British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

26 LORD BATHURST: MEMORANDUM ON J. Q. ADAMS'S PROPOSAL, 6 October 18161

Our colonial system will I believe be found to be generally speaking the same with regard to all foreign States.

By the Free Port Act (45 Geo. 3 cp. [57]) a relaxation of these Laws was made in favour of some British ports in the West Indies, with several limitations and restrictions, and confined to vessels owned and navigated by the subjects of European States, having possessions on the continent of America. The late Lord Liverpool, who brought in the Act, deliberately worded it so as to exclude American vessels from the benefit of the provisions.

On the other hand by the 28 Geo. 3 cp. [6], and by other Acts, the trade of our West India colonies with the United States is placed in several instances on a better footing than it is with European States; the United States therefore have no right to complain, if enjoying commercial advantages peculiar to themselves, they do not participate in those which the vessels of some European States have been for some time past permitted to possess.

The Free Port Act passed while the Commercial Treaty with the United States was in force and was not considered as a violation of it.

Whether we could extend the provisions of the Free Port Act (brought in for the encouragement of our clandestine trade with South America) to the vessels of the United States is a different question. I am inclined to think we might do so, even with advantage to our clandestine trade; but it remains to be considered, whether it might not be prejudicial to our colonial system in other respects. At any rate, it should not be granted without an equivalent. Any further relaxation of our colonial system cannot at the present moment be undertaken.

There is no objection to leave for discussion the commercial intercourse between the United States and our North American Provinces--not however admitting that the United States have any right to complain of the high duties which the Provincial Legislatures may have imposed on the import and export trade with the United States, so long as there are not lower duties on corresponding articles imported from and exported to other foreign States. The fact is, almost every direct commercial intercourse between these Provinces and the United States is a modification of our colonial system; it may not be placed on a favourable footing in Upper Canada, but the regulation under which it is allowed in the Lower Province, must shew that the intercourse is not regulated on a principle of ill will towards the United States. . . .

____________________
1
B.T. 1/110. Lord Bathurst had been asked to prepare a précis of the state of the law between the West India colonies and foreign states.

-288-

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