Darwin sought to not only produce a new scientific truth, but also to put an end to polygenism, the current scientific discourse on human origins that gave tacit and at times explicit support for slavery: ‘... when the principle of evolution is generally accepted, as it surely will be before long, the dispute between the monogenists and polygenists will die a silent and unobserved death.’ (Charles Darwin, Descent of Man, p. 235)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

John James Audubon meets John Bachman: "there is much to be expressed and understood by a shake of the hand...."

Audubon recounts meeting John Bachman for the first time: "there is much to be expressed and understood by a shake of the hand...."

Audubon was much taken from the first meeting of the Rev John Bachman, a prominent Lutheran Cleryman and one of the foremost naturalists in America.  Below is an excerpt from Audubon's Delineations of American scenery and character where he recounts this meeting with Bachman.  Audubon does not mention just how close the families would become, with Bachman's daughters marrying Audubon's sons, Maria Martin Bachman painting many of the backgrounds for Audubon's Birds of America, and Audubon naming several species in honor of his dear friend including the now extinct Bachman's Warbler.
The Charleston County Public Library has an excellent series on the Audubon, Bachman, and Natural History in Charleston.  Posts on this blog related to Audubon, John Bachman, and Maria Martin Bachman include:

A Short Biography of John Bachman (1790-1874)
Audubon's Birds and some often Overlooked Contributions of Women to Natural History

A brief additional note to Audubon's Birds and some often Overlooked Contributions of Women to Natural History

Maria Martin Bachman's sketches and paintings for Audubon: On-line Exhibition from the Charleston County Public Library
Review of America’s Other Audubon (Brain Pickings Blog)

Podcast - Charleston's Women Naturalists: Jennifer Scheetz, Archivist, Charleston Museum

So, enjoy this meeting of two of the foremost naturalists of their day.

We now proceeded swiftly down the broad Chesapeake Bay, reached Norfolk, and removing into another steamer bound to the capital of Virgina, soon arrived at Richmond. Having made acquaintance, many years before, in Kentucky, with the governor of that State, the Honourable John Floyd, I went directly to him, was received in the kindest manner, and furnished with letters of introduction; after which we proceeded southward until we arrived at Charleston, in South Carolina. It was there that I formed an acquaintance, now matured into a highly valued friendship, with the Rev. John Bachman, a proficient in general science, and particularly in zoology and botany, and one whose name you will often meet with in the course of my biographies. But I cannot refrain from describing to you my first interview with this generous friend, and mentioning a few of the many pleasures I enjoyed under his hospitable roof, and in the company of his most interesting family and connections.

It was late in the afternoon when we took our lodgings in Charleston. Being fatigued, and having written the substance of my journey to my family, and delivered a letter to the Rev. Mr. Gilman, I retired to rest. At the first glimpse of day the following morning, my assistants and myself were already several miles from the city, commencing our search in the fields and woods, and having procured abundance of subjects, both for the pencil and the scalpel, we returned home, covered with mud, and so accoutred as to draw towards us the attention of every person in the streets. As we approached the boarding-house, I observed a gentleman on horseback close to our door. He looked at me, came up, inquired if my name was Audubon, and on being answered in the affirmative, instantly leaped from his saddle, shook me most cordially by the hand— there is much to be expressed and understood by a shake of the hand—and questioned me in so kind a manner, that I for a while felt doubtful how to reply. At his urgent desire, I removed to his house, as did my assistants. Suitable apartments were assigned to us, and once introduced to the lovely and interesting group that composed his family, I seldom passed a day without enjoying their society. Servants, carriages, horses, and dogs, were all at our command, and friends accompanied us to the woods and plantations, and formed parties for water excursions. Before I left Charleston, I was truly sensible of the noble and generous spirit of the hospitable Carolinians.
Having sailed for the Floridas, we, after some delay, occasioned by adverse winds, put into a harbour near St. Simon's Island, where I was so fortunate as to meet with Thomas Butler King, Esq., who, after replenishing our provision-stores, subscribed to the "Birds of America." At length we were safely landed at St. Augustine, and commenced our investigation. Of my sojourn in Florida, during the winter of 1831-32, you will find some account in this volume. Returning to Charleston, we passed through Savannah, respecting my short stay in which city you will also find some particulars in the sequel. At Charleston we lived with my friend Bachman, and continued our occupations. In the beginning of April, through the influence of letters from the Honourable Lewis M'Lean, of the Treasury Department, and the prompt assistance of Colonel J. Pringle, we went on board the revenue cutter, the "Marion," commanded by Robert Day, Esq., to whose friendly attention I am greatly indebted for the success which I met with in my pursuits, during his cruise along the dangerous coast of East Florida, and amongst the islets that every where rise from the surface of the ocean, like gigantic waterlilies. At Indian Key, the Deputy-Collector, Mr. Thruston, afforded me important aid; and at Key West I enjoyed the hospitality of Major Glassel, his officers and their families, as well as of my friend Dr. Benjamin Strobel, and other inhabitants of that singular island, to all of whom I now sincerely offer my best thanks for the pleasure which their society afforded me, and the acquisitions which their ever ready assistance enabled me to make.
Having examined every part of the coast which it was the duty of the commander of the Marion to approach, we returned to Charleston with our numerous prizes, and shortly afterwards I bent my course eastward, anxious to keep pace with the birds during their migrations. With the assistance of my friend Bachman, I now procured for my assistant, Mr. Ward, a situation of ease and competence, in the Museum of the Natural History Society of Charleston, and Mr. Lehman returned to his home. At Philadelphia I was joined by my family, and once more together we proceeded towards Boston. That dreadful scourge the cholera was devastating the land, and spreading terror around its course. We left Philadelphia under its chastising hand, and arrived at New York, where it was raging, while a heavy storm that suddenly burst over our heads threw an additional gloom over the devoted city, already bereft of a great part of her industrious inhabitants. After spending a day with our good friends and relatives, we continued our journey, and arrived at Boston....

Audubon, John James.  Delineations of American scenery and character; with an introduction by Francis Hobart Herrick.  New York: G.A. Baker & Company, 1926.