The Late Regulations Respecting the British Colonies

The Late Regulations Respecting the British Colonies
From “Pamphlets of the American Revolution”, Ed. by Bernard Bailyn



When I last wrote to you and said “that the late measures respecting America would not only be extremely injurious to the colonies but also to Great Britain,” I little thought I was entering into an engagement which would oblige me to exceed the usual limits of a letter; but since you desire to have at large the reasons in support of this opinion, and I always think it my duty to comply with your requests, I will endeavor in the clearest manner I can to lay my sentiments before you.

The American continental colonies are inhabited by persons of small fortune, who are so closely employed in subduing a wild country for their subsistence and who would labor under such difficulties in contending with old and populous countries which must exceed them in workmanship and cheapness, that they have not time nor any temptation to apply themselves to manufactures.

Hence arises the importance [It has been said in the House of Commons, when complaints have been made of the decay of trade to any part of Europe, “that such things here not worth regard, as Great Britain was possessed of colonies that could consume more of her manufactures than she was able to supply them with.”

“As the case now stands, we shall show that the plantations are a spring of wealth to this nation, that they work for us, that their treasure centers all here and that the laws have tied them fast enough to us; so that it must be through our own fault and mismanagement if they become independent of England.” Davenant on the plantation trade

“It is better that the islands should be supplied from the northern colonies than from England for this reason the provisions we might send to Barbados, Jamaica, etc., would be unimproved product of the earth, as grain of all kinds, or such product where there is little got by the improvement, as malt, salt, beef, and pork; indeed, the exportation of salt fish thither would be more advantageous, but the goods which we send to the northern colonies are such whose improvement may be justly said one with another to be near four fifths of the value of the whole commodity, as apparel, household furniture, and many other things.Idem .

“New England is the most prejudicial plantation to the kingdom of England; and yet, to do right to that most industrious English colony, I must confess that though we lose by their unlimited trade with other foreign plantations, yet we are very great gainers by their direct trade to and from Old England. Our yearly exportations of English manufacture, malt, and other goods, from hence thither, amounting, in my opinion, to ten times the value of what is imported from thence; which calculation I do not make at random, but upon mature consideration, and, peradventure, upon as much experience in this very trade as any other person will pretend to; and therefore, whatever reformation of our correspondency in trade with that people shall he thought on. it will, in my poor judgment, require GREAT TENDERNESS and VERY SERIOUS CIRCUMSPECTION.” Sir Josiah Child's A Discourse on Trade.

“Our plantations spend mostly our English manufactures, and those of all sorts almost imaginable in egregious quantities and employ near two thirds of our English shipping; so that we have more people in England by reason of our plantations in America.” Idem.

Sir Joseph Child says, in another part of his work, “That not more than fifty families are maintained in England by the refining of sugar.” From whence, and from what Davenant says, it is plain that the advantages here said to be derived from the plantations by England must be meant chiefly of the continental colonies.

“I shall sum up my whole remarks on our American colonies with this observation, that as they are a certain annual revenue of several millions sterling to their mother country, they ought carefully to be protected, duly encouraged, and every opportunity that presents improved for their increment and advantage, as every one they can possibly reap must at last return to us with interest.” Beawes's Lex Merc. Red.

“We may safely advance that our trade and navigation are greatly increased by our colonies, and that they really are a source of treasure and naval power to this kingdom, since they work for us and their treasure centers here. Before their settlement, our manufactures were few, and those but indifferent; the number of English merchants very small, and the whole shipping of the nation much inferior to what now belongs to the northern colonies only. These are certain facts. But since their establishment, our condition has altered for the better, almost to a degree beyond credibility. Our MANUFACTURES are prodigiously increased, chiefly by the demand for them in the plantations, where they AT LEAST TAKE OFF ONE HALF, and supply us with many valuable commodities for exportation, which is as great all emolument to the mother kingdom as to the plantations themselves.” Postlethwayt's Univ. Dict. of Trade and Commerce.] of the colonies to Great Britain. Her prosperity depends on her commerce; her commerce on her manufactures; her manufactures on the markets for them; and the most constant and advantageous markets are afforded by the colonies, as in all others the rest of Europe [“Most of the nations of Europe have interfered with us, more or less, in divers of our staple manufactures, within half a century, not only in our woolen but in our lead and tin manufactures as well as our fisheries.” Postlethwayt, ibid.] interferes with her, and various accidents may interrupt them. The benefit from hence is at present immense; but in future times when America shall be more fully peopled, must exceed with prudent management the warmest wishes of a British patriot.

Our chief productions are provisions, naval stores, furs, linen, and lumber. A few colonies yield tobacco and indigo. Many of these commodities are necessary to Great Britain; but all that she requires are vastly insufficient to pay for her manufactures which we want. The productions of some of the southern colonies may perhaps be equal to their demands, but the case is widely different with the northern; for in these, the importations from Great Britain are computed to be generally more than double the value of their immediate exhortations to that kingdom.

The only expedient left us for making, our remittances is to carry on some other trade, whereby we can obtain silver and gold, which our own country does not afford. Hence it is evident that if our taking of and paying for her manufactures is beneficial to Great Britain the channels by which we acquire money for that purpose ought to be industriously kept open and uninterrupted.

