The Statutes at Large. 1800

The ship-master’s assistant and owner’s manual … (1801), by David Steel, p. 89 (fn) “Export-Laws”


When the United States was out of supply of woolen goods, a crisis was beginning to develop.  With the rapid increase in population density, the supplies of imported goods necessary for survival began to diminish.  This set the stage for Malthus’s writings on the fears of starvation and disease due to rapid population growth.   

Malthusianism would near its peak around 1803, when Great Britain began to fully enact some laws it put in place limiting both the export of woolen goods from England and the import of woolen goods from other countries, in particular the United States.   The next actions taken by British leaders and parliament were to more effectively market woolen products produced by sheep in England, but there was much more to this change in international policy than just pulling the shirt off your back so to speak. 

To some these claims represented a new stage in an ongoing period of economic instability. For decades (or forever if you were British) it was felt that British-grown sheep produced the best wool.  But this was difficult for many to believe.  Countering this British claim were claims that wools produced by sheep from other countries were better, with the Merino sheep from Spain serving as primary example of this.  It was in fact the way that you prepared and treated the wool that made it a desireable product, or in the worst of conditions, non-desirable and uncomfortable.  To some, the symbolism of this British claim however was apparent. This was more a statement of British-made ethnocentricity than any statement being made about the quality of British wool, at least in terms of the symbolism of these trade-related gestures.

Nationalism was by now coming to a head in the United States. Stresses were erupting in the Parliament during these first decade of the nineteenth century, interactions which ultimately changed abruptly following the death of William Pitt the Younger, Great Britain’s Prime Minister, leader of the Whig Party, and initiator of the country’s successful recovery from poverty resulting from the American War for Independence. To United States citizens Pitt was worth just as much dead as he was alive once Parliament set the stage for trade relations between the U.S. and England to fail, leading to new problems at sea due to Piracy between United States ships and those of French and British origins. Pitt’s 1796 decision to define a more effective means for assisting the poor was by now ultimately a failure, resulting in more working class children who were neither family members nor just orphans any more; they were now more value as working class stock, adequate replacements for the slaves to be freed a year after Pitt’s death form due to the passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1807, a year following his death.

The way Pitt’s death was defined in the Poughkeepsie Journal was as the result of his assassination. To many Americans in the valley, nothing could have been any better. At first, the British refusal to support the citizens of the United States both financially and as important commercial staples providers had a sort of Anti-Independence, pro-Colonialism way about being projected. This only strengthened the United State’s National agenda in the long run. Ecologically, it result in a series of decisions to be made about American farming practices that in the long run made this country more inhabitable. The assassination of Pitt, or his simple death, became one of most important events in British history that Hudson Valley residents would live to see.

Back in the United States, due to Livingston’s discovery along with the same political and economic industrial movement being promoted next door in Massachusetts, the questions people had became more focused on why and how could the best woolen products had become so unaffordable. They were mostly a luxury for the rich, which became a gift for the poor only after they lost their value in social appearance or in terms of utility and value. Because the value of wool to the poor was such a political topic for this time, this very British like old fashioned way of thinking left many without this product to believe that if you chose a product made with poorly prepared wool, your clothing or fabric could be rough and itchy, smelly and even raunchy.  And to chose those products made from the best woolen fabrics available, products from other countries were your choice.

The U.S. Nationalism that erupted from a change in this philosophy, due primarily to the British elite whose poor management made the poor simply poorer, made it possible to turn this thinking around into a pro-United States movement. All it took was some evidence out there, or even a political statement printed by the American leaders, indicating that the best wool around for the United States was only that grown locally. From this point on, medicine and its strong belief in the medical topography and climatology models of health and disease turned the wool industry developing in the coldest part of the continent’s temperate zone into the most important natural resources industry, guaranteed to help the people survive in this part of the world where some of its worst diseases and endemics were all related to the cold.

