rotation or alternation is neither proved nor 
probable — may be made to move in opposite directions in different countries 
with the same climate and at the same time. Thus in Denmark and in Hol- 
land the spike-leaved firs have given place to the broad-leaved beech, while in 
Northern Germany the process has been reversed, and evergreens have sup- 
planted the oaks and birches of deciduous foliage. The principal determining 
cause seems to be the influence of light upon the germination of the seeds 
and the growth of the young tree. In a forest of firs, for instance, the dis- 
tribution of the light and shade, to the influence of which seeds and shoots 
are exposed, is by no means the same as in a wood of beeches or of oaks, and 
hence the growth of different species will be stimulated in the two forests. 

When ground is laid bare both of trees and of vegetable mould, and left to 
the action of unaided and unobstructed nature, she first propagates trees 
which germinate and grow only under the influence of a full supply of light 
and air, and then, in succession, other species, according to their ability to 
bear the shade and their demand for more abundant nutriment. In Northern 
Europe the larch, the white birch, the aspen, first appear ; then follow the 
maple, the alder, the ash, the fir ; then the oak and the linden ; and then the 
beech. The trees called by these respective names in the United States are 
not specifically the same as their European namesakes, nor are they always 
even the equivalents of these latter, and therefore the order of succession in 
America would not be precisely as indicated by the foregoing list, but, so far 
us is known, it nevertheless very nearly corresponds to it. 

It is thought important to encourage the growth of the beech in Denmark 
and Northern Germany, because it upon the whole yields better returns than 
other trees, and does not exhaust, but on the contrary enriches, the soil ; for 
by shedding its leaves it returns to it most of the nutriment it has drawn from 
it, and at the same time furnishes a solvent which aids materially in the de- 
composition of its mineral constituents. 

When the forest is left to itself, the order of succession is constant, and its 

occasional inversion is always explicable by some human interference. It is 

curious that the trees which require most light are content with the poorest 

soils, and vice versa. The trees which first appear are also those which pro- 

i; themselves farthest to the north. The birch, the larch, and the nr 


or to convenient places for collecting them into rafts. The 
lumbermen usually haul the timber to the banks of the rivers 
in the winter, and when the spring floods swell the streams and 
break up the ice, they roll the logs into the water, leaving them 
to float down to their destination. If the transporting stream 
is too small to furnish a sufficient channel for this rude naviga- 
tion, it is sometimes dammed up, and the timber collected in 
the pond thus formed above the dam. When the pond is full, a 
sluice is opened, or the dam is blown np or otherwise suddenly 
broken, and the whole mass of lumber above it is hurried down 
with the rolling flood. Both of these modes of proceeding ex- 
pose the banks of the rivers employed as channels of flotation to 
abrasion, * and in some of the American States it has been found 
necessary to protect, by special legislation, the lands through 
which they flow from the serious injury sometimes received 
through the practices I have described. f 

bear a severer climate than the oak, the oak than the beech. " These paral- 
lelisms," says Yaupell, " are very interesting, because, though they are entirely 
independent of each other," they all prescribe the same order of succession. — 
Bdgens Indi-andring, p. 42. See also Berg, Das Verdrangcn der LcmbvMder 
im NordlicJien DeutscJiland, 1844. Heyer, Das Verhalten der WcUdbaume 
gegen Licht und SeAatten, 1852. Staring, De Bodem van Nederland, 1856, 
i., pp. 120-200. Vaupell, De Danske Skove, 1883. Knorr, Studien uber 
die Buclien- Wirthsc7iaft, 1863. A. Maury, Les F<yrets de la Gaule, pp. 73, 74, 
377, 384. 

* Caimi states that "a single flotation in the Valtelline, in 1839, caused 
damages appraised at $250,000." — Cenni sulla Importanza e Coltura dei Bos- 
c7n, p. 65. 

f Many physicists who have investigated the laws of natural hydraulics main- 
tain that, in consequence of direct obstruction and frictional resistance to the 
flow of the water of rivers along their banks, there is both an increased rapid- 
ity of current and an elevation of the water in the middle of the channel, so 
that a river presents always a convex surface. Others have thought that 
the acknowledged greater swiftness of the central current must produce a 
depression in that part of the stream. The lumbermen affirm that, while 
rivers are rising, the water is highest in the middle of the channel, and 
tends to throw floating objects shorewards ; while they are falling, it is lowest 
in the middle, and floating objects incline towards the centre. Logs, they say, 
rolled into the water during the rise, are very apt to lodge on the banks, while 
those set afloat during the falling of the waters keep in the current, and are 


Restoration of the Forest. 

In most countries of Europe — and I fear in many parts of 
the United States — the woods are already so nearly extirpated, 
that the mere protection of those which now exist is by no means 
an adequate security against a great increase of the evils which 
have already resulted from the diminution of them. Besides 
this, experience has shown that where the destruction of the 
woods has been carried beyond a certain point, no coercive legis- 
lation can absolutely secure the permanence of the remainder, 
especially if it is held by private hands. The creation of new 
forests, therefore, is generally recognized, wherever the subject 
has received the attention it merits, as an indispensable measure 
of sound public economy. Enlightened individuals in some 
European states, the Governments in others, have made exten- 
sive plantations, and France, particularly, has now set herself 
energetically at work to restore the woods in her southern 

carried without hindrance to their destination, and this law, which has been 
a matter of familiar observation among woodmen for generations, is now 
admitted as a scientific truth. 

Foresters and lumbermen, like sailors and other persons whose daily occu- 
pations bring them into contact, and often into conflict, with great natural 
forces, have many peculiar opinions, not to say superstitions. In one of these 
categories we must rank the universal belief of lumbermen, that with a given 
head of water, and in a given number of hours, a sawmill cuts more lumber 
by night than by day. Having been personally interested in several sawmills, 
I have frequently conversed with sawyers on this subject, and have always 
been assured by them that their uniform experience established the fact that, 
other things being equal, the action of the machinery of sawmills is more 
rapid by night than by day. I am sorry — perhaps I ought to be ashamed — to 
say that my skepticism has been too strong to allow me to avail myself of 
my opportunities of testing this question by passing a night, watch in hand, 
counting the strokes of a millsaw. More unprejudiced, and, I must add, very 
intelligent and credible persons have informed me that they have done so, and 
found the report of the sawyers abundantly confirmed. A land surveyor, 
who was also an experienced lumberman, sawyer, and machinist, a good ma- 
thematician and an accurate observer, has repeatedly told me that he had 
very often "timed" sawmills, and found tho difference in favor of night- 
work above thirty per cent. Bed queers. 


provinces, and thereby to prevent the utter depopulation and 
waste with which that once fertile soil and genial climate are 

The objects of the restoration of the forest are as multi- 
farious as the motives that have led to its destruction, and as 
the evils which that destruction has occasioned. It is hoped 
that the replanting of the mountain slopes, and of bleak and 
infertile plains, will diminish the frequency and violence of 
river inundations, prevent the formation of new torrents and 
check the violence of those already existing, mitigate the ex- 
tremes of atmospheric temperature, humidity, and precipitation, 
restore dried-up springs, rivulets, and sources of irrigation, 
shelter the fields from chilling and from parching winds, arrest 
the spread of miasmatic effluvia, and, finally, furnish a self- 
renewing and inexhaustible supply of a material indispensable 
to so many purposes of domestic comfort, and to the successful 
exercise of every art of peace, every destructive energy of 

The Economy of the Forest. 

