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The Experiment

There are relatively few articles related to Andre Estave’s early efforts at The Vineyard.  The first of several advertisements offering reward for runaway slaves from The Vineyard appeared October 22, 1772.

From the Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, Oct 22,1772, Page 3

RUN away from the Vineyard, near Williamsburg, a Negro Fellow named CUFFY, about thirty Years of Age, five Feet three or four  Inches high, had on a gray Coat and blue Waistcoat, and I imagine will endeavour to get to Norfolk.  Whoever bring the said Negro to me, or secures him in any jail, shall have TWENTY SHILLINGS Rewards, Besides what the Law allows.


While Andrew Estave was attempting to cultivate native vines at The Vineyard, Colonel Robert Bolling, Jr. was already convinced from his earlier efforts producing wine from native vines, that their were not suitable.  Instead he believed that Eurpean vines should be cultivated and on February 25, 1773 he published a long article to such affect.  As we shall see in a future post, several weeks after his article, Colonel Bolling, Jr. secured funding from the House of Burgesses to carryout his own experiments in cultivation.

Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, February 25, 1773, Page 1

Essay on the Utility of VINE PLANTING

In Virginia

Nullam, Vare, Facra vite prius feveris arborem,
Circa mite folum Tiburis et moenia atili.
Siccis omnia nam dura Deus propufuit.  Hom.

The Measure adopted by Government in the year 1769 is, at least in Theory, of as interesting a Nature as any which hath heretofore fallen under Contemplation, I mean that of a PUBLICK VINEYARD, if that Measure is, as I apprehend, the Ground Work of still greater Efforts; otherwise the one in Question appears but feeble for so flourishing a Community, considering what must have been the Views of its Promoters.

Before it is possible to form an accurate Judgment upon any Enterprise whatever, it is necessary to weigh its more immediate and more remote Consequences.  An Advance of Money is always odious to the People, and they are very like to blame their Representatives for such Advance unless they be convinced of its Utility.  The first Consequence of the above Measure is a publick Expense, and, if it be properly prosecuted, a continued Expense for several Years; yet I see no thing in the Gazettes to convince a Multitude of Persons (who, living sequestered on their Plantations, have not other Opportunities of Information) that their own Good alone is proposed.  To such, therefore, this Piece is directed; to such I would explain its, probably Tendency, and give my Ideas of the likeliest Plan to secure the most happy Effects therefrom.  However, as we are not likely to live long enough to see Wine any considerable Branch of our Exports, I shall consider it in a more limited View, as only sufficient for our own Consumption.  The Idea of the Advantages which would then accure needs only to be raised up to an Export, and that is sufficient for the present Purpose, and for the Persons for whom my Diligence is designed.  The better informed will receive no new Information; I request they will rectify my Errors.  Provided a publick Benefit arise, whoever is the Instrument shall always have my applause and Gratitude.  I intend well.  The Reader may rest assured I shall esteem it as a Favour to be prevented either from propagating Mischievous Opinions or promoting injudicious Measures.  At the same Time I solicit his Countennace in Support of whatever he may approve, not as a Favour to myself, but as a Duty to his Country.

We behold at this Time as most sever Contribution annually paid for Wine and Sprits to Madeira and the Islands of the West Indies, to the Amount we say (to be greatly within Bounds) of one Hundred Thousand Pounds.

Almost the whole Wines, and the best of the Spirits, are only to be found in opulent Families.  The Remainder, miserably bad, and of the most pernicious Quality, falls to the Lot of the interior People.

Let the Reader dwell a Moment on the Sum dispursed for those Articles; let him reflect what a Proportino of the Colony’s annual Industry is required to furnish that Sum, whether it be not of Consequence to supply ourselves with wholesome generous Liquor at a tenth Part of the Expense, and what important Matters might be effected by the ninety Thousand Pounds saved.

If our Measures are taken with Prudence, the wine we make will be a clear Addition to the Country’s Produce, and in no Respect lessen the Exportation of Grain.  Grain will not bear the Expanse of distant Land Carriage.  Lands convenient to Navigation need not be planted with Vineyards; remote Lands may, and the Liquors will bear the Expense of Transportation any Where.

