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Letter from George Burrington to the Commissioners of the Customs
Burrington, George, 1680-1759
July 20, 1736
Volume 04, Pages 169-173

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 10. B. 11.]

To the Honble Commissioners of His Majesty's Customes

Honble Sirs

Mr Manly informed me your Honours were inclined to know my Opinion concerning the ports of Entry and Export in North Carolina. What alterations would be necessary and if effected whether the Revenue of the Kings Customs would be augmented; and what advantages the Inhabitants could receive by the Regulations that may be made I am humbly of Opinion this Affair is of very great Importance and therefore merits your serious consideration.

In North Carolina at this time there are five Collections, one on Cape Fear River, called Port Brunswick, at Topsail Inlett is Port Beaufort on Pamticough River Port Bath Town, Roanoak Port is at the Head of Albemarle Sound, and Currituck on the Sea Coasts or Sounds near Virginia; this last Collection was never Settled or fixed to any certain Place. To the Collection of Brunswick belongs a very large district of Land, and it will be a place of very great Trade when it becomes well peopled No other Alteration is necessary in this Collection than appointing the Collector to reside nearer the Mouth of the River than the place where he now lives which is more than twenty miles above the Inlett.

Port Beaufort has but a very small quantity of land belonging to its District, before Mr Fitzwilliams when Surveyor General of the Southern Governments six years past procured Neus River to be taken from Bath Town Collection and added to that of Beaufort which has proved very inconvenient to Masters of Vessels that trade in Neus River having since been forced to ride forty miles to enter and clear at Beaufort thrō a low watery and uninhabited Country which after great Rains is not passable in many Days.

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Bath Town is situated on a little Bay on Pamticough River about seventy miles from the Sea, Neus did formerly belong to this Collection (as remarked before) which upon many accounts was more commodious; It was usual before the Alteration for Master of Vessels to sail from one of these Rivers to the other, and trade in both, the Mouths of them being but a few miles distant, such as wholly loaded their vessels in Neus had but twenty three miles to ride in a good road when they went by Land to enter or clear with the Collector at Bath Town, then they could sail from Neus to the Collector at Bath, which they cannot do to Beaufort without going to Sea.

The Collection of Roanoak is now settled at Edenton in a Bay at the Head of Albemarle Sound near the same distance from the sea as Bath Town. The nearest Inlett to this place is called Roanoak, very few Vessels and of small Burden use it, by reason of the great danger there is in passing, the Channel often shifting. I have known this Inlett to have no more than six feet and a half of water on the Bar, therefore most of the shipping that Trade in Roanoak Collection come in and go out at Ocacock, which is the only place that has a sufficient depth of water for a ship of Burden between Topsail and the Capes of Virginia.

The Collection at Currituck I once knew laid down, then added or joined to Beaufort, the few vessels that have traded to this part of late years could have no other inducement for making their voyages then to carry from thence Tobacco without paying the King's Duty. I never knew one of the Collectors of Currituck reside within the Collection which in my opinion is insignificant and useless.

Bath Town and Edenton being far from the Sea, and as there are many Islands and Rivers between the said Port Towns where the Collectors reside and the Inlets, Vessels come in and go out as the Masters have Opportunitys to unload prohibited Goods, before they come to the Collectors to enter, and also to take in Tobacco, after they are cleared; the Masters do not fail to make an advantageous use of the convenience, great quantities of good Tobacco the growth of North Carolina are yearly from thence exported by the New England shipping no Duty paid, and some ordinary made in Virginia that will not pass the Inspectors, therefore would be burnt if not sent into North Carolina. In 1734 a ship from Guernsey loaden with French Wines, Brandy, Tea, Woollen and other prohibited Commodities came in at Ocacock, in the harbour the goods were put on Board a vessel belonging to the Country and sent thrō Pamticough and Albemarle Sounds into Virginia and there delivered to some Merchants of that Country. Neither myself then Governor nor any of the Custom House Officers knew anything of this Stratagem

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before we received an account from the Judge Advocate of Virginia, great search was made afterwards in order to discover the run Goods but all in vain.

Ocacock Inlet has two distinct Channels which do not shift or change, the Bar is very fair inside the South End of the Island lyes the Harbour which has convenient places to careen ships, Wood and good fresh water in abundance, a small Fort mounted with some Cannons would prove in time of War, a sufficient Security to the shipping in the Harbour, and Houses on the land, I observed a certain Spot of Land from whence a Bullet shot out of a great Gun would reach the Bar, all the Channel from the Bar to the anchoring place and most part of the Harbour; Ocacock Island is an airy and healthy place abounding with excellent Fish and wild Fowl, from this Harbour there are but nine feet of Water to carry shipping to any one of the many Rivers that empty themselves into Albemarle and Pamticough Sounds.