Our trade with Spain, Portugal, and the foreign plantations in the West Indies have chiefly answered this and, though with much difficulty the mother country having long since drawn the commercial cords [As far as regulations are requisite to confine the commerce of the colonies to British subjects and to British ships; to give Great Britain the preference in being supplied with naval shores, so essential to her strength at sea; with commodities necessary for carrying on her woolen manufactures, or such articles as can bear high duties upon them, and thereby make a considerable addition to the revenue; or as far as they are requisite to prevent the colonies from being supplied with anything in the place of British manufactures, they may be reasonable. These regulations, it is apprehended, establish the basis of the British power, and form such a firm connection between the mother country and her colonies as will produce all the advantages she ought to wish for, or that they can afford her. Any further attempt to shackle some of the colonies in favor of others, or to advance the revenue in America by restraining its trade, is but regulating by a severe exercise of power what wants no regulation, and losing by too much haste to gain. Unnecessary and irritating restrictions will at last cast contempt and hatred on those substantial ones that length of time and the natural reverence of colonies for their mother country would have consecrated, for discontented minds are not apt to distinguish. “Narrow-limited notions in trade and planting are only advanced by, and can only be of use to, particular persons, but are always injurious to the public interests in preventing the full employment of our own people, and giving our rivals and competitors in trade the opportunity of employing greater numbers of theirs, producing greater quantities of merchandises, and underselling us at foreign markets.” Postlethwayt's Univ. Dict. of Trade and Commerce.] with which the colonies are bound extremely tight upon them. Every thing produced here that Great Britain chooses to take to herself must be carried to that kingdom only. [Montesquieu, speaking of the contract made by Poland for selling all her corn to Danzig ONLY, and another of the like nature between some Indian princes and the Dutch for spices, says: “These agreements are proper for a poor nation, whose inhabitants are satisfied to forego the hopes of enriching themselves provided they can be secure of a certain subsistence, or for nations whose SLAVERY consists either in renouncing the use of those things which nature has given them, or in being OBLIGED TO SUBMIT TO A DISADVANTAGEOUS COMMERCE.”] Everything we choose to import from Europe must be shipped in Great Britain. [Except salt from any part of Europe for the fisheries of Newfoundland, New England, New York and Pennsylvania; and a few things from Ireland.] Heavy duties have been laid on our importations from the foreign plantations.

However, under all these restraints and some others that have been imposed on us, we have not till lately been unhappy. Our spirits were not depressed. We apprehended no design formed against our liberty. We for a long time enjoyed peace, and were quite free from any heavy debt, either internal or external. We had a paper currency which serves as a medium of domestic commerce and permitted us to employ all the gold and silver we could acquire in trade abroad. We had a multitude of markets for our provisions, lumber, and iron. These allowed liberties, with some others we assumed, enabled us to collect considerable sums of money for the joint benefit of ourselves and our mother country.

But the modern regulations are in every circumstance afflicting. The remittances we have been able to make to Great Britain, with all the license hitherto granted or taken and all the money brought among us in the course of the late war, have not been sufficient to pay her what we owe; but there still remains due, according to a late calculation made by the English merchants, the sum of four millions sterling. Besides this, we are and have been for many years heavily taxed for the payment of the debts contracted by our efforts against the common enemy. These seem to be difficulties severe enough for young colonies to contend with. The last sinks our paper currency very fast. [While the quantity of paper currency is proportioned to the uses for it, it must be beneficial; and therefore to sink it below that quantity must be prejudicial.] The former sweeps off our silver and gold in a torrent to Great Britain and leaves us continually toiling to supply from a number of distant springs the continually wasting stream.

Thus drained, we are prohibited by new and stricter restraints being laid on our trade from procuring these coins as we used to do and from instituting among ourselves bills of credit in the place of such portion of them as are required in our internal traffic; and in this exhausted condition, our languishing country is to strive to take up and to totter under the additional burden of the STAMP ACT.

In defense of the prohibition to institute bills of credit it may be said, “that some few colonies, by injurious emissions of paper currency, did great injury to individuals.” It is true: But it is as true that others [No attempt was ever made in this province and some others to pay English debts any otherwise than according to the rate of exchange; and no complaint was ever made of injustice from the depreciation of the currency.] always supported the credit of their bills in such a manner that their emissions were of vast benefit both to the provinces and to Great Britain. The inconveniences under which the colonies labored before these emissions are well remembered and were produced by the same cause that distresses us at this time, that is, by Great Britain's taking off all our gold and silver. There was then so little money among several of them that a stop was put in a manner to buying and selling, and then shopkeepers were obliged to barter their goods for food. The effect produced by these emissions was surprising. Trade revived and the remarkable and immediate increase [Value of the exports from England to Pennsylvania at different periods.

In 1723 they were £l5,992:l9:4 1730 £48.592: 7: 5 1737 £56,690: 6: 7 1742 £75,295: 3: 4

In the year 1723 the first bills of credit were emitted in Pennsylvania to the value of £45,000. In 1728, part of the first emission being then sunk, 30,000 more were emitted. It appears from the account above that in seven years from 1723 to 1730 the exports increased 32,599:8:1 sterling. In 1738, great part of the preceding emissions being then sunk, there was an emission and re-emission amounting in the whole to £80,000. In five years afterwards, it appears by the account above, the exports increased over £20,000 sterling.

In later times when larger emissions have been made, the exports have proportionately increased. In 1755 £55,000 were emitted, and in 1756 £30,000. In 1757 the exports amounted to 268,426:6:6. Afterwards our emissions were still greater, and in one year of the war, the exports rose to more than £700,000 sterling.

It is not pretended that the increase of our importations is solely owing to the emissions of paper money; but it is thought to be a very great cause of that increase. It is undoubtedly owing in part to the increase of people by propagation and the influx of foreigners. But such great and sudden increases as have been mentioned in the short space of seven or five years, from 1723 to 1730 and from 1737 to 1742, could not in any great degree proceed from the increase by propagation; and at that time I think foreigners did not flow in upon us in such numbers as they since have done. In the war large sums were brought among us for the maintenance of the fleets and armies, it is true; but that our currency was then of great utility is evident, because when the greatest quantity of is was passing, bills of exchange were lower than they were for a long time before, or have been since.

