Chapter 7d of Book 4

Enumerated Commodities Icon

March 23, 2020

47 Only enumerated commodities from the British colonies are confined to the market of Great Britain.

These commodities are called such because they were enumerated in the act of navigation and other subsequent acts. The rest are called non-enumerated. Non-enumerated commodities may be exported directly if= they are on British or Plantation ships, and their owners and 3/4 of the mariners are British.

48 Some of the most important products of America and the West Indies are non-enumerated commodities:

  • Grains
  • Lumber
  • Salt provisions
  • Fish
  • Sugar
  • Rum

49 “Grain is naturally the first and principal object of the culture of all new colonies.”

By allowing them a very extensive market for it, the law encourages new colonies to extend this culture beyond the consumption of a thinly inhabited country. It provides an ample subsistence for a continually increasing population.

50 In a country covered with wood, timber is of little value.

The cost of clearing the ground is the main obstacle to improvement. By allowing the colonies a very extensive market for their lumber, the law facilitates improvement by raising the price of a commodity which would otherwise have little value. The law enables them to profit from something that would otherwise be a mere expence.

51 In a country neither half-peopled nor half-cultivated, cattle naturally multiply beyond the local consumption.

Such cattle are often of little value. But cattle prices should be proportional to corn prices before most of the country’s lands can be improved. The high price of cattle is very essential to improvement. By allowing a very extensive market to American cattle, the law raises its price and facilitates improvement. The 4th of George III. c. 15 reduces the good effects of this liberty. It puts hides and skins among the enumerated commodities. It reduces the value of American cattle.

52 The legislature constantly aimed to increase British shipping and naval power by extending the fisheries of our colonies.

Those fisheries were given all the encouragement and flourished accordingly. Before the recent disturbances, the New England fishery was perhaps one of the most important in the world. In Great Britain, the whale-fishery has an extravagant bounty and is carried on with so little purpose. Many people think (which I do not warrant) that the whole produce does not exceed the value of the bounties paid for it. In New England, it is carried on without any great bounty. Fish is one of the principal articles which North Americans trade to Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean.

53 Sugar was originally an enumerated commodity which could be exported only to Great Britain.

In 1751, on a representation of the sugar-planters, its worldwide exportation was permitted with restrictions. These restrictions, along with high sugar prices in Great Britain, rendered it ineffective. Great Britain and her colonies are still the sole market for all the sugar produced in the British plantations. The increasing improvement of Jamaica and the ceded islands increased sugar importation very greatly within 20 years. British sugar consumption increases so fast that the exportation to foreign countries was not much greater than before.

54 Rum is a very important article in the trade between the Americans and the coast of Africa which return negro slaves. 55 If the whole surplus produce of America in grain, salt, and fish, were put into the enumeration and forced into the market of Great Britain, it would have interfered too much with British produce.

It was probably from this jealous interference that those commodities were= kept out of the enumeration, and prohibited from being imported, except rice.

56 The non-enumerated commodities could originally be exported internationally.

Lumber and rice were once put into the enumeration but was taken out afterwards. They were confined to the European market and to the countries south of Cape Finisterre. By the 6th of George III c. 52, all non-enumerated commodities were subjected to the like restriction. The parts of Europe south of Cape Finisterre are not manufacturing countries. We were less jealous of the colony ships carrying home any manufactures from them.

57 The enumerated commodities are of two sorts=

The peculiar produce of America that cannot be produced or are not produced in Great Britain:

  • Molasses
  • Coffee
  • Cacao-nuts
  • Tobacco
  • Pimento
  • Ginger
  • Whale-fins
  • Raw silk
  • Cotton-wool
  • Beaver and other peltry of America
  • Indigo
  • Fustic and other dyeing woods

The produce of America which may be produced in Great Britain and principally supplied from foreign countries=

All naval stores Masts Yards Bowsprits Tar Pitch Turpentine Pig and bar iron Copper ore Hides and skins Pot and pearl ashes

The importation of the first kind of commodities does not discourage the growth nor interfere with the sale of British produce.

By confining those commodities to the home market, our merchants expected= to be able buy them cheaper in the Plantations and sell them with more profit at home, to establish an advantageous carrying trade between the Plantations and foreign countries, and to establish Great Britain as the center or emporium where those commodities would be first imported. They supposed that the importation of the second kind of commodities might be managed to interfere with imported foreign commodities. By duties, those commodities from America might be dearer than those from Britain, but cheaper than those from foreign countries. By confining such commodities to the home market, it proposed to discourage the produce of foreign countries which would create an unfavourable balance of trade to Great Britain.

58 The prohibition of exporting masts, yards, and bowsprits, tar, pitch, and turpentine from the colonies to countries other than Great Britain, naturally lowered timber prices in the colonies.

It increased the cost of clearing their lands, which is the main obstacle to their improvement. In 1703, the pitch and tar company of Sweden raised the price of their commodities to Great Britain by prohibiting their exportation, except= in their own ships, at their own price, and in quantities they thought proper. To counteract this and to render herself independent of Sweden and all northern powers, Great Britain gave an import bounty on all naval stores from America. This bounty raised timber prices in America much more than the confinement to the home market could lower it. Both regulations were enacted at the same time. Their joint effect was to encourage the clearing of land in America.

59 The pig and bar iron were listed as enumerated commodities.

But they were exempted from high duties when imported from America. They were subject to high duties when imported from any other country. The high duties imposed on the pig and bar iron from other countries encouraged the establishment of furnaces in America. Furnaces consume the most wood and contributes most to the clearing of wood.