It will be granted that, caeteris paribus, the Opulent are Proprietors of rich Land, and the Indigent those whose Lands are otherwise.  As very rich Lands (unless perhaps Culture greatly enlarges the Quantity of Fluids in the Grape, which is yet uncertain) as very rich Lands, I say, produce a Grape too pulpy, the Must they make ferments to Excess, whence a thin acid Liquor.  The fertile low Grounds will not, therefore, be employed in that Manner; nor will, as I conceive, the Government bestow Attention on them, or even on the rich high Grounds, unless remote from a Landing.  Our Business is to better our Condition.  Now we shall not better our Condition by applying our fine Grain and Tobacco Lands, which so amply reward the Cultivator, to any other than the present Purpose; nor will the Proprietors of such Lands be easily prevailed upon to change their Object.  It follows, then, that our poorer Lands, our remote high Lands and Mountains, are the proper Objects of Government’s Attention; which is the same Thing, in other Words, as to say, that the Scheme is calculated in a singular Manner for the Benefit of the poorer People: The Value of their Plantations will rise almost to that of the richest; large Tracts, at present desolate, will be filled with happy Families, now obliged to seek their Fortunes beyond the Mountains, to the present Loss and future Danger of the Colony; a small Tract will suffice a large Family; every Person in it will be usefully employed in the earliest and most agreeable of all Kinds of Culture; Provisions for several Children will be rendered easier than it now is for a single one; in Process of Time Slaves may be Prohibited from working in Vineyards; the Business will become honourable; the Poor be secured in a plentiful Subsistence; our Numbers, our Riches, our commercial Importance, and general Happiness, increased beyond Conception.  I will add, that we shall become a more hardy and manly Race of People, when our Constitutions are no longer jaundiced, nor our Juices vitiated by abominable West India Distillations, rendered still more detestable by our own fraudulent Mixtures.  If the Reader smile at the Observation, let however its Importance be considered.  Such are the Advanced, the Foundations of which was laid by the Establishment of a public Vineyard.

When the Proposition was agitated in the House of Burgesses, several Members were tender of their People, and averse from running them to any Sort of Expense.  There are whole Knowledge is inferior to their Goodness of Heart, but whole Understandings, naturally good, are open to Conviction, and very ready to restract an Errour of which they become sensible.  Though their Objections did not stifle, yet it is clear that it contrasted, the Measure.  The Government voted four Hundred and fifty Pounds to effect a Purpose to which it was wholly inadequate; which, if effected, and expanded, would double the Colony’s present Value.  That Inconsistency in the Vote will surprise Nobody acquainted with large Assemblies.  A succeeding Assembly made a farther Allowance, and showed a good Disposition; but that Advance only supports the former circumscribed Plan.  Estave’s Abilities are still confined to a single Vineyard, when, with proper Assistants, he might superintend four or five; yet this Effort is put upon the Footing of an Experiment, and is probably intended, by many, to determine finally, as to them, the Practibility of rendering this a Wine Country.  When an Experiment fails, the Intention is usually dropped; there is a Please for ever against a farther Prosecution.  It may be ill made, it may fail by Accidents, which may not happen in another * Place, and yet afterwards the Country be pronounced improper for a Repetition thereof.  Let us consider then the real Nature of this Experiment.  Is it whether Wine is made of Grapes?  The Experiment, to analyse it properly, is, first, whether Andre Estave can raise a Vineyard a Mile below Williamsburg which shall furnish a sufficient Quantity of Grapes.  Secondly, whether he can produce therefrom a Wine wholesome and potable.  We may be disappointed in both those Objects, without any reasonable Presumption against the Country or Climate.  That good Wine can be made here, as well as in other Countries (between which there is no sensible Difference) may be considered as unquestionable.  Why then should we be discouraged though Andre Estave fail of what, it is said, he has to so promising a Prospect of performing!  Let us persevere, by unrem itted Trials, to bring the present Undertaking to Perfection.  Let us, with the utmost Expedition, provide Vineyards in various remote Counties, and in Places wehre it would be lost Labour to cultivate Tobacco.  Let Orphan and spurious Children be bound to the Managers, and let us procure foreign Viners, and Vines from the same Countries whence we draw our Viners; and not depend singly upon our own Vines, of which, though I approve of farther Experiments, I have, from two Experiments, but an ill Opinion.  If they be proper for making the finest Wines, it is purely fortunate; but how little is that to be expected when no Experience of their Finess led to a Preference of them to any other?  Let us, without neglecting our own, imitate those who have profited by foreign Advantages.  The Wine of the Cape is made from Vines brought originally from Champagne, Canary from Vines of the Rhine, Madeira from those of Candia.  We may try the different Sorts of Vines among us, of which we have imported great Variety.  In a Country like this, it is honourable for Government to have always one or more great publick Objects.  What Country was ever more capable of Improvement?  What Object more interesting than to turn to Account such a Quantity of Acres as, as present, so far from being cultivated, remain unpatented and unentered?  The Cultivation of the Vine should be the Aim of our most serious Counsels and active Industry.  Will is cause an Expense?  I am willing to pay my Proportion, sure to be rewarded a Thousand Fold in the Good that will befall either myself, my Children, my Fellow Citizens, or all together.  If you are of a different Opinion, consider yourself as liable to be mistaken.   You may be right, perhaps; but if you prevent a Measure actually prudent and beneficial, and in the Degree suggested, consider whether the Birth of any Mortal was more pernicious to his Country than yours to your Country.  It is frequency the Lot of useful Propositions to be received with Derision; it requires some Capacity to comprehend all their Advantages; but where is the Ideot who cannot sneer?  Had the Persons who deried a Proposition made to the Assembly by the late Honourable William Beverley, Esquire, for the Education of certain Viners and Oil Pressers, had they, I say, never existed, the Country might at this Day not have an Effort to make towards introducing, may perhaps not towards perfecting, the former Business.  As the Project was then neglected, it behoves us to postpone it no longer.  Let the Remoteness of the Advantages make no Impression; it is an unpatriotic Consideration.  We are in no Danger of wearing out Time; with Time, they are infallible.  The King would remit his Quitrents, the Country its Taxes, I doubt not, for the Encouragement of Particulars, for a Time limited yet the Publick should rely on no private Endeavours.  Particulars can scarcely lose their Labour for several Years, unless with a reasonable Certainty of afterwards having their Vintage treated with Judgement, so as to reward their Sedulity and Patience.  The Government, if ever zealous to render this a Vine Country, must be at the Expense of providing or training Viners, and then we shall have Plenty of Vineyards.  Raisins are as easily made as any Thing of their Utility, and they would soon become common (See Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, published by Owen).  The Greek Wines of the Archipelago are esteemed delicious.  The Russian Fleet has filled several of those Islands with Tumult and Distraction.  The Russian are favoured by the Greek Inhabitants, and are in Alliance with the King.  An Agent sent from hence might obtain Letters from the Ministry, and from the Russian Ambassadour at London to the Russian Admiral up the Mediterranean, and by his Means easily procure Vines and Viners from Naxos, Lesbos, Chios, Tenedos.  If that Attempt be Thought too arduous and expensive (as a Ship must be hired on Purpose, and the Plague is in the Neighbourhood) still great Facilities might be had in Tuscany by Means of the British Resident at Florence.  Vines cultivated on the Appenine, it is morally certain, would succeed in our back Country.  There is no sensible Difference between the Air of Tuscany and Virginia.

Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, February 25, 1773, Page 2

The great Number of English Gentlemen who reside at Florence, and spend much Money there, would give great Weight to an Application for Leave to engage Viners; and the more, as the Loss of the Viners would be the sole Inconvenience Tuscany would sustain, no Wines coming thence to America.  Those Viners should by no Means be mere Adventurers, they should be worthy Country People, qualified each for the Superintendence of four Vineyards.  Their Wages would undoubtedly be high, as the Service refereed to them would be important.  Four Time the Number of Labourers might also be engaged, acquainted with Pruning and other Branches of Culture; to be employed at the Recommendation of the former, as proper to carry on the Business in their Absence, and follow Directions.  Their Wages need not exceed ten Pounds Sterling.  I should also greatly recommend a few Viners from Champagne, though I believe the Italian and Greek Wines more pleasant, and more agreeable to our Constitutions; but I should never approve of introducing those Wines where are exported from Bourdeaux, or any like them.  Why, when endeavouring to introduce Wine into the Country, should we depend upon mere Accident for the Kind?  Or why introduce those Guienne and Gascon Wine so universally decried by the French themselves, as to obtain no better Appellation from them than that d’un Breauvage detestable, xtremely, detestable Drink?  Here I rest the Matter at present.  Having heard that Members of the Assembly desired to know the Sentiments of the People upon the above Subject, I give my Sentiments as one of the Number; at the same Time I endeavour to fulfill the End of my Writing, that of informing my retired Countrymen.  I recommend to all Freeholders to explain their Sentiments upon publick Vineyards to their Representatives, that they may be free to act in the Matter, without having their virtuous Conduct arraigned in their Counties by a Set of officious Fellows, who, conscious of their Inability to do the least Service, take a malignant Pride in exciting Suspicions against and throwing Obstacles in the Way of those who can be serviceable.


R. BOLLING, Junior.


P.S. Among the incidental Advantages that may be derived from what is above recommended, the Reader may give a Glance to the following:

1. To Great Britain. An easier Purchase of Madeira Wine, by the Diminution of the Demand from America.

2. A greater Demand from America of British Manufactures, as we should have wherewith to purchase in greater Plenty.

3. To this Country.  The Introduction of Glass blowers. [The Counties of Northampton, Accomack, and Princess Anne, might supply Kelp in Abundance.]

4. An easier Communication, north and south, between the different Parts of the Colony, with all the advantages of internal Commerce.  A ready Sale of [unreadable], etc. which will in Time be neglected by the Viners.

5. Great Value to remote indifferent and mountainous Lands, and to Timber proper for Staves.  [unreadable] of small Plantations, and consequently a great Increase of their Number; Detentions of the Poor from migrating to the Western Wa[unreadable] Advantages chiefly mention before, but which can never be too well considered, or too often repeated) whence, in Time, Towns replete with Tradesmen, Manufactures, Artists, Men of Science, &c. &c. whence, in fine, a great and flourishing People of inestimable Value to the Mother Country, and elsewhere the surest of her Protection.

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