The legislation of European states upon sylviculture, and the 
practice of that art, divide themselves into two great branches 
— the preservation of existing forests, and the creation of new. 
Although there are in Europe many forests neither planted 
nor regularly trained by man, yet from the long operation of 
causes already set forth, what is understood in America aiid 
other new countries by the " primitive forest," no longer exists 
in the territories which were the seats of ancient civilization 
and empire, except upon a small scale, and in remote and 
almost inaccessible glens quite out of the reach of ordinary 
observation. The oldest European woods are indeed native, 

* The preservation of the woods on the former eastern frontier of France, 
as a kind of natural abattis, was recognize! by the Government of that 
country as an important measure of military defence, though there have been 
conflicting opinions on the subject. 


that is, sprung from self-sown seed, or from the roots of trees 
which have been felled for human purposes ; but their growth 
has been controlled, in a variety of ways, by man and by do- 
mestic animals, and they almost uniformly present more or less 
of an artificial character and arrangement. Both they and 
planted forests — which, though certainly not few, are of com- 
paratively recent date in Europe — demand, as well for protec- 
tion as for promotion of growth, a treatment different in some 
respects from that which would be suited to the character and 
wants of the virgin wood. 

On this latter branch of the subject, the management of 
the primitive wood, experience and observation have not yet 
collected a sufficient stock of facts to serve for the construction 
of a complete system of this department of sylviculture ; but 
the government of the forest as it exists in France — the differ- 
ent zones and climates of which country present many points 
of analogy with those of the United States and of some of the 
British colonies — has been carefully studied, and several manuals 
of practice have been prepared for the foresters of that empire. 
I believe the Cours Elemsntai/re de Culture des Bois <ree a 
VEcole Forestiere de Nancy, par M. Lorentz, complete el 
pxiblie par A. Parade, with a supplement under the title of 
Cours d' Amenagement des Forets,par Henri N~anquette y has 
been generally considered the best of these. The Etudes sur 
I ''Economie Forestiere, par Jules Clave, which I have often 
quoted, presents a great number of interesting views on this 
subject, but it is not designed as a practical guide, and it does 
not profess to be sufficiently specific in its details to serve that 
purpose.* Notwithstanding the difference of conditions be- 
tween the aboriginal and the trained forest, the judicious ob- 
server who aims at the preservation of the former will reap 

* Among more recent manuals maybe mentioned: in French, Leu Etudes de 
MaUre Pierre, Paris, 18G4, 12mo ; Bazeeaike, Traite de Reboiaement, 2d edi- 
tion, Paris, 18C4; Paston, V Amenagement des Forits, Paris, 18G7; in English, 
( BEGOB, Arboriculture, Edinburgh. 1808 ; in Italian, BlEMONl's very valuable 
Manual* teorieo-pratico (VArte ForestaU, 2d cdiz., Firenze, 1872; the ex- 


much instruction from the treatises I have cited, and I believe 
he will be convinced that the sooner a natural wood is brought 
into the state of an artificially regulated one, the better it is for 
all the multiplied interests which depend on the wise adminis- 
tration of this branch of public economy. 

One consideration bearing on this subject has received less 
attention than it merits, because most persons interested in such 
questions have not opportunities for the comparison I refer to. 
I mean the great general superiority of cultivated timber to 
that of strictly spontaneous growth. I say general superiority, 
because there are exceptions to the rule. The white pine, 
Pinus strobtis, for instance, and other trees of similar character 
and uses, require, for their perfect growth and best ligneous 
texture, a density of forest vegetation around them, which pro- 
tects them from too much agitation by wind, and from the per- 
sistence of the lateral branches which fill the wood with knots. 
A pine which has grown under those conditions possesses a tall, 
straight stem, admirably fitted for masts and spars, and, at the 
same time, its wood is almost wholly free from knots, is regular 
in annular structure, soft and uniform in texture, and, conse- 
quently, superior to almost all other timber for joinery. If, 
while a large pine is spared, the broad-leaved or other smaller 
trees around it are felled, the swaying of the tree from the 
action of the wind mechanically produces separations between 
the layers of annual growth, and greatly diminishes the value 
of the timber. The same defect is often observed in pines 
which, from some accident of growth, have much overtopped 
their fellows in the virgin forest. 

The white pine, growing in the fields, or in open glades in 
the woods, is totally different from the true forest-tree, both in 
general aspect and in quality of wood. Its stem is much 

cellent work of Cerini, Dei Yantaggi di Societd, por VImpianto e Conser- 
vazione dei Bosc7ii, Milano, 1844, 8vo ; and the prize essay of MEGUgcuint, 
Memoria sui Bosc7ii, etc., 2d edizione, Milano, 1859, Svo. Another very im- 
portant treatise on the uses of the forest, though not a manual of sylviculture, 
is Schleiden, Fur Baum und Wald, Leipzig, 1870. 


shorter, its top less tapering, its foliage denser and more 
inclined to gather into tufts, its branches more numerous and of 
larger diameter, its wood shows much more distinctly the 
divisions of annual growth, is of coarser grain, harder and more 
difficult to work into mitre-joints. Intermixed with the most 
valuable pines in the American forests, are met many trees of 
the character I have just described. The lumbermen call them 
" saplings," and generally regard them as different in species 
from the true white pine, but botanists are unable to establish 
a distinction between them, and as they agree in almost all 
respects with trees grown in the open grounds from known 
white-pine seedlings, I believe their peculiar character is due 
to unfavorable circumstances in their early growth. The pine, 
then, is an exception to the general rule as to the inferiority of 
the forest to the open-ground tree. The pasture oak and 
pasture beech, on the contrary, are well known to produce far 
better timber than those grown in the woods, and there are few 
trees to which the remark is not equally applicable.* 

* It is often laid down as a universal law, that the wood of trees of slow 
vegetation is superior to that of quick growth. This is one of those common- 
places by which men love to shield themselves from the labor of painstaking 
observation. It has, in fact, so many exceptions, that it may be doubted 
whether it is in any sense true. Most of the cedars are slow of growth ; but 
while the timber of some of them is firm and durable, that of others is 1 
brittle, and perishable. The hemlock-spruce is slower of growth than the 
pines, but its wood is of very little value. The pasture oak and beech show a 
breadth of grain — and, of course, an annual increment — twice as great as trees 
of the same species grown in the woods; and the American locust, ii 
pseudaeacia, the wood of which is of extreme toughness and durability, is, of 
all trees indigenous to North-eastern America, by far the most rapid in growth. 
Some of the species of the Australian Fiiciih/ptux furnish wood of remarkable 
strength and durability, and yet the eucalyptus is surpassed by no known tree 
in rapidity of growth. 