It may be objected that the complaint of the scarcity of money in America, particularly in this province, cannot be well founded, as we have lately had such large emissions. I am very sensible how liable persons are to errors in questions of this nature, and therefore I think myself obliged to speak with diffidence on the subject. Perhaps the following observations may in some measure answer the objection. 1st. About one half of the emissions is sunk. 2nd. A very great part of the bills now circulating are passing in the neighboring provinces. 3dly. Our gold and silver are sent to Great Britain, so that but small quantities thereof are now current among us—and therefore we must almost entirely rely on our paper for the medium of domestic commerce. Lastly, it does not seem probable that we should have heard such great complaints of the scarcity of money if the extreme restrictions of our commerce had not so generally prevented our usual methods of acquiring it.] of our importations showed how advantageous they were to Great Britain. If any inconveniences were feared from this kind of currency, means might have been found to prevent them without utterly abolishing it; but now the apprehension of mischiefs that might have been more easily obviated has deprived us of real benefits.

Perhaps no mode could be devised more advantageous to the public, or to individuals, than our method of emitting bills in this province for our own use. They are lent out upon good security, chiefly real, at the interest of five per cent. The borrowers are allowed a long term for payment, and the sums borrowed being divided into equal portions, they are obliged to pay one of these, with the interest of the whole, every year during the term. This renders the payments very easy; and as no person is permitted to borrow a large sum, a great number are accommodated. The consequences of such regulations are obvious. These bills represent money in the same manner that money represents other things. As long therefore as the quantity is proportioned to the uses, these emissions have the same effects that the gradual introduction of additional sums of money would have. People of very small fortunes are enabled to purchase and cultivate land, which is of so much consequence in settling new countries, or to carry on some business that without such assistance they would be incapable of managing: for no private person would lend money on such favorable terms. From the borrowers the currency passes into other hands, increases consumption, raises the prices of commodities, quickens circulation, and communicating a vigor to all kinds of industry, returns in its course into the possession of the borrowers to repay them for that labor which it may properly be said to have produced. They deliver it, according to the original contracts, into the treasury, where the interest raises a fund, without the imposition of taxes, for the public use.

While emissions are thus conducted with prudence, they may be compared to springs whose water an industrious and knowing farmer spreads in many meandering rivulets through his gardens and meadows, and after it has refreshed all the vegetable tribes it meets with and has set them a-growing, leads it into a reservoir where it answers some new purpose.

If it could be possible to establish a currency throughout the colonies on some foundation of this kind, perhaps greater benefits might be derived from it than would be generally believed without the trial.

With respect to the restrictions laid on our trade in foreign plantations, it has been alleged as a reason for them, “that our islands ought to be encouraged.” They ought to be; but should the interest of one colony be preferred to that of another? Should the welfare of millions be sacrificed to the magnificence of a few? If the exorbitant profits of one colony must arise from the depression of another, should not such injustice be redressed ?

There is a vast difference to be made in calculating the gains of any particular branch of business to the public and to individuals. The advantages to the last may be small, and yet great to the first, or the reverse. The statutes made to restrain the trade of the continent in favor of the islands seem to tend rather towards promoting partial than general interests, and it appears to me no paradox to say that the public would be a great gainer if estates there were so moderate that not a tenth part of the West India gentlemen that now sit in the House of Commons could obtain that frequently expensive honor. [A great advantage which the French have over the English in their sugar colonies is their agrarian law, whereby monopolists are prevented from engrossing too much land; so that the number of whites is greatly increased the land improved, more commodities raised, the planters obliged to a more frugal way of living, and all things rendered cheaper. By these means Martinque can muster 16,000 fighting man, but Jamaica, which is near three times as large, only 4,000.” Tucker on trade.] [“The agents for New York, in their contest with the sugar colonies, affirmed that their winters being severe, obliged them to take off more of the woollen manufactures of the kingdom (for which they remitted gold and silver than all the islands (Jamaica excepted) put together; and which I believe has remained uncontradicted.” Beawes's Lex Merc. Red.

It one province then exceeded all our West Indies except Jamaica, in this particular, what proportion would that single island bear NOW to all the rest of the continental colonists?

The following account of the exports from ENGLAND to the northern colonies and to the West India islands will show they were nearly equal some time ago; that those to the northern colonies now vastly exceed, and are prodigiously increasing, while those to the islands have continued nearly the Same. [...]

The difference between the employment afforded to the manufacturers of England by the northern colonies and by the West India islands is still greater than it may appear to be from the first view of the preceding account, for a much greater quantity of East India goods is exported to the last than to the first; and the English manufactures consumed by them generally derive their value from the richness of the materials, many of which are brought from foreign countries, but those we consume chiefly derive their value from the work bestowed upon them.]

It is allowed by those well acquainted with the islands that they cannot supply Great Britain and these colonies with sugar and other articles, and that they can by no means consume the productions of these colonies; yet in favor to them we are almost entirely prevented from sending these productions to any other markets. [It is recited in the 6th of Geo. 1I c. I3, now made perpetual, “that the sugar colonies could not carry on their trade ON AN EQUAL footing with the foreign sugar colonies without some advantage and relief given to them by Great Britain.” That advantage GIVEN by Great Britain was to compel the continental colonies to take their productions at any price they please to ask. In short, to grant them a MONOPOLY for sugars. This was taking from one indeed to give to another, but goes not to the root of the evil, as the next preceding note evidently shows. For if Great Britain should sacrifice her own interests and those of her continental colonies still more, if it be possible, to the interest of these islanders, they never will “carry on their trade ON AN EQUAL FOOTING with the foreign sugar colonies” until there is the same moderation in their estates and the same frugality in their living. By a very singular disposition of affairs the colonists of an absolute monarchy are settled on a republican principle, while those of a kingdom in many respects resembling a commonwealth are cantoned out among a few lords vested with despotic power over myriads of vassals and supported in the pomp of bassas by their slavery.] Hence it follows that we are frequently obliged to sell our commodities to them as so low a price as not to pay the first cost and freight, while we, being in a manner prohibited from getting the West Indies productions for which we have occasion anywhere else but from them, must pay extravagantly for them.

