Some newspapers whose editors were evidently in want of matter for their respective journals have been making a series of assaults on the agricultural division of the Patent Office, and directing their remarks chiefly against Mr. D. J. Browne, the conductor of that department, charging him with having sent persons to Europe at the government expense, complaining that the seeds were not properly distributed and condemning the agricultural reports. In consequence of this, the Chairman of the agricultural committee of the House of Representatives wrote to the Commissioner of Patents for an account of this department, requesting him to give an epitome of Mr. Browne's history and qualifications. Commissioner Holt replies in one of those elegant, elaborate and yet concise reports for which he has already become noted, and gives such information as clearly satisfied the commintee that the charge* were false and the assaults unworthy and unprovoked. The Washington Union printed this report, and from it we gain the following information. By means of this department many new I and valuable seeds, plants and cuttings have I been sent to all parts of the country, where i seed stores were inaccessible, and thus the ' farmer who tills the ground that forms the outskirts of civilization, has an equal chance with, and can produce the same varieties of vegetables and fruits as the farmer who cultivates the soil closer to the busy haunts of man. Again, there are many plants, such as the Brassica tribes, the cabbages and turnips, for example, which deteriorate in this climate, they ripen and grow too fast, the insect attacks the leaves, and thus the plant becomes daily more coarse, and the seed loses power and health, while in Europe they attain perfection, few insects attack them, and as there are more people for a given amount of labor, more attention is paid to their cultivation. This department, then, actually blesses our land by superintending the importation and distribution of fresh seed which will tend to improve our own varieties. The Commissioner takes the opportunity to make some suggestions for improving the distribution, but states that at present "the utmost care is exercised to secure accuracy, justice, and dispatch in these important duties," and his only complaint is that he has not sufficient to supply the demand. Of the Agricultural Report he speaks highly and thinks it of great importance, but on this point we have our own opinion which we have not hesitated frequently to express. The testimonial which Commissioner Holt pays to the scientific attainments of Mr. Browne, shows him to be not only exactly " the right man in the right place," but also a gentleman whose knowledge of agriculture is the result of actual experience on farms or plantations, and he has gained his information as a scientific explorer in nearly all parts of the world, as a railway and canal engineer, as a chemist working in his laboratory, as an author in his study, as an editor in his sanctum, ever having at heart the improvement of agriculture in America. It is theref ore a credit to the nation to have such a man in the position which he holds, and the position is a proper reward for his valuable services in the cause of practical science.
This article was originally published with the title "The Agricultural Division of the Patent Office" in Scientific American 13, 41, 325 (June 1858)