James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Maury, 4 December 1819

From William Maury

Charleston 4 Decr 1819

Dear Sir,

It certainly will appear singular to you that a merchant should make a communication upon a subject so different from his occupation, to an Agricultural Society, but this is the object of my letter in the hope that it may be serviceable.

Perhaps you may remember when I had the pleasure of being at your House, that we had some conversation upon the effect which the second crop of Clover had upon Horses, viz salivation—by accident I mentioned this to a gentleman in Boston & that you could not account for it. He told me it was owing to a weed which springs up with the second crop, the seed of which is amongst the clover seed; called “Lobelia inflata” or Indian Tobacco, a description of which will be found in the American Medical Botany by Jacob Bigelow,1 published in Boston. This he has known to have had effect upon the Human frame in cases where Mercury has failed.

When in Boston the Agricultural Society at Brighton met,2 to which meeting I went, & was highly gratified at the display of Cattle & Manufactures, some fine cloths were exhibited & the judges said if there was any superiority in the finest English it could only be in those few pieces which were manufactured for some of our Royal folks at 110 /. ⅌ yard.

I heard from my Father 25 Octr. He was quite well & seemed to think he could give you some encouragement for shipping your crop of Tobacco. He was selling very fine leaf at 8½ d. Pray present my compliments to Mrs Madison & with remembrance to my fellow traveller I have the honor to be Dear Sir Your most obedient servant

William Maury


1Jacob Bigelow, American Medical Botany, Being a Collection of the Native Medicinal Plants of the United States, Containing Their Botanical History and Chemical Analysis, and Properties and Uses in Medicine, Diet and the Arts, with Coloured Engravings (3 vols.; Boston, 1817–20; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 40247).

2For the annual Brighton agricultural fair, which was sponsored by the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture and featured premiums awarded for livestock improvement, domestic manufactures, and a great array of agricultural products, see Thornton, Cultivating Gentlemen, 57, 95–103.

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