Nor is this management attended, as it is presumed, with any benefit to the mother country, but with a disadvantage, either where the productions of the foreign plantations are consumed among us or re-exported to Europe. By the compulsion on us to take from our islands, the price of their productions is raise on the people of Great Britain. The revenue would be increased by this restriction being taken off, as we should willingly pay a moderate duty upon importations from the French and Spaniards without attempting to run them, while a very considerable duty would be paid on the sugars [The restriction on the trade of the colonies to foreign plantations for molasses is particularly grievous and impolitic as the molasses brought from thence was distilled for the fisheries, the Indian and Guinea trades, the profit of which centered in Great Britain. It is said our vessels now have spirituous liquors on the coast of Guinea from the Dutch.] of our islands, which, instead of coming to us, would then go to Great Britain. Besides, whatever extraordinary price we pay for the productions of our own islands must lessen our demand for British manufactures, since it is an undeniable [This cannot he disputed by any one who is acquainted with America. This increase of a man's wealth there shows itself in a great consumption of British manufactures of all kinds. This reasoning in favor of the continental colonies trade with foreign plantations is confirmed by what Sir Josiah Child mentions of New England. He says, “England loses by the unlimited bade of this colony to other foreign plantations but gains by her direct trade to Old England, from whence she exports manufactures to ten times the value of her imports.” (See the note to page 4.) What was it then that enabled New England to pay ten times the value of her imports to England but the profit of her trade to foreign plantations? This appears to be a direct authority in support of the arguments hereafter used. It seems therefore that Great Britain of late through too great eagerness to gather golden fruits, has shaken the tree before they were full grown. With a little patience they would ripen and then of themselves drop into her lap.

“The inhabitants of our colonies, by carrying on a trade with their foreign neighbors, do not only occasion a greater quantity of the goods and merchandises of Europe being sent from hence to them, and a greater quantity of the product of America to be sent from them hither, which would otherwise be carried from and brought to Europe by foreigners, but an increase of the seamen and navigation in those parts, which is of great strength and security as well as of great advantage to our plantations in general And though some of our colonies are not only for preventing the importation of all goods of the same species they produce but suffer particular planters to keep great runs of land in their possession uncultivated with design to prevent new settlements, whereby they imagine the prices of their commodities may be affected, yet if it be considered that the markets of Great Britain depend on the markets of ALL Europe in general, and that the European markets in general depend on the proportion between the annual consumption and the whole quantity of each species annually produced by ALL nations, it must follow that whether we or foreigners are the producers, carriers, importers, and exporters of American produce, yet their respective prices in each colony (the difference of freight, customs, and importations considered) will always bear proportion to the general consumption of the whole quantity of each sort produced in all colonies and in all parts, allowing only for the usual contingencies that trade and commerce, agriculture and manufactures are liable to in all countries.” Postlethwayt's Univ. Dict. of Trade and Commerce.] truth that what we should save in that way would be chiefly spent in this. It may also justly be added that our commerce with the foreign plantations carries to them very considerable quantities of British manufactures for their consumption.

If our importations from them should be re-exported to Europe, the profits could center in Great Britain according to the usual course of our trade. The statute passed in the twenty-fifth year of Charles the Second indeed mentions this practice as injurious. It might be so, if regarded without its attendant circumstances; but if they are taken into view, and it be considered that if we do not carry these productions to Europe foreigners will, no mischief seems likely to ensue from our becoming the carriers.

The restriction also with regard to our iron is thought particularly severe. Whenever we can get a better price in Great Britain than elsewhere, it is unnecessary; whenever we can get a better price in other places, it is prejudical. [If Great Britain really takes of from Sweden iron to the value of £200,000, according, to the calculation that has been made, yet she does not lose all that sum. Not to insist on the merely political advantage of having a commerce with that Protestant kingdom, which by being beneficial to her may more firmly attach her to our interest, it may be observe that the trade of Great Britain to Sweden, it is for iron in the gross, which is afterwards worked up, and large quantities of it re-exported: so that money may thereby be brought into the kingdom, and a great number of hands is employed. There is a vast difference between this trade and that to France, from whence the importations into Great Britain are merely for consumption, without affording any employment to her people or any profit by re-exportation. Besides, if the colonies can get more by carrying their iron to foreign ports than to Great Britain (and if they cannot, there is no occasion of a law to compel them to carry it to Great Britain) they will be more able to make larger demands of British manufactures, so that Great Britain will gain the profits of our iron, to make up her loss by what she takes from Sweden.] Cargoes composed of this metal, provisions, and lumber, have been found to answer very well at the Portuguese and some other markets; and as the last articles are frequently very low and our foreign trade is reduced to so few commodities, the taking away any one of them must be hurtful to us. Indeed, to require us to send all our iron to Great Britain is, in the opinion of some of our most judicious merchants, to require an impossibility. For us this article is so heavy and such small quantities can be sent in one vessel, they assert that we cannot find freight directly home for one half of it.

Besides the circumstances already mentioned to prove the injurious consequences of the late restrictions, there is another, which has great force in persuading me that our trade ought by all means to be more encouraged and extended at this time than was formerly necessary. Our settlements then only comprehended a narrow strip along the shore of the ocean; they were less populous, and their distance from the seaport being small, they were supplied with everything they wanted from thence without any length of inland carriage. But now we have penetrated boundless forests, have passed over immense mountains, and are daily pushing further and further into the wilderness, the inhabitants of these remote regions must of necessity hold very little intercourse with those which are near the sea, unless a very extensive commerce shall enable these to supply them with such quantities of foreign commodities as they want, and at such prices as they can afford to pay. [It is apprehended, that if the greatest part of the commodities demanded by the back country should not be British but West Indian, yet it must be beneficial to Great Britain to promote this trade by all means. For if the country nearer the sea grows rich by supplying them with the productions of the West Indies, these will certainly consume greater quantities of British manufactures.] Every restriction on our trade seems to be a restriction on this intercourse and must gradually cut off the connection of the interior parts with the maritime and the mother country.