I will endeavour to shew your Honours how North Carolina suffers for want of a better Trade, the King's Customs may be increased, clandestine Traffick prevented in a great Measure in that Province and the Commerce of Great Britain acquire some advantage.

Having already mentioned all I think requisite to be altered in regard to the Collection on Cape Fear River I think it may not be improper in this place to inform you, that the Collection at Beaufort is in the most convenient place of the whole district belonging thereunto and requires no Alteration or Regulation except as to Neus River, which in my Opinion by no means ought to be a part of it.

The Trade of North Carolina is now and has always been carryed on chiefly by the Merchants and Store Keepers of Virginia and the people of New England (Cape Fear River and parts ajacent excepted) a small number of Vessels sail from thence directly from [and] to Great Britain, the Sugar and other Islands, it will not be difficult to compute the value of such Goods as are entered for Exportation in any one or number of years by examining the Collectors accounts but there is no knowing what Quantities of Tobacco are carried because the Masters ship it after they have cleared with the Collectors; upon a certain Occasion I once made a computation, what the value of the Cattle, Hogs, Goods and Merchandizes of all Sorts that went yearly out of North Carolina into Virginia might amount to after much enquiry I estimated the whole at fifty Thousands Pounds: Last Janry twelve months being in Virginia with several merchants who carried on a Commerce with the people of North Carolina, and discoursing on this subject some of them assured me I fell short a sixth part in my Computation; It is certain the Inhabitants

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of North Carolina loose the value of half their Goods by trading with the people of Virginia and New England; It is a great misfortune to the people of North Carolina that they buy and sell at the second hand; notwithstanding their Country is better situated for Commerce than either Virginia or New England, it has three good Ports on the sea (the depth of water at each may be seen in the Draughts I ordered to be made by the King's command) to which the produce of the whole Country for Exportation may be brought in small vessels; Althō North Carolina is many degrees nearer the Sugar Islands than New England yet Pork, Corn, Pulse & c: are carried from North Carolina to New England and from thence to the said Islands. I proposed a means to the Assembly of North Carolina to increase their trade to Great Britain and the Sugar Islands by putting the ships that came from thence on the same footing with those whose Owners lived in the Country, who only are exempted from paying an Imposition of three shillings and fourpence Tonnage on each vessel but I could not prevail with the obstinate Assembly Men to act for their own Interest. No Negroes are brought directly from Guinea to North Carolina, the Planters are obliged to go into Virginia and South Carolina to purchase them where they pay a duty on each Negroe or buy the refuse distempered or refractory Negroes brought into the Country from New England and the Islands which are sold at excessive Rates.

For the Reasons already given and others which will be added, it is probable your Honrs may be of Opinion that the settling of a Collection on Ocacock Island for that part of North Carolina, which now includes the Collections of Currituck, Roanoak, Bath Town and part of Beaufort is proper for His Majesty's service and necessary for the improvement of Trade in that poor Country; If a Collection is settled at Ocacock it will be difficult to bring into that part of the Province any prohibited goods, or carry out innumerated Commodities, or Tobacco without paying the Kings Duty, because all Vessels that come down from the Rivers, or sail in from sea are to be seen long time before they enter the Harbour; for want of a direct Trade to the Sugar Islands and other places where the markets are proper to sell provisions, ten thousand fat Oxen and fifty thousand Hogs are computed to be drove yearly into Virginia from North Carolina and sold or bartered away to great disadvantage. If a Port is settled on Ocacock Island a Town will soon be built which will become in a little time a place of great commerce; the produce of that part of North Carolina which includes Neus River and extends to Virginia is sufficient to load two hundred ships and Sloops yearly to Europe and the Islands. I think it would be better for the Merchants here to

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carry on that part of the Trade of North Carolina which is now in the Hands of New England Men, it would be much more Advantageous and profitable to the Planters in North Carolina if the Goods there produced proper to be sold in the Sugar Islands &c: were carried thither directly, and the returns brought back in the same manner, they would then obtain double what they get for their Commodities besides large [numbers] of Negroes would be sent to Ocacock and the Sellers find a ready market. When the Trade of North Carolina is in a proper Regulation and Management that Province will become beneficial to Great Britain it being capable of great improvement and may be in Condition to purchase considerable Quantities of English Manufactures.

Many other reasons may be given for sinking the Collections of Roanoak, Bath Town and Currituck and setting up a new one at Ocacock to serve instead of the three but I believe my paper is already of too great a length. I am

With very great Respect &c.

London 20th July 1736.