This philosophy had a tremendous impact on American industries and the local economy for the Hudson Valley. The effect of these political, symbolic and actual occupational and marketing changes was the development of richer American economy, with warmer healthier families and a stronger palce in international trade, all of this due to the initation of sheep farming in the United States. Locally, the most influential person aiding in this important economic change was Chancellor Livingston. Before Livingston took on his position as Chancellor to France, the United States sheep during this time were mostly of British and French stock and upbringing, a by-product or left-over of the colonial period.  It was during the early post-colonial time that Chancellor to France Robert Livingston became acquainted with the merino sheep raised in Spain, as a result of one of his trips to Europe.

Most members of the Livingston family were by now very familiar with their family’s successful history with the numerous enterprises they established as entrepreneurs of natural products found in the Colony and Province of New York.  This source of income was so important to an emerging new country such as the United States, which first had to successfully recover from the post-war depression before making another successful attempt to market it unique natural resource products. 

The Livingstons by now were responsible for many if not nearly all of the natural resources industries that helped New York grow.  There was not a single part of the local landscape in their parts of New York that went untouched.  In the earliest colonial years, the Livingstons helped the British obtain the land they were so desirous for from the Iroquois and Mahicans and others.  Serving as translators, they helped form the contracts made between beaver pelt and other natural products exchanges with the American Indians, and up until their final years as colonists serving the British with these transactions, played key roles in finding and developing the numerous natural products industries based on man-of-war ship building and large farm construction efforts involving the corn, flax and hemp industries. 

In and around what is now the Columbia County area, the Livingstons later turned to developing their own thriving industries in land use and sales.  In this part of New York the Livingstons mastered the use of forest products and mined goods, turning many parts of their family’s original Manor into some sort of industry setting.   The Livingston’s land was responsible for some of the first large scale farms used to grow local food and grain crops in the area.  When the dawn of the Revolution came to be, their land produced some of the the first lead and iron mines, as well as some of the first large incinerators needed to strengthen both the local troops and the local economy with.  When it came time to increase the settlement of this part of the valley after the Revolutionary War, the Livingston’s were the most capable, if not only, land owners able to market their properties as the healthiest part of this large scale region (the entire Hudson Valley if not State of New York according the Livingstons were “blessed by westerly winds”).  Both economically and even in a medical sense, their advertisements for their lands were very appealing to rural families willing to initiate a family farming business.  For all of the Livingstons, the most important part of any land deed was that lengthy sentence typical of most deed that detailed the various types of products of nature that a new landowner had the rights to stake sole claim to.     

Other industries the Livingstons helped to establish in the New York region included the potential for raising deer and moose as sources for valuable meats.  Their interest in the paper industry led them to propose the use of one of the most popular grass-like plants in the marshland settings–the reeds (juncus) and sedges (cyperus) for use in producing pulp.  They made use of their fast flowing streams to produce highly productive mills.  They even tried to test and market the local spring waters, mineral in nature or not, for potential sale as a tonic or valuable remedy.  With all of these local natural products available to the valley’s residents, the Livingstons were still not satisfied.  This led Chancellor Livingston to begin his search for new products to import into the valley.  Merino sheep were his first choice for this new type of endeavor.

After taking a glimpse at the Merino sheep of Spain, Chancellor Livingston knew he had his next and possibly his last claim to fame regarding the development of any novel new uses for nature’s natural products.  He decided that he had to import two merino sheep into the United States.  His decision was based on his assumption that the wool itself, when properly prepared, would be more appealing to buyers than the wool produced from any previous sheep in the Hudson Valley.  He determined that if the animal itself was bred to survive in a region like the Hudson Valley, that it could naturally be made into a stock that was more productive.   He also perhaps realized that although the British supported very little the quality and productivity of merino wool, the complaints these British writers were producing were simply wrong and perhaps made up in the typical ethnocentric way in which the British engaged in such activities, this time trying to outshine the Spanish sheep with its wool using similar products of their own. 

Livingston also realized, that like any natural resource, the correct methods of  production and processing were necessary for any natural resource to be its best.   This enabled him to perfect the means to raise and gather wool from lands, using a sheep often criticised against due to it national heritage, not at all due to the truths about the quality of its finals products–the wool and wool related commercial products.   In the long run, this made the Livingston’s venture into livestock breeding and raising one of their most important contributions to American culture and United States history during the very early 1800s.  This led to the support and growth of the local county fair, but more importantly to the development of the first livestock research facility in the young state of New York.