As an illustration of the mutual interdependence of the mechanic arts, 
I may mention that in Italy, where stone, brick, and plaster are almost the 
only materials used in architecture, and where the "hollow ware" kitchen 
implements are of copper or of clay, the ordinary tools for working wood are 
of a very inferior description, and the locust timber is found too hard Eor th tir 
temper. At the same time the work of the Italian stipettai, or cabinet-makers, 


Another advantage of the artificially regulated forest is, 
that it admits of such grading of the ground as to favor the 
retention or discharge of water at will, while the facilities it 
affords for selecting and duly proportioning, as well as prop- 
erly spacing, and in felling and removing, from time to time, 
the trees which compose it, are too obvious to require to be 
more than hinted at. In conducting these operations, we must 
have a diligent eye to the requirements of nature, and must re- 
member that a wood is not an arbitrary assemblage of trees to 
be selected and disposed according to the caprice of its owner. 
" A forest," says Clave, " is not, as is often supposed, a simple 
collection of trees succeeding each other in long perspective, 
without bond of union, and capable of isolation from each other ; 
it is, on the contrary, a whole, the different parts of which are 
interdependent upon each other, and it constitutes, so to speak, 
a true individuality. Every forest has a special character, de- 
termined by the form of the surface it grows upon, the kinds 
of trees that compose it, and the manner in which they are 

The art, or, as the Continental foresters rather ambitiously 
call it, the science of sylviculture has been so little -pursued in 
England and America, that its nomenclature has not been in- 
troduced into the English vocabulary, and it would not be pos- 
sible to describe its processes with technical propriety of lan- 
guage, without occasionally borrowing a word from the forest 

and carvers in wood, who take pains to provide themselves with tools of better 
metal, is wholly unsurpassed in finish and in accuracy of adjustment as well as 
in taste. When a small quantity of mahogany was brought to England, early 
in the last century, the cabinet-makers were unable to use it, from the defective 
temper of their tools, until the demand for furniture from the new wood com- 
pelled them to improve the quality of their implements. In America, the 
cheapness of wood long made it the preferable material for almost all purposes 
to which it could by any possibility be applied. The mechanical cutlery and 
artisans' tools of the United States are of admirable temper, finish, and con- 
venience, and no wood is too hard, or otherwise too refractory, to be wrought 
with great facility, both by hand-tools and by the multitude of ingenious 
machines which the Americans have invented for this purpose. 


literature of France and Germany. A full discussion of the 
methods of sylviculture would, indeed, be out of place in a 
work like the present, but the want of conveniently accessible 
means of information on the subject, in the United States, will 
justify me in presenting it with somewhat more of detail than 
would otherwise be pertinent. 

The two best known methods of treating already existing 
forests are those distinguished as the taillis, copse or coppice 
treatment,* and the futaie, for which I find no English equiva- 
lent, but which may not inappropriately be called the full- 
growth system. A taillis, copse, or coppice, is a wood compos- 
ed of shoots from the roots of trees previously cut for fuel and 
timber. The shoots are thinned out from time to time, and 
finally cut, either after a fixed number of years, or after the 
young trees have attained to certain dimensions, their roots be- 
ing then left to send out a new progeny as before. This is the 
cheapest method of management, and therefore the best wher- 
ever the price of labor and of capital bears a high proportion 
to that of land and of timber ; but it is essentially a wasteful 
economy.f If the woodland is, in the first place, completely cut 

* Copse, or coppice, from the French couper, to cut, means properly a wood 
the trees of which are cut at certain periods of immature growth, and allow- 
ed to shoot up again from the roots ; but it has come to signify, very common- 
ly, a young wood, grove, or thicket, without reference to its origin, or to its 
character of a forest crop. 

f "In America," says Clave (p. 124, 125), "where there is a vast extent of 
land almost without pecuniary value, but where labor is dear and the rate of 
interest high, it is profitable to till a large surface at the least possible cost ; 
extensive cultivation is there the most advantageous. In England, France, and 
Germany, where every corner of soil is occupied, and the least bit of ground 
is sold at a high price, but where labor and capital are comparatively cheap, it 
is wisest to employ intensive cultivation. . . All the efforts of the culti- 
vator ought to be directed to the obtaining of a given result with the least 
sacrifice, and there is equally a loss to the commonwealth if the application of 
improved agricultural processes be neglected where they are advantageous, or 
if they be employed where they are not required. . . In this point of 
view, sylviculture must follow the same laws as agriculture, and, like it, be 
modified according to the economical conditions of different states. In coun- 
tries abounding in good forests, and thinly peopled, elementary and cheap 

coppices. 373 

over, as is found most convenient in practice, the young shoots 
have neither the shade nor the protection from wind so impor- 
tant to forest growth, and their progress is comparatively slow, 
while, at the same time, the thick clumps they form choke the 
seedlings that may have sprouted near them.* The evergreens, 
once cut, do not shoot up again,! and the mixed character of 
the forest — in many respects an important advantage, if not an 
indispensable condition of growth — is lost ; ^ and besides this, 

methods must be pursued ; in civilized regions, where a dense population re- 
quires that the soil shall be made to produce all it can yield, the regular arti- 
ficial forest, with all the processes that science teaches, should be cultivated. 
It would be absurd to apply to the endless woods of Brazil and of Canada the 
method of the Spessart by "double stages," but not less so in our country, 
where every yard of ground has a high value, to leave to nature the task of 
propagating trees, and to content ourselves with cutting, every twenty or 
twenty-five years, the meagre growths that chance may have produced." 

* In ordinary coppices, there are few or no seedlings, because the young 
shoots are cut before they are old enough to mature fertile seed, and this is one 
of the strongest objections to the system. 

| It was not long ago stated, upon the evidence of the Government forest- 
ers of Greece, and of the queen's gardener, that a large wood has been discov- 
ered in Arcadia, consisting of a fir which has the property of sending up both 
vertical and lateral shoots from the stump of felled trees and forming a new 
crown. It was at first supposed that this forest grew only on the "moun- 
tains," of which the hero of About' s most amusing story, Le Roi des Montagues, 
was " king; " but stumps, with the shoots attached, have been sent to Ger- 
many, and recognized by able botanists as true natural products, and the fact 
must now be considered as established. Daubeny refers to Theophrastus as 
ascribing this faculty of reproduction to the ixdrrj or fir, but he does not cite 
chapter and verse, and I have not been able to find the passage. The same 
writer mentions a case where an entire forest of the common fir in France had 
been renewed in this way. — Trees and Shrubs of the Ancients, 1865, pp. 27-28. 
The American Northern pitch possesses the same power in a certain degree. 

