Extract of a Letter, concerning the Soil proper for FLAX.


IT is true, that a gravelly, sandy, or light Soil, produces fine Flax, but then it is in a small Quantity, and the Seed dege­nerate [...] the first-or second Year at farthest; whilst a deep, stiff, moist, clayey Soil, under proper Tillage, produces the best Flax Seed, and a much larger Quantity of Flax. I am the forward­er to assert this, since I know that the Dutch, whose great Success in the Linnen Trade is a strong Proof of their superior Knowlege, scarce sow any Flax Seed in the Province of Holland, because it is a light sandy Soil; but raise as good Flax-Seed and Flax as any in Europe, in the deep, wet, heavy, stiff, clayey Grounds in the Province of Zealand. This is so true, that the Flax-Seed raised there always yields a higher Price, and is constantly preferred to any Seed imported from the Baltick. The Dutch do indeed im­port Flax-Seed from Riga; but not, as is generally said▪ because their own degenerates: They import it as Merchants only, and purely to supply the Necessities of othe [...] sandy Countries▪ as Part of Germany, and most of the [Page 2] Seventeen Provinces. But had they a sufficient Quantity of clayey Soil, [...] that in Zealand, for raising Seed answerable to this great Demand, they would never import a Grain.

I am, &c. 'R. W. M.'

Of the Cultivation of FLAX. LETTER II.


I Have already given you a short Account of the Soils I wou'd recommend for the Culture of Flax and Flax-Seed, and shall now proceed [...]o inform you of the Manner in which I judge the G [...]ound ought to be dressed and ti [...]ed, previous to it's being sown. And in order to this, I shall beg Leave to point out to you the Method that is practised in Zealand a [...]d Flanders, and to intersperse some Remarks upon it which may be of Service to our­selves.

I have not many Things to observe in Relation to Manures, The Dutch use Dung and Ashes, and sometimes h [...]m [...]n O [...]dure in smaller Pion of Ground well fallowed. We have, besides the former, Ma [...]le, L [...]me. Mo [...]r­ing, and Wreck, with several others, which are all, in d [...]fferent Soils, very good for Flax, and some of them, perhaps, more valuable than Dung, Dung, if not sufficiently old and rotten, is apt to throw up Weeds in great Quanti [...]y, and thereby not only increases the Expence of Weeding, but be­sides injures the Flax: Whi [...]st Marle, Lime, and Sea Wreck are free from this inconveniency▪ and preferable upon that Account. This Particular is of great moment, and should always be attended to by the Husbandman, in the choice o [...] his Manures: Weeds are destructive to all Crops, but are so espe­cially to Flax, which suffers greatly from them, both in it's Goodness and it' [...] Quantity.

In the Tillage of the Ground I shall be more minute, because I am a­fraid there lie some Prejudices against the Method I design to recommend, which nothing can so effectually remove, as an exact Account of the Dutch and Flemish H [...]sba [...]dry in this particular.

In Zealand, where the [...]ands are such as I think best for Flax, deep, [...] wet and clay [...], they take two different Methods to bring them into prop [...] Order. They either give Leigh Grounds three, four, or more Ploughings, with a Summer Fallowi [...]g; or prepare them for the Flax by preceding Crops, in the following manner. After proper Dunging, and two or more Plough­ings, they take a [...]rop of Corn off their Lands; the next Year they plant them with Madder, which remains two Years in the Ground; and the [...] Year they sow Flax in it. By these means the Ground is well broke: For, [...] the two Ploughings [...]or the Corn-crop, and the natural Fermentation of [...] Dung, with several additional Plowings, sometimes five bestowed [...] t [...]e Madder, together with many more to earth it up as it grows; there [...] afte [...] these the digging of the Ground to take it up; all which reduce the Soil to such a Degree of Fineness, as I believe is seldom equalled in thi [...] Country.

[Page 3] Our Farmers will be apt to imagine, that Land prepared in this manner would answer any Purposes of Husbandry. Nevertheless, the Zealanders themselves prefer the former Methods of fallowing and frequent ploughing as the best, to raise a valuable Crop of Flax The clinging together of the Clay, in the two Years that the Madder stands upon it, and the Quantity of Nourishment drawn off by that P [...]ant, leave even those rich and well till'd Lands poorer than they would chuse to have them for their Flax. 'Tis only from the great Benefit they receive by planting Madder, that they are led in­to the latter practice, which, upon the whole turns to a good Account; tho' as far as the Flax alone is concerned, 'tis not equal to the former.

To confirm what I have now advanced, 'tis observable, that in those parts of Flanders, where they have Veins of Clay, as partic [...]larly about Cou [...]tray ▪ they sow their Flax upon Leigh Grounds immediately after a Summer and Winter Fallow: As they do not deal in Madder, Flax [...] first Crop, and they prepare the Soil for i [...] by many successive [...]loughings. Even in the dri­est and lightest Soi [...]s, which are capable of bearing Flax, as are those about Mechlin, Antwerp, G [...]nt, a [...]d [...]ruges, and indeed mo [...] par [...]s of Flanders, they think three Ploughings necessary, and never sow their Flax without so many at the least, and a Summer [...]a [...]lowing.

We are told, that in Ireland good Crop [...] of Flax have been had from one Ploughing, on Leigh Grounds. For my own part, I much doubt if ever we have had what would be esteemed a good Acr [...] of Flax in Zealand or Flan­ders. I declare I never could see one; and I take the Reason to proceed from our Ignorance in the Choice of proper Soil, and Negligence in giving it the proper Tillage. I [...]deed, were I to give my Opinion freely, I think we have hitherto been greatly defective in almost all the Branches of Hus­bandry; particularly, we have tilled our Lands but superficially before they have been sown. Our Grounds designed for Wheat have not been laboured, as those in neighbouring Countries generally are; and our Crops have been pro­portionably sma [...]l. Nevertheless, even upon them there has been more Expence and Pains bestowed, than have been allowed the Ground laid out for Flax. Surely, it is Time to rouse ou [...]selves from this inactive state! Shall we, who almost depend intirely on the Linnen Manufacture, indulge our Sloth and In­ [...]olence at so dear a Rate, and neglect the tilling of our Lands in a proper, tho' somewhat more laborious manner; when not only the public Wel­fare would be promoted by it, but the private Advantage arising from Flax and Flax-Seed would so vastly exceed what may be expected from any other Harvest? No Farmer would sow Wheat in the careless manner in which we have hitherto [...]own Flax, and expect a tolerable Crop; and certainly Flax will bear the Expence of many Plowings and Fallowing much better than ei­ther Wheat or Barley.

I am, &c. R. W. M.

WE think ourselves under particular Obligations to the Gentlemen, who have favoured us with their ingenious and useful Remarks upon seve­ral parts of Husbandry. We hope they will forgive us, that we have not as yet taken any public Notice of their Letters; and are sati [...]fied they will agree [...] with us, that nothing ought to interrupt the Attention of the Public on a Sub­ject [Page 4] of so great-Importance to this Country, as that which we are now en [...] ­ged in▪ We shall therefore proceed to present our Readers with a third [...] ▪ on the Linnen Manufacture.

LETTER III. Further Directions concerning the Soil, &c. As also, the Choice of, and Manner of sowing, FLAX-SEED.


WHen the [...]and is brought into proper Order, by the Tillage described in my last Letter, the Husbandman's next care must be to fit it for the Seed. This is done in Zealand, by laying it out in broad flat Ridges, divided by small [...]renches. The Ridges are generally fifty, sixty, nay sometimes seventy Feet broad, and the Trenches two or three Feet deep, and a Foot and a half wide. By these Means, the Lands are kept in a proper Degr [...]e of Moisture; the broad flat Ridge [...] retain enough to preserve them from growing dry, and the Trenches carry off whatever is superfluous. This Practice I beg Leave ear­nestly to recommend; and, by the Time our Husbandmen have tried it, I am bold to say, they will not find that Danger in wet Clays, which they ap­prehend from them. The Trenches w [...]ll carry off all that Water, which might scald, or otherwise prejudice the Flax; and when that is done, the re­maining Moisture, which in high round Ridges is too soon exhausted, is of absolute Necessity to secure a valuable Crop. The Flemish Farmers are so thoroughly convinced of this, that in their light and drier Soils, they make no Trenches, but commonly lay down whole Fields, as flat and even as a Bowling-Green; and this in order to retain all the Moisture they can get, and thereby protect their Crop from the Dryness and Heat of Summer, I have now finished what I think necessary to be said concerning the Choice of Soils, and the Manner of preparing them for Flax. Upon the whole, there is no Room to doubt, that were the Method I have pointed at diligently pur­sued, the succeeding Profit and Advantage would abun [...]antly reward all the add [...]tional Labour and Expence of the Farmer in this Article.

I proceed at present to give you my Thoughts upon the Nature and Pro­perties of good Flax-Seed, and the Time and Manner of sowing it. No­thing is plainer, than that the Farmer cannot be too nice in the Choice of his Seed, since the Value of his Crop must chiefly depend upo [...] [...] Goodness. In general, the shortest, plumpest, thickest, oilyest, heaviest Seed, of a bright brown Colour, is esteemed the best. The Dutch Boor is very exact in examining these several Qualities, and makes his Trials in the following Manner. In order to discover it's Thickness, he takes a large Handful, and squeezes it until the E [...]ges appear plainly between his Finger and Thumb; for it is intirely from the Edge he forms his Judgment in that particular. To try it's Weigh [...], he throws a Handful into a Glass of Water; if it [...]nks soon, he is sure it is heavy and good; if otherwise, he judges it unfit for his Purpose. To examine it's O [...]lyness, he throws a Quantity into the Fire; if it blaze soon, and crackle much, he thinks he may depend upon it. After all, he sometimes sows it in a Hot-bed, and in short, leaves no Method un­tried, which will insure him that his Seed is of the best Kind.

I have only mentioned these minute Circumstances, to shew how curious we ought to be in the Choice of our Seed.

