Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson’s Constitution for Proposed Agricultural Society of Albemarle, [ca. 1 February 1811]

Constitution for Proposed Agricultural Society of Albemarle

[ca. 1 Feb. 1811]

Several persons, farmers & planters of the county of Albemarle,1 having, during their visits and occasional meetings together, in2 conversations on the subjects of their Agricultural pursuits, recieved considerable3 benefits from an intercommunication of their plans & processes in husbandry, they have imagined that these benefits might be usefully4 extended, by enlarging the field of communication, so as to embrace the whole dimensions5 of the state. were practical and observing husbandmen in each county to form themselves into a society, commit to writing themselves, or state in conversations at their meetings, to be written down by others, their practices & observations, their experience and ideas, selections from these might be made from time to time,6 by every one for his own use, or by the society, or a committee of it, for more general purposes. by an interchange of these selections among the societies of the different counties, each might thus become possessed of the useful ideas & processes of the whole, and every one7 adopt such of them as he should deem suitable to his own situation. or, to abridge the labor of such multiplied correspondences, a Central society might be agreed on, to which, as a common deposit, all the others should send their communications. the society thus honored by the general confidence would doubtless8 feel and fulfill the duty9 of selecting such papers as should be worthy of entire communication, of extracting and digesting from others whatever might be useful, and of condensing their matter within such compass as might reconcile it to the reading, as well as to the purchase, of the great mass of practical men. many circumstances would recommend, for the Central society, that which should be established in the county of the seat of government. the necessary relations of every county with that would afford facilities for all the transmissions which should take place between them. the10 annual meeting of the legislature at that place, the individuals of which would most frequently be members of their county societies, would give opportunities of informal conferences which might promote a general and useful understanding among all the societies. and the presses established there offer conveniences entirely peculiar to that situation.

In a country of whose interests Agriculture forms the basis, wherein the sum of productions is limited by the quantity of the labor it possesses, and not of it’s lands, a more judicious employment of that labor would be a clear addition of gain to individuals, as well as to the nation, now lost to both by a want of skill and information in it’s direction. every one must have seen farms, otherwise equal, the one producing the double of the other, by the superior culture and management of it’s possessor; and every one must have under his eye numerous examples of persons11 setting out in life with no other possession than skill in agriculture, and speedily, by it’s sole exercise, acquiring wealth & independence. to promote therefore the diffusion of this skill, & thereby to procure, with the same labor now employed, greater means of subsistence & of happiness to our fellow citizens, is the ultimate object of this association; and, towards effecting it, we consider the following particulars among those most worthy the attention of the societies proposed.12

1st And principally, the cultivation of13 our primary staples of wheat, tobacco, & hemp, for market.

2. All subsidiary articles for the support of the farm, the food, the cloathing, & the comfort of the houshold, as Indian corn, rye, oats, barley, buckwheat,14 millet, the families of peas & beans, the whole family of grasses, turneps,15 potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes & other useful roots,16 cotton & flax, the garden and orchard.

3. The care & services of useful animals for the saddle or draught, for food or cloathing,17 and the destruction of noxious18 quadrupeds, fowls, insects and reptiles.

4. Rotations of crops, and the circumstances which should govern, or vary them, according to the varieties of soil climate and market19 of our different counties.

5. Implements of husbandry, and operations with them, among which the plough and all it’s kindred instruments for dividing the soil, holds the first place, and the Threshing machine an important one,20 the simplification of which is a great desideratum. succesful examples too of improvement in the operations of these instruments,21 would be an excitement to correct the slovenly & unproductive22 practices too generally prevalent.

6. Farm buildings & conveniences, inclosures, roads, fuel, timber.

7. Manures, plaister,23 greendressings, fallows, & other means of ameliorating the soil.

8. Calendars of work, shewing how a given number of laborers & of draught animals are to be employed every day in the year, so as to perform within themselves, and in their due time, according to the usual24 course of seasons, all the operations of a farm of given size;25 this being essential to the proportioning the labor to the size of the farm.

9. A succinct Report of the different practices of husbandry in the county,26 including27 the bad, as well as the good, that those who follow the former may read & see their own condemnation in the same page which offers better examples28 for their adoption. it is believed that a judicious execution of this article alone might nearly supersede every other duty of the society; inasmuch as it would present every good practice which has occurred to the mind of any cultivator of the state29 for imitation, and every bad one for avoidance. and the choicest processes culled from every farm would compose a course probably near perfection.30

10. The county communications, being first digested in their respective societies, a methodical & compact digest and publication31 of these would be the duty of the Central society; and on the judicious performance of this would, in a great degree, depend the utility of the institutions, and extent of improvement flowing from them.

