Jefferson: The Sovereigns are Cutting Down the Trees!
“Jefferson had a conservationist’s turn of mind and once mused on the subject to the rapidly depleting number of trees along the sides of Capitol Hill and on the banks of the Potomac and the Anacostia rivers. “Such as grew on the public grounds ought to have been preserved, but in a government such as ours, where the people are sovereign, this could not be done,” Margaret Bayard Smith recalled. “The people, the poorer inhabitants, cut down these noble and beautiful trees for fuel”; others felled trees for profit.
“How I wish that I possessed the power of a despot,” Jefferson said one day, surprising his guests. “Yes,” he went on, “I wish I was a despot that I might save the noble, the beautiful trees that are daily falling sacrifices to the cupidity of their owners, or the necessity of the poor.”
“A guest asked, “And have you not authority to save those on the public grounds?”
“”No,” said Jefferson, “only an armed guard could save them. The unnecessary felling of a tree, perhaps the growth of centuries, seems to me a crime little short of murder, [and] it pains me to an unspeakable degree.”
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Meacham, Jon, Random House, 2012 page 396.
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