[Page 5] What I have now to add is an Advice of great Importance to a [...] Hus­bandmen, and particularly so to the Flax Farmer; namely, not to depend on a Succession of good Seed from the same Soil. The best Clays will not preserve the Seed from degenerating by Degrees, if it be sown for a [...]y con­siderable Time on the same Kind of Soil, from which it has been sav'd. It loseth every where something of it's Goodness by that Management; and though less in Clays than in any other Ground, yet even in those it will fi­nally decay. For that Reason it is necessary in all Soils to change the Seed; and the more frequently it is done, the better, The common Rule in this case is, to buy from lighter Grounds to sow on Clay [...], and to buy from clayey Soils to sow on lighter Grounds; and the Rule, well understood, is undoubtedly a good one. But as I am perfectly convinced that light Grounds do not afford good Seed, I must beg Leave to explain the Rule at large, and prevent all Mistakes about it. Where the Farmer intends to raise a good Crop of Flax-Seed, he must avoid light, dry, and sandy Grounds. They are never to be used with any other purpose, than to procure fi [...]e Flax, and always disappoint the Farmer when he hopes for good Seed from th [...]m. 'Tis not therefore those light Lands that can be dep [...]nded on for C [...]ange. The Farmer who expects good Seed, must confine himself to Clays of diffe­rent sorts, which will afford sufficient Room for Change. The Seed raised in the stiffer Kind will be best sown on the loos [...]r, and the [...]e lower, which come rearest to a Loam; and the Produce of [...]hose again will serve▪ for pro­per Seed on the stiffest and the deepest. The smal [...]est Va [...]iation in the Na­ture of the Soil is sufficient to preserve the Seed; and Nob [...]y need be in­form'd, that Clays differ much from one another. In Ireland we have them almost of all Kinds; and therefore can be under [...]o Temptation to have Re­course to lighter Soils, which never [...]mprove the Seed; but on the contrary, constantly impair it. I have been the more particular on this Point; because the common Prejudices entertained in this Country against Clays, appear to me of very pernicious consequence. They so materially affect our Linnen trade, that no Pains can be bestowed to more Advantage, than those whic [...] are di­rected to remove them. I shall therefore add, to what I have hitherto ob­served from the Practice of other Countries, a remarkable Instance of the Usefulness of clayey Soils in this Kingdom. 'Tis known, that the Corcus Lands in the County of Limerick, are deep▪ strong Clays. An experiment was made some time ago, to determine what Effect they would have upon decay'd Seed. In order to this, a Barrel of the most degenerate Flax-Seed that could be got in the North, was carried to Munster, and sown in those Lands. There it recovered, and produced very good Flax; the Seed re­turned by those rich stiff Clays was as good as could be used, and improved beyond all Expectation; insomuch, that the Seed sent ba [...]k to the North, and again sown there, afforded as good Flax and Flax-Seed, as any from abroad. * The Fact is notorious, and was communicated to the Public by [Page 6] another Hand, and the [...] methinks, as obvious, that the [...] Clay Soils are the best for Flax-Seed.

I shall conclude this Letter by observing, that since the Choice of Seed [...] Point of the highest Moment, 'tis a manifest Absurdity to depend upon [...] reign Markets. 'Tis not to be expected that the Dutch, or any other [...], will deprive themselves of their best Seed; we must be sa [...]isfied [...] Refuse of their Flax-crops, 'til we take care to ra [...]se better of our own. [...] to this, that since all Seed is not equally fitted to all [...], we are under [...] absolute Necessity o [...] raising Seed among ourselves. For the Coun [...]ryman, who gets his Seed from foreign Countries, can never be assured of the parti­cular Kind of Soil where it was raised, and of consequence runs a conside­rable Risque of being disappointed in his Crop. Whereas, d [...]d we heartily engage in sowing Flax Seed, in the several Parts of Ireland which are proper for it, the Farmer might depend upon his Seed, adapt it to his Soil, and, with a little Care secure a certain Crop.

I am, &c. R. W. M.
This Experiment proves, that we may have good Seed of our own; a [...] a Confirmation of it, 'twill be proper to inform the Reader, that the Gentlemen of the Society sow'd equal quantities of four different Kinds of Seed, the [...] they could get of each, in the same Land, and with the same Culture; Pla [...]tation Seed, Riga, Dutch, and Irish Seed; and that the Crop produced by that of our own Growth, was considerably preferable to the rest.

THE following Letter come from the same Hand with those already published on the Cul [...]ure o [...] Flax, and requires no Introduction.

LETTER IV. Some further Considerations on Flax Husbandry; with some [...] ­marks on the Time of pulling up Flax, &c.


THE next Article to be considered by the Flax-Farmer, is the Quanti­ty of Seed which he ought to sow. And here it will be proper to [...] ­serve, that there will be always a remarkable Difference in the Produce, in proportion to the different Quantities which are [...]own. For, should a smaller Parcel of good Seed be made use of, it will yield a plentiful Crop of good Seed and strong Flax: But should the Farmer sow a larger Quantity of the same Goodness, his Flax would indeed be finer, and the [...]ncrease great, but then his Seed would be much less valuable. The Dutch, who are not at all apprehensive of wanting Seed, generally practise the latter Method. But [...] their Case differs widely from ours, their Manufacture being arrived to Ma­turity, ours in it's Infant State; what may be wise in them, may be impr [...] ­dent in us. Were I therefore to advise, I should choose to recommend the former Method, until we had brought our Seed to an equal Degree of Per­fection and Plenty. Upon the Whole, a great deal must be referred to the Discretion of the Farmer, and an Allowance made for the Difference of [...] equally well laboured; for a good Soil will cherish a large Quantity of Soil, and afford it all that Nutriment which is necessary to bring both Seed and Flax to Perfection; whilst a like Portion of Seed would dwindle and [...] a hungry Soil, and at last return a miserable Crop. As to the partic [...] Quantity of Seed, necessary for a determinate Portion of Land, I shall [...] [Page 7] observe, that from three to four Bushels * will generally suffice for an Irish Acre, which, by the best Computation I could make, answers pretty near to the Practice in Holland and Flanders.

Every Flax-Farmer, I believe, is sufficiently apprized, that good Weather and a wa [...]m Season are very necessary for saving Flax-seed, and watering and grassing Flax. And yet we do not seem to have sufficiently attended to this particular in Ireland; otherwise we should not, as is generally done, defer the sowing of Flax-seed until the Spring is so very far advanced. In order to rectify this Error, it would be adviseable to sow the Seed the first good Sea­son in M [...]rch, for then in all probability it will be ripe the latter End of June, or Beginning of July; and the Farmer by these Means w [...]ll have Time e­nough before him, for the purposes abovementioned. If th [...]s Method is pur­sued, another considerable Advantage will be gained; a good Crop of Tur­nips may be had upon those Flax-Grounds that very Season, which would otherwise continue waste [...]nd useless the Remainder of the Yea [...].

Since I am engaged in giving Directions for sowing of Flax, I hope I shall be forgiven a short Digression, which may be very useful to the Farmer; when he designs to lay down his Lands, he may safely sow Clover or other Grass-seeds, a few D [...]ys after his Flax seed. The Clover is so far from pre­judicing Flax, that it is ob [...]erved to be of remarkable service to it. It is pro­bable that it preserves the Dew and Rain about it's Roots, and shelters the Ground around them from the Heat of the Sun; but [...]e that the cause or not, long Experience has demonstrated, that they thrive perfectly well to­gether, the Clover producing a good Crop of Grass soon after the Flax is pull'd. This Method is constantly practised in Holland and Flanders with good Success, and therefore I can recommend the Use of it amongst our­selves.

I have very little to observe about the Manner of sowing Flax seed, I shall just take Notice, that the Seeds man must go [...] he Ridge in a strait Line, and sow with his right Hand, and then return in the same Path, and [...]ow with his left Hand; for it is of Moment that he should sow evenly. Some Days af [...]er this, if he intends to lay down his Grounds, he must sow his Grass seeds, and cover them by Bush-harrowing and Rolling; the Manner of doing which is so well known already, that I need not enlarge upon it. For the same Reason I need say little upon weeding the Flax: It must be done at the time when it is between two and five Inches high. The Treading upon it with the Heels of Shoes will prejudice the Flax, but sitting upon it will do it no Harm.

I now come to the Consideration of an Article of the greatest consequen [...]e to the Linnen Manufacture; namely, the proper Season of pulling the Flax. And here, Gentlemen, you must bear with me if I enlarge with some Warmth upon this Subject. I have prejudices to encounter as pernicious as they un­happily [Page 8] are common, and which have so visible a Tendency to defeat all ra­tional Attempts to establish the Linnen Manufacture, and make us a flourish­ing People, that it is not possible to speak of them without Indignation. He does not love his Country who can without more tha [...] ordinary Concern [...] a destructive Practice obstinately adher'd to, and industriously supported a­gainst the plainest Evidence, and the concurring Testimony of Reason and Experience. If Warmth is at any Time becoming, 'tis certainly where there is a public and a considerable Interest at stake; and I w [...]ll be bold to say, that few Things can equally prejudice this K [...]ngdom as the perverse mischie­vous Custom of pulling our Flax too gree [...]. 'Tis unaccoun [...]able Infatuation in our Farmers, purposedly, and with their Eyes open, to throw away a va­luable Portion of their Crop, and after repeated Warnings, in the single Ar­ticle of Seed, industriously deprive themselves of a Return of eight or ten Pounds Ster [...]ing from every Acre that they sow. Nothi [...]g but the Prevalen­cy of it could make us overlook so glaring an Absurdity; and were he not countenanced by Numbers, a Man that flings away his own, and buys fo­reign Seed at a dear Rate, would be h [...]o [...]ed through [...]he Cou [...]try. 'Tis common, and therefore only 'tis not wo [...]de [...]'d at; but for that very Reason it becom [...]s more mischievous, and a Matter of general c [...]cern. I shall not presume to direct the Legislature; but I cannot conce [...]l my W [...]shes a [...]d my Hope, tha [...] th [...]y may, at a proper Time, think this per [...]icious Practice well deserves their Notice. Where Argument and Persuasi [...]n have been tried without Success, Laws and Penalties must be called in to secure the public Good; and I believe, a Clause to prohibi [...] the pulling of green Flax would as effectually advance the Interest of his Kingdom, as any Law that has yet been made relating to the Linnen Manufacture.

In the mean Time, as I wou'd willingly pers [...]ade myself, that all among us are not r [...]solved against Conviction, I shall desire those who are wi [...]ling to hear Reason, to reflect with Seriousness on the unhappy Circumstances we lie under from the Perverseness of our Farmers. We are dependent not only up­on foreign Markets, but upon the Winds and Waves, for the fundamental Part, the very Primum of our Manufacture Every Year the Trade, and consequently the Support of the whole Nation, is, in one main Branch of it exposed to all the Hazards of the Sea; we lie at the Mercy of it in a Point of infinite Importance; and whether our Flax Dressers, our Spinners, our Weavers, and our Bleachers, shall be useful to their Country by their Labour, or become a Burthen to it, and beg their Bread about the Streets, depends in a great measure upon that treacherous [...]lement. This very Season Ireland has lost above five thousand Barrels of Flax-seed upon that fearful Chance which we every Year must run 'til we grow wiser, and learn to provide our­selves with a certain and independent Supply of good Seed from our own Lands.

