A STATED Meeting of the Society was held at its House, No. 87 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, on Thursday, 25 April 1956, at a half after eight o’clock in the evening, the Vice-President, Mr. Richard Mott Gummere, in the chair.
The records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
On behalf of the Corresponding Secretary, the Editor reported the receipt of a letter from Mr. Paul Herman Buck accepting election to Resident Membership in the Society, and of one from Mr. George William Cottrell, Jr., declining his election.
The chair appointed the following committees in anticipation of the Annual Meeting:
To nominate candidates for the several offices,—Messrs. Fred Norris Robinson and Elliott Perkins.
To examine the Treasurer’s accounts,—Messrs. Arthur Stanwood Pier and William Bradford Osgood.
To arrange for the Annual Dinner,—Messrs. Walter Muir Whitehill and David Britton Little.
Mr. Benjamin Woods Labaree read a paper entitled: “Newburyport Colonial Merchants.”313
The Editor communicated by title the following paper by Mr. William L. Sachse, of the University of Wisconsin, a Non-Resident Member:
AMONG the Colonial Office Papers is a hitherto unpublished manuscript entitled “Observations on the Trade of G Britain and Her American Colonies, & on their Trade to foreign plantations; with a Plan for retrieving, extending & securing thereof.”314 Written by John Huske, it is dated 1 November 1765. The first part is a criticism of certain policies adopted by the mother country toward the colonies between 1763 and 1765. The remainder is given over to a proposal for the establishment of eleven free ports, stretching from Nova Scotia to Dominica, “for all American produce, for black Slaves from Africa, & for all produce and Manufactures legally imported from Europe,” under conditions set forth by the author.
John Huske315 was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in or about 1721, the son of Ellis Huske, who for over twenty years served as a Councillor of that province. As a young man he evidently took up a mercantile career in Boston. But not for long: altogether he lived in America but twenty-four years. The rest of his life was spent in England, where he devoted himself to commercial and political affairs. He was the nephew of John Huske, who had been made a major general for his service at Dettingen, and who would rise to be a general and governor of Jersey. It is likely that this connection was of some value to the young American.
Around 1760 Huske was associated with Charles Townshend, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom he served as deputy in the office of Treasurer of the Chambers. According to a contemporary versifier
This alien upstart, by obtaining friends,
From T—wn—ds clerk, A M—ld—n member ends.316
This reference is to Huske’s acquisition of a parliamentary seat by defeating Bamber Gascoyne in the Maldon by-election of 1763, allegedly with the support of John Wilkes. Surviving the election of 1768, he retained the seat until his death in 1773. In 1765, we are told, Huske was mentioned as a possible successor to William Mellish as Secretary to the Treasury, but nothing came of this. Unfriendly critics attributed his success to “stock jobbing and servility,” but it should be noted that Maldon was a borough with a fairly wide franchise, and that he won it in opposition to the government, which supported Gascoyne.317
Huske’s interest in America is revealed in various activities scattered over the years. He was the author of The Present State of North America, &c. This vigorous and lucid, though unfinished, indictment of French pretensions in the New World was published in two editions in London in 1755; in the same year it appeared also in Dublin and Boston, and in a German translation at Frankfort. In 1761 John Hancock believed that Huske had “some prospect” of becoming a colonial agent. At this time Hancock, who knew him intimately, describes him as “a sensible cleane Man, and one I have a great Esteem of.”318 Huske voted against the so-called Sugar Act in 1764. The following year his stock, on the American side of the Atlantic, took a sharp tumble. Like Franklin, he did not foresee the storm which the passage of the Stamp Act would unleash; in the colonies he was regarded not only as a supporter, but as the prime instigator, of the detested measure.
From H—k, the veriest monster on the earth,
The fell production of some baneful birth,
Their [the colonies’] ills proceed; from him they took their date,
The source supreme, and center of all hate.
