Remarks in regards to the Geological Survey


Remarks in regards to the Geological Survey


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Springfield Ill. April 3, 1862.

Remarks in regard to the Geological Survey.

I. A geological survey, if properly executed, indicates the resources of the state and aids in their development. The best policy would therefore seem to be not to discontinue it at a time when all the resources of the state are called into requisition, but rather to push it vigorously; especially now when so much material has already been collected which would, in a great measure be lost if the survey was stopped. We speak of creating an agricultural bureau. The geological survey should be made to cooperate with it in furthering the agricultural interest, which it can do well. The unprecedented development of the state during the last 10 years and the corresponding progress upon which we may calculate during the next decennium call for such an undertaking, and the appropriation which is required is trifling compared with the results to be attained and the means of the state.

II. Objections which have been raised against the survey:

a) The cost: I have already stated that I consider it of small moment if any adequate results are obtained. In my report of last years explorations it may, for example, be seen proved by arguments which everybody can appreciate, that in a single county (Perry county) 709 million tons of coal are easily accessible, and that the whole county probably contains over 2000 million tons, not including in our calculation deeper strata of which we have no sufficient knowledge. What a prospect for future greatness!!

b) That no adequate results have been obtained: This is true to a certain degree, in consequence of former mismanagement. The results of the first years of the survey were absolutely lost, and thus discredit attaches to the survey. Since a salutary change has been effected, and a report has been submitted some time since, but has not been published, so that the public do not know what has been done; and judgement should be suspended.

c. That the results which have been obtained are too much of a theoretical character: This also is true to a large degree, and has been the fault of all geological surveys in the western states. But this can be corrected in future, and has already been corrected in some way. It should, however, not be forgotten that such surveys have to be based upon scientific foundations. The geological formations have to be traced in their course by the aid of the fossils. The limestones, hydraulic rocks, lead and iron ores, coal, marls, soils, have to be examined by chemists.

d. That it has been made a field of political contension: This charge can be very easily refuted, and the Executive is free of all blame in this regard. Politics should be, as they have been, kept entirely out of such undertakings, the more so because well qualified persons are not numerous, and frequent changes of persons decidedly disadvantageous to the progress of such surveys.

III. Propositions submitted for consideration:

a) The regular legislature be asked to sanction the continuation of the survey and to make an appropriation for printing the reports. The State geologist be directed at the same time to abstain from further accumulation of merely scientific material and to devote his whole and undivided attention to the advancement of the material interests of the state, especially of the agricultural and manufacturing interests.

or b) If it is not deemed proper by the Executive to continue the survey under the present circumstances, be it ordered that the survey be discontinued for the present, and the decision be left to the next regular legislature. As it is however necessary to preserve at least the results, which has been the expressed wish of the last legislature, be it ordered further that the funds set apart for the survey be spent for the publication of the reports; and one of the officers of the survey be retained for

superintending this publication, and in the mean time, until the regular legislature should decide otherwise, take care of the collections, notes, maps, and other property of the survey, and finish unfinished investigations.

First those portions of the reports might be published which are of interest to the population in general, and the same should be ready for distribution at the commencement of the January session. If the funds of the survey are not sufficient for that purpose, the Executive might perhaps authorize the expenditure of a small additional sum under the law requiring the publication of biennial reports of progress. The purely scientific part of the report, the one which will cost by far most to publish, and which will constitute a second volume might be left until the legislature can make an appropriation for the purpose, best after the other portion has been submitted to them at the regular January session, when they might also decide whether the survey shall continue or not.

c) If propositions a and b be rejected by the Executive, the last would be: To order the discontinuance of the survey and to ask the legislature in special session to order the reports printed, introducing an item for supervision which is absolutely necessary for a work like this. The collection, apparatus, maps, and other property of the survey should not be disposed of at once, because with the report before them, the next legislature might be induced to reorganize the survey, when the loss of these materials would be felt severely if they had been disposed of.

d) If the Governor intends to take any step in regard to the survey, it might be desirable at once to instruct the State geologist to label the collection properly, each specimen or set of specimens therein, so that it would retain its full value whatever disposition was made of it afterwards; also to file all his field notes, sections, maps, profiles, &c., so that they might be preserved; and to order his assistants to do the same also.

IV. Proper method of conducting the survey if continued:

a) Although the survey should be based upon scientific principles the practical points should be kept prominently in view, and all possible exertions should be made to advance the agricultural and manufacturing interests.

b) Special attention should therefore be directed to the coal, minerals, limestones, marls, soils, manures, &c.

c) Detailed examinations should be made of single districts or counties, and the results laid down graphically on maps on a large scale, and on profiles, which should be combined on a general map of the state on a smaller scale.

d) While the geologist should try to advance science incidentally as much as possible, whereby credit would be reflected upon the individual and state, he should never lose view of the "cui bono". The taxpayers interest should be consulted first.

e) Matters should be represented in their true light, according to the observed facts, and the geologist in his official position should carefully avoid exaggerated representations. His statements must be able to bear the test of experience. Instead of overestimating small things he should indicate the means by which that which we have may be used to the best advantage.

f) As the report is intended for the mass of the people more than for a few gentlemen who cultivate the speciality of fossil remains, if it was deemed proper to give any drawings and descriptions of fossils in a final report, those should be represented which are most common and characteristic of the single formations, by which therefore any intelligent observer might himself recognize the principal formations, and only if ample means were on hand rare and new specimens should be figured, which are of no interest to the people in general, and are else better adapted for publication in scientific journals.

H. Engelmann



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“Remarks in regards to the Geological Survey,” Chronicling Illinois, accessed July 14, 2020,