It is a melancholly Proſpect to view the Royal Foreſts; almoſt all diſmantled; in many ſcarce a Stick left: There is indeed one Advantage, Tyrannical Monarchs may for the future hunt in Safety, where there is not a ſingle Tree to glance an Arrow at them. The Diminution in the Article of Timber Trees, within leſs than this half Century, is no leſs peculiar than deplorable.
To ſee thoſe encreaſing Funds for future Shipping totally ſunk, and no Care taken to raiſe others, muſt ſenſibly affect every Engliſh Heart, who knows that his Nation’s Safety conſiſts in her Wooden Walls: With ſome of which our honeſt Timber-Merchants, even in this Time of Scarcity, have ſupplied our Enemies; and which may perhaps embolden the French to make an Attempt upon the Land where their Veſſels grew.
And yet, when we are thus treacherouſly ſelling to our Enemies, we are as eagerly buying up Timber from Norway. The firſt ſcandalous Perverſion of ſelling, and the latter no leſs ſo of buying, (becauſe it might have been made unneceſſary, and in Time it may ſtill) is what I ſhould think deſerved the Inſpection of the Legiſlature to prevent.
As the Employment of our Timber is a National Concern, why ſhould not the Care and Culture of it be the ſame? There was once a Reſtriction, (which I believe ſtill ſubſiſts) laid upon thoſe, who had the Grant of Foreſts from the Crown; that they ſhould not cut down any Parcel of Trees without an Order from the Treaſury: That indeed was right and proper; but could affect thoſe only who had no Intereſt at that Board; they who had, could make ſuch an Order a mere Matter of Form.
Ought it not to be an eſtabliſhed Law, that no Tree ſhould be cut down, without leaving another near it, or planting one at a proper Diſtance? Ought not whole Acres to be properly planted, and fenced off till they were out of the Reach of Cattle? The Expence of that, when the Workmen were upon the Spot, would be ſo inconſiderable, as ſcarce to deſerve mentioning; and the future Benefit ſo immenſe, as to overbalance even the Objections of Avarice.
Nor ought Timber Trees only to be thus carefully propagated, but thoſe alſo which ſerve for Firewood: The extravagant Price which that goes at in many Places, and which is ſtill increaſing, might be reduced by Care; and unleſs Care is taken in time, we ſhall ſhortly be left without a Chriſtmas Log.
I might write a Volume, were I to deſcend minutely into all the different Trees and their Uſes, for Ship-building, House-building, Fire, &c. but ſhall only obſerve in general, that our moſt fruitful Places leaſt abound in Wood, though they in particular ſtand most in need of it; and that our Stock of Timber throughout the Nation is ſo reduced, that, unleſs ſome ſpeedy Remedies are applied, the Ruin will fall upon us when we ſhall not have Time to prevent it.
Planting therefore muſt be encouraged; which will relieve us from our preſent Ills, and Poſterity will be bound to bleſs us for our prudential Care of them: How this is to be done, I ſhall ſhew at the latter End of this Pamphlet. I ſhall only obſerve in this Place, that it is not to be accompliſhed by diſtreſſing, but benefiting the Publick; not by loading them with any additional Tax in order to make a Miniſterial Job for ſome Perſon, who will be careful not to do what he engages for, but by charitably aſſiſting the Poor, and promoting the cauſe of Virtue.
I may perhaps be reckoned an Enthuſiaſt, when I aſſert, that I am really ſurprized that Men of Fortune do not employ their Time in this manner. I am very certain, that the other Amuſements they run into are ſo far from being able to ſtand in Competition with that more profitable one of raiſing Nurſeries and planting Trees, that the very naming them with it would be a ſufficient Invective: Let each Gentleman conſider them, in his own Mind; He will ſee the Force of what I ſay: Let him reflect upon Horſes and Dogs, Wine and Women, Cards and Folly, &c. and then upon Planting.
Will not the laſt engroſs his Whole Mind, and appear worthy of employing all his Attention? Can there be a more genteel, a more rational Amuſement? Can any thing tend more to the preserving of Health, and the prolonging of Life? Can any thing be more innocent, or productive of greater Pleaſure? Does not a Man’s Planting appear like a Creation of his own, ariſing round him, defending him from the churliſh Winds, and promiſing to enrich his Poſterity? Nay, if he has had an early Taſte for it, even in his own Days he will find the Sweets and Profit of it.
