315 | To the Earl of Halifax

    Boston Nov 10. 1764

    My Lord

    I hereby enclose to your Lordship a copy of Petition of the Council and the House of Representatives to the House of Commons of Great Britain, which I am desired by the said Council and House of Representatives to lay before his Majesty’s Ministers & to beseech the favour of their great influence in behalf of their petition. I am also desired myself to represent the subject matters of their petition, & it is my Duty to certify my Opinion upon such extraordinary & intresting occasions. I shall therefore, with great truth & sincerity, acquaint your Lordship with my Sentiments, altho’ I shall be obliged to repeat a good deal of what I have allready wrote to your Lordship and the Lords of trade upon these subjects.1

    The Heads of the Petition to the House of Commons are these. 1. That the Duties upon Melasses are such as will discourage the importation of it & thereby hurt the American fishery. 2. That the Restrictions laid upon the exportation of Lumber will hurt the Trade of America without any advantage to Great Britain. 3. That the new erected general Court of Admiralty will by the extension of its jurisdiction be very injurious to the Defendants in that Court. 4. That the provincial Courts of Admiralty are injurious to the liberty of the subjects by determining upon their property without a jury. 5. That the sending home to England the produce of the duties & of the Taxes proposed, must take from the Americans the means of trade: & render it impracticable ^for them^ to make remittances to Great Britain. 6. That the Trade of America is really the trade of Great Britain, & that the opening & encouraging it is the most effectual way for Great Britain to draw money from America.

    1. I have heretofore considered foreign Melasses as a fund for raising money: and as such I have been of Opinion that a Duty of 1 ½d pr. gallon would raise more money than either a larger or smaller duty. But yet I am not so positive as to assert that 2d pr gallon may not raise as much or possibly more: but I am persuaded that beyond that the higher the duty the less will be the revenue. In regard to the effect it will have upon our fishery, or any other ill effects, I dont care to prophecy evill; but in truth I think, that it is too dangerous an Experiment to be tried: because the evil Consequences, if any should follow, will2 probably be irretrievable. Another Argument in favour of the reduction of that duty to 2d, which will weigh much with your Lordship, is, that it will be a very popular Measure; insomuch that I beleive there is not a friend to the present Government residing in N America that does not wish that such a reduction may be made agreable to his Majesty’s Councils.

    2. As to lumber, It seems to me that there is wanting a distinction of the different sorts of it, particularly between that which is used in ship building & that which is used in housebuilding. To regard the exportation of lumber as a trade, It is much for the intrest of Great Britain that it should be extended as much as possible, as the profit of it will finally come to her. But then It may be said that such profits as arise from furnishing our rivals with naval stores would be a real detriment to Great Britain. Then ^It may be said, on the other side,^ separate what are naval stores from the list of lumber, & let the other articles pass. Suppose, for instance, Portugal & Spain (& France too, if it pleases) would take all their pipe & hogshead staves from America, Would not Great Britain finally reap all the advantages by the encrease of the American remittances? In regard to Ireland being excluded having lumber from America, it is hoped that it is a mistake & as such will be rectified: for it certainly will create a great inconvenience in the trade between America & that Kingdom. In regard to lumber two things should be considered: 1 That it is all clear gain proceeding from an inexhaustible fund, & what is not cut is wholly3 lost to the community. 2 That the Vent of it encourages the clearing of lands & is the sole support of thousands of useful subjects & great slaves, the first settlers of wild lands. And therefore the Sale of it should be extended as far as well may be.

    3. There is certainly an Obvious Occasion for a general Court of Admiralty over All America or very large Districts of it, which is this: whenever the parties of a Cause or the goods lye in different divisions, the Jurisdiction is lame. This I have experienced in a claim I have had upon a neighbouring Charter Governor4 for goods forfeited in my Government & taken by him in his colony.5 But then It should seem that such general Court should be held as near the middle of its jurisdiction as well may be. I therefore beleive that the Situation of this Court has a good deal contributed to the alarm it has occasioned. For, to be sure, the inconveniences of persons being obliged to attend a Court at great distances (which would be unavoidable, if the Court was held in the middle of its jurisdiction) must be greatly magnified by the Courts being held at the extremity of it; especially where the assistance of able Lawyers is not to be obtained, in the manner in which it is to be had in the great Cities of the old Provinces. However as I know not the reasons why this Court is established at Halifax preferably to all other parts of America I can give no Opinion of my own upon it; no more than I can judge of the inconveniences which will arise therefrom, untill they become realised.6