So wrote in 1765 the unknown American author of the poem, Oppression, in which the supposed meanness and veniality of the “Portsmouth Yankey” were underscored.319 In Boston his effigy, along with that of George Gren-ville, was hanged from the liberty tree. In the colonial press Huske hastened to disavow any sponsorship of the Act.320 In the House of Commons he spoke several times on behalf of repeal and gave support to Franklin during his examination on the subject.321 A few years later he tentatively proffered a petition for the repeal of the Townshend Acts.322
Lawrence Wroth has suggested that the “Observations” may be the scheme for the improvement of relations between Britain and the colonies, outlined in Part I of The Present State of North America with a promise of further development in Part II, which never appeared. A comparison of the texts will reveal that this is not the case. Huske was not concerned in 1765 with the elaboration of an argument which he had blocked out a decade earlier, in the early stages of a war which had run a successful course. He was interested in alleviating economic maladjustments occasioned, in large measure, by policies which Parliament had written into law after the Peace of Paris.
On 6 June 1766 George III gave his assent to a measure entitled: “An act for opening and establishing certain ports in the islands of Jamaica and Dominica, for the more free importation and exportation of certain goods and merchandises; for granting certain duties to defray the expenses of opening, maintaining, securing, and improving, such ports; for ascertaining the duties to be paid upon the importation of goods from the said island of Dominica into this kingdom; and for securing the duties upon goods imported from the said island into any other British colony.”323 Huske’s connection with this bill, if any, is not apparent. He was not a member of the committee of the House of Commons entrusted with its formulation. It is interesting to note, however, that Charles Townshend served on this committee, and that “he took a forward Part & did admirably well.”324 Possibly the “Observations,” set forth some six months before the bill was introduced in Commons, were designed for Townshend’s perusal.
In any case, the “Observations” cannot be regarded as a blueprint for the parliamentary enactment. This differs from Huske’s recommendations in a number of important particulars, and is in general more restrictive. Huske called for eleven free ports, located from Canadian to Caribbean latitudes, without differentiation in treatment. The Act set up seven, confined to Dominica and Jamaica, these islands being affected by distinct regulations. His broad provision that “all American produce” might flow into the ports was not duplicated in the Act, which excepted some twenty commodities, emanating from both British and foreign colonies. He did not see fit to include restrictions, imposed by the Act, on the design and tonnage of ships making use of the ports. A comparison of the two documents will reveal other differences.
The Statute is, of course, far more complex and precise than Huske’s proposals. Had the former New Englander been entrusted with the responsibility of framing a tight regulatory measure, he would undoubtedly have been forced to incorporate some similar exceptions and stipulations. Even so, the impression remains that, had Huske enjoyed a free hand, a more liberal arrangement would have come into existence. As it is, his proposals are of interest and significance as a solution of an experienced merchant and politician, who knew conditions on both sides of the Atlantic, for some of the pressing imperial problems of his day.
Observations on the Trade of G Britain to Her American Colonies, & on their Trade to foreign plantations; with a Plan for retrieving, extending & securing thereof
It is the opinion of those who are allowed to be best acquainted with the British Colonies on the Continent of North-America, & the Trade of G Britain with them, that the export from hence would be vastly more than ever it was for their own consumption, if they could find out ways & means to pay for it. And that if the Trade with said Colonies & that of our Sugar Islands, with the Spanish & other foreign Colonies were even in their pristine state, there would be a farther demand on G Britain & Ireland for their produce & manufactures to a very great amount.
This opinion is the result of experience, as the demands of our Colonies from the Mother Country, both in Peace & War, have always been in proportion to their abilities to remit for their payment: and there is not a period since the establishment of the Northern Colonies in which they would not have demanded much more than they have done, could they have found out ways & means to have paid for such demand. Therefore G Britain ought, incontrovertibly, to countenance & encourage every direct & circular method of enabling Her Colonies to make remittances for what they & the Colonies of Foreigners do, & would demand from these Kingdoms.
But G Britain, ever since the late Peace,325 hath, contrary to sound policy & the truest commercial principles, taken such measures for destroying the paper currency of the continent of America;326 for obstructing the obtaining of any other currency by all the Colonies; for preventing the superfluous produce of the American Continent, & British goods from all our Colonies from being exported to foreign Colonies; & for drying up the principal sources for remittances to the Mother Country, that many in North America have been deprived of the means of paying the enormous taxes they were subject to in consequence of the late War in particular, of carrying on their Trade & making good their engagements with one another, of making remittances to G Britain for what they owed, and of demanding from Her such goods as they required for the usual course of their Trade and business: hence such a scene of distress & Bankruptcy has commenced & continued as is not to be described. And we now begin to feel the blows given them, rebounding upon ourselves; for the export of G Britain to Her Colonies is reduced by the above means more than one fourth per annum, & the decrement is still going on. The merchants of G Britain cannot now recover their Debts in that Country, & knowing the principal sources for remittances are dried up, they refuse to comply fully, even with the reduced orders from America for Goods. And upon one House at Bristol lately quitting the Trade to North America, no less than five hundḍ nail makers are already become a parish charge!
