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title:“Petition to the General Assembly regarding the Manufacture and Sale of Flour,”
authors:George Mason
date written:1792-10

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:23 a.m. UTC
retrieved:May 25, 2022, 11:09 a.m. UTC

Mason, George. "Letter to the General Assembly regarding the Manufacture and Sale of Flour,." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 3. Ed. A Rutland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 1276-81. Print.
Manuscript, Legislative Petitions, 1792, Virginia State Library, Richmond, Va.

Petition to the General Assembly regarding the Manufacture and Sale of Flour, (October 1792)

[Sept.-Oct. 1792]
To the honourable the Speakers and Members of both Houses of the General Assembly.
The Petition of the Subscribers, in Behalf of themselves, and other Manufactures vending their Flour in the Port of Alexandria
That the Quantity of Wheat made in Virginia, particularly in the extensive Country situated upon the Waters of Potomack River, has increased rapidly of late Years; as is manifest from the Quantity of Flour inspected in the Port of Alexandria having increased near threefold, within the last seven Years; the Quantity of Flour inspected there in the Year 1784 being about 21,400 Barrels, and the Quantity inspected in the Year 1791, being near 60,000 Barrels; as will appear from the annexed Certificates and Probates.
That from the large Quantitys of Tobacco now made in the more Southern States (whose favourable Climate must soon enable them to undersell the Virginia Planters) having overstock'd the European Markets, and from the best of our Tobacco Lands being already cut down and exhausted, it is highly probable that Wheat and Flour will soon become the Principal and permanent Staples of this Country; the Prices of them materially affect the great landed and republican Interest of the Commonwealth, and justly merit the utmost Attention and Care of it's Legislature.
That a[l]tho' it is evident Wheat can be exported to foreign Markets, at as low Freight and Charges, from Virginia, as from Philadelphia and Baltemore, Yet it is notorious, that it always sells so much higher in those places than in Virginia, that very large Quantitys are annually sent thither from hence for Sale; subject to some Risque, and a considerable Freight. That the average Difference between the Prices there and here is about six Pence Per Bushel; which applyed to all the Wheat made in Virginia, more than is necessary for Home-consumption, will amount to an alarming Sum; when considered in it's true Light, as so much clear annual Loss to the agricultural Interest of the Country. This Difference of Price, your Petitioners conceive, is entirely oweing to the great Number of manufacturing Mills in the States of Pensylvania and Delaware, and in the neighbourhood of Baltemore, creating a Competition in the Market, between the Purchasers of Wheat for Exportation and the Purchasers for manufacturing; and demonstrates the Benefits which wou'd result to the Public, from the Encouragement of manufacturing Mills in Virginia; which abounds, especially those Parts of it near and above the Falls of the great Rivers, with as fine Streams for Mills, as any Country in the World.
These Reasons your Petitioners flatter themselves will be found sufficient, to induce the Legislature to remove, or lessen, the Hardships and Inconveniencys, which the Manufacturers of Flour in Virginia at present labour under. Some of which your Petitioners beg Leave to enumerate.
First, the high Price paid here for the Inspection of Flour; which is more than double the Price paid in the neighbouring States of Maryland and Pensylvania. the Price in Virginia (Dollars passing at 6/) being two Pence per Barrel; and the Price in Maryland and Pesylvania (Dollars passing at 7/6) being only one Penny per Barrel. The Sum received in the last Year by the Inspector of Flour at the Port of Alexandria, for his Services, was about five hundred Pounds; besides his Perquisite of the Flour drawn or scooped out of each Barrel, in the Inspection; which being about one ounce and a half per Barrel (in 60,000 Barrels) amounts to 5,625.1bs. of Flour, at 12/6 Per hund: £35..3..1 1/2 ; so that his Sallery amounted to about five hundred and thirty five Pounds: out of this he pays thirty Pounds to his Deputy or Assistant and is also at the Charge of a small Boy and Horse, to carry about the Town, occasionally, a little Forge, for heating the Branding-irons: which will leave his Sallery about eight times as much as