This Consideration alone is of Weight sufficient, one would think, to bring about a Reformation among those who are capable of Reflection: Were it true that the Flax is in some Degree impaired by standing 'til the Seed i [...] ripe, it would be, notwithstanding, a wild and inconsistent Conduct, to [...] the Hazard of the Whole, to avoid a single Inconvenience in our St [...]ple. But the Case in Fact is otherwise:—The Flax becomes more valuable both [Page 9] from it's Quantity and Quality, by being allowed to ripen. Upon a mode­rate Computation, the Farmer who pulls green loseth, besides his Seed, more than half of his Flax crop; his weak green Flax breaks under the dres­sing, runs to Tow, and disappoints him of his Quantity; and what is still of more Importance, the little he has is every Way inferior to what it would have been, had he suffer'd it to stand 'til it were ripe. In point of Streng [...]h, no Man can be so b [...]ind, as to question the Truth of this Assertion. Maturity is full as requisi [...]e to make the Fibres strong in Plants, as it is in Animals; and it were as good Philosophy to expect Vigour and Robustness from the Gristles of a Child, as to hope for Strength and Toughness in the Fibres of green Flax. In Respect to Fineness, I know our Manufacturers will be against me, and give the Preference to unripe Flax, because it splits with little La­bour; but, if we may depend upon the Practice of the Flemings, they are undoubtedly mistaken. 'Tis the peculiar Care of those experienced Manu­facture [...], to let that stand longest, which they intend for the finest Goods; they even venture the shedding of the Seed, to have it as ripe as possible, when it is to be wrought up into the better Kinds of their Cambricks, and their Laces: And surely repeated Trials would by this Time have convinc [...]d them of their E [...]ror, it ripe Flax were as coarse and stubborn as we think it. I have not Room to enlarge upon this Head at present, and therefore shall beg Leave hereafter to resume the Argument, and to shew at large, that the ripest Flax, as it is always the strongest, becomes also, by proper D [...]essing [...], both the finest and the softest.

I am, &c. R. W. M.
The Gentlemen of the Society sow'd different Quantities of Seed in the [...]me Land, from two Quarts to half a Pint per Perch, and they found that [...] Quantity which afforded the best Crop answered very nearly to four Bush­els; the Experiment shall be repeated more exactly the next Season, and the Result communicated to the Public.

LETTER V. Further Directions about the Time of pulling FLAX; with Ob­servations concerning the different Ways of making it.


'TIS of so much Importance to this Kingdom, that our Flax should not be pulled too soon, that I could wish to add more particular Direc­tion [...] to what has been already said upon this Subject; but it is so nice a Thing to describe Colours, on which the Farmer's Judgment must depend in a great Measure, that I fear I must leave him to [...]is own Experience, the best Instructor in these Cases. In general, when the Field appears of a bright Yellow, inclining a little to the Lemon Colour, 'tis Time to try the Seed of a few Stalks, which, when arrived to it's Maturity, will be found firm and full like that of other Plants, and of a light brown Colour. The Dutch wait 'til the Boles or Po [...]s are ready to crack, and, in some of the ripest Stalks begin to open. Upon the Whole the b [...]st Direction I can give is, to let your Flax stand as long as is consistent with the Safety of your Seed; for, if that be once secured from shedding, your Seed and Flax will be the better.

In the Arti [...]le of making Flax in the Field, the Practice of Ireland differs so little from what is customary in Holland and Flanders, that I need not take up much Time in giving Directions upon that Head. I would fain hope that for the future, [...]ew will be so much their own Enemies, as to pull their Flax before it is fully ripe; and when it is so, I have already described. [Page 10] The Farmer's next Business is to make it, which is done by taking as much as he can easily grasp with both his Hands, and gently laying it on the Ground with the Heads pointing southward; he then [...]kes another Hand­ful and lays it upon the former, not directly across but somewhat slanting, in order to keep the Heads or the Flax still exposed to the South, and thi [...] [...] repeats until he raises the Heap a Foot and a half high. By this Disposition the Flax receives the full Benefit of the Sun and Air, and is preserved from the Damage it would sustain by Rain. This is the Method constantly practised in uncertain dropping Seasons; but should the Weather be settled and very good, and the Farmer desirous of making his Flax expeditiously, all he has to do is to lay it in Handfuls on the Ground, and turn it frequently, carefully observing to keep the Ends regular. If the Weather continues fa­vourable, twelve or fourteen Days generally suffice for this part of the Far­mer's Work; but if it be showery, the Flax must lie in the little Heape be­fore described about eighteen or twenty Days, and sometimes longer, until it be sufficiently made, and then it is bundled up for Carriage.

It has been recommended to our Farmers, in some Instructions published with your Approbation, and made a Condition of their Contracts with the Linnen-Board, That they should stack the Flax immediately from the Field, and keep it [...] in the Stack until the beginning of December. This Practice, I am [...], is attended with cons [...]derable Inconven [...]encies, and does not answer the good Ends proposed [...]y it; I shall therefore b [...]g [...] to offer my Reasons against it here, and I hope it will be understood as a Proof of my high Regard for the Society, that I address them to you, Gen­tlemen, who, I am satisfied, have the Information and Good of the Public principally at Heart, and will chearfully encourage any Thing which contri­butes to it, tho' it should unluckily run counter to some of your Directions published with the same Design.

As I have hitherto rested chiefly on the Authority of the Dutch and Fle­mings, who must from long Experience be suppo [...]d perfectly acquainted with every Branch of the Linnen Manufacture, I should not presume to [...] the Society's Directions, if I were [...]ot very sure that I have those experien­ced Artists on my Side. From whatever Hands you received your former Informations, I must assure you, Gentlemen, that upon a strict and particu­lar Enquiry, I found the Fact quite otherwise. I saw no Signs of stacking or housing unrippled Flax in any part of Holland; and when I asked the Question, I was always answered in the Negative. And indeed, I am sur­prized how any one could be led into so unlikely a Mist [...]ke, as to recommend stacking from their Practice, since it is notorious, that i [...] Holland the Flax is never stacked at all, either rippled or unrippled. I know no other Way of accounting for an Assertion so contrary to undoubted Facts, than by suppo­sing that the Persons on whose Information you depended have unwarily con­founded two very different Directions. 'Tis indeed the Dutch Practice and Advice not to separate the Seed from the [...]ole, 'til some Time after it is p [...]l­led; but I am bold to say, that they neither delay rippling it themselves, [...]or advise doing so to others. The Case, I have Reason to think, [...] the same in all Flax Countries. The Seed we have from Riga has undoubtedly not been stack'd. The Concern of their Magistrates to secure the Reputation of [Page 11] their Flax-seed makes them exceedingly careful, when the foreign Demands are answer'd, to call in the remaining Seed of that Season▪ and to keep it for the Oil-Mills. We may therefore be confident, that the Seed we have from the [...]ce is that of the immediately preceding Harvest, and by a necessary con­sequence, that it has not been stacked. Were it otherwise, those Northern Seas are generally frozen so early in the Year, that our Ships must fa [...]l from thence unladen. The [...]r Seed could not be rippled, threshed and cleaned, and then brought a considerable Way from the inland Provinces of Lithua­nia, and Li [...]onia, to the Coasts in time.

This Letter is so long already, that I must postpone all farther Considera­tions upon this Subject to the next Opportunity.

I am, &c. 'R. W. M.'

Reasons against the Stacking of FLAX, &c. LETTER VI.


AS I have chiefly confin'd myself in the Course of these Letters to the Use of Arguments, drawn from the Practice of other Countries, I shall not engage very far in those of another Kind to shew the Disadvantages of stacking the Flax unrippled. I am indeed convinc'd, and so will every one I believe, who seriously considers it, that the Seed can receive [...]o Benefit from a sapless dry Stalk, which retains no Moisture, and consequently no Nourishment, if it has been made with proper Care. But as I have often wa­ved Considerations of this Kind, I hope to be excused by the more curious Observers upon Nature, if I continue to do so at present. There are Argu­ments against this Practice more obv [...]ous to all Capacit [...]es, and for that very Reason of more general Use. Upon these I choose to let the Matter rest, and beg Leave to insist upon each of them distinctly.

The Receipt inserted in the Society's former Instructions, to destroy Ver­min in the Stacks of unrippled Flax, is a sufficient Proof that they were a­ware of an Inconvenience in stacking the Seed and Flax together. They were sensible this Practice would invite Rats and Mice to make their Nests among the Flax, and accordingly prescrib'd a Remedy. I have not heard with what Success it has been tried, but I must beg Leave to think, 'twould be a more prudent Cond [...]ct to avoid the Evil, than to trust to an uncertain, and at best an i [...]perfect Cure. The Vermin must make their Way to the Poison through the Flax, and cut and mangle it before they meet their Bane; and therefore, notwithstanding all Precautions, the Farmer is visibly a Suffer­er by this Method, and must lose a considerable Portion of his Flax. Should Vermin come at his Seed, when it is separated from the Stalk; which howe­ver is more easily prevented since they have no Concer [...]ents on the Floor, the Loss is only [...]n the Seed; whereas the Damage in the Stack falls also on the Flax, and upon that Account is co [...]si [...]e [...] by greater.

There are other and greater Disadvantages atte [...]d the stacking of our Flax unrippled. The Seed heats more easily in the Stack th [...]n on the Floor. The Evil is not so soon discovered, and the Remedy attended with more Labour and more Cost. It is too obvious to be insisted on, that you run double [Page 12] Hazards of pernicious Damps, when you have both Stalks and Seed toge­ther. Nor is it less notorious, that notwithstanding all Precautions, the Heart of a large Stack may be considerably damaged before any [...] of Heat appear; whereas, upon the Floor they immediately betray themselv [...]. And in the third particular, the Disproportion is still plainer: —A [...] cannot be thrown without shedding a great deal of Seed, nor rebu [...]lt without considerable Labour; whereas, airing your Boles on the Floor is done with little Trouble, and almost at no Expence. These are Inconveniencies inci­dent to this Method in all Seasons, and in unsettled Weather they become intolerable. Some Harvests are so wet, that it is hardly possible perfectly to make the Flax; and should the Farmer at such Times be prepossessed with the Necessity of stacking, he has scarce a single Chance to save his Crop. The least Damp, which is then almost unavoidable, will heat his Stack, which, by the Weight and Pressure of a large Quantity of Flax and Seed to­gether, fall [...] in too close to let in Air; while on the contrary the Seed rip­pled from the Flax, but preserv'd in the [...]od or Bole, lies light and hollow, and may there ore, tho' it r [...]tain'd a little Moisture, be preserv'd from Da­mage, without any considerable pai [...]s.