It is certain that His Majesty’s Northern Colonies do produce infinitely more of the following Commodities, than they & all our West-India Islands do or can consume; viz. Flour, Bread, Beef, Pork, Pickled & dry Fish, Livestock, Pease, Beans, Butter, Cheese, Roots of various kinds, Lumber of all sorts for the construction of dwelling Houses & Sugar Mills for the Islands, & Cask to contain their produce: besides Horses &c, &c. Now every obstruction to the exportation of these Commodities to foreign Colonies, must be an injury to the growth & improvement of our Plantations; & the particular difficulty to which the Fisheries of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia & New-England are exposed, is very remarkable; as one third of the dry Fish which is cured is Refuse, & not fit for a European market; which, together with the greatest part of the pickled Fish, is only used in the feeding of Negroes.
With these Commodities our Colonies used in their own navigation to supply those of Foreigners; & in this commerce with them, they had an opportunity of vending large quantities of Goods brought from G Britain, it being well known that formerly from five to forty thousand pounds have been insured in London on a single Vessel employed in this Trade from New York, Pennsylvania, &c, &c. And as not one eighth of this amount could be in the produce of our Colonies, it is not only presumable, but may be proved, that the remaining part of the Cargo consisted of Goods from G Britain. Indeed the Vessels formerly employed in this Trade from Jamaica were almost wholly loaded with Goods from G Britain.
The produce of these supplies was partly invested in Indico, Cochineal, dying-Woods, Drugs, Cocoa, & other rough materials which chiefly came to G Britain. Another part of the produce was also invested in Sugar, Coffee, Indico &c, which, exclusive of a portion of the Sugar consumed in the Northern Colonies & which is, I confess, an exceptionable part of this Commerce, were sent in English shipping to Germany & Italy & the amount of their sales chiefly remitted to G Britain to pay for Her manufactures consumed in the Colonies. Another part of the investure327 of the proceeds was in Molasses, used by our Northern Colonies in their brewery, or distilled with Rum for their own & the Indians consumption, & for exportation to Newfoundland & the Coast of Africa. On this article alone depends the whole African Trade from North America; for the Americans export nothing else to that Country, & they used to employ annualy in that Trade no less than 30 Vessels: and the produce of this African commerce was invested partly in Gold dust, Elephants teeth, Gum & Dying-Woods for the use of G Britain, & partly in Slaves for the Colonies. And the remainder of the produce of those supplies to foreign Colonies in America, was brought with His Majesty’s dominions in Silver & Gold, part of which served in our Sugar Colonies for the whole of their Currency, & in some measure for that of the Northern Colonies, & the rest was remitted to G Britain. From this Trade alone came all the Silver & Gold circulating in our Colonies, or that was remitted from them to G Britain in time of Peace; which is easily proved as no mines of Silver or Gold are known or occupied in British America, nor either of those articles ever sent to our Colonies from Europe, except in the time of the late War from hence to pay our Troops, & since the restriction of the Trade with the Spanish Colonies, some has been sent from hence also to our Sugar Islands, & great part of that which used to come here from Spain, Portugal, & Italy in payment for the American Fish, Rice, Corn, Flour &c, now goes to the Northern Colonies for a medium of Trade, they have been so distressed by the destructive regulations relative to the Paper Currency, & to the Spanish West-India Trade in particular.
The trade of His Majesty’s Colonies with those of Spain, hath never been censured or objected to from any quarter, except that of the Spanish Government; but to the contrary on our part, it was formerly very wisely countenanced by Government, & even protected by our Men of War, who are now, by an unaccountable fatality, employed to destroy it!
As to the Trade with the French, Dutch & Danish Sugar Colonies, it has been opposed & clogged, at the instance of our Sugar Planters, in a very injudicious manner, (except with respect to preventing the consumption of foreign Sugar & Rum in His Majesty’s Dominions) if one may be allowed to speak the sense of every man who knows the nature of the Trade & the faculties of our Islands, & compares those faculties with our present, & contantly growing consumption of their produce.
