skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   10 November 1862

Cambridge, Mass

Nov. 10, 1862

Dear Darwin

Here is a new stamp for L. D.—tho’ not postage.1

And I shall put this in an envelope embossed with a 20 cent postage stamp. I have really nothing to write this week. I trust I shall receive to-morrow in time for foreign post, some copies of sheets of notices in Nor. Amer. Journal,—in which there are two articles upon which I wish your opinion.— One of them is continuation of remarks on your far-famed Orchid-book.—with the substance of my notes on our species of Ophryd. & Cypripedium.2

I am waiting for Capt. Anderson to come to this port that I may send you Cypripediums, &c—for your study next spring.3 If he does not come over in next Cunarder, I fear I shall have to consign my package to Kew.— —where they may get out of the way before Hooker can turn them over to you.4 We are now wintry with precocious snow; but we still expect a short Indian summer.

I have to thank you for yours of the 16 Oct.—which has been lying a fortnight here.5 As you do not speak of your family, I conclude they are doing very well.

It is just as I thought about Rothrock’s notes on Houstonia.6 All his projected experiments came to nothing, as I thought.—not well carried out.

It is refreshing to me that you find the Special Correspondent of the Times detestable.7

Your comments upon our affairs always show such a good spirit, that you need not fear even my wife’s “indignation”.8

We are sorry that you suffer in England; but you must blame the rebels for it, not us,—and your Manchester people should have looked earlier to India for cotton.9

You dont see, as you would if here—the total impossibility of coming to any terms of peace with the South, based on their independence. Before that can be they or we must be thoroughly beaten. You can’t be expected to see too,—what seems plain to me, that you English would give us no end of trouble, if we attempted a piece-meal existence. We must be strong enough to keep any Old-world power at bay. Then we shall behave pretty well, on the whole,—surely so when the North is dominant and is fairly treated. “Siezing on Canada”.10 What do we want of Canada? When the South was aggressive and making Slave States, we often looked to the peaceful acquisition of Canada as desirable as a counterpoise— But when we had “changed all that”—and it is changed, a⁠⟨⁠nd⁠⟩⁠ slavery limited, past all do⁠⟨⁠ubt,⁠⟩⁠—however the combat ends— we no longer have use or need of Canada. If we get set up again, we have work enough at home, & our hands full for years— we shall be strong for defence but weak for aggression. The ill-feeling to England will die out when we are well able to defend ourselves and our home interests.

It does seem that all England wishes us to be weak and divided,—perhaps that is good national policy. But the more that is so, the more necessary it is for us to vindicate our integrity, at whatever cost. Let us have it out now, even at the cost of 10 times what it has cost so far.

I never thought anything of American institutions for England.11 Aristocracy is a natural & needful appendage to Monarchy. You work out your own type—and you will liberalize fast enough,—and leave us to do ours. We’ll make it do,—with some jangling.—

I wish we could be shut up, like the Japanese of old,—for 10 or 20 years,—12 —only with a weekly ⁠⟨⁠ma⁠⟩⁠il from you and Dr. Hooker, ⁠⟨⁠Fa⁠⟩⁠re-well.— Ever Yours cordially | Asa Gray.

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘(Please return as I shall have to answer)’ ink 13


Leonard Darwin had written to Gray at his suggestion to tell him which North American postage stamps he most wanted for his collection (see letter from Asa Gray, 22 September 1862 and n. 3).
Gray refers to the November 1862 number of the American Journal of Science and Arts, which contained the follow-up article to his review of Orchids (A. Gray 1862b), in which he gave an account of his observations on several North American species of Ophrydeae and Cypripedium. The second item to which Gray refers was probably his brief notice on dimorphism in the stamens and pistils of flowers (A. Gray 1862e), published in the same number of the American Journal of Science and Arts.
James Anderson was captain of the Cunard line’s trans-Atlantic steamer Africa (Men of the time). In his letter to CD of 5 September 1862, Gray promised to send live roots of three American species of the orchid genus Cypripedium and seeds of Mitchella (see also letter from Asa Gray, 27 October 1862 and n. 3).
Joseph Dalton Hooker was assistant director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
See letter to Asa Gray, 16 October [1862] and n. 5. Joseph Trimble Rothrock had been Gray’s assistant and student at the Lawrence Scientific School, Harvard University, until he enlisted in the Union army in July 1862 (DAB). In his letter of 4 August 1862, Gray sent CD an abstract of Rothrock’s notes from his observations and experiments on the dimorphic plant Houstonia caerulea, carried out in the summer of 1862 at CD’s request. For Gray’s opinion of Rothrock’s work, see also the letter from Asa Gray, 22 September 1862.
Manchester was the centre of the cotton textile industry in Britain. After the start of the American Civil War in 1861, the Union navy established a blockade of the Confederate states, cutting off the supply of cotton to Europe; supply reached its lowest level in 1862. In July, the Economist reported that the time when ‘mills must stop and Lancashire must starve from an actual exhaustion of the whole supply of raw materials’ might be ‘very near at hand’ (Economist, 5 July 1862, p. 729). For accounts of the Lancashire cotton famine, see Arnold 1864 and Longmate 1978.
In his letter to Gray of 16 October [1862], CD commented that the American Civil War had retarded the prospect of democratic reform in England, and produced ‘wide spread feeling in favour of aristocracy & monarchism’.
The Japanese Tokugawa regime instituted the Sakoku, or closed country policy, in 1639; it was maintained until 1854 (Jansen ed. 1989).
This is a note to Hooker, to whom CD sent this letter (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 [November 1862]).


Arnold, R. Arthur. 1864. The history of the cotton famine, from the fall of Sumter to the passing of the Public Works Act. London.

DAB: Dictionary of American biography. Under the auspices of the American Council of Learned Societies. 20 vols., index, and 10 supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; Simon & Schuster Macmillan. London: Oxford University Press; Humphrey Milford. 1928–95.

Jansen, Marius B. ed. 1989. The Cambridge history of Japan. Volume 5. The nineteenth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Longmate, Norman. 1978. The hungry mills. The story of the Lancashire cotton famine, 1861–5. London: Temple Smith. [Vols. 10,11]

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


AG has Cypripedium to send to CD.

Civil War and English feelings.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Cambridge, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 165: 122
Physical description
ALS 4pp damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3799,” accessed on 21 June 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10