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Letter from Arthur Dobbs to the Board of Trade of Great Britain
Dobbs, Arthur, 1689-1765
January 04, 1755
Volume 05, Pages 314-320

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 12. C. 54.]

My Lords [of the Board of Trade]

By my 128th Instruction I am commanded to lay before your Lordships the Wants & Defects of the Province, the chief Products, what new Improvements are made or may be made by the Industry of the Planters or what Advantages may be made by trade, and which way his Majesty may contribute thereto.

What I have chiefly observed since I came here as to the wants & Defects of this Province is first the want of a sufficient Number of Clergymen to instil good principals and Morality into the Inhabitants, & proper Schoolmasters to instruct their Youth, the want of which occasions an Indolence & want of Attention to their own good, which with

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the warmth of the climate & plenty they have of Cattle & fruit without Labour, prevents their Industry, by which Means the Price of Labour is very high, and the Artificers and Labourers being scarce in comparison to the number of Planters, when they are employed they wont work half, scarce the third part of work in a Day of what they do in Europe, and their wages being from 2 Shillings to 3, 4, & 5 Shillings per diem this Currency, the Planters are not able to go on with Improvements in building or clearing their Lands, and unless they are very industrious to lay up as much as can purchase 2 or 3 Negros, they are no ways able to cultivate their Lands as Your Lordships expect and consequently the Clause of Cultivation must be lessened or relaxed, and only be kept as a Rod over them to prompt them to be industrious, and therefore young or new Planters could not venture to take up Lands, and those who are rich can't get hands to assist them to cultivate, until they can buy Slaves and teach them some handicraft Trades But as all the chief Planters now are sensible of their wants and Difficulties, the Assembly is determined to give a proper Encouragement to learned and pious Clergymen and to encourage Schools; but am of Opinion it wou'd be of great Service to his Majesty & to Britain and great Satisfaction to the Inhabitants, if a Bishop was appointed or a Clergyman with Episcopal power to confirm the Youth, to visit & keep the Clergy to their Duty, and to concur in putting the Laws in Execution by removing them it convicted by a Jury of any gross Immorality, non Residence or Inattention to their Cure, and to put Persons qualified into orders, without the Expense trouble & Delay of going to be ordained and licensed by the Bishop of London, without giving them any other Judicial power spiritual Courts as in Britain, which only occasions Rancour and Divisions between the Bishops & Laity in Britain, and that the Power of Excommunication for enormous Immoralities shou'd only extend to their being only secluded from the Rites of the Christian Church, without any Civil Incapacities Fines & Penalties, have been inflicted by the popish Church to raise the Power of the Clergy another Defect of the Province is the defenceless State of the sea Coast, and Want of a sufficient Depth of Water for large Ships to carry away Lumber in the Northern Part of this Colony, the River of Cape Fear being the only River capable of receiving Ships of considerable Burthen by having a Tide to carry them up a great way into the Country, the Rivers of Chowan Roannocks, Pamplico & Neuse being very large and defended from the Violence of the Sea by a Chain of Islands which run almost from the Capes of Virginia to Topsail Inlet, and even as far as new River thro which there are only a few narrow Inlets, Currituck not having above six feet Water,
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Roannock not above 10 or 12 often less by shifting sands Stattera [Hatteras] often closed up, and Ocacock only having a Depth of Water upon the Bar of about 16 Feet at high Water sufficient to bring in Ships to a safe Road, but having no Tides through these narrow Inlets, and great Freshes within from these great Rivers, a Swath or loose Sand is form'd within the Islands upon which there is not above 8 or 9 feet water which often shifts, therefore no Vessel of Burthen can pass it until they discharge Cargo, and can only return again half loaded, & have the Remainder sent down in Lighters, Sloops, or Periaquas and during last War for want of a fort to defend the Entrance, the Privateers seeing the Masts of Ships within over the low sandy Islands went frequently in and cut out the ships from the Harbours, or rode within and carried them to sea; Topsail Inlet or Core Sound is a very safe Harbour with deep Water and no Bar, but having no navigable River within no considerable Trade can be carried on from thence, and as there is an extream fine but small Harbour with a good large safe Road found lately at Cape Look Out, which the French and Spanish Privateers found out, and frequented last War which lies within a few hours of Sail of Ocacock Northward & Cape Fear to Southward and almost within Sight of Topsail Inlet, there is an absolute Necessity of building a fort there, as well for a Safety for our Merchants & small Cruisers, as to prevent our Enemies from lying there in safety; but as there is a sum of Money in Bank to erect forts there & at Ocacock, and one already built at Cape Fear, and the Colony very poor and in Debt, it is humbly hoped that his Majesty will place an independent Company upon Establishment of 100 Men for this Province, not only to garrison these forts and one on our Frontier but also to assist the Revenue Officers to prevent an illicit Trade and to assist, if necessary, the surveyors to resurvey his Majesty's Lands in order to prevent Frauds in the Receipt of the Quit Rents.

The chief Products at Present in this Colony are Pitch, Tar, Turpentine, and other naval stores, Lumber of all kinds, Rice, Indian Corn, Pork, Beef, Hydes, Deer Skins & furs, Bees and Myrtle wax, Cotton, Indigo, which they are now enter'd upon wth great Spirit, as finding it from what has been tried to be equal to any in America, and all the back Lands, and other rich Lands near the sea Coast it thrives in to Admiration; The Climate is extremely proper for silk, Mulberry Trees from the seed become Trees in 3 or 4 years, Wines may be had higher up in