An essay on the culture and management of hemp, more particularly for the purpose of making coarse linens. : [Two lines in Latin from Virgil]
Page  [unnumbered]


AS it has been thought requisite, by a continental associa∣tion, to put a stop to the importation of manufactures into America, it is absolutely necessary to fall speedily on some effectual method to furnish, at least, the coarsest articles of our cloathing.

OUR country produces wool, cotton, hemp and flax, mate∣rials amply sufficient to answer every demand of necessity and convenience. The quantity may be increased by attention and diligence, and wrought up with a degree of skill easily attainable.

WE see already many families, scattered throughout these provinces, almost entirely cloathed in their own home-spun manufactures; why therefore should any of us despair of ac∣complishing that which is actually practised, before our eyes, by so many?

BY beginning with coarse manufactures we shall begin at the right end, we shall, every succeeding year, improve upon the past, and, after a fair exertion of the means in our power, we shall look back, with wonder and astonishment, at our present apprehensions.

Page  4 WE must now exert ourselves in manufactures, or, from an unconquerable indolence, be driven to the basest and most humiliating concessions, concessions that others may dispose of our lives, liberties, and properties, at their pleasure.

WHEN every thing valuable to men is thus at stake, the author claims the privilege of a citizen, and entreats the at∣tention of the public, to a subject of so great consequence to this country as that which is now submitted to their conside∣ration. It is no less than a certain, cheap and easy method of supplying, internally, the most necessary and considerable parts of or cloathing.

A GREAT increase of the quantity of wool may gradually be effected, by a general pursuit of the means recommended by the congress; but, as it will require much time before a suffi∣cient quantity, for every purpose, can be obtained, it is appre∣hended the inconvenience may be, in a great measure, obvi∣ated, by blending it, for most uses, with another material, which may be easily procured in the utmost plenty.

COTTON may be raised, in many parts of these colonies, with success; and, being useful in all, the cultivation of it ought to be encouraged in those places where the climate and soil are favourable, with a view of not only answering their own exigencies, but also in quantity sufficient to supply their neighbours, who have not the same advantages.

THOSE who have attempted the manufacture of linen in this country, have generally made it of flax, and have been greatly discouraged, from frequent disappointments in their expectations of a crop: Flax sown, even on our best and freshest lands, is often scarce worth the saving. The scan∣tiness of the crop is, doubtless, sometimes owing to bad husbandry; but, where there are so many instances of its fail∣ing, Page  5under the utmost attention and diligence, it is fairly pre∣sumable, that the want of success is, generally, owing to some other cause than mismanagement.

IN Zealand, along the shores of the Baltick, particularly about Riga, in Scotland and Ireland, and in some parts of Flanders, where the greatest quantities of flax are raised, we are informed, that, even in these northern countries, it thrives only upon deep, moist, stiff, clayey, or loamy soils; and that the province of Zealand, which consists, almost entirely, of wet, heavy, low, clayey land, is remarkable for producing the best flax of any part of Europe; whilst the gravelly, lighter soils produce flax, fine, indeed, in quality, but in very small and uncertain quantities. And in those countries they have double, perhaps treble, the moist drizzling weather that we have in these colonies, though not such heavy showers, or the sun so parching as with us.

SUCH of our lands, only, as are fresh, rich, deep, and strong, and have a low, moist situation, can give reasonable hopes for a tolerable crop of flax; and even on these 〈◊〉••∣vourable spots, we know from experience, that the season must continue moist and warm; for, if it proves dry, which oftenest happens, the flax is seldom worth the pulling, either for its seed or bark.

WEEDS, which are destructive to all crops, are more espe∣cially so to flax, which suffers greatly from them, in its good∣ness as well as quantity; nor is it absurd to conceive, that weeds and dry weather should prove the bane of this crop, when we reflect that, from its first shoot it continues a consi∣derable time very weak and low, its leaf small and narrow, affording scarce any shade, leaving the ground exposed to the powerful action of a scorching sun, which exhales and dries up Page  6the moisture so necessary to the support of the flax, and pushes into vegetation the seeds of much hardier plants.

FROM experience, then, we have reason to despair of raising flax in sufficient quantities to answer all our demands. Our climate is not moist and dropping enough, and our soil, in ge∣neral, is too sandy and dry, to rely on flax entirely, or indeed principally.