According to Charles Martins, the cedar of Mount Atlas — which, if no tidenti- 
cal with the cedar of Lebanon, is closely allied to it— possesses the same 
power. — Revue des Deux Mondes, July 15, 1864, p. 315. 

% Natural forests are rarely, if ever, composed of trees of a single species, 
and experience has shown that oaks and other broad -leaved trees, planted as 
artificial woods, require to be mixed, or associated with others of different 

In the forest of Fontainebleau, " oaks, mingled with beeches in due propor- 


large wood of any species cannot be grown in this method, be- 
cause trees which shoot from decaying stumps and their dying 
roots, become hollow or otherwise unsound before they acquire 
their full dimensions. A more fatal objection still, is, that the 
roots of trees will not bear more than two or three, or at most 
four cuttings of their shoots before their vitality is exhausted, 
and the wood can then be restored only by replanting entirely. 
The period of cutting coppices varies in Europe from fifteen to 
forty years, according to soil, species, and rapidity of growth. 

In the futaie, or full-growth system, the trees are allowed to 
stand as long as they continue in healthy and vigorous growth. 
This is a shorter period than would be at first supposed, when 
we consider the advanced age and great dimensions to which, 
under favorable circumstances, many forest-trees attain in 
temperate climates. But, as every observing person familiar 
with the forest is aware, these are exceptional cases, just as are 
instances of great longevity or of gigantic stature among men. 
Able vegetable physiologists have maintained that the tree, 

tion," says Clave, "may arrive at the age of five or six hundred years in full 
vigor, and attain dimensions which I have never seen surpassed ; when, how- 
ever, they are wholly unmixed with other trees, they begin to decay and die 
at the top, at the age of forty or fifty years, like men, old before their time, 
weary of the world, and longing only to quit it. This has been observed in 
most of the oak plantations of which I have spoken, and they have not been 
able to attain to full growth. When the vegetation was perceived to languish, 
they were cut, in the hope that this operation would restore their vigor, and 
that the new shoots would succeed better than the original trees ; and, in 
fact, they seemed to . be recovering for the first few years. But the shoots 
were soon attacked by the same decay, and the operation had to be renewed 
at shorter and shorter intervals, until at last it was found necessaiy to treat 
as coppices plantations originally designed for the full-growth system. Nor 
was this all : the soil, periodically bared by these cuttings, became impover- 
ished, and less and less suited to the growth of the oak. . . It was then 
proposed to introduce the pine and plant with it the vacancies and glades. 
. By this means, the forest was saved from the ruin which threatened 
it, and now more than 10,000 acres of pines, from fifteen to thirty years old, 
are disseminated at various points, sometimes intermixed with broad-leaved 
trees, sometimes forming groves by themselves." — Iievue des Deux Mondcs, 
Mai, 18(5:), pp. 153, 154. 


like most fish and reptiles, has no natural limit of life or of 
growth, and that the only reason why our oaks and our pines do 
not reach the age of twenty centuries and the height of a hun- 
dred fathoms, is, that in the multitude of accidents to which 
they are exposed, the chances of their attaining to such a length 
of years and to such dimensions of growth are millions to one 
against them. But another explanation of this fact is possible. 
In trees affected by no discoverable external cause of death, 
decay begins at the topmost branches, which seem to wither and 
die for want of nutriment. The mysterious force by which the 
sap is carried from the roots to the utmost twigs, cannot be 
conceived to be unlimited in power, and it is probable that it 
differs in different species, so that while it may suffice to raise 
the fluid to the height of five hundred feet in the eucalyptus, 
it may not be able to carry it beyond one hundred and fifty in 
the oak. The limit may be different, too, in different trees of 
the same species, not from defective organization in those of 
inferior growth, but from more or less favorable conditions of 
soil, nourishment, and exposure. Whenever a tree attains to 
the limit beyond which its circulating fluids cannot rise, we may 
suppose that decay begins, and death follows from want of 
nutrition at the extremities, and from the same causes which 
bring about the same results in animals of limited size — such, 
for example, as the interruption of functions essential to life, in 
consequence of the clogging up of ducts by matter assimilable 
in the stage of growth, but no longer so when increment has 

In the natural woods we observe that, though, among the 
myriads of trees which grow upon a square mile, there are 
several vegetable giants, yet the great majority of them begin 
to decay long before they have attained their maximum of 
stature, and this seems to be still more emphatically true of the 
artificial forest. In France, according to Clave, "oaks, in a 
suitable soil, may stand, without exhibiting any sign of decay, 
for two or three hundred years ; the pines hardly exceed one 
hundred and twenty, and the soft or white woods [bois blancs], 


in wet soils, languish and die before reaching the fiftieth year." * 
These ages are certainly below the average of those of American 
forest-trees, and are greatly exceeded in very numerous well- 
attested instances of isolated trees in Europe. 

The former mode of treating the futaie, called the garden 
system, was to cut the trees individually as they arrived at 
maturity, but, in the best regulated forests, this practice has 
been abandoned for the German method, which embraces not 
only the securing of the largest immediate profit, but the re- 
planting of the forest, and the care of the young growth. This 
is effected in the case of a forest, whether natural or artificial, 
which is to be subjected to regular management, by three 
operations. The first of these consists in felling about one- 
third of the trees, in such way as to leave convenient spaces for 
the growth of seedlings. The remaining two-thirds are relied 
upon to replant the vacancies, by natural sowing, which they 
seldom or never fail to do. The seedlings are watched, are 
thinned out when too dense, and the ill-formed and sickly, as 
well as those of species of inferior value, and the shrubs and 
thorns which might otherwise choke or too closely shade them, 
are pulled up. When they have attained sufficient strength 
and development of foliage to require, or at least to bear, more 
light and air, the second step is taken, by removing a suitable 
proportion of the old trees which had been spared at the first cut- 
ting ; and when, finally, the younger trees are hardened enough 
to bear frost and sun without other protection than that which 
they mutually give to each other, the remainder of the original 
forest is felled, and the wood now consists wholly of young 
and vigorous trees. This result is obtained after about twenty 
years. At convenient periods, the unhealthy stocks and those 
injured by wind or other accidents are removed, and in some 
instances the growth of the remainder is promoted by irrigation 
or by fertilizing applications.! When the forest is approaching 

* f'Xudes Forestieres, p. 89. 

f The grounds which it is most important to clothe with wood as a conser- 
vative influence, and which, also, can best be spared from agricultural use, 


to maturity, the original processes already described are re- 
peated ; and as, in different parts of an extensive forest, they 
would take place at different times in different zones, it would 
afford indefinitely an annual crop of small wood, fuel, and 