The Useful Art of Woolery

When treated properly, the Chancellor realized that the merino sheep would produce more wool per sheephead that was of a much better quality than the other breeds already present in the United States.  With his career as a Chancellor long over, his local fame remained during the very early 1800s, enabling him to convince many local farmers and livestock breeders to support this endeavor.  As a result, by 1800 or 1801, the merino sheep was in its place in New York, this migration and first breeding year facilitated with the help of Seth Adams of Massachusetts and some upstate New York farmers in and around Utica.  (See Google Book link at end of this page for related United States Government Printing Office Congressional serial set with this history.)  It was the actions of the Livingstons that gave rise to the first farms devoted to Merino sheep raising and breeding locally, with some of the first cross-breeding studies of livestock to be created and tested with the goal of producing a better manufactured end product–the result of wool sheared from the half-breed merino sheep.  This industry ruled the lives of this part of the Livingston family for the next several years as well as many of their neighbors.  It was their outspoken and financially driven nature that made this family so important to local economy, and to the lives of millions of sheep for generations, and now centuries to come.

In 1807, a review of Livingston’s success was published in Transactions of the Society for the promotion of Useful Arts, in New-York.   This in turn was then was reviewed by the Medical Repository.   The link between wool and health was very clear, in light of the strong emphasis we can see that physicians made pertaining to disease and climate.  This meant that in the minds of the Livingstons, good wool and highly productive healthy sheep had everything to do with your own health and longevity. 

In this edition of the Transactions, printed and distributed from the presses in Poughkeepsie, a large part of the focus was on Robert Livingston’s accomplishments with agriculture and livestock industries since his years as chancellor.   Up until this development of the sheep industry, the bulk of the products obtained from the land focused on non-renewable resources such as quarried material, ores, gems, precious minerals, lime, gypsum, soil, sod, and even centuries old swamp detritus. 

Some of the other non-biological resources were renewed naturally, but their longevity was still a matter of concern to anyone with a concept of the passage of time and the future.   The bulk of these non-renewable, but self-sustained resources for the time being pertained to the various forms of water that existed in the local springs, wells, falls, and ever-renewing water bodies.  Some of these waters were very considered very much akin to the fairly expensive mineral waters produced in the springs in Europe.  To meet the challenge of trying to market these waters as important drink and medical products, Livingston spared no time or finances trying to hire the best chemist from France to verify the claims he was making that his waters were not only valuable, but genuine and unique when it came to their potential marketability and utility.

The major biological resources the Livingstons made ample use of ranged from falled trees for use in making lumber and resin for ships and homes, to the propagation and cultivations of various European crops in the fields of the Valley.  The majority of these crops were food and fodder related of course, but there were on occasion other unique products the Livingstons helped to establish a farming establishment and marketability for, ranging from the German variety of hemp that could be grow for fiber and baggage, cordage and rope-making purposes,  to the flax, corn, wheat, and and clovers and legumes needed to be cultivated in order to feed the cattle, swine and other livestock raised on these lands.  One of the more industrious crops of the area that served as some sort of recreational food and beverage crop was the  hops that individuals like Matthew Vassar needed, to produce their various ales, beers and other miscellaneous brews. 

Between 1790 and 1805, sheep became a staple to the Hudson Valley Livestock industry.  There were sheep prior to this time in the Valley, but none as fitting and productive as the merino sheep from Spain.  Within two decades, Livingston had transformed much of the sheep industry in the Valley into a business devoted almost completely to pure-bred, and still later, half-bred flocks of merino sheep.  In 1807, Chancellor Livingston had passed his 60th year of age.  His work as Chancellor in 1783 was long passed, and his service as Minister to the Court of Napolean from 1801 to approximately 1805 had just ended.  With more time off from his services of the government, he now had time to follow up on some of the many discoveries he had made during these years of service to the community and the United States he helped to form. 

