Q. Is this a trade likely to increase?
A. As matters now stand it will not increase, but we are clearly of opinion that if a Free Port in the Island of Providence was opened, it would increase in an astonishing degree. The increase would be very perceptible at the end of the first year.
Q. Do you apprehend that the French would come, in such case, to purchase our manufactures?
A. I think they would come from Hispaniola. They would come there as a place of meeting with other traders, but would likewise take off great quantities of our manufactures, and bring indigo, cotton and other articles.
MINUTE OF THE COMMITTEE FOR TRADE 15 May 17901
Present: Lord Hawkesbury, Marquis of Graham, Mr. Ryder, Mr. Orde.
Read--Letter from Mr. Steele, Secretary of the Treasury, transmitting two memorials, the one of Peter Franklyn Esquire, Collector, and John Dawson Esquire, Comptroller of the port of Kingston in the Island of Jamaica, on behalf of themselves and of the rest of the officers of the customs at that port; and the other of George Ferguson Esquire, Collector of the customs at Grenada on behalf of himself and of the rest of the officers of the customs in the ports of that Island, praying relief with respect to the 8th section of the Act establishing certain free ports in the West India Islands, which section exempts foreign vessels entering in or clearing out from the free ports in those Islands from the payment of all fees, and submitting the prayer of the said memorials to the consideration of the Committee.
Ordered, That a letter be written to Mr. Steele in answer thereto, acquainting him for the information of the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury, that foreign vessels trading to the British free ports in the West Indies were exempted from the payment of all fees by a clause in an Act passed in 1766, by which Act these free ports were first established, and this clause was repeated in Act passed for the increasing of these free ports and the improvement of them in 1787. Their Lordships see with satisfaction that the trade for which these free ports were specially opened has progressively increased and is become an object of great national importance. But they observe as well by what is stated in the said memorials, as by an account herewith transmitted, that the before-mentioned exemption has had the bad consequence of giving a preference in carrying on the trade____________________