But it is unnecessary to endeavor to prove by reasoning on these things that we shall suffer, for we already suffer. Trade is decaying, and all credit is expiring. Money is become so extremely scarce that reputable freeholders find it impossible to pay debts which are trifling in comparison to their estates. [It is said that in Virginia the sheriffs, instead of raising the annual levies, have been obliged to make returns into the treasury of effects which they have taken in execution but could not sell, as there were no bidders for ready money.] If creditors sue and take out executions, the lands and personal estate, as the sale must be for ready money, are sold for a small part of what they were worth when the debts were contracted. The debtors are ruined. The creditors get but part of their debts, and that ruins them. Thus the consumers break the shopkeepers; they break the merchants; and the shock must be felt as far as London. Fortunate indeed is the man who can get satisfaction in money for any part of his debt in some counties; for in many instances, after lands and goods have been repeatedly advertised in the public gazettes and exposed to sale, not a buyer appears.

By these means multitudes are already ruined, and the estates of others are melting away in the same manner. It must strike any one with great surprise and concern to hear of the number of debtors discharged every court by our insolvent act. Though our courts are held every quarter, yet at the last term for the county of Philadelphia alone no less than thirty-five persons applied for the benefit of that act. If it be considered that this law extends only to those who do not owe any single debt above 150 pounds, that many are daily released by the lenity of their creditors, and that many more remove without their knowledge, it will not be difficult to form a judgment of the condition to which the people arc reduced.

If these effects are produced already, what can we expect when the same cause shall have operated longer? What can we expect when the exhausted colonies shall feel the STAMP ACT drawing off, as it were, the last drops of their blood? From whence is the silver to come with which the taxes imposed by this act and the duties imposed by other late acts are to be paid? Or how will our merchants and the lower ranks of people, on whom the force of these regulations will fall first and with the greatest violence, bear this additional load ?

These last are to be considered in a very different light from those of the same classes in Great Britain. There the nature of their employments and the plenty of money gives them very little occasion to make contracts in writing; but here they are continually making them, and are obliged to do so. The STAMP ACT, therefore, will be severely felt by these, in whose welfare the prosperity of a state is always so much interested; and transfers of property that ought, in new countries particularly, to be made as easy as possible will be much discouraged. [In the present scarcity of money, the sellers of lands, Negroes, etc., etc., always insist on having part of the purchase money in hand. The buyers, unless they happen to be rich men, find it impossible to comply with this term unless they borrow money, which cannot now be done but in very small parcels from different persons. Each of these must have a bond; and each of those bonds must pay a stamp duty of one shilling sterling, if the sum be above ten pounds and under twenty—and if above twenty pounds and under forty, one shilling and six pence sterling—besides a duty on the original contract.] From the necessity they are under of making contracts to be executed afterwards the lower ranks of people here are frequently engaged in law suits; and as the law is already a very heavy tax on the subject in all parts of the British dominions, this act will render it destructive here; for the necessaries, the follies, and the passions of mankind will not suffer them to cease from harassing one another in that way.

Neither are the merchants here by any means able to bear taxes as they do at home. A very great number of them there put such stocks into trade as would be thought large fortunes among us; and our merchants would think themselves very happy to leave off business with such estates as the others begin with. I speak of the merchants in general, for we have on the continent individuals who are rich, but their number is too inconsiderable to deserve any notice on this occasion. Besides, the interest of money being lower at home than it is here, those who trade on borrowed stocks can do it to much greater advantage there than we can. Indeed, among us it is almost impossible to get money to trade upon at any rate. How unequal, under the present disadvantages, a merchant's commerce will be to the payment of all the taxes imposed by the STAMP ACT on his policies, fees with clerks, charter parties, protests, his other notarial acts, his letters, and even his advertisements, experience, I am afraid, will unhappily prove.

Thus I apprehend that this act will be extremely heavy on those who are least able to bear it; and if our merchants and people of little substance languish under it, all others must be affected. Our mode of taxation hath always been by making as exact an estimate as could be formed of each man's estate; by which means our taxes have been proportional to the abilities of those who were to pay them. Few persons are employed in the collection of them; their allowance is very moderate, and therefore the expense is small. No excessive penalties, no tribes of informers, no dreadful and detestable courts are necessary. This I imagine is the mode of taxation which in young colonies will be found to be least oppressive and destructive, and certainly the most equal. But by the STAMP ACT, the wealthy, [If a rich man buys land, it is generally from the distressed, and therefore the seller's situation will oblige him to pay for the deed, when the other insists on it; and when a man borrows money, everybody knows who pays for the bonds and mortgages.] , who have money to let out at interest or to make purchases and undoubtedly ought to pay the most towards the public charges, will escape these taxes, while the whole weight of them will fall on the necessitous and industrious, who most of all require relief and encouragement.

But it may be said, “that the merchants will not be affected by these taxes because they will raise the prices of their goods in proportion, and that at length all taxes must arise from lands.”

This rule seems more applicable to very populous and rich countries where the manufacturers and landholders, through necessity or the force of fashions, have pressing demands upon the merchants, than to such a country as this, where a great majority of the people live on their lands in a very plain way. For by practising a strict frugality and industry, we may render ourselves more independent of the merchants than the circumstances of more populous and wealthy states will permit the other classes of their people to be. The high prices, therefore, which our merchants impose upon their goods will discourage the sale of them, and consequently they must “be affected by the taxes,” which oblige them to raise the prices in this manner.

However, granting that all taxes must arise from lands, it follows that where the profits of the lands are small they can bear but small taxes. The more labor is bestowed on them, the greater the profits will be, and the taxes may be. In old populous countries there is an opportunity of bestowing this labor, and the manner of doing it is well understood. Thus in England the profits of land are so great as to support a very large number of nobility and gentry in splendour, and to afford means of raising taxes to an amazing amount. Nor are the workers of the land unrewarded, for the farmers have such long leases and other encouragements that they thrive and live comfortably, and many of them are very wealthy.

