George Washington Papers

Circular on the State of American Agriculture, 25 August 1791

Circular on the State of American Agriculture

Philadelphia, August 25th 1791

Dear Sir,

Some enquiries having been made of me by important Characters on the state of agriculture in America, comprehending its Several relations, and intended to ascertain the value of our lands, with their yield in the several kinds of grain, grass &ca—the prices of farming stock, the prices of produce &ca together with a list of the Taxes in the different States, which may in any way affect the Farmer—As an object highly interesting to our country, I have determined to render the most just and satisfactory answers that the best information, which I can obtain from different parts of the United States will enable me to give.

With this view my confidence in your disposition and knowledge leads me to offer to your enquiry and to request from your intelligence as early information as may be convenient on the following heads.

1. The fee simple prices of farming lands in such parts of the State of Virginia, as are neither so near to large Towns as to enhance their value, nor so distant from market as greatly to reduce it, or to make the situation inconvenient—In your answer to this enquiry, be pleased to note, general⟨ly⟩ the situations, the soil, and if it be practicable⟨,⟩ the proportions of arable, pasture, and wood land.

2. The rents of the same lands, when leased, and, generally, the terms of lease.

3. The average product of the same lands in wheat, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, beans, pease, potatoes, turnips, grasses, hemp, flax &ca—in the common mode of husbandry now practised.

4. The average prices of these articles when sold at the Farm, or carried to the nearest market.

5. The average prices of good working horses, working Oxen, milch-cows, sheep, hogs, poultry &ca.

6. The average price of beef, pork, mutton, veal, and butter and cheese in the neighbourhood, or at the nearest market-Towns.

7. The price of wrought iron, whence the prices of farming utensils may be inferred.

8. A list of the Taxes laid in the State of Virginia.

The tendency of this enquiry will be my apology for the trouble it may give you. With great regard, I am dear ⟨mutilated⟩ Your most obedient servant

Go: Washington

LS (photocopy), in the hand of William Jackson, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. According to the letter-book copy, GW sent this circular to David Stuart of Virginia, Philip Schuyler of New York (copy, MH: Jared Sparks Collection), Thomas Johnson of Maryland, Thomas Hartley of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Lowrey of New Jersey. The copies sent to the last three men have not been found. GW added a postscript to Stuart’s letter: “If you were to confine yourself to the Counties of Fairfax, Loudoun, Berke⟨ley,⟩ Prince William & Fauquier—or even to the three first, my object will be answered by these enquiries of you.” Apparently in similar postscripts, GW also asked Johnson to focus on Montgomery, Frederick, and Washington counties, Md., and Hartley on York and Franklin counties, Pennsylvania.

For background to this circular, see Arthur Young to GW, 25 Jan., and GW to Young, 15 Aug. and note 2. For extant replies to it, see Schuyler to GW, 3 Sept., Hartley to GW, 24 Sept., Johnson to GW, 10 Nov., and Stuart to GW, 18 November. GW sent a copy of the circular, with copies of the answers of Hartley, Johnson, and Stuart, to Young on 5 December. After GW’s death Young published GW’s correspondence with him, including this circular and its responses, as well as Thomas Jefferson’s notes to GW of 3 Aug. (see GW to Young, 15 Aug., n.2).

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