60 These regulations raised timber value in America.

They facilitated the clearing of the land though it was perhaps not intended nor understood by the legislature. This beneficial effect was accidental.

61 The most perfect freedom of trade is permitted between the British colonies of America and the West Indies in enumerated and non-enumerated commodities.

Those colonies are now so populous and thriving. Each of them finds a great and extensive market for its produce in some of the other colonies. Taken together, they all make a great internal market for the produce of one another.

62 England’s liberality with the trade of her colonies, however, was confined to their rude produce.

The more advanced and refined manufactures of the colonies are reserved by British merchants and manufacturers to themselves. They prevented the establishment of those manufactures in the colonies by high duties and absolute prohibitions.

63 The following are the duties paid by sugars from the British plantations=

Muscovado sugars pay only 76 pence the hundredweight White sugars pay 253 pence. Refined double or single sugar in loaves pay 269.4 pence.

Great Britain was the sole and still is the principal market for the sugars of the British colonies.

These duties amounted to a prohibition. At present, sugar claying or refining takes off perhaps more than 9/10 of the whole produce because of the high duties on refined sugar. Sugar refining flourished in all the French sugar colonies. It was little cultivated in any England colony except for the market of the colonies themselves. While Grenada was with the French, there was a sugar refinery by claying on almost every plantation. Since it fell to the English, almost all its refineries were given up At present, October 1773, there are not more than two or three remaining in the island. By an indulgence of the custom-house, refined sugar is imported as muscovado, if reduced from loaves into powder.

64 Great Britain encourages American pig and bar iron manufactures, by exempting them from duties imposed on those from any other country.

She imposes an absolute ban on the establishment of steel furnaces and slitmills in any American plantation. She will not allow her colonists to work in those more refined manufactures even for their own consumption. She insists on them buying all these goods from her merchants and manufacturers.

65 She bans the exportation of American hats, wools, and woollen goods from one province to another.

This regulation prevents the establishment of any manufacture of such commodities for distant sale. It confines the industry of her colonists to coarse and household manufactures needed and made by private families for their own use.

66 To prohibit a great people from making all that they can, in the way that they judge most advantageous to themselves, is a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind.

Unjust as such prohibitions may be, they have not been very hurtful to the colonies. Land is still so cheap and, consequently, labour so dear in America, that they can import from Great Britain almost all the more advanced manufactures cheaper than they could make for themselves. They were not banned from establishing such manufactures. Their regard for their own interest in their present state of improvement probably prevented them from doing so. In their present state of improvement, those prohibitions perhaps did not cramp their industry nor restrain it from any natural employment. Those prohibitions are only impertinent badges of slavery imposed on the colonies by the groundless jealousy of British merchants and manufacturers. In a more advanced state they might be really oppressive and insupportable.

67 Great Britain gives advantage to the produce of her colonies by confining them to her own market, sometimes by=

Imposing higher duties on the similar imports from other countries In this way, she gives an advantage in the home market to the sugar, tobacco, and iron of her own colonies. Giving bounties on their importation from the colonies. In this way, she gives an advantage to their raw silk, hemp and flax, indigo, naval stores, and building-timber. This second way of encouraging the colony produce by import bounties is peculiar to Great Britain. The first is not. Portugal bans tobacco importation under the severest penalties.

68 England was more liberal with her colonies than any other nation in the importation of European goods. 69 Great Britain allows a large portion of import duties to be drawn back on exportation.

No foreign country would receive those commodities if they were loaded with heavy duties. Unless some of those duties were drawn back on exportation, the carrying trade would end. The carrying trade was so much favoured by the mercantile system.

70 Our colonies are not independent foreign countries.

Great Britain assumed the exclusive right of supplying them with all European goods. She can force them to receive such goods with all the same duties they paid in the mother country. On the contrary, until 1763, the same drawbacks were paid on most foreign goods exported to our colonies like any foreign country. In 1763, by the 4th of George III. c. 15, this indulgence was abated by enacting= That no part of the duty called the Old Subsidy should be drawn back for any exported European or East Indies goods to any British colony or plantation in America, except= wines white calicoes muslins. Before this law, many foreign goods were, and still are, bought cheaper in the plantations than in the mother country.

71 The merchants must have been the principal advisers of most of the regulations on the colony trade.

It is no wonder that their interest was more considered in most of the regulations than the interest of the colonies or the mother country. The interest of the colonies was sacrificed to the interest of those merchants through the exclusive privilege of merchants of= supplying the colonies with all European goods, and buying all the surplus produce of the colonies which could not interfere with their trades at home. The interest of the mother country was sacrificed to interest of the merchants by= allowing the same drawbacks on the re-exportation of most European and East India goods to the colonies as the re-exportation to foreign countries. It was the interest of the merchants= to pay as little as possible for the foreign goods they sent to the colonies, and to get back as much as possible of the duties they advanced on their importation into Great Britain. They might be enabled=

to sell in the colonies the same quantity of goods with more profit, or to sell more goods with the same profit. They would gain either way.

It was the interest of the colonies to get all such goods as cheap and as plenty as possible.

But this might not always be in the interest of the mother country. She might frequently suffer in her revenue by= giving back the import duties paid on such goods, and being undersold in the colony market in her manufactures by the easy terms foreign manufactures were imported by those drawbacks.

The progress of British linen manufactures was much retarded by the drawbacks on the re-exportation of German linen to the American colonies.


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