The duties of the forester do not end here, for it sometimes 
happens that the glades left by felling the older trees are not 
sufficiently seeded, or that the species, or essences, as the French 
oddly call them, are not duly proportioned in the new crop. In 
this case, seed must be artificially sown, or young trees planted 
in the vacancies. Besides this, all trees', whether grown for 
fruit, for fuel, or for timber, require more or less training in 

are steep hillsides. But the performance of all the offices of the forester to 
the tree — seeding, planting, thinning, trimming, and finally felling and remov- 
ing for consumption — is more laborious upon a rapid declivity than on a level 
soil, and at the same time it is difficult to apply irrigation or manures to trees 
so situated. Experience has shown that there is great advantage in terracing 
the face of a hill before planting it, both as preventing the wash of the earth 
by checking the flow of water down its slope, and as presenting a surface 
favorable for irrigation, as well as for manuring and cultivating the tree. But 
even without so expensive a process, very important results have been obtained 
by simply ditching declivities. " In order to hasten the growth of wood on the 
flanks of a mountain, Mr. Eugine Chevandier divided the slope into zones 
forty or fifty feet wide, by horizontal ditches closed at both ends, and thereby 
obtained, from firs of different ages, shoots double the dimensions of those 
which grew on a dry soil of the same character, where the water was allowed 
to run off without obstruction." — Dujioxt, Des Travaux Publics, etc., pp. 94- 

The ditches were about two feet and a half deep, and three feet and a half 
wide, and they cost about forty francs the hectare, or three dollars the acre. 
This extraordinary growth was produced wholly by the retention of the rain- 
water in the ditches, whence it filtered through the whole soil and supplied 
moisture to the roots of the trees. It may be doubted whether in a climate 
cold enough to freeze the entire contents of the ditches in winter, it would not 
be expedient to draw off the water in the autumn, as the presence of so large a 
quantity of ice in the soil might prove injurious to trees too young and small 
to shelter the ground effectually against frost. 

Chevandier computes that, if the annual growth of the pine in the marshy 
and too humid soil of the Vosges be represented by one, it will equal two in 
ordinary dry ground, four or five on slopes so ditched or graded as to retain 
the water flowing upon them from roads or steep declivities and six where 


order to yield the best returns. The experiments of the Viconite 

de Courval in sylviculture throw much light on this subject, and 
show, in a most interesting way, the importance of pruning 
forest-trees. The principal feature of De Courval's very suc- 
cessful method is a systematical mode of trimming which com- 
pels the tree to develop the stem, by reducing the lateral rami- 
fication. Beginning with young trees, the buds are rubbed off 
from the stems, and superfluous lateral shoots are pruned down 
to the trunk. When large trees are taken in hand, branches 
which can be spared, and whose removal is necessary to obtain 
a proper length of stem, are very smoothly cut off quite close 

the earth is kept sufficiently moist by infiltration from running brooks. — 
Compies Rendus d VAcademie dcs Sciences, t. xix. , Juillet, Doc, 1844, p. 167. 

The effect of accidental irrigation is well shown in the growth of the trees 
planted along the canals of irrigation which traverse the fields in many parts 
of Italy. They flourish most luxuriantly, in spite of continual lopping, and 
yield a very important contribution to the stock of fuel for domestic use ; 
while trees, situated so far from canals as to be out of the reach of infiltration 
from them, are of much slower growth, under circumstances otherwise equally 

In other experiments of Chevandier, under better conditions, the yield of 
wood was increased, by judicious irrigation, in the ratio of seven to one, the 
profits in that of twelve to one. At the Exposition of 1855, Chambrelent 
exhibited young trees, which, in four years from the seed, had grown to the 
height of sixteen and twenty feet, and the circumference of ten and twelve 
inches. Chevandier experimented with various manures, and found that 
some of them might be profitably applied to young but not to old trees, the 
quantity required in the latter case being too great. Wood -ashes and the 
refuse of soda factories are particularly recommended. See, on the manuring 
of trees, Chevandier, Recherches sur Vemplui de dicers amendements, etc., 
Paris, 1852, and Koderle, Qrundsdtze der Kanstlichen Diingung im Forstcul- 
turwesen. Wien, 1865. 

I have seen an extraordinary growth produced in fir-trees by the application 
of soapsuds ; in a young and sickly cherry-tree, by heaping the chips and 
dust from a marble-quarry, to the height of two or three feet, over the roots 
and around the stem ; and cases have come to my knowledge where like 
results followed the planting of vines and trees in holes half filled with frag- 
ments of plaster-castings, and mortar from old buildings. Chevandier's experi- 
ments in the irrigation of the forest would not have been a " new thing under 
the sun " to wise King Solomon, for that monarch says : "I made me pools of 
water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees." Eccles. ii. 6. 


to the trunk, and the exposed surface is immediately brushed 
over with mineral-coal tar. When thus treated, it is said that 
the healing of the wound is perfect, and without any decay of 
the tree. Trees trained by De Courval's method, which is now 
universally approved and much practised in France, rapidly at- 
tain a great height. They grow with remarkable straightness of 
stem and of grain, and their timber commands the highest 

A system of plantation, specially though not exclusively 
suited to very moist soils, recommended by Duhamel a hundred 
years ago, has been revived in Germany, within about twenty 
years, with much success. It is called hill-planting, and con- 
sists in placing the young tree upright on the greensward with 
its roots properly spread out, and then covering the roots and 
supporting the trunk by thick sods cut so as to form a circular 
hillock around it.f By this method it is alleged trees can be 
grown advantageously both in dry ground and on humid soils, 
where they would not strike root if planted in holes after the 
usual manner. If there is any truth in the theory of a desic- 
cating action in evergreen trees, plantations of this sort might 
have a value as drainers of lands not easily laid dry by other 
processes. There is much ground on the great prairies of the 
West, where experiments with this method of planting are 
strongly to be recommended. 

It is common in Europe to permit the removal of the fallen 
leaves and fragments of bark and branches with which the 
forest-soil is covered, and sometimes the cutting of the lower 
twigs of evergreens. The leaves and twigs are principally 
used as litter for cattle, and finally as manure, the bark and 

* See De Courval, Tattle et conduite des Arbres forestieres et autres arbres 
de grande dimension. Paris, 1861. 

The most important part of Viscount de Courval's system will be found in 
EElagage des Arbres, par le Comte A. Des Cars, an admirable little treatise, 
of which numerous editions, at the price of one franc, have been printed since 
the first, of 18G4, and which ought to be translated and published without 
delay in the United States. 

\ See Manteuffel, VArt de Planter, traduit par Stumper. Paris, 1 SC8. 


