An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
Adam Smith

Part 11 out of 19

this grain, no more than for that of pease or beans.

By the same law, too, the exportation of wheat is prohibited so soon
as the price rises to forty-four shillings the quarter; that of rye so
soon as it rises to twenty-eight shillings; that of barley so soon as
it rises to twenty-two shillings; and that of oats so soon as they
rise to fourteen shillings. Those several prices seem all of them a
good deal too low; and there seems to be an impropriety, besides, in
prohibiting exportation altogether at those precise prices at which
that bounty, which was given in order to force it, is withdrawn. The
bounty ought certainly either to have been withdrawn at a much lower
price, or exportation ought to have been allowed at a much higher.

So far, therefore, this law seems to be inferior to the ancient
system. With all its imperfections, however, we may perhaps say of it
what was said of the laws of Solon, that though not the best in
itself, it is the best which the interest, prejudices, and temper of
the times, would admit of. It may perhaps in due time prepare the way
for a better.



When a nation binds itself by treaty, either to permit the entry of
certain goods from one foreign country which it prohibits from all
others, or to exempt the goods of one country from duties to which it
subjects those of all others, the country, or at least the merchants
and manufacturers of the country, whose commerce is so favoured, must
necessarily derive great advantage from the treaty. Those merchants
and manufacturers enjoy a sort of monopoly in the country which is so
indulgent to them. That country becomes a market, both more extensive
and more advantageous for their goods: more extensive, because the
goods of other nations being either excluded or subjected to heavier
duties, it takes off a greater quantity of theirs; more advantageous,
because the merchants of the favoured country, enjoying a sort of
monopoly there, will often sell their goods for a better price than if
exposed to the free competition of all other nations.

Such treaties, however, though they may be advantageous to the
merchants and manufacturers of the favoured, are necessarily
disadvantageous to those of the favouring country. A monopoly is thus
granted against them to a foreign nation; and they must frequently buy
the foreign goods they have occasion for, dearer than if the free
competition of other nations was admitted. That part of its own
produce with which such a nation purchases foreign goods, must
consequently be sold cheaper; because, when two things are exchanged
for one another, the cheapness of the one is a necessary consequence,
or rather is the same thing, with the dearness of the other. The
exchangeable value of its annual produce, therefore, is likely to be
diminished by every such treaty. This diminution, however, can scarce
amount to any positive loss, but only to a lessening of the gain which
it might otherwise make. Though it sells its goods cheaper than it
otherwise might do, it will not probably sell them for less than they
cost; nor, as in the case of bounties, for a price which will not
replace the capital employed in bringing them to market, together with
the ordinary profits of stock. The trade could not go on long if it
did. Even the favouring country, therefore, may still gain by the
trade, though less than if there was a free competition.

Some treaties of commerce, however, have been supposed advantageous,
upon principles very different from these; and a commercial country
has sometimes granted a monopoly of this kind, against itself, to
certain goods of a foreign nation, because it expected, that in the
whole commerce between them, it would annually sell more than it would
buy, and that a balance in gold and silver would be annually returned
to it. It is upon this principle that the treaty of commerce between
England and Portugal, concluded in 1703 by Mr Methuen, has been so
much commended. The following is a literal translation of that treaty,
which consists of three articles only.


His sacred royal majesty of Portugal promises, both in his own name
and that of his successors, to admit for ever hereafter, into
Portugal, the woollen cloths, and the rest of the woollen manufactures
of the British, as was accustomed, till they were prohibited by the
law; nevertheless upon this condition:


That is to say, that her sacred royal majesty of Great Britain shall,
in her own name, and that of her successors, be obliged, for ever
hereafter, to admit the wines of the growth of Portugal into Britain;
so that at no time, whether there shall be peace or war between the
kingdoms of Britain and France, any thing more shall be demanded for
these wines by the name of custom or duty, or by whatsoever other
title, directly or indirectly, whether they shall be imported into
Great Britain in pipes or hogsheads, or other casks, than what shall
be demanded for the like quantity or measure of French wine, deducting
or abating a third part of the custom or duty. But if, at any time,
this deduction or abatement of customs, which is to be made as
aforesaid, shall in any manner be attempted and prejudiced, it shall
be just and lawful for his sacred royal majesty of Portugal, again to
prohibit the woollen cloths, and the rest of the British woollen


The most excellent lords the plenipotentiaries promise and take upon
themselves, that their above named masters shall ratify this treaty;
and within the space of two months the ratification shall be

By this treaty, the crown of Portugal becomes bound to admit the
English woollens upon the same footing as before the prohibition; that
is, not to raise the duties which had been paid before that time. But
it does not become bound to admit them upon any better terms than
those of any other nation, of France or Holland, for example. The
crown of Great Britain, on the contrary, becomes bound to admit the
wines of Portugal, upon paying only two-thirds of the duty which is
paid for those of France, the wines most likely to come into
competition with them. So far this treaty, therefore, is evidently
advantageous to Portugal, and disadvantageous to Great Britain.

It has been celebrated, however, as a masterpiece of the commercial
policy of England. Portugal receives annually from the Brazils a
greater quantity of gold than can be employed in its domestic
commerce, whether in the shape of coin or of plate. The surplus is too
valuable to be allowed to lie idle and locked up in coffers; and as it
can find no advantageous market at home, it must, notwithstanding; any
prohibition, be sent abroad, and exchanged for something for which
there is a more advantageous market at home. A large share of it comes
annually to England, in return either for English goods, or for those
of other European nations that receive their returns through England.
Mr Barretti was informed, that the weekly packet-boat from Lisbon
brings, one week with another, more than 50,000 in gold to England.
The sum had probably been exaggerated. It would amount to more than
2,600,000 a year, which is more than the Brazils are supposed to

Our merchants were, some years ago, out of humour with the crown of
Portugal. Some privileges which had been granted them, not by treaty,
but by the free grace of that crown, at the solicitation, indeed, it
is probable, and in return for much greater favours, defence and
protection from the crown of Great Britain, had been either infringed
or revoked. The people, therefore, usually most interested in
celebrating the Portugal trade, were then rather disposed to represent
it as less advantageous than it had commonly been imagined. The far
greater part, almost the whole, they pretended, of this annual
importation of gold, was not on account of Great Britain, but of other
European nations; the fruits and wines of Portugal annually imported
into Great Britain nearly compensating the value of the British goods
sent thither.

Let us suppose, however, that the whole was on account of Great
Britain, and that it amounted to a still greater sum than Mr Barretti
seems to imagine; this trade would not, upon that account, be more
advantageous than any other, in which, for the same value sent out, we
received an equal value of consumable goods in return.

It is but a very small part of this importation which, it can be
supposed, is employed as an annual addition, either to the plate or to
the coin of the kingdom. The rest must all be sent abroad, and
exchanged for consumable goods of some kind or other. But if those
consumable goods were purchased directly with the produce of English
industry, it would be more for the advantage of England, than first to
purchase with that produce the gold of Portugal, and afterwards to
purchase with that gold those consumable goods. A direct foreign trade
of consumption is always more advantageous than a round-about one; and
to bring the same value of foreign goods to the home market requires a
much smaller capital in the one way than in the ether. If a smaller
share of its industry, therefore, had been employed in producing goods
fit for the Portugal market, and a greater in producing those lit for
the other markets, where those consumable goods for which there is a
demand in Great Britain are to be had, it would have been more for the
advantage of England. To procure both the gold which it wants for its
own use, and the consumable goods, would, in this way, employ a much
smaller capital than at present. There would be a spare capital,
therefore, to be employed for other purposes, in exciting an
additional quantity of industry, and in raising a greater annual

Though Britain were entirely excluded from the Portugal trade, it
could find very little difficulty in procuring all the annual supplies
of gold which it wants, either for the purposes of plate, or of coin,
or of foreign trade. Gold, like every other commodity, is always
somewhere or another to be got for its value by those who have that
value to give for it. The annual surplus of gold in Portugal, besides,
would still be sent abroad, and though not carried away by Great
Britain, would be carried away by some other nation, which would be
glad to sell it again for its price, in the same manner as Great
Britain does at present. In buying gold of Portugal, indeed, we buy it
at the first hand; whereas, in buying it of any other nation, except
Spain, we should buy it at the second, and might pay somewhat dearer.
This difference, however, would surely be too insignificant to deserve
the public attention.

Almost all our gold, it is said, comes from Portugal. With other
nations, the balance of trade is either against as, or not much in our
favour. But we should remember, that the more gold we import from one
country, the less we must necessarily import from all others. The
effectual demand for gold, like that for every other commodity, is in
every country limited to a certain quantity. If nine-tenths of this
quantity are imported from one country, there remains a tenth only to
be imported from all others. The more gold, besides, that is annually
imported from some particular countries, over and above what is
requisite for plate and for coin, the more must necessarily be
exported to some others: and the more that most insignificant object
of modern policy, the balance of trade, appears to be in our favour
with some particular countries, the more it must necessarily appear to
be against us with many others.

It was upon this silly notion, however, that England could not subsist
without the Portugal trade, that, towards the end of the late war,
France and Spain, without pretending either offence or provocation,
required the king of Portugal to exclude all British ships from his
ports, and, for the security of this exclusion, to receive into them
French or Spanish garrisons. Had the king of Portugal submitted to
those ignominious terms which his brother-in-law the king of Spain
proposed to him, Britain would have been freed from a much greater
inconveniency than the loss of the Portugal trade, the burden of
supporting a very weak ally, so unprovided of every thing for his own
defence, that the whole power of England, had it been directed to that
single purpose, could scarce, perhaps, have defended him for another
campaign. The loss of the Portugal trade would, no doubt, have
occasioned a considerable embarrassment to the merchants at that time
engaged in it, who might not, perhaps, have found out, for a year or
two, any other equally advantageous method of employing their
capitals; and in this would probably have consisted all the
inconveniency which England could have suffered from this notable
piece of commercial policy.

The great annual importation of gold and silver is neither for the
purpose of plate nor of coin, but of foreign trade. A round-about
foreign trade of consumption can be carried on more advantageously by
means of these metals than of almost any other goods. As they are the
universal instruments of commerce, they are more readily received in
return for all commodities than any other goods; and, on account of
their small bulk and great value, it costs less to transport them
backward and forward from one place to another than almost any other
sort of merchandize, and they lose less of their value by being so
transported. Of all the commodities, therefore, which are bought in
one foreign country, for no other purpose but to be sold or exchanged
again for some other goods in another, there are none so convenient as
gold and silver. In facilitating all the different round-about foreign
trades of consumption which are carried on in Great Britain, consists
the principal advantage of the Portugal trade; and though it is not a
capital advantage, it is, no doubt, a considerable one.

That any annual addition which, it can reasonably be supposed, is made
either to the plate or to the coin of the kingdom, could require but a
very small annual importation of gold and silver, seems evident
enough; and though we had no direct trade with Portugal, this small
quantity could always, somewhere or another, be very easily got.

Though the goldsmiths trade be very considerable in Great Britain, the
far greater part of the new plate which they annually sell, is made
from other old plate melted down; so that the addition annually made
to the whole plate of the kingdom cannot be very great, and could
require but a very small annual importation.