The Delays which attend this practice afford another and an unanswer­able Argument against it. The watering of the Flax is prevented for one Seaso [...], and consequently every other Branch of Linnen Manufacture propor­tionably retarded. Hence the Benefit of a quick Re [...]urn, one of the greatest Encouragements to Trade, is lost in some Degree to every Person concerned in our Staple, and intirely so to the poor Farmer. The Sale of his Flax and Seed being delayed 'til January, comes too late to pay his Rent, and defray the necessery Expence of preparing his Lands for the next Crop; or should he borrow to answer those Demands, he must pay an heavy Interest for his own, which eats out his little profit. Let us suppose a Farmer has twenty Acres under Flax, if the Land be good and well prepared, and the Season fa­vourable, his Crop at a moderate computation is worth five hundred [...], and consequently the half Year's Interest, which he loseth by bad Manage­ment, amounts to fifteen Pounds. Few Farmers can bear so considerable a Draw back upon their Profit, and I can see no Reason to encourage them to do it. The only shadow of an Argument in favour of this Method is [...] from a supposition that the Seed is the better for it; and this grounded upon the Farmer's practice in his Wheat, which he generally sows immediately from the Flail. But as it is impossible to assign any Reason for this Assertion from the Nature of the Thing, so the Presumption drawn from the practice of our Husbandmen is intirely built on a Mistake 'Tis not from Choice, but from Necessity, that the Farmer pursues that Method. The sowing Sea­son comes so close upon his Harvest, that he has no Time to spare; and if he will sow Wheat at all, he must do it from the Threshing-floor. In other Grains the ease is different, and so also is the practice; and I never heard that any understanding Husbandman objected to Seed of the same Season from it's being thresh'd too early. The Seed therefore, by any Thing th [...] [...] ­therto appears, is certainly not the worse for early rippling; and I must add, that the Flax itself is undoubtedly much the better. For immediate [...] which cannot be done without immediate rippling, is of considerable Imp [...] ­tance; [Page 13] the Bunn ferments with Ease, before it has had Time to harden▪ and the Harle, by a necessary Consequence, comes out the stronger and the finer. The sole Design of watering the Flax is to rot the Bunn in some De­gree, that it may part more readily from the Harle; and the sooner the Flax can be brought into a proper State for that only End intended, 'tis certainly so much the better. When it remains a considerable Time in Water, the Harle itself ferments, suffers considerably in strength and softness, and at last will rot together with the Bunn. Too long watering therefore is evidently pernicious, and yet by slacking the Flax unrippled 'til the Winter, is really unavoidable; the Bunn by lying so many Months unwatered becomes hard and tough, adheres strongly to the Harle, and will not part from it without a long and violent Fermentation; which, tho' it be then inde [...]d by bad Ma­nagement become necessary, is however nothing the less destructive.

I must add that, independently of this, Autumn is the best watering Season. The prece [...]ing Summer's Heat has then mellow'd and softened the Water; whereas in May; which is the Time of Year generally made use of by those that slack unrippled, it has hardly lost any thing of the Harshness contracted in the Winter.

And now, Gen [...]lemen, having gone through the several Branches of Flax-Husbandry, I sha [...]l take my Leave of the Rea [...]er for a While. The Obser­vations I have by me upon Flax Dressing are a Subject by themselves; and as I could wish, for t [...]e Interest of the Manufacture, that Flax-farming and Flax dressing were different Employments, I choose for that very Reason [...]o [...]eat of each of them ap [...]rt.

It would be a considerable Satisfaction to me, if I could hope that what I have already said could be useful to my Country. It has long given me great Concern to see our Flax-farmers afraid of using their best Lands, deep and heavy Clays, giving those they choose a slight and superficial Culture, losing their own Seed while they imported that of other Countries, and spoiling their Flax by keeping it unwatered all the Winter. I have therefore let my­self particularly against those Errors; and if I shall find that I have done it with Success, I shall think my Pains abundantly rewarded. *

'I am, &c. R. W. M.
There have been many Objections started against this Letter, and many Arguments offered to support the practice of [...]acking Flax unrippled, which have reach'd the Gentlemen of the Society. But, as nothing has hitherto oc­cu [...]ed to them, which has an equal Appearance of Reason with what the Au­thor of the Letter has advan [...]ed, they think themselves obliged not to with­ [...] their Approbation of it, 'til something more material can be said against it. The practice of the Dutch, if the Question is to be determined by [...], is undeniably of greater Weight than ours. If Argument is to decide it, nothing appears more p [...]ausible than our Corespondent's Reasoning. One way remains; that of regular Experiments: And whenever Gentlemen will [...] [...]s an Opportunity, we shall readily communicate any exact and accu­ [...] Trials on that Subject, to be canvassed by the Readers. One Caution only we shall beg Leave to give t [...]em; they must prove that some Benefit [...] either to the Flax or Seed, by being stack'd together; since it were pla [...]ly injudicious to recommend Delays without some Prospect of Advantage.

[Page 14]THE following Letter concurs with those already published on the Cul­ture of Flax and Flax seed, in recommending strong, rich, and clay [...] Grounds; and contai [...] an ingenious Illustration of that important Point, drawn up with an immediate Reference to the peculiar Qualities of the several Soils in Ireland. This Circumstance will excuse us to the Reader, for resuming a Subject which we seemed to have d [...]smisse [...]; since it becomes a new one in some measure, by the new and useful Light in which it is consider'd.



THE Letters publi [...]hed in your Papers, on the Culture of Flax and Flax-seed, have, from the great Success of them in Zealand, advis'd our Hus­bandmen to the Use of deep stiff Clays, as the fittest Lands for Flax. [...] in general, I take to be ratio [...]al Advice: B [...]t as the Nature of our Soil differs much from that of Zealand, and we have Variety of Loams not to be found there, I hope it may be useful to enlarge your Directions on that Head, and apply them more particularly to the Circumstances of this Kingdom.

According to some Naturalists there are many sorts of Soils, which differ from one another in their Ingredients, Weights, Colours, and Consistencies; but to take in at present the most co [...]siderable D [...]fferences only, I conceive that all Earths may be conveniently reduced to two general Principles, Sand and Clay; and from the different Mixtures and Proportions of those two in­gredients, the great Variety of Soils easily accounted for. Under the Class of sandy Soils will be comprehended not only mere Sands, but all gravelly, stony, hazely, light, loose Soils which do not hold Water; and under Clay [...] besides the stiffer Kinds properly so called, Marle, Chalk, and other binding Soils, which naturally retain it.

Neither Sands nor Clays are, separately taken, good vegetative Soils: But when mixed in due proportion, they become rich Loams, and afford the best of Crops; not indeed every Crop indifferently, but according to the several distinct proportions of Sand and Clay which they contain, some one and some another. D [...]ferent Plants require different Degrees of Stiffness, Lightness, Heat, and Moi [...]ture in the Soil; and therefore a proper Loam for one may be highly improper for another.

Those Soils which incline most to Sand are readily exhausted, and afford little Nourishment. Sand itself, which is no more than a Collection of small Pebbles, can yield none, and the Earth which is mixed among it, when in a small proportion, can't supply the large Dem [...]nds of a weighty Crop of Ve­getables.

Clayey Soils, on the contrary, are indeed nutritive all over, capable of be­ing broke into the smallest Particles, which become by their Minuteness the proper Food of Plants. But then they are apt to bind and cling, and in that State are as absolutely useless as the very Sands themselves.

[Page 15] Th [...]se Defects, however different in their Cause, are therefore much alike in their Consequences; and, as I before affirmed, mere Clays are, as well as [...] Sands, naturally unfit for Vegetation.

But however, there is a considerable Difference between them. Sands are [...] all human Art intirely irreclaimable, without new making the whole Soil by mixing it with Clays, a Method commonly impracticable, and always in a high Degree expensive; whereas the stiffest Clays may be reduced into a Tilth by Labour, and the natural I [...]fluence of Frost and Sun and Air.

Thus the dry sandy Deserts of Africa and Asia will remain Deserts while the World endures; whereas the deep stiff Clays of Zealand are by indefati­gable Industry, become rich and fertile Soils.

It is true indeed, that in Egypt the Soil is very sandy, and yet affords great [...]antities of Corn and Flax, insomuch that that Country is now a Granary to the neighbouring Parts of the World, as it formerly was to the Romans; [...] this is owing to a natural Advantage which no Art can imitate. The In­ [...]ations of the Nile carefully husbande [...] by the Inhab [...]tants, who prevent [...] tot [...]l ebbing of the Waters by receiv [...]ng them in Reservoirs, give those [...] P [...]ains all the Fertility they have; and without the excessive Moisture [...] which they are dre [...]ched once a Year, and the rich oily Slime which the Waters leave behind them, Egypt would be as barren as the neighbouring [...] of Lybia.

'Tis ou [...] Happiness that we have none of those Sands in Ireland. Our [...]htest Soils are Gravels, of which we have several Kinds, which gradually [...]mprove into Loams of different Consistencies, and end at last in Clays. These Gravels, Clays, and the intermediate Loams, are all the Soils we [...], Moors excepted, which are noth [...]ng else than Loams drenched and [...] in Water: Of these I say but little. If they were drained and duly tilled, they would fall under the Head of Loams; 'til they are so they are [...] and unprofitable. Each of the other Kinds I shall speak to in their Order.

Gravelly Soils are generally dry, shallow, hungry, skully, apt to be scor­ [...]ed up in a dry Summer, and consequently not fit for Flax. They may be usefully laid do [...]n in Sheep-Walks, the Staple being shallow, and the Grass [...] and short; but for Flax or any other weighty Crop, they want both Strength and Moisture, without which neither Flax nor any other Seed sown [...] in Spring and upon the Approach of Summer, can well thrive.

'Tis true, that in Livonia, Courland, and Muscovy, the Soil is light and [...]; but it is a sandy Loam mixed with great Quanti [...]ies of Clay, and [...] different from our Gravels. Besides, these are covered with Snow for five [...] Months in t [...]e Winter, and when that melts in April, the Soil b [...]comes [...] and rich; and to these constant Snows, and the succeeding g [...]eat Heats [...] Sun, their Fertility is owing. Here, where we have not this natural [...], when there is a Necessity of sowing them, the Way of improving [...] Gravels is to manure them with Marle, Lime, Moori [...]g, or other stuff [...] may inrich the Staple and keep it moist. This brings them into a [...] Loam of different Goodness, according to the Strength and Quanti­ [...] of the Manure; but however never equal to the natural Loams or Clays, [...] never thoroughly fit for Flax.