■wind-fallen branches as fuel. By long usage, sometimes by 
express grant, this privilege has become a vested right of the 
population in the neighborhood of many public and even large 
private forests; but it is generally regarded as a serious evil. 
To remove the leaves and fallen twigs is to withdraw much of 
the pabulum upon which the tree 'was destined to feed. The 
small branches and leaves are the parts of the tree which yield 
the largest proportion of ashes on combustion, and of course 
they supply a great amount of nutriment for the young shoots. 
" A cubic foot of twigs," says Vaupell, " yields four times as 
much ashes as a cubic foot of stem wood. . . For every 
hundred weight of dried leaves carried off from a beech forest, 
we sacrifice a hundred and sixty cubic feet of wood. The leaves 
and the mosses are a substitute, not only for manure, but for 
ploughing. The carbonic acid given out by decaying leaves, 
when taken np by water, serves to dissolve the mineral con- 
stituents of the soil, and is particularly active in disintegrating 
feldspar and the clay derived from its decomposition. . . . 
The leaves belong to the soil. Without them it cannot preserve 
its fertility, and cannot furnish nutriment to the beech. The 
trees languish, produce seed incapable of germination, and the 
spontaneous self-sowing, which is an indispensable element in 
the best systems of sylviculture, fails altogether in the bared and 
impoverished soil." * 

Besides these evils, the removal of the leaves deprives the 
soil of much of that spongy character which gives it such im- 

* Vaupell, Bijgens Indvandring i de Danske Skove, pp. 29, 46. Vaupell 
further observes, on the page last quoted : " The removal of leaves is injurious 
to the forest, not only because it retards the growth of trees, but still more 
because it disqualifies the soil for the production of particular species. When 
the beech languishes, and the development of its branches is less vigorous and 
its crown less spreading, it becomes unable to resist the encroachments of the 
fir. This latter tree thrives in an inferior soil, and being no longer stitled by 
the thick foliage of the beech, it spreads gradually through the wood, while 
the beech retreats before it and finally perishes." 

Schleiden confirms the opinion of Vaupell, and adds many important obser- 
vations on this subject. — Far Baum uiul Wctid, pp. 64, 05. 


mense value as a reservoir of moisture and a regulator of the 
flow of springs ; and, finally, it exposes the surface-roots to the 
drying influence of sun and wind, to accidental mechanical 
injury from the tread of animals or men, and, in cold climates, 
to the destructive effects of frost. 

Protection against Wild Animals. 

It is often necessary to take measures for the protection of 
young trees against the rabbit, the mole, and other rodent quad- 
rupeds, and of older ones against the damage done by the larvae 
of insects hatched upon the surface or in the tissues of the bark, 
or even in the wood itself. The much greater liability of the 
artificial than of the natural forest to injury from this cause is 
perhaps the only point in which the superiority of the former 
to the latter is not as marked as that of any domesticated vege- 
table to its wild representative. But the better quality of the 
wood and the much more rapid growth of the trained and 
regulated forest are abundant compensations for the loss thus 
occasioned, and the progress of entomological science will, 
perhaps, suggest new methods of preventing the ravages of 
insects. Thus far, however, the collection and destruction of 
the eggs, by simple but expensive means, has proved the most 
effectual remedy.* 

* I have remarked elsewhere that most insects which deposit and hatch 
their eggs in the wood of the natural forest confine themselves to dead trees. 
Not only is this the fact, but it is also true that many of the borers attack 
only freshly-cut timber. Their season of labor is a short one, and unless the 
tree is cut during this period, it is safe from them. In summer you may hear 
them plying their augers in the wood of a young pine with soft, green bark, as 
you sit upon its trunk, within a week after it has been felled, but the wind- 
falls of the winter lie uninjured by the worm and even undecayed for centuries. 
In the pine woods of New England, after the regular lumberman has removed 
the standing trees, these old trunks are hauled out from the mosses and leaves 
which half cover them, and often furnish excellent timber. The slow decay 
of such timber in the woods, it may be remarked, furnishes another proof of 
the uniformity of temperature and humidity in the forest, for the trunk of a 
tree lying on grass or ploughland, and of course exposed to all the alterna- 


Exclusion of Domestic Qtiadrupeds. 

But probably the most important of all rules for the govern- 
ment of the forest, whether natural or artificial, is that which 
prescribes the absolute exclusion of all domestic quadrupeds, 
except swine, from every wood which is not destined to be 
cleared. No growth of young trees is possible where horned 
cattle, sheep, or goats, or even horses, are permitted to pasture 
at any season of the year, though they are doubtless most de- 
structive when trees are in leaf.* These animals browse upon 

tions of climate, hardly resists complete decomposition for a generation. The 
forests of Europe exhibit similar facts. Wessely, in a description of the primi- 
tive wood of Neuwald in Lower Austria, says that the windfalls required from 
150 to 200 years for entire decay. — Die Oesterreichischen AlpenMnder urtd Hire 
Forste, p. 312. 

The comparative immunity of the American native forests from attacks by 
insects is perhaps in some degree due to the fact that the European destruc- 
tive tribes have not yet found their way across the ocean, and that our native 
species are less injurious to living trees. On the European lignivorous insects, 
see Siemoni, Manuale cV Arte Forcstalc, 2d edizione, pp. 309-379. 

* Although the economy of the forest has received little attention in the 
United States, no lover of American nature can have failed to observe a 
marked difference between a native wood from -which cattle are excluded 
and one where they are permitted to browse. A few seasons suffice for the 
total extirpation of the " underbrush," including the young trees on which 
alone the reproduction of the forest depends, and all the branches of those 
of larger growth which hang within reach of the cattle are stripped of their 
buds and leaves, and soon wither and fall off. These effects are observable 
at a great distance, and a wood-pasture is recognized, almost as far as it can be 
seen, by the regularity with which its lower foliage terminates at what Rus- 
kin somewhere calls the "cattle -line." This always runs parallel to the sur- 
face of the ground, and is determined by the height to which domestic 
quadrupeds can reach to feed upon the leaves. In describing a visit to the 
grand-ducal farm of San Rossore near Pisa, where a large herd of camels is 
kept, Chateauvicux says: "In passing through a wood of evergreen oaks, I 
observed that all the twigs and foliage of the trees were clipped up to the 
height of about twelve feet above the ground, without leaving a single spray 
below that level. I was informed that the browsing of 1 ! had 

trimmed the trees as high as they could reach." — LTJLLIN DB Chateau- 
vievx, / P Italie, p. 113. 

