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 whe
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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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