James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Samuel Wyllys Pomeroy, 12 August 1821

From Samuel Wyllys Pomeroy

Brighton 12 August 1821.


I have to acknowledge the rect of your highly valued favor of 21 Ult. with the samples of flax in the several Stages of preparation by the late invented machines. They were exhibited to the Trustees of the Massct. Agril. Society at their meeting yesterday, & afforded much gratification as nothing of the kind had been seen by any member of the board—a lively interest was excited, which resulted in a vote authorising a comme. to offer premiums for models of the machines; deeming it impracticable to obtain them at present, compleat, owing to the jealousy of foreign governments, and presuming that the ingenuity of our mechanics would overcome all obstacles could they but possess an accurate model.

As it is possible, Sir, that you may not have met with an elaborate report of a Comme. of the House of Commons on the subject of two flax machines invented in England—or with an accot of one contained in “Les Archives Philosophiques &c” invented in France, published in our journal for Jany. 1819, I herewith transmit that number.1

It appears by late accounts from England and by the French account, that boiling in an alkaline lye or immer[s]ing in sulphuric acid is necessary to finish the article after being dressed by the machines. I am inclined to think that if the flax was subjected to the operation of Steam for a few hours, those deleterious substances might be dispensed with, and the facility of dressing so much increased as to compensate for the extra expence—with the mills now in use in this country, it probably is the best mode of preparation—and our board are about to offer premiums for specimens of flax prepared by Steam the present season, & it is probable that our next Jany. Journal may contain the results.

I have packed with the journal some seed of the Yellow Aberdeen Turnip sent me by Mr Young2 the Secretary to the Nova Scotia board of Agre., who recd it last year from Scotland: he states that it is a new & Superior variety for the Table, retaining its sweetness & keeping good nearly as long as the Rutabaga. I hope it may arrive in time to produce a crop the present season, should you not have been possess’d of the same kind. I remain Sir with high respect & consideration your obt &c

S W Pomeroy

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Pomeroy referred to the “Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on Petitions relating to Machinery for Manufacturing Flax, May 23d, 1817,” an “English Account of Mr. Lee’s Invention of a New Mode of Manufacturing Hemp and Flax, published in 1815,” “On the Preparation of Flax and Hemp without Steeping,” and “Same Subject Continued, from Les Archives Philosophiques Politiques et Literaires, No. 2,” in Massachusetts Agricultural Repository and Journal 5 (1819): 268–81.

2John Young (1773–1837), a Scottish-born Nova Scotia merchant, published a series of letters on agriculture in the Halifax Acadian Recorder under the the pseudonym “Agricola” between July 1818 and the spring of 1821. The letters helped spark the creation, in 1819, of a Central Board of Agriculture, of which Young became secretary and treasurer, but the legislature failed to renew its charter in 1826. Young was elected to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in 1824 and served as a member until his death (Francess G. Halpenny, ed., Dictionary of Canadian Biography [15 vols. to date; Toronto, 1966–], 7:930–34).

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