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CORRESPONDENCE WITH DR. STOKES, Mrs. MERRY, MR. VAUGHAN, BARON
HERMELIN, DR. BARTON, DR. MUHLENBURG, MR. STICKNEY, Count CasTIGLIONI, MR. PAYKULL, DR. SWARTZ, Hox. John DAVIS, LORD VALENTIA, JUDGE Parsons, Prof. C. F. RAFINESQUE, TIMOTHY PICKERING, EPHRAIM CUTLER.
[From Dr. Jonathan Stokes.*] STOURBRIDGE, WORCESTERSHIRE, Exg., Aug. 17, 1785. Sir:--Your favor of June 28th, which I received yesterday, has proved the source of many pleasing reflections.
There is no country in the world, next to my own, to which I feel myself so strongly attached, or in whose well-doing I am so much interested, as that of which you, sir, are a citizen. Long may you be United States. The name, alas! will long remind us with regret that we are no longer one people; but I trust we shall still be united in one general interest for the natural liberties of man, for the improvement of his moral and intellectual faculties, and for the promotion of every art and science which can tend to preserve or augment his happiness. As a citizen of the world, let me congratulate you, sir, on the noble field which lies before you, on the interesting objects you have in view, in the patronage of an enlightened people. As an individual, let me return you my sincere thanks for the liberal communications which you offer, and truly happy shall I esteem myself, if, at this distance, I can be able to contribute any thing toward the great ends which you have in view, and pleasing is the reflection that we have thus discovered a new and unexpected point of union.
It would give me pleasure to see the vegetable subjects of
*Jonathan Stokes was a botanist of note, contemporary with Withering, whom he assisted in preparing his works. He was the author of a botanical Materia Medica, which was published in London in 1812. In the southern states there is a plant belonging to the Compositæ, named Stokesia Cynea, in honor of Dr. Stokes.-C. G. Lloyd.
IL IS, perlaps, 10)
appiness of the Empire which, like Rome, might have grown too unwieldy for itself, as well as too formidable for the rest of mankind, should separate, I can not help thinking that the diffusion of botanical knowledge will be accelerated by keeping our Flora distinct.
I have had it some time in contemplation to extend the plan, at least, of the Botanical Arrangement, to the plants cultivated in these isles; but the liberal offers of assistance which I have had the pleasure to receive from you, will induce me to contract my views on the one side, to be enabled to take advantage of the new field which you have opened me, of native specimens, and of North American plants not cultivated in these kingiloms. I propose, therefore, if it meets with your approbation, as soon as we shall have completed the Botanical Arrangement, to begin with an examination of all such plants that I may have in my herbarium, or of which I shall be able to procure living specimens, which are supposed to be natives of N. America, translating all that Linnæus has given on the subject, with a collection of synonyms at full length, with all the observations, medical and economical, to be collected from authors. Such a work, I am persuaded, would be useful to both countries; but though even it should be enriched by you, it can only be regarded as an essay. A complete Flora of North America is a work which the public can only expect from you, anıl the observations of a series of years. But, though not complete, it will be useful, and be, perhaps, the best means of rendering it complete.
I am happy to hear of the safe arrival of Count Castiglioni. I found him the character you describe, and regretted much that he did not fulfill the promise he made us of repeating his visit. He is what I would call a botanist of sound principles. He has studied the philosophy of Botany with great attention, and seems to have escaped most of the foibles of his immediate master, Scopoli, who is, I think, not less fond of saying something which shall appear new, than of discovering what is really so.
I am apprehensive I spoke too freely to the Count of my opinion of his master. I am fully sensible of the merits of
осооп, тіпo пas acceivea пасп, бас т Саппоu appоyе от leading away the attention of the young botanist from the severe distinctive characters of Linnæus to his own picturesque but often vague diagnosis.
North America has hitherto been Linnean, and I trust will not be retarded in its progress by absurd national partiality, even for the good and excellent Ray, or be dazzled by the illtimed eloquence of the French Zoologist. But, though I revere Linnæus, the sexual system is, with me, one of the least of his merits. I would adhere to it, “but I will hold it so loosely,” to borrow an expression from a little work of Mrs. Stokes, which was the happy means of introducing her to Mr. Eliot, “as not to be hurt by its thorns.”
