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Commercial Relations of England and Scotland 1603 - 1707
1660-1707


d. Trade with the Plantations

One of the principal reasons for Scottish discontent with her English connection during the latter part of the seventeenth century, was her exclusion from the Plantation trade by successive Navigation Acts. Partly excluded as she was from both English and foreign markets, she was anxious to find some demand for her linen and cloth, and her newly-established manufactures. This could only exist in a colonial market, where there were no already established manufactures, and Scotland had no colonies of her own. Her exclusion from the Plantation trade was therefore the most disastrous result of her commercial separation from England after the Restoration. The Act for the Encouraging and increasing of Shipping and Navigation of 1660 declared that no goods should be imported into or exported from his Majesty's dominions in Asia, Africa or America, except in ships belonging to England, Ireland, Wales, Berwick-upon-Tweed, or the Plantations, of which the master and three-fourths of the crew were to be English. No goods of the growth or manufacture of Asia, Africa, or America were to be imported into England, except in English or colonial ships. No foreign goods were to be brought into England, except in English ships or in ships belonging to the country where the goods were produced. Aliens were excluded from the English coasting trade. Certain Plantation commodities, sugar, tobacco, etc., were not to be shipped to any place except England, or the English Plantations.

The Scots merchants at once remonstrated, and threatened to "take the lyk cours with thame," if they were not allowed to retain those privileges which they had had since James VI's accession. No change was made in the English Act, and the Scots Parliament in 1661 passed the Act for Encouraging of Shipping and Navigation, which enjoined the use of Scots vessels, or vessels of the country where the goods were produced, and no others, in import trade. All goods exported in foreign ships were to pay double customs. English and Irish ships were excepted, "Provyding alwayes that Scots vessells enjoy the lyke benefite of trade within the Kingdomes and dominions of England and Ireland." This Act did not cause any concessions to be made, and a few months later the Earls of Glencairne and Rothes, Chancellor and President of the Council in Scotland, petitioned the King that the Act should be declared "not to extend to Yr Maties subjects in Scotland as being aliens and strangers." They declared that the enforcement of the Act would ruin all trade in Scotland. As a result the Act was suspended as regards Scotland, and the question was referred to a committee consisting of the Lord High Treasurer of England, Lauderdale, Ashley, and others. The Customs Commissioners were requested to make a report to this committee. In this they declared that the admission of the Scots to the trade would be " destructive to ye English Interest prejudicial! to His Matie in his Customes and duties and absolutely pernicious to the Act of Navigation." Their reasons for this decision were given. They feared that the customs would suffer by the Scots paying native customs, which were only half the rate of the aliens' customs they would otherwise pay. They would be able to trade with the Plantations, which "are absolute English." This would enable them to supply continental countries, and to make Scotland a magazine for colonial produce, "and leave us to our home Consumption." They feared also that the Dutch, "against which the Act principally aymes at," would be able to trade under cover of the Scots. Then, if the Scots were allowed to trade as English, they could give no valid security for obeying the regulations of the Act, as the English officials had no control over their property. "They in one word overthrow the very essence and designe of the Act of Navigation." The Committee, upon hearing this report, and also interviewing some merchants and members of the House of Commons, came to the conclusion that the freedom demanded was "contrary to the main End of the Act of Parliament." The order suspending the Act was therefore revoked. This occasioned much complaint from the Burghs, who lamented that the Act was "totallie destructive to the tread and navigation of this Kingdome." They said that "a great pairt of our stockis which wee most send abroad, consistis of English manufactures which wee most buy for our money." One difficulty "exceidinglie stood upon" by the English was " in respect of the great tread at present with the Barbadoes, and hopes of dryving a richer tread heirefter with all the Illandis, they intending to plant synomen, nutmegis cleues and peper, for they have sent to the East Indies for all these plantis, and they conceauve that if wee sail have any tread wee willbe able...to undir-sell thame and furnisch many places of Europe with the commodities of these plantations." As matters stood, Scottish exclusion from the English commercial system was the inevitable result of the stricter development of that system after the Restoration. Scotland had her own Parliament, and the English Parliament bad no control over it nor over Scottish commercial regulations. Her admission to a share in English trade, therefore, could be of no direct benefit and might prove injurious to England. Therefore Scotland was not included in the English system.

