"We had traversed the entire state of New-York and done a hundred leagues on Lake Erie; we were approaching, this time, the limits of civilization, but we didn't know at all toward what place we should set out. To inform ourselves was not so easy as one might suppose. To cross almost impenetrable forests, pass deep rivers, brave pestilential swamps, sleep exposed to the damp of the woods: these are efforts the American has no difficulty understanding if it's a question of gaining a dollar, for that's the point. But that one should do such things through curiosity, that's something that doesn't reach his intelligence. Add that, living in a wilderness, he only esteems the works of man. He will willingly send you to visit a road, a bridge, a fine village; but that one has a high regard for great trees and a beautiful solitude, that's entirely incomprehensible to him.
Nothing therefore more difficult than to find someone in a position to understand you.--You wish to see some woods, our hosts said to us smiling, go straight ahead, you will find enough to satisfy you. As it happens there are in the neighbourhood some new roads and some well defined trails. As for Indians, you will see but too many of them on our public places and in our streets; you don't need to go far for that. These at least are beginning to civilize themselves and are less savage than in looks.--It didn't take us long to realize that it was impossible to get the truth from them by frontal attack, and that we should have to manoeuvre."
Tocqueville, I think (Pierson 239)
"As a matter of fact, if we had but wanted to see some trees, our Detroit hosts would have been right in saying that we didn't need to go far; for a mile from the town the road enters the forest for good. The terrain on which the forest grows is perfectly flat and often marshy. On your way you encounter new clearings from time to time. As these establishments bear a perfect resemblance to each other, whethere they are to be found in the depths of Michigan or at the gate of New-York, I am going to describe them here once and for all.
The bell the pioneer is careful to hang around the necks of his cattle in order to be able to find them in the thick woods announces from afar the approach to the clearing. Soon you here the ringing of the axe cutting the forest trees and, as you approach, traces of destruction proclaim with even greater certainty the presence of man. Chopped branches cover the road. Trunks half consumed by fire or mutilated by iron nevertheless continue to stand upright in your way. You proceed and come into a wood all of whose trees seem to have been struck by sudden death; in midsummer their branches still present only the image of winter. On examining them more closely you perceive that they have been circled by a deep trench cut in the bark, which, arresting the flow of sap, has not been slow to make them die. It's really with this that the planter usually begins. Being incapable the first year of cutting all the trees which garnish his new property he sows corn under their branches and, by killing them, prevents their shading his crop.
After this field, the rough sketch, the first step of civilization in the wilderness, you suddenly perceive the cabin of the proprietor. It is generally placed in the centre of a piece of land more carefully cultivated than the rest but where man still sustains an unequal struggle against nature. There the trees have been cut by not yet uprooted; their trunks still garnish and clutter up the land which formerly they shaded; about this dried debris, wheat, oak, shoots, plants of all kinds, herbs of every sort, are tangled and grow together on an indocile and still half-savage soil. It's in the centre of this vigorous and varied vegetation that rises the planter's house, or, as it is called in this country, the log house.
Like the surrounding field this rustic dwelling betrays recent and hasty work. Its length rarely exceeds thirty feet. It is twenty wide, fifteen high. The walls, like the roof, are formed of unsquared tree trunks, between which moss and earth have been placed to prevent the cold and rain penetrating into the interior of the house. As the traveler approaches, the scene becomes more animated. Warned by the sound of his footfall the children who were rolling in the surrounding debris get up precipitately and flee toward the paternal refuge as if frightened at the sight of a man, while two large half-savage dogs, with straight ears and long muzzles, come out of the cabin growling to cover the retreat of their young masters.
At this point the pioneer himself appears at the door of his dwelling. He throws a scrutinizing glance at the new arrival, signs to the dogs to go back inside, and hastens himself to give them the example without betraying either curiosity or uneasiness."
Tocqueville, I think (Pierson 241-242)
"In the Alps I have visited some fearful solitudes, where nature refused to yield to cultivation but where it deploys, even to the point of horror, a grandeur that transports and impassions the soul. Here the solitude is no less profound, but it does not give rise to the same impressions. The only feelings one experiences in journeying through these flowered wildernesses where, as in Milton's Paradise, all is prepared to receive man, are a tranquil admiration, a vague distaste for civilized life, a sweet and melancholy emotion, a sort of wild instinct which makes one reflect with sadness that soon this delightful solitude will be completely altered. In fact, the white race is already advancing through the surrounding woods, and in a few years the European will have to cut the trees reflected in the limpid waters of the lake and forced the animals peopling its banks to retire to a new wildernesses." Tocqueville, I think (Pierson 252-253)
"With us there is no region so little peopled, where a forest is so abandoned to itself that the trees, after having calmly lived out their life, finally fall of decrepitude. It's man who fells them in the prime of their age and who clears the forest of their debris. In the American solitude, on the contrary, all-powerful nature is the only agent of ruin as it is the only power of reproduction."
Tocqueville (Pierson 262-263)
"Here not only man is missing, but even the voices of animals are not heard. The smallest of them have left these regions to go nearer human habitation, the larger to go farther away; those who remain keep hidden under the shelter from the rays of the sun. Thus everything is still, everything in the woods is silent under the foliage; one would say that the Creator has for a moment turned his face away and that the forces of nature are paralyzed."
Tocqueville (Pierson 264)