It is the same case with the coin. Nobody imagines, I believe, that
even the greater part of the annual coinage, amounting, for ten years
together, before the late reformation of the gold coin, to upwards of
800,000 a-year in gold, was an annual addition to the money before
current in the kingdom. In a country where the expense of the coinage
is defrayed by the government, the value of the coin, even when it
contains its full standard weight of gold and silver, can never be
much greater than that of an equal quantity of those metals uncoined,
because it requires only the trouble of going to the mint, and the
delay, perhaps, of a few weeks, to procure for any quantity of
uncoined gold and silver an equal quantity of those metals in coin;
but in every country the greater part of the current coin is almost
always more or less worn, or otherwise degenerated from its standard.
In Great Britain it was, before the late reformation, a good deal so,
the gold being more than two per cent., and the silver more than eight
per cent. below its standard weight. But if forty-four guineas and
a-half, containing their full standard weight, a pound weight of gold,
could purchase very little more than a pound weight of uncoined gold;
forty-four guineas and a-half, wanting a part of their weight, could
not purchase a pound weight, and something was to be added, in order
to make up the deficiency. The current price of gold bullion at
market, therefore, instead of being the same with the mint price, or
46:14:6, was then about 47:14s., and sometimes about 48. When the
greater part of the coin, however, was in this degenerate condition,
forty four guineas and a-half, fresh from the mint, would purchase no
more goods in the market than any other ordinary guineas; because,
when they came into the coffers of the merchant, being confounded with
other money, they could not afterwards be distinguished without more
trouble than the difference was worth. Like other guineas, they were
worth no more than 46:14:6. If thrown into the melting pot, however,
they produced, without any sensible loss, a pound weight of standard
gold, which could be sold at any time for between 47:14s. and 48,
either in gold or silver, as fit for all the purposes of coin as that
which had been melted down. There was an evident profit, therefore, in
melting down new-coined money; and it was done so instantaneously,
that no precaution of government could prevent it. The operations of
the mint were, upon this account, somewhat like the web of Penelope;
the work that was done in the day was undone in the night. The mint
was employed, not so much in making daily additions to the coin, as in
replacing the very best part of it, which was daily melted down.

Were the private people who carry their gold and silver to the mint to
pay themselves for the coinage, it would add to the value of those
metals, in the same manner as the fashion does to that of plate.
Coined gold and silver would be more valuable than uncoined. The
seignorage, if it was not exorbitant, would add to the bullion the
whole value of the duty; because, the government having everywhere the
exclusive privilege of coining, no coin can come to market cheaper
than they think proper to afford it. If the duty was exorbitant,
indeed, that is, if it was very much above the real value of the
labour and expense requisite for coinage, false coiners, both at home
and abroad, might be encouraged, by the great difference between the
value of bullion and that of coin, to pour in so great a quantity of
counterfeit money as might reduce the value of the government money.
In France, however, though the seignorage is eight per cent., no
sensible inconveniency of this kind is found to arise from it. The
dangers to which a false coiner is everywhere exposed, if he lives in
the country of which he counterfeits the coin, and to which his agents
or correspondents are exposed, if he lives in a foreign country, are
by far too great to be incurred for the sake of a profit of six or
seven per cent.

The seignorage in France raises the value of the coin higher than in
proportion to the quantity of pure gold which it contains. Thus, by
the edict of January 1726, the mint price of fine gold of twenty-four
carats was fixed at seven hundred and forty livres nine sous and one
denier one-eleventh the mark of eight Paris ounces. {See Dictionnaire
des Monnoies, tom. ii. article Seigneurage, p. 439, par 81. Abbot de
Bazinghen, Conseiller-Commissaire en la Cour des Monnoies Paris.}
The gold coin of France, making an allowance for the remedy of the
mint, contains twenty-one carats and three-fourths of fine gold, and
two carats one-fourth of alloy. The mark of standard gold, therefore,
is worth no more than about six hundred and seventy-one livres ten
deniers. But in France this mark of standard gold is coined into
thirty louis d'ors of twenty-four livres each, or into seven hundred
and twenty livres. The coinage, therefore, increases the value of a
mark of standard gold bullion, by the difference between six hundred
and seventy-one livres ten deniers and seven hundred and twenty
livres, or by forty-eight livres nineteen sous and two deniers.

A seignorage will, in many cases, take away altogether, and will in
all cases diminish, the profit of melting down the new coin. This
profit always arises from the difference between the quantity of
bullion which the common currency ought to contain and that which it
actually does contain. If this difference is less than the seignorage,
there will be loss instead of profit. If it is equal to the
seignorage, there will be neither profit nor loss. If it is greater
than the seignorage, there will, indeed, be some profit, but less than
if there was no seignorage. If, before the late reformation of the
gold coin, for example, there had been a seignorage of five per cent.
upon the coinage, there would have been a loss of three per cent. upon
the melting down of the gold coin. If the seignorage had been two per
cent., there would have been neither profit nor loss. If the
seignorage had been one per cent., there would have been a profit but
of one per cent. only, instead of two per cent. Wherever money is
received by tale, therefore, and not by weight, a seignorage is the
most effectual preventive of the melting down of the coin, and, for
the same reason, of its exportation. It is the best and heaviest
pieces that are commonly either melted down or exported, because it is
upon such that the largest profits are made.

The law for the encouragement of the coinage, by rendering it
duty-free, was first enacted during the reign of Charles II. for a
limited time, and afterwards continued, by different prolongations,
till 1769, when it was rendered perpetual. The bank of England, in
order to replenish their coffers with money, are frequently obliged to
carry bullion to the mint; and it was more for their interest, they
probably imagined, that the coinage should be at the expense of the
government than at their own. It was probably out of complaisance to
this great company, that the government agreed to render this law
perpetual. Should the custom of weighing gold, however, come to be
disused, as it is very likely to be on account of its inconveniency;
should the gold coin of England come to be received by tale, as it was
before the late recoinage this great company may, perhaps, find that
they have, upon this, as upon some other occasions, mistaken their own
interest not a little.

Before the late recoinage, when the gold currency of England was two
per cent. below its standard weight, as there was no seignorage, it
was two per cent. below the value of that quantity of standard gold
bullion which it ought to have contained. When this great company,
therefore, bought gold bullion in order to have it coined, they were
obliged to pay for it two per cent. more than it was worth after the
coinage. But if there had been a seignorage of two per cent. upon the
coinage, the common gold currency, though two per cent. below its
standard weight, would, notwithstanding, have been equal in value to
the quantity of standard gold which it ought to have contained; the
value of the fashion compensating in this case the diminution of the
weight. They would, indeed, have had the seignorage to pay, which
being two per cent., their loss upon the whole transaction would have
been two per cent., exactly the same, but no greater than it actually

If the seignorage had been five per cent. and the gold currency only
two per cent. below its standard weight, the bank would, in this case,
have gained three per cent. upon the price of the bullion; but as they
would have had a seignorage of five per cent. to pay upon the coinage,
their loss upon the whole transaction would, in the same manner, have
been exactly two per cent.

If the seignorage had been only one per cent., and the gold currency
two per cent. below its standard weight, the bank would, in this case,
have lost only one per cent. upon the price of the bullion; but as
they would likewise have had a seignorage of one per cent. to pay,
their loss upon the whole transaction would have been exactly two per
cent., in the same manner as in all other cases.

If there was a reasonable seignorage, while at the same time the coin
contained its full standard weight, as it has done very nearly since
the late recoinage, whatever the bank might lose by the seignorage,
they would gain upon the price of the bullion; and whatever they might
gain upon the price of the bullion, they would lose by the seignorage.
They would neither lose nor gain, therefore, upon the whole
transaction, and they would in this, as in all the foregoing cases, be
exactly in the same situation as if there was no seignorage.

When the tax upon a commodity is so moderate as not to encourage
smuggling, the merchant who deals in it, though he advances, does not
properly pay the tax, as he gets it back in the price of the
commodity. The tax is finally paid by the last purchaser or consumer.
But money is a commodity, with regard to which every man is a
merchant. Nobody buys it but in order to sell it again; and with
regard to it there is, in ordinary cases, no last purchaser or
consumer. When the tax upon coinage, therefore, is so moderate as not
to encourage false coining, though every body advances the tax, nobody
finally pays it; because every body gets it back in the advanced value
of the coin.

A moderate seignorage, therefore, would not, in any case, augment the
expense of the bank, or of any other private persons who carry their
bullion to the mint in order to be coined; and the want of a moderate
seignorage does not in any case diminish it. Whether there is or is
not a seignorage, if the currency contains its full standard weight,
the coinage costs nothing to anybody; and if it is short of that
weight, the coinage must always cost the difference between the
quantity of bullion which ought to be contained in it, and that which
actually is contained in it.

The government, therefore, when it defrays the expense of coinage, not
only incurs some small expense, but loses some small revenue which it
might get by a proper duty; and neither the bank, nor any other
private persons, are in the smallest degree benefited by this useless
piece of public generosity.

The directors of the bank, however, would probably be unwilling to
agree to the imposition of a seignorage upon the authority of a
speculation which promises them no gain, but only pretends to insure
them from any loss. In the present state of the gold coin, and as long
as it continues to be received by weight, they certainly would gain
nothing by such a change. But if the custom of weighing the gold coin
should ever go into disuse, as it is very likely to do, and if the
gold coin should ever fall into the same state of degradation in which
it was before the late recoinage, the gain, or more properly the
savings, of the bank, inconsequence of the imposition of a seignorage,
would probably be very considerable. The bank of England is the only
company which sends any considerable quantity of bullion to the mint,
and the burden of the annual coinage falls entirely, or almost
entirely, upon it. If this annual coinage had nothing to do but to
repair the unavoidable losses and necessary wear and tear of the coin,
it could seldom exceed fifty thousand, or at most a hundred thousand
pounds. But when the coin is degraded below its standard weight, the
annual coinage must, besides this, fill up the large vacuities which
exportation and the melting pot are continually making in the current
coin. It was upon this account, that during the ten or twelve years
immediately preceding the late reformation of the gold coin, the
annual coinage amounted, at an average, to more than 850,000. But if
there had been a seignorage of four or five per cent. upon the gold
coin, it would probably, even in the state in which things then were,
have put an effectual stop to the business both of exportation and of
the melting pot. The bank, instead of losing every year about two and
a half per cent. upon the bullion which was to be coined into more
than eight hundred and fifty thousand pounds, or incurring an annual
loss of more than 21,250 pounds, would not probably have incurred the
tenth part of that loss.

The revenue allotted by parliament for defraying the expense of the
coinage is but fourteen thousand pounds a-year; and the real expense
which it costs the government, or the fees of the officers of the
mint, do not, upon ordinary occasions, I am assured, exceed the half
of that sum. The saving of so very small a sum, or even the gaining of
another, which could not well be much larger, are objects too
inconsiderable, it may be thought, to deserve the serious attention of
government. But the saving of eighteen or twenty thousand pounds
a-year, in case of an event which is not improbable, which has
frequently happened before, and which is very likely to happen again,
is surely an object which well deserves the serious attention, even of
so great a company as the bank of England.

Some of the foregoing reasonings and observations might, perhaps, have
been more properly placed in those chapters of the first book which
treat of the origin and use of money, and of the difference between
the real and the nominal price of commodities. But as the law for the
encouragement of coinage derives its origin from those vulgar
prejudices which have been introduced by the mercantile system, I
judged it more proper to reserve them for this chapter. Nothing could
be more agreeable to the spirit of that system than a sort of bounty
upon the production of money, the very thing which, it supposes,
constitutes the wealth of every nation. It is one of its many
admirable expedients for enriching the country.




Of the Motives for Establishing New Colonies.

The interest which occasioned the first settlement of the different
European colonies in America and the West Indies, was not altogether
so plain and distinct as that which directed the establishment of
those of ancient Greece and Rome.