Evylen relates a Story of an Italian Nobleman, who at the Birth of every Daughter, conſtantly planted a 100,000 Trees, ſo that when ſhe grew up to be Marriageable, the Eſtate was not loaded for the Payment of her Fortune, the Trees ſupplied her with Fortune ſufficient, and the Family loſt nothing. It would be no leſs prudent than noble for Engliſhmen to imitate this Example.
In Planting, Pleaſure and Profit go Hand in Hand; And ſuch Pleaſure, as will leave no Regret behind it, but rather a Comfort to the Planter, who may juſtly reflect, that when he is no more, his Neighbours will remember the Man who beautified and ennobled their adjacent Proſpects.
Had not Jo. Pullen of Magdalen-Hall in Oxford*, left a Tree of his own planting on Heddington-Hill, long before this Time it had been forgot, that ſuch a Man had ever exiſted. And they who by Chance or Choice leave no living Animal Repreſentatives, have however this Method of perpetuating their Names.
But the Misfortune of it is, that we were called off from theſe and all other ſerious Thoughts during the long Reign of Sir Robert Walpole’s Miniſtry. Thought would have been deſtructive of his deſtructive Schemes: His Care therefore was to lull the Nation into Apathy, to call off buſy Spirits, and to comfort his corrupted Creatures with, it will laſt our Time.
Upon this Plan, he must neceſſarily be an Enemy to Planting, as he was ſo invidious a Contemner of Poſterity, who like the fooliſh Old Woman in the Fable, killed the Hen that laid the Golden Eggs, and like her too found the dead Carcaſs of little or no Value.
Let us now awake from our National Lethargy, and exert ourſelves for the Preſervation of our Country. Let us in Planting, imitate ſome of the laudable Cuſtoms in Germany, which are remarked by Evylen;
“betwixt Hanway and Franckfort (ſays he) no young Farmer whatſoever is permitted to marry a Wife, till he bring Proof that he hath planted, and is a Father of ſuch a ſtated Number of Walnut Trees; and this Law is inviolably obſerved to this Day, for the extraordinary Benefit which this Tree affords the Planting Inhabitants.”
We ought in ſome Things to learn Wiſdom from that Country, which has ſufficiently profited by us, and this is our only Method of procuring a Repayment. The Goodneſs of their boaſted Weſtphalia Hams is owing to their Swine feeding on Acorns; for “every Farmer there uſually plants as many Oaks on his Farm as are ſufficient to keep his Swine,” providing himſelf at once with Victuals and Wood to dreſs it; the laſt of which we are in great Danger of being totally without.
Were there but one proper Nurſery in a County, in which Foreſt Trees of all Sorts, and in thoſe Sorts the beſt Species, were carefully to be propagated; that Nurſery, under the Direction of Men of Honour, Worth, and Probity, would in Time, (and that no very long Time) overspread the County, enrich and beautify it, and by the pleaſing Care of the Gentlemen, in planting and training up the Trees, * wean them from that pernicious Fondneſs which too many of them have conceived for the falſe Glare of a Court, and the ſmoak of London: It would at leaſt calm their Paſſions, and by leading them into a Train of ſerious Thinking, enable them to make a better Figure whenever they did appear there…
* In Ship-building there are a great many Pieces, of a peculiar Form requiſite; ſuch as Knee Timber, &c. which, were Gentlemen properly to attend to, they might ſupply the next Generation with, by bending the young Tree in ſuch a Manner, as to make it grow to the required Shape. Something like this ſeems to have been the Practice formerly, even after the Tree was grown.
How much better would it have ſuited for that Uſe, if bent while young? And what immenſe Profits would accrue to the Family in Time, who would take that trouble upon them now? The extravagant Price which ſuch Timber ſells at, is ſufficient Encouragement for any Perſon, who has a regard for his Poſterity, to expend what will be repaid them an hundred Times an hundred Fold.
Rev. William Hanbury
An Essay on Planting – 1758