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Georgia and South Carolina. From 1801 to 1816, but little of this kind of timber was obtained in any place for the navy;, but all which was obtained, down to the last named year, was cut principally from private lands, except what came from Grover's and Blackbeard's islands, which, having been purchased by the Government, were afterwards allowed to be stripped of their timber, under contracts with individuals. Even down to 1822, most of this kind of timber procured for the Navy; though soon after the late war, to a very large amount, was purchased by the contractors, from private lands. The chief exceptions were, as to what grew on the above islands, and some small quantities cut on the public lands in Louisiana.
In 1817, the Government began to adopt means for preserving their live oak in Louisiana; and, between that date and 1822, explored and reserved about 19,000 acres of public land, the growih on which was supposed to remain uncut late as 1827. (Report No. 114, House of Reps. January 29,1827.)
Since the purchase of Florida, in 1822, the quantities obtained on public as well as private lands, have been great; but, since 1826, as attention to the preservation of timber on the former has increased, most of the live oak used has been cut from the latter. A little reflection on these facts will enable us to calculate, with greater confidence, in respect to the probable and best manner and places of obtaining our future supplies.
Notwithstanding the purchase, by this department, of so large a quantity of live oak since 1797, and especially since 1816, besides all of this kind of timber which has been used in the merchant service during that period, either in this country or shipped abroad, yet one striking, and in some degree controlling circumstance, appears, which may serve to test the accuracy of all opinions on the extent of our present resources in live oak. The prices given by the Government continue about the same as in former years, or, if essentially changed, have become somewhat lower, and would seem clearly to evince the little difficulty which, as yet, has existed, or is likely immediately to exist, in so wide a range as from South Carolina to the Sabine; in finding chietly, though not entirely on private soil, an adequate supply for our usual wants.
The prices for live oak timber delivered at our yards in A. D 1799, and of a size suitable for ships of the line, were $1 33 per cubic foot. But some of the contractors at that price failed to fulfil their engagements, and it is reported, though the defective state of our early records does not enable us to ascertain the truth, that those who did fulfil their engagements obtained additional allowances.
In A. D. 1801, the Secretary of the Navy estimated that this tim ber, when so delivered, would cost 82 per cubic foot, if suitable for ships of the line. Nothing further on this subject can be found, till A. D. 1816, when we paid for live oak timber delivered $1 55 for frames of seventy-fours, $1 42} for those of frigates, $i 15 for those of sloops, and $1 for promiscuous timber. In A. D. 1826, we paid for the second description of frames $1 20 and 1 25 per foot, and ihe former price for the last kind of timber. In A. D. 1827, we paid for the first kind '$i 37 and I 50, for the second 81 25 and 1 45, for the third $1 15 and 1 25, and for the last 80 cents, and 81. In 1829, for the second $i 30, and for the last 874 cents, and offers have been maile the present year, and accepted, for the second at $1 09 and I 50, ind for the last at 874 cents and $1. [E.]
Originally the prices may have been somewhat enhanced from the cirumstances, that the freight of the timber was somewhat higher than it has een of late years; that, the supply of live oak was then, and probably would continue to be, more limited than subsequent explorations and acquisitions of territory have shown it to be, and that the Government then owned no public lands yielding live oak, and enabling it to prevent individuals from exercising an undue control over the market. But it is to be remembered that some of the contractors at the first prices did not feel able, at that rate, to fulfil their engagements, and that between A. D. 1799 and A. D. 1816, all kinds of ship timber on our sea-board have generally been supposed, from the increased settlement of the country, and the augmentation of our com mercial tonnage, to have risen about ten per cent.
We may have been it this respect somewhat influenced by the foreign demand, and may on this point derive some instruction from a moment's attention to the fluctuation of the prices of naval timber in England during about the same period. There, in A. D. 1792, a careful examination of her domestic resources resulted in a conviction, that a scarcity, especially of large timber had begun to prevail; and from that year to A. D. 1811, the prices rose, over one hundred per cent. This probably happened, not only from the above scarcity in her home production, but from increasing difficulties in her long wars in obtaining supplies from other countries, and from a larger demand to construct and sustain an enlarged navy. But, in A. D. 1811 and 1812
, the prices which from about £3 sterling in 1792, had risen to £11 and 19 sterling 'per load, or about $128 per cubic feet, began to fall, and in A. D. 1814, it was testified before a committee of parliament, that the extension of canals into the interior to new forests of oak, the improved attention to thinning out the oak, which had ceased to be thrifty in the old forests, hedge rows and parks and the new plantations, which had been made inconsequence of such high prices, would probably, without much necessary portation of foreign oak timber, furnish an ample supply of it in future. As cordingly, we find that prices fell nearly one-half between 1811 and 1819, as relates to domestic timber, and about one-third as respects foreign timber.
