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CONGRESS

LIVE OAK.

REPORT

OF

THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY,

On the subject of Live Oak.

DECEMBER 15, 1832.
Referred to the Committee on Naval Affairs.

NAVY DEPARTMENT,

December 14, 1832.

SIR: I have the honor to submit this communication, in compliance with the last clause of a resolution of the House of Representatives, passed February 25th, A. D, 1832, on the subject of live oak.

That clause requested the Secretary of the Navy to report to the House, " at an early period of the next session of Congress, such further information on this subject as he may be furnished with by the agents, or others who may be employed in the service, with his views of the best means of preserving the naval timber growing on the public lands; or, if he deem it necessary, that he lay before the House a plan or system which he may think best calculated to secure to the nation an adequate supply of this material, either by cultivation or the purchase of lands now containing such supply.

As the preceding clauses in this resolution related to no other timber than live oak, and as the examinations of the agents have been directed chiefly to that material, I presumed that such timber only was in this case intended to be embraced under the expression of "navy timber," and have accordingly confined my remarks to the subject of live oak.

In respect to the further information,” which has been furnished by the agents, concerning that kind of timber, since the passage of the resolution, and which information is first called for, I would observe, that frequent and extensive additions have been made to what was before procured; but, from the circumstances under which the agents necessarily obtain new information, it has been forwarded in very detached portions. Merely

laying copies of their several communications before Congress, would exhibit a mass of undigested matter, which would not readily afford any definite conclusions.

It has, therefore, been deemed proper to extract the material facts contained in all the correspondence of the agents under the present system, and to arrange them in as clear a manner as the general, and, in some de gree, uncertain nature of the examinations and estimates would permit The result of the whole is submitted in the tabular statement annexed, (A.)

This statement shows, nearly as practicable, the present number of trees growing on what are supposed to be public lands in each of the seven districts between the St. Marys and the Sabine rivers, so far as each has been explored by these agents.

It also gives the estimated number of cubic feet in those trees suitable for the frames of ships of the line, frigates, sloops, and schooners. It ipdicates the parts of each district in which the irees grow, their distance from navi. gable water, and whether the lands on which they grow have yet been surveyed, or reserved, or recommended to be reserved, when hereafter surveyed.

Another statement has been prepared, in a similar manner, relative to the live oak trees incidentally noticed and reported by these agents, as growing within their districts on private lands. But as the examinations of such trees were not officially required of them, except where very numerous and valuable, this statement is doubtless more imperfect and more below the whole quantity of trees growing on private lands within their districts, than is the first mentioned statement of trees growing on the public lands. This second document is annexed, (B.)

To meet the views of the select committee on the subject of live oak, appointed at the last session of Congress, the localities of most of the trees de scribed in both these statements, have been marked by the draftsman of the department, upon the map annexed, (C.) On the accuracy of the statements A and B, it may be proper to remark, what must be fully apparent to all acquainted with the difficulties of this subject, that the department can only vouch for their correctness as careful compilations from the reports of the agents.

These agents, however intelligent and faithful, could not attain perfect certainty in their examinations, but are believed to have generally evinced capacity and accuracy in the discharge of the duties confided to them.

A few circumstances, which have occurred to me as likely to possess some bearing on the whole result of their proceedings, and therefore estitled to consideration in forming an opinion on them, I deem it my duty to suggest for the attention of Congress.

A portion of these trees, when cut, may be found decayed by age, or injured by wind-shakes, beyond the allowance made on these accounts in the reports of some of the agents. In this kind of timber, as decay generally commences at the heart, it is hardly possible to decide with correctness oa the extent of such defects until the tree is felled. Another portion of these trees in the future settlement of titles to the lands in some of the districts, may be found to grow on soil not owned by the public, though the trees are reported, in the first tabular statement, as being on public lands. These titles, especially in some parts of Florida, continue in much doubt, but less so, it is believed, on the sea coast, where the live oak is more abundant and valuable than in the interior. Only about one-seventeenth of the land in

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cluded in the seven districts, is computed to belong, at this time, to private persons. (D.)

Some of these trees may be found so situated as to navigable water, that the value of their timber will not be sufficient to pay for its transportation. The specific gravity of live oak is from one-fifth to one-sixth greater than that of water, and the trees generally grow where the roads are so bad, and the soil so moist, that the transportation by land, for any considerable distance, of so heavy an article, and in such large pieces as are required for paval purposes, would be either impracticable or exceedingly expensive.

Part of these trees are so sparsely scattered, and in such detached situations, that the agents have not considered their worth sufficient to justify recommendations to reserve the lands on which they grow: others are on lands which have not yet been reserved, because not surveyed.

In fine, a portion of these trees, while standing, and before wanted for immediate use or deposite, must be considered as exposed to certain loss by depredations, gales, fires, and natural decay.