All the different states of ancient Greece possessed, each of them,
but a very small territory; and when the people in anyone of them
multiplied beyond what that territory could easily maintain, a part of
them were sent in quest of a new habitation, in some remote and
distant part of the world; the warlike neighbours who surrounded them
on all sides, rendering it difficult for any of them to enlarge very
much its territory at home. The colonies of the Dorians resorted
chiefly to Italy and Sicily, which, in the times preceding the
foundation of Rome, were inhabited by barbarous and uncivilized
nations; those of the Ionians and Aeolians, the two other great tribes
of the Greeks, to Asia Minor and the islands of the Aegean sea, of
which the inhabitants sewn at that time to have been pretty much in
the same state as those of Sicily and Italy. The mother city, though
she considered the colony as a child, at all times entitled to great
favour and assistance, and owing in return much gratitude and respect,
yet considered it as an emancipated child, over whom she pretended to
claim no direct authority or jurisdiction. The colony settled its own
form of government, enacted its own laws, elected its own magistrates,
and made peace or war with its neighbours, as an independent state,
which had no occasion to wait for the approbation or consent of the
mother city. Nothing can be more plain and distinct than the interest
which directed every such establishment.

Rome, like most of the other ancient republics, was originally founded
upon an agrarian law, which divided the public territory, in a certain
proportion, among the different citizens who composed the state. The
course of human affairs, by marriage, by succession, and by
alienation, necessarily deranged this original division, and
frequently threw the lands which had been allotted for the maintenance
of many different families, into the possession of a single person. To
remedy this disorder, for such it was supposed to be, a law was made,
restricting the quantity of land which any citizen could possess to
five hundred jugera; about 350 English acres. This law, however,
though we read of its having been executed upon one or two occasions,
was either neglected or evaded, and the inequality of fortunes went on
continually increasing. The greater part of the citizens had no land;
and without it the manners and customs of those times rendered it
difficult for a freeman to maintain his independency. In the present
times, though a poor man has no land of his own, if he has a little
stock, he may either farm the lands of another, or he may carry on
some little retail trade; and if he has no stock, he may find
employment either as a country labourer, or as an artificer. But among
the ancient Romans, the lands of the rich were all cultivated by
slaves, who wrought under an overseer, who was likewise a slave; so
that a poor freeman had little chance of being employed either as a
farmer or as a labourer. All trades and manufactures, too, even the
retail trade, were carried on by the slaves of the rich for the
benefit of their masters, whose wealth, authority, and protection,
made it difficult for a poor freeman to maintain the competition
against them. The citizens, therefore, who had no land, had scarce any
other means of subsistence but the bounties of the candidates at the
annual elections. The tribunes, when they had a mind to animate the
people against the rich and the great, put them in mind of the ancient
divisions of lands, and represented that law which restricted this
sort of private property as the fundamental law of the republic. The
people became clamorous to get land, and the rich and the great, we
may believe, were perfectly determined not to give them any part of
theirs. To satisfy them in some measure, therefore, they frequently
proposed to send out a new colony. But conquering Rome was, even upon
such occasions, under no necessity of turning out her citizens to seek
their fortune, if one may so, through the wide world, without knowing
where they were to settle. She assigned them lands generally in the
conquered provinces of Italy, where, being within the dominions of the
republic, they could never form any independent state, but were at
best but a sort of corporation, which, though it had the power of
enacting bye-laws for its own government, was at all times subject to
the correction, jurisdiction, and legislative authority of the mother
city. The sending out a colony of this kind not only gave some
satisfaction to the people, but often established a sort of garrison,
too, in a newly conquered province, of which the obedience might
otherwise have been doubtful. A Roman colony, therefore, whether we
consider the nature of the establishment itself, or the motives for
making it, was altogether different from a Greek one. The words,
accordingly, which in the original languages denote those different
establishments, have very different meanings. The Latin word (colonia)
signifies simply a plantation. The Greek word (apoixia), on the
contrary, signifies a separation of dwelling, a departure from home, a
going out of the house. But though the Roman colonies were, in many
respects, different from the Greek ones, the interest which prompted
to establish them was equally plain and distinct. Both institutions
derived their origin, either from irresistible necessity, or from
clear and evident utility.

The establishment of the European colonies in America and the West
Indies arose from no necessity; and though the utility which has
resulted from them has been very great, it is not altogether so clear
and evident. It was not understood at their first establishment, and
was not the motive, either of that establishment, or of the
discoveries which gave occasion to it; and the nature, extent, and
limits of that utility, are not, perhaps, well understood at this day.

The Venetians, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, carried
on a very advantageous commerce in spiceries and other East India
goods, which they distributed among the other nations of Europe. They
purchased them chiefly in Egypt, at that time under the dominion of
the Mamelukes, the enemies of the Turks, of whom the Venetians were
the enemies; and this union of interest, assisted by the money of
Venice, formed such a connexion as gave the Venetians almost a
monopoly of the trade.

The great profits of the Venetians tempted the avidity of the
Portuguese. They had been endeavouring, during the course of the
fifteenth century, to find out by sea a way to the countries from
which the Moors brought them ivory and gold dust across the desert.
They discovered the Madeiras, the Canaries, the Azores, the Cape de
Verd islands, the coast of Guinea, that of Loango, Congo, Angola, and
Benguela, and, finally, the Cape of Good Hope. They had long wished to
share in the profitable traffic of the Venetians, and this last
discovery opened to them a probable prospect of doing so. In 1497,
Vasco de Gamo sailed from the port of Lisbon with a fleet of four
ships, and, after a navigation of eleven months, arrived upon the
coast of Indostan; and thus completed a course of discoveries which
had been pursued with great steadiness, and with very little
interruption, for near a century together.

Some years before this, while the expectations of Europe were in
suspense about the projects of the Portuguese, of which the success
appeared yet to be doubtful, a Genoese pilot formed the yet more
daring project of sailing to the East Indies by the west. The
situation of those countries was at that time very imperfectly known
in Europe. The few European travellers who had been there, had
magnified the distance, perhaps through simplicity and ignorance; what
was really very great, appearing almost infinite to those who could
not measure it; or, perhaps, in order to increase somewhat more the
marvellous of their own adventures in visiting regions so immensely
remote from Europe. The longer the way was by the east, Columbus very
justly concluded, the shorter it would be by the west. He proposed,
therefore, to take that way, as both the shortest and the surest, and
he had the good fortune to convince Isabella of Castile of the
probability of his project. He sailed from the port of Palos in August
1492, near five years before the expedition of Vasco de Gamo set out
from Portugal; and, after a voyage of between two and three months,
discovered first some of the small Bahama or Lucyan islands, and
afterwards the great island of St. Domingo.

But the countries which Columbus discovered, either in this or in any
of his subsequent voyages, had no resemblance to those which he had
gone in quest of. Instead of the wealth, cultivation, and populousness
of China and Indostan, he found, in St. Domingo, and in all the other
parts of the new world which he ever visited, nothing but a country
quite covered with wood, uncultivated, and inhabited only by some
tribes of naked and miserable savages. He was not very willing,
however, to believe that they were not the same with some of the
countries described by Marco Polo, the first European who had visited,
or at least had left behind him any description of China or the East
Indies; and a very slight resemblance, such as that which he found
between the name of Cibao, a mountain in St. Domingo, and that of
Cipange, mentioned by Marco Polo, was frequently sufficient to make
him return to this favourite prepossession, though contrary to the
clearest evidence. In his letters to Ferdinand and Isabella, he called
the countries which he had discovered the Indies. He entertained no
doubt but that they were the extremity of those which had been
described by Marco Polo, and that they were not very distant from the
Ganges, or from the countries which had been conquered by Alexander.
Even when at last convinced that they were different, he still
flattered himself that those rich countries were at no great distance;
and in a subsequent voyage, accordingly, went in quest of them along
the coast of Terra Firma, and towards the Isthmus of Darien.

In consequence of this mistake of Columbus, the name of the Indies has
stuck to those unfortunate countries ever since; and when it was at
last clearly discovered that the new were altogether different from
the old Indies, the former were called the West, in contradistinction
to the latter, which were called the East Indies.

It was of importance to Columbus, however, that the countries which he
had discovered, whatever they were, should be represented to the court
of Spain as of very great consequence; and, in what constitutes the
real riches of every country, the animal and vegetable productions of
the soil, there was at that time nothing which could well justify such
a representation of them.

The cori, something between a rat and a rabbit, and supposed by Mr
Buffon to be the same with the aperea of Brazil, was the largest
viviparous quadruped in St. Domingo. This species seems never to have
been very numerous; and the dogs and cats of the Spaniards are said
to have long ago almost entirely extirpated it, as well as some other
tribes of a still smaller size. These, however, together with a pretty
large lizard, called the ivana or iguana, constituted the principal
part of the animal food which the land afforded.

The vegetable food of the inhabitants, though, from their want of
industry, not very abundant, was not altogether so scanty. It
consisted in Indian corn, yams, potatoes, bananas, etc., plants which
were then altogether unknown in Europe, and which have never since
been very much esteemed in it, or supposed to yield a sustenance equal
to what is drawn from the common sorts of grain and pulse, which have
been cultivated in this part of the world time out of mind.

The cotton plant, indeed, afforded the material of a very important
manufacture, and was at that time, to Europeans, undoubtedly the most
valuable of all the vegetable productions of those islands. But
though, in the end of the fifteenth century, the muslins and other
cotton goods of the East Indies were much esteemed in every part of
Europe, the cotton manufacture itself was not cultivated in any part
of it. Even this production, therefore, could not at that time appear
in the eyes of Europeans to be of very great consequence.

Finding nothing, either in the animals or vegetables of the newly
discovered countries which could justify a very advantageous
representation of them, Columbus turned his view towards their
minerals; and in the richness of their productions of this third
kingdom, he flattered himself he had found a full compensation for the
insignificancy of those of the other two. The little bits of gold with
which the inhabitants ornamented their dress, and which, he was
informed, they frequently found in the rivulets and torrents which
fell from the mountains, were sufficient to satisfy him that those
mountains abounded with the richest gold mines. St. Domingo,
therefore, was represented as a country abounding with gold, and upon
that account (according to the prejudices not only of the present
times, but of those times), an inexhaustible source of real wealth to
the crown and kingdom of Spain. When Columbus, upon his return from
his first voyage, was introduced with a sort of triumphal honours to
the sovereigns of Castile and Arragon, the principal productions of
the countries which he had discovered were carried in solemn
procession before him. The only valuable part of them consisted in
some little fillets, bracelets, and other ornaments of gold, and in
some bales of cotton. The rest were mere objects of vulgar wonder and
curiosity; some reeds of an extraordinary size, some birds of a very
beautiful plumage, and some stuffed skins of the huge alligator and
manati; all of which were preceded by six or seven of the wretched
natives, whose singular colour and appearance added greatly to the
novelty of the show.

In consequence of the representations of Columbus, the council of
Castile determined to take possession of the countries of which the
inhabitants were plainly incapable of defending themselves. The pious
purpose of converting them to Christianity sanctified the injustice of
the project. But the hope of finding treasures of gold there was the
sole motive which prompted to undertake it; and to give this motive
the greater weight, it was proposed by Columbus, that the half of all
the gold and silver that should be found there, should belong to the
crown. This proposal was approved of by the council.

