William Bartram

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William Bartram (April 20, 1739 – July 22, 1823) was an American botanist, ornithologist, natural historian, and explorer.


Travels of William Bartram (1791)[edit]

  • Should I say, that the river (in this place) from shore to shore, and perhaps near half a mile above and below me, appeared to be one solid bank of fish, of various kinds, pushing through this narrow pass of San Juan's into the little lake, on their return down the river, and that the alligators were in such incredible numbers, and so close from shore to shore, that it would have easy to have walked across on their heads, had the animals been harmless? What expressions can sufficiently declare the shocking scene that for some minutes continued, whilst this mighty army of fish were forcing the pass? During this attempt, thousands, I may say hundreds of thousands, of them were caught and swallowed by the devouring alligators. I have seen an alligator take up out of the water several great fish at a time, and just squeeze them betwixt his jaws, while the tails of the great trout flapped about his eyes and lips, ere he had swallowed them. The horrid noise of their closing jaws, their plunging amidst the broken banks of fish, and rising with their prey some feet upright above the water, the floods of water and blood rushing out of their mouths, and the clouds of vapor issuing from their wide nostrils, were truly frightful.
  • When in my residence in Carolina and Florida, I have seen vast flights of the house swallow (hirundo pelasgia) and bank martin (hirundo riparia) passing onward northward toward Pennsylvania, where they breed in the spring, about the middle of March, and likewise in the autumn in September or October, and large flights on their return southward. And it is observable that they always avail themselves of the advantage of high and favouralbe winds, which likewise do all birds of passage.

Quotes about William Bartram[edit]

  • The subjectivity that developed through print culture required that persons give up private identities for public identity. ... The aim of representative men like Benjamin Franklin was to produce themselves as exemplary citizen-­subjects who existed primarily in print and in relation to others who also circulated in print. ... Bartram offers a good test case through which we can trace the emergence of a mode of agency that is not equivalent to subjectivity and that developed outside the metropolitan centers associated with print culture.
    • M. Allewaert, "Swamp Sublime: Ecologies of Resistance in the American Plantation Zone," in Ariel's Ecology: Plantations, Personhood, and Colonialism in the American Tropics (2013)
  • His observations of animal behavior are numerous and detailed, and his interpretations merge into a coherent system of thought. The basis of the system is the belief that nature is an emanation of a benevolent God, and that since the animal creation is a part of nature, it therefore, too, is benevolent. Consequently he becomes a champion of the right of animals to be treated humanely.

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