case 7 pamphlets on trade with the American mainland

Relations Between the West Indies and the American Mainland


The British sugar colonies grew up in tandem with the colonies on the American mainland, but there were marked contrasts in economic, social, and political organization. There was a lively trade between the sugar islands and the mainland colonies in the eighteenth century. In many cases planters didn't want to spare labor or productive land for provision crops, and imported food from the mainland instead. Lumber and livestock were also important imports. In return, the islands exported molasses and rum. The French sugar colonies also traded with the mainland colonies, often selling cheaper than the British planters, who petitioned in 1732 to have that trade outlawed, in order to protect their own.


The Revolutionary War was a serious disruption of this system of trade. During the war the flow of goods was interrupted, leaving the plantations without the food and timber on which they depended, and without a market on which they counted for part of their output. Shipping sugar to England was also more difficult during the war, as shipping itself was scarcer and was frequently threatened, and the refiners' business suffered.


After the war, trade with the mainland was no longer covered by the Mercantilist protections that favored trade within the empire. The planters wanted to continue trade with the former mainland colonies, now the United States, on their previous footing. They argued against the newly placed restrictions, citing their dependence on the mainland as a trading partner, in effect reversing their stand on free trade.

Some Considerations Humbly Offer'd upon the Bill Now Depending in the House of Lords, Relating to the Trade Between the Northern Colonies and the Sugar-islands... 1732

The Case of the Provinces of the Massachusets-Bay, and New-Hampshire, and the Colonies of Rhoad-Island with Providence Plantations, and Connecticut in New England, and the Province of New Jersey, with Respect to the Bill Now Depending in the Honourable House of Commons...

The bill addressed by both these titles is A Bill for the Better Securing and Encouraging the Trade of His Majesty's Sugar Colonies in America which first came before Parliament in 1732. Its purpose was to outlaw trade between the mainland colonies and the French sugar islands. The French planters, having no other market for rum and molasses (which they were unable to sell to France in deference to the interests of the brandy industry) sold them cheaply to the mainland colonies. The bill itself did not succeed, but its object was subsequently accomplished by the Molasses Act, which is significant in American history as the first instance in which Parliament attempted taxation of America.


Both works argue from the hardship it will be to the mainland colonies to be deprived of the trade, and point to the importance of the mainland colonies as a market for British manufactures. Both also adopt a skeptical stance toward the representations of the British planters that they were on the brink of ruin because of the trade between the mainland colonies and the French sugar islands. Some Considerations Humbly Offer'd pointedly contrasts the hard-working frugality of the New England colonists with the luxurious indolence and negligent husbandry of the planters.

Prize Sugars not Foreign: an Essay Intended to Vindicate the Rights of the Public to the Use of the Prize Sugars ... and an Enquiry into the Proper Means of Moderating the Price of this Necessary Article...1782

Shipping sugar to England was difficult during the war, and the refiners' business suffered. When ships taken as prizes had cargoes of sugar, it was treated as foreign sugar for customs purposes, with the attendant higher duty. This pamphlet argues that sugar so acquired should be subject to lower duties so as to ensure a constant supply, citing the necessity of sugar to the public.


"We have seen the manufactory half employed; many of its valuable buildings deserted, and falling into ruin; —the wholesale grocer circumscribed in his trade; —the retailer in town and country abridged of his fair profits; —the consumer heavily taxed, by an immoderate advance in the price."

West India Planters and Merchants Considerations on the Present State of the Intercourse between His Majesty's Sugar Colonies and the Dominions of the United States of America ... 1784

Published by the West India Planters and Merchants, the most influential of the groups representing the planter interest in London, this is a refutation of a pamphlet entitled Observations on the Commerce of the American States, by John Lord Sheffield, which the Clements holds in three editions. In that pamphlet, the author is concerned to defend the spirit and letter of the navigation acts as regards the United States. This retort pleads the cause of free trade between the British plantations of the West Indies and the U.S., citing the planters' reliance on the mainland as a source of supply for timber and provisions, and also as a market for their rum and molasses.