As long as the whole, or the greater part of the gold which the first
adventurers imported into Europe was got by so very easy a method as
the plundering of the defenceless natives, it was not perhaps very
difficult to pay even this heavy tax; but when the natives were once
fairly stript of all that they had, which, in St. Domingo, and in all
the other countries discovered by Columbus, was done completely in six
or eight years, and when, in order to find more, it had become
necessary to dig for it in the mines, there was no longer any
possibility of paying this tax. The rigorous exaction of it,
accordingly, first occasioned, it is said, the total abandoning of the
mines of St. Domingo, which have never been wrought since. It was soon
reduced, therefore, to a third; then to a fifth; afterwards to a
tenth; and at last to a twentieth part of the gross produce of the
gold mines. The tax upon silver continued for a long time to be a
fifth of the gross produce. It was reduced to a tenth only in the
course of the present century. But the first adventurers do not appear
to have been much interested about silver. Nothing less precious than
gold seemed worthy of their attention.

All the other enterprizes of the Spaniards in the New World,
subsequent to those of Columbus, seem to have been prompted by the
same motive. It was the sacred thirst of gold that carried Ovieda,
Nicuessa, and Vasco Nugnes de Balboa, to the Isthmus of Darien; that
carried Cortes to Mexico, Almagro and Pizarro to Chili and Peru. When
those adventurers arrived upon any unknown coast, their first inquiry
was always if there was any gold to be found there; and according to
the information which they received concerning this particular, they
determined either to quit the country or to settle in it.

Of all those expensive and uncertain projects, however, which bring
bankruptcy upon the greater part of the people who engage in them,
there is none, perhaps, more perfectly ruinous than the search after
new silver and gold mines. It is, perhaps, the most disadvantageous
lottery in the world, or the one in which the gain of those who draw
the prizes bears the least proportion to the loss of those who draw
the blanks; for though the prizes are few, and the blanks many, the
common price of a ticket is the whole fortune of a very rich man.
Projects of mining, instead of replacing the capital employed in them,
together with the ordinary profits of stock, commonly absorb both
capital and profit. They are the projects, therefore, to which, of all
others, a prudent lawgiver, who desired to increase the capital of his
nation, would least choose to give any extraordinary encouragement, or
to turn towards them a greater share of that capital than what would
go to them of its own accord. Such, in reality, is the absurd
confidence which almost all men have in their own good fortune, that
wherever there is the least probability of success, too great a share
of it is apt to go to them of its own accord.

But though the judgment of sober reason and experience concerning such
projects has always been extremely unfavourable, that of human avidity
has commonly been quite otherwise. The same passion which has
suggested to so many people the absurd idea of the philosopher's
stone, has suggested to others the equally absurd one of immense rich
mines of gold and silver. They did not consider that the value of
those metals has, in all ages and nations, arisen chiefly from their
scarcity, and that their scarcity has arisen from the very small
quantities of them which nature has anywhere deposited in one place,
from the hard and intractable substances with which she has almost
everywhere surrounded those small quantities, and consequently from
the labour and expense which are everywhere necessary in order to
penetrate, and get at them. They flattered themselves that veins of
those metals might in many places be found, as large and as abundant
as those which are commonly found of lead, or copper, or tin, or iron.
The dream of Sir Waiter Raleigh, concerning the golden city and
country of El Dorado, may satisfy us, that even wise men are not
always exempt from such strange delusions. More than a hundred years
after the death of that great man, the Jesuit Gumila was still
convinced of the reality of that wonderful country, and expressed,
with great warmth, and, I dare say, with great sincerity, how happy he
should be to carry the light of the gospel to a people who could so
well reward the pious labours of their missionary.

In the countries first discovered by the Spaniards, no gold and silver
mines are at present known which are supposed to be worth the working.
The quantities of those metals which the first adventurers are said to
have found there, had probably been very much magnified, as well as
the fertility of the mines which were wrought immediately after the
first discovery. What those adventurers were reported to have found,
however, was sufficient to inflame the avidity of all their
countrymen. Every Spaniard who sailed to America expected to find an
El Dorado. Fortune, too, did upon this what she has done upon very few
other occasions. She realized in some measure the extravagant hopes of
her votaries; and in the discovery and conquest of Mexico and Peru (of
which the one happened about thirty, and the other about forty, years
after the first expedition of Columbus), she presented them with
something not very unlike that profusion of the precious metals which
they sought for.

A project of commerce to the East Indies, therefore, gave occasion to
the first discovery of the West. A project of conquest gave occasion
to all the establishments of the Spaniards in those newly discovered
countries. The motive which excited them to this conquest was a
project of gold and silver mines; and a course of accidents which no
human wisdom could foresee, rendered this project much more successful
than the undertakers had any reasonable grounds for expecting.

The first adventurers of all the other nations of Europe who attempted
to make settlements in America, were animated by the like chimerical
views; but they were not equally successful. It was more than a
hundred years after the first settlement of the Brazils, before any
silver, gold, or diamond mines, were discovered there. In the English,
French, Dutch, and Danish colonies, none have ever yet been
discovered, at least none that are at present supposed to be worth the
working. The first English settlers in North America, however, offered
a fifth of all the gold and silver which should be found there to the
king, as a motive for granting them their patents. In the patents of
Sir Waiter Raleigh, to the London and Plymouth companies, to the
council of Plymouth, etc. this fifth was accordingly reserved to the
crown. To the expectation of finding gold and silver mines, those
first settlers, too, joined that of discovering a north-west passage
to the East Indies. They have hitherto been disappointed in both.


Causes of the Prosperity of New Colonies.

The colony of a civilized nation which takes possession either of a
waste country, or of one so thinly inhabited that the natives easily
give place to the new settlers, advances more rapidly to wealth and
greatness than any other human society.

The colonies carry out with them a knowledge of agriculture and of
other useful arts, superior to what can grow up of its own accord, in
the course of many centuries, among savage and barbarous nations. They
carry out with them, too, the habit of subordination, some notion of
the regular government which takes place in their own country, of the
system of laws which support it, and of a regular administration of
justice; and they naturally establish something of the same kind in
the new settlement. But among savage and barbarous nations, the
natural progress of law and government is still slower than the
natural progress of arts, after law and government have been so far
established as is necessary for their protection. Every colonist gets
more land than he can possibly cultivate. He has no rent, and scarce
any taxes, to pay. No landlord shares with him in its produce, and,
the share of the sovereign is commonly but a trifle. He has every
motive to render as great as possible a produce which is thus to be
almost entirely his own. But his land is commonly so extensive, that,
with all his own industry, and with all the industry of other people
whom he can get to employ, he can seldom make it produce the tenth
part of what it is capable of producing. He is eager, therefore, to
collect labourers from all quarters, and to reward them with the most
liberal wages. But those liberal wages, joined to the plenty and
cheapness of land, soon make those labourers leave him, in order to
become landlords themselves, and to reward with equal liberality other
labourers, who soon leave them for the same reason that they left
their first master. The liberal reward of labour encourages marriage.
The children, during the tender years of infancy, are well fed and
properly taken care of; and when they are grown up, the value of their
labour greatly overpays their maintenance. When arrived at maturity,
the high price of labour, and the low price of land, enable them to
establish themselves in the same manner as their fathers did before

In other countries, rent and profit eat up wages, and the two superior
orders of people oppress the inferior one; but in new colonies, the
interest of the two superior orders obliges them to treat the inferior
one with more generosity and humanity, at least where that inferior
one is not in a state of slavery. Waste lands, of the greatest natural
fertility, are to be had for a trifle. The increase of revenue which
the proprietor, who is always the undertaker, expects from their
improvement, constitutes his profit, which, in these circumstances, is
commonly very great; but this great profit cannot be made, without
employing the labour of other people in clearing and cultivating the
land; and the disproportion between the great extent of the land and
the small number of the people, which commonly takes place in new
colonies, makes it difficult for him to get this labour. He does not,
therefore, dispute about wages, but is willing to employ labour at any
price. The high wages of labour encourage population. The cheapness
and plenty of good land encourage improvement, and enable the
proprietor to pay those high wages. In those wages consists almost the
whole price of the land; and though they are high, considered as the
wages of labour, they are low, considered as the price of what is so
very valuable. What encourages the progress of population and
improvement, encourages that of real wealth and greatness.

The progress of many of the ancient Greek colonies towards wealth and
greatness seems accordingly to have been very rapid. In the course of
a century or two, several of them appear to have rivalled, and even to
have surpassed, their mother cities. Syracuse and Agrigentum in
Sicily, Tarentum and Locri in Italy, Ephesus and Miletus in Lesser
Asia, appear, by all accounts, to have been at least equal to any of
the cities of ancient Greece. Though posterior in their establishment,
yet all the arts of refinement, philosophy, poetry, and eloquence,
seem to have been cultivated as early, and to have been improved as
highly in them as in any part of the mother country The schools of the
two oldest Greek philosophers, those of Thales and Pythagoras, were
established, it is remarkable, not in ancient Greece, but the one in
an Asiatic, the other in an Italian colony. All those colonies had
established themselves in countries inhabited by savage and barbarous
nations, who easily gave place to the new settlers. They had plenty of
good land; and as they were altogether independent of the mother city,
they were at liberty to manage their own affairs in the way that they
judged was most suitable to their own interest.

The history of the Roman colonies is by no means so brilliant. Some of
them, indeed, such as Florence, have, in the course of many ages, and
after the fall of the mother city, grown up to be considerable states.
But the progress of no one of them seems ever to have been very rapid.
They were all established in conquered provinces, which in most cases
had been fully inhabited before. The quantity of land assigned to each
colonist was seldom very considerable, and, as the colony was not
independent, they were not always at liberty to manage their own
affairs in the way that they judged was most suitable to their own

In the plenty of good land, the European colonies established in
America and the West Indies resemble, and even greatly surpass, those
of ancient Greece. In their dependency upon the mother state, they
resemble those of ancient Rome; but their great distance from Europe
has in all of them alleviated more or less the effects of this
dependency. Their situation has placed them less in the view, and less
in the power of their mother country. In pursuing their interest their
own way, their conduct has upon many occasions been overlooked, either
because not known or not understood in Europe; and upon some occasions
it has been fairly suffered and submitted to, because their distance
rendered it difficult to restrain it. Even the violent and arbitrary
government of Spain has, upon many occasions, been obliged to recall
or soften the orders which had been given for the government of her
colonies, for fear of a general insurrection. The progress of all the
European colonies in wealth, population, and improvement, has
accordingly been very great.