In 1663 another Act was passed which forbade the import of any goods of the growth, production or manufacture of Europe to the Plantations, except in English ships and shipped in England. Scottish servants, victuals, horses, and also salt were excepted, and might be taken from Scotland, but in English ships. Penalties for infringements were made more severe. The aims of the Navigation Acts were set forth in the preamble. "And in regard His Majesties Plantations beyond the Seas are inhabited and peopled by His subjects of this his Kingdome of England, For the maintaining a greater correspondence and kindnesse betweene them and keepinge them in a firmer dependance upon it, and rendering them yet more beneficiall and advantagious unto it in the farther Imployment and Encrease of English shipping and seamen, Vent of English Woollen and other Manufactures and Commodities...and making this Kingdom a Staple not only of the Commodities of those Plantations but alsoe of the Commodities of other Countryes and Places for the supplying of them." A letter sent from the Treasury to the Governors of the Plantations in 1677, ordering them to enforce the Act, recited this preamble, adding the words, "And for the farther and more peculiar appropriating the trade of these Plantations to the Kingdom of England exclusive from all other His Majesty's dominions." The Plantations were clearly not intended to be "advantagious" to his Majesty's ancient kingdom of Scotland.

The Scots endeavoured to force concessions from England by enforcing their Act of Navigation, and by laying heavy duties on English imports into Scotland. These were to be removed as soon as trade with England was "restored to the condition it was in during the reigne of his Maiesties father and Grandfather of blessed memorie." English merchants trading to Scotland were seriously affected by this Act, and they too petitioned that the drawbacks on Scottish trade might be removed, but without any effect. The Council and planters in Bar-badoes were also very anxious that the Scots should be allowed to trade thither. They had supplied the colony with "braue Seruants and faithfull subiects," who "kept the Collonys in so formidable a posture, that they neither feared the Insurrection of their Slaves nor any invasion from a forreigne Enemy, but are now by the Act of Navigation forbidden to have trade with Scotland; whereby they can have no servants from thence, and those Scots now wander into Poland and Germany to serve other princes which heretofore by their transporting to the Collonyes did increase the wealth and defend the Dominions of his Matie."

Charles himself wished the Scots to be allowed to trade. In 1664 he granted a licence to a certain John Brown, who had set up sugar-works in Scotland, to trade to the Plantations with four Scottish ships, as the Scots "seeme to be excluded" from trading with these parts. To his initiative must be ascribed the negotiations for a commercial treaty between the two countries which began in 1668. The Scots insisted that they should consider "that first and great obstruction of the freedome and liberty of trade between the two kingdomes, the Act of Navigation," before any other subjects were discussed. On this subject the English were obdurate. The Plantations " were found out, possessed planted and built by the labour, blood and vast expences of his Matyes subiects of the kingdome of England and doe belong to the Crowne of England and therefore it cannot be reasonably expected that Scotland should reape the benefit thereof....And therefore we cannot allow that the Ships and vessells of Scotland be permitted this trade." The negotiations therefore were fruitless, as were those of 1670-1 for a complete union. It took forty years more to convince the English that to obtain control of Scottish trade, it was worth their while to admit the Scots to the English commercial system.

The Scots seemed now to realise that they could not hope for any concessions from England, and that if they wished to have any trade with America it must be carried on despite the prohibitions. One more licence was granted (1669), by the influence of the Duke of York. He "did propose to His Majesty in Councell that hee would bee pleased to give liberty that such of His Majesty's Subjects in Scotland as shall bee induced to take condicons as Planters at New Yorke may bee permitted to transport themselves thither in vessells from Scotland and bee allowed to make their voyages and returne in a way of Trade." Licences were given to two Scots ships to trade between Scotland and New York. The Commissioners of the Customs remonstrated at once. They said they had "cause to believe that tho' their pretensions be very Smooth and innocent yet the end thereof is to settle a Trade betwixt ye Plantations and Scotland." Even by the trade of two ships His Majesty's revenue would lose "above 7000 per annum."

Some illicit trade had already been carried on by the Scots, and from about the year 1670 onwards it gradually increased and became of quite a considerable volume by the end of the century. The Clyde ports were of course the most conveniently situated for voyages to America, but vessels also sailed from Aberdeen and Leith. The cargoes were chiefly coarse cloth and linen, stockings, hats, and beef, often brought to Scotland from Ireland, and then re-exported. The Collector of the Customs in Carolina wrote in 1687 that the Scots "are evidently able to undersell ye English, their Goods being either much Courser or slighter, wch will Serve for Servants weare and will be sure to go off, they being cheap so that an Englishman must go away unfreighted or sell to vast Disadvantage." From the Plantations were received principally tobacco, sugar (for the sugar manufactories at Glasgow and Leith), and furs and skins. Colonial ships too came to Scotland, often no doubt the property of Scots settled in the Plantations.