The following plan so far coincides with the wishes of our Sugar Planters, as it still more effectualy prevents the consumption of foreign Sugar & Rum in the King’s territories: consequently, they only will have the supplying therof with Sugar; which it is notorious, & not a Sugar Planter will presume to say otherwise, they are scarcely able to do now, & such is the constant growth of the consumption that there is no probability of their ever being able to do more. Therefore it does not concern their particular interest what foreigners raise, or how they dispose of it, while they do not interfere with their market; which, Communibus Annis,328 is at least 50 per Cent better than any other in the World.
As to foreign Molasses, our Sugar Planters are at last convinced of the necessity & utility of that being imported into our Northern Colonies, & have given up the long contest on this point from a sense of their inability to supply the present & growing demand; tho’ not without opposing the duty being lower than threepence per Gallon.329
But then, say they, you nourish the French & other foreign Colonies, & give Being & support to fresh plantations by your supplies, whereby they raise their Sugar the cheaper. What is this to our planters, if it does not hurt their market? However, setting aside it’s not injuring our Sugar Planters, do not these Supplies to foreigners & the adventages made of the Returns, also give support to our Northern plantations, & cause new ones to be formed? Does it not make them more useful & beneficial to the Mother Country? And does not supplying foreign Colonies with what they want, & taking from them what they produce, so far, as this extends, make them the Colonies of G Britain, & this too without the expense of supporting or defending them?
France & Spain fully sensible of the immense advantages we reap from trading with their Colonies in the West-Indies, have done & continue to do all in their power to prevent it, except for particular articles which their Colonies occasionaly want. And we have, ever since the late Peace, done their business for them more effectualy than they could have done it themselves, when, from all considerations & in every point of view, we ought to have done the reverse.
By the Commissions, Instructions & Oath given since the Peace to the Commanders of His Majesty’s Ships stationed in America, & to the Custom-House & other Officers of the Crown residing in our Colonies; and by the Act of Parliament for regulating the Trade & for raising a Revenue in America, which passed in 1763,330 we have, in conjunction with the Efforts of France & Spain, almost ruined the whole of the above most advantageous Trade; whereby G Britain & her Colonies have felt the fatal effects already stated. It is absolutely become impossible for those Officers, without being perjured, to connive at the Spaniards coming to our Colonies, even with Dollars, & to take in return British manufactures only. And it has actually happened at Jamaica, Mobile, Pensacola, Augustine, Savannah & Charlestown, that Spanish Vessels have come since the Peace with 20 to 80,000 Dollars in a Vessel, & demanding articles imported from G Britain in return for their hard money, yet they have been forced away without being suffered to do any business. Surely it is as much for our interest to encourage smuggling of our produce & manufactures into foreign Dominions, as it is our duty & advantage to prevent their smuggling any thing into our territories, except money & rough materials for our manufactures.
By the above Act of Parliament also, a duty, which with a former imposition331 amounts to 27s/ per hundredweight, is charged on foreign Sugar, & is, as it ought to be, equivalent to a prohibition against its being consumed in our Colonies; but then the whole of these duties, or very nearly, should be drawn back upon re-exportation & giving of Bond to land it in a foreign Country: but by the Act nothing can be drawn back. And by this omission & the interruption of the Trade with the foreign Sugar Colonies by our Cruizers, a Commerce very beneficial to the British Colonies & Mother Country by a re-exportation from our Colonies is put an end to, & it is greatly reduced & injured in all other Channels of conveyance. By this Trade there used annualy to come to Europe in English navigation full half a million of pounds Sterling in Sugar, Indico, Coffee, & other West-India products, which were re-sold in Germany & Italy, & the greatest part of the proceeds thereof was remitted to G Britain.
And by the same Act, tho’ the duty on foreign Molasses was reduced one half, yet it is two thirds too high; for it can be demonstrated that it would yield double the Revenue at one penny per Gallon, it does now at threepence per Gallon, such are the frauds & abuses in the duty, & such is the covering thereof, that the Captains of the Men of War cannot prevent, or the Custom-House Officers detect them.