The crown of Spain, by its share of the gold and silver, derived some
revenue from its colonies from the moment of their first
establishment. It was a revenue, too, of a nature to excite in human
avidity the most extravagant expectation of still greater riches. The
Spanish colonies, therefore, from the moment of their first
establishment, attracted very much the attention of their mother
country; while those of the other European nations were for a long
time in a great measure neglected. The former did not, perhaps, thrive
the better in consequence of this attention, nor the latter the worse
in consequence of this neglect. In proportion to the extent of the
country which they in some measure possess, the Spanish colonies are
considered as less populous and thriving than those of almost any
other European nation. The progress even of the Spanish colonies,
however, in population and improvement, has certainly been very rapid
and very great. The city of Lima, founded since the conquest, is
represented by Ulloa as containing fifty thousand inhabitants near
thirty years ago. Quito, which had been but a miserable hamlet of
Indians, is represented by the same author as in his time equally
populous. Gemel i Carreri, a pretended traveller, it is said, indeed,
but who seems everywhere to have written upon extreme good
information, represents the city of Mexico as containing a hundred
thousand inhabitants; a number which, in spite of all the
exaggerations of the Spanish writers, is probably more than five times
greater than what it contained in the time of Montezuma. These numbers
exceed greatly those of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, the three
greatest cities of the English colonies. Before the conquest of the
Spaniards, there were no cattle fit for draught, either in Mexico or
Peru. The lama was their only beast of burden, and its strength seems
to have been a good deal inferior to that of a common ass. The plough
was unknown among them. They were ignorant of the use of iron. They
had no coined money, nor any established instrument of commerce of any
kind. Their commerce was carried on by barter. A sort of wooden spade
was their principal instrument of agriculture. Sharp stones served
them for knives and hatchets to cut with; fish bones, and the hard
sinews of certain animals, served them with needles to sew with; and
these seem to have been their principal instruments of trade. In this
state of things, it seems impossible that either of those empires
could have been so much improved or so well cultivated as at present,
when they are plentifully furnished with all sorts of European cattle,
and when the use of iron, of the plough, and of many of the arts of
Europe, have been introduced among them. But the populousness of every
country must be in proportion to the degree of its improvement and
cultivation. In spite of the cruel destruction of the natives which
followed the conquest, these two great empires are probably more
populous now than they ever were before; and the people are surely
very different; for we must acknowledge, I apprehend, that the Spanish
creoles are in many respects superior to the ancient Indians.

After the settlements of the Spaniards, that of the Portuguese in
Brazil is the oldest of any European nation in America. But as for a
long time after the first discovery neither gold nor silver mines were
found in it, and as it afforded upon that account little or no revenue
to the crown, it was for a long time in a great measure neglected; and
during this state of neglect, it grew up to be a great and powerful
colony. While Portugal was under the dominion of Spain, Brazil was
attacked by the Dutch, who got possession of seven of the fourteen
provinces into which it is divided. They expected soon to conquer the
other seven, when Portugal recovered its independency by the elevation
of the family of Braganza to the throne. The Dutch, then, as enemies
to the Spaniards, became friends to the Portuguese, who were likewise
the enemies of the Spaniards. They agreed, therefore, to leave that
part of Brazil which they had not conquered to the king of Portugal,
who agreed to leave that part which they had conquered to them, as a
matter not worth disputing about, with such good allies. But the Dutch
government soon began to oppress the Portuguese colonists, who,
instead of amusing themselves with complaints, took arms against their
new masters, and by their own valour and resolution, with the
connivance, indeed, but without any avowed assistance from the mother
country, drove them out of Brazil. The Dutch, therefore, finding it
impossible to keep any part of the country to themselves, were
contented that it should be entirely restored to the crown of
Portugal. In this colony there are said to be more than six hundred
thousand people, either Portuguese or descended from Portuguese,
creoles, mulattoes, and a mixed race between Portuguese and
Brazilians. No one colony in America is supposed to contain so great a
number of people of European extraction.

Towards the end of the fifteenth, and during the greater part of the
sixteenth century, Spain and Portugal were the two great naval powers
upon the ocean; for though the commerce of Venice extended to every
part of Europe, its fleet had scarce ever sailed beyond the
Mediterranean. The Spaniards, in virtue of the first discovery,
claimed all America as their own; and though they could not hinder so
great a naval power as that of Portugal from settling in Brazil, such
was at that time the terror of their name, that the greater part of
the other nations of Europe were afraid to establish themselves in any
other part of that great continent. The French, who attempted to
settle in Florida, were all murdered by the Spaniards. But the
declension of the naval power of this latter nation, in consequence of
the defeat or miscarriage of what they called their invincible armada,
which happened towards the end of the sixteenth century, put it out of
their power to obstruct any longer the settlements of the other
European nations. In the course of the seventeenth century, therefore,
the English, French, Dutch, Danes, and Swedes, all the great nations
who had any ports upon the ocean, attempted to make some settlements
in the new world.

The Swedes established themselves in New Jersey; and the number of
Swedish families still to be found there sufficiently demonstrates,
that this colony was very likely to prosper, had it been protected by
the mother country. But being neglected by Sweden, it was soon
swallowed up by the Dutch colony of New York, which again, in 1674,
fell under the dominion of the English.

The small islands of St. Thomas and Santa Cruz, are the only countries
in the new world that have ever been possessed by the Danes. These
little settlements, too, were under the government of an exclusive
company, which had the sole right, both of purchasing the surplus
produce of the colonies, and of supplying them with such goods of
other countries as they wanted, and which, therefore, both in its
purchases and sales, had not only the power of oppressing them, but
the greatest temptation to do so. The government of an exclusive
company of merchants is, perhaps, the worst of all governments for any
country whatever. It was not, however, able to stop altogether the
progress of these colonies, though it rendered it more slow and
languid. The late king of Denmark dissolved this company, and since
that time the prosperity of these colonies has been very great.

The Dutch settlements in the West, as well as those in the East
Indies, were originally put under the government of an exclusive
company. The progress of some of them, therefore, though it has been
considerable in comparison with that of almost any country that has
been long peopled and established, has been languid and slow in
comparison with that of the greater part of new colonies. The colony
of Surinam, though very considerable, is still inferior to the greater
part of the sugar colonies of the other European nations. The colony
of Nova Belgia, now divided into the two provinces of New York and New
Jersey, would probably have soon become considerable too, even though
it had remained under the government of the Dutch. The plenty and
cheapness of good land are such powerful causes of prosperity, that
the very worst government is scarce capable of checking altogether the
efficacy of their operation. The great distance, too, from the mother
country, would enable the colonists to evade more or less, by
smuggling, the monopoly which the company enjoyed against them. At
present, the company allows all Dutch ships to trade to Surinam, upon
paying two and a-half per cent. upon the value of their cargo for a
license; and only reserves to itself exclusively, the direct trade
from Africa to America, which consists almost entirely in the slave
trade. This relaxation in the exclusive privileges of the company, is
probably the principal cause of that degree of prosperity which that
colony at present enjoys. Curacoa and Eustatia, the two principal
islands belonging to the Dutch, are free ports, open to the ships of
all nations; and this freedom, in the midst of better colonies, whose
ports are open to those of one nation only, has been the great cause
of the prosperity of those two barren islands.

The French colony of Canada was, during the greater part of the last
century, and some part of the present, under the government of an
exclusive company. Under so unfavourable an administration, its
progress was necessarily very slow, in comparison with that of other
new colonies; but it became much more rapid when this company was
dissolved, after the fall of what is called the Mississippi scheme.
When the English got possession of this country, they found in it near
double the number of inhabitants which father Charlevoix had assigned
to it between twenty and thirty years before. That jesuit had
travelled over the whole country, and had no inclination to represent
it as less inconsiderable than it really was.

The French colony of St. Domingo was established by pirates and
freebooters, who, for a long time, neither required the protection,
nor acknowledged the authority of France; and when that race of
banditti became so far citizens as to acknowledge this authority, it
was for a long time necessary to exercise it with very great
gentleness. During this period, the population and improvement of this
colony increased very fast. Even the oppression of the exclusive
company, to which it was for some time subjected with all the other
colonies of France, though it no doubt retarded, had not been able to
stop its progress altogether. The course of its prosperity returned as
soon as it was relieved from that oppression. It is now the most
important of the sugar colonies of the West Indies, and its produce is
said to be greater than that of all the English sugar colonies put
together. The other sugar colonies of France are in general all very

But there are no colonies of which the progress has been more rapid
than that of the English in North America.

Plenty of good land, and liberty to manage their own affairs their own
way, seem to be the two great causes of the prosperity of all new

In the plenty of good land, the English colonies of North America,
though no doubt very abundantly provided, are, however, inferior to
those of the Spaniards and Portuguese, and not superior to some of
those possessed by the French before the late war. But the political
institutions of the English colonies have been more favourable to the
improvement and cultivation of this land, than those of the other
three nations.

First, The engrossing of uncultivated land, though it has by no
means been prevented altogether, has been more restrained in the
English colonies than in any other. The colony law, which imposes upon
every proprietor the obligation of improving and cultivating, within a
limited time, a certain proportion of his lands, and which, in case of
failure, declares those neglected lands grantable to any other person;
though it has not perhaps been very strictly executed, has, however,
had some effect.

Secondly, In Pennsylvania there is no right of primogeniture, and
lands, like moveables, are divided equally among all the children of
the family. In three of the provinces of New England, the oldest has
only a double share, as in the Mosaical law. Though in those
provinces, therefore, too great a quantity of land should sometimes be
engrossed by a particular individual, it is likely, in the course of a
generation or two, to be sufficiently divided again. In the other
English colonies, indeed, the right of primogeniture takes place, as
in the law of England: But in all the English colonies, the tenure of
the lands, which are all held by free soccage, facilitates alienation;
and the grantee of an extensive tract of land generally finds it for
his interest to alienate, as fast as he can, the greater part of it,
reserving only a small quit-rent. In the Spanish and Portuguese
colonies, what is called the right of majorazzo takes place in the
succession of all those great estates to which any title of honour is
annexed. Such estates go all to one person, and are in effect entailed
and unalienable. The French colonies, indeed, are subject to the
custom of Paris, which, in the inheritance of land, is much more
favourable to the younger children than the law of England. But, in
the French colonies, if any part of an estate, held by the noble
tenure of chivalry and homage, is alienated, it is, for a limited
time, subject to the right of redemption, either by the heir of the
superior, or by the heir of the family; and all the largest estates of
the country are held by such noble tenures, which necessarily
embarrass alienation. But, in a new colony, a great uncultivated
estate is likely to be much more speedily divided by alienation than
by succession. The plenty and cheapness of good land, it has already
been observed, are the principal causes of the rapid prosperity of new
colonies. The engrossing of land, in effect, destroys this plenty and
cheapness. The engrossing of uncultivated land, besides, is the
greatest obstruction to its improvement; but the labour that is
employed in the improvement and cultivation of land affords the
greatest and most valuable produce to the society. The produce of
labour, in this case, pays not only its own wages and the profit of
the stock which employs it, but the rent of the land too upon which it
is employed. The labour of the English colonies, therefore, being more
employed in the improvement and cultivation of land, is likely to
afford a greater and more valuable produce than that of any of the
other three nations, which, by the engrossing of land, is more or less
diverted towards other employments.

