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Of Colonies








PART I. 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.


PART II. 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 them.

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 interest.

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 thriving.

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
colonies.

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 different.

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
return.

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 prohibited.

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 prohibitions.

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 c





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Previous: Of Treaties Of Commerce



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