In this country, it is well known, that, during the last 8 or 10 years the prices of most articles have nominally fallen; but the particular causes which have effected it, need not here be examined, as they are not beliepat to have had a very material operation on the cost of live oak timber.
To pursue the general inquiry concerning the probable sources and er. tent of our future supply, I see no indications of the length of time, that we should be able to obtain it from private lands, except what may be derived from the low prices at which it is now procured; the quantity reported by the agents to be still remaining on private lands between the St. Mary's and the Sabine rivers, and on which some further remarks will hereafter be offered and the general information as to the whole private supply derived from other quarters.
Having noticed these prices, and the quantity reported by the agezo within the above limits, it only remains to be stated under this head, tha the general information I have been able to collect about the private supply is, that no great quantities of live oak timber suitable for ship building how remain on private lands in Georgia and South Carolina.
Some trees, too small for cutting thirty years ago, have since reached at turity, and a few are now standing in some of their forests, and especially some of their islands. In certain places, the natural growth on land, over from 1795 to 1801, has been permitted to spring up and remaines generally, the live oak lands in those States, being valuable for cotton other crops, have been brought into cultivation..
The quantities on private lands in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and how
isiana, are, without doubt, much greater than in Georgia and South Carolina and even greater than the results presented in the second tabular statement, (B.
Because all the districts have not yet been fully explored by our agents, and because their instructions, except in peculiar cases, did not require them to report so far as they have explored, all the live oak trees suitable for ship timber growing on private lands.
Extending southwestward of Louisiana, some recent explorations in Texas favor the opinion that this kind of timber exists there in considerable quantities; but I am not aware that our contractors have yet obtained any from that province, or any other
foreign source. Should the prices of this kind of timber rise much hereafter, some of it might perhaps be purchased there to advantage, though a dependance on any foreign supply, for reasons hereafter given, would be very injudicious. In the event of a great increase of price, individuals within our own boundaries would be tempted to the more careful preservation, if not to the artificial cultivation of it in the most appropriate situations.
But, under existing circumstances, it would be unsafe to rely on individuals either to preserve long what now exists on private lands, or to create a larger supply: because it could not be an object of profit to them, either to save or lo cultivate artificially the live oak tree, merely for sale, unless the prices of this kind of timber should become much higher, or the common cultivated products of the soil on which this tree is indigenous, should become much less valuable.
In England, the lands on which oak, to advantage, can be planted or reserved for profit alone, are generally considered such as would not yield in cultivation for grain over 14 shillings, or about $3 36 rent per acre; and the timber must sell standing at the rate of 3} s. or 76 cents per foot.
The bark is valuable here as well as there but the loppings and trimmings, which are of much importance there, are here entirely worthless. Besides this, most of our live oak lands cost much less than oak lands there, are less burthened with taxes, and, when cleared, have formerly yielded large and profitable crops, though not perhaps equalling the English gross income per acre under the operation of her corn laws. Furthermore, the live oak timber on our lands has often sold standing at only 25 cents per foot; and, from the eagerness to clear and cultivate rich lands in a new country, has sometimes been sold at ten cents per foot. Indeed purchasers, when wanted, are sometimes not found at any price, and the tree is then either girdled and thus destroyed, or cut and consumed in a laudable eagerness to obtain room for cultivated crops. But, should the prices of cultivated crops at the south coninue to fall as during a few years past, and should the prices of this kind of imber rise, then it will be seen, that a point may be reached where the timper crop would be more profitable than the cotton or sugar crop, and not till hen will the live oak tree become either well preserved, or well reared on private lands.
As circumstances now are, it is highly probable that most of the live oak it this time growing on private lands, and on such of the public lands as nay hereafter be sold and become private, (the timber on them not being o valuable as to justify their reservation,) will, as fast as the country shall recome generally settled, be offered in the market to supply the demands of the navy, and of the merchant service.
Though live oak trees are generally either in detached hammocks, or very sparsely scattered at remote distances over the regions suitable to their growth, yet the whole quantity of timber that will, in the above manner, be offered for sale from private lands, must probably be considerable for some years.
Without taking the islands and coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas into the following computation, there is a tract, from the St. Mary's, to the Sabine, of over 1300 miles in length, and about 20 in width, on which, in many places, the live oak is known to grow spontaneously. Of more than 17 millions of acres within that tract, individuals are now supposed to own nearly one million. [D.] In ten or fifteen years, as the disputed titles become settled, and the public lands not reserved are put into the market, individuals will probably own six or eight millions of acres.
