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Importance of the Commerce of the Colonies to the Trade and Manufactures of Great Britain


London, April, 5, 1774.

SIR: Such is my regard for the Americans, that though a native of this country, I do not know how I would wish our rulers to act at this time. The great folly which the Americans are running into is luxury. I hope we shall teach them to be wise, and attend to their real interest.

Though the present resentment seeps levelled at Boston, yet as the principle is common to all, viz˙, the Parliamentary tax, I fear the rest of the Northern Colonies will so far take it as aimed at all, as in some degree to interrupt our commerce with them. This will in every shape be a loss to us; for though it may lessen the profit of their provision vessels, bound to the Spanish and French islands, yet the loss of the sale of the British commodities they carried is ours. This will likewise show them, that their lasting and certain expectation of profit in commerce, must arise from their own productions; which will naturally send them out of their maritime towns, to attend to the cultivation of their land; and thus they will become every day more independent of us: whereas their profit on the sale of our manufactures to the Spaniards and French, at present diverts many from that true domestic policy.

The French make cloth which pleases the inhabitants of Turkey and Italy better than our iniquitous fabric does. It may perhaps equally please the Americans, and when once commerce has taken a channel, who shall stem the tide! Our cruisers? Can they guard a coast of at least 1500 miles, abounding in creeks and inlets? Wise policy! What is the loss we may thereby sustain? Only of a clear profit of about a million and a half sterling from the Provinces of New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, with our loss from the other Colonies. A trifle to so rich a nation as we are!

I would, as a Politician, divide our American settlements into two classes. The first, and favourite one, the West India islands Import hither a million sterling more than they export from us, the whole being almost articles of luxury and consumption. Cotton is, I think, the only rough material they send us. True! but the proprietors spend their fortunes here. If strict inquiry was made, I fancy it would be found that large remittances are made from hence to Madeira and France for wines, and several articles of luxury. I cannot suppose, from what I have seen in these islands, that less than half a million goes that way. What is pretty singular is, that New England exports from hence more than Jamaica does, and that Jamaica exports from hence nearly as much as all the other islands; so that New England and New York export a greater quantity of British manufactures, then all the favourite islands.

New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, send us, in articles of luxury, a few furs, but in cash and bills, at an average of several years, about a million and a half sterling, and about two hundred thousand pounds in rough materials, to be worked up by our people. While the flags of truce were permitted during the last war, their remittances were much greater. In the year 1760, the balance in our favour, from these three Colonies, was one million nine hundred thousand and odd pounds. Shall we, then, on the whole, call our present conduct wise? What can we do? What would a parent do to reclaim a wayward, child, on whose reformation the parent' s subsistence greatly depends? Set them down as they were at the close, of the last war,


and glory in amending an injudicious measure too long pursued.

The word war brings to my mind another transgression of these wicked Bostonians. They very simply imagining that it would be for the advantage of Britain, conquered Cape Breton, in the war before the last; and we restored it, without indemnifying them, so far as I have heard, for their expense. These very miscreants continued a greater number of men constantly in arms, during the last war, than they were required to do; and most cruelly injured us, in a very essential manner, by sending to the Havana a supply of men, without whose aid the city had not been taken, nor our exhausted troops carried off in safety. As a just punishment on the gentleman who conducted that supply, to the ruin of his own fortune, he remained here for several years in a starving condition; and, as if a general infatuation had at that time seized all ranks of people, even the then House of Commons returned thanks to that people for these exertions of Loyalty.