Hemp Cordage Report – 1824

Synopsis: This report, written in 1824, at the request of the US Congress, outlines the usage, or lack thereof, of American hemp withing the US Navy. It also provides some keen interesting insight to the practice at the time of preparing hemp post harvest. It is our belief that this report leads into our other unearthed documentation dealing with the attempts to secure American Hemp for the US Navy in 1846. Full details of the report are transcribed below. All images can be clicked on to bring up full size pictures of the original documentation.

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Another Document of interest: US Navy Hemp Purchases – 1846

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18th Congress

1st Session

 

Letter

From

The Secretary of the Navy,

Communicating Information of

The Quantity of Cordage

Manufactured From

Hemp of Domestic Growth

Which has been used in the service of the Navy since the year 1812;

&c. &e.

(In obedience to a Resolution of the Senate, of 22d January last.)

 

February 23, 1824.

Printed by order of the senate of the United States

 

Washington :

Printed by Gales & Seaton.

1824.

 

 

Navy Department,

13th February, 1824.

Sir: In answer to a resolution of the Senate, of the 22d January last, “That the Secretary of the Navy be requested to communicate to the Senate, so far as can be ascertained from the accounts in the Navy Department, the quantity of cordage manufactured from hemp of domestic growth, which has been used in the service of the Navy, since the year 1812; and the reasons, if any, why cordage manufactured from domestic hemp cannot be used as advantageously, and as economically, for the Navy of the United States, as cordage manufactured from imported hemp;” I have the honor to enclose a letter from the Board of Navy Commissioners, dated 27th January 1824, and one from the Fourth Auditor of the Treasury, dated 12th February, 1824; and am,

Very respectfully,

Sir, your most obedient servant,

Samuel L. Southard.

Hon. President of the Senate U.S.

 

 

Navy Commissioners’ Office

27th January, 1824.

Sir: Upon the subject of the resolution of the honorable the Senate of the United States, of the 22nd instant, calling for information as to the “quantity of cordage manufactured from hemp of American growth, which has been used in the service of the Navy, since the year 1812, and the reasons, if any, why cordage manufactured from American hemp cannot be used as advantageously, and as economically, for the navy of the United States, as cordage manufactured from imported hemp,” the Commissioners of the Navy have the honor to state:

That they have no knowledge of any cordage, manufactured from hemp of American growth, having been used in the Navy, since the establishment of the Board: that, in the contracts made by them for cordage, they have uniformly introduced a stipulation, binding the contractors to manufacture the cordage of the best Russia hemp.

The reasons which entitle Russia hemp to a preference, are to be found solely, it is believed, in the manner of preparing it for market. In its natural state, American hemp is, unquestionably, as good as that of any other country; and numerous experiments prove the fact, that, when prepared as Russia hemp is, it is fully equal to the best Russia hemp, and indeed superior to that generally imported. The Russian method is called “water rotting;” that practised in the United States, “dew rotting.”

Hemp prepared by dew rotting has a dark color, and frequently appears as if it were mildewed. But, from whatever cause, or combination of causes, it may proceed, universal experience has proved, that cordage made of dew rotted hemp, is far less durable than that made of water rotted hemp, particularly when used for cables; although, when perfectly new, it may be nearly as strong, and is sometimes found to be equally so. Hence, cordage manufactured from American hemp cannot, in the opinion of the Commissioners, be used as advantageously and as economically, for the navy of the United States, as cordage manufactured from imported hemp.

With a climate and great extent of soil, admirably adapted to the culture of hemp, it appears to be a subject of regret, that out countrymen have not fallen upon some plan of preparing their hemp for use, so as to give it all the advantages it naturally possesses. The Commissioners have ever been desirous of introducing into our Navy cordage made of hemp of our own growth; but when they reflect that the safety of our ships, and the lives of those on board them, depend so much upon the quality of the cordage used, that they cannot take upon themselves the responsibility of using that, which their own and universal experience have pronounced to be of inferior quality.

 

 

The Commissioners have, heretofore, offered every encouragement in their power, consistently with a due regard to economy, to the growers of American hemp, to induce them to adopt the Russian, or some other equally good method, of preparing their hemp. Could this be effected, the duty of the Commissioners would then, in their view of the subject, permit them to indulge the disposition, they will never cease to cherish, to use for the Navy cordage manufactured of American hemp, to the entire exclusion of hemp the product of any other country.

I have the honor to be, with great respect,

Sir, your most obedient servant,

John Rodgers

Hon. Samuel L. Southard,

Secretary of the Navy

 

 

Treasury Department,

Fourth Auditor’s Office

12th February, 1824.

Sir: In answer to your letter of the 31st ult. enclosing a copy of the resolution of the Senate of the United States, requiring information relative to the quantity of cordage manufactured from hemp of domestic growth, since the year 1812, I have the honor to state, that the information cannot be accurately ascertained from the settlements made in this office. It appears, however, that about 182 tons of Kentucky yarns, and cordage manufactured from Kentucky hempen yarns, have been contracted for and delivered in 1813 and 1814. viz. 100 tons, cordage contracted for by Mathew L. Davis, to be manufactured from Kentucky hempen yarns, and delivered at New York in 1813. 50 tons Kentucky yarns, contracted for by Richard Pindell and H. Clay, delivered at Baltimore in 184. 31 tons, 17cwt. 2qr. 27lbs. Kentucky yarns, contracted for, and delivered at New Orleans in 1813, by W. Garret.

I have the honor to be,

Very Respectfully Sir,

Your obedient servant,

Const. Freeman

Fourth Auditor

Hon. Samuel L. Southard,

Secretary of the Navy