75 | To William Pitt

    Boston Oct. 5. 1761


    I had the honor, by a letter dated the 5th day of May347 last to inform you of the taking a Missisippi Trader in this port & in the close of my letter I gave some expectations that I should make a further discovery concerning their exportations. For this purpose I kept a dilligent watch over them: but if they had any intention since the seizure, to fit out a Vessel for New Orleans, they soon laid it aside; and the two french men after hiding themselves here for some time, escaped to New York. After this It would have Answered no purpose to prosecute the Master, who was drawn into this trade by the (perhaps unlawfull) capture of his Vessel, & was not suspected to be engaged in it in any other instance; I therefore found myself obliged to let this matter drop.

    In one of the depositions I transmitted upon this occasion, there was an account of a Vessell belonging to one tucker from Rhode Island lying at New Orleans in March last. I have very lately recd. advice that Cap. Tucker348 is just arrived at Newport in Rhode Island publickly & professedly from the Missisippi. I suppose by the name that he is the same person that was lying there in March last & that this is another Voyage made since that. However it is the common talk, what a good Voyage he has made & what a large fortune he has acquired in the Missisippi trade.

    It is no secret that this trade is carried on at Rhode Island in a notorious manner: and It is the same with the trade called the dutch trade. About two months ago the custom house Officers here received advice from the secretary of the Customs of some particular Vessels & especially one called the Venus being sailed from Europe laden with Dutch Teas & supposed to be designd for this Coast. The officers here kept a dilligent look out & published a promise of a very large reward for a discovery: ’till they learnt that the Venus arrived at Newport, landed a small part of her cargo, which was all Dutch Teas, there, & sailed from thence (with a Clearance for the rest) as is supposed for New York.349

    I should not think it my business to animadvert on other Governments, if their proceeding did not tend to discompose that over which I am placed. This port has been distinguished by its observance of the laws of trade & is still, I doubt not, the most commendable in that respect of Any in NAmerica. But the open & barefaced disregard of the Laws of trade which is now carried on by the most dangerous practices, in Rhode Island, has render’d the Merchants here disposed no longer to submit to the usual restraints. This has occasioned a great commotion in this Town, in which I have steadily supported the Kings Offices at the expence of my ease, but without any other damage. Particular accounts of these transactions have been transmitted to the Lords of the Treasury, the Lords of Trade, & the Commissioners of the Customs;

    The whole of the Merchants complaints may be reduced to this “That it is very hard that the Merchants of this Province, who deserve at least as much favor as any other of the continent, should be restrained in their trade, while their neighbours are allowed to carry on an unbounded trade with any parts of the world they please; & acquire large fortunes by means, which, tho’ not legal, are as publickly permitted to them, as they are disallowed here. That it is but a reasonable requisition That these distinctions be removed, either by letting the ports of this province be as open as those are, or by laying the latter under the the same restraints that these are.”

    To this I can only say “that the request is reasonable: and I dare say, that as soon as the Cessation of War shall afford an opportunity for Civil regulations, they will receive redress, not by suspending the laws in this port, but by putting them in execution in others. In the mean time they will discredit themselves & their cause if an opposition to the Laws & an attack upon the Kings Courts & Offices are used for redressing themselves.”

    I have extended this letter further than I proposed: but it may not be amiss; as it affords a contracted View of the uneasiness of the Merchants of this Town & the avowed cause of it. It now begins to subside, as, I believe, they see that they have not taken the proper means to redress themselves. Much is due to the steadiness & Unanimity of all the Kings Officers both of the Admiralty & of the custom house (except one) The Judges of the Superior Court have also assisted in the support of the Laws of trade, which still maintain their Activity in this province

    I am with great respect Sr your most obet & most humble servt

    Rt Honble William Pitt Esqr

    L, LbC BP, 2: 14-16

    FB may not have sent the letter because he was embarrased by the escape of the two Frenchmen mentioned in the first paragraph and whom, in No. 49, he had referred to as “passengers.” Alternatively, he may have thought that ministers would have been puzzled by his advocacy of the concerns of the Boston merchants in the latter part of this letter, given his previous forthright condemnation of their connections with Benjamin Barons.