The events leading up to this popularization of wool and especially Merino Wool in the United States are rather complex.    Spanish Wool was considered its own unique commodity, separate from the other wools.  A British writer considered this wool to be coarse, a line penned for no other reason that to improve upon the British wool industry and the value his readership were asked to place on the local wool products (see on Google Books – ACCOUNT OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE MERCHANTS MANUFACTURERS AND OTHERS CONCERNED IN IN THEIR APPLICATION TO PARLIAMENT OF GREAT BRITAIN That the Laws respecting the Exportation of Wool might not be altered in arranging the Union with Ireland but left to the Wisdom of the Imperial Parliament if such a measure mould hereafter appear to be jult and expedient. LONDON. Printed by W Phillip George Tar J. Lombard Street, 1800).

Robert Livingston’s most important accomplishment during this time was probably the development of the merino sheep industry in the Hudson Valley.  The development of a stable woollen industry in the young United States helped to set the stage leading up to the passage of the Woollen Act.  This was very different from the Woolen Acts passed in Great Britain in 1666 and 1699.  The 1803/4 Woolen Act restricted trade with the United States and prevented European manufacturers from shipping woolen products to the United States and other countries, in honor of the forst such Woolen Act passed around 1375, forbid anyone in NEgland from wearing products produced by wool grown elsewhere in the world.  This effectively prevented other countries like the United States from shipping their own goods, either as raw goods or as final products, to one of their most important consumers – Great Britain.  Since this was the source of  much of the own personal income forthe Hudson Valley region, the 1803 Woolen Act had a significant impact on the economy of the the United States.  

A commercial dictionary: containing the present state of mercantile law … by Joshua Montefiore (1803)

Livingston’s actions helped to secure an otherwise highly-threatened farming and livestock industry beginning to form in the Hudson Valley.  Merino sheep not only made the valley financially stable, with just the right marketing and increased public awareness about the efficiency and value of wool as a domestic commodity used by Americans to secure their safety within a potentially life-threatening environment, the Livingstons along with several others (also covered in my blogs), helped establish the merino sheep wool industry, an industry that remains in the Hudson Valley to this day.

For more on this history see A commercial dictionary: containing the present state of mercantile law … by Joshua Montefiore (1803), in Google Books.  See esp. “NAVIGATION and PLANTATIONS” section for 1650 Law.  A part of the “EXPORT” section follows. 


In the following Review of Livingston’s book about Merino Sheep industry, published in the Medical Repository, a lengthy series of reviews were produced and published as the annual yearbook known as the society’s Transactions.  Extensive amount of material was published on the Livingston’s wool trade, thereby demonstrating the local social and professional support already out there for anything and everything new that the Livingstons had to offer the local economy.   During this time in early American medical history, each and every natural resource was felt to play a role in life and health. 

The common philosophy for this time was that diseases had their internal causes, but also their natural causes.  The fever epidemics prevailing throughout the years passed and years to follow were indicators to many that we had to learn to better adapt to our climate and overall living space.   For some families, nature gifted us with the ability to undergo the Lamarckian changes in our form and physique needed to survive the new world we had migrated to.  But now, for those families native to the New York region, the climate and healthiness of this region was changing.  The larger numbers of people unadapted to the local setting, newcomers considered unwanted immigrants by many local relatives, were changing the stability of the local settings.  As these proeprties were further developed and further modified by the incoming settlers, the stable healthy setting was changing, and the increasingly dense population settings formed around the larger towns and cities were beginning to make these places unhealthy living settings. 

Lamarckianism claimed that those already living here were well adapted to whatever was causing diseases.  The first members of the families living here were now long gone, and their more adapted descendents surviving easily in this new environment.  Once the environment changed, and global cliamte patterns changed due to worldwide population changes, people were in need of developing the means to better survive the changes in local settings these population growths could cause.  Medicine and its methods for treating and preventing disease were dominated by this philosophy throughout the first half of the 19th century.  Only later would we begin to develop a more detailed rendering of each of these new forms of therapy, finding reason for one mineral spring to be different and less healthy than another, or for a setting with dry, westerly winds to be more healthy than a humid setting invaded regularly by humid, tepid, southerly winds during the hot summer months, and chilly cold easterly and northerly winds during the peak winter months.  Each of these physiognomic features defined certain parts of the Hudson Valley, and are what made Chancellor Livingston’s newest discovery the most important health-related discovery in Hudson Valley history. 