Thirdly, The labour of the English colonists is not only likely to
afford a greater and more valuable produce, but, in consequence of the
moderation of their taxes, a greater proportion of this produce
belongs to themselves, which they may store up and employ in putting
into motion a still greater quantity of labour. The English colonists
have never yet contributed any thing towards the defence of the mother
country, or towards the support of its civil government. They
themselves, on the contrary, have hitherto been defended almost
entirely at the expense of the mother country; but the expense of
fleets and armies is out of all proportion greater than the necessary
expense of civil government. The expense of their own civil government
has always been very moderate. It has generally been confined to what
was necessary for paying competent salaries to the governor, to the
judges, and to some other officers of police, and for maintaining a
few of the most useful public works. The expense of the civil
establishment of Massachusetts Bay, before the commencement of the
present disturbances, used to be but about 18;000 a-year; that of New
Hampshire and Rhode Island, 3500 each; that of Connecticut, 4000;
that of New York and Pennsylvania, 4500 each; that of New Jersey,
1200; that of Virginia and South Carolina, 8000 each. The civil
establishments of Nova Scotia and Georgia are partly supported by an
annual grant of parliament; but Nova Scotia pays, besides, about 7000
a-year towards the public expenses of the colony, and Georgia about
2500 a-year. All the different civil establishments in North America,
in short, exclusive of those of Maryland and North Carolina, of which
no exact account has been got, did not, before the commencement of the
present disturbances, cost the inhabitants about 64,700 a-year; an
ever memorable example, at how small an expense three millions of
people may not only be governed but well governed. The most important
part of the expense of government, indeed, that of defence and
protection, has constantly fallen upon the mother country. The
ceremonial, too, of the civil government in the colonies, upon the
reception of a new governor, upon the opening of a new assembly, etc.
though sufficiently decent, is not accompanied with any expensive pomp
or parade. Their ecclesiastical government is conducted upon a plan
equally frugal. Tithes are unknown among them; and their clergy, who
are far from being numerous, are maintained either by moderate
stipends, or by the voluntary contributions of the people. The power
of Spain and Portugal, on the contrary, derives some support from the
taxes levied upon their colonies. France, indeed, has never drawn any
considerable revenue from its colonies, the taxes which it levies upon
them being generally spent among them. But the colony government of
all these three nations is conducted upon a much more extensive plan,
and is accompanied with a much more expensive ceremonial. The sums
spent upon the reception of a new viceroy of Peru, for example, have
frequently been enormous. Such ceremonials are not only real taxes
paid by the rich colonists upon those particular occasions, but they
serve to introduce among them the habit of vanity and expense upon all
other occasions. They are not only very grievous occasional taxes, but
they contribute to establish perpetual taxes, of the same kind, still
more grievous; the ruinous taxes of private luxury and extravagance.
In the colonies of all those three nations, too, the ecclesiastical
government is extremely oppressive. Tithes take place in all of them,
and are levied with the utmost rigour in those of Spain and Portugal.
All of them, besides, are oppressed with a numerous race of mendicant
friars, whose beggary being not only licensed but consecrated by
religion, is a most grievous tax upon the poor people, who are most
carefully taught that it is a duty to give, and a very great sin to
refuse them their charity. Over and above all this, the clergy are, in
all of them, the greatest engrossers of land.

Fourthly, In the disposal of their surplus produce, or of what is
over and above their own consumption, the English colonies have been
more favoured, and have been allowed a more extensive market, than
those of any other European nation. Every European nation has
endeavoured, more or less, to monopolize to itself the commerce of its
colonies, and, upon that account, has prohibited the ships of foreign
nations from trading to them, and has prohibited them from importing
European goods from any foreign nation. But the manner in which this
monopoly has been exercised in different nations, has been very

Some nations have given up the whole commerce of their colonies to an
exclusive company, of whom the colonists were obliged to buy all such
European goods as they wanted, and to whom they were obliged to sell
the whole of their surplus produce. It was the interest of the
company, therefore, not only to sell the former as dear, and to buy
the latter as cheap as possible, but to buy no more of the latter,
even at this low price, than what they could dispose of for a very high
price in Europe. It was their interest not only to degrade in all
cases the value of the surplus produce of the colony, but in many
cases to discourage and keep down the natural increase of its
quantity. Of all the expedients that can well be contrived to stunt
the natural growth of a new colony, that of an exclusive company is
undoubtedly the most effectual. This, however, has been the policy of
Holland, though their company, in the course of the present century,
has given up in many respects the exertion of their exclusive
privilege. This, too, was the policy of Denmark, till the reign of the
late king. It has occasionally been the policy of France; and of late,
since 1755, after it had been abandoned by all other nations on
account of its absurdity, it has become the policy of Portugal, with
regard at least to two of the principal provinces of Brazil,
Pernambucco, and Marannon.

Other nations, without establishing an exclusive company, have
confined the whole commerce of their colonies to a particular port of
the mother country, from whence no ship was allowed to sail, but
either in a fleet and at a particular season, or, if single, in
consequence of a particular license, which in most cases was very well
paid for. This policy opened, indeed, the trade of the colonies to all
the natives of the mother country, provided they traded from the
proper port, at the proper season, and in the proper vessels. But as
all the different merchants, who joined their stocks in order to fit
out those licensed vessels, would find it for their interest to act in
concert, the trade which was carried on in this manner would
necessarily be conducted very nearly upon the same principles as that
of an exclusive company. The profit of those merchants would be almost
equally exorbitant and oppressive. The colonies would be ill supplied,
and would be obliged both to buy very dear, and to sell very cheap.
This, however, till within these few years, had always been the policy
of Spain; and the price of all European goods, accordingly, is said to
have been enormous in the Spanish West Indies. At Quito, we are told
by Ulloa, a pound of iron sold for about 4s:6d., and a pound of steel
for about 6s:9d. sterling. But it is chiefly in order to purchase
European goods that the colonies part with their own produce. The
more, therefore, they pay for the one, the less they really get for
the other, and the dearness of the one is the same thing with the
cheapness of the other. The policy of Portugal is, in this respect,
the same as the ancient policy of Spain, with regard to all its
colonies, except Pernambucco and Marannon; and with regard to these it
has lately adopted a still worse.

Other nations leave the trade of their colonies free to all their
subjects, who may carry it on from all the different ports of the
mother country, and who have occasion for no other license than the
common despatches of the custom-house. In this case the number and
dispersed situation of the different traders renders it impossible for
them to enter into any general combination, and their competition is
sufficient to hinder them from making very exorbitant profits. Under
so liberal a policy, the colonies are enabled both to sell their own
produce, and to buy the goods of Europe at a reasonable price; but
since the dissolution of the Plymouth company, when our colonies were
but in their infancy, this has always been the policy of England. It
has generally, too, been that of France, and has been uniformly so
since the dissolution of what in England is commonly called their
Mississippi company. The profits of the trade, therefore, which France
and England carry on with their colonies, though no doubt somewhat
higher than if the competition were free to all other nations, are,
however, by no means exorbitant; and the price of European goods,
accordingly, is not extravagantly high in the greater past of the
colonies of either of those nations.

In the exportation of their own surplus produce, too, it is only with
regard to certain commodities that the colonies of Great Britain are
confined to the market of the mother country. These commodities having
been enumerated in the act of navigation, and in some other subsequent
acts, have upon that account been called enumerated commodities. The
rest are called non-enumerated, and may be exported directly to other
countries, provided it is in British or plantation ships, of which the
owners and three fourths of the mariners are British subjects.

Among the non-enumerated commodities are some of the most important
productions of America and the West Indies, grain of all sorts,
lumber, salt provisions, fish, sugar, and rum.

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 them to extend this culture much beyond the consumption
of a thinly inhabited country, and thus to provide beforehand an ample
subsistence for a continually increasing population.

In a country quite covered with wood, where timber consequently is of
little or no value, the expense of clearing the ground is the
principal obstacle to improvement. By allowing the colonies a very
extensive market for their lumber, the law endeavours to facilitate
improvement by raising the price of a commodity which would otherwise
be of little value, and thereby enabling them to make some profit of
what would otherwise be mere expense.

In a country neither half peopled nor half cultivated, cattle
naturally multiply beyond the consumption of the inhabitants, and are
often, upon that account, of little or no value. But it is necessary,
it has already been shown, that the price of cattle should bear a
certain proportion to that of corn, before the greater part of the
lands of any country can be improved. By allowing to American cattle,
in all shapes, dead and alive, a very extensive market, the law
endeavours to raise the value of a commodity, of which the high price
is so very essential to improvement. The good effects of this liberty,
however, must be somewhat diminished by the 4th of Geo. III. c. 15,
which puts hides and skins among the enumerated commodities, and
thereby tends to reduce the value of American cattle.

To increase the shipping and naval power of Great Britain by the
extension of the fisheries of our colonies, is an object which the
legislature seems to have had almost constantly in view. Those
fisheries, upon this account, have had all the encouragement which
freedom can give them, and they have flourished accordingly. The New
England fishery, in particular, was, before the late disturbances, one
of the most important, perhaps, in the world. The whale fishery which,
notwithstanding an extravagant bounty, is in Great Britain carried on
to so little purpose, that in the opinion of many people ( which I do
not, however, pretend to warrant), the whole produce does not much
exceed the value of the bounties which are annually paid for it, is in
New England carried on, without any bounty, to a very great extent.
Fish is one of the principal articles with which the North Americans
trade to Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean.

Sugar was originally an enumerated commodity, which could only be
exported to Great Britain; but in 1751, upon a representation of the
sugar-planters, its exportation was permitted to all parts of the
world. The restrictions, however, with which this liberty was granted,
joined to the high price of sugar in Great Britain, have rendered it
in a great measure ineffectual. Great Britain and her colonies still
continue to be almost the sole market for all sugar produced in the
British plantations. Their consumption increases so fast, that, though
in consequence of the increasing improvement of Jamaica, as well as of
the ceded islands, the importation of sugar has increased very greatly
within these twenty years, the exportation to foreign countries is
said to be not much greater than before.

Rum is a very important article in the trade which the Americans carry
on to the coast of Africa, from which they bring back negro slaves in

If the whole surplus produce of America, in grain of all sorts, in
salt provisions, and in fish, had been put into the enumeration, and
thereby forced into the market of Great Britain, it would have
interfered too much with the produce of the industry of our own
people. It was probably not so much from any regard to the interest of
America, as from a jealousy of this interference, that those important
commodities have not only been kept out of the enumeration, but that
the importation into Great Britain of all grain, except rice, and of
all salt provisions, has, in the ordinary state of the law, been

The non-enumerated commodities could originally be exported to all
parts of the world. Lumber and rice having been once put into the
enumeration, when they were afterwards taken out of it, were confined,
as to the European market, to the countries that lie 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 which lie south of Cape Finisterre are not manufacturing
countries, and we are less jealous of the colony ships carrying home
from them any manufactures which could interfere with our own.

The enumerated commodities are of two sorts; first, such as are either
the peculiar produce of America, or as cannot be produced, or at least
are not produced in the mother country. Of this kind are molasses,
coffee, cocoa-nuts, tobacco, pimento, ginger, whalefins, raw silk,
cotton, wool, beaver, and other peltry of America, indigo, fustick,
and other dyeing woods; secondly, such as are not the peculiar produce
of America, but which are, and may be produced in the mother country,
though not in such quantities as to supply the greater part of her
demand, which is principally supplied from foreign countries. Of this
kind are all naval stores, masts, yards, and bowsprits, tar, pitch,
and turpentine, pig and bar iron, copper ore, hides and skins, pot and
pearl ashes. The largest importation of commodities of the first kind
could not discourage the growth, or interfere with the sale, of any
part of the produce of the mother country. By confining them to the
home market, our merchants, it was expected, would not only be enabled
to buy them cheaper in the plantations, and consequently to sell them
with a better profit at home, but to establish between the plantations
and foreign countries an advantageous carrying trade, of which Great
Britain was necessarily to be the centre or emporium, as the European
country into which those commodities were first to be imported. The
importation of commodities of the second kind might be so managed too,
it was supposed, as to interfere, not with the sale of those of the
same kind which were produced at home, but with that of those which
were imported from foreign countries; because, by means of proper
duties, they might be rendered always somewhat dearer than the former,
and yet a good deal cheaper than the latter. By confining such
commodities to the home market, therefore, it was proposed to
discourage the produce, not of Great Britain, but of some foreign
countries with which the balance of trade was believed to be
unfavourable to Great Britain.

