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Robert McKenzie Cross: Botanical Explorer, Kew Gardens

Chinchona Missions : First Trip to South America 1859

Home | Forgotten Legend : Tribute to Robert Cross- Sample | Further Reading : Some Books, Journals and Web Sites | Early Life in Kilmaronock Loch Lomondside 1830s and 1840s | While Robert entered Kew Gardens, London 1850s his siblings flew the nest too! | Chronology : The Years Robert Cross spent at Home and Abroad | Chinchona Missions : First Trip to South America 1859 | Robert Cross's Report on his travel to South America in 1860 | Spruce's Journal First Chinchona Mission | Chinchona : Later Trips to South America | Rubber Trees : Mission to South America 1876 | Para Rubber Images | Clements Markham, Richard Spruce and Henry Wickham | Achievements of Robert Cross | Publications of Robert M Cross | Last Years at West Cottage Torrance of Campsie | Last Will and Testament of Robert McKenzie Cross

Robert Cross left the employment of Kew Gardens in 1859. His historic place in the first Chinchona mission was as a practical gardener. He was recommended to the leader of the project Clements Markham ( by William Hooker, director of Kew Gardens ) to go out to Ecuador to assist a Yorkshireman, a distinguished plant collector called Richard Spruce. Spruce had responsibility of arranging for the collection of the chinchona seeds and plants. Cross was to ensure the plants were tended and grew sufficently well for them to be forwarded ( along with Cross himself in tow ) to India. Some of the background history to the first mission is detailed below through the surviving public documents and written accounts.

WILLIAM CROSS IS AVAILABLE TO GIVE A TALK TO YOUR GROUP, SOCIETY, ORGANISATION ON THE LIFE AND WORK ON ROBERT CROSS.

CONTACT HIM e-mail

williecross@aol.com

CLEMENTS MARKHAM

Clements ( later Sir Clements ) Markham was an Assistant in the India Office who led the Chinchona expeditions.

1859-1860

LETTER IN INDIA OFFICE LIBRARY


FROM CLELMENTS MARKHAM TO SIR GEORGE CLERK DATED 5 APRIL 1859

MARKHAM'S OFFER OF HIS SERVICES

Markham began by stating the importance of the venture....

Markham quotes an authority, Dr John Forbes Royle ( 1799-1858 ), who had first written about introducing chinchona to India as far back as 1839.

...Among the vast variety of medical drugs says Dr Royle, in 1852, there is not one with probably the single exception of opium which is more valuable to man than quinine yielding chinchona.

In 1853 he ( Royle ) says ...the successful introduction into India of the chinchona will be of great benefit not only in that country but to the world in general..

1859-60

Destruction of Forests

Markham draws attention to the destruction of the rain forests ... There is great fear that the supply ( of chinchona ) from the original sources may become so much diminished as to be beyond the reach of a mass of those who require the aid of quinine....

Indian sub-continent's need for the drug - Markham's ace card was India .....

....To the Indian government a home supply of a drug
which already costs about 7000 a year would be advantageous in an economical point of view and invaluable in affording means of employing a drug which is indispensable in the treatment of Indian fevers...

1859-60

Why not ask Counsels and Agents to do the work?

Markham covered the alternative methods of obtaining collections :

.... It has been proved by fruitless experiments that it is useless to attempt to procure either the plants or the seeds through the instamentability of HM Counsels or through agents having no interest in the success of their labours and who probably hire other agents to deal with the actual Collectors...

Skills needed / including some deception..

..Considerable tact also is required in order to avoid exacting jealousy in the minds of Government officials..

And they must have their heart in it.

These facts are pointed out in order to show how fruitless it will be to trust the Agents and Counsels and how necessary it is to employ some person whose heart is really in the business.

Markham's credentials

...I am well aquatinted with several of the forests in Peru and on the frontiers of Bolivia containing the chimbora tree. I already know three of the more useful species by sight and should be able to acquire a thorough knowledge of the others before leaving England.

1859-60

Markham knowledge of languages and connections....

I know not only the Spanish language but also Quichica
or language spoken by the Indians of these districts and I am intimate with many of the public men and landowners on the Eastern Slopes of the Cordillera. I trust I may add that I am most anxious to perform this service well, which I feel to be of such great importance.

