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[ No. 18. ] REPORT of the Committee on State Affairs, relative to a Geological
Survey of the State of Michigan. The committee on State Affairs, to whom was referred the petitions of a large number of the citizens of Michigan, praying the legislature to authorize a geological survey of the State, have had that subject under consideration, and beg leave to submit the following report:
In the examination your committee have been able to give this important subject, the inquiries which hav presented themselves to their minds, have been
1st. Are the advantages which may reasonably be expected to accrue to the people of the State by a geological survey of its mineral and agricultural resources, likely to be an equivalent for its cost! and
2d. Should this question be decided in the affirmative, is it necessary and proper at this time to authorize the commencement of such an enterprize ?
The object of a geological survey in its limited sense, is to discover and examine deposits of ore, coal, salt, plaster, lime, marl and such other mineral substances as may exist within the territory over which such survey is to extend, and as may be useful for manufacturing, mechanical or agricultural purposes. This of itself, embraces a range of scientific inquiry of vast magnitude and importance, especially to a new and almost wholly unexplored State, like a large portion of Michigan. But it is not proposed to limit the investigation to so narrow & compass. A still wider and more extended field of examination is suggested, and may properly come within the sphere of duties to be assigned a State geologist. We refer to the proposition to connect with the scientific corps, which may be organized for the general purposes of a geological survey, an agricultural Commissioner, whose duty it shall be to examine and analyze the soil and botanical products of the State, and generally to make such research and inquiry into its agricultural resonrces, and the best means of developing them, as shall best promote that object.
There is scarcely a State in the Union, of whose mineral and agricultural resources and the advantages it offers to the emigrant seeking & home in the west, so little has been said, or in regard to which there is so universal and profound a misapprehension in the public mind, as there is in respect to those of Michigan. While nearly every other State has authorized a geological survey of its territory, and is now reaping the benefits of i's wise policy, ours remains almost unexplored by the foot of science. At least there has never been bad a thorough scientific examination with reference to its agricultural and mineral products, and resources and capabilities.
A geological survey, it is true, was authorized by an act of the Legislature, passed in March, 1838, and the work commenced under the supervision and direction of Dr. Douglass Houghton, an eminent and accomplished geologist. He prosecuted his labors with great success for several years, especially in the Northern Peninsula, as the valuable discoveries he made in regard to the copper and iron beds of the Lake Superior region abundantly attest. It is also true that he made a partial examination of several counties in the Lower Peninsula; but his untimely death by drowning in 1847, put an end to the labors which he had so well begun and so successfnlly prosecuted, and which promised such important advantages, both to the State and the cause of science. In consequence of this melancholy accident, the result of his extended investigations was almost wholly lost to the State, and the survey was finally abandoned. Had he lived to complete his labors and to lay before the world the result of his inquiries, there is no reason to doubt Chat Michigan would be much further advanced in population, wealth
and public improvements than it now is; and that the dark shadow of ignorance which has so long shut out from public view many of the advantages it offers to the agriculturist would have ceased to exist. In that event who will question that the expense of the survey would have boon re-paid ten fold, in the inorease of manufacturing, agricultural, mechanical, mercantile and other branches of industry, as well as in the accumulation of positive wealth within the state. These are ever and everywhere the result of scientific knowledge when exerted towards the development of the natural resources of a State, and judiciously applied for the benefit of human industry. The growth and material prosperity and enterprise of a State ever keep pace with the means it uses for making its resources known.
Though Michigan possesses advantages in point of geographical position and climate, as it does in mineral products and its immense pine forests, and inexhaustible fisheries, and as we claim it does in the fertility of its soil, equal in most respects and superior in some, to any of the North-western States, it is too well known to be repeated that it has increased and is increasing much less rapidly in population and wealth, and that her resources have been much more slowly developed than soveral of its younger western rivals. There is a never-ending tide of emigration passing over our thoroughfares and flowing into States beyond
It is to stop this in its western course and turn it into our own channels of industry we are now called upon to prove by scientific demonstration that Michigan has in store for all who will seek it every element of wealth and prosperity in as full abundance as those newer States which have so far outstripped it in that race for power that is going on between them, while at the same time the greater abundance and better distribution of timber would enable it to support a much denser population than the prairie States. It is the province of the enlightened legislator to encourage every msasure that will add to the prosperity and contribute to the true greatness of the State.
That Michigan possesses in an eminent degree all those elements which are the chief sources of power, and which contribute most efficiently to the progress of a Slate, is only denied by those whom our own indifference has kept in iguorance of them, or by those whose interest it is to deny them, and no State has suffered more from either
of these causes than our own. Duty to ourselves and those who may come after us, demand that we should vindicate its character by using wisely but effectively, the power we possess for wiping out the reproach that has been cast upon it by the interested, and removing the causes which misled the public.
We have an immense unsettled territory in the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula which is not only as suitable for all agricultural purposes as the soil of Wisconsin or Iowa, but which, besides the valuable timber with which portions of it are cove
vered, possesses, there is reason to believe inexhaustible deposits of coal, plaster and lime, and probably of iron and copper. A knowledge of the location, extent and value of these minerals, the composition and quality of the soil, and for what branch of agriculture it is best adapted, would at once direct public attention to this portion of our State, and lead to its rapid settlement by an industrious and hardy population.
Upon no class of our citizens would the proposed survey confer such direct and positive benefits as the agriculturist. The application of science to that branch of industry is of a comparatively recent date. " Scientific farmirg” has found but little favor with the great mass of farmers of all countries, and with those of ours less, perhaps, than many others; not that they are less intelligent than others, but because the vast extent of our territory, the low price of our lands, and the natural fertility of our soil, bas rendered it far less necessary. In some of the older States, however, its importance as an aid to agriculture is beginning to be appreciated by the most enlightened farmers. Michigan, too, the subject of agricultural science has not been wholly overlooked. Indeed, it has taken the lead, in one respect, of all other States, by establishing and liberally endowing an Agricultural College for the cultivation and dissemination of this branch of science. In this our State has acted wisely and justly, as well as liberally. But it is still true that wide spread and general indifference prevails in regard to the utility of this branch of knowledge-to what is considered so simple a pursuit as cultivating the soil. Comparatively few yet appreciate the importance of being able to determine for what particular crop any given soil is best adapted; how best to restore the soil which has been exhausted by unskillful tillage, and to know what will improve and what