Gardener’s Magazine 5: 290-291 (1839)

J. C. Loudon, F.L.S. H.S. &c.

*Frederic Hill, Inspector
of Prisons for Scotland

Importance of Selection in setting apart Plants for producing Seed.Mankind seem to be just beginning to be aware of the remarkable fact, that mental properties and peculiarities may be transmitted from parents to offspring, as well as physical properties and peculiarities; or, perhaps, we should rather say, that mental and physical properties alike depend on organisation. It has long been observed in a general way, that the offspring resemble the parent in form and disposition; but it has only in a very few cases been noticed that the same thing also takes place in regard to taste. It was mentioned of the man with the iron mask that he was remarkably fond of fine linen; and as this was also the case with Anne of Austria, the then dowager queen of France, it was taken as a part of the evidence in favour of the opinion that he was her son. If we consider all mental qualities whatever as the result of organisation, the importance of selection in breeding will be obvious; for, assuredly, if the taste, good or bad, can be perpetuated from father to son, the habits, good or bad, may be perpetuated also. Our attention has been directed to this subject by a Report made to government on the State of Crime in Scotland. The author of that Report, Mr. Hill*, says, "crime appears to be not only hereditary to a considerable extent, but also in some degree to belong to particular occupations." Carters he finds more addicted to stealing than any other class; and colliers and fishermen, though addicted to drunkenness and to committing assaults, are for the most part honest. On this part of Mr. Hill's Report the enlightened and philosophic editor of the Scotsman observes, "Mr. Hill notes the fact, which could scarcely escape so careful an observer: that in many cases crime appears hereditary. He might, however, have gone farther than he does on this subject. Our belief is, that when the son of a criminal walks in his father's footsteps, the effect is not so frequently, as he imagines, the simple consequence of bad example and neglected education, but very often of a disposition to crime which the child receives from the parent with the elements of its existence. In a sound system of penal legislation, the truth or falsehood of this principle is of much importance. If some men are born with an irresistible propensity to cheating, thieving, or acts of violence, they ought to be regarded as moral patients, like idiots and lunatics, and subjected to a very different discipline to what is applicable to individuals whom an accidental combination of unfavourable circumstances have seduced into crime." (Scotsman, April 21. 1838.) A reference to these observations may to some of our readers appear to have little connexion with gardening; and we readily admit the want of direct relation between these statements and any thing that takes place in breeding plants. If, however, we can strongly impress on the mind of the young gardener, the fact of like producing like, not only in form, temperament, and disposition, but even in morals, and in shades of opinion; and in taste, in the human species; we think we shall not only do him good, in the character of parent, should he ever become one, but render him far more particular than most gardeners now are, in the selection of plants for producing seeds, whether of flowers or of culinary vegetables, and in selecting blossoms of fruit trees for cross-fecundating other blossoms.Cond.

The Necessity of Selection of Plants.If the vast number of plants which are constantly being introduced to this country were to be subjected to the test of well founded and established criteria, and cultivated only when possessed of real and sterling merit, we imagine that many, which are now allowed a place in our collections solely on account of their novelty, would speedily be discarded, and their place supplied with older, but more truly ornamental and valuable species. (Paxton's Mag. Bot., Aug. 1838, p. 145.)