The Papers of Governor Francis Bernard

    7 January 1764 — 22 December 1765

    259 | To Richard Jackson

    Boston Janry. 7. 1764

    Dear Sir

    The publication of orders for the strict execution of the Melasses Act1 has caused a greater alarm in this Country than the taking of Fort William Henry did in 1757.2 Petitions from the trading Towns have been presented to the general Court: and a large committee of both houses is setting every day to prepare instructions for their Agent .3 In the Mean time the Merchants say, there is an end of the trade of this Province; that it is sacrificed to the Avarice & Prodigality of the West Indian Planters; that it is time for evry prudent man to get out of debt with Great Britain as fast as he can, & betake himself to Husbandry & be content with such coarse manufactures as this Country will produce. This is now the common talk wherever one goes: and it is certain that whatever detriment the continuation & strict execution of the Melasses Act will bring to the trade of North America (and surely more or less it will bring), it will soon come home to Great Britain. And then the British Merchants will see their imprudence in sitting still as unconcerned Spectators, whilst the West Indians are confining the Trade of this extensive & improving Country within their own narrow & unextendible Circle. For nothing is more plain than that if the exports of North America are diminisht (be it by 1/4 1/3 or 1/2 one fourth one third or one half) her imports from Great Britain must be lessened in the same proportion. To apply this to a fact: Last year were imported into this Province 15,000 hogsheads of Melasses, all of which, except less than 500,4 came from ports which are now foreign.5 The value of this at 1s. 4d. pr. gallon (which is a middling price as sold out of Merchants storehouses) is 100,000 pounds Sterg., to purchase which fish & Lumber of near the same Value must be sent from Hence. Now suppose this trade prohibited, (for a Duty of 50 pr. Cent amounts to a prohibition) The consequences must be, that this province must import 100,000 pounds less of British goods; and there is an entire loss of 100,000 pounds (the fish & Lumber coming from an inexhaustible Store) worth of goods to the general British Empire, besides the loss of trade & decrease of Shipping. And this is Annual in one province & in one article of trade only.6 Is ^there not^ therefore there not just cause of alarm from the apprehensions of the probability or possibility of such consequences? If it should be proposed to try the experiment for 2 or 3 years only; First let it be considered that the experiment itself if it turns out as is expected will cost Great Britain many hundred thousand pounds. But this is not all: if after the experiment has been made, it should be thought proper to restore the North Americans to the freedom of this trade, is it certain that after an interruption of 2 or 3 years it can be recovered again? is it not probable that in the interim the foreign plantations may get supplyed from other parts (viz, low priced fish from the french fisheries, lumber from the East side of the Missisippi) & when the North Americans have leave again to resort to the foreign Ports, they may find them shut against them? When the sale of french Melasses to the North Americans is prohibited, may it not be the cause of procuring the french Planters liberty to distill it themselves? And if this valuable Trade, which takes from us what no other markets will receive & returns to us what ultimately centers in great Britain, should by making experiments be destroyed; would it not be the case of the Man whose curiosity (or expectation of extraordinary present7 gain) killed the Goose who laid him golden Eggs? Surely it is not an idle or groundless fear, which makes thinking people dread the consequences of continuing & enforcing this Act.

    I have wrote to the Lords of Trade upon this Subject with great sincerity, tho’ perhaps with more earnestness than may be thought proper.8 I have confined myself to one argument only, on the necessity of arguing ^allowing^ & allowing encouraging a trade between North America & the foreign plantations, if it is intended that the trade from Great Britain to N America should be kept up even in its present state, which in my simple reason is conclusive for the affirmative.

    I have not received a letter from you since Octor. last.9 The Packet boat which carried the September’s mail was lost on the N Carolina Coast: but it was said the Mail was preserved; but has since that been lost: at least it has not come to hand.10 I did not expect any letters of consequence from you by that, nor am I disappointed at not hearing from you by the last mail: but I much expect to hear from you by the next mail which is now expected. It would be very suitable at this time for me to have an account of the confirmation of the grants11 before the Assembly rises, which will be about a month hence.12

    I wish you would look at a paper I have put in Mr Pownalls13 hands to guard against a misconstruction of the late Smuggling Act . I should be glad also if you saw my letter to the Lords upon the Melasses Act, if it is consistent with the rules of the Office_14 I am &c

    R Jackson Esqr.15

    L, LbC BP, 3: 120-123.