George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Anderson (of Scotland), 20 June 1792

To James Anderson (of Scotland)

Philadelphia June 20th 1792.


I had the pleasure a few days ago to receive your letter of the 28t[h] of September, enclosing a letter from the Earl of Buchan, and accompanied with some seeds of the Sweedish Turnip, or Ruta Baga.1 At the same time I received from Mr Campbell, a bookseller in New York, six volumes of the Bee, which he informed me were transmitted by your directions.2 In your letter you mentioned having sent the four first volumes of the Bee, and the Earl mentions in his that he has sent me a sett. I therefore concluded that the six vols. which I have received are those mentioned by his Lordship, and especially, as the pamphlet on wool, by Sir John Sinclair, which you observed in your letter accompanied the books which you sent, was not with those which I received. I mention these circumstances in order, that if there is any mistake in the transmission of the books, it may be set right. I feel no less grateful, Sir, for your polite attention, whether the books which I have received be those sent by yourself or by the Earl. I must beg your acceptance of my best thanks for the Sweedish Turnip seed, and the particular account which you were so good as to give me respecting it⟨.⟩ As I have spent great part of my life (and that not the least pleas⟨ing)⟩ in rural3 affairs I am always obliged by receiving such communications or novelties in that way as may tend to promote the system of husbandry in this Country.

When you first determined upon publishing the Bee, the Earl of Buchan had the goodness to transmit to me the plan 4 of the work, with which I was much pleased, and from the answe⟨r⟩ which I then gave to his Lordship’s letter; I have considered myself as a subscriber to the publication, and must beg to be informed to whom or in what manner I shall cause payment to be made for it.5

I have not yet had it in my power to peruse those volumes of the Bee which I have received, but I promise myself much entertainment & information from them; for the extensive & liberal ground upon which you appear to have undertaken the work must make it interesting to the good citizens of every Country, and for your complete success in it you have my best wishes. I am Sir, with proper consideration, Your most Obed. Ser.

Df, in Tobias Lear’s hand, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW. The mutilated letters along the edge of the manuscript page are provided in angle brackets from the letter-book copy.

1The letter that James Anderson wrote GW from Edinburgh on 28 Sept. 1791 reads: “I send inclosed a letter from the Earl of Buchan [of 15 Sept.] to your excellency.

“I have also the honour to transmit along with it a copy of the four first volumes of the Bee, which are all that are yet published of that periodical Work—of which I humbly request your acceptance, as a small testimony of respect from a lover of mankind to one of their principal benefactors.

“I intended to have done myself this honour, at the conclusion of the former volumes; but, from a consciousness of the work having fallen so far below my own wishes and expectations, in the execution, (owing to a variety of discouraging circumstances in a beginning work, with which it would be impertinent to trouble you) I declined it—nor should I now have so far presumed on your goodness, had I not been urged to it by Lord Buchan, who has been a liberal contributer to this work, and some other respectable persons in this country, whose advice I consider as a law to me. One merit, at least, it can claim that of being seriously intended to benefit my fellow creatures, without respect to persons. And if it shall continue to have the circulation it has hitherto obtained, I flatter myself it may become, in several respects beneficial.

“I embrace this opportunity of transmitting to you a few seeds of the Swedish Turnip, or Ruta Baga, which I can promise are of the true sort, being saved by myself. It is a new plant here, and possesses the singular quality of retaining its firmness, suculence, and other qualities even till its seeds be perfected—We consider it in this country as a particularly valuable acquisition, as it affords us the certainty of having succulent food for our cattle in the spring when all others may fail—It is probable it may not prove so great an acquisition in America as here—But for milch cows in the spring, it is probable that it may even with you have its use—Please observe that it does not grow to so large a size as some other turnips—and never grows large on a light soil. It thrives best on a damp spungy mold, which is to be found in low places where the sediment of water has been deposited—whose specific gravity is small, and which is only fitted to produce a few kinds of useful plants that are cultivated by the farmer—It grows also very well on a rich clayey soil tending to damp—fortunately for its culture on such soils it admits of being transplanted as readily as a colwort plant. It may be sown about the middle of May and transplanted in June—Some seeds however ought to be reserved for a later sowing lest these plants should run to seed.

“I use the freedom also to send a copy of a pamphlet on wool by Sir John Sinclair—and have only to add on that subject, that the Shetland wool, has been found, upon trial, since the writing of that pamphlet to be possessed of qualities still more valuable than was then suspectd.

“It would give me much pleasure, if in my humble line I could prove in any respect serviceable to you or any of your friends, or in any way contribute to promote the interests of your countrymen here—If such thing should occur, you may at all times command my services” (PHi: Gratz Collection).

2On 12 May, New York City bookseller, stationer, and printer Samuel Campbell wrote GW: “I lately received from Dr Jas Anderson of Edinburgh, with orders to forward to Your Excelly, a copy of His publication called the Bee, and a small bag of Swedish turnip seed; which I now forward, & hope they will be safe delivered” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). For more information about James Anderson and the Bee, or Literary Weekly Intelligencer, see Buchan to GW, 27 Mar. 1790, note 1.

3Lear first wrote the word “agricultural” at this place on the manuscript. He then struck out that word and replaced it with “rural.”

4Lear first wrote and then struck out “& purpose” at this place on the manuscript.

5For Buchan’s letter informing GW of the Bee, see Buchan to GW, 27 Mar. 1790. For GW’s reply, which did not include a request that he be enrolled as a subscriber to the publication, see GW to Buchan, 30 June 1790. During the next two years, Anderson continued to send GW volumes of the Bee, and GW repeatedly requested that he be informed to whom he was to make payment. After receiving six guineas from GW in 1794 for the fifteen volumes he had received, Anderson informed GW that he had intended the volumes to be a gift (see Anderson to GW, 6 Dec. 1794, DLC:GW).

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