224 | Circular from the Earl of Egremont


    Whitehall July, 9th. 1763.


    It having appeared, that the Publick Revenue has been greatly diminished, and the fair Trader much prejudiced, by the fraudulent Methods used to introduce into His Majesty’s Dominions, (contrary to the Act of the 12th Charles 2d, for encouraging and increasing Shipping and Navigation; and that of 15th. Charles 2d., for the Encouragement of Trade; and the Act of 7th & 8th of William 3d., for preventing Frauds, and regulating Abuses in the Plantation Trade,) Commodities of Foreign Growth, in National, as well as Foreign, Bottoms, by means of small Vessels hovering on the Coasts; And that this iniquitous Practice has been carried to a great Heighth in America; an Act was passed the last Session of Parliament, intituled, An Act for the further Improvement of His Majesty’s Revenue of Customs; And for the Encouragement of Officers making Seizures, and for the Prevention of the Clandestine Running of Goods into any Part of His Majesty’s Dominions; by which the former Laws, relative to this Matter, are enforced, and extended to the British Dominions in all Parts of the World; And the King having it extremely at Heart to put an End to all iniquitous Practices of this Nature, by a due, punctual, & vigorous, Exertion of the Laws made for this salutary Purpose; And His Majesty having been pleased to order, that the most effectual Steps should be taken for obtaining that End; the Commanders of His Majesty’s Ships, stationed in America, will, in Consequence thereof, be vested for the future, with the necessary and legal Powers from the Commissioners of the Customs, for carrying into Execution the several Acts of Parliament relative to the Seizing & Condemning any Ships that shall be found transgressing against the said Acts. I am to signify to you the King’s express Pleasure that you do, as far as shall depend upon you, not only co-operate with, and assist, the said Commanders, in the due and legal Execution of the Powers & Instructions given them by the Commissioners of the Customs; but that you do also use your utmost Endeavours, by the most assiduous and impartial Exertion of the Laws enacted for this purpose to put an effectual Stop to the Clandestine Running of Goods into any place within your Jurisdiction; And that you may be fully informed of every particular in an Affair of this Importance, you will find inclosed herewith a Copy of the Act passed last Session of Parliament, refer’d to above; together with His Majesty’s Order in Council, made agreable thereto, for the Division of the Seizures: To which I add a List of the Ships stationed in America, distinguishing such as have the Custom House Commissions, from the few which sailed before the Resolution on that Head was taken; And also a Copy of the Instructions, given by the Lords of the Admiralty, to the several Commanders of these Ships.835

    The Precautions, which, upon perusing the two last mentioned Papers, you will observe to have been taken here, and the strict Orders given, on this Occasion, to the Commanders of all the Ships of War in America, will sufficiently point out to you, how earnestly the King wishes that all possible Means should be used to root out so iniquitous a Practice; a Practice carried on in Contravention of many express & repeated Laws, tending not only to the Diminution & Impoverishment of the Public Revenue, at a Time when this Nation is labouring under a heavy Debt, incurred by the last War for the Protection of America; But also to expose every fair Trader to certain Detriment, and even Danger of Ruin, by his not being able to carry his Commodities to Market, on an equal footing with those, who fraudulently evade the Payment of the just Dues and Customs from the same.

    It is the King’s Pleasure that you do, by the first Opportunity, acknowledge the Receipt of this Letter,836 and that you do, from time to time, transmit to me, for His Majesty’s Information, exact Accounts of whatever shall happen, within your Government, in an Affair, which the King considers to be of the highest Importance to the Commercial Interest of His Subjects, and the Improvement of the Public Revenue. You will likewise impart to me, for the King’s Approbation, such further Hints as may occur to you, as proper for the subject.

    I must also inform you, that His Majesty’s Resolution to have the most implicit Obedience paid to these His Commands, is so fixed, that, as on the one Hand, your particular Diligence & Attention in the performance of your Duty herein, will not fail to recommend you to His Majesty’s Royal Favor, so, on the Other; it is incumbent on me to acquaint you, That the King will not pass over unnoticed any Negligence, or Relaxation, on the part of any Persons employed in His Service, in a Matter on which His Majesty lays so much Stress, and in which the fair Trade of all His faithful Subjects is so essentially interested.

    I am with great Truth and Regard, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant


    Govr. of Massachusets Bay.

    dupLS, RC BP, 10: 119-124.

    This is the first official notification that FB and the other governors received of Britain’s intention to reinvigorate the mercantlist system by improving both enforcement of the trade laws and revenue collection. The ensuing controversy is traditionally regarded as the onset of the imperial crisis that presaged the Revolution.