EQUADOR LAND COMPANY AND RICHARD SPRUCE

There was a bit of cloak and dagger involved in the arrangments -

LETTER IN INDIA OFFICE RECORDS
Revenue Judicial or Legislative Committee

PROPOSAL FOR USING EQUADOR LAND COMPANY

..no evidence that the most valuable species of the chinchona are to be found in the territory granted by the Equador government and further they are of the opinion that a mission conducted by a commercial association whose principal object must be to develop resources which will prove a permanent source of income is not the most likely means of attaining the object to be aimed at, the full success of which would in effect render India independent as regards the supply of quinine of those provinces of South America where the more valuable chinchona trees abound.

Dr Spruce was certainly poached!!!!

There is an interesting piece of correspondence concerning a complaint by the Equador Land Company who thought they had already got Richard Spruce to work with them Markham explained that Spruce had only had an offer from the Equador Land Co - no more than that- he had never accepted the offer!

FROM Clements Markham's book PERUVIAN BARK

Appointment of Robert Cross

I considered it necessary that a practical gardener should assist Dr Spruce in the forests and establish the plants in Wardian cases at Guayaquil as well as accompany them on a voyage to India. For this work I selected a very able and painstaking Scotch gardener named ROBERT CROSS, who was recommended to me by Sir William Hooker.

FROM Clements Markham's book TRAVELS IN PERU

It was the opinion of Sir William Hooker who gave me the advantage of his valuable advice that a good practical working gardener should accompany both Mr Spruce and myself and he considered this an imperative requirement in order that they might attend to their packing of the plants in the forests their establishment in Wardian cases and have charge of them during the voyage to India. I appointed MR CROSS at his recommendation to act under the orders of Mr Spruce.


MARKHAM SAILS FOR SOUTH AMERICA

On 17 December 1859, we sailed from England and crossing the Isthmus of Panana arrived in Lima, the capital of Peru on 26 January 1860.

MARKHAM's MISSION

Markham was going to check the chinchona forests of Caravaya and took with him a gardener named Weir.


WARDIAN CASES

30 Wardian Cases for the plants had been sent out round Cape Horn. Markham forwarded 15 to Guayaquil for Mr Spruce's collection.

PUBLICITY AT LIMA

Markham was well acquainted with Peruvians
He had been there before ( nothing to do with chinchona collecting ). He had made many friends including those in authority.

1860- 61

LETTERS IN THE Public Record Office ( PRO ) ( now The National Archives ) at KEW

In a letter from Lima dated 8 February 1860, to Dr Forbes Watson, held at the PRO, Kew, Markham refers to

...a long complimentary article ..in a Lima newspaper
announcing my second visit and reviewing my former works.. This has, I think thrown the people off the scent as to my real object although it must necessarily be known to several. The extreme scarceness of the trees has made me doubtful whether to go to Caravaya or to alter my plans and enter some of the Bolivian forests, the objection to the latter course being the lawless and unscrupulous character of the Bolivians the position of whose country on the other side of the Andes enables them to defy European Governments. I shall probably be unable to decide finally until I am much nearer the theatre of action.

1860-61

PREPARATIONS FOR ROBERT CROSS'S FIRST TRIP

In the same letter Markham writes a short progress report :

...I write by this mail a short report of my proceedings thus far which you will perhaps kindly show to Mr
Bourdillou .

On 19 January ( 1860 ) I arrived at the Port of Guayaquil in the Republic of Equador and made arrangements with regard to Mr Spruce's part of the undertaking. We found the President of Peru with a large fleet and army in hostile possession of the river and a part of the town. And the country in a complete state of anarchy. We had some conversation with the President of Peru and also our minister Mr Cope and Vice Counsel, Mr Mocatta. The latter has got passports so as to prevent any of Mr Spruce's mules from being seized and will make all necessary arrangements about sending CROFS up the river with the Wardian Cases when he arrives. CROFS should therefore be told to go to him on his arrival at Guayaquil and I think he should also be provided with a letter to HM Acting Counsel at Panama, Mr Bidivell, as he has never travelled before.

1860-61

MARKHAM'S CONFIDENCE

The letter ends with much expectation ...I think there is every prospect of Mr Spruce's undertaking being successful and I have told him to send the plants and seeds in charge of CROFS by the first steamers to Southampton and thence without delay to India.

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Robert McKenzie Cross of Kew Gardens