Opening New Markets: The British Army and the Old Northwest

By Walter S. Dunn Jr. | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The American colonies were in a state of flux in the period 1765 to 1768. Volatile changes took place as British, French, and colonial merchants sought to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the opening of the frontier to commerce; at the same time the British government was determined to stem the flow of English funds to America by collecting new taxes and increasing the enforcement of old levies.

The policies of the British government from 1765 to 1768 were detrimental to the interests of American merchants doing business in Canada as well as in the lower Great Lakes area, Pennsylvania, the Ohio Valley, and the Mississippi Valley, while favoring the interests of British merchants and French traders in Canada. The result was a continual escalating conflict as large sums of money changed hands.

What was the significance of the financial transactions on the frontier from 1765 to 1768 to the colonial economy? Investigators tend to “follow the money” to find the motives, who was involved, and who were the leading characters. Following the money indicated that those merchants who lost substantially in frontier commerce by 1768 saw Britain and particularly the army as responsible for their losses. These same disgruntled merchants, who previously had close ties with England, became leaders in the Revolution.

To understand the impact of economic changes in the late 1760s that altered the lives of the colonial merchants, one must not only translate the 1760 pound sterling to $200 U.S. in 2001 but also factor in the differences in the size of the two economies. There were only 2 million colonists, compared to 280 million Americans in 2001. The value of frontier commerce, £700,000 sterling ($140 million) in 1765, was equal to a $19.6 billion business in 2001 on a per capita basis.

The prominent customer on the frontier was the British army. The British

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