    4. The Courts of Admiralty in America taking cognisance of & determining upon breaches of the laws of trade is now of near 80 years standing & had its origin in an Act of parliament.7 The Reason for putting these Causes in a course of trial without a jury undoubtedly arose from an apprehension that Juries in these Cases were not to be trusted. The Force of this reason may have abated; but I cannot think that it is wholly destroyed: no candid Man, I beleive, will take upon him to declare that at this time an American Jury is impartial & indifferent enough, to determine8 upon frauds of trade. A Comparison with English juries will not hold: the discriminations are obvious. Nevertheless the objection to the Judge of the Admiralty’s being paid by poundage of the condemnation money is very forcible: for thereby it is his intrest to condemn rather than to acquit. The present Judge for this province Mr Russel  is, I beleive, as uncorrupt as any one the King has; and he has frequently complained to me of his office being supported by such means. About three months ago I mentioned it to the Lords of trade & then recommended that the Judge & Officers of the Admiralty might have salaries instead of fees arising from condemnations.9

    5. The Produce of the Duties & internal Taxes imposed on North America are to be remitted to the Kings Exchequer at London & from thence to be dispensed to the Services for which they are to be appropriated. And this Method, it is said, will drain the American Colonies of all their Specie so effectually that their Trade must be destroyed for want of the means of carrying it on; and a general Bankruptcy must take place before the Money arising from these revenues can be returned back to it, tho it should in time be restored without any diminution. I don’t mean to adopt this objection in the strong terms in which I have stated it: but yet I must say that there is no one of the new regulations that gives me such apprehensions of inconvenient consequences as this does. I suppose it is not intended or desired that America shall raise more than what is necessary for her own support & defence: And that it is intended that what is raised from her people shall be expended among them. In this sense It is easy to conceive that the Country may bear considerable Duties & taxes, provided the money so raised is presently after issued again & the Circulation of it is Very little interrupted. But the Case will be very much altered, if the Money raised, by passing thro’ many offices & ^being^ subject to sevral accounts is to be dead to the people for a long time. In such a Case a smaller Tax may be much more detrimental to the people, than a larger tax, where the Money is quickly Circulated. If this Money is to be sent in specie to the Kings Exchequer, & from thence to be sent again to America, It will not be much less than 3 years from the time of its being collected to the time of its being restored to circulation, besides that the Expence of its travelling charges is to be added to the loss of the use of the Money. America has not a fund to bear this; which, according to plain Arithmetick, will require a dead stock of 3 years value of the Annual income of the revenue; and if it could bear it, by intrest of money & charges of double remittances &c It would suffer a loss of 25 or 30 pr cent.10

    Those Colonies whose common Currency is paper are obliged to keep a sufficient quantity of Specie for the purposes of trade. And this is frequently run so near, that upon an occasional scarcity of Money, trade is allmost at a stand. I remember about 4 or 5 years ago, The remittances of the Government having been by some accident11 delayed, The Country could not supply the deficiency: and it was for sometime apprehended that the operations of the Campaign would be defeated. This Difficulty, if I remember right, was got over by the Government of NYork striking 50,000 in sizeable bills & lending them to the General.12 If therefore an accidental delay ^of the remittances from England^ could occasion such an embarrassment, & oblige the Army to take paper in payment, how can it be expected that the same Country should be able to remit large sums of Specie to the English Treasury?