How different is the case in America. The inhabitants being scattered thin through the country and laborers being very scarce, they think themselves fortunate if they can clear their land, fence it, and anyhow put their grain into the ground in season. Manuring or improving soils is not known, [Further, it may be observed that our lands are not sufficiently cultivated, even where they are capable of great improvement. Hence large tracts serve only to maintain a small number of people. If we ask, why our lands (meaning in Scotland) are so ill cultivated, besides the OBVIOUS CAUSES arising from the POVERTY and UNSKILLFULNESS of many of our farmers, the SHORTNESS OF THEIR LEASES, and other things which will occur upon the least reflection, it is not a little owing to a want of inclination for agriculture, etc.” Dissertation on the Numbers of Mankind.] except in some small closes near cities; but everyone must be content with what his land will yield of itself. With this it must be considered that at least four fifths of the people in America live upon farms either of their own or rented, and spend their small profits in maintaining their families; and it frequently happens from the length and severity of our winters that the whole produce of a man's farm is not sufficient to maintain his family and stock. [Small as the value of our land is, it is still daily decreasing, by the number of markets for their produce being lessened; which must in time give the people an inclination to try what they can make by manufactures.

The riches of a people are always in proportion to the number of hands employed in works of SKILL and LABOR. Where these are few, there can be but little wealth; and where there is little wealth, but very small taxes can be borne.]

We are informed, that an opinion has been industriously propagated in Great Britain that the colonies are wallowing in wealth and luxury [“It is certain that from the very time Sir Walter Raleigh, the father of our English colonies, and his associates first projected these establishments, there have been persons who have found an interest in misrepresenting or lessening the value of them. The attempts were called chimerical and dangerous. Afterwards many malignant suggestions were made about sacrificing so many Englishmen to the obstinate desire of settling colonies in countries which then produced very little advantage. But as these difficulties were gradually surmounted, those complaints vanished. No sooner were these lamentations over but others arose in their stead; when it could no longer be said that the colonies were useless, it was alleged that they were not useful enough to their mother country; that while we were loaded with taxes, they were absolutely free; that the planters lived like princes, while the inhabitants of England labored hard for a tolerable subsistence. This produced customs and impositions which, if grievous to the plantations, must turn to our disadvantage as well as theirs, and consequently become detrimental to both.” Postlethwayt's Univ. Dict. of Trade and Commerce.

In pursuance of this design to bring down the pride of these PRINCELY PLANTERS, such heavy impositions were laid in Great Britain on tobacco that the inhabitants of Maryland and Virginia over discouraged from raising it. Then the mother country FELT her error, and these PRINCES were found to be very poor people. The same unhappy spirit is now producing the same mistake. There wants but a very little more weight upon Maryland and Virginia to prevent their raising tobacco, and so make them and all their sister colonies sink under their multiplied burthens.] while she is laboring under an enormous load of debt. Never was there a greater mistake. This opinion has arisen from slight observations made in our cities during the late war, when large sums of money were spent here in support of fleets and armies. Our productions were then in great demand, and trade flourished. Having a number of strangers among us, the people, naturally not ungenerous or inhospitable, indulged themselves in many uncommon expenses. But the cause of this gaiety has ceased, and all the effect remaining is that we are to be treated as a rich people when we are really poor. Tully mentions a man who lost an honourable office by the homely entertainment he gave the people of Rome when he could have afforded a better; but we have lost vastly more by the imprudent excess of kindness with which we have treated the people of Great Britain who have come among us, at an expense that did not suit our fortunes.

To all the disadvantages that have been mentioned, it must he added that our markets are much more precarious than those at home. It is computed that one half of the people there live in cities, and consequently there must he a perpetual domestic demand for the productions of the earth; and foreign markets are not far distant for the overplus. Here the quantity sold for consumption among us is small, and most of the foreign markets are very remote.

These reasons induce me to think that the colonies, unless some fortunate event, not to be expected, should happen, cannot bear the restrictions and taxations laid upon them by the mother country without suffering very severely. What then can we do? Which way shall we turn ourselves? How may we mitigate the miseries of our country? Great Britain gives us an example to guide us. SHE TEACHES US TO MAKE A DISTINCTION BETWEEN HER INTERESTS AND OUR OWN. Teaches! She requires— commands—insists upon it—threatens—compels—and even distresses us into it.

We have our choice of these two things—to continue our present limited and disadvantageous commerce—or to promote manufactures among ourselves, with a habit of economy, and thereby remove the necessity we are now under of being supplied by Great Britain.

It is not difficult to determine which of these things is most eligible. Could the last of them be only so far executed as to bring our demand for British manufactures below the profits of our foreign trade, and the amount of our commodities immediately remitted home, these colonies might revive and flourish. States and families are enriched by the same means; that is, by being so industrious and frugal as to spend less than what they raise can pay for.

We have examples in this province, which, if imitated by others, must unavoidably produce the most happy effects for us: I mean the example of the industrious, frugal, honest Germans. Their lands are as well cultivated as they can be in this new country, and they have the good sense to require very little provisions and clothes more than they can get from their own farms and make with their own hands. If we only consider for a moment the consequences of such a conduct, should it he general, must be convinced it must produce commerce, since all superfluities would be exported, and the owners having few demands in return, that commerce would of course produce wealth.