Book Review

Transactions of the Society for the promotion of Useful Arts, in New-York ; Albany, Barber, 1807,8vo. pp. 236, with plates.

Vol. VI. H

SEVERAL times in the course of our work, notice has been taken of the Society established at New-York, in 1791, for the promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures. That Society published a collection of papers, the succeeding year. In 1794, they printed a second and larger parcel of the communications made to them. A third volume came from the press in 1798, and a fourth in 1799. Of the two latter works, reviews may be seen in our first Hexade, vol. 2, p. 315; vol. 3, p. 386; and vol.4, p. 57.

Afterwards, the copies having been distributed and grown scarce, a new edition of the whole was agreed upon. And accordingly all the four distinct publications were consolidated into one convenient book which made its appearance in 1800. Since that event, the time originally fixed for the duration of its charter, has expired. But the legislature, unwilling to let so useful an association undergo dissolution, passed during the session of 1804, a new and amended act of incorporation in their favour. By this, their title is simplified, and they are now called “The Society for the promotion of useful Arts.” The volume before us is the first collection of papers that has been laid before the public, by this laudable body of gentlemen acting in their new capacity.

Having thus given a sketch of the history and proceedings of the parent Society, we proceed to inquire what merit or value ought to be ascribed to the offspring.

A distinguished contributor of information is R. R. Livingston, Esq. the President. The memoirs written by him occupy nearly one third of the volume. We shall enumerate them in succession.

1. Minutes of his Journey from the Orient to Spain, when he was sent to France as minister plenipotentiary, in 1802. He went by the way of Nantz and Orleans, and made many judicious observations on the agricultural condition of the country.

2. Observations on the employment of pyrites as a manure by the Farmers of Flanders. This piece was inserted in our Hex. 1, vol. 6, p. 315.

3. An essay on Sheep, wool and woolen manufactures, shewing the advantage of improving American wool, by the introduction of Spanish sheep. The writer gives a decided and conclusive preference to the Spanish breed, as better adapted to the wants and economy of this country than the British. The former are called Merinos, and Mr. L. is now the owner of several full-blooded rams and ewes. He purchased them in 1802, at a high price, from the national flock of fine wooled Spanish sheep in France. And these or their dams had been introduced intoFrance 1786, by permission from the King of Spain, granted in consequence of an application from the French monarchy. The unmixed descendants of these Merinos are now at Clermont inColumbia county, (N. Y.) where the patriotic proprietor resides, and are increasing their numbers.

4. Further remarks on sheep; and practical observations on the best way of yoking and working oxen. He shows herein the probability of adding half a dollar to the value of each fleece at shearing-time, in less than five years, by the farmers who shall adopt his plan. He states very judiciously the pernicious consequences of keeping many dogs in a civilized and settled country. Their numbers ought certainly to be lessened. He advises farmers, in selecting their flocks, to breed them wholly either for long combing wool or for carding wool, but not to mix the fleeces. He appears to be convinced that the old Roman mode of yoking oxen by the horns, which is to this day practised over ninetenths ofEurope, deserves a preference to our way of making them draw by the withers, or to any other method of applying their strength.

5. Experiments and calculations to show the profit farmers may derive from mixtures of the Merinos with common sheep. The conclusion is clearly in favour of an improvement both in the weight and fineness of the fleece among the ewes, wethers, and rams of our country, by every mixture of merino blood. To these considerations, are annexed several extracts from Young’s annals of Agriculture, on the greater profit of the merino breed of sheep, over the English varieties of that animal; and a string of economical queries concerning sheep, with their answers.

6. Description of the mode of constructing walls of houses from Sand and Gravel around Lyons, by ramming ; with Agricultural observations nude in Brabant, Flanders, Champagne, Burgundy and other parts of France. The mode of compacting the common materials of soil into a wall, as described by Mr. Johnson, (Med. Rep. Hex. 2, vol. 3, p. 97.) is here delineated and illustrated by an engraving. This is followed by various remarks on grass grounds, tobacco, poppy-oil, hemp, maize, and vines as cultivated in the regions visited by Mr. L.

