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This order could therefore by no possibility be a cause of the decrease of exports in 1765. If it had any mischievous operation, it could not be before 1766. In that year, according to our author, the exports fell short of the preceding, just eighty pounds. He is welcome to that diminution; and to all the consequences he can draw from it.
But, as an auxiliary to account for this dreadful loss, he brings in the Free-port act, which he observes (for his convenience) to have been made in spring, 1766 ; but (for his convenience likewise) he forgets, that, by the express provision of the act, the regulation was not to be in force in Jamaica until the November following. Miraculous must be the activity of that contraband whose operation in America could, before the end of that year, have re-acted upon England, and checked the exportation from hence! unless he chooses to suppose, that the merchants, at whose solicitation this act had been obtained, were so frighted at the accomplishment of their own most earnest and anxious desire, that, before any good or evil effect from it could happen, they immediately put a stop to all further exportation.
It is obvious that we must look for the true effect of that act at the time of its first possible operation, that is, in the year 1767. On this idea how stands the account?
1764 Exports to Jamaica
to 456,528 415,624 415,544 467,681
This author, for the sake of a present momentary credit, will hazard any future and permanent disgrace. At the time he wrote, the account of 1767 could not be made up. This was the very first year of the trial of the Free-port act; and we find that the sale of British commodities is so far from lessened by that act, that the export of 1767 amounts to £.52,000 more than that of either of the two preceding years, and is £.11,000 above that of his standard year 1764. If I could prevail on myself to argue in favour of a great commercial VOL. I.
scheme from the appearance of things in a single gear, I should from this increase of export infer the beneficial effects of that measure. In truth, it is not wanting. Nothing but the thickest ignorance of the Jamaica trade could have made any one entertain a fancy, that the least ill effect on our commerce could follow from this opening of the ports. But, if the author argues the effect of regulations in the American trade from the export of the year in which they are made, or even of the following; why did he not apply this rule to his own? He had the same paper before him which I have now before me. He must have seen that in his standard year (the year 1764), the principal year of his new regulations, the export fell no less than £.128,450 short of that in 1763! Did the export trade revive by these regulations in 1765, during which year they continued in their full force ? It fell about £140,000 still lower. Here is a fall of £.168,000; to account for which, would have become the author much better than piddling for an £.80 fall in the year 1766 (the only year in which the order he objects to could operate), or in presuming a fall of exports from a regulation which took place only in November 1766 ; whose effects could not appear until the following year; and which, when they do appear, utterly overthrow all bis flimsy reasons and affected suspicions upon the effect of opening the ports.
This author, in the same paragraph, says, that "it was asserted by the American factors and agents, that the commanders of our ships of war and tenders, having custom-house commissions, and the strict orders given in 1764 for a due execution of the laws of trade in the colonies, had deterred the Spaniards from trading with us ; that the sale of British manufactures in the West Indies had been greatly lessened, and the receipt of large sums of specie prevented.”
If the American factors and agents asserted this, they had good ground for their assertion. They knew that the Spanish vessels had been driven from our ports. The author does not positively deny the fact. If he should, it will be proved. When the factors connected this measure and its natural consequences, with an actual fall in the exports to Jamaica, to no less an amount than £.128,450 in one year, and
with a further fall in the next, is their assertion very wonderful ? The author himself is full as much alarmed by a fall of only 6.40,000; for, giving him the facts which he chooses to coin, it is no more. The expulsion of the Spanish vessels must certainly have been one cause, if not of the first declension of the exports, yet of their continuance in their reduced state. Other causes had their operation, without doubt. In what degree each cause produced its effect, it is hard to determine. But the fact of a fall of exports upon the restraining plan, and of a rise upon the taking place of the enlarging plan, is established beyond all contradiction.
This author says, that the facts relative to the Spanish trade were asserted by American factors and agents; insinuating, that the ministry of 1766 had no better authority for their plan of enlargement than such assertions. The moment he chooses it, he shall see the very same thing asserted by governors of provinces, by commanders of men of war, and by officers of the customs; persons the most bound in duty to prevent contraband, and the most interested in the seizures to be made in consequence of strict regulation. I suppress them for the present; wishing that the author may not drive me to a more full discussion of this matter than it may be altogether prudent to enter into. I wish he had not made any of these discussions necessary.