A TOTAL neglect of flax is not intended to be recom∣mended; where it succeeds tolerably, let the raising of it be continued, but the author hopes to be able to show, that, where the cultivation of flax cannot be carried on to advan∣tage, HEMP may be substituted in its room, and will effectually answer, especially in coarse manufactures, every purpose to which flax hath been applied. Indeed nothing but a total ignorance of the very great ease, advantage, and certainty, with which HEMP may be raised, and of its most valuable pro∣perties, could so long have prevented it from becoming gene∣rally cultivated for domestic purposes.

BENEFICENT nature, which has made this plant so useful, hath also most indulgently fuited it to almost every climate, as well as to every sort of soil; for we find it raised in so many countries of Europe, as well as in America, lying under such different latitudes, that it, most assuredly, may be cultivated, with great advantage, from the shores of Florida to the banks of St. Laurence.

UNDOUBTEDLY one climate, or soil, may suit this plant better than another; this colony may produce better HEMP for linen, whilst that produces better for the rope-walk: For though, on strong, fat, cold grounds, the HEMP may be stronger and fitter for some purposes, yet we may be assured, that such HEMP as grows on a light, dry, well cultivated soil, even if it doth not grow so high, or strong, will be fitter to answer our domestic Page  7wants. We may therefore reasonably imagine, that, in tem∣perate climates, our own for instance, especially in the lower parts of these provinces, and of the southern colonies, where the lands in general are light and warm, they are properly adapted to raise this plant to the greatest perfection.

A MOST peculiar advantage attending the culture of this plant is, that it may be repeatedly sown on the same piece of ground, experience having shown that any dry land, so that it is properly prepared with manure, will produce much heavier crops than the richest fresh lands, and that the same piece of ground, assisted with a moderate quantity of manure, will ad∣mit of being successively sown, probably to the end of time, without any diminution of crops.

HOW easy therefore is it in every man's power to prepare, even on the meanest land, a portion of ground sufficient to raise what is necessary to supply, at least, his family wants? It will not require a fourth, perhaps not a tenth of the ground necessary to produce an equal quantity of flax.

I HAVE heard of three hundred and a half of clean broken flax raised from one acre, but we commonly put up with near a third less, and estimate that as no bad crop.

FRESH lands, sown with HEMP, will produce from four to eight hundred of clean broken HEMP; old ground, duly pre∣pared, will yield, according to the seasons, from half a ton, to twelve or fourteen hundred on the acre. I know a piece of upland, which has been sown with HEMP, successively, for at least ten years past, produce, in a favourable season, at the rate of twenty-four hundred per acre; so powerful are the effects of a proper cultivation!

HEMP also produces a most certain crop, it being by no means subject to those accidents to which flax is exposed, from the uncertainty of seasons; rain, it is true, is necessary at the Page  8time of sowing, and it will indeed be something extraordinary if there doth not happen, during the course of ten weeks, (for so long the season for sowing HEMP continues) a shower suffi∣cient for this purpose; for its vegetation is so quick, that, in a very few days after it is sown, its leaves entirely cover and shade the ground, protect it from the scorching sun, enable it to retain the moisture, and prevent the seeds of the common weeds from sprouting. From this time the dews alone will prove sufficient to bring it to perfect maturity, and, indeed, heavier crops are produced on ground highly manured, in dry seasons, than in over wet years.

THE more we consider the nature and properties of HEMP, and reflect how happily it is adapted to our climate and soil, the more reason there is to wish that the inhabitants of these colonies would avail themselves of its advantages.

IF we had not this invaluable plant to rely on, we ought now to bend our attention to manufactures; but, with it, after a trial, we shall most certainly find it our interest to continue making our coarse linens, notwithstanding the most perfect harmony should be again restored between Great-Britain and America; for, as the greatest part of the coarse linens that hath been consumed in these colonies these many years past, hath been imported from foreign countries, and there pur∣chased for our use, and paid for in specie by the British mer∣chant, a prosecution of this manufacture would not interfere with the interest of our mother country.

THE basis of the most useful manufactures is, with us, full as certain as in any other part of the world, and the gross materials are excellent, and procured in plenty with very little labour. Provisions are good, plenty, and cheap; either ad∣vantage would be sufficient encouragement, in any other country, to begin manufacturing.

Page  9 THE manufacturers, who in Great-Britain are now ar∣rived to such a pitch of skill and dexterity, were once as ignorant in the arts of manufacturing as we are at present. They had rivals and difficulties far greater than ours to en∣counter, but their industry and perseverance have surmounted every obstacle; why then ought we to despair of attaining a sufficient degree of facility in working up these coarser materials, where so little art and skill will be wanted? We cannot pretend to rival Great Britain in such manufactures as require much time, assiduity, and attention to bring to perfection; nor is this a disadvantage to us: Satisfied in our present infant state, with manufacturing those articles that are most necessary for preserving our existence, we can yet employ our hands to better advantage in raising and ex∣porting a variety of produce, sufficient to pay for these super∣fluities which we want in return from the mother country, which will turn to the mutual advantage of both.