The prohibition of exporting from the colonies to any other country
but Great Britain, masts, yards, and bowsprits, tar, pitch, and
turpentine, naturally tended to lower the price of timber in the
colonies, and consequently to increase the expense of clearing their
lands, the principal obstacle to their improvement. But about the
beginning of the present century, in 1703, the pitch and tar company
of Sweden endeavoured to raise the price of their commodities to Great
Britain, by prohibiting their exportation, except in their own ships,
at their own price, and in such quantities as they thought proper. In
order to counteract this notable piece of mercantile policy, and to
render herself as much as possible independent, not only of Sweden,
but of all the other northern powers, Great Britain gave a bounty upon
the importation of naval stores from America; and the effect of this
bounty was to raise the price of timber in America much more than the
confinement to the home market could lower it; and as both regulations
were enacted at the same time, their joint effect was rather to
encourage than to discourage the clearing of land in America.

Though pig and bar iron, too, have been put among the enumerated
commodities, yet as, when imported from America, they are exempted
from considerable duties to which they are subject when imported front
any other country, the one part of the regulation contributes more to
encourage the erection of furnaces in America than the other to
discourage it. There is no manufacture which occasions so great a
consumption of wood as a furnace, or which can contribute so much to
the clearing of a country overgrown with it.

The tendency of some of these regulations to raise the value of timber
in America, and thereby to facilitate the clearing of the land, was
neither, perhaps, intended nor understood by the legislature. Though
their beneficial effects, however, have been in this respect
accidental, they have not upon that account been less real.

The most perfect freedom of trade is permitted between the British
colonies of America and the West Indies, both in the enumerated and in
the non-enumerated commodities Those colonies are now become so
populous and thriving, that each of them finds in some of the others a
great and extensive market for every part of its produce. All of them
taken together, they make a great internal market for the produce of
one another.

The liberality of England, however, towards the trade of her colonies,
has been confined chiefly to what concerns the market for their
produce, either in its rude state, or in what may be called the very
first stage of manufacture. The more advanced or more refined
manufactures, even of the colony produce, the merchants and
manufacturers of Great Britain chuse to reserve to themselves, and
have prevailed upon the legislature to prevent their establishment in
the colonies, sometimes by high duties, and sometimes by absolute

While, for example, Muscovado sugars from the British plantations pay,
upon importation, only 6s:4d. the hundred weight, white sugars pay
1:1:1; and refined, either double or single, in loaves, 4:2:5
8/20ths. When those high duties were imposed, Great Britain was the
sole, and she still continues to be, the principal market, to which
the sugars of the British colonies could be exported. They amounted,
therefore, to a prohibition, at first of claying or refining sugar for
any foreign market, and at present of claying or refining it for the
market which takes off, perhaps, more than nine-tenths of the whole
produce. The manufacture of claying or refining sugar, accordingly,
though it has flourished in all the sugar colonies of France, has been
little cultivated in any of those of England, except for the market of
the colonies themselves. While Grenada was in the hands of the French,
there was a refinery of sugar, by claying, at least upon almost every
plantation. Since it fell into those of the English, almost all works
of this kind have been given up; and there are at present (October
1773), I am assured, not above two or three remaining in the island.
At present, however, by an indulgence of the custom-house, clayed or
refined sugar, if reduced from loaves into powder, is commonly
imported as Muscovado.

While Great Britain encourages in America the manufacturing of pig and
bar iron, by exempting them from duties to which the like commodities
are subject when imported from any other country, she imposes an
absolute prohibition upon the erection of steel furnaces and
slit-mills in any of her American plantations. She will not suffer her
colonies to work in those more refined manufactures, even for their
own consumption; but insists upon their purchasing of her merchants
and manufacturers all goods of this kind which they have occasion for.

She prohibits the exportation from one province to another by water,
and even the carriage by land upon horseback, or in a cart, of hats,
of wools, and woollen goods, of the produce of America; a regulation
which effectually prevents the establishment of any manufacture of
such commodities for distant sale, and confines the industry of her
colonists in this way to such coarse and household manufactures as a
private family commonly makes for its own use, or for that of some of
its neighbours in the same province.

To prohibit a great people, however, from making all that they can of
every part of their own produce, or from employing their stock and
industry in the way that they judge most advantageous to themselves,
is a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind. Unjust,
however, as such prohibitions may be, they have not hitherto been very
hurtful to the colonies. Land is still so cheap, and, consequently,
labour so dear among them, that they can import from the mother
country almost all the more refined or more advanced manufactures
cheaper than they could make them for themselves. Though they had not,
therefore, been prohibited from establishing such manufactures, yet,
in their present state of improvement, a regard to their own interest
would probably have prevented them from doing so. In their present
state of improvement, those prohibitions, perhaps, without cramping
their industry, or restraining it from any employment to which it
would have gone of its own accord, are only impertinent badges of
slavery imposed upon them, without any sufficient reason, by the
groundless jealousy of the merchants and manufacturers of the mother
country. In a more advanced state, they might be really oppressive and

Great Britain, too, as she confines to her own market some of the most
important productions of the colonies, so, in compensation, she gives
to some of them an advantage in that market, sometimes by imposing
higher duties upon the like productions when imported from other
countries, and sometimes by giving bounties upon their importation
from the colonies. In the first way, she gives an advantage in the
home market to the sugar, tobacco, and iron of her own colonies; and,
in the second, to their raw silk, to their hemp and flax, to their
indigo, to their naval stores, and to their building timber. This
second way of encouraging the colony produce, by bounties upon
importation, is, so far as I have been able to learn, peculiar to
Great Britain: the first is not. Portugal does not content herself
with imposing higher duties upon the importation of tobacco from any
other country, but prohibits it under the severest penalties.

With regard to the importation of goods from Europe, England has
likewise dealt more liberally with her colonies than any other nation.

Great Britain allows a part, almost always the half, generally a
larger portion, and sometimes the whole, of the duty which is paid
upon the importation of foreign goods, to be drawn back upon their
exportation to any foreign country. No independent foreign country, it
was easy to foresee, would receive them, if they came to it loaded
with the heavy duties to which almost all foreign goods are subjected
on their importation into Great Britain. Unless, therefore, some part
of those duties was drawn back upon exportation, there was an end of
the carrying trade; a trade so much favoured by the mercantile system.

Our colonies, however, are by no means independent foreign countries;
and Great Britain having assumed to herself the exclusive right of
supplying them with all goods from Europe, might have forced them (in
the same manner as other countries have done their colonies) to
receive such goods loaded with all the same duties which they paid in
the mother country. But, on the contrary, till 1763, the same
drawbacks were paid upon the exportation of the greater part of
foreign goods to our colonies, as to any independent foreign country.
In 1763, indeed, by the 4th of Geo. III. c. 15, this indulgence was a
good deal abated, and it was enacted, "That no part of the duty called
the old subsidy should be drawn back for any goods of the growth,
production, or manufacture of Europe or the East Indies, which should
be exported from this kingdom to any British colony or plantation in
America; wines, white calicoes, and muslins, excepted." Before this
law, many different sorts of foreign goods might have been bought
cheaper in the plantations than in the mother country, and some may

Of the greater part of the regulations concerning the colony trade,
the merchants who carry it on, it must be observed, have been the
principal advisers. We must not wonder, therefore, if, in a great part
of them, their interest has been more considered than either that of
the colonies or that of the mother country. In their exclusive
privilege of supplying the colonies with all the goods which they
wanted from Europe, and of purchasing all such parts of their surplus
produce as could not interfere with any of the trades which they
themselves carried on at home, the interest of the colonies was
sacrificed to the interest of those merchants. In allowing the same
drawbacks upon the re-exportation of the greater part of European and
East India goods to the colonies, as upon their re-exportation to any
independent country, the interest of the mother country was sacrificed
to it, even according to the mercantile ideas of that interest. It was
for the interest of the merchants to pay as little as possible for the
foreign goods which they sent to the colonies, and, consequently, to
get back as much as possible of the duties which they advanced upon
their importation into Great Britain. They might thereby be enabled to
sell in the colonies, either the same quantity of goods with a greater
profit, or a greater quantity with the same profit, and, consequently,
to gain something either in the one way or the other. It was likewise
for the interest of the colonies to get all such goods as cheap, and
in as great abundance as possible. But this might not always be for
the interest of the mother country. She might frequently suffer, both
in her revenue, by giving back a great part of the duties which had
been paid upon the importation of such goods; and in her manufactures,
by being undersold in the colony market, in consequence of the easy
terms upon which foreign manufactures could be carried thither by
means of those drawbacks. The progress of the linen manufacture of
Great Britain, it is commonly said, has been a good deal retarded by
the drawbacks upon the re-exportation of German linen to the American

But though the policy of Great Britain, with regard to the trade of
her colonies, has been dictated by the same mercantile spirit as that
of other nations, it has, however, upon the whole, been less illiberal
and oppressive than that of any of them.

In every thing except their foreign trade, the liberty of the English
colonists to manage their own affairs their own way, is complete. It
is in every respect equal to that of their fellow-citizens at home,
and is secured in the same manner, by an assembly of the
representatives of the people, who claim the sole right of imposing
taxes for the support of the colony government. The authority of this
assembly overawes the executive power; and neither the meanest nor the
most obnoxious colonist, as long as he obeys the law, has any thing to
fear from the resentment, either of the governor, or of any other
civil or military officer in the province. The colony assemblies,
though, like the house of commons in England, they are not always a
very equal representation of the people, yet they approach more nearly
to that character; and as the executive power either has not the means
to corrupt them, or, on account of the support which it receives from
the mother country, is not under the necessity of doing so, they are,
perhaps, in general more influenced by the inclinations of their
constituents. The councils, which, in the colony legislatures,
correspond to the house of lords in Great Britain, are not composed of
a hereditary nobility. In some of the colonies, as in three of the
governments of New England, those councils are not appointed by the
king, but chosen by the representatives of the people. In none of the
English colonies is there any hereditary nobility. In all of them,
indeed, as in all other free countries, the descendant of an old
colony family is more respected than an upstart of equal merit and
fortune; but he is only more respected, and he has no privileges by
which he can be troublesome to his neighbours. Before the commencement
of the present disturbances, the colony assemblies had not only the
legislative, but a part of the executive power. In Connecticut and
Rhode Island, they elected the governor. In the other colonies, they
appointed the revenue officers, who collected the taxes imposed by
those respective assemblies, to whom those officers were immediately
responsible. There is more equality, therefore, among the English
colonists than among the inhabitants of the mother country. Their
manners are more re publican; and their governments, those of three of
the provinces of New England in particular, have hitherto been more
republican too.

The absolute governments of Spain, Portugal, and France, on the
contrary, take place in their colonies; and the discretionary powers
which such governments commonly delegate to all their inferior
officers are, on account of the great distance, naturally exercised
there with more than ordinary violence. Under all absolute
governments, there is more liberty in the capital than in any other
part of the country. The sovereign himself can never have either
interest or inclination to pervert the order of justice, or to oppress
the great body of the people. In the capital, his presence overawes,
more or less, all his inferior officers, who, in the remoter
provinces, from whence the complaints of the people are less likely to
reach him, can exercise their tyranny with much more safety. But the
European colonies in America are more remote than the most distant
provinces of the greatest empires which had ever been known before.
The government of the English colonies is, perhaps, the only one
which, since the world began, could give perfect security to the
inhabitants of so very distant a province. The administration of the
French colonies, however, has always been conducted with much more
gentleness and moderation than that of the Spanish and Portuguese.
This superiority of conduct is suitable both to the character of the
French nation, and to what forms the character of every nation, the
nature of their government, which, though arbitrary and violent in
comparison with that of Great Britain, is legal and free in comparison
with those of Spain and Portugal.

