The Self-Governing Tree

Written by on December 2, 2023

The Self-Governing Tree – by Liam Sweeny.

In the city of Athens in the great state of Georgia, there is a corner of the streets Dearing and Finley, and upon the intersection of these two fine streets stands a white oak that towers over a plaque bearing the following proclamation; “FOR AND IN CONSIDERATION OF THE GREAT LOVE I BEAR THIS TREE AND THE GREAT DESIRE I HAVE FOR ITS PROTECTION FOR ALL TIME, I CONVEY ENTIRE POSSESSION OF ITSELF AND ALL LAND WITHIN EIGHT FEET OF THE TREE ON ALL SIDES.
– WILLIAM H. JACKSON (c. 1832)

These are the words of a man that so loved his tree that he willed possession of it to itself.

The tree owns itself. In other words, if you swung an axe at it, you would be committing both vandalism and assault. I guess, I’m not sure how that works.

No one knows whether this conveyance is legal. No one has ever tried to fight it in court. It just is, and everybody accepts it. I believe that on the corner of Dearing and Finley Streets, there’s a glitch in the matrix, and everyone is cool with it.

Sadly, “Jackson’s Oak,” which is technically “Oak’s Oak” now, is not the original, a four-hundred year white oak that fell in a storm in 1942. But it is from the acorns of the old tree, planted and continually loved by the Junior Ladies Garden Club.

I think I’m going to convey a few of my things to themselves. I love my guitar, so when I go, I give possession of my guitar to itself. You heard it here, I have witnesses… all three of you.

I definitely want to go to Athens, Georgia and check out the tree. I’m sure, positive, that any city that will allow a tree to own itself will have myriad peculiarities. So all with me, give your cars to themselves and lets go.


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