THE goodness, and consequently the real value of the coarsest manufactures, depends principally on the quantity of the finer part of the material of which it is composed, rather than the workmanship; in this we shall have a singu∣lar advantage, for we can afford a much greater proportion of the fine part of the material, in our coarse linens, than can be afforded in Europe, where the close working the ma∣terials constitutes a great part of the profit.

NOTHING is wanted but the countenance, example, and encouragement of people of influence; and docility, atten∣tion, and industry in the poor.

INSTEAD of the number of negroes amongst us being, as imagined by some, an impediment to manufactures, they might easily be made very useful, in forwarding the work; they must do as directed, and even slavery itself, we find, in Page  10numberless instances, has not extinguished their spirit to excel.

HUMANITY and the interest of the master bid us treat the female negroes with lenity and indulgence, at least during their pregnancy, and whilst they are suckling their chil∣dren, in the latter universally, and often in the former state, they are too feeble to labour constantly in the field: Had they not better, for themselves and masters, at such times be employed in spinning?

WE have generally a good deal of weather in winter when little or nothing can be done in the field; our evenings are long, and labouring people in Europe imploy the hours before bed time in working on some manufacture; we have many white, as well as negro children, who have strength and ad∣dress enough to spin, wind yarn, pick wool, cotton, &c. though now, because not able to labour in the field, kept en∣tirely idle. If the young and the weak, and, in the winter evenings and bad weather, when they cannot labour out, all the working hands were employed in dressing, spinning, and weaving HEMP into coarse linen, what family need purchase imported osnabrigs?

BY a proper distribution of our time, and employing the almost useless and burthensome parts of our families, espe∣cially where there are a number of negroes, the business of the plantation or farm may go on as profitably as at present, and the necessary coarse cloathing be fabricated at the same time.

MANUFACTURES cannot be carried to perfection in an instant, nor was planting or farming, yet this country has made great advances lately in the latter, nor has any country, with half the advantages of this, failed in the former.

ARTS, manufactures, and commerce, only, can support mul∣titudes of people, in a narrow compass, and numbers will not Page  11be wanting where these are cultivated with vigour and pro∣priety; nor are proofs wanting of the amazing effects of in∣dustry when supported and encouraged by liberty; for wherever there is employment and protection for people, there will population thrive.

WE are certainly now in a situation to make a beginning; when we can supply ourselves with coarse substantial cloathing, our hands will become more numerous, both from our natural increase, and emigrations from Europe, and we shall advance towards perfection by degrees; but what is most wanted should be first fully accomplished; by such means, and such only, can we become populous or truly rich.

IT is a certain fact, though not attended to, that the landed interest will be most benefited by such improvements; the value of land depending solely on population, and rising or falling as the people are numerous or otherwise; the landed gentlemen ought, therefore, as well for their own interest as that of the public, to be assiduous in forwarding manufactures, and consequently population.

PREMIUMS, or personal encouragement, to such as may deserve well, together with bounties judiciously proposed, might be of singular use in promoting improvements, and the manufacture of linen in particular; their good effects have been wonderfully felt in Scotland, and in Ireland, by the dint of which the linen manufacture, in both kingdoms, has been brought to the greatest perfection, and has proved of the ut∣most advantage to both.

THE true interest of a state is not always to insist upon too uncommon perfection in its fabrics; that manufacture, for which there is the greatest demand, ought always to be pro∣moted in preference to any other, and, as we want larger Page  12quantities of coarse than of fine linens, the encouragement should be directed to that end.

A MANUFACTURE, thus dispersed and encouraged, will in∣sinuate itself into every family, and, from its natural con∣nexion with agriculture, it seems peculiarly adapted to the country, and must necessarily concur with it in increasing po∣pulation, and prove a source of many advantages to these colonies.

CONSCIOUS that, in the following essay, little is advanced but what has resulted from experiments, the author can there∣fore, with the greater confidence, submit it to the impartial public; from the importance alone of the subject he presumes to engage their attention, for, deficient as he is in point of abilities, and little accustomed to writing, he claims no merit but that of wishing to do his duty; far from flattering himself that he has exhausted a subject so interesting, and so extensive, he will think himself happy if his weak efforts shall contribute to excite men of greater abilities to take under their considera∣tion a subject, from the cultivation of which such great and important advantages will, most probably, be derived to the community.