George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Landon Carter, 27 October 1796

Cleve 27. October 1796

Dear Sir

Owing to my absence from home on the arrival of our weekly post, I did not receive your Favor of the 17th inst. until the 24th at night. I immediately prepared a Letter for continuance of the correspondence, you seemed to be willing to comply with—Upon a review of that Letter tho, I resolved to suppress it on acct of the subject: That was of a nature to involve too much of conjecture. Your well known Character assures me that you wish only to tread upon established ground: Therefore the food of Plants is too unasscertained a subject, I imagine, to be acceptable.

I will for the present content myself with laying before you some experience, that I have had, in the course of crops best adapted to the restoration of the Land: And I must request you to keep in view the postulata in my late Letter. I once wrote a Society in George Town in Culpepper County; which was printed in the Gazzette, by Timothy Green, in Fredericksburg, 9. Octobe[r] 1794. Extra: That too would perhaps aid my letter; but I must request you to suppose me to have been free from those blunders, the Coppyist, or Printer, have stamped upon it; for it is by a false stop changed from my expression.

The rational conclusion from my Postulata is, that cultivation under fit Crops & proper method, will restore land from a State of stirillity to a pristine fertillity. If Earth is considered to enter into the composition of vegitable food, that is seen to circulate in the Air; & a free divided state of the Soil, under proper guards against heat, must be the most ap[t] state for attracting matter so arranged: And the same may be remarked of each matter that has ever been advocated as the Chief agent in that business.

The mode of Plowing I have pointed out; and you will see my choice of Crops, in the publication alluded to, fully argued as to fitness. I have chiefly now to express my favorite arrangement.

A naked Fallow I deem to be destructive of the Land; and even when manured it is but a cross operation. I would practice Fallow in preferrence to Indian Corn preparation; for small grain: But I would solicit shade, in aid to oblique plowing, to make my Fallow conducive to fertillity. Indian Pease is the growth I have adopted, not merely for its shade but as a moderate claimant from the Earth, by means of its direct down root; and because it occasions a profuse tendency to it; of such aerial matters as lead to fructify the Earth: For that plant strongly attracts from the Air. To make this draft the more copious, it will perhaps occur to you that there must be a croud of them together, for collectiveness is not, in this case, as two to three but as two to four. On account of those ideas I never sow them broad; I should thereby single the pease, and loose the benefit of Plowing thro’ the season: Leaving the soil to grow compact, and in a Level position; which reduces the surface, that presents to the Air, to the least possible extent. I plant the pease 12, 15, or even 20, in a place—say in furrows three feet apart & 18, to 30 inches in the step; tho I have it in contemplation to put in future 10, to 12, & only one foot in the step; and when I plow them, the mouldbd always directs the cast to a ridge in the middle; So as that the pease will ultimately stand on a little ridge: And I plow so close as even to start them & press them over.

Let not this alarm the Farmer; for the plant sustains so much from the air, that it never flags for so rude a push, but gathers vigor from the near approach of the air to its ruits: Nor can they suffer injury from a crouded state, for the Same reason; but rather acquire accumulated supplies by the association. My Letter grows long, and the continuation of the subject must be deferred.

I am equally with you convinced of the utillity of Societies toward the promotion of any Science; and should exult to find an Establishment of that kind, under cong[e]nial Auspices, in some way practicable. A Recluse myself, and under a consequent want of Influence, any attempt by me to set such a thing on foot would of course be fruitless; therefore has not been at all aimed at on my part. But I willingly would follow; tho I cannot lead. I am Dear Sir with every Sentiment of Esteem and respect for you and for your relative regards Your most Obt & very hmble Servant

Landon Carter

P.S. As possibly you may not come at once to the Gazzette [and] it may be necessary for the better understanding my La[st] post I have inclose you one from my File—to be returned.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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