7. A letter on the improvement in the Springs of riding Carriages. Having been much incommoded by travelling in a private coach from Paris to Naples by the breaking ot steel-springs fitted in the fashionable manner, Mr. L. found great advantage from placing cushions of air, between the folds of the thorough-braces of the coach, before and behind. These cushions were simply Italian foot balls made of Asses skins dressed in oil, and covered with stout calfskins. By the employment of four such bags of atmospheric gas, the springs were saved from snapping all the remaining journey back from Bologne through Italy, Tyrol and Germany through Strasburgh to Paris.

8. Additional evidence in favour of breeding Merino sheep; and a mode suggested of feeding swine during the year -when there was no grazing for them, upon boiled clover. It hence appears that the unwashed wool of the full-blooded merino sells at Clermont for one dollar and a quarter the pound ; and that very good six dollar broad cloth has been manufactured from the half-blooded-fleeces. It is stated too, that hogs may be kept in good order by a decoction of clover. This is prepared by mowing it, and packing it away in sea salt, after it has lain about six hours in swath, and about twenty four hours in cock. The proportion of salt, is a quart to a waggon load. It is thus kept green and juicy all the year; and when boiled in water, and given, leaves and liquor, to the swine, keeps them in very good case.

Having thus given a view of Mr. L.’s various memoirs, we deem it proper, before we pass to another article, to quote a passage from his dissertation on sheep, (p. 74).

” I have seen with pleasure that the agriculture of my native country has improved considerably, in the short space of four years, the time of my absence. Much however remains to be done before it acquires that perfection to which all nations should aspire, but which none that I have seen in Europe, Lombardy and south Holland excepted, have in any degree attained.England, though she boasts with reason some of the best farmers in the world, is but partially improved ; many districts are ill cultivated and old habits are not yet rooted out. I shall, as time and leisure admit, take occasion to lay before you such practices of the old world as I thiak may be advantageously adopted by the new ; at present I wish to draw your attention to a subject which our probable rupture with some of the European powers, renders peculiarly interesting at this moment. I mean the improvement in our breed of sheep. It is upon this that we must rely for our independence uponEurope, in an article of the first necessity.

The sheep of this state, taken collectively, are superior to almost any native race that I have seen in France, Holland, Lombardy or Italy, and very much resemble the south down sheep of England. In general, the sheep of those countries are about the size of ours; those upon the sea coast on the channel and Lombardy are larger; those in Britany much smaller. The wool of most of these breeds is inferior to ours in fineness, if we except the sheep upon the borders ofSpain, some travelling flocks in the kingdom of Naples, and those in the small district of Berry.  Anderson says, that wool sent from New-Jersey sold at the rate of the finest wool in England.

I believe, in cold or temperate climates, the inferiority of quality in the wool, does not arise from climate, but from other accidental causes which I shall point out. In France I attribute it first to a neglect of those breeds that bear fine wool, and next to the manner in which the sheep are kept.-— They are folded in close pens, during the summer, all night, and part of the day. In winter they are crowded in small and ill aired houses; they are fed upon the commons on the road sides, and on the stubbles, always confined close together by the shepherds’ dogs, who are continually running round them, to prevent their straggling or touching the grain or meadows at the sides of them, for there are no fences.—. In dry seasons they are extremely pinched for food, and in the winter no green fodder or clover is prepared for them, and very seldom even hay; they are left to glean in the fields when there is no snow, and when there is, to feed upon the coarsest hay, or the leaves and branches of trees, which is frequently the only provender laid up for them. It is held by the British agriculturalists, that bad keeping makes bad wool. If the sheep are alternately well fed, and starved, the wool will be of different strength and thickness, and of course unequal and of a bad staple.

