Opening New Markets: The British Army and the Old Northwest

By Walter S. Dunn Jr. | Go to book overview
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2

THE GREAT LAKES

The major competition for the Canadians arose from New York, which had the prime advantage of an ice-free port immediately accessible from the sea. In contrast, Quebec was on the St. Lawrence River four hundred miles from the sea and closed in the winter. 1 The Hudson Valley route was the most important colonial entry into the fur trade, originating in New York City and serving the Great Lakes area via the Mohawk River. This route was well established as the primary avenue to the tribes in western New York and around Lake Ontario. The Iroquois acted as middlemen, receiving goods from the New Yorkers at posts such as Oswego and Schenectady and bartering the goods for furs to Indians farther west.

New York City was the main port of entry for merchandise destined for the Great Lakes area and also served as the port for exporting furs and other commodities gathered from the frontier. Frontier commerce had a major impact on the commercial climate of New York City. Before the Seven Years War, fur was the only domestic product of the colony that could be exported to England. In 1751 fur valued by customs at £2,169 (London price $868,000) was sent to England, about 20% of all exports from New York City. However, during the war the fur trade was dormant, and after the surrender of Canada in 1759 Montreal and Quebec competed for the London fur market. Though the export of furs out of New York City decreased, deerskin exports increased after 1763 as schooners on the lakes reduced the cost of transportation and made more profitable the export of the heavier though less valuable deerskin through New York. 2

During the Seven Years War New York City turned to a new avenue of sales and prospered from the business with the British army. From 1760 to 1763 New York City received an economic stimulus from sales to the French farmers in Detroit as well as the colonial settlers in western New York and the British

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