Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to ASA GRAY, dated May 9, 1849.

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Washington May 9' 1849



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Dear Sir:

I received yours of April 25' yesterday morning, and hasten to communicate to you the few and unimportant suggestions which have occurred to me concerning the work upon which you are engaged. I spent my early life almost literally in the woods; a large portion of the territory of Vermont was, within my recollection, covered with the natural forest; and having been personally engaged to a considerable extent in clearing land, and manufacturing, and dealing in lumber, I have had occasion both to observe and to feel the evils resulting from an injudicious system of managing woodlands and the products of the forest. I conceived some years since the idea of writing an essay or a volume on the subject--not an arboretum--

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but simply an of the forest. My entrance into public life put an end to this project, my interest in the subject has in some degree diminished, and I am very glad that the task is now to be undertaken by so much abler hands.


Upon considering the plan of the work proposed by you, it strikes me as so philosophical, and in every respect likely to prove so much more useful than my own, that it is with much diffidence, that I submit to you the outlines of my scheme, which, as you will see, contemplated little beyond the strictly relations of the subject, and did not aspire to the character of a scientific work. It is, I believe, intended by the Smithsonian Institution to publish occasionally popular treatises on subjects connected with rural economy c, and in that case, something like what I had meditated might be worth undertaking, but you will find little in my plan which deserves to be incorporated into your own more elevated and scientific scheme.


Vermont has now very nearly ceased to export lumber, her forests of pine and oak

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being exhausted, but we still send some spruce and a little of other woods to market. I shall be glad however to furnish you detailed information on any point within my knowledge connected with this subject.


You will find a list of the Trees of our state in Thompson's Vermont. I do not know that Mr T. has omitted any important trees, though I have observed the chestnut oak, which, if I remember right, he does not mention, in a single locality in Chittenden county.


I am, sir, with great respectYour obedient servantGeo. P. MarshDr. GrayCambridge

P.S. I send a discourse of mine, which contains a paragraph on the management of forest lands.


G. P. M.

References in this letter:

Zadock Thompson, A Gazetteer of the State of Vermont; consisting of a brief general view of the state, a historical and topographical description of all the counties, towns and rivers c, together with a map and several other engravings. Montpelier: E.P. Walton and the author, 1824. Zadock Thompson, (1796-1856), was a naturalist, an amateur botanist and geologist, and a prolific author on the natural history of the state of Vermont.


Asa Gray, (1810-1888), was a leading American botanist and taxonomist. He was a professor of Natural History at Harvard and established an herbarium in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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