That the climate effects no change in them, I infer from die great success that has attended the introduction of Spanish sheep, which, where they have been treated with a little attention, have so greatly improved in their size, form and fleece, without any change in the quality of the wool, that full bred rams imported directly from Spain, may now be purchased in France at a much less price than rams from the national flock at Rambouillet; a race that were introduced about twenty years ago into France. Superfine cloth can only be made from Spanish wool, and that without mixture with other sorts, from which it differs so materially, that Anderson asserts, on the information oi British manufacturers, that they cannot be wrought together. The different species of broad cloth are not made by mixture with British wool, but by Spanish wool of different qualities. The coarse cloths only, are made of British wool. France, as well as all the rest of Europe, being dependent uponSpainfor the wool used in their fabricks of fine cloth, made various attempts to introduce Spanish sheep. In 1766, a number were imported and distributed among the people of different districts. But as the general opinion was, that Spanish sheep could only thrive in Spain, that the wool would degenerate if they did not travel from the plains to the mountains, and from the mountains to the plains, and above all as the peasantry thought, that what they received without price could be of little worth, no attention was paid to keeping the race distinct, and of course little advantage resulted from the measure, except to a few enlightened farmers: But their experiments sufficiently proved the practicability of the project, and determined the government to make the attempt again, and to put the direction of the project into the hands of a distinguished agriculturalist.

Application was made to the king of Spain for permission to draw from his dominions a number of Merinos, the name by which the fine woolled sheep are distinguished. He not only permitted this, but ordered that they should be chosen out of the finest flocks in the kingdom. In the year 1786, they arrived at Rambouillet, the national farm. Instead of giving away the increase as had before been done, they were annually sold, which of course put them into the hands of the richer and more intelligent farmers. At first they brought a very moderate price, but their superiority over the other sheep of the country, the great improvement in the wool that resulted from crossing the breed, were so manifest, and the evidence that experience afforded of their supporting the change of climate and treatment without any sensible change in the quality of their wool, rendered the demand for them so great, that they have considerably advanced in price.

In 1796, the average price was 80 franks, about 16 dollars the last sale (April, 1805,) the average price for a ewe was 250, that is about 50 dollars ; rams brought from 60 to 120 dollars. This is the more remarkable, as by the last treaty between France and Spain, the former had a right to draw 5000 Merinos from the flocks of the latter, 500 to be chosen annually for ten years. Skilful shepherds were sent to select them, and France now possesses above thirty thousand of these sheep by importation and by natural increase, and yet the price of the stock at Rambouillet has been regularly on the rise. The late minister of the interior, M. Chaptal, has a very fine flock consisting of 1200 sheep. As the sales at Rambouillet were over before I returned from Italy, I requested him to spare me five from his flock, to which he consented, provided I only took lambs and not more than two rams, for which I was to pay 1500 franks, about 300 dollars ; this too was a very special favour. The shepherd I sent to choose them found the flock infected with the scab. I did not therefore think it prudent to take them, but left the money with a gentleman who has promised to bring them out next spring, either from that flock, or those at Rambouillet. I should mention another circumstance which proves that the wool does not grow worse in France, when the stock from which they sprung was good. In April every year, there is a sale of lambs of the preceding year, and of wool ; the price of the latter was kept down by the artifices of the wool dealers, who pretended that it was inferior to Spanish wool. Some of the manufacturers, however, having for the two or three last years produced cloth at the exhibition, made of this wool equal to that from the finest Spanish wool, the price has advanced to a par with the wool brought from Spain.

I should observe that the fine French cloths are finer and softer than those made in England, probably because very little of the finest Spanish wool goes to England, their import consisting of the second and third sorts with some still coarser. The finest of the wool, to the amount of about three millions of pounds, is manufactured at the royal factories in Spain, and the remainder goes to France and Italy. The quantity of wool drawn from Spain by France, was before the revolution about 4,000,000 lb. but the manufacturers having been ruined during the revolution, it was greatly diminished; what it is now I cannot declare. In the year 1786, England imported only three millions, but in the year 1796, the following is the state of the legal export from Spain; some is always smuggled into France and elsewhere.

France — 600,000

England — 6,000,000

Holland — 3,200,000

Italy — 1,000,000

[Total –] 10,800,000

Spain employs about 3 millions of pounds in her own manufactures. It may be proper here to observe, that all the sheep ot Spain are by no means Merinos, but more of the stationary flocks are either what they call Chorinos, which are a large hardy coarse woolled breed,or a mixture between them and the Merinos ; part of this latter wool is also exported.