It is in the progress of the North American colonies, however, that
the superiority of the English policy chiefly appears. The progress of
the sugar colonies of France has been at least equal, perhaps
superior, to that of the greater part of those of England; and yet the
sugar colonies of England enjoy a free government, nearly of the same
kind with that which takes place in her colonies of North America. But
the sugar colonies of France are not discouraged, like those of
England, from refining their own sugar; and what is still of greater
importance, the genius of their government naturally introduces a
better management of their negro slaves.

In all European colonies, the culture of the sugar-cane is carried on
by negro slaves. The constitution of those who have been born in the
temperate climate of Europe could not, it is supposed, support the
labour of digging the ground under the burning sun of the West Indies;
and the culture of the sugar-cane, as it is managed at present, is all
hand labour; though, in the opinion of many, the drill plough might be
introduced into it with great advantage. But, as the profit and
success of the cultivation which is carried on by means of cattle,
depend very much upon the good management of those cattle; so the
profit and success of that which is carried on by slaves must depend
equally upon the good management of those slaves; and in the good
management of their slaves the French planters, I think it is
generally allowed, are superior to the English. The law, so far as it
gives some weak protection to the slave against the violence of his
master, is likely to be better executed in a colony where the
government is in a great measure arbitrary, than in one where it is
altogether free. In ever country where the unfortunate law of slavery
is established, the magistrate, when he protects the slave,
intermeddles in some measure in the management of the private property
of the master; and, in a free country, where the master is, perhaps,
either a member of the colony assembly, or an elector of such a
member, he dares not do this but with the greatest caution and
circumspection. The respect which he is obliged to pay to the master,
renders it more difficult for him to protect the slave. But in a
country where the government is in a great measure arbitrary, where it
is usual for the magistrate to intermeddle even in the management of
the private property of individuals, and to send them, perhaps, a
lettre de cachet, if they do not manage it according to his liking, it
is much easier for him to give some protection to the slave; and
common humanity naturally disposes him to do so. The protection of the
magistrate renders the slave less contemptible in the eyes of his
master, who is thereby induced to consider him with more regard, and
to treat him with more gentleness. Gentle usage renders the slave not
only more faithful, but more intelligent, and, therefore, upon a
double account, more useful. He approaches more to the condition of a
free servant, and may possess some degree of integrity and attachment
to his master's interest; virtues which frequently belong to free
servants, but which never can belong to a slave, who is treated as
slaves commonly are in countries where the master is perfectly free
and secure.

That the condition of a slave is better under an arbitrary than under
a free government, is, I believe, supported by the history of all ages
and nations. In the Roman history, the first time we read of the
magistrate interposing to protect the slave from the violence of his
master, is under the emperors. When Vidius Pollio, in the presence of
Augustus, ordered one of his slaves, who had committed a slight fault,
to be cut into pieces and thrown into his fish-pond, in order to feed
his fishes, the emperor commanded him, with indignation, to emancipate
immediately, not only that slave, but all the others that belonged to
him. Under the republic no magistrate could have had authority enough
to protect the slave, much less to punish the master.

The stock, it is to be observed, which has improved the sugar colonies
of France, particularly the great colony of St Domingo, has been
raised almost entirely from the gradual improvement and cultivation of
those colonies. It has been almost altogether the produce of the soil
and of the industry of the colonists, or, what comes to the same
thing, the price of that produce, gradually accumulated by good
management, and employed in raising a still greater produce. But the
stock which has improved and cultivated the sugar colonies of England,
has, a great part of it, been sent out from England, and has by no
means been altogether the produce of the soil and industry of the
colonists. The prosperity of the English sugar colonies has been in a
great measure owing to the great riches of England, of which a part
has overflowed, if one may say so, upon these colonies. But the
prosperity of the sugar colonies of France has been entirely owing to
the good conduct of the colonists, which must therefore have had some
superiority over that of the English; and this superiority has been
remarked in nothing so much as in the good management of their slaves.

Such have been the general outlines of the policy of the different
European nations with regard to their colonies.

The policy of Europe, therefore, has very little to boast of, either
in the original establishment, or, so far as concerns their internal
government, in the subsequent prosperity of the colonies of America.

Folly and injustice seem to have been the principles which presided
over and directed the first project of establishing those colonies;
the folly of hunting after gold and silver mines, and the injustice of
coveting the possession of a country whose harmless natives, far from
having ever injured the people of Europe, had received the first
adventurers with every mark of kindness and hospitality.

The adventurers, indeed, who formed some of the latter establishments,
joined to the chimerical project of finding gold and silver mines,
other motives more reasonable and more laudable; but even these
motives do very little honour to the policy of Europe.

The English puritans, restrained at home, fled for freedom to America,
and established there the four governments of New England. The English
catholics, treated with much greater injustice, established that of
Maryland; the quakers, that of Pennsylvania. The Portuguese Jews,
persecuted by the inquisition, stript of their fortunes, and banished
to Brazil, introduced, by their example, some sort of order and
industry among the transported felons and strumpets by whom that
colony was originally peopled, and taught them the culture of the
sugar-cane. Upon all these different occasions, it was not the wisdom
and policy, but the disorder and injustice of the European
governments, which peopled and cultivated America.

In effectuation some of the most important of these establishments,
the different governments of Europe had as little merit as in
projecting them. The conquest of Mexico was the project, not of the
council of Spain, but of a governor of Cuba; and it was effectuated by
the spirit of the bold adventurer to whom it was entrusted, in spite
of every thing which that governor, who soon repented of having
trusted such a person, could do to thwart it. The conquerors of Chili
and Peru, and of almost all the other Spanish settlements upon the
continent of America, carried out with them no other public
encouragement, but a general permission to make settlements and
conquests in the name of the king of Spain. Those adventures were all
at the private risk and expense of the adventurers. The government of
Spain contributed scarce any thing to any of them. That of England
contributed as little towards effectuating the establishment of some
of its most important colonies in North America.

When those establishments were effectuated, and had become so
considerable as to attract the attention of the mother country, the
first regulations which she made with regard to them, had always in
view to secure to herself the monopoly of their commerce; to confine
their market, and to enlarge her own at their expense, and,
consequently, rather to damp and discourage, than to quicken and
forward the course of their prosperity. In the different ways in which
this monopoly has been exercised, consists one of the most essential
differences in the policy of the different European nations with
regard to their colonies. The best of them all, that of England, is
only somewhat less illiberal and oppressive than that of any of the

In what way, therefore, has the policy of Europe contributed either to
the first establishment, or to the present grandeur of the colonies of
America? In one way, and in one way only, it has contributed a good
deal. Magna virum mater! It bred and formed the men who were capable
of achieving such great actions, and of laying the foundation of so
great an empire; and there is no other quarter of the world; of which
the policy is capable of forming, or has ever actually, and in fact,
formed such men. The colonies owe to the policy of Europe the
education and great views of their active and enterprizing founders;
and some of the greatest and most important of them, so far as
concerns their internal government, owe to it scarce anything else.


Of the Advantages which Europe has derived From the Discovery of
America, and from that of a Passage to the East Indies by the Cape of
Good Hope.

Such are the advantages which the colonies of America have derived
from the policy of Europe.

What are those which Europe has derived from the discovery and
colonization of America?

Those advantages may be divided, first, into the general advantages
which Europe, considered as one great country, has derived from those
great events; and, secondly, into the particular advantages which each
colonizing country has derived from the colonies which particularly
belong to it, in consequence of the authority or dominion which it
exercises over them.

The general advantages which Europe, considered as one great country,
has derived from the discovery and colonization of America, consist,
first, in the increase of its enjoyments; and, secondly, in the
augmentation of its industry.

The surplus produce of America imported into Europe, furnishes the
inhabitants of this great continent with a variety of commodities
which they could not otherwise have possessed; some for conveniency
and use, some for pleasure, and some for ornament; and thereby
contributes to increase their enjoyments.

The discovery and colonization of America, it will readily be allowed,
have contributed to augment the industry, first, of all the countries
which trade to it directly, such as Spain, Portugal, France, and
England; and, secondly, of all those which, without trading to it
directly, send, through the medium of other countries, goods to it of
their own produce, such as Austrian Flanders, and some provinces of
Germany, which, through the medium of the countries before mentioned,
send to it a considerable quantity of linen and other goods. All such
countries have evidently gained a more extensive market for their
surplus produce, and must consequently have been encouraged to
increase its quantity.

But that those great events should likewise have contributed to
encourage the industry of countries such as Hungary and Poland, which
may never, perhaps, have sent a single commodity of their own produce
to America, is not, perhaps, altogether so evident. That those events
have done so, however, cannot be doubted. Some part of the produce of
America is consumed in Hungary and Poland, and there is some demand
there for the sugar, chocolate, and tobacco, of that new quarter of
the world. But those commodities must be purchased with something
which is either the produce of the industry of Hungary and Poland, or
with something which had been purchased with some part of that
produce. Those commodities of America are new values, new equivalents,
introduced into Hungary and Poland, to be exchanged there for the
surplus produce of these countries. By being carried thither, they
create a new and more extensive market for that surplus produce. They
raise its value, and thereby contribute to encourage its increase.
Though no part of it may ever be carried to America, it may be carried
to other countries, which purchase it with a part of their share of
the surplus produce of America, and it may find a market by means of
the circulation of that trade which was originally put into motion by
the surplus produce of America.

Those great events may even have contributed to increase the
enjoyments, and to augment the industry, of countries which not only
never sent any commodities to America, but never received any from it.
Even such countries may have received a greater abundance of other
commodities from countries, of which the surplus produce had been
augmented by means of the American trade. This greater abundance, as
it must necessarily have increased their enjoyments, so it must
likewise have augmented their industry. A greater number of new
equivalents, of some kind or other, must have been presented to them
to be exchanged for the surplus produce of that industry. A more
extensive market must have been created for that surplus produce, so
as to raise its value, and thereby encourage its increase. The mass of
commodities annually thrown into the great circle of European
commerce, and by its various revolutions annually distributed among
all the different nations comprehended within it, must have been
augmented by the whole surplus produce of America. A greater share of
this greater mass, therefore, is likely to have fallen to each of
those nations, to have increased their enjoyments, and augmented their

The exclusive trade of the mother countries tends to diminish, or at
least to keep down below what they would otherwise rise to, both the
enjoyments and industry of all those nations in general, and of the
American colonies in particular. It is a dead weight upon the action
of one of the great springs which puts into motion a great part of the
business of mankind. By rendering the colony produce dearer in all
other countries, it lessens its consumption, and thereby cramps the
industry of the colonies, and both the enjoyments and the industry of
all other countries, which both enjoy less when they pay more for what
they enjoy, and produce less when they get less for what they produce.
By rendering the produce of all other countries dearer in the
colonies, it cramps in the same manner the industry of all other
colonies, and both the enjoyments and the industry of the colonies. It
is a clog which, for the supposed benefit of some particular
countries, embarrasses the pleasures and encumbers the industry of all
other countries, but of the colonies more than of any other. It not
only excludes as much as possible all other countries from one
particular market, but it confines as much as possible the colonies to
one particular market; and the difference is very great between being
excluded from one particular market when all others are open, and
being confined to one particular market when all others are shut up.
The surplus produce of the colonies, however, is the original source
of all that increase of enjoyments and industry which Europe derives
from the discovery and colonization of America, and the exclusive
trade of the mother countries tends to render this source much less
abundant than it otherwise would be.

The particular advantages which each colonizing country derives from
the colonies which particularly belong to it, are of two different
kinds; first, those common advantages which every empire derives from
the provinces subject to its dominion; and, secondly, those peculiar


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