B animals, and most of all the goat, are considered by foresters 


the terminal buds and the tender branches, thereby stunting, if 
they do not kill, the young trees, and depriving them of all 
beauty and vigor of growth. 

as more injurious to the growth of young trees, and, therefore, to the repro- 
duction of the forest, than almost any other destructive cause. According 
to Beatson's Saint Helena, introductory chapter, and Darwin's Journal of Re- 
searches in Geology and Natural History, pp. 582, 583, it was the goats which 
destroyed the beautiful forests that, three hundred and fifty years ago, cov- 
ered a continuous surface of not less than two thousand acres in the interior 
of the island [of St. Helena], not to mention scattered groups of trees. Dar- 
win observes: " During our stay at Valparaiso, I was most positively assured 
that sandal-wood formerly grew in abundance on the island of Juan Fernan- 
dez, but that this tree had now become entirely extinct there, having been 
extirpated by the goats which early navigators had introduced. The neigh- 
boring islands, to which goats have not been carried, still abound in sandal- 

In the winter, the deer tribe, especially the great American moose-deer, 
Bubsists much on the buds and young sprouts of trees ; yet — though from the 
destruction of the wolves or from some not easily explained cause, these latter 
animals have recently multiplied so rapidly in some parts of North America, 
that, not long since, four hundred of them are said to have been killed, in one 
season, on a territory in Maine not comprising more than one hundred and 
fifty square miles — the wild browsing quadrupeds are rarely, if ever, numerous 
enough in regions uninhabited by man to produce any sensible effect on the 
condition of the forest. A reason why they are less injurious than the goat 
to young trees may be that they resort to this nutriment only in the winter, 
when the grasses and shrubs are leafless or covered with snow, whereas the 
goat feeds upon buds and young shoots principally in the season of growth. 
However this may be, the natural law of consumption and supply keeps the 
forest growth, and the wild animals which live on its products, in such a 
state of equilibrium as to insure the indefinite continuance of both, and the 
perpetuity of neither is endangered until man interferes and destroys the 

"When, however, deer are bred and protected in parks, they multiply like 
domestic cattle, and become equally injurious to trees. " A few years ago," 
says Clave, u there were not less than two thousand deer of different ages in 
the forest of Fontainebleau. For want of grass, they are driven to the trees, 
and they do not spare them. . . It is calculated that the browsing of these 
animals, and the consequent retardation of the growth of the wood, dimin- 
ishes the annual product of the forest to the amount of two hundred thou- 
sand cubic feet per year, . . and besides this, the trees thus mutilated 
are soon exhausted and die. The deer attack the pines, too, tearing off the 
bark in long strips, or rubbing their heads against them when shedding their 


Forest Fires. 

The difficulty of protecting the woods against accidental or 
incendiary fires is one of the most discouraging circumstances 
attending the preservation of natural and the plantation of arti- 
ficial forests.* In the spontaneous wood the spread of fire is 

horns ; and sometimes, in groves of more than a hundred hectares, not one 
pine is found uninjured by them." — Revue des Deux Mondes, Mai, 1863, p. 157. 

Vaupell, though agreeing with other writers as to the injury done to the 
forest by most domestic animals and by half -tamed deer — which he illustrates 
in an interesting way in his posthumous work, The Danish Woods — thinks, 
nevertheless, that at the season when the mast is falling, swine are rather use- 
fid than otherwise to forests of beech and oak, by treading into the ground 
and thus sowing beechnuts and acorns, and by destroying moles and mice. — 
De Daiuke S/cove, p. 12. Meguscher is of the same opinion, and adds that 
swine destroy injurious insects and their larva?. — Memoria, etc., p. 233. 

Beckstein computes that a park of 2,500 acres, containing 250 acres of 
marsh, 250 of fields and meadows, and the remaining 2,000 of wood, may 
keep .104 deer of different species, 47 wild boars, 200 hares, 100 rabbits, and 
an indefinite number of pheasants. These animals would require, in winter, 
123,000 pounds of hay, and 22,000 pounds of potatoes, besides what they 
would pick up themselves. The natural forest most thickly peopled with 
wild animals would not, in temperate climates, contain, upon the average, 
one-tenth of these numbers to the same extent of surface. 

* The disappearance of the forests of ancient Gaul and of mediaeval France has 
been ascribed by some writers as much to accidental fires as to the felling of 
the trees. All the treatises on sylvicidture are full of narratives of forest 
fires. The woods of Corsica and Sardinia have suffered incalculable injury 
from this cause, and notwithstanding the resistance of the cork-tree to injury 
from common fires, the government forests of this valuable tree in Algeria 
have been lately often set on fire by the natives and have sustained immense 

See an article by Ysabeau in the Annales ForcstUres, t. iii., p. 439 ; Dell a 
Marmora, Voyage en Sardaigne, 2d edition, t. i., p. 42G ; Bivista Forestale 
del Regno <P Italia, October, 1805, p. 474. 

Five or six years ago I saw in Switzerland a considerable forest, chiefly of 
young trees, which had recently been burnt over. I was told that the poor of 
the commune had long enjoyed a customary privilege of carrying off dead 
wood and windfalls, and that they had set the forest on fire to kill the trees 
and so increase the supply of their lawful plunder. 

The customary rights of herdsmen, shepherds, and peasants in European 


somewhat retarded by the general humidity of the soil and of 
the beds of leaves which cover it. But in long droughts the su- 
perficial layer of leaves and the dry fallen branches become as 
inflammable as tinder, and the fire spreads with fearful rapid- 
ity, until its further progress is arrested by want of: material, 
or, more rarely, by heavy rains, sometimes caused, as many 
meteorologists sui3pose, by the conflagration itself. 

In the artificial forest the annual removal of fallen or half- 
dried trees and the leaves and other droppings of the wood, 
though otherwise a very injurious practice, much diminishes the 
rapid spread of fires ; and the absence of combustible under- 
wood and the greater distance between the trees are additional 
safeguards. But, on the other hand, the comparative dryness 
of the soil, and of any leaves or twigs which may remain upon 
it, and the greater facility for the passage of wind-currents 
through a regularly planted and more open wood, are circum- 
stances unfavorable to the security of the trees against this 
formidable danger. The natural forest, unless isolated and of 
small extent, can be protected from fire only by a vigilance too 
costly to be systematically practised. But the artificial wood 
may be secured by a network of ditches and of paths or occa- 
sional open glades, which both check the running of the fire 
and furnish the means of approaching and combating it.* 

The experience of 1871 ought not to be wholly without value 
as a lesson. It is not possible to estimate the damage by forest 
fires in that disastrous year, in what were lately the North-west- 
ern States, and in Canada, but as the demand for lumber, and, 
consequently, its market price, are rising at a rate higher than 
the interest on capital, in a geometrical ratio, one may almost 

forests are often an insuperable obstacle to the success of attempts to preserve 
the woods or to improve their condition. See, on this subject, Alfred 
Maury, Les anciens Forets de la Gaule, chap. xxix. 

* It is stated that in the pine woods of the Landes of Gascony a fire has 
never been known to cross a railway-track or a common road. See Dcs In- 
cendies, etc., dans la Region des Maures in the Revue dcs Eaux et Forets for 
February, 1869. Many other important articles on this subject will be found 
in other numbers of the same very valuable periodical. 


say it is probable that ten years hence those fires will be thought 
to have diminished the national wealth by a larger amount than 
even the terrible conflagration at Chicago. 