11. That we may not deter from becoming members those practical & observing husbandmen whose knolege is the most valuable, and who are mostly to be found in that portion of citizens with whom the observance of economy is necessary, all duties of every kind should32 be performed gratis: and, to defray33 the expences of the central publication alone, each member should pay at the first stated34 meeting of his society in every year dollars, for which he should be entitled to recieve a copy of the publication in boards.

12. The first association of persons in any county notifying themselves, as constituted, to the Central society, should be recieved35 as the society of the county, making a part of the general establishment here proposed: but every county society should36 be free to adopt associate members, altho; residents of other counties,37 and to recieve, and avail the institution38 of communications from persons not members, whether in, or out of their county.

We are far from presuming to offer this organisation, and these principles of constitution as compleat and worthy39 the implicit adoption of other societies. they are suggested only as propositions for consideration & amendment; and we shall readily accede to any others40 more likely to effect the purposes we have in view. we know that Agricultural societies are already established in some counties: but we are not informed of their particular41 constitutions. we request42 of these to be admitted into their brotherhood,43 and to make, with them, parts of one great whole. we have learned that such a society is formed, or forming, at the seat of our government. we ask their affiliation,44 and give them our suffrage for the station of Central society. we promise to all45 our zealous co-operation in promoting the objects of the institution, and to contribute our mite in exchange for the more abundant information we shall46 recieve from others.

For these purposes we now constitute ourselves an Agricultural society of47 the county of Albemarle, and adopt, as rules48 for present observance, the principles before stated.

Our further49 organisation shall be, a President, Secretary & Treasurer, to be chosen at the first stated meeting to be held in every year, by a majority of the members present, provided those present be a majority of the existing members, and to continue in office until another election shall be made.

There shall be four stated meetings in every year, to wit, on the first Mondays in January, April, July and October.

The place of meeting, and rules of the society shall be established, revoked or altered, & new members admitted, at any of the stated meetings, by a majority of the attending members, if they be a majority of those existing: but all other business may be done by a majority of those present, not being less than one fourth of the whole. and lest the powers given to the greater Quorum of a majority of the whole, should at any time remain unexecuted from insufficient attendance, the same may be exercised by a resolution of the lesser Quorum of one fourth, passed at a stated meeting: Provided it be confirmed at the next stated meeting, by either a greater or lesser Quorum, & in the mean time have no force.

Those who, for two whole years, shall not have attended any stated meeting, shall, ipso facto, cease to be members. and, to ascertain at all times who are the existing50 members, the names of those attending every meeting shall be regularly entered in the journals of the society.

The President shall preside at all meetings when present, and, when absent, a President pro tempore may be appointed, for that purpose, by those present.

MS (PPAmP: Thomas Jefferson Papers); in TJ’s hand; undated; endorsed “Agricultural” by an unknown hand. Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 234:42020–1); undated. Tr (Vi: Nathaniel Francis Cabell Papers); in TJ’s hand; undated; first nine numbered objectives only; edge trimmed; at head of text: “Objects for the attention & enquiry of an agricultural society”; note at foot of text by John H. Cocke: “The above notes written by Mr Jefferson were put into my hand[s] by him May 1817 when the organization of the Albemarle Agricultural Society was commenced J. H. Cocke”; endorsed (by Cocke): “Mr Jeffersons hints for an agricultural Society” and (by an unknown hand): “An Autograph Copy of Mr Jefferson[’s] Paper, containing his ideas as to the proper objects of an Agricultural Socie[ty] May 1817.” 2d Tr (ViHi: Agricultural Society of Albemarle Minute Book, 4–5); first nine numbered objectives only. First nine numbered objectives printed in Rules and Regulations of the Agricultural Society of Albemarle (Richmond, 1818), 3–4, with copy at ViU containing manuscript notation attributing these objectives to TJ. Enclosed in TJ to Wilson Cary Nicholas, 1 Feb. 1811.

TJ prepared this constitution at Poplar Forest after a conversation with Wilson Cary Nicholas, for whom he had previously prepared a list of approved publications on agriculture (TJ to Nicholas, 16 Dec. 1809, and enclosure). His efforts to inspire the creation of a local agricultural society bore delayed fruit when the Agricultural Society of Albemarle first met on 5 May 1817. Thirty men attended, including TJ, his son-in-law Thomas Mann Randolph, his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and representatives from Fluvanna, Louisa, Nelson, and Orange counties. TJ was appointed to a five-member committee to prepare “rules and regulations for the government of the society.” He became a member by proxy at the society’s next meeting in October 1817, where the members adopted the first nine objectives almost exactly as they were composed here. They did not, however, follow the organizational specifics TJ had proposed in 1811. He did not attend subsequent meetings and was largely uninvolved with the society thereafter, although he forwarded letters to the membership in 1821 and 1824 and was made an honorary member the latter year (Rodney H. True, “Early Days of the Albemarle Agricultural Society,” and “Minute Book of the Agricultural Society of Albemarle,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1918 [1921], 1:241–59 and 261–349, esp. 263–8 [for the constitution as adopted], 270, 293, 302, 304; TJ to Peter Minor, 9 Mar. 1821, 10 Sept. 1824).

greendressings are crops such as buckwheat, rye, peas, or oats, plowed “into the ground in summer, to enrich the soil” (Samuel Deane, The New-England Farmer; or, Georgical Dictionary [Worcester, Mass., 1790], 116; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 32 vols. description ends , 26:577, 658). The similar association formed at the seat of our government was the Richmond Society for Promoting Agriculture, founded on 29 Jan. 1811 with John Marshall as president (Richmond Enquirer, 12 Feb. 1811).