Whatever of these trees may be found on many of the forest parts of these six or eight millions of acres, though generally much scattered, and often so remote from water transportation as to be of little value, and what few may be obtained from other places before enumerated, must furnish all the estimated supply from private lands. Most of this timber, within our own limits, may be deemed secure for the public service if we choose to purchase it, as its high price in the first instance, compared with that of other timber, being about treble in amount, and the prejudices or supposed interests existing against its use among the mechanics engaged in shipbuilding, have generally prevented its very extensive employment in the construction of other than public vessels. But some of this timber growing on private lands will doubtless continue to be worked up in the merchant service; and, as the owners of vessels look to their remote interests, its use in this way will increase. In general, however, it will not be of the most valuable and scarce dimensions; because whatever may become the extent of its use here in private vessels, the more abundant the small and cheaper pieces, not suitable for the larger rates of public vessels, will usually, though not invariably, be employed for private ones.
It would give me much satisfaction to form an estimate on which perfect reliance could be placed as to the precise number of years this supply, which we may obtain from private lands, would probably meet our naval wants; but I have not sufficient data for that purpose. A similar, though not so great difficulty exists in ascertaining how long the timber growing on pubJic lands, will without artificial cultivation, suffice to supply our annual demar.ds, when it shall become necessary or expedient to resort to that source.
But such further information as I have been able to procure, bearing on both these points, it is deemed proper to present, in order that Congress may have embodied in one document all the data which the department possesses, and which appears entitled to some consideration before forming any thing like a decisive opinion on those interesting points.
A table was prepared in A. D. 1830, of all the live oak timber which, befere A. D. 1819, in a small part of Louisiana, and before A. D. 1827, in South Carolina, Georgia, and part of East Florida, had been examined and reported by former agents, as gruwing on either public or private lands. This table is annexed. (K.)
The quantity in that small part of Louisiana was computed at 350,000 feet
The quantity in the other places above named was computed at 734,200 feet, making an aggregate of 1,084,200 cubic feet. But, in December, 1830, the navy board supposed some of the former, and large portions of the latter, had been removed." Much of the latter was also supposed to be old and de cayed. It will be seen, likewise, that most of the latter was growing on pri
vate lands. [Doc. 178, of House of Reps. in March, 1832, pages 25th and 26th ] In February, A. D. 1831, a further table was prepared from the reports of agents from actual examinations in West Florida, giving a result, so far as then examined and reported, of 1,130,655 cubic feet more. This table is annexed. (L.)
The Secretary of the Navy at that time supposed there existed on both public and private lands which had then been examined, about 2,214,855 cubic feet. [Rep. No. 102, page 68.) But the imperfection of all the ex. aminations which had been made in East Florida, and the absence of any examinations in the greater part of West Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and most of Louisiana, and the ignorance of what portions grew on public and what on private lands, and what had been cut and removed from either since former examinations in 1819 and 1827, led to a new system of districts and agents, whose chief duties were to make a further and full examination, and report of the whole live oak timber which might be found still to remain on lands belonging to the public, and of the most valuable lots of this kind of timber noticed on private lands. The result of those examinations and reports, so far as completed, has before been detailed. [A. and B.] These examinations have been completed in the 3d and the 4th districts, and principally in the 5th and 6th districts. In the others, extensive tracts remain yet to be explored, and especially in the first district, between Cape Sable and Cape Florida, and in the western part of the 7th district. It is represented that large quantities of valuable live oak timber exist on the public, and some on private lands, in those regions which have not yet been accurately examined by the present agents, and hence are not included in the tabular statements marked A and B. (See annexed letter M, and note to A.]
In the 7th districi there are known to be on islands, examined in 1819, many trees remaining, but not yet reported by the present agent for that district; and, on other lands similarly situated, a further number seen, and estimated at about 85,000, in A. D. 1831, by one of our navy officers. (See note to A.]
By recurring to the limits of the several districts, as described in the communication from this department at the last session, [Doc. 102, F. No. 2;} and as laid down on the map, (C) it can be seen what parts remain to be examined by the present agents. It is probably about one-third of the whole.
Taking, then, only thr. medium estimated quantity of 448,750 feet of timber, exainined and reported by the agents as remaining on private lands, without including Georgia or South Carolina, or any allowance for the one third, not yet explored, and it would, if all procured for the navy, supply all our demands, estimated at 62,986 feet annually, during seven or eight years. Making every reasonable addition to, or deduction from, the above estimated quantity, and every due allowance for such portions of ihat quantity as may be sold to the merchant service, and for any other considerations, it is still manifest, from all the facts before us, that our probable annual wants can, for some years to come, be chiefly supplied by purchases of live oak timber growing on private lands. But whenever the prices of this kind of timber shall rise, so as to indicate a great scarcity on private lands, and an unwill. ingness or inability, even at those prices, in individuals, either to preserve or lo cultivate its growth for sale fast enough to meet our annual demands, I think it will then become our true policy to permit the older and larger trees to be removed for the public use from the public lands. Even before that event, those trees on the public lands which have begun to decay, or,