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.
A Committee on the Patent Office has reported favorably on the qualifications of Mr. D. J. Browne, and forwarded their conclusions extensively.
We are indebted to Hon. J. Humphrey for the Report of the Commissioner of Patents for 1859, (Agriculture,) which we shall examine shortly.
We have already announced the receipt of this Report, with an intimation of further notice. We turned the subject over to a friend of leisure, whose criticisms, somewhat sharp, but to the point, we herewith append. We have long been of opinion that the appropriations of seeds, etc., have been abused, and that a reform was much needed. We hope the new head of this department will make It.
" There is so much to be said about the use of money appropriated by Congress for the advancement of Agriculture, that we are almost forbidden to mention the subject for want of room, but we feel impelled to say something at this time.
"The following resolution passed the House of Representatives June 18th, 1860: 'Resolved, That there be printed, in addition to the usual number, three hundred thousand extra copies of the Report of the Commissioner of Patents on Agriculture, for the year 1859; fifteen thousand of which shall be for distribution by the Interior Department, and two hundred and eighty-five thousand for the use of the House of Representatives.' We do not for one moment doubt that even this loosely gotten up report would be of great value to the farmers and gardeners of the United States, did any considerable number reach them. We speak but well-known facts when we say that thousands of these books are given to men who do not care a straw for agriculture. They are laid away and forgotten, with other rubbish of the house or office. Others of these books, printed at public expense, and intended to be handed directly to those to be benefited, are sent to book stalls in the cities and sold for a mere song. There are hundreds suffering for the need of aid in agriculture who can not get even the pittance of one of these Reports. We are not habitually given to fault-finding, but the evils connected with the use of the moderate sum appropriated by Government are so great, and the money falls so far short of accomplishing its purposes, that we feel anxious to do our share in lessening the former and insuring the latter.
"Commencing in 1839 with an appropriation of $1000, the Government increased this to $105,000 in 1856, and reduced it to $60,000 in 1858. A considerable portion of the money was expended for ordinary seeds and plants well known in all parts of our country. The mails have been burdened with packages of seeds which could be duplicated in almost every grocery store in the Union. We have received from the Patent Office quantities of China, Refugee, and Kidney Beans, various sorts of Peas, etc., of good kinds, but which, being easily procurable almost every where, there existed not the slightest reason for using government money to send out and distribute. Some very poor seed has been enveloped and sent out, as well as seed quite too closely related by admixture with seeds of plants known to all good gardeners and farmers as weeds. These latter may have their uses, but they are not so well understood as to make us believe that government money should be appropriated to disseminate them. Good and valuable seeds also have been sent out, but the quantity has been too limited in proportion to commoner sorts so industriously distributed. Of the better sorts, may be mentioned wheat, Sorgho, and some kinds of grasses.
None can deny that the Government has done much to advance agriculture by means of these annual appropriations, but not a tithe of what it should have done. Can we forget the fate of the Sugar Cane appropriation, and the stupid blunders connected with the attempt to renew the supply of cuttings in Louisiana?
"Even so small a'matter as the Drainage of a marshy field is so blunderingly conducted, that from the Report of 1859 we learn that,' unfortunately, there was a want of adaptation in the manner of laying the tiles upon the yielding, marshy base, and the continuity has consequently been interrupted by occasional depressions/ Nor is this all. In the Report for 1858 we learn that, in order to secure to the people of this Union many valuable plants and seeds brought from abroad, and to propagate many found at home, a propagating house was built, but in such a manner as to put to shame any projector who has the slightest knowledge of what a propagating house should be to secure the best results. The house was made eleven feet high at apex, with the central roof opaque, so that plants have the sun but a portion of the day, proving detrimental to the tender ones, the height at the center forming with low Bides a steep roof, which has the effect of ' drawing up' or ' spindling' the plants. Then as to heating, how little credit does the plan adopted reflect on those having the direction! None but the crudest cultivator would think of employing coarse materials to make up by their fermentation the heat assential to the development of a seed or cutting into a healthy plant.
It is true that plants have been grown to be distributed, but they are not samples of the very finest plants, such as could have been grown by the use of a genuine and well-regulated propagating house, such as should have been built as a sample to every propagator who chose to examine it " According to the description given in 1858, in cellars beneath the house was placed one foot in depth of dried Chinese Sugar-cane stalks; over that ten inches of horse manure. The Report of 1859 says,' Decomposing vegetable matter, covered with a portion of nitrogenous material, might be adapted to general use, were the process of decomposition susceptible of being controlled at will; but so variable is its progress, and so dependent upon external influences, in a ratio inverse to the requirements within, that the vicissitudes of temperature proceeding from it are such as none but hardy plants can endure. The volatile emanations are likewise in excess in this process, insomuch that even those plants which become accustomed to, and prove capable of sustaining an atmosphere so highly stimulating, may suffer when suddenly withdrawn from its influence and exposed to the open air.'
" What excuse is there for all these blunders? Why need our Government be so blind to its needs when it authorizes the expenditure of money? Shall we answer, because in the whole Union there are no men capable of selecting and disseminating valuable seeds, draining marshy lands, and erecting propagating houses, preparing soils for feeble plants, and seeds that healthy plants may be reared? Can it be said that there does not exist a decent house in the Union which could serve as a sample? Are there no architects here capable of giving a plan of just the house needed? If not, would it not have been well to look over into the houses of France and England, which have been built for the propagation of plants from every clime? These are vital questions, and should be answered practically. Why should abuses be tolerated in government enterprises intended to benefit the people, which would not be endured in private establishments? Let us then tolerate no shams in this matter. If we are' to be benefited by money given by the general government, we demand that this money be expended so that it reach the parties to be benefited.
" We are glad to note that Commissioner Bishop wisely recommends that the Bending out of other than new and rare plants and seeds be discontinued, and we feel that other improvements will follow on the heels of his suggestions. Among other things, we hope that the Report will be gotten up with greater care, trimming down verbose statements, having less personal details and more positively valuable material. The essays on animals, insect pests, plants, and meteorology in the last few volumes of Reports, are valuable to the cultivator, but there is much that might be omitted.
" We learn that in the gardens at the capital there are 32,000 plants of Tea shrub from China, 250 plants Cork tree, (Quercus suber,) 5,000 plants Mahonia, (U. S.,) 1,000 plants Seedling Strawberries, 200 plants Virgilia lutea, (Tenn.,) 21 plants Camphor tree, (Japan,) 100 plants Pinus edulis, (Oregon,) 50 plants Sycamore fig, (Palestine,) 1,500 Arbor Vitae, (China,) 150 plants Rhus succedanea, Wax plant, (Japan,) 50 plants Tung Oil-tree, (Japan,) Oodung and other ornamental trees from Japan, Olea fragrans, (used for flavoring tea in China,) 25,000 plants Grapes - seedlings and rooted cuttings from about fifty varieties of foreign and native grapes. It is proposed to attempt to get hybrids from the best foreign and our native grapes to secure a grape better adapted to the manufacture of wine.
"Quite a list of seeds is named, also plants, from Palestine, which are to be experimented on.
"The Historical Sketch of the United States Agricultural Society is in good form for preservation, but he who would be fully informed of the grand shows and trials will be obliged to trust to the newspaper reports or to his own memory.
"Considerable space is devoted to 'Grapes,which we will review hereafter, as there are some curious statements made therein. We must also defer notice of articles on Ionian Islands, Fertilizers, eta, to some future time".