Indeed we shall be compelled, I apprehend, generally to imitate these examples. The late regulations and our constant remittances to Great Britain have extremely lessened the quantity of money among us, ant yet these remittances are not sufficient to pay for those things we want from home. Necessity will teach us two ways to relieve ourselves. The one is to keep the British manufactures we purchase longer in use for we than we have been accustomed to do. The other is to supply their place by manufactures of our own. I don't suppose our difficulties will immediately produce expert artists among us; but as the inhabitants he generally reside on their lands and live in a plain rustic way, the will be able to supply themselves with many articles. Some author, and I think Keysler, says that in Switzerland every family has all the trade in it that are necessary for its use. Their work is not, it may be presume at all in the taste of London or Paris, but it serves their purpose; and the coarse clothes and simple furniture enable them to live in plenty, and defend their liberty. Something of this kind will be, nay, already is, practiced by us. It is surprising to see the linen and cloth that have been lately made among us. Many gentlemen in this city dress now in suits produced, manufactured, and made up in this province. The cloth not equal in fineness to the best broadcloth, but it is warm, strong, are not very homely; and when the British workmen understand that the may meet with better encouragement here than they do at home, I believe in a few years we shall have very different kinds of cloth among us from these we now make. Instances are not wanting to justify the most sanguine expectations on this head. Spain used formerly to be entirely supplied with cloths from England; but in the reigns only of their two last kings, Philip the Fifth and Ferdinand the Sixth, their manufacturs have been improved to such a degree, even by that proud and indolent people, that this commerce has entirely ceased in most parts of that kingdom. The same thing has happened in France, notwithstanding the destructive wars in which she has been continually involved. Switzerland some time ago spent large sums of money in foreign commodities; but now they make excellent cloths and good silks, though the scheme at first labored under very great difficulties. The country used also to be supplied by Savoy with wine; but the duke laying a duty upon it, the Switzers remonstrated; but in vain. At last some of the principal men promoted the cultivation of vines, though their predecessors had never planted any. The result exceeded their hopes. “The demand for the Savoyard wine daily decreased, and instead of the precarious advantage arising from this impolitic duty, the certain revenue was irretrievably lost, and the industrious subject deprived of the benefit of his labor.”

“Before the settlement of these colonies,” says Postlethwayt, “our manufactures were few, and those but indifferent. In those days we had not only our naval stores, but our ships from our neighbors. Germany furnished us with all things made of metal, even to nails. Wine, paper, linens, and a thousand other things came from France. Portugal supplied us with sugar; all the products of America were poured into us from Spain; and the Venetians and Genoese retailed to us the commodities of the East Indies at their own price.”

The astonishing alterations in all these particulars are too well known to need enumeration.

These instances, and many others that might be mentioned, may convince us that nothing is too difficult for men to effect whose hearts are filled with a generous love of their Country; and they may convince the world of the dangers that attend provoking innovations in commerce. A branch of trade once lost is lost for ever. In short, so strong a spirit is raised in these colonies by late measures' and such successful efforts are already made among us that it cannot be doubted that before the end of this century the modern regulations will teach America that she has resources within herself of which she never otherwise would have thought. Individuals, perhaps, may find their benefit in opposing her use of these resources; but I hope very, very few will wish to receive benefits by such means. The man who would promote his own interests by injuring his country is unworthy of the blessings of society.

It has hitherto been thought by the people of Great Britain, and I hope it will still be thought, that sufficient advantages are derived by her from the colonies without laying taxes upon them. To represent them as an “expensive appendage of the British Empire that can no other way repay the trouble and treasure they cost her” is certainly one of the greatest errors; and to spend much time in refuting this notion would be unnecessary. Every advantage accruing to the colonies by their connection with the mother country is amply—dearly— paid for by the benefits derived to her from them and by the restrictions of their commerce. These benefits have been allowed by the best writers to be immense, and consist [Chiefly; even the supplying her with naval stores, etc., being inconsiderable when compared with the other advantages.] in the various employment and the support they afford her people. If the colonies enable her to pay taxes, is it not as useful to her as if they paid them? Or, indeed, may not the colonies with the strictest propriety be said to pay a great part of those taxes when they consume the British manufactures loaded with the advanced prices occasioned by such taxes? [If it be asked, whether foreigners, for what goods they take of us, do not pay on that consumption a great portion of our taxes, it is admitted they do.” Postlethwayt's Great Britain's True System.

By the consumption of British manufactures in America, we pay a heavier tax to Great Britain than if they were consumed at home. For in the bringing them here a vast number of merchants, factors, brokers, and seamen are employed, every one of which must have such a profit as will enable him to support himself and his family, if he has any, in a country where everything is dear by reason of the high taxes.

So far was the Parliament from thinking in the last war that any further taxes should be laid on the colonies, so convinced indeed were they that we had exceeded our abilities in the supplies we gave to the crown, that several sums of money were granted to us as indemnifications for the too heavy expenses in which we held involved ourselves.

The sums thus given paid part of our debts, but we are still laboring under the remainder.] Or, further, as the colonies are compelled to take those manufactures thus loaded when they might furnish themselves so much cheaper from other countries, may not the difference between these prices be called an enormous tax paid by them to Great Britain? May they not also be said to pay an enormous tax to her by being compelled to carry their most valuable productions to her alone and to receive what she pleases to give for them when they might sell them at other markets to much greater advantage? Lastly, may they not be said to pay a heavy tax to her in being prohibited from carrying on such manufactures as they could have employed themselves in with advantage, and thus being obliged to resort to her for those things with which they might supply themselves? If these things are true, and can they be denied! may not the mother country more justly be called expensive to her colonies than they can be called expensive to her?

What would France give for such extensive dominions? Would she refuse the empire of North America unless the inhabitants would submit to any taxes she should please to impose? Or would she not rather afford them her utmost protection, if ever they should be wretched enough to require it, for one half of the emoluments Great Britain receives from them? In short, the amazing increase of the wealth and strength of this kingdom since the reign of Queen Elizabeth, in whose time the colonies began to be settled, appears to be a sufficient proof of their importance and therefore I think it may justly be said that THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE POWER AND GLORY OF GREAT BRITAIN ARE LAID IN AMERICA.

When the advantages derived by the mother country from her colonies are so important and evident, it is amazing that any persons should venture to assert “that she poured out her wealth and blood in the late war only for their defense and benefit, and that she cannot be recompensed for this expense and loss but by taxing them.”

If any man who does not choose to spend much time in considering this subject would only read the speeches from the throne during that period, with the addresses in answer to them, he will soon be convinced for whose benefit Great Britain thought she was exerting herself. For my part, I should not now be surprised if those who maintain the above-mentioned assertions should contend that Great Britain ought to tax Portugal. For was not that kingdom “defended by the troops and treasure of Great Britain”? And how can she be “otherwise recompensed for this expense and loss”? If the protection of Portugal, though no taxes are received from thence, was beneficial to Great Britain, infinitely more so was the protection of the colonies.

