George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Sinclair, 15 August 1793

From John Sinclair

White-hall. London. 15th August. 1793.

Sir

I had the honour of receiving, your Excellency’s letter of the 15th March, only a few weeks ago. But at the same time delayed answering it, until it was in my power to inform you, of an institution having commenced, namely a Board of Agriculture and internal improvement, which from the great mass of information it will accumulate, on subjects of general utility, will, I trust, be of equal use to Great Britain and America. I took the liberty of sending to your Excellency by Dr adair, the original plan of the Board,1 and I have now the pleasure of transmitting the first fruits of that important establishment. To wit.

  • 1st. The plan of our Agricultural surveys, which are going on with such rapidity, in consequence of above 50 intelligent men having undertaken to execute them (in general gratuitously) that we shall be able to complete, the proposed survey of the whole Island in less than 6 months. The Board will then be enabled, to draw up a general report upon the subject, to be laid before Parliament, in consequence of which, I have no doubt, that some effectual measures will be taken, for the general improvement of the country, in the course of the ensuing session, either by removing discouragements where they exist, or by granting encouragements, where they are necessary.2
  • 2. The first rough outlines, of the agricultural state of Middlesex and of Huntingdonshire. They are certainly two of the smallest, and, in an agricultural point of view, two of the most backward counties in England, but these papers will sufficiently explain the nature of the plan we have adopted, which is, that of first procuring similar sketches, and afterwards submitting them to the consideration of every intelligent man in the district to which they respectively belong, previous to any publication. This is not only a proper mark of attention to the farmers and proprietors in these districts, which interests them more in the success of the measure, but thus we can hardly fail to obtain every fact, or even idea upon the subject, that can be of any material service in the cause.3
  • 3. Specimens of statistical reports to be circulated in England, and which I wish were reprinted and circulated in america.4 Your Excellency will see, in the preliminary address, that I have not neglected to avail myself, of your authority in favour of such an undertaking.5

The success with which these measures are likely to be attended, will, I hope be some inducement, to procure a similar establishment, or a National Board of Agriculture, in america. We might then correspond together, and exert ourselves to bring political society, and that best means of procuring the food of the people, by the cultivation of their own soil, to its greatest heighth of perfection.

I have had of late, several conversations with Mr Edwards, an American Gentleman, who seems to be very intelligent in matters of husbandry, and very well calculated to give, as well as to receive, information upon useful subjects. Having been accidentally led, to draw up my sentiments, respecting points mutually interesting to both Countries, in a letter to that Gentleman, I take the liberty of inclosing a copy of it, for your perusal, incase any thing should occur in it, that may be intitled to farther consideration.6

I beg to conclude with my best acknowledgements to your Excellency, for the very satisfactory information you have procured me, respecting the sheep of America. The materials I have been collecting on that subject, are now almost complete. I hope therefore that it will soon be in my power to present your Excellency, and the Gentleman who took the trouble of drawing up answers to my circulated Queries, with copies of my intended publication, to be intitled, “a general history of the Sheep, with observations on the proper mode of managing them” &ca or something to that effect, for the work, has not as yet had even a beginning.7

With my best wishes for your health and happiness, I have the honour to subscribe myself, with great regard & esteem, your Excellency’s very faithful and obedient humble Servant

John Sinclair

N.B. Since writing the above, I have this instant got a specimen of some Botany Bay seeds.8

ALS, DLC:GW.

1For Dr. James B. M. Adair’s arrival in the United States, see Adair to GW, 31 Aug. 1793. Sinclair enclosed his plan in a letter to GW of 15 June 1793.

2For a list of the agricultural surveys and essays produced by Sinclair and the Board of Agriculture and sent to GW over several years, see Griffin, Catalogue of the Washington Collection description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends , 89–95. For the “Plan of the Agricultural Surveys,” and the “Arrangement of the Agricultural Surveys, and the Persons by whom they were respectively undertaken,” see Sinclair’s Account of the Origin of the Board of Agriculture, and Its Progress For Three Years After Its Establishment (London: W. Bulmer & Co., 1796), 47–51. This book was in GW’s library at the time of his death (Griffin, Catalogue of the Washington Collection description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends , 90).

3The rough outlines were later published as the General View of the Agriculture of the County of Middlesex, by Thomas Baird, and the General View of the Agriculture of the County of Huntingdon, by George Maxwell (both London: J. Nichols, 1793). Both were in GW’s library (Griffin, Catalogue of the Washington Collection description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends , 93–94).

4A copy of Sinclair’s Specimens of Statistical Reports; Exhibiting the Progress of Political Society, from the Pastoral State, to that of Luxury and Refinement. … (London: T. Cadell, 1793) was in GW’s library (Griffin, Catalogue of the Washington Collection description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends , 183).

5A printed copy of the Substance of Sir John Sinclair’s Address to the Board of Agriculture, on the First Day of Its Being Assembled (London, 1793) was in GW’s library (Griffin, Catalogue of the Washington Collection description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends , 89).

6Sinclair wrote Pennsylvania resident Enoch Edwards, who was currently in London, a lengthy letter from Whitehall on 13 Aug. 1793: “I think it might be of considerable utility, were you to draw up for our Board, in the order of the printed Queries, a general view of the Agriculture of Pennsylvania … and would annex to it, an account of any practices in your husbandry, which are likely to be of service to this Country.” He then explained eighteen other subjects that “deserve more particular attention” (DLC:GW). Another copy of this letter, which Sinclair enclosed in one to Thomas Jefferson of 16 Aug. 1793, is printed in the Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends , 26:679–84. For Edwards’s interest in agriculture, see his letter to GW of 1 May 1792.

7Sinclair probably enclosed his 1792 broadside Queries Sent to Sheepraisers in All Countries and to Manufacturers of Woolen Goods in Order to Draw Up A Complete History of the Sheep and to Ascertain the Best Mode of Managing the Animals in his letter to Edwards and possibly in this letter to GW (C-S: Banks Collection, WO 1:21). No publication by Sinclair on the history of sheep has been identified.

8For GW’s receipt of other seeds from Botany Bay in Australia, see James Anderson (of Scotland) to GW, 15 Aug. 1793, and note 3.

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