    The Province of Massachusets Bay is the only one of the old Colonies, that I know of, that enjoys a Specie Currency. This reflects great honour upon the Province itself, as it is a great instance of their prudence, who took hold of a singular opportunity to destroy their paper money which other Colonies, who had it equally13 in their power, neglected. It also affords an Example to the rest of America to endeavour at the same acquisition & is an Evidence of its practicability. But, I fear that, if the great sums, which are expected to be raised in America are to be transported to Great Britain, there will soon be an End of the Specie-Currency of the Massachusets: which will be followed by a total Discouragement for other Provinces to attempt the same in the future. In which case Perpetual Paper money; the Very negative power of Riches, will be the portion of America.14

    6. Trade is a Science, which I have had little opportunity to study: and therefore It would be a presumption in me to dictate upon it. However, as I have caught a few flying notions of it, I will Venture to state some principles which have occurred to me, with the Consequences which follow them. The two great Objects of Great Britain in regard to the American Trade must be 1. To oblige her American subjects to take from Great Britain only, all the Manufactures & European goods which she can supply them with; 2 To regulate the foreign trade of the Americans so that the profits thereof may finally center in Great Britain or be applied to the improvement of her Empire. Whenever these two purposes militate against each other, that which is most advantageous to Great Britain ought to be preferred. If the first of these purposes is well secured, the other will follow of course. The only means of employing extraordinary profits of trade is15 either by Luxury at home or by settling or16 improving lands. American Luxury sends the Money to Great Britain either immediately from the hands of the first expender, or immediately thro’ the hands of the Tradesman, husbandman &c with whom he deals. Settling and improving lands is the means of raising & enabling other persons to deal with great Britain; & therefore It only postpones the remittance hereafter to be made with intrest. Therefore, If due Care be taken to confine the sale of Manufactures & European goods (except what shall be permitted) to Great Britain only; All the Profits of the American foreign Trade will necessarily centre in great Britain. And therefore If the first purpose is well secured, The Foreign American Trade is the Trade of Great Britain. The Restriction & Diminution, The Extension & Augmentation The Profit & Loss of it all finally come home to the Mother Country.

    It has been long ago admitted that the American Trade with the Spanish West Indies ought to be encouraged by All means: & why not also with the French. It is said that the French will not permit17 any trade, which is not advantageous to them. But how come they to have the power of picking & chusing their trade as they please? Must not they submit to wants & necessities as well as the Spanish? will not present Convenience & private profit get the better of National Considerations among the one as well as the other. It has done heretofore, & will do again, if British Prohibitions dont prevent it. I have been told that in the former Spanish War The Admiral stationed at Jamaica had orders to encourage & protect the English Trade with the Spanish Main. And yet in strict Law, a private correspondence with Enemies is Treason. In the last War there was a considerable Trade carried on from some of the British Colonies to French Hispaniola by means of letters of Truce. This Trade (except such part of it which was carried on with provisions) was generally allowed to be very advantageous to Great Britain: and It has been supposed that it contributed not a little to the means of carrying on the War both in America & Europe. It is pleasant at this time to observe the Complaints of the Jamaicans upon their being obstructed in carrying on their trade with the Spanish West Indies: and yet they are for stopping & totally prohibiting the Trade of the North Americans to the French West Indies. They can see plainly the loss to Great Britain from their own Trade being obstructed; but they can’t discover the loss which accrues from the obstruction of that of North America. In truth it is the Intrest of Great Britain that both one & the other should be encouraged as much as may well be: And the West Indians should be taught that equitable Maxim of Trade, Live and Let-live.

    I have given your Lordship my thoughts upon these subjects with great regard to truth in my opinion, & have accordingly treated the Matters with such a freedom, as the importance of the Disquisition & my Duty to give your Lordship the best information in my power required. All which I humbly submit to your Lordship & am, with great respect My Lord

    Your Lordships most obedient & most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honble The Earl of Halifax.


    I enclose a Copy of the address of the two houses to me & also a Copy of my Speech to which it refers. Before the meeting of the Assembly some pains were taken by News-paper politicians to inflame the people.19 But It had no influence on the generality of the representatives. The proposers of Violent remonstrances were soon silenced; the business by degrees got into the hands of moderate men & friends to Government; & by means of two conferences between the two houses was concluded with the utmost unanimity & good humour. The Council with the Lieutt Governor at their head acted a most prudent & steady part thro’ the whole. I am told that these proceedings will be contrasted by those of another province20 much to the advantage of this.

    dupALS, RC SA: WWM/R24/1.