[Page 16] Clays are [...]o be found in most parts of Ireland, they are naturally moist, [...] to them the Richnes [...] of all our Soils is owing. Every other Soil being [...] in proportion to the Quantity of Clay that it contains. I have observed al­ready that they require laborious Tillage, I shall add here, that they [...] it; and when brought into a thorough Tilth, afford the richest Crops. [...] the same time it must be owned, that genuine, stiff, and unmixed Clays [...] seldom perfectly subdued without the Assistance of Manures. Sand, Gravel, or other Mixtures will facilitate their Culture, and lessen the strong Cohe­sion of their parts, which is otherwise too stubborn for the Patience of any but a Zealand Farmer.

'Tis therefore an Advantage that none of our Clays are intirely free from Sand, but incline all of them to Loams. These abound in several parts of the Kingdom, especially Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, where many of our Pastures consist of a deep, rich, black Mold, made up of a great pro­portion of Clay, broken and divided by a Mixture of some Sand. Of this sort are also the Corcus and Marsh Lands in the Counties of Limerick, [...], Kerry, and Tipperary, which seem to be new Soils, made by the Rivers and [...] washing down and lodging the fine particles of Clay, Sand and Shells, upon those Bottoms. 'Tis the skilful Husbandman's Endeavour to make ar­t [...]ficial Loams by mixing Clays with Sands, or Sands with Clays; and to do this effectually requires a vast Expence: But here Nature has done the Work to our Hands, there is no Need of gathering Manures or making Composts for these natural Loams; nothing more is wanted than to give them proper Tillage. Without this indeed the best of them will not answer, and the rich­est Soils less than any other. Several have plowed up these Loams, and were greatly disappointed in the Produce: They trusted wholly to the Rich­ness of the Soil, and that very Richness was the cause of their Disappoint­ment: They neglected to give it proper Tillage, and when they expected a Crop of Corn or Flax, had little else but Grass. Natural Grass thrives so well in these rich Soils, that unless the Roots are carefully destroyed it springs up immediately, grows to a great Height, and gets the better of every [...] that's sown.

I mention this as an additional Argument for good Tillage, which [...] [...] ­ver be too much recommended to the Farmer; and I dare assure them [...] repeated Trials, that nothing else but frequent Ploughings, and a [...] Fallowing, will remedy this Evil.

Upon the Whole, it appears [...]y this short Survey of the Soils of Ireland ▪ that except our gravel [...]y light Grounds, they are all adapted by Nature [...] successful Culture of Flax and Flax seed. The Countries which at [...] supp [...]y us with the latter, are confined to the two Extremes of sandy [...], and deep stiff Clays; We have, besides, all the Loams of different [...] which lie between them, and consequently the Advantage of some [...] them by the Richness of our Grounds, and of others, by a less [...] Tillage. If therefore we do not succeed, the Fault is wholly in oursel [...] we have Land at Will, Variety of Soils and Situations, low, deep, [...] Grounds, which will answer in the hottest [...]ummers; and in cold [...], Uplands and drier Loams.

[Page 17] I shall conclude by observing that nothing I have said, can, without wrest­ing my Design and Expressions, be understood as a Discouragement to t [...]e Use of Clays; I have declared my Approbation of them under proper Ma­nagement: What set me on writing this was only an Apprehension that our Farmers might adhere too closely to the Letter, confine themselves to Clays, and neglect rich strong Loams.

I am, &c. P.

LETTER VIII. Concerning the Rippling of FLAX.


FLAX-Dressing I always thought should be a separate Trade, carried on by Persons who made that alone their Livelihood, and by con [...]tant and assiduous Attendance endeavoured to attain that Dexterity and Readiness which is every where observable in Holland, but hardly any where to be met with in this Country. I am glad to find that I have your Au [...]hority to sup­port me in this Opinion, and I hope what you have lately published to that purpose will meet with the Regard it certainly deserves.

Before I go upon particulars, I beg Leave to observe, that the Business of the Flax dresser in Holland begins considerably before the Place I assign'd him in these Papers. 'Tis there the Rule, that the Husbandman concerns him­self no farther with his Crop after it is sown. The Flax dresser buys it stand­ing, weeds, pulls and saves it his own Way, and at his own Expence. This Custom, I imagine, it would be difficult to introduce among our Pe [...]ple, and as I don't perceive a strict Necessity of conforming to their Practice in this Point, tho' some Advantages undoubtedly attend it, I choose to hint it only, and leave the Whole to the Discretion of the Reader, with this cursory Ob­servation to direct him; that the Farmer who makes his Flax, must provide Conveniencies at home to receive it from the Field; whereas, in the Dutch Method he is no ways encumbered with it, but discharged at once from all Care and Concern about it. This to him is a considerable saving, and can be no Hardship on the Flax-dresser; who, in either Way, to carry on his Business to purpose, must provide himself with proper Housing, and have Room sufficient to dispose of it.

But not to dwell any longer on this Head, where I see but little Hopes of prevailing;—I shall proceed upon a Supposition that he has sav'd his Flax in the Manner directed in my former Letters, and then sold it to the Dresser.— The first Business of the Flax-dresser is, in this Case, rippling or taking off the Boles. This is done with an Instrument in common Use, and too well known to need a Description. In Holland two Men work at the same Rip­ple, which is fix'd on the middle of a Bench, while they [...]it one at either [...] opposite to each other. There they take stroke about, and draw their [...] alternately through the Ripple, 'til it is clear'd of all the Boles. They [...] attended by two Boys or Women, who serve them with unrippled Flax, [...] tie that up in Bundles which has gone through this Operation, and by [...] [...]gular Disposal of their Hands the whole is carrie [...] on with great [...]. 'Tis worth observing that the Ripplers take but moderate Handf [...]l [...] [...] Time, and by that Caution, which is not always sufficiently observed a­mong [Page 18] us, do their Work more readi [...]y, and with greater Safety to the Flax, which in large Bundles is managed with less Ease and often bro [...]en on the Ripple. The Women also, when they tie the rippled Flax in Bundles, [...] careful not to bind it [...]lose; an Error in that Point [...] of more Consequen [...] than can be readily imagined. The Water [...]ng never succeeds thoroug [...]ly where the Bu [...]dles are hard tied; and the Fermentation is unequal in the se­veral parts, as they are more or less confin'd.

These are usefu [...] Cautions, and deserve proper Not [...]ce. But there is another of vastly mo [...]e Impor [...]ance, and which alone affords sufficient Reason to appro­pria [...]e this Business to the Dresser, and take it inti [...]ely from the Farmer.

'Tis not to be expected, at least 'til the common People of this Country learn more Diligence and Industry, that the Farmer should be as attentive as the Dresser to part and sort his Flax. Provided he g [...]ts his Seed well off, and can fit his Flax for Sale, his Concern with it is at an End, and his Care extends no far [...]her: And yet it is of great moment to the Manuf [...]cture that the Flax be well sorted in the rippling. If the coarse and fine, the ripe and unripe, are mix'd promiscuously with one another, the Whole will be great­ly injur'd in the Water. One Part will still be harsh whilst the other is al­most rotten; and the Yarn, by a necessary Consequence, be damaged in a great Degree. In Holland they bestow peculiar Care upon the sorting, and the Women who attend the Ripplers have it especially in Charge. They are sensible that unr [...]pe Flax ferments with greater Ease, and in a shorter Time, than that which has stood to ripen; and that therefore if they are tied up to­gether to be watered, one or other must certainly be spoiled. The Case is in some Degree the same between the coarse and fine, which require the Water more or less according to their Stap [...]e.

I am, &c. R. M.

IT would be needless to entertain the Reader by Introductions and prefatory Discourses. The Letters upon Flax-Dressing will recommend themselves, and the Author has left us nothing more to do, than to com [...]nicate them to the Public in the same Dress in which he has given them.

LETTER IX. Containing the best Directions for the Watering of FLAX.


WHEN the Flax is rippled the Dresser's next Care must be to water it, and if his Ponds will contain the Whole, it will be best to throw in all his Stock directly from the Bench. 'Tis of considerable Importance i [...] all Business to set about it seasonably, but it is particularly so in this.—Wh [...] the Summer Heat declines, the least Delay is dangerous. The Water l [...] ­seth something daily of it's Warmth, and the Fermentation of the Flax, by a necessary Consequence, becomes proportionably difficult and tedious. [...] ­sides the Season for laying it down to bleach, or for grassing it, as it is us [...] ­ally called, wastes in the mean Time, and the Approach of Winter, should m [...]ke the Dresser expeditious. The Neglect of a few Days may throw hi [...] back as many Months, and if he mispends his Autumn, his Opportunity [...] lost 'til [...]pring.

[Page 19] However as it is frequen [...]ly the Case, that h [...]s Stock is too large for his Reservoirs, the Dutch Dresser, when that happe [...]s, houses carefu [...]ly whate­ver he can't dispose of in his [...]onds. — I observed in my former Letters, that stacking is a Practice intirely unknown in Holland; and I beg Leave to repeat it here, that, rippled or unrippled, the Dressers of that Country never st [...]ck their Flax. W [...]t Flax they cannot immediately water from the Ripple, they save in sta [...]ch convenient Barns, as they do the Seed in Granari [...]s, and leave no part of that valuable Crop exposed to the Inju [...]ies of the Air and Weather.

The Arguments in favour of their Methods are to every Capacity so obvi­ous, that I might very well excuse mysel [...] f [...]om laying them before my Rea­de [...]s.— However I can't forbear inserting them in the same plain Way in which they were convey'd to me by a blunt Boor, to whom I applied for In­forma [...]ion.

The Fellow it seems did not think my Question worth an Answer, when I asked him whether sta [...]king wo [...]ld not serve all the Purposes of housing, which was inevitably attended with considerable Expence? He said nothing, but led me to his Hay-Rick, and taking out a Handful, desired me to ob­serve how the Outsides were damaged; how rotten, and consequently how weak and brittle, the weather-beaten Hay. Then ask'd me in his Turn if this were Flax, what kind of Cloth would you expect from it?—The A­nalogy undoubtedly will hold, and I own the Peasant's Re [...]soning so tho­rougly convinced me, that ever since I have look'd upon our Practice as a de­structive one, and accord [...]ngly have endeavoured to explode it.