the Sallery of an Inspector of Tobacco; altho' the Inspector of Flour is not at the Trouble of keeping Books and Accounts, and has not the Custody and Risque of the Commodity inspected, as the Inspector of Tobacco has. This extravagant Sallery is also rapidly encreasing, and probably in the next Year will be a fourth or fifth more than it was the last. Some of your Petitioners, sensible of the unreasonableness and Burden of such a Sallery, had a Conference with the Inspector of Flour in Alexandria, upon the Subject; who acknowledged, that one Penny ha' Penny Per Barrel wou'd be sufficient Compensation for the Inspection, and was willing to perform the Duty at that Rate; until the Merchants, Exporters of Flour from the Port of Alexandria, set on Foot a Petition to the Assembly against the Reduction of the Rate of Inspection on that Arti[c]le.
Secondly, the Dutie or Fee for Inspection is paid here by the Miller or Manufacturer, instead of being paid by the Exporter; as your Petitioners conceive it ought to be; and as it is in Pensylvania; except on Flour condemned as unmerchantable; which being unfit for Exportation, and thrown by the Merchant Exporter upon the Hands of the Manufacturer or Seller, the Inspector's Fee, in that Case, is paid by him. In the 10th Section of the first Article of the Constitution of the United States, it is declared, that "no State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports; except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's Inspection Laws" clearly conveying the Idea, that Duties or Fees for the Inspection of any Commodity were imposed on the Exporter, and proving that this was generally the Case throughout the United States. Nor can your Petitioners see any just Reason, why the Charge of inspecting Flour, as well as the Charge of inspecting Tobacco, shou'd not be laid on the Exporter: which wou'd, perhaps, temper the Extremity of Generosity in the Merchants Exporters from the Port of Alexandria, in endeavouring to force upon the Inspector higher Wages than he desired; and dispose them, with less Reluctance, to agree to a moderate and reasonable Reduction of the Charge on inspecting Flour. Altho's this charge wou'd in few Instances fall upon the Exporter himself; the Greater Part of the Flour exported from hence being purchased, upon Commission, for Foreigners.
Thirdly, that altho' the Act of 1787, entitled "An Act to regulate the Inspection of Flour and Bread" permits the Exportation of all Flour; except what is condemned as unsound, damaged, sour, and unmerchantable, and therefore not fit to pass Inspection; Yet as the said Act describes the Marks and Brands of only four Sorts or Grades of Flour; all Flour exported must be branded with one of those four Denominations. Whereas there are constantly brought to Market five Sorts or Grades of Flour; which being sound, clean, sweet and merchantable, are fit for Exportation—Vizt. Superfine- Fine—Seconds or common Flour—Middlings—and Shipstuff. The last or coarsest kind is generally used for making the common coarse brown Biscuit for the Shipping; whence it's Name. The Middlings are generally used for making a finer and whiter kind of Biscuit. The Seconds, or common Flour, tho' not quite fine enough, or sufficiently free from Specks, to pass under the Denomination of fine, to which it is very little inferior, yet makes very good Bread, thought by many people equal to any other: this Sort of Flour being originally expected, by the Manufacturers, to pass as fine, is therefore generally so marked by them, upon the Heads of the Barrels, before it is carryed from the Mills; but not being thought, by the Inspector, entitled to that Denomination, is unprovided for by the Law; and either can't be exported at all, or must be exported under the Brand of Middling; which being of a much inferior Quality, such Brand operates greatly to the Injury of the Manufacturers here; altho' it wou'd be little felt by the Manufacturers in Pensylvania or Maryland, who carry their Flour to the large populous Towns of Philadelphia and Baltemore; where this Sort of Flour is readily vended for the Home-consumption of the Inhabitants; the greater part of the Bread used in those Towns being made of it; but the Demand for the Home-consumption of the Inhabitants of Alexandria being trifling, compared with the Quantity of this kind of Flour at Market, and there being little, or no Demand among the Country Gentlemen and Farmers; whose Familys are supplyed from their own Wheat, the Loss accrueing to the Manufacturers, in this Part of Virginia, is sufficient