This work is the third in a series describing the British Army and the American frontier in the years preceding the American Revolution. Readers looking for a survey of all the secondary books and articles that have been published in the last 150 years will be disappointed as I have used primary source material almost exclusively in an attempt to create a picture of life and events in the 1760s on the frontier, the buying and selling that occupied the lives of individuals, many of whom played dominant roles in the events of the time. I have attempted to depict business activity on the colonial frontier centering on the four crucial years from 1765 to 1768, using a mass of detail that will enable the reader to visualize the frontier merchants, traders, farmers, and others; their surroundings; and their everyday activity. These years marked the failure of British economic policies in America and led to political disaster.
Although the sources consist primarily of letters written to and by the participants, one must keep in mind that often these letters were the result of long discussions and served as a summary of what had been discussed. As a result the letters sometimes read like minutes of a meeting, as indeed they were, intended to provide the recipient a review of what had been discussed. Quebec, Montreal, New York City, Albany, and Philadelphia were small towns, and the leading merchants probably saw each other on a daily basis and lunched together frequently or visited coffee houses to discuss business affairs.
One of the greatest obstacles in writing eighteenth-century business history is understanding the monetary system. Dealing with eighteenth-century currencies was a problem even for contemporaries. Each colony issued its own paper money in pounds (abbreviated by the symbol £) and even lower denominations. The pound contained twenty shillings and each shilling twelve pence. The abbreviations took several forms: £10.2.8 represented ten pounds, two shillings, and eight pence. A more frequent abbreviation was 8/6,