So far I must beg leave to dissent from these gentlemen that if the colonies by an increase of industry and frugality should become able to bear this taxation, it will, in my apprehension, notwithstanding be injurious to Great Britain. If the sum be trifling, it cannot be worth the discontent and unhappiness the taking it will produce among so many faithful subjects of His Majesty. If it be considerable, it must also be hurtful in another respect.

It must be granted that it is not merely the bringing money into a nation that makes it wealthy, but the bringing money into it by the general industry of its inhabitants. A country may perpetually receive vast sums and yet be perpetually poor. It must also be granted that almost all the money acquired by the colonies in their other branches of trade is spent by them in Great Britain, and finds employment for her people. Whatever then lessens the sum so spent, must lessen that employment. This I think will be one consequence of the STAMP ACT: for our demand will be as much less for British manufactures as the amount of the sums raised by the taxes. So much the fewer British merchants, artists, seamen, and ships will be employed by us, and so much the more distressed at first, and afterwards so much the more frugal, ingenious, laborious, and independent will the colonists become. [Great Britain will not only lose in such case the annual amount of the taxes, but the people of America, establishing manufuctures through discontent, will in time entirely withdraw their intercourse with her. And therefore her loss of the whole American trade may be justly attributed to this inauspicious beginning.]

It is evident from the concurrent testimony of her own most noted authors on this subject that Great Britain is sure of having our money at last; and it appears no difficult matter to determine whether it is better to take it in taxes or trade. Suppose the STAMP ACT, enforced by uncommon penalties and unheard-of jurisdictions, should pick up every piece of gold and silver that shall wander into the plantations, what would Great Britain gain by this measure? Or rather what would she not lose by attempting to advance her revenue by means so distressing to commerce?

But if the late restrictions shall not prove profitable, perhaps they may by some be called prudent for another reason. We are informed that many persons at home affect to speak of the colonists as of a people designing and encleavoring to render themselves independent, and therefore it may be said to be proper as much as possible to depress them. This method for securing obedience has been tried by many powerful nations and seen to be the constant policy of commonwealths; but the attempt in almost every instance, from Athens down to Genoa, has been unsuccessful. Many states and kingdoms have lost their dominions by severity and an unjust jealousy. I remember none that have been lost by kindness and a generous confidence. Evils are frequently precipitated by imprudent attempts to prevent them. In short, we never can be made an independent people except it be by Great Britain herself; and the only way for her to do it is to make us frugal, ingenious, united, and discontented.

But if this event shall ever happen, which Providence I hope will never permit, it must when the present generation and the present set of sentiments are extinct. Late measures have indeed excited an universal and unexampled grief and indignation throughout the colonies. What man who wishes the welfare of America can view without pity, without passion, her restricted and almost stagnated trade, with its numerous train of evils— taxes torn from her without her consent—her legislative Assemblies, the principal pillars of her liberty, crushed into insignificance—a formidable force established in the midst of peace, to bleed her into obedience—the sacred right of trial by jury violated by the erection of arbitrary and unconstitutional jurisdictions—and general poverty, discontent, and despondence stretching themselves over his unoffending country?

The reflections of the colonists on these melancholy subjects are not a little embittered by a firm persuasion that they never would have been treated as they are if Canada still continued in the hands of the French. Thus their hearts, glowing with every sentiment of duty and affection towards their mother country and expecting, not unreasonably perhaps, some mark of tenderness in return, are pierced by a fatal discovery that the vigorous assistance which they faithfully afforded her in extending her domains has only proved the glorious but destructive cause of the calamities they now deplore and resent.

Yet still their resentment is but the resentment of dutiful children who have received unmerited blows from a beloved parent. Their obedience to Great Britain is secured by the best and strongest ties, those of affection, which alone can, and I hope will, form an everlasting union between her and her colonies. May no successes or suspicions ever tempt her to deviate from the natural generosity of her spirit. And may no dreadful revolution of sentiments ever teach them to fear her victories or to repine at her glories.

I am, etc.


I have omitted mentioning one thing that seems to be connected with the foregoing subject.

With a vast expense of blood and wealth we fought our way in the late war up the doors of the Spanish treasuries, and by the possession of Florida, might obtain some recompense for that expense. Pensacola and the other ports in that country are convenient places where the Spaniards might meet us, and exchange their silver for the manufactures of Great Britain and the provisions of these colonies. By this means a commerce inconceivably beneficial to the British subjects might be carried on. This commerce the Spaniards wish and have endeavored to carry on. Many hundred thousand dollars have been brought by them to Pensacola to lay out there; but the men-of-war at that station have compelled them to take back their cargoes, the receipt of which, it may from thence be presumed, would be destructive to the interests of Great Britain. Thus we receive less advantage from Florida, now it belongs to us, than we did when it was possessed by our enemies; for then, by permission from the Spanish governors to trade there, we deprived considerable emoluments from our intercourse with them.

Upon what reasons this conduct is founded is not easy to determine. Sure no one considers Florida in the same light with these colonies and thinks that no vessels should be permitted to trade there but British shipping. This would be to apply the acts of navigation to purposes directly opposite to the spirit of them. They were intended to preserve an intercourse between the mother country and her colonies, and thus to cultivate a mutual affection; to promote the interests of both by an exchange of their most valuable productions for her manufactures, thereby to increase the shipping of both, and thus render them capable of affording aid to each other. Which of these purposes is answered by prohibiting a commerce that can be no other way carried on? That is, by forbidding the Spaniards to bring their wealth for us to Florida, which is an unhealthy sandbank held by a garrison at a great expense of money and a greater of lives, that cannot for ages, if ever it will, yield a single advantage to Great Britain but that she refuses to enjoy.