not only to discourage the erecting new Mills; but, if not removed, to put down some of those already [e]rected. As may easily be conceived, when it is considered, that this Species of Flour amounts to about one twelfth Part of the whole Quantity brought to Market. Nor is this the only Inconvenience and Injury resulting from the same Cause; for from the Circumstance of the Inspector's branding this Species of Flour with the Word Middling, it follows of Course, that the two distinct kinds of Flour, properly called Middlings—and Shipstuff, are each indiscriminately branded with the Word Shipstuff; altho' there is a Difference of forty or fifty Per Cent: in their Quality and Value. The Reasons urged in the Petition of the Merchants and Exporters of Alexandria, against allowing a fifth Description and Brand for exported Flour, are too trivial and futile to deserve Refutation. Because the same Impositions, if any such there are (for the Assertion is unsupported by Facts or Evidence) are as easily practiced in erasing or altering the present Brand of the Word Middling, as in erasing or altering the word Seconds, or any other Brand. If any such Frauds are practiced, they are principally occasioned by the Inspector's not erasing the Miller's original Brand of fine, upon the Head of the Barrel, as he ought to do when he judges the Flour unequal to that Quality. And therefore may be prevented, by the Law's directing him to do so.
Fourthly, the Act of 1787 required, that the Tare and Nett Weight shall be branded on every Barrel of Flour, before it's Removal from the Mill; under the Penalty of two Shillings and six Pence for every Barrel not so branded: and a subsequent Clause in the same Act requires, that a Manifest of the Gross, Tare and Nett Weight shall be delivered, by the Miller or Manufacturer, to every Person carrying Flour from any Mill, for Sale or Exportation; under the Penalty of five Shillings for every Barrel of Flour delivered without such Manifest. The first of these Requisitions, being complyed with, rendering the last of them totally unnecessary and superfluous, the same is never required by any Purchaser, or Exporter; and consequently seldom or ever complyed with, by the Miller or Manufacturer; who in this Instance, is exposed to an unnecessary, and therefore grievous Penalty.
Your Petitioners also beg Leave to represent to the honourable the General Assembly; That altho' one half of the Fines, imposed by the said recited Act, is directed to the use of the Commonwealth; Yet such Fines being generally demanded by the Inspector (who in this Case stands in the Place of the Informer) and the Money for them paid to him, upon the Spot. And the said Act not having appointed any Person, to whom the Inspector shall pay; or whose Duty it shall be to call him to Account for the Commonwealth's Part; the whole (to a considerable amount every Year) remains in his Hands, unaccounted for; as is probably the Case in other Parts of the Country, as well as this.
YOUR PETITIONERS therefore humbly pray, That the Rate of inspecting Flour in Alexandria, and other places where large Quantitys are collected for Exportation, may be reduced, from two Pence to one Penny ha' penny Per Barrel. And that the Charge of Inspection, as in the Case of Tobacco, may in future be imposed upon the Exporter of the Commodity.
That another Sort or Grade of Flour (in Addition to the four enumerated in the Act of 1787) between fine and middling, may be distinguished by the Inspector, and branded for Exportation, with the Word Seconds. And where any such Flour has been originally branded, by the Miller or Manufacturer, with the Word fine; that the Inspector be required to erase such original Brand.
That the Clause in the Act of 1787, requiring that "Every Occupier of a Mill, who shall grind and manufacture wheat into Flour, and pack the same in Barrels, shall make out, subscribe, and deliver to the Person authorised and empowered to carry away the said Flour, a Manifest of the Gross, Tare and Nett Weight of such Flour" having been found superfluous, unnecessary, and burthensome, be repealed.
And that some proper Person, or Persons, may be appointed by Law, to call the Inspectors of Flour to an Account, as well for the Fines which they have heretofore collected, as for those which they shall hereafter collect; and receive from them the part due to the Commonwealth; to be applyed to such useful public Purpose, as the honourable the General Assembly shall think fit.
And your Petitioners will ever pray.

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