There is indeed a Difference between Hay and Flax; as the latter is much stronger, it does not rot entirely and go to Powder between your Fingers like the other: It will even stand the Dressing, notwithstanding the Injury it has received. But this aggravates the Evil, instead of alleviating it —If the Flax were so far damaged, as not to bear the Dressing, someth [...]ng indeed would be lost in the Quantity, and considerably more in the Length, and consequently in the Value of it. But however, when that was over, the Manufacture could receive no Damage; whereas now it is spun into our Yarn and wove into our Cloths, which are therefore of unequal Strength in different Parts, and must break into Holes whenever the weaker rotten Threads meet with any Stress, either in the bleaching or the wearing.

I hope, Gentlemen, you will forgive me this Digression; I was led into it by the great Importance of the Subject. Housing is so necessary, and at the same Time so much neglected, that I cou [...]d not wave this Opportunity of re­commending it a second Time to the serious Consideration of the Readers.— I shall now return to the immediate Business of this Letter, and proceed to the Directions to the Flax-dresser, how to water his Flax in the best Manner.

Our general Negligence, in an Article of so much Moment, makes it ne­cessary to recommend the Choice of proper Water in the first place. Two parts in three of those who deal in F [...]ax among us, lay it down in Bog holes, or in Rivers, and seem to think that every Kind of Water is equally good w [...]th any other. But this is certainly a considerable Mistake, and has, I am afraid, done more Injury to the Linnens of this Kingdom, than our People are aware [Page 20] of. Bog Water gives the Flax a tawney Colour, and from the peculiar Cast of too m [...]ny of our Cloths, we have Reason to be satisfied that they retain something of the d [...]sky Hue, which the Flax received in the Watering. Not­wi [...]hstanding the best Endeavours of our Bleacher, our Linnens are in Co­lour grea [...]ly inferior to the Dutch; and I know no more likely Cause to [...] assigned for it▪ than the [...]lack muddy Tincture most of our Flax imbib [...]s in Bog-holes. Those who lay their Flax in R [...]vers are safe indeed aga [...]nst this Evil; but are liable on the other Hand to several Inconveniencies very well worth avoiding. A strong Current disorders and entangles it, and entails thereby an additional Labour on the Dresser, who, besides his Pains, runs a conside­rable Hazard of breaking and damaging his Flax in setting it to Rights a­gain;—add to this, that could the former be avoided, an Inconveniency however always certainly attends the Use of flowing Water. It answers the End less speedily, and procures at best a slow and tedious Fermentation.

By these Observations on our Management, the Reader will perceive that a proper Choice of Water consists chiefly in seeking those Qualities together, which we have hitherto imprudently divided. One Set among us have cho­sen standing Waters, without attending to their Clearness; the other, atten [...] ­ive only to that Point, have made use of running W [...]ters to avoid the Fo [...]l­ness of the other. Each have neglected one main Quality, and accordingly succeeded but in part: Those indeed the best who have used the clearest Wa­ter; but none well, because they did not use together the clearest and stillest. There is indeed a third Quality in Water, requisite to the Purposes of Flax-dressing; but as our People are pretty well aware of it, I need do no more than name i [...], and may conclude this Letter by this general Instruction; that the clearest, stillest, softest Water is the best.

I am, &c. R. M.

LETTER X. The Situation proper for a Flax-Dresser; with some further Con­siderations on the Watering of Flax.


'TIS the natural Consequence of the Observations in my last, that a convenient Situation is nearly of the same Importance to the Flax-dresser, as it is universally allowed to be to the Bleacher. Our Dressers, if any there be among us who deserve the Name, do not seem to be aware of this, and while they undertake only small Quantities of Flax, and allow them­selves the indiscriminate Use of any Kind of Water, 'tis no wonder they should not. But whenever they enlarge their Business, grow nice and curi­ous in their Management, and commence Flax dressers in good earnest, they will find the Command of Water immediately requisite to their Success. 'Tis as material a Circumstance as any other, as even the Choice of proper Water, that there be a sufficient Supply at hand; otherwise the Charge of Carriage to and from a distant place must be laid upon the Dressing, and [...] ­hance the Price of it considerably.

Give me Leave to observe as I go on, that the Necessity of having settled Flax dressers resident in convenient Habitations, and disposed about the Country, i [...] from this alone indisputably made out. Our [...]tinerant Underta­kers in this Kind must take the Water as they find it, good or bad, distant o [...] at hand, as the Place where they are employed affords it; and if there [...] a­ny [Page 21] Weight in what I have offered in these Letters, let their Skill otherwise be what it will, this single Circ [...]mstance must defeat their best Endeavours.

It may perhaps be difficult readily to engage our People in a Method so widely different from their own:—But I would willingly persuade myself that it is however not impossible. Could I see but one good Flax dresser fix­ed in a proper Habitation, and provided with all Conveniencies at the pub­lic Charge, I should hardly entertain a Doubt of convincing the most obsti­nate. The Success which must infallibly [...] him would be an Argument to all Capacities alike, and give irresistable Encouragement to this Branch of the Linnen Manufacture. The proper End of [...] Encouragements is to re­move the Doubts and Fears which throw a Damp on every new Attempt, and to engage the Timerous to venture an Experiment. And surely nothing could answer that Purpose more effectually, than a standing Instance of Suc­cess always before their Eyes. It has been frequently proposed as a Scheme likely to succeed, to bring over Flax-dresse [...]s to instruct and direct our Peo­ple:— But without they are disposed of in proper and convenient Settle­ments, I must think the Scheme deficient, and to speak out sincerely, of very little Use. The same Objections which now lie against our rambling Flax-dressers, will equally affect the other. They will do their Business as clum­sily when they are destitute of their Conveniencies; or should they exceed a li [...]tle in Dexterity and Neatness the Dresse [...]s among ourselves, yet a full and sufficient Instance of regular and masterly Flax-dressing they cannot possibly afford us. To the perfect Execution of this Art, there are so many Things required as can no where else be had but in a well-chosen Settlement; and to what Height it may be carried we shall never know, 'til we set about it in that Way.

I beg Leave to observe beside [...], and as an additional Argument to support what I hav [...] offered,—That without an Instance of the real Advantages of good and regular Flax dressing, our People will scarce be persuaded to at­tempt it.—Whereas, if a single Flax dresser had enriched himself by that one Business, thousands would immediately fall into it. Instructions and Di­rections can only then take place, when due Care has been bestowed, that some there should be d [...]sirous to make use of them; and therefore the best Endeavours to inform our Peop [...]e will probably avail but little, 'til they have palpable experimental Proof, that it is their Advantage to be taught.

You may think this Hint a l [...]ttle out of place, but if you consider it as I do, you'll easily forgive me. It will, methinks, should it ever be laid hold of, effectually promote Flax-dressing, and in the readiest Manner introduce that valuable Art, so greatly wanted and so little understood.

To return,—The most eligible Situation for the Flax-dresser is in the Neighbourhood of a large Lough, or a still River, and there in the most con­venient Spot for laying out his Ponds and Reservoirs. For however strange it may appear to us, who unhappily are used to a slovenly Negligence in this point, the Dresser, who would perfectly succeed, must have Ponds in every Situation. 'Tis true, large Basins of standing Water and slow Current are naturally good for Flax, and may be used with tolerable Sa [...]ty; but they are [...] capable of Improvement, as no Current is certain [...]y b [...]ter than a slow [...] and a small Pond less liable to Disturbance from Winds and Waves than [Page 22] a large Lake. 'Tis probable our People will object, that it cannot possibly quit Cost, to provide against the accidental Inconveniencies of a sudden Storm, or the small Loss of Time which attends watering in a Current at so considerable an Expence.—But I beg Leave to refer them to the Dutch, who by long Experience are convinced that the best Conveniencies are al­ways cheapest, and proceed accordingly in this and every other Case. I should not indeed despair assigning good Reasons for their Practice, if this were a proper Place to indulge philosophical Speculations. 'Tis certain, the longer the Water settles the softer it always proves, and the more kindly it ferments with the saponuceous Juice of Plants. And it might be easily made out, that the slowest Currents, and even standing Waters, exposed to the Ac­tion of the Wind, want some Assistance to make them as soft as could be wished. But as in the cou [...]se of all these Letters I have built only upon Pre­cedents, I am willing to let this Point, as well as others, rest upon that Foun­dation.

To proceed,—As a Situation favourable in every Circumstance cannot always be obtained, the Flax dresser m [...]y sit down wi [...]h Safety in any place where there is Command of Water, and Room for Reservoirs, tho' the Wa­ter should not prove of the best and softest Kind; Springs excepted, which obstinately retain their Harsh [...]ess. Any Stream sufficient to supply him may, with proper Care, be made serviceable to his Purpose. Admitting it into his Ponds betimes, and allowing it a longer Season to deposit gross, hard, and stony Particles, and receive the Influence of Sun and Air, will make indiffe­rent Water equal to the best. Where he has capacious Ponds, 'tis the Dres­ser's Fault if he has not good Water; and without entering into the Reasons of the Thing, 'tis indisputably certain from Experience, that Heat and Rest, which he may bestow upon it, by filling his Reservoirs early in the Summer, will take off all that Hardness which may hurt him.—Indeed differ [...]nt Kinds of Water will require diffe [...]ent Times for settling, some more and o­thers less; but this will be soon determined, and demands no particular Di­rections. The main Point is to have Reservoirs sufficient for this Purpose. Whoever has them may always procure good Water, and without them no­thing but a scarce and lucky Situation can afford Success, and even that but imperfectly after all.

I am, &c. R. M.

LETTER XI. Further Directions in the Watering of FLAX; together with the best and most approved Method of Grassing it.


IN the several particulars mentioned in my former Letters I had invete­rate Prejudices, and the Weight of antient Custom against me. They were Directions to our People intirely new, and for that very Reason hard to inculcate: —That the Dresser should have a settled Habitation;—Avoid Bog holes and Rivers, the only Conveniencies almost we are acquainted with for wa [...]ering;— [...]rovide himself with Ponds and Reservoirs, and stranger▪ still, with st [...]nch and capacious Barns to house his undressed Flax:—I there­fore hope to be excused for enlarging on those Assertions. I was very sen­sible [Page 23] they would appear extraordinary to most among us, and require all the Assistance I could give them to make their Way against received Opinions. What I am at present to proceed upon is of a different Nature, and accord­ingly this Letter will consist of little more than plain Instructions, deliver'd in as plain a Manner.

