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Letter from Benjamin Baker


A Letter from Benj˙ Baker, on the subject of making Saltpetre, was read and filed, and is in the words following, to wit:

"GENTLEMEN:General Montgomery, when in Albany, heard of my attempts towards the production of nitre; sent for me to his lodging, and, after some examination and inquiry, requested of me to make application to the Committee for their assistance towards establishing a manufactory. Colonel Abraham Ten Broeck, Esq˙, requested me to write you somewhat of my pretensions in that way, for your further considerations. In conformity to his request, have wrote you as follows. From repeated trials and experiments, have strong reasons to believe that saltpetre may, in these parts of America, be made in as large quantities as now pot and pearl ashes are, or even to intercept, in a great measure, the East-India trade in that article. Common alkaline salts and wood otherwise concentrated into an acid juice; these two oppositions, and yet affinities, form a neutral commixture, and become as it were a proper magnet for the attraction of nitrous particles. These two materials only, with circulatory vessels properly adapted, and other apparatus convenient, large quantities assuredly may at one work be made, even to twenty or thirty tons a year, and, at the same time, the method so simple that the country people may easily learn the process, to the benefit of themselves and Continent. A capital work, to make the above quantity, would require a stock at least of one thousand Pounds, and a sum in proportion for lesser quantities. It is not the want of business induces me to make this application, but, on the other hand, to serve the Country, and oblige the gentleman that applied to me. I am already established in business, in an art peculiar to myself, in preparing in such purity alkaline salts as to answer all the different purposes in pharmacy, which may hereafter bring in great emoluments to America.

N˙B. It is not in the power of any art yet known to make, from its origin, saltpetre, in that limited time you are pleased to offer a price so extraordinary for."

"I am, Gentlemen, with due obedience, your humble servant, BENJAMIN BAKER.

To the Honourable the Provincial Congress, convened at New-York.

Ordered, That the gentlemen, who are members from Albany, write to the said Benjamin Baker, to know what quantity of Saltpetre he can make by the first day of May next, and on what terms.