« AnteriorContinuar »
these, the emigrants from the New England States may be classed, and this will account, in part, for their migration to the westward. Conviction of these things having left little hope of obtaining such tenants as would answer my purposes, I have had it in contemplation, ever since I returned home, to turn my farms to grazing principally, as fast as I can cover the fields sufficiently with grass. Labor, and of course expense, will be considerably diminished by this change, the net profit as great, and my attention less divided, whilst the fields will be improving.
Your strictures on the agriculture of this country are but too just. It is indeed wretched; but a leading, if not the primary, cause of its being so is, that, instead of improving a little ground well, we attempt much and do it ill. A half, a third, or even a fourth of what we mangle, well wrought and properly dressed, would produce more than the whole under our system of management; yet such is the force of habit, that we cannot depart from it. The consequence of which is, that we ruin the lands that are already cleared, and either cut down more wood, if we have it, or emigrate into the Western country. I have endeavoured, both in a public and private character, to encourage the establishment of boards of agriculture in this country, but hitherto in vain; and what is still more extraordinary, and scarcely to be believed, I have endeavoured ineffectually to discard the pernicious practice just mentioned from my own estate ; but, in my absence, pretexts of one kind or another have always been paramount to orders Since the first establishment of the National Board of Agriculture in Great Britain, I have considered it as one of the most valuable institutions of modern times; and, conducted with so much ability and zeal, as it appears to be under the auspices of Sir John Sinclair, it must be productive of great advantages to the nation, and to mankind in general.
My system of agriculture is what you have described, and I am persuaded, were I to proceed on a large scale, would be improved by the alteration you have proposed. At the same time I must observe, that I have not found oats so great an exhauster, as they are represented to be ; but in my system they follow wheat too closely to be proper, and the rotation will undergo a change in this, and perhaps in some other respects.
The vetches of Europe have not succeeded with me; our frosts in winter, and droughts in summer, are too severe for them. How far the mountain or wild pea would answer as a substitute, by cultivation, is difficult to decide, because I believe no trial has been made of it, and because its spontaneous growth is in rich lands only. That it is nutritious in a great degree, in its wild state, admits of no doubt.
Spring barley, such as we grow in this country, has thriven no better with me than vetches. The result of an experiment, made with a little of the true sort, will be interesting. The field peas of England (different kinds) I have more than once tried, but not with encouragement to proceed; for, among other discouragements, they are perforated by a bug, which eats out the kernel. From the cultivation of the common black-eye peas, I have more hope, and am trying them this year, both as a crop, and for ploughing in as a manure ; but the severe drought, under which we labor at present, may render the experiment inconclusive. It has, in a manner, destroyed my oats, and threatens to destroy my Indian
The practice of ploughing in buckwheat twice in the season as a fertilizer is not new to me. It is what I have practised, or, I ought rather to have said, attempted to practise, the last two or three years; but, like most things else in my absence, it has been so badly executed, that is, the turning in of the plants has been so ill timed, as to give no result. I am not discouraged, however, by these failures; for, if pulverizing the soil, by fallowing and turning in vegetable substances for manure, is a proper preparation for the crop that is to follow, there can be no question, that a double portion of the latter, without an increase of the ploughing, must be highly beneficial. I am in the act of making another experiment of this sort, and shall myself attend to the operation, which, however, may again prove abortive, from the cause I have mentioned, namely, the drought.
The lightness of our oats is attributed, more than it ought to be, to the unfitness of the climate of the middle States. That this may be the case in part, and nearer the seaboard in a greater degree, I will not controvert; but it is a well-known fact, that no country produces better oats than those that grow on the Allegany Mountains, immediately westward of us. I have heard it affirmed, that they weigh upwards of fifty pounds the Winchester bushel. This may be occasioned by the fertility of the soil, and the attraction of moisture by the mountains; but another reason, and a powerful one too, may be assigned for the inferiority of ours, namely, that we are not choice in our seeds, and do not change them as we ought.
The seeds you were so obliging as to give me shared the same fate that Colonel Wadsworth's did, and as I believe seeds from England generally will do, if they are put into the hold of the vessel. For this reason, I always made it a point, whilst I was in the habit of importing seeds, to request my merchants and the masters of vessels, by which they were sent, to keep them from the heat thereof.
You make a distinction, and no doubt a just one, between what in England is called barley, and big, or bere. If there be none of the true barley in this country, it is not for us, without experience, to pronounce upon the growth of it; and therefore, as noticed in a former part of this letter, it might be interesting to ascertain, whether our climate and soil would produce it to advantage. No doubt, as your observations while you were in the United States appear to have been extensive and accurate, it did not escape you, that both winter and spring barley are cultivated among us. The latter is considered as an uncertain crop south of New York, and I have found it so on my farms. Of the former I have not made sufficient trial to hazard an opinion of success. About Philadelphia it succeeds well.
