Description

    Charles Carroll of Carrollton Autograph Letter Signed "Charles Carroll of Carrollton," 2.5 pages, 6.25" x 7.5", front and verso. [Maryland], May 16-17, 1823. Addressed by Carroll on verso of third page to William Gibbons. In full, "When Mr. Dean was last in town he told me the fly was in my wheat confined to the particular sports, but did not think the crop would be materially injured by it. I saw yesterday Mr. George Howard, who told me he heard the fly was generally in all the wheat in that neighbourhood. Mr. Patterson's manager writes that he shall not make more than half a crop of wheat and that the crops of wheat on Carrollton are much worse than his. I wish to know if my wheat is more injured than Mr. Dean supposed when he was with me by this time, I believe, he may be able to ascertain the extent of the damage done to my wheat by the fly; does he think the crop will be reduced by it one third? By the federal gazette of this evening it appears that the fly is destroying the growing crop of wheat in Virginia & that it is committing extensive damages among the wheat crops on the eastern shore, whole fields, it is said, have been devastated. I begin to fear from all these accounts that my crop of wheat has suffered more than Mr Dean was aware of when he was in Baltimore 17th May The fruit at my son's place near this city Mr Caton's farm has not been injured by the frost except the cherries, so that I suspect Harry's account of the injury done to the fruit at the manor is exaggerated. I have just received your letter of yesterday; my fears I perceived are verified respecting my wheat. I have just sent to the Seminary (11 o clock) the horse which Tom brought from the manor for the priest, who I expect will be at the manor this evening Mrs. McTavish is busy in packing up articles for the manor to be ready to load the wagon on tuesday, if it comes to Baltimore on that day; she has yr letter that to Mrs. Caton who is at Broomlandwood, & will return to town this evening. I believe Mrs. McTavish will go to the manor on wednesday, if Clem's wagon gets to town on Tuesday & I hope to follow her on the 23d or 24th instant. I am with regard." Seven months later, on December 17, 1823, former President James Madison wrote to Judge Richard Peters, president of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, about the fly destroying wheat in Virginia, mentioned by Carroll in this letter, thanking him "for the Agricultural Almanac for the coming year...You take a refuting notice of the opinion that the grains of wheat are the nidus of the Hessian fly. This error commenced with the appearance of the insect among us and threatened to injure the foreign market for that great staple." He mentions receiving "a sample of wheat from Algiers" when he was President and that "like other wheats in the following spring, was ruined by the Hessian fly." A native of Asia, the Hessian fly was transported into Europe and later into North America, supposedly in the straw bedding of Hessian troops during the American Revolution (1775-1783).

    Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence. In this letter he also writes that he has just sent a horse to the Seminary for the priest. After Adams and Jefferson died in 1826, Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832) became the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. His executors were John and Emily McTavish and Richard Caton, mentioned in this letter. Carroll was one of the richest men in America, owning 70,000 to 80,000 acres of land. In the 1760s, he had decided to sow his land with wheat instead of tobacco which was rapidly exhausting the Maryland soil. He lent money to his neighbors to enable them to change to wheat. By 1780, wheat was the main crop of the area and mills were built. By 1790, Maryland farmers were exporting flour to Europe, importing goods useful to American farmers. In 1823, at age 85, Charles Carroll of Carrollton was still actively running his farm. It's ironic that the Hessians fighting on the side of the British against the Americans were unsuccessful in the Revolutionary War, but the tiny insects that came with them from Germany were threatening the livelihood of American farmers and, over 200 years later, still attack wheat, their favorite food. This letter has been encapsulated in acid-free Mylar. There are light folds and a seal tear in a blank area, with a faint circular stain from the seal. The letter is in fine condition.


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    October, 2007
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