1Reworked in Dft from “adjacent counties of Albemarle & Fluvanna.”

2In Dft TJ here canceled “frequent.”

3Word interlined in Dft in place of “sensible.”

4Word interlined in Dft in place of “materially.”

5Word interlined in Dft in place of “limits.”

6Preceding four words interlined in Dft in place of “either.”

7Remainder of sentence reworked in Dft from “exercising his own judgment, and applying it to his own situation, might adopt from this general depository whatever practices he should find consonant with these.”

8Word interlined in Dft in place of “of course.”

9Preceding four words interlined in Dft in place of “the obligation.”

10In Dft TJ here canceled “assembly.”

11Word interlined in Dft in place of “men.”

12Paragraph substituted in Dft for “We will now state some of the objects which we think should engage the attention of these societies.”

13Preceding three words interlined in Dft.

14Word interlined in Dft.

15Word interlined in Dft.

16Preceding four words interlined in Dft.

17Preceding nine words interlined in Dft in place of “as the horse, mule, ass, cow, sheep, hog, goat, domestic fowls, fish, rabbit.”

18In Tr TJ here canceled “animals.”

19Dft and both Trs: “markets.” Preceding two words interlined in MS and Dft.

20Preceding three words interlined in Dft in place of “the second.”

21Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “husbandry.”

22Preceding two words interlined in Dft.

23Word interlined in Dft.

24Word interlined in Dft in place of “common.”

25Reworked in Dft from “the farm.”

262d Tr: “in the district inhabited by the members of the society.”

27Reworked in Dft from “which should include.”

28Reworked in Dft from “which should present to them the better practices.”

29Preceding five words interlined in Dft in place of “man.”

30Sentence interlined in Dft.

31Preceding two words interlined in Dft.

32Word interlined in Dft in place of “shall” here and twice more in this paragraph.

33Word interlined in Dft in place of “meet.”

34Word interlined in Dft in place of “quarterly.”

35Preceding three words interlined in Dft in place of “shall be considered.”

36Word interlined in Dft in place of “shall.”

37Remainder of paragraph interlined in Dft.

38Word interlined in Dft in place of “members.”

39Preceding four words interlined in Dft in place of “for.”

40In Dft TJ here canceled “from whatever quarter <proposed> suggested.”

41Word interlined in Dft in place of “organisation or.”

42Word interlined in Dft in place of “ask.”

43Word interlined in Dft in place of “fraternity.”

44Word reworked in Dft from “filiation.”

45Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “them.”

46Word interlined in Dft in place of “may.”

47Word interlined in Dft in place of “for.”

48Preceding two words interlined in Dft.

49Word interlined in Dft in place of “particular.”

50Preceding two words interlined in Dft.

Index Entries

  • Agricultural Society of Albemarle; TJ’s proposed constitution for search
  • agriculture; implements of search
  • agriculture; Richmond Society for Promoting Agriculture search
  • agriculture; threshing machines search
  • agriculture; use of gypsum in search
  • Albemarle County, Va.; Agricultural Society of search
  • barley; as farm produce search
  • beans; as farm produce search
  • buckwheat search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • Cocke, John Hartwell (1780–1866); and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • Constitution for Proposed Agricultural Society of Albemarle (Thomas Jefferson) search
  • corn; Indian search
  • cotton; as crop search
  • flax; and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • Fluvanna County, Va.; and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • food; barley search
  • food; buckwheat search
  • food; millet search
  • food; oats search
  • food; peas search
  • grass; and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • greendressings search
  • hemp; as cash crop search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; agricultural improvements search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Constitution for Proposed Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • Jerusalem artichokes search
  • livestock; draught animals search
  • Louisa County, Va.; and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • machines; threshing search
  • Marshall, John; and Richmond Society for Promoting Agriculture search
  • millet search
  • Nicholas, Wilson Cary (1761–1820); and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • oats; and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • Orange County, Va.; and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • oxen; used in agriculture search
  • peas; as crop search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • potatoes search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • Richmond, Va.; agricultural society of search
  • Richmond Society for Promoting Agriculture search
  • Rules and Regulations of the Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • rye; as crop search
  • tobacco; as cash crop search
  • turnips; as crop search
  • wheat; as cash crop search