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.
The guiding power of this Department has, by reason of the death of Isaac Newton, been changed; but whether it Will be for the better, so far as horticulture is concerned, remains to be seen. The Commissioner has, however, done one good thing in extinguishing the seed department according to the old programme. We know not what course will be pursued, and have kept back our remarks a certain time, hoping to see some shadowing forth of a programme of operations; but nothing of the kind has come to our knowledge, and we are therefore left in ignorance of what is designed to be performed by the Department or expected in aid thereof from the people. It is barely possible the present Commissioner, like his predecessor, imagines he can run the machine without aid or favor of the people at large, and regardless of the bearings or tone of Agricultural or Horticultural journals and societies; but our knowledge of the man is such that we can not believe it of him, unless swayed by the harpies which ever congregate around public officers.
What he shall or ought to do in Agriculture we leave for our Agricultural journals to. say; and, by - the - by, we imagine they are like ourselves waiting to see if anything is to be done. But in Horticulture and Pomology we desire to offer one word of suggestion as to a course which tile Department might adopt, and aid very largely the public good. It is in checking the introduction of any new variety of fruit or flower unless of a superior character. The rules of the American Pomological Society make it obligatory that a fruit shall have some superior characteristic over a known kind in order to receive notice or be entitled to record; but, unfortunately, it has no means to pay for knowledge which shall decide the point, and hence its rule falls to the ground. The department of Agriculture, by establishing and entertaining a Bureau of Horticulture or Pomology, might employ one capable man with, in case of a new fruit or flower, power to call in aid two other men to examine any and every new fruit or flower or vegetable in its native locality, compare it with others known to the committee, but perhaps unknown to the originator, and report thereon.
The same with all new grains, vegetables, etc., and thus check the present increase of fruits, grains, vegetables, etc., which are thrown upon the good-nature of the public at high prices without corresponding qualities, by the interests of designing speculators or from innocence by want of knowledge of other and superior named sorts.
Again: -we all acknowledge the laborer worthy of his hire, and the producer of a new seedling fruit, grain, or vegetable as worthy a full recompense; but too often some speculator reaps the gains, while the originator, by reason of want of means to pay for advertising, or perhaps a modest hesitancy to publish himself, has nothing but a self-consciousness of having originated a good thing, to plethorize the pockets of some charlatan operator. We would that the Agricultural Department should buy any and every really valuable new grain or fruit, etc., if possible - propagate it one or two years, and then disseminate it, either free or at a nominal price within the reach of every poor man. The committee of observation named above should decide as to the value of these new sorts, and, failing to convince the originator, should offer a comparison open to examination of the public. In view of discarding a variety, they should fully and plainly state reasons therefor, and the same in advocating a new sort, giving the names of varieties with which they have compared and classed it.
Thus we have named - one item covering considerable ground that in our view the Agricultural Department might do to the advantage of the public good, and hereafter we may speak of other points that would aid in making that Department a head instead of as heretofore a tail to Agriculture and Horticulture, a credit instead of a disgrace to the United States of America.
We are indebted to the Commissioner of Agriculture for copies showing some of the acts which that department has endeavored to perform, for which he will please accept our thanks.
The Commissioner is under the impression that because the speakers at pomo-logical meetings do not agree as to the merits of particular fruits, the recommendation we made to have new varieties examined in the grounds of their grower or originator by a competent committee made up from well-known experienced pomologists, can not be done, because it would perhaps give to the department a too dictatorial course. We confess we do not see it in that light, because our knowledge of the judgment of pomologists as to quality of fruits we find generally uniform, and a report made by such committee on the quality, and at the same time general appearance of tree or plant as seen in the place of its origin, would have weight all over the country, and be duly regarded as the committee's opinion, not the department's. The Commissioner, however, would have one task to perform which he perhaps sees would be extremely difficult, and that is to name and make up the committee from the best talent without being compelled to work in one, two, or more of men who, having sold a few trees, or wrote a few articles for some newspaper, set themselves up as pomologists, and are anxious to bolster themselves before the public by association.
If the Commissioner is going to wait until "pomological conventions and local societies agree after discussion on the merits of varieties, he will have a good time of rest, because it is well known the discussions of pomological and local societies are participated in by the inexperienced as well as the experienced, all free and open, and just so long, of course, the words of the man who has perhaps never seen but a dozen varieties of fruit, and those during the past half-dozen years, will be placed on record just as prominently as those of the man who has devoted a whole lifetime to the study and observation of fruits. The public do not always know how to discriminate in these speakers, but the Commissioner should, and so seeing, be enabled to see that real pomologists differ very little as to quality and values of fruits. But while we have this point of checking the introduction of unworthy new seedlings in view, we shall not urge it as yet too strongly, nor shall we omit a knowledge that the Commissioner is evidently disposed to advance the interests of our country in its agriculture and horticulture, as seen in his desire to have the duty on seeds, stock, etc., for propagation, rescinded, in his abolishment of waste of money distributing old and common varieties of seeds or plants, and in many other ways not necessary here to record.
In a circular to State Boards of Agriculture, etc., we notice a request for "aid to the propagating garden at Washington for testing the merits of new seedling fruits." Bo far as any test made there of the identity or correctness of a variety is made a point, it may be useful to the public ; but so far as a test in that garden is made, as respects its value in other sections of the States, it is worth nothing; and the record of capable men elsewhere growing the same things is just as valuable as the record of the garden superintendent.
It is only a private garden of local influence in reality, and the public generally know it. Give the gardener a duty to perform in collecting one of everything, tree and plant, under whatever name, grow and compare them, and arrange them their true names and their synonyms, and he will be doing good for the whole country; but a test of the value of a fruit or grain, or the hardihood and beauty of a tree, shrub, or flower, at Washington, is not worth a farthing to ninety per cent, of our territory.