The following paragraph is a part of a speech delivered by the Marquis of Ripoti, K.G., late Secretary of State for the Colonies of Great Britain, at the anniversary dinner of the Linnean Society. It is a good thing to be honest enough to acknowledge ignorance, but how a Secretary of State for the Colonies could have escaped hearing something of gambier is a mystery.
I had a curious proof the other day of the way in which plants of great value may be but little known to those who do not cultivate science, or are not engaged in those industries in which these plants are employed. I received a deputation from Leeds. Though most of you probably think only of Leeds as an important place for the production of cloth, yet there is a great leather trade in Leeds besides, and this deputation of leading men came to me to do what I could to help to increase the production of gambier. They told me they could not get on without it, that it was absolutely essential to their industry, and that it came shipped to them from Singapore. I believe the largest quantity is not grown in Singapore, but comes from the native states beyond. I am bound to say that until I had received this deputation, I had never heard of gambier. I knew nothing about it.
The interest of this paragraph lies not in the ignorance of the official, but in the information it gives of the growing scarcity of gambier. If that deputation of citizens of Leeds should turn to the United States, they would learn that we have a substance here called canaigre, prepared from the roots of Rumex hymenosepalus, that will sooner or later displace gambier which is of uncertain origin, uncertain quality and uncertain effect.