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To George B. Emerson, Esq.,
of Massachusetts. DEAR Sir, Upon forwarding to me my commission, in the year 1837, you were pleased to request me to prepare a Report on the Insects of Massachusetts.
The magnitude of the task, and various other motives deterred me from attempting to describe all the insects which might have been discovered by a careful and thorough survey of the whole State. A work of this kind, - much as it might promote the cause of science, if well done, - could not be expected to prove either interesting or particularly useful to the great body of the people. Some idea of the extent of such an undertaking may be formed from an examination of the Catalogues of the Insects of Massachusetts, drawn up by me for the first and second editions of Professor Hitchcock's “ Report on the Geology, Mineralogy, Botany, and Zoology,” of this State.
Believing that agriculture and horticulture, when aided by science, tend greatly to improve the condition of any people, and that these pursuits form the basis of our prosperity, and are the safeguards of our liberty and independence, I have felt it my duty, in treating the subject assigned to me, to endeavour to make it useful and acceptable to those persons whose honorable employment is the cultivation of the soil.
Some knowledge of the classification of insects and of the scientific details of entomology seems to be necessary to the farmer, to enable him to distinguish his friends from his enemies of the insect race. He ought to be acquainted with the transformations and habits of the latter, in all their states, so that he may know how and when most successfully to employ the means for preventing their ravages. This kind of knowledge will often guide him in the selection of the proper remedies, and may prevent him from falling into many mistakes. Not only the farmer, however, but those who are engaged in other employments, would find some profit and pleasure in the study of the natural history of insects, were the means for obtaining information on this branch of science more generally diffused.
The plan of this Report, which I have now the honor of submitting, through you, to the people of this Commonwealth, was suggested by the foregoing considerations, by the want of a work on our native insects, combining scientific with practical details, and by the letter of instructions that accompanied my commission, wherein the economical advantages to be derived from an investigation of the natural history of this State, were particularly pointed out as objects of attention.
A large amount of the materials, made use of in this work, was collected many years ago, at comparatively little cost; but, after entering on my official duties, I was obliged to procure, at an expense far exceeding the compensation allowed me, a great number of books, in order to make myself acquainted with the discoveries and improvements in entomology therein set forth. In some cases I have had to rely on the recorded observations of others, for the want of an opportunity to make the necessary investigations myself. The many applications, which I have made to various persons, for information respecting our destructive insects, have rarely brought me any satisfactory replies. The greater part of my first report, which was presented to the Legislature, in the year 1838, has been embodied in this, in order to afford a connected view of the whole subject. From among the numerous insects which are injurious to plants, I have selected for description chiefly those which are remarkable for their size, for the peculiarity of their structure and habits, or for the extent of their ravages ; and these, alone, will be seen to constitute a formidable host.
You have already looked over a considerable part of the manuscript, and have been pleased to express a favorable opinion of it. Should it prove as satisfactory to you and to the public, in its present form, the time and labor, bestowed upon it, will not have been spent in vain, By your friend and servant,
THADDEUS WILLIAM HARRIS. Cambridge, December 1, 1841.