As my object in this essay is to endeavor to impress upon my country the importance of propagating this breed of sheep, it may be proper to show the value of this wool compared to that of other races, and particularly of that of England, and to remove some false ideas that have gone abroad relative to them.

The prices at Madrid for washed wool, in the year 1796 were as follows :

c Cts.

Leonise from 5 to 5 4 about 100

Segovienne 5 4 60 88

Sorriens 4 4 25 86

Arragon 3 60

Anderson gives the value of wool in the London market about the same period, which reduced to our money stands thus, for the best :

German 22 Cents.

Polish 25

British IT

White Persian «4

Red Carramuman 100

Spanish 93

The Merinos are rather smaller than the largest sheep we raise on the north of the highlands. Those bred at Rambouillet are better made than those imported directly from Spain. The belly, cheeks, forehead and hind legs, are covered with wool that is short, curled and thick, and though extremely white when washed, yet brown at the extremities when on the sheep, particularly if folded or kept on any but the cleanest pasture ; this is owing to the extreme thickness of the wool, which increases the perspiration of the animal, or rather perhaps to the greater quantity of grease that the wool contains, for in this circumstance it greatly differs from common wool, and it is never found harsh or dry. The wool on the thigh, which on our sheep is harsh and intermixed with hairs, in the Spanish sheep is soft and fine.— From the thickness and evenness of the fleece the sheep is guarded against the wet and cold more effectually than our sheep, whose fleeces are looser, and whose bellies after the second or third year, are only slightly covered with hairs instead of wool. Mr. Macro observes that the most thrifty sheep throughout the winter, are those that have the thickest and most even coats. The fleece is entirely tree from hair which renders other wool harsh, and which never takes the dye perfectly. Having procured samples of all the wool that could be obtained in France, together with the improvement made in each by crossing the different breeds of sheep with Spanish rams, I shall lay them before the society, which will enable them to form their own judgment as to the quality. The inferiority in the size of the Merino, to some other breeds, which some make as an objection, is in my opinion an important advantage, not only in sheep, but in every other stock not designed for the draft; because they will fatten in pastures in which larger cattle would suffer from the fatigue they must undergo in order to procure the food that is necessary for their support. This reasoning applies more strongly to sheep than to any other stock. They are generally kept upon high and dry pastures, that are frequently parched in summer, when fatigue is most irksome to them. To which we may add, that the fleece is not proportioned, as the food is, to the bulk of the animal, but to his surface, and a small sheep having more surface in proportion to his bulk, must also have wool in the same proportion. That is, a sheep whose live weight shall be 60lb. and who of course will require but one quarter of the food of a sheep that weighs 240lb. will, notwithstanding, have half as much wool (if the fleeces are equally thick) as his gigantic brother. The Merino has been found inFrance to be quite as hardy as the common sheep. At Rambouillet they have no winter feed but hay, and yet thrive very well j but what is more extraordinary, is, that in Sweden, where the native sheep are extremely coarse woolled, the Merino has been naturalized without having in any sort changed the nature or quality of the wool, in the term of about 30 years since they were introduced. They have also been so well cultivated there, that though the consumption of fine wool has increased inSweden, yet the importation of Spanish wool has greatly diminished.”

We recommend the whole memoir to the careful perusal of every patriotic farmer, and to all friends to their country’s independence.

More Historically Important Writings on this Topic


 More on British Wool

A Commercial Dictionary . . . (1803) by Joshua Montefiore.

The ship-master’s assistant and owner’s manual (1801) … By David Steel, p. 253

The ship-master’s assistant and owner’s manual (1801) … By David Steel, p. 97 “EXCISE-DUTIES”



BOTH OF THE ABOVE: Parliamentary debates: official report : … session of the …, Volume 5.  by Thomas C. Hansard, Great Britain


Cobbett’s parliamentary debates, during the … session of the …, Volume 7 By Great Britain. Parliament, William Cobbett.  1264-1266.


A general dictionary of commerce, trade, and manufactures… (1810) By Thomas Mortimer


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