256 | To the Board of Trade

    Boston Dec 26 1763

    My Lords

    I am honoured with your Lordships orders dated Octr 11th.970 There has been no neglect that I know of in executing the laws of trade within this province as far as has been practicable. The only indulgences that have been used here I presume have been long well known to your Lordships. That of allowing a small parcell of Wines & fruits to be returned from Portugal &c by the Vessels carrying fish as ship-stores, Your Lordships have been before acquainted with. That this indulgence is not hurtful to Great Britain in the first instance & greatly advantageous to it in the end is to me very certain. The other well known indulgence is in the Act called the Melesses Act which has, I presume never been duly executed; altho’ at the same time I must, for my own defence, say, that I never knew an instance of the breach of it. The Custom house officers in this Province are in my opinion good & faithful Officers & have in this case done the best that they could that is, they have got as much money on account of this duty as they could & have brought to account of the King all that they have received. In the last quarters Account of the Collector of this port I observed that the Duties upon this Act amount to between 6 & 700 pounds sterl, & I am told that the Collector of Salems Account which I have not seen may amount to as much. I therefore conclude, as I can judge by conjecture only, that this Act is not strictly executed: for if it had been, I can’t conceive that it could have produced so great a sum in any one quarter. And yet I beleive that if the Duty was lowered so as not to discourage the importation of the goods subject to it, nor make it worth the while to evade the payment of it, it would produce a very much greater Sum.

    This Act as been a perpetual stumbling block to Customhouse officers: and it will be most agreable to them to have it anyways removed. The Question seems to be whether It should be an Act of prohibition or an Act of Revenue. It was originally, I beleive, designed for the former; and if it shall be thought advisable to continue it as such, it will want no more than to be fully executed. But if it is meant to be an Act of Revenue, the best means to make it Effectual, that is to raise the greatest Revenue by it, will be to lower the Duties in such a proportion as will secure the entire collection of them & encourage the importation of the goods on which they will be laid. Perhaps a Resolution may be formed allready, or at least before this will come to your Lordships, to continue this Act & enforce the execution of it: in such Case, it may be thought imprudent in me to urge or even to offer my opinion on the subject But, My Lords, in the sincerity of my heart & in the Warmth of my wishes that the Wellfare of this Country may be made advantageous to its Mother Country, I must inform your Lordships, that it seems to me necessary to encourage a trade between North America & the foreign Plantations under proper restrictions: without which the present advantages arising to Great Britain from the trade of North America, I fear, cannot be preserved; much less may an Encrease of them be expected. I founded this Opinion some time ago upon a plain & simple Argument, the fallacy of which I have never been able to discover; and the truth of it has seem’d to be confirmed by frequent observation. It is this: At the time of making the Melasses act, now 30 years ago, It was asserted by the West Indians that as the British West Indian Plantations were capable of taking off all the produce of NAmerica, the sending such produce to foreign plantations ought to be discouraged. To this the North Americans then answerd by denying (I beleive with greater truth) that the British West Indian plantations were capable of taking off all the produce of N America fit for the West Indian Markets. I will suppose however that the ballance was equal. Since that time N America has encreased to above double; the British West Indies remain as they were. What is to become of half the produce of N America, if it is not suffer’d to be carried to foreign Markets upon practicable terms of trade? And how can Great Britain expect that her exports to North America will not keep an equal proportion with the exports of North America to their Markets wherever they lie? It is, in my opinion, a false state of this Question, to consider it as a Contest between the West Indies & N America: it is really a contest between the West Indies & Great Britain; for in the latter will the profit & loss arising from the result of this question determine. The Trade of NAmerica is really the Trade of Great Britain, (prohibited European goods excepted) the profit & loss, the Increase & Decrease of which finally come home to the latter. America will suffer for a time only by being disabled to import from Great Britain what her real or imaginary Wants demand. But her very Necessity will releive her by both obliging & enabling her to resort to her internal powers for what She will not be able to import from abroad. But the Loss to Great Britain will be irretreivable. If this should be exemplified in this Province it will, probably, for the first instance be in the decrease of the fishery; which in the opinion of the most knowing men here, will certainly be the Consequence of a prohibition of foreign Melasses & Sugar.

    I have been carried much further upon this subject than I intended; for which I pray your Lordships indulgence: as I mean rather to state the Case to your Lordship’s than determine upon it. I am all this while arguing against my own Intrest: Laws that are like to be productive of forfeitures ought to be acceptable to Governors. But for my own part I should be glad, at the expence of all such profits, to see the laws of trade in America so regulated, as to be effectually executed, chearfully submitted to & most conducive to the advantage of Great Britain.

    I am, with great respect, My Lords, Your Lordships most obedient & most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honble The Lords Commrs for Trade & Plantations.

    ALS, RC Dartmouth Papers, American Papers, D(W)1778/II/48.

    Variant text in BP, 2: 89-92 (L, LbC) and Select Letters, 4-8. Considered by the Board of Trade on 2 Jul. 1764. JBT, 12: 218.