The Eastern Shore bean, as it is denominated here, has obtained a higher reputation than it deserves; and, like most things unnaturally puffed, sinks into disrepute. Ten or more years ago, led away by exaggerated accounts of its fertilizing quality, I was induced to give a very high price for some of the seed ; and, attending to the growth in all its stages, I found that my own fields, which had been uncultivated for two or three years, abounded with the same plants, without perceiving any of those advantages, which had been attributed to them.
I am not surprised that our mode of fencing should be disgusting to a European eye. Happy would it have been for us, if it had appeared so in our own eyes; for no sort of fencing is more expensive or wasteful of timber. I have been endeavouring for years to substitute live fences in place of them; but my long absence from home has in this, as in every thing else, frustrated all my plans, that required time and particular attention to effect them. I shall now, although it is too late in the day for me to see the result, begin in good earnest to ditch and hedge; the latter I am attempting with various things, but believe none will be found better than cedar, although I have several kinds of white thorn growing spontaneously on my own grounds.
Rollers I have been in the constant use of for many years, in the way you mention, and find considerable benefit in passing them
over my winter grain in the spring, as soon as the ground will admit a hoof on it. I use them also on spring grain and grass seeds, after sowing and sometimes before, to reduce the clods when the ground is rough. My clover generally is sown with spring grain; but, where the ground is not too stiff and binding, it succeeds very well on wheat. Sown on a light snow in February, or the beginning of March, it sinks with the snow and takes good root. And orchard grass, of all others, is in my opinion the best mixture with clover ; it blooms precisely at the same time, rises quick again after cutting, stands thick, yields well, and both horses and cattle are fond of it, green or in hay. Alone, unless it is sown very thick, it is apt to form tussocks. If of this, or any other seeds I can procure, you should be in want, I shall have great pleasure in furnishing them.
I should have been very happy in forming an acquaintance with the gentleman, of whom you speak so highly, (Mr. Smith of Ross Hall;) but, unless he has been introduced on a public day and among strangers, unaccompanied by any expression to catch the attention, I have not yet had the pleasure to see him; nor have I heard more of Mr. Parsons, than what is mentioned of him in your letter. Your sentiments of these gentlemen, or others, on giving letters of introduction to any of your acquaintance, require no apology, as I shall always be happy in showing civility to whomsoever you may recommend.
For the detailed account of your observations on the husbandry
much obliged, and shall at all times be thankful for any suggestions on agricultural subjects, which you may find leisure and inclination to favor me with, as the remainder of my life, which, in the common course of things, now in my sixty-sixth year, cannot be of long continuance, will be devoted wholly to rural and agricultural pursuits.
For the trouble you took in going to Hull, to see if any of the emigrants, who were on the point of sailing from thence to America, would answer my purposes as tenants; and for your very kind and friendly offer of rendering me services, I pray you to accept my sincere thanks, and an assurance of the esteem and regard with which I am, Sir, &c.
TO ALEXANDER WHITE.
Mount Vernon, 25 March, 1798. Dear Sir, Your favors of the 10th and 14th instant have been duly received, and for the information contained therein I feel grateful. Rarely going from home, I have nothing in the way of news to offer you in return.
It has always been my opinion, and so I have expressed it, that the proprietors of the city of Washington, with some exceptions, are, by their jealousies and the modes they pursue to promote their local interests, amongst its worst enemies. But, if your present exertion to obtain a loan from Congress should succeed, of which the prospect seems good, all doubts respecting the intentions of that body towards the permanent establishment of the government at that place will be removed. Confidence will take place in every mind, and the public buildings will be accompanied by private ones for the accommodation of its members. My wishes and my labors have always tended to the accomplishment of these points. The first is all I have left to offer, and these shall be fervent. The principle, which operated for fixing the site for the two principal buildings, was understood and found necessary at the time, to obtain the primary object, that is, the ground and means for each purpose. But it is always easy, from an ignorant or partial view of a measure, to distort and place it in an unfavorable attitude.
Nothing short of insanity can remove Congress from the building intended for its sittings to any other part of the city, in the present progress of the work. Where or how the houses for the President and other public officers may be fixed, is to me, as an individual, a matter of moonshine; but the reverse of the President's reason for placing the latter near the Capitol was my motive for fixing them near the President's house. The daily intercourse, which the secretaries of the departments must have with the President, would render a distant situation extremely inconvenient to them, and not much less so would one be close to the Capitol ; for it was the universal complaint of them all, that, while the legislature was in session, they could do little or no business, so much were they interrupted by the visits of individual members in office hours, and by calls for papers. Many of them have declared to me, that they have been obliged often to go home and deny themselves in order to transact the current business.