Opening New Markets: The British Army and the Old Northwest

By Walter S. Dunn Jr. | Go to book overview
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1

CANADA AND THE NORTHWEST

When Britain acquired Canada in 1760 the source of merchandise for the fur trade shifted from France to Britain. The demand in Canada for merchandise and food inspired colonial merchants to send agents to Quebec and Montreal, expecting to reap enormous profits from trading colonial rum and British merchandise. After four years of success, Pontiac’s Uprising brought to a halt the colonial efforts in Canada. When trade resumed in 1765, the colonial merchants were faced with new competition from British merchants, many of them former Scottish army officers. The French chose to buy their merchandise from the Scots, and the colonial merchants were left with a small share of the market.

In 1765 both British and colonial merchants in Canada imported rum, molasses, and salt from the West Indies; tea, gunpowder, and manufactured goods from England; and rum from the thirteen colonies to supply the Canadian market and the expanding market in the Northwest, the area northwest of Lake Superior. Benjamin Roberts, a British officer, estimated in 1770 that goods worth £150,000 sterling ($30,000,000) were sent to Quebec each year from Britain. Half of the merchandise, £75,000 sterling, went to the French market along the St. Lawrence River, and the other half (£75,000) was sent on to Montreal and the west. 1 Theoretically the £75,000 sterling would have returned £150,000 sterling worth of fur to be exported from Canada, but at least £20,000 sterling in merchandise passed through Michilimackinac to Illinois, where it was converted to fur and exported to Europe from New Orleans. The remaining £50,000 sterling was exchanged for £100,000 sterling in fur and returned to Montreal. Other sources indicate that the same amount in fur and deerskin was exported from Canada.

In 1761 the French had estimated the value of fur exported at £135,000 sterling. In 1765 the customs value of fur exports from Canada to Britain was

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