When the Flax is laid in Water, it must be covered with a Weight to keep it down. Clay, Rushes, Fern, or Timber, answer this purpose equally;— and indeed any Thing will do tolerably well, sharp Stones excepted, which are apt to cut the Flax. However, if the Dutch are to be believed,—there is even in this a Choice: And tho' it seems in Speculation perfectly indiffe­rent what your Flax is cover'd with, Experience, they will tell you, has de­termined it is otherwise in Fact. They use the Slutoh or Mire at the Bot­tom of their Pond [...], which is scarce any thing besides the Dirt of the Flax it­self, which in those standing Waters forms in Time a black and heavy Sedi­ment. This they imagine gives the Flax that light grey Tincture, which is perhaps less pleasing to an unskilful Eye, but takes the Bleach more kindly, and brightens better in the Cloth than the white or yellow Cast of ours. Whether they are right in their Opinion, a few Trials will inform us. Cer­tain it is that their Flax is of a different Hue, and takes a better Colour in the bleaching Green than the greater part of ours. And should this peculiar Kind of Slime contribute in any measure towards it, an additional Motive must arise from thence to use Ponds and Reservoirs, where alone it can be had.

'Tis impossible exactly to determine how long the Flax should lie in Wa­ter. The Fermentation necessary to free the Harle from the Bunn is over in a longer or a shorter Time, according to the Quality of both Flax and Wa­ter. Sometimes where the Water is exceeding soft, the Weather warm, and the Flax easy to be wrought upon, three or four Days will be sufficient. In different Circumstances the Fermentation lingers a Week, ten Days, and, as I am informed, in some Cases, sixteen or eighteen Days. There can be therefore no general Directions on this Head.—But the Dresser who knows his Flax and Water, and has made proper Observations on the different Ef­fects of different Weather, cannot be greatly at a Loss.

However, it will be an useful Precaution in the Dresser, to make repeated Trials of his Flax after it has lain three Days.—If the Bunn parts freely from the Harle, and the Flax dresses kindly after drying, it should be drawn imme­diately▪ it has received all the Benefit of watering, and is impaired consider­ably every Hour it steep [...], when that is over. I shall add, that it is not to be expected that Flax should have lost all Harshness when it comes directly from the Water:—The Dresser who waits for that, will have weak▪ and half rotten Flax:—An Allowance must be made for Grassing, which takes off something of the Stubbornness the very best Flax retains, if it be not o­ver watered.—Our People have the more Occasion for an Admonition of this Kind, because among us it is a common Error to let Flax waste itself by Fermentation.—And we are so fond of Softness, that for it's Sake, in this and every other Article of Management, we give up Strength and Sound­ness, Qualities incomparably more valuable. The Dutch are on the contra­ry sollicitous in the first place for Strength, and will run every other Hazard [Page 24] sooner than that of weakening the Harle;—and indeed the Disparity i [...] [...] ­vious.—If your Harle is damaged, or, to speak more p [...]operly, hal [...] [...]t­ten, there is no Remedy in After management.—Whereas, by the Help of longer Grassing, and afterwards of the softening Engines, too much Harsh­ness may in a great measure be removed. The skilful Dresser's B [...]siness i [...] in­deed, to avoid both, and if he tries a [...]heaf of his Flax daily, as directed in the Beginning of this Paragraph, he cannot err consi [...]erably. But 'til by long Experience he is secured against Mistak [...]s 'tis his best Way however to lean to the safer Side, and draw his Flax too early rather than too late.

When [...] Watering is over, Grassing follows immediately upon it. This is nothing more than spread [...]ng out the Flax upon [...]ry Ground covered with short Grass, there to he 'til it is dried, bleached, and softened suffi [...]iently for Use. The shorter the Grass, the better for this purpose. If it be of any Length, it retains too much Moisture after Rains and Dews, occasions a se­cond Fermen [...]ation in the Flax, retards the drying o [...] it, and frequently ro [...] the Harle. And [...]ndeed though the Opera [...]ion takes it's Name from thence, 'tis not a necessary Circumstance that the Flax be laid on Grass;— [...]ry Banks of Sand, or stony Gravel free from Clay, are perhaps fittest for this Use. Though Lands under short Grass are generally recommended by Flax d [...]s­sers, 'tis chiefly in Opposition to plough'd Grounds, where the Flax would be fullied and discoloured. Any dry Exposure free from Dirt may be used with Safety, and among those the warmest are the best

There are but few Directions to be given on this Head, the most material are,—that the Flax be turned f [...]equently every second Day, [...];— that due Care be h [...]d of grassi [...]g [...] beyond the proper Time, which is almost as pernicious as watering it too much, and that for the same [...]— and that when it is taken up it be reg [...]larly sorted, and the several Kinds separately tied up in sheaves.—The two first of these Particulars require [...]o manner of Enlargement, since the Practice of turning Flax universally pre­vails, and every Body knows that the usual Time for grassing is from a Fort-night to three Weeks, according to the Wea [...]her and the Goodness of the Flax.—On the third Particular a few Words may be necessary, because [...]or [...] ­ing is but little understood among us.— I shall therefore conclude by obser­ving to your Readers, that when the Dutch tie up t [...]eir Flax, which they do in Sheaves as large as those of Corn, they take peculiar Care that [...] Flax in every Sheaf be of the same Length, Fi [...]eness, Strength and Softness. —By this Caution the several Staples are kept asunder and distinct, ready to be applied, each to it's proper Use, to the great Ease and Advantage of the Manufacturers, who, according to their different Wants, may be imme­diately supplied with every Kind.

I am, &c. R. M.

LETTER XII. The Manner of Drying FLAX.


THERE is not any Article in Flax-dressing of more Importance to the Linnen Ma [...]acture, than the one I am at present to consider. [...] Success of every subsequent Operation on the Flax depends mostly on good [Page 25] Drying; and notwithstanding the utmost Care in rippling, watering, and gra [...]sing, an Error here may disappoint at last the Dresser's most valuable Hopes. 'Tis therefore a Matter of Surprize so little Thought has been be­stowed upon this Subject, that no Method of drying Flax will Safety has been introduced among us. The common Way of laying it on [...], and lig [...]ting a Fire under them, is at first sight subject to so many Inconveniencies, that how it should at all be dreamed of, much more, how it should meet with so favourable a Reception a [...] to continue to this Day, the prevailing Practice of [...]he Country, is to me perfectly inconceivable.—That the Smoke, in it's passage through the Flax, must in [...]allibly discolour it.—That several sheaves piled upon one another, and from the Situation of the F [...]re placed at different Distances from it's Action, dry unequally.—That therefore of the same Parcel one sheaf must be almost burnt, and another not crisp enough for Use.—That in the self same sheaf a Heat, convey'd principally by Smoke, acts considerably slower on the Center than upon the external p [...]rts,—and by a necessary con [...]equence, that these must be intirely parched before the other is even tolerable dry.—These methinks were o [...]vious Truths, and which it could have [...]een no difficult Matter to foresee. Add to them the Danger of firing the whole [...], watch by sad Experience we are taught is no imaginary one.—Allow for many smaller Inconveniencies, which will he better appre­hended from [...]he sequel of this Letter; and I fancy you will join with me in Opinion, that among the many Errors we are guilty of, 'tis hardly possible to find a more extraordinary Instance of bad Management.

Had the Reme [...]y been far removed from common Observation, it would be some Apology. But to overlook a Conveniency for drying, of daily Use in other Cases, and which alone could answer all the Dresser's purposes toge­ther, is unaccountable Negligence indeed; and I cannot help blushing for my Countrymen, that it should still be necessary to recommend an Oven to them.

The main Advantages of this Conveniency above all others present them­selves so read [...]ly, that it would be needless to enlarge upon them. It dries cleanly, equally, and quickly, at a small Expence, and safely, and is liable to no Objection. But some Advantages there are, no ways inconsiderable, though of an infe [...]ior Kind, which it will be proper to take Notice of. These arise chiefly from the peculiar Manner of disposing the Oven and using it, and will be best explained in a particular Description of the Dutch Dres­ser's Mana [...]ement.

I have observ'd in former Letters, that whoever undertakes Flax-dressing in that Country, provides himse [...]f with proper Housings. By that Name, be­sides his Barns and Granaries, you must understand a Wo [...]king house, where he breaks his Flax and scu [...]ches it. The usual Dimensions of this place are in the clear thirty Feet by fo [...]rteen, some [...]hing la [...]ger where great Buss [...]ess is carried on, but seldom if ever less. Care is taken that the whole be well lighted, and conveniently said out to receive the B [...]eaks, and at the same time leave Room for Sc [...]tching In this House, and a one End of it, the Dresser builds his Ove [...] wi [...]hin a large capacious Chimney, to prevent all D [...]nger of firing the place.— [...]his Situation saves him Labour his Flax, when dried, is ready and at hand, and he convey [...] i [...] to the Break without Expence. A [...]d [Page 26] this I mention as the first of those Advantages, which may be obtained by a little Skill and good Oeconomy.

He secures a second, and more considerable one, by proportioning exactly the size and capacity of his Oven to the Dimensions of his Work-house. When the Flax is warm and crisp it works with greater Ease, and conse­quently at lower Rates; and in other Respects also to more Advantage. As it cools and gives, it again grows tough, requires more Stress and Time un­der the Break, cuts frequently by the Violence which then becomes necessary in the stroke, runs more to Tow of course, is charged with a higher Price for Labour, and is considerably worse. Hence the Dresser takes peculiar care to bring his Flax in full Crispness to break, and builds his oven so, that in one Day he may work off what it has dri [...]d in the foregoing Night. By this means the Bunn is always b [...]ittle, flies off with few light strokes, and leaves the Harle sound and in perfect strength.

At their Rate of working, an Oven fif [...]een Feet long, ten Feet wide, and five Feet high, will keep as many Hands employ'd one Day, as can be conve­niently disposed of in the Work-house abovemention'd. And I believe our People will imagine, that they have upon those Terms an heavy Task to go through. In our slovenly Way of doing Business, half the Quantity would be too much for twice the Hands. So great are the Advantages of Skill and proper Management.

It will be necessary to observe, that the Dutch, as an Improvement upon the former Caution, never draw two sheaves together. They take them sin­gly from the Oven as they want them, and g [...]ve them all the Benefit of what little Heat remains, as long as they can spare them from the Break.

Before I proceed to other Circumstances of their Practice, since I have gi­ven the Dimensions of the Oven, it will be proper to finish the Description of it. From the Size of it, it must be stronger than the Baker's, well roofed, thoroughly secured, and shut with a wooden Door. The Entrance may be in every Oven equal, —just large enough to admit a Man with tolerable Ease.