In Scotland this trade was countenanced by the authorities. In the colonies it was not so in theory, though in reality the Customs officials, especially in the Proprietary colonies, seem to have been very lax. Public opinion was generally in favour of the illicit traders, at any rate the officials who were sent out by the home government at different times, had great difficulty in obtaining convictions in the courts against those who infringed the Acts. There were many complaints of this kind, from both Randolph and Quary, who were sent from England to look after the collection of the King's customs. The Governor of Maryland, writing to the Committee of Trade and Plantations in 1695, says: "I have found by experience that it is a difficult thing to get Judges and Jurys to try and condemn illegal traders." One or two of the colonies declared that the Acts of Navigation did not bind them and that the English Commissioners of the Customs had no authority there. Randolph wrote from New England in 1690, that he was "alwaies opposed in open Court by the Magistrates and my Seizures and prosecutions (tho made upon very plain Evidence) were ended ineffectual, for the Juries found for the Defendant against His Majesty all agreeing that the Power of the Commissioners of the Customes in matters of Trade did not extend to their Colony." In Carolina the settlers declared that, as they received their charter after the Navigation Acts were passed, they were not in force in that colony. The Collector wrote that some cases were given against him in the courts there. The evidence was not very clear, but "it was declared that, if it had been never so clear they would have pleaded the benefit of their charter...which was granted after the act was passed." Most of the Customs officials were not above reproach: the "Illegal Trade So caryed on...is Connived at and Encouraged by divers of their Majties Collectors of ye Customes in Virginia etc who are (Underhand) interested and Concerned therein."

As the American coastline is so long it was of course comparatively easy to evade the authorities altogether, unload in a retired creek, dispose of the goods and obtain a cargo of tobacco, etc. "The inhabitants of the Eastern shore of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware River, Scotchmen and others have great stocks lying by them, to purchase tobacco and to prepare a loading ready to be put on board upon the Arrivall of any Vessell from New England etc, who assist with boats and sloops to get the goods ashoar before the Vessell is Entred, wch they dispose of amongst their goods in the Store, the Vessell lying in some obscure creek 40 or 50 Miles distance from the Collectors office and in a Short time loaded and sailes out of the Capes undiscovered." There were, too, many ways of deceiving the officials. False certificates were much used by the merchants. Some of the collectors " Receive their goods by falce Cocketts wch they know to be made in Glascow and the seales of their Majtie8 Commissioners for ye Customs of London and those of several of the outports of England Counterfeited and affixed thereto. Particularly those of Newcastle Berwick Bristoll Beau-morrice Beddeford Whitehaven Liverpoole and Plimouth." The manoeuvres of colonial vessels coming from Scotland are described by the Carolina Collector. "The Scotch Trade by the like Legerdemain jugles is driven. A ship at Newcastle Berwick Poole etc toucheth, taketh in coals or some other slight goods, goes for Scotland and there receives great quantities of Linen and other Scotish goods...and coming here by her English clearings at the Ports etc abovesaid passeth for current without further inquisition." Randolph, in one of his many letters, gives an account of his experiences in trying to get a conviction for an offence of this nature. He seized two ships which had certificates saying that they had loaded their cargoes of Scots goods at Berwick. He declared that they had been taken on board at Leith and Glasgow, and demanded a court for a trial. "A Scotch Irishman summoned a Jury and returned a Jury of known Scotch and their friends....I proceeded against Makay's Ship for Importing goods not legally shipt in England and proved in Court by the oath of Hugh Moore a Scotch minister passenger in Makay's Ship from Leith to Maryland that they sailed thence towards Berwick. There a Scotchman and master of the ship brought a so-called Customs officer on board who gave a Coquet. One of the Judges told the Court and Jury that they were not to stand upon such Nicetyes ...and the jury brought in verdict for the defendant."