The sexual system is a bond of union. It has tended much to give universality to one system, which, like establishment and corporations, is of use for a time, but a too rigid adherence to its principles tends to lead us to separate natural genera. Of this, my long to be regretted friend, the younger Linneus, was fully sensible. His first object was to keep the natural assemblages together, as this is the great use and enil of all arrangement. Easy investigation is a secondary consideration, as exceptions in the synopsis of the genera at the head of the classes will supply all deficiencies of that kind. Linnæus has, in compliance with the usage of former botanists, and often in conformity with the sexual distinctions, often multiplied genera unnecessarily. .. I should be glad to learn whether any of the Swallow genus have ever been discovered during the winter in a torpid state, and in particular, under water, and to be informed what the prevailing opinion is respecting the habitation of these birds during the winter. The hypothesis of migration has been much weakened in Europe by the doubts which have been raised respecting the assertion of Mr. Arlanson respecting his having seen the European Swallow at Senegal. Mr. Adanson complained to me, when at Paris, of Mr. Barrington's treatment of him. I inquired whether he had brought over any specimens of the species which he called the Swallow of Europe, to which he replied that he had deposited one of them in the King's cal)inet. Then I applied to M. Dauberton, the younger, for a me it was not the Hirendo nestica, but the Chimney Swallow, that he saw. The great extent of latitude occupied by the United States will, perhaps, enable your Philosophical Societies to ascertain the nature of the Swallows better than we can in Europe, stopped, as we are, by the Mediterranean and the uncivilized state of Africa. I have the honor to remain, with the highest respect, Sir, Your most obedient, humble servant,
JONATHAN STOKES. [To Dr. Stokes.] IPSWICH (STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS), Oct. 30, 1786. Dear Sir :-Your kind favor of August 1st I had the pleasure of receiving the 14th inst. I am much obliged by the particular description you give me of your method of preserving specimens, and the attention you have paid to those I sent you.
The small compass to which it was necessary to reduce those I sent you, prevented sending some of them as large as I should otherwise have done. I must beg leave still to believe we have it yet in our power to distinguish with great certainty our native vegetable productions from those exoties which have been introduced since Columbus discovered the Continent. If we went back to a much earlier period, and suppose this country was inhabited by a civilized people many centuries before the Columbian discovery, which some late discoveries strongly indicate, we must be involved in uncertainty; but, upon this supposition, we may have as good a claim to the Athenian title of αυτοχίονες, as any
other country. I presume, however, you refer only to the impossibility of distinguishing the natives from those that have been introduced from the other side of the Atlantic, and become naturalized, since the country has been settled by Europeans. Those, I have no doubt, we have it in our power to distinguish.
Consider, my friend, the vast tract of wilderness which lies between the present settlements and the western ocean. In every parallel of latitude, from the southern to the northern
tends for many hundreds, nay thousands of miles to the westward, covered with immense forests, unfrequented, and indeed, much unknown to the present European American inhabitants. The present settlements extend comparatively but a very little way from the sea-coast. It will surely be admitted that trees found in large forests, and in numerous places, whether of the same species of other countries or not, are indigenous.
Can it be questioned whether grasses and other vegetables are natives, which are found for many hundreds of miles back of settlements, on land that has been accidentally cleared of woods, in open swamps, and on the banks of rivers and lakes, , etc., and in various parts of the wilderness?
In new plantations, 50 or 100 miles from settlements, may we not conclude, without hesitation, that those vegetable productions are native which immediately spring up in abundance, the seeds of which it can be made very certain were not conveyed by the settlers, for three or four of the first years ? Should it be said that birds of passage may spread the seeds of naturalized plants in the wilderness, it may be answered that their flights are not in parallels of latitude, but, alternately, from colder to warmer climates.
Neither is there probability that those seeds which Nature has formed for being wafted by the winds are carried far, in this country, in a western direction ; for easterly winds are not frequent, never last many hours, are generally attended with excessive rains. North America, from the latitude of the most southern to that of the most northern boundaries of the United States, even including Canada, is so circumstanced at the present time, as leaves little more doubt of the possibility of distinguishing between the native and naturalized plants now, than at the first discovery; but I readily admit there is very little probability of its being asserted, for it requires much labor and attention, and so few are disposed, and so small is the encouragement, at present, for such kinds of exertions, that no person will be induced to attempt it with the necessary caution and accuracy.
You observe that the “greater part of the grain and hay growing in America have been imported from Europe.” Of