On the other hand, before wanted, much young growth, not now included in the reports of the agents, will have increased in size so as to become valuable; and, without doubt, some other trees will be discovered in the explored districts, which have now escaped research; and many more trees will be found in those portions of two of the districts which have not yet been even partially explored.

It is to be recollected also, that the scattered trees, not in sufficient quantities on the public lands to justify their reservation, and those trees on lands now supposed to be public, but which may hereafter prove to belong to individuals, although they must all hereafter be deducted from the first tabular statement, will still constitute additions to the second statement; and, with most of the trees in it, will probably contribute as useful resources, either in private hands, to supply, by contract, the more early wants of the navy, or, in a few instances, to be purchased and reserved by the Government, with the soil on which they grow, wherever and whenever their great number 10 the aere, and the urgent necessities of the public service, may be thought to render such a course judicious. Without

any

additions or deductions on account of these circumstances, the amount of which additions and deductions it would not be possible to fix with great certainty, but which every person can estimate for himself, it will be seen that the whole number of live oak trees suitable for ship building, which the agents under the present system have yet examined and reported as now growing on the public lands, is about 144,655.

These, at twenty cubic feet per tree on an average, which is the estimato adopted by some persons, would furnish 2,893,100 cubic feet of timber. thers, of much experience, calculate that such trees “ of the ordinary ize," would each, on an average, yield at least eighty cubic feet. [Rep. 102, 1o. of Rep. 21st Cong. 2d ses. 78 page.]

This would increase the whole quantity to 11,572,400 cubic feet. About ifty feet, the mean between the two estimates above mentioned, will robably be found the most accurate; as the quantity to each oak timber tree, in an arerage, in England, is computed at forty-five feet, and the live oak, hough it may not be generally of so great height as the British oak, yet, rom its longer horizontal limbs, it often yields more ship timber. At this ate of computation, there would be 7,232,750 cubic feet.

The proportion of this timber, as found growing and suitable for shipbúilding, which is large enough to construct ships of the line, is sometimes considered about one-half; and to construct frigates, about one-third; and to construct sloops and schooners, one-sixth.

But, reducing this proportion to one-fourth for ships of the line, one-fourth for frigates, and one-half for sloops and schooners, which must be within the truth, (Doc. 178, Ho. of Reps. page 26, March, 1832,] and computing thirty-four thousand cubic feet as sufficient for the frame of a ship of the line, twenty-three thousand for that of a frigate of the first class, eighteenthousand for one of the second class, eight thousand for that of a sloop, and one thousand eight hundred for that of a schooner, which are near the average quantities; and the whole first named number of feet on public lands wouli suffice for the frames of 173 vessels: one-fourth of these would be ships of the line, one-fourth frigates, and one-half sloops and schooners—the two las in equal proportions.

The whole second named number of feet on public lands would suffice for 693, and the medium number of feet for 433 similar vessels.

It will further be seen by the second tabular statement, that, pursuing the same course of calculation, the number of trees as yet reported by these agents, as now growing on private lands, being in all 8,975, their contents in ship timber would be on the three different estimates before mentioned, 179,500 or 718,000, or 448,750 cubic feet. This, if all of it should bere after be obtained for the navy, would prove sufficient for 10 or 43, or 27 res sels, as'one or the other of the above estimates should be adopted. Witout any increase for other trees known to exist in Georgia and South Caro lina on private lands, and, in portions of some of these districts, on both pr vate and public lands not yet fully examined by these agents, the abovesults, I am

aware, are much larger than what have been published as the opinions of some intelligent persons on the whole supposed quantities e live oak timber growing in this country. But it is to be recollected, that those opinions were founded on observations and explorations much : limited and imperfect, and made in part at such remote periods, as to lear it greatly conjectural how little of the timber, once seen, still remained uncut and undestroyed. The present results, also, large as they are, sigte be expected to exceed the computations of any individual heretofort, they embody all the detached and more careful examinations of maby dividuals. Giving the quantity now remaining, from actual inspection, a • on the public lands, not from rumor or estimates made at a distance, EI in a single case, which is particularized, they likewise have some superar claims to correctness.

2d. The second point embraced in the resolution, is a statement of sviews of the best means of preserving the navy timber growing on pels lands."

On this subject, the legal remedies whichingw exist for depredati committed are deemed sufficient so far as respects punishment. 'But, t the detection and prevention of trespasses, I think it should be form provided by law, that the masters of all vessels which sail from flera Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana, laden with live oak, should fursa: the collector, before allowed a clearance, satisfactory evidence that there : ber was cut on private lands; or, if on public lands, was cut with the peces sion of the proper officers. As an additional security against depredado and particularly against injuries by fires, I would recommend tha: 0 6

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