Proposals were made at different times with a view to putting a stop to the illicit trade. It was ordered that more care should be taken in examining certificates and coquets, and in taking bond for observing the Acts, and also that some of the collectors should be removed and "men of integrity" appointed. It was also suggested that several small boats should be chartered to cruise about and discover those ships which unloaded and loaded in secluded bays and creeks. One or two small boats were equipped in accordance with these instructions. One of these was put in command of one Thomas Much, who in 1692 was "an old offender," but in 1694 is found "humbly acknowledging the Unhappy part himself had been unwarily Seduced to act in these misdemeanours," and to shew his remorse "faithfully discovering divers fraudulent and Illegal practise of Severall Scotch merchants." But "notices were given and the Alarm taken on ye Scotch coast," though even so, Much succeeded in taking two ships.

On this side, too, efforts were made to stop the trade. English privateers were sent to cruise about the Scottish coast, especially on the Clyde, to arrest ships trading to America. The Scots merchants naturally objected very strongly to this practice. They were backed up by the Privy Council, which several times wrote to the King complaining of this encroachment on the sovereign rights of Scotland. In 1694 they declared that "both in our East and west Seas and in the ports and harbours therof our merchant ships have been seized...and furder we are Informed that severall other merchant English shipps have taken out Commissions of Mart from the Admiralty against unlawful Traders which we see they mostly make use of against our ships Coming from the plantations. Albeit be certane that before this late warr none of our ships could be attacqued or mollested on that account at sea But onely in the ports and harbours of America.... Our merchants are soe much discouradged and prejudged by these attempts that many of them already hes given over trade."

The trade with the Plantations must have been of little importance for the first ten or fifteen years after the Restoration, until the country had had time to recover from the poverty caused by the Civil Wars. What trade there was during these years was chiefly with Barbadoes, but from about the year 1676 until the Union, there are many complaints about the Scots trade with the Plantations. A considerable number had settled in different colonies and they naturally kept up communication with Scotland, and assisted their countrymen in trade. In 1682 an Admiralty official in New Hampshire wrote, "There are severall Scotsmen that inhabit here, and are great Interlopers, and bring in quantities of goods underhand from Scotland." Again: "Somerset county in Maryland is pestered with Scotch and Irish." Some of the Council are Scots, and "support ye Interlopers and buy up all their loading upon first arrivall and govern ye whole trade on ye Eastern shore so that whereas 7 or 8 good ships from England did yearly Trade and load ye Tobb0 of that Colony I find that in these 3 years past there has not been above 5 ships trading legally in all these Rivers" (Delaware and other Maryland rivers) "and nigh 30 sayle of Scotch Irish and New England Men." The Custom House officials had agents in Scotland from whom they received notice as to trade. In "Commercial Orders to Governor Andros" they write (1687), "We are frequently informed from our agents in Scotland of several ships coming thither with the innumerated Plantation commodities without touching to clear in any port of England Wales or Berwick." Boston was a great centre for illegal trade and Boston ships often went to Scotland. In October 1689 three were said to be in Scotland while three others had just left.

During William's wars with France illegal trade with America seems to have increased. Davenant says that " during this war, the colonists have presumed...to set up for themselves, and to load their effects in ships belonging to foreigners and to trade directly with other nations, sending them their commodities and receiving from thence manufactures not of our growth to the great damage of this kingdom." The number of English ships trading to the colonies decreased. The Governor of Virginia in 1695 begged that "a good number of ships be permitted to come to these parts for when few come then goods are very dear and tobacco very cheap." Scottish ships took advantage of the opportunity given by English difficulties and colonial necessities, and their trade during the years 1690-1695 increased considerably. But they did not wholly escape the French privateers. In 1694 a Glasgow merchant wrote that he had for "several years bypast driven ane considerable trade to the West Indies by exporting the native product of this Kingdom and Importing from thence Tobacco Suggar and other Commodities of these Countries Bot since the present wars with ffrance, the petitioner hes sustained great Loss by the privateers of that natione viz. 1300 sterling in the Mary of St Marys laden with tobacco and sugar taken within 48 hours of New Port Glasgow, 600 tobacco in Plain Dealing of Coleraine 306 dry goods in Success of Boston outwards bound 780 in Mary of Boston homewards bound 39. 10. 6 in Mary of Bo'ness outward with dry goods Total 3013. 10." He also lost a ship laden with tobacco, which was seized by the English privateers. In the year 1693-1694 thirteen ships loaded by Scots merchants arrived in Virginia and Maryland. Their cargoes were rum, sugar, linen, and "Scotch Goods," and they loaded there with tobacco, nine sailing to Scotland, and one to Holland. The destination of the other three was doubtful. A list of fourteen Glasgow merchants who traded with the Plantations was given by Much in 1695, and he said there were several others whose names he had forgotten. The agent of the English Customs Commissioners in Scotland gave a list of the ships trading between Scotland and the Plantations between 15 April 1695 and 29 December 1696, twenty-seven in all. They were chiefly Scottish ships, bringing tobacco from Virginia and Maryland, and taking out "Scotch Goods." Scots merchants also traded between the English colonies and the Dutch possessions of Surinam and Curasoa. "Severall Scotch merchants in Pennsilvania...cary the Tobacco of Maryland to Surenham and Carressoe in bread Casks covered with flower at each end"

