The following paragraph from chapter 3 draws an interesting analogy between the conflict of the savage vegetation world and that of democratic society. Have we as a civilized society moved beyond this struggle or are we just viewing from above and missing the struggle below? One of TR's speeches from his 1910 European tour put forward the possibility that perhaps some day man will live in harmony without the need for national borders but he estimates that time, if it ever comes, to be many thousands of years in the future. Have we progressed at a faster pace than TR estimated (to a time where national defense is not important ) or is it wise to recognize the struggle below where new life thrives after the fall of the mighty.
“For untold ages Maine had been one unbroken forest, and it was so still. Only along the rocky seaboard or on the lower waters of one or two great rivers a few rough settlements had gnawed slight indentations into this wilderness of woods; and a little farther inland some dismal clearing around a blockhouse or stockade let in the sunlight to a soil that had lain in shadow time out of mind. This waste of savage vegetation survives, in some part, to this day, with the same prodigality of vital force, the same struggle for existence and mutual havoc that mark all organized beings, from men to mushrooms. Young seedlings in millions spring every summer from the black mould, rich with the decay of those that had preceded them, crowding, choking, and killing one another, perishing by their very abundance,—all but a scattered few, stronger than the rest, or more fortunate in position, which survive by blighting those about them. They in turn, as they grow, interlock their boughs, and repeat in a season or two the same process of mutual suffocation. The forest is full of lean saplings dead or dying with vainly stretching towards the light. Not one infant tree in a thousand lives to maturity; yet these survivors form an innumerable host, pressed together in struggling confusion, squeezed out of symmetry and robbed of normal development, as men are said to be in the level sameness of democratic society. Seen from above, their mingled tops spread in a sea of verdure basking in light; seen from below, all is shadow, through which spots of timid sunshine steal down among legions of lank, mossy trunks, toadstools and rank ferns, protruding roots, matted bushes, and rotting carcasses of fallen trees. A generation ago one might find here and there the rugged trunk of some great pine lifting its verdant spire above the undistinguished myriads of the forest. The woods of Maine had their aristocracy; but the axe of the woodman has laid them low, and these lords of the wilderness are seen no more”.
I hope you enjoy this book and that it gives you a fuller understanding of human propensities. All of Parkman’s books are well documented with hundreds of footnotes stating the documents from which he draws information. He makes great efforts to give his readers an accurate view of what has happened in the past. If you would like to read the footnotes, please seek an original copy as I have removed the footnotes.