For remedying the recited inconveniences & mischiefs, & for extending our Trade with foreign Colonies in America beyond whatever it was in its most florishing state, it is humbly proposed that an act may be passed next sessions of Parliament, making & constituting Port Royal in Jamaica, Basse Terre in Granada, Bridgetown in Barbardos, the Bays of Prince Rupert & Roses332 in Dominica, Mobile & Pansacola in West, & Augustine in East Florida, New York City in the Province of N York, Halifax in Nova Scotia, & Portsmouth in New Hampshire, Free Ports to all Nations, for all American produce, for black slaves from Africa, & for all produce and Manufactures legally imported from Europe, under the following regulations & restrictions.
That no foreigner shall introduce any article into any of said places, except it be the produce of Foreign America, upon pain of forfeiting the Vessel & Cargo.
That no produce of the British Colonies, for which Bond is given, when shipped, to be landed in G Britain, under the character of Enumerated goods, except Rice now allowed to go to foreigners,333 shall be shipped or laden on board any foreign Vessel in any of said places, upon penalty of confiscation of Ship & Cargo.
That all foreign Vessels may load any other produce of His Majesty’s Colonies, take on board Black slaves, or any goods & merchandize legally imported into America from Europe; & nothing else upon pain of loss of Ship & Cargo.
That no foreign Vessel shall pay more Port or Custom-House charges than an English Vessel.
That foreigners be allowed to have foreign Factors at any of the above places, if they require the same.
That all foreign Sugars & Rum, that may be imported either in foreign or British subjects Vessels, be landed & Stored in the King’s Warehouses only; where they shall remain under the care, locks, & keys of three of the principal Officers of the Customs of the place; & be delivered to the rightful claimer when the brown Sugar has paid 1s/6d, & the White Sugar 3s/ Sterling per hundd weight, as the Cask may weigh upon delivery out of the Warehouses; & the Rum 2s/6d per Gallon. Which Sugars & Rum shall be afterwards re-shipped & bond given by sufficient securities for double the value, that they shall not be re-landed in any part of His Majesty’s Dominions; & that said Bond be not cancelled or made void until a proper certificate be produced, from the place where they were landed, & that within a limited time.
That all Cotton, or any other Wool, that may be imported into said places from any foreign Colony, whether in foreign or English shipping, be stored in like manner in the King’s Warehouses, & be not delivered for any other purpose, but to be reshipped for G Britain; & that sufficient security be given that it be landed in G Britain.
That all other produce of foreign Colonies, besides Sugar, Rum & Wool, that may be imported into said places, be not subject to any duty, imposition, or restriction whatever, in any other part of His Majesty’s Dominions, more than it is now by Act of Parliament. And,
That no produce of any foreign Colony, except Molasses, be imported even in English Vessels, into any other British Colony, until it has been re-shipped at one of the said Free ports; which foreign Molasses, shall not be subject to any higher duty or imposition whatever than one penny per Gallon.
These are all the regulations & restrictions apprehended to be necessary for these, otherwise, free ports. By these, no foreign European produce or manufacture can be introduced into our Colonies, nor can any enumerated American produce for which Bond is given upon Shipping to land it in G Britain be otherwise exported, than at present. Nor can foreign Navigation be employed in any part of the Trade, except in the bringing of the produce of foreign Colonies to the Free ports, & in the taking away that of ours: in return for which we acquire an additional navigation, by our carrying to other markets what they bring, & our sending to the Free ports what they may require. Hereby also, the risque, difficulty & expence of going to, or coming from, Foreign Colonies will be avoided; & complaints such as produced the War, proceeding the last with Spain,334 prevented. The Wool is secured for the manufactories of G Britain; & lastly, the consumption of foreign Sugar & Rum, within His Majesty’s Dominions, will have an effectual stop put to it.
That the Sugar will admit of the above duties, seems certain as they may be then brought to a German or Italian market, & sold at a cheaper rate, than they now are by the French & others: and these duties will not only pay the expences of the Warehouses to be built or hired for the purpose of receiving them, but yeild a considerable Revenue for America. But no Rum will be brought, subject to such a duty, & the inconveniency of having no market to re-ship it to.
Foreigners being indulged in their having their own Factors there, will encrease the business greatly, & be a means of spreading connections & of drawing all money, except the King’s, from New Spain to G Britain thro’ some of these Channels, to be remitted, except what belongs to Us, by Bills of Exchange to Old Spain.
Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados, Dominica, Mobile, Pansacola & Augustine, are preferr’d on account of their vicinity to the Colonies of France & Spain; to some of which they may go in open Boats, & thereby elude the vigilance of their Guarda de Costas,335 & such other force & policy as their Govts: may employ to prevent this Trade. Augustine is also very convenient for them to load Rice at, & other products of the South part of the continent of America. New-York is not only a very great provision Colony, but being situated between Connecticut & New Jersey, both of which abound in provisions, except Fish, & have little navigation, it is the most proper Port to make free for this purpose. And Halifax & Portsmouth are made choice of to the Northward, as they are situated in the centre of the pickled & dry Fisheries; & there is such an abundance of Lumber there, that Forests may be had for the consideration of clearing them away: & there are in New Hampshire people sufficient to prepare all kinds of timber &c, which is not the case in Nova Scotia; but exclusive of all other motives for the having Free ports in this Province & the Florida’s, it is necessary to secure by all possible means the colonizing of those extreme Provinces, now weak & exposed, & no measure can be devised which will expedite this with facility, equal to the establishment of these Free ports, whereby strength & entireness will be added to the continent Colonies.
The regulating of these great objects will effectualy serve the mutual interests of G Britain & Her Colonies: will reconcile the almost alienated affections of the distressed Americans, & obviate many of the difficulties to which they have been exposed & labor under, by the injudicious & destructive Laws & regulations of this Country respecting them; and no objection of any weight, on our part, occurs, why these arrangements should not take place & be enforced.
Indeed France & Spain have the strongest reasons, on their part, against a Plan of this kind: it will greatly reduce their Exports to, & Imports from, their Colonies, & of course lessen in proportion their manufactures, navigation, number of Seamen, & Revenue; whereby ours will be increased in an inverse Ratio. And Old Spain will receive no more money from the New, but what comes on the King’s account: for what we shall not draw away by the supplies furnished, will come to England to save the difference of Insurance, which is five per Cent, & to escape the high but fluctuating indulto336 upon importation into Spain; & thus, even upon this part we shall obtain the Freight, Insurance & Commission.
But however stinging & prejudicial the proposed Plan may be to France & Spain, they cannot with any countenance, or colour of pretense from any Treaties subsisting between us & them, object to it: for the Government of France made Louisburgh a Free Port to our people, an Isle of Man337 to our Colonies, the whole of the time it was in their hands; they have occasionaly granted Us & others, passports even to go to their Sugar Islands with provisions & many other Goods, for which supplies payment was authorised to be made in the Islands produce; & they now give all manner of encouragement to our Colonies to trade with them at Micquilon & St. Pierre, tho’ ceded to them for no other purposes than securing & drying their fishery: they are become free Ports to our people; & notwithstanding they disavow the authorizing of this Trade, they cherish it with the tenderest care, knowing that their Newfoundland fishery, with all its other encouragements, could scarcely exist, much less florish without it. And as to Spain, the [markets of?] Havanah, St. Augustine, Porto Rico, Hispaniola, & Cathagena were occasionaly before & during the late War, supplied by their Courts authority with Flour &c from our Colonies: and soon after the late War commenced with France, & long before Spain entered into it, she made Monti Christi a Free port, with a view to the serving of France, particularly the Colony of St. Domingo; for Monti Christi had no produce, nor any demand for Ours.
But supposing that France & Spain had never acted thus, as they always have when it suited their conveniency, & refused it when and whereever it did not, it is not presumption to say, that in making of these Ports free ones, we do not act contrary to any stipulation with either Court; for if we were obliged to prevent our people from going to their Colonies to Trade with them, yet such restriction lays us under no injunction to prohibit their people from coming to Trade with us: that is their business; & it were to be wished they would persue the like method as now proposed of preventing them, or even by opening all their Ports as free to us, except Micquilon & St. Pierre.
Neither France or Spain have a fact, nor an argument to bring against this Plan, that does not militate for it on our part, or that deserves to have any other effect than to stimulate us to execute it: which combined with the necessity & advantages of it to Us, are reasons of such Cogency for its adoption & execution, that it cannot but be hoped it will succeed.