This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
This rather singular that nearly every allusion made to American horticulture, in the British journals, is stamped with prejudice and either real or affected ignorance. We are sorry to have to say this, but it is the truth, as every one familiar with British literature very well knows, Is it worth our while to inquire why?
In this "age of steam," as it has been aptly termed, when the Atlantic ocean is reduced to a mere ferry, leas formidable to the traveler than the channel between Dover and Calais, or the Hudson river between Albany and New York, once was - when ten days, or less, carried the news of the week from continent to continent, and travelers, on business or pleasure, flock hither and thither by thousands, - in such times, too, of printing and reading as these are, when the publishers of New York, Boston, London, and Edinburgh are making liberal weekly exchanges of the literature of the two continents, with the daily papers of New York offered iu the streets of all the large cities of Europe while scarce a week old, and European journals landed on our shores by the. cart load from every steamer - with American booksellers in London, and English booksellers in New York - in short, with the most intimate connection, in every respect, that could possibly exist between two countries, - one would suppose that if popular error, ignorance, or prejudice, ever existed in either in regard to the other, it would by this time have been pretty thoroughly broken up.
We fear, however, it is not so.
In Europe one generation after another has imbibed the idea, both from history and tradition, that the American continent was a vast wilderness of woods and prairies, with here and there a partial clearing or a rude village; that the population was a mixture of negroes, Indians, and semi-civilized whites; that in two or three of the maritime cities, favored by a more intimate intercourse with the old world, there was the germ of civilization and refinement, but beyond their limits all was wild, uncultivated, barbarian. These ideas are at this time considerably modified, we admit, but those who travel through the country places of Great Britain, and mingle and converse with the country people, know that there they are not much modified. Nor have the most intelligent classes - the men who read and travel, who know the world and note its progress - been able to divest themselves wholly of their early impressions. Prejudice is one of the most fatal frailties of human nature. So obstinately blind and deaf is it, that it will not allow its victims either to hear or see the slightest evidence that conflicts with the nations and traditions in which they have been reared.
The great exhibition of 1851, in London, produced some striking and memorable illustrations of the views and feelings which exist in England in regard to America, The article we sent there were held up before the world as a laughing stock, by the English press. They were the standing theme for all the wit, and sarcasm, and ignorance of reporters; and it was only after careful and thorough investigations and trials, the results of which bore down the most inveterate prejudice, that some halfway admissions of merit were grudgingly accorded. The English newspapers themselves have made this a matter of history.
The visits of Englishmen to this country have unfortunately done very little, if anything, to soften the prejudices and diffuse a more truthful information. We thought that Prof. Johnston, the distinguished agriculturist who honored us with a visit in 1851, would, on his return to England, give some correct information respecting the condition of our rural affairs; but we, and all others who thought so, were sadly mistaken. He proved himself no exception to the general rale, and made a report of his tour quite unworthy a man of his reputation and acquirements - one, indeed, that he and his countrymen may well feel ashamed of in every respect Some of the most important things he had to relate were, that in Western New York wheat culture was about to be abandoned; that the people of New England were not so rude as travelers said; that within twenty miles of Boston numerous country boxes, or cottages, of all fashions and sizes, with their white painted walls and green jalousies, skirted the rail way! What a correct opinion his hearers and readers must have formed of Western New York and the neighborhood of Boston from such statements as these! He was present at the great New York State Fair, at Syracuse, and had ample opportunities of seeing the great display of fruit there - the greatest we are sure he ever saw before - and instead of giving his countrymen some correct idea of the matter, he merely says that "fruits receive much attention from the State Society, and had an appropriate place assigned them." This was definite and valuable information, truly! What would we say of an American, supposed to be as competent to report correctly as Mr. Johnston, who should visit an English exhibition and make such a meagre, worthless statement ? Yet this is a fair sample of the way in which our affairs are usually disposed of by Europeans, and more especially English travelers.
They traverse the country on railroads, at the rate of thirty or forty miles an hour, passing generally through the poorest lands; visit a few large towns, and return with the material for a book - and such a book! If they would do as Mr. Olmsted did in England - throw aside their old prejudices, buckle on their knapsacks and foot it through the country from village to village, and from house to house, explore every field, and garden, and orchard, and barn-yard, and converse with the actual tiller of the soil of every condition - they might be able to say something creditable to us and to themselves, - at any rate to tell the truth. But they have no idea of embarking in such a tedious and toilsome way of exploring the country; they must do it by steam. They find a totally different state of things from what they have been accustomed to. There are no princely establishments to attract their attention, no great public gardens, no ducal conservatories, nor royal parks. We have but few retired, wealthy citizens, no monster estates. We are all workers, all busy, all in a hurry.