To return,—The next Thing the Dutch provide for is to save the Charge of firing. In the first heating of the Oven there is no Room for this, and proper Fuel must be had; but when once they have begun to break and scutch, the Dirt and Straws, which are beat out of the Flax in working, serve them ever after without any additional Expence; and each Parcel affords fi­ring for the next, in a regular Succession, 'til the whole is dried. These little Arts, and seemingly inconsiderab [...]e Instances of good Oeconomy▪ give the Dutch so much Advantage over u [...], that I must beg Leave to remind your Rea [...]ers, that they deserve more of their Attention than perhaps they have hitherto bestowed upon them. In Business of this K [...]nd, where the Profits are necessarily small, Waste must be felt, be it ever so trifling in Appear­ance; and accumulated and continual Waste must infallibly end in Ruin, though each Particular, taken singly and asunder, is perhaps too minu [...]e for Observation.

Of this Kind, more especially than any other, is the Waste of Time and Labour. Three or four Minutes lost cannot well be charged in an Account, [...]ch less the Misapplication of a little Strength; and yet multiply these Mi­nutes [Page 27] into Hours, or increase the Waste of Spirits 'til it becomes Weariness, and the plain palpable Loss upon the whole will give sufficient Evidence how much was lost by Parcels.

The Dutch are aware of this more than any Nation under Heaven, and therefore lay out all their Art in saving Time and Labour. In the Case be­fore us they kindle Fire in the Oven early in the Evening,—some Hours be­fore the Work is over. The Sweepings of the Flax are soon thrown in and lighted, and the Oven heats and cools again sufficiently before the Breaks and Scutches are laid by. 'Tis ready to be fill'd, when the Business of that Day is ended, and when the next begins, 'tis again ready to be drawn;— not a Minute is lost in the whole Round, and the Work proceeds in a regular Succession no where interrupted.

I shall conclude by informing the Flax dresser, that his Oven is then of a proper Heat, when a Man can stand in it with [...]u [...] U [...]e [...]siness. This is the Rule in Holland, and 'tis an Advantage peculiar to the Oven, that the Heat of it can be thus exactly measured. Kilns or Stoves cannot with equal Cer­tainty be tried; their Heat is variable and unsteady, and for that Reason dan­gerous and unfit for Flax. Which, to collect the whole Purport of this Let­ter into o [...]e general Assertion, can no where else be dried so perfectly as in an Oven.

I am, &c. R. M.

LETTER XIII. General Observations on Breaking and Scutching of FLAX.


I Observed in my Last Letter, that the Quantity of Flax which the Dutch Dress [...]r breaks and scutches in a Day is, in proportion to the Number of Hands employed by him, considerably larger than that which we should here expect to have wrought off in the same Time.—That [...]his Difference in the Dispatch of Business ariseth chiefly from the [...]ri [...]p [...]ess of the Flax, when it is laid under the Break; and therefore will subsist no longer than 'til our Peo­ple are prevailed upon to dry as they do, a [...]d use an Oven. The narrow Compass within which I am confin'd, to suit my Letters to the Dimensions of your Paper, allow'd of no Enlargement; and this Assertion, however it deserv'd it, I had not Room particularly to explain, much less to support by proper Arguments.

Give me Leave, therefore to resume them, and as it is of the greatest Im­portance to the Manufacture, to improve upon it, by shewing more minutely in what proportion the Dutch exceed us in Dispatch.

A Penny is the constant Price paid in Holland to the Undertaker, for break­ing and scutching F [...]ax by Wholesale;— something less therefore to the Journeyman:—And yet 'tis common in the latter to prefer Payment by the Pound, to the usual Wages of the Country Twenty pence a Day.— 'tis therefore evident that the Journeyman Flax dresser, among them, breaks and scutches singly above twenty Pounds of Flax.

Our People [...]n the contrary choose to receive their daily Wages, which seldom e [...]ceed nine Pence, never ten, rather than be paid according to the Quantity wrought off; tho' five Farthings is the lowest price given a [...]y [Page 28] [...] in Ireland by the Pound. Our Dresser therefore, upon the fairest Cal­culation, [...] and scutches▪ but eight Pounds of Flax a Day, and the Qu [...]n­tities of Work performed by the same Hands, in the same Time, are to [...] another in the amazing Disproportion of two and a half to one.

The Facts are indisputable, and the Conclusion, how surprizing soever i [...] may seem, fairly and regularly drawn. Three parts in five of the Strength and Labour of our Dressers are plainly m [...]sapplied, and for want of good con­veniencies to facili [...]ate their Work, intirely wasted.

I believe I need not call upon the Readers to observe, that a Manufactur [...] [...]rried on under such Pressures—Disadvantages is an Expression of [...] weak a Meaning—can never flourish; 'tis rather a Wonder it should liv [...] and support itself, though faintly, against the Weight and Rivalship of a P [...]ople equally remarkable for Oeconomy and Indust [...]y.—However to d [...] common Justice to the A [...]gument, indulge me for a Moment longer, and give me leave to set it in another Light.

Our Labourer can afford to work for ten Pence, and, provided he receive daily that small Pittance, can maintain himself and Family with Ea [...]e.— The Hollander to the same purposes wants twice that Sum, and must there­for [...] earn his two Pence▪ for the other's Penny. At present he does more than all this:—Good Conveniencies, and superior Skill in the ready Use of them, enable him to underwork us considerably beyond that proportion.— But suppose our Dressers equally well provided, g [...]ve them the same Dexteri­ty.—and that a few Years Experience will b [...]stow,— [...]he Tables immediately are turn'd. Our Flax must come cheaper from the Bre [...]k and Scutche [...] by one half, and they instead of us be reduced to Streights and Shifts to support a decaying Manufacture.

Could our Journeymen hereafter, as theirs actually do, work off twenty Pounds of Flax a Day, they might afford their Labour for a Half penny per Poun [...]; three parts in five of the present Price would be taken off without prejudice to them, and by proportionable Improvement in other Branches of the Manufacture, our Cloths would come cheaper to the Market, than from any other Country under Heaven. According to the u [...]ual Computation▪ that three Quarters of the current Price of Linnens is the purchase of Labour only, our Manufacturers, who live comfortably at home upon half the Wa­ges paid in Holland, can with equal Industry and Skill underwork the Dutch five and thirty Pounds in every hundred.—A Deduction which, whenever they are forced upon, 'tis impossible they should carry on their Trade.

I won't indeed pretend to vouch for the Exactness of that Computation.— 'Tis no easy Matter to strike a Medium upon the several Staples, and deter­mine what part of the whole Price should be charged on the Materia [...]s; and how much remains as the produce of mere Labour.—But certain I am, that in fine Cloths, the Estimate is considerably too low. The proportion between the Worth of the Materials in their native State, and the Value af­terwards, when manufactured and improved, is in Linnens of the finest Sta­ple, as ten, twenty, or perhaps more, to one; and ther [...]fore there at least the Argument carries it's full Weight, and with a little Oeco [...]omy and In­dustry, we may undersell the Dutch, a great deal more than thirty-five per Cent.

[Page 29] To confirm this Assertion▪—which I hope may be of Use to encourage the Methods I propose for the future Management of Flax,—give me Leave to observe farther from my last,—That it is not only by misapplying the Strength and Labour of our People, that we suffer in the Articles before us; —but besides, and that considerably, by the Waste committed on the Flax, for want of thorough drying and a proper Crisp [...]ss. We are now obliged to use forcible and repeated Strokes in breaking, [...] [...]o speak more properly, [...] pound rath [...]r than break the Harle. This weakens and impairs it, and bes [...]des deprives it of it's proper Length, one of the most valuable Qualities it has. In breaking, the [...]o [...]ce is applied cross-wise, and athwart the Grain; and therefore where it is too great, or too long continued, bruiseth and cuts the Fibres; which afterwards, in going through the Hackles, snap where they are weakest, and of course fall into [...]ow. 'Tis impossible to ascertain this Damage, but at a Guess. I should imagine, that by this unhappy tho' necessary Effect of bad drying, we may hackle off from the same Flax one part in four more Tow, than the Dresser does in Holland.—If so, our Loss under this Head is considerably enhanced.—Or, to set the same As­sertion in a more comfortable Light, 'tis upon this Supposition in our Power, by a little [...]arge, to lower our present Prices, without any Diminution to the Owner's Profit, by increasing the Quantity of vendible good Flax, dress'd out of the same [...]arcel.

I cannot leave any Thing with the Readers more likely to encourage them and therefore shall conclude by this general View of the whole Argument. — [...]e waste by the present Misapplication of our Labour three parts in five of the Dresser's Industry.—We lose one part in ten nearly of our Flax.— And yet we stand our Ground, though with Difficulty, against the Dutch.— Suppose these Evils remedied, and what must be the Consequence▪—'Tis so plain a one, that it is almost Impertinence to draw it.—But it is at the same Time of so encouraging a Nature, that I cannot forbear inserting it at length. —The Dutch must be obliged to give up the Linnen-Trade,—which it will be impossible for them to carry on with any Profit, whenever we have learn'd [...]ow to husband our Advantages.

I am, &c. R. M.

LETTER XIV. A Description of the Dutch BREAK, with the Method of using it.


THE Instrument made use of to break Flax, is pretty much the same in this Country and in Ho [...]land. However, as there is some Difference [...]n the Make, and more in the Manner of applying it, I though [...] it necessary to prefix a Draught of the Dutch Break * to the Directions in this Letter; because Words cannot convey so clean and distinct a Notion of Machines, as the Reader ought to have before him, when he is to be taught the Use of them.

It is observable at first Sight, that the Break consists of two main Parts, the one fix'd, the other moveable upon a Joint. Both these are in every other [Page]


Respect the same, composed of three thin Boards, called Knives, and com­monly made of Beech, fram'd long-way [...], and at small Distances from each other, into strong Pieces of solid Tim­ber. These two si­milar parts are pla­ced the one above the other in the Break, the movea­ble part uppermost, and in such a Situ­ation, that it's Knives, when it is let down, fall into the I [...]terstices or Distances between those of the lower part. [...] lower part stand [...] at a con­venient Height a­bove the Ground▪ upon four strong Feet, and the up­per is provided with a handle C, to raise and let it down a­gain. This alter­nate Motion breaks the Flax, which by the weight and ac­tion of the Lever i [...] forcibly pressed a­gainst the Knive, squeezed into the Interstices between them, thereby split, and disposed more readily to part with it's Bunn in Scutching▪

From this short Description of the Instrument, and of it's Action on the Flax,—'tis obvious to collect, that the Distances between the Knives▪ should not very much exceed the Thickness of the Knives themselves.—The Flax would then, instead of being squeezed and split between them, be bruised only by their Edges; and as it often happens by bad Break [...], or the unskil­ful Use of them, cut through [...]nd made unfit for Use.

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