There is no good reason why insurance companies should 
not guarantee the proprietor of a wood as well as the owner of 
a house against damage by fire. In Europe there is no con- 
ceivable liability to pecuniary loss which may not be insured 
against. The American companies might at first be embar- 
rassed in estimating the risk, but the experience of a few years 
would suggest safe principles, and all parties would find advan- 
tage in this extension of security. 

Forest Legislation. 

I have alleged sufficient reasons for believing that a desola- 
tion, like that which has overwhelmed many once beautiful and 
fertile regions of Europe, awaits an important part of the terri- 
tory of the United States, and of other comparatively new coun- 
tries over which European civilization is now extending its 
sway, unless prompt measures are taken to check the action of 
destructive causes already in operation. It is almost in -sain to 
expect that mere restrictive legislation can do anything effect- 
ual to arrest the progress of the evil in those countries, except 
so far as the state is still the proprietor of extensive forests. 
Woodlands which have passed into private hands will every- 
where be managed, in spite of legal restrictions, upon the same 
economical principles as other possessions, and every proprietor 
will, as a general rule, fell his woods, unless he believes that it 
will be for his pecuniary interest to preserve them. Few of 
the new provinces which the last three centuries have brought 
under the control of the European race, would tolerate any 
interference by the law-making power with what they regard as 
the most sacred of civil rights — the right, namely, of every man 
to do what he will with his own. In the Old World, even in 
France, whose people, of all European nations, love best to be 
governed and are least annoyed by bureaucratic supervision, 


law has been found impotent to prevent the destruction, or 
wasteful economy, of private forests ; and in many of the moun- 
tainous departments of that country, man is at this moment so 
fast laying waste the face of the earth, that the most serious fears 
are entertained, not only of the depopulation of those districts, 
but of enormous mischiefs to the provinces contiguous to them.* 
The only legal provisions from which anything is to be hoped, 
are such as shall make it a matter of private advantage to the 
landholder to spare the trees upon his grounds, and promote the 
growth of the young wood. Much may be done by exempting 
standing forests from taxation, and by imposing taxes on wood 
felled for fuel or for timber, something by more stringent pro- 
visions against trespasses on forest property, and something by 
premiums or honorary distinctions for judicious management of 
the woods ; and, in short, in this matter rewards rather than pun- 
ishments must be the incentives to obedience even to a policy of 
enlightened self-interest. It might be difficult to induce gov- 
ernmcnts, general or local, to make the necessary appropriations 

* " The laws against clearing have never been able to prevent these opera- 
tions when the proprietor found his advantage in them, and the long series of 
royal ordinances and decrees of parliaments, proclaimed from the days of 
Charlemagne to our own, with a view of securing forest property against the 
improvidence of its owners, have served only to show the impotence of legisla- 
tive action on this subject." — Clave, Etudes sur VEconomie Forestiere, p. 32. 

" A proprietor can always contrive to clear his woods, whatever may be done 
to prevent him ; it is a mere question of time, and a few imprudent cuttings, 
a few abuses of the right of pasturage, suffice to destroy a forest in spite of 
all regulations to the contrary." — Dunoyer, De la Liberte da Travail, ii., p. 
452, as quoted by Clave, p. 353. 

Both authors agree that the preservation of the forests in France is practi- 
cable only by their transfer to the state, which alone can protect them and 
secure their proper treatment. It is much to be feared that even this measure 
would be inadequate to preserve the forests of the American Union. There 
is little respect for public property in America, and the Federal Government, 
certainly, would not be the proper agent of the nation for this purpose. It 
proved itself unable to protect the live-oak woods of Florida, which were in- 
tended to be preserved for the use of the navy, and it more than once paid 
contractors a high price for timber stolen from its own forests. The authori- 
ties of the individual States might be more efficient. 


for such purposes, but there can be no doubt that it would be 
sound economy in the end. 

In countries where there exist municipalities endowed with 
an intelligent public spirit, the purchase and control of for- 
ests by such corporations would often prove advantageous ; and 
in some of the provinces of Northern Lombardy, experience has 
shown that such operations may be conducted with great benefit 
to all the interests connected with the proper management 
of the woods. In Switzerland, on the other hand, except in 
some few cases where woods have been preserved as a de- 
fence against avalanches, the forests of the communes have 
been of little advantage to the public interests, and have very 
generally gone to decay.* The rights of pasturage, every- 
where destructive to trees, combined with toleration of tres- 
passes, have so reduced their value, that there is, too often, 
nothing left that is worth protecting. In the canton of Ticino, 
the peasants have very frequently voted to sell the town-woods 
and divide the proceeds among the corporators. The some- 
times considerable sums thus received are squandered in wild 
revelry, and the sacrifice of the forests brings not even a mo- 
mentary benefit to the proprietors, f 

Fortunately for the immense economical and sanitary in- 
terests involved in this branch of rural and industrial hus- 
bandry, public opinion in many parts of the United States is 
thoroughly roused to the importance of the subject. In the 
Eastern States, plantations of a certain extent have been made, 
and a wiser system is pursued in the treatment of the remain- 
ing native woods4 Important experiments have been tried in 

* A belter economy has been of late introduced into the management of 
the forest in Switzerland. Excellent official reports on the subject have been 
published and important legal provisions adopted. 

f See in Berlepscii, Die Alpcn, chapter Ilohscldager und Fldsser, a lively 
account of the sale of a communal wood. 

X When the census of 18G0 was taken, the States of Maine and New York pro- 
duced and exported lumber in abundance. Neither of them now has timber 
enough for domestic use, and they are both compelled to draw much of their 
supply from Canada and the West. 


Massachusetts on the propagation of forest-trees on seashore 
bluffs exposed to strong winds. This had been generally sup- 
posed to be impossible, but the experiments in question afford a 
gratifying proof that this is an erroneous opinion. Piper gives 
an interesting account of Mr. Tudor's success in planting trees 
on the bleak and barren shore of Nahant. " Mr. Tudor," ob- 
serves he, "has planted more than ten thousand trees at Nahant, 
and, by the results of his experiments, has fully demonstrated 
that trees, properly cared for in the beginning, may be made to 
grow up to the very bounds of the ocean, exposed to the biting 
of the wind and the spray of the sea. The only shelter they 
recj uire is, at first, some interruption to break the current of the 
wind, such as fences, houses, or other trees." * 

Young trees protected against the wind by a fence will some- 
what overtop their shelter, and every tree will serve as a screen 
to a taller one behind it. Extensive groves have thus been 
formed in situations where an isolated tree would not grow at all. 

The people of the Far West have thrown themselves into the 
work, we cannot say of restoration, but rather of creation, of 
woodland, with much of the passionate energy which marks 
their action in reference to other modes of physical improve- 
ment. California has appointed a State forester with a liberal 
salary, and made such legal provisions and appropriations as to 
render the discharge of his duties effectual. The hands that 
built the Pacific Eailroad at the rate of miles in a day are now 
busy in planting belts