About this time merchants in England began to complain very much of the Scottish trade. The Customs House officers of Liverpool wrote in 1692 that they had received many complaints from merchants and masters of ships, that "not only their Majesties Revenue is much lessened but themselves and all others both Merchants and Masters of Ships who Lawfully Trade to the said Plantacofls much discouraged and almost ruined by reason their Majesties officers in the Plantations...do...Corruptly or unfairly comply with Persons treading from Scotland...as also others from New England who Sail directly to Scotland with their Plantation goods and discharge there." The London merchants also declared that "their Trade is in a great Measure destroyed and ruined by many ships Trading directly from Scotland and Ireland to Virginia Maryland and Pennsylvania And from thence back to the said Places." The Bristol traders sent a petition to the House of Commons complaining of the same prejudice to their trade in 1694.

The feeling against Scotland and Scottish interlopers was strengthened by the Act of 1695, constituting the "Company of Scotland, Trading to Africa and the West Indies." The officials in America regarded it as an attempt to legalise and extend that illicit trade with Scotland which they had been endeavouring to suppress. The Commissioners of the Customs declared themselves "humbly apprehensive of this growing mischief, for ye Trade between Scotland and the Plantations is now about to be more openly carried on under Colour of a Law lately passed in Scotland." Until 1696 the administration of the Acts had been comparatively lax, but after that date it became far more stringent, as did the supervision of the colonial officials. A new Board of Trade and Plantations was erected, and Admiralty courts were set up in the colonies. This general tightening up of the code was the result of the Act of 1696. This was passed partly to guard against any danger that might arise from the Scots Act of 1695, but chiefly in consequence of the many petitions, complaints and remonstrances regarding the Plantation trade. The "Act for preventing Frauds and regulating Abuses in the Plantation Trade" recited all the provisions of Charles IPs statutes relating to colonial trade, asserted their validity in all the Plantations, ordered the governors and officers to take oaths for the proper performance of their duties, and made the administration of the Acts generally far more stringent. Special reference was made to the Scottish trade: "And whereas great Frauds and Abuses have beene committed by Scotch men and others in the Plantation Trade by obtruding false and counterfeite Certificates upon the Governors and Officers in the Plantations...whereof they may carry the Goods of Scotland and other Places of Europe without Shipping or lading the same in England ...to His Majesty's Plantations and also carry the Goods of the Plantations directly to Scotland, or to any Market in Europe without bringing the same to England." Greater care was therefore to be taken in examining certificates, accepting security, etc.

Notwithstanding the provisions of this new Act, and the fact that a great deal of the capital of the Scottish nation was engaged in the Darien scheme, the trade with the Plantations still continued. In 1701 Quary wrote from Pennsylvania, that "Four times the Quantity of tobacco was made there that year than had been made there before, and all of it engrossed by the Scotch as almost all other trade there was." Two or three years later there was a good deal of discussion about the advisability of allowing the export of Irish linen to the Plantations. There was some fear that it might lead also to a free export of Scots linen: "when the Linnen of Ireland should have so direct a Current to ye Plantacons I believe it will be impossible to hinder an Indraught of Scotch Linnen too into Ireland, from whence It may be carried directly to America." The Customs Commissioners were against permission being given for the export, but it was finally allowed. At the same time however the export of Scots linen into Ireland was prohibited. The spirit of this Act was shewn in the negotiations for union, in the reluctance of England to grant freedom of trade to the Plantations. But that concession was of the greatest importance to the Scots, and it was finally granted. At the same time England obtained the power of parliamentary regulation of that trade to the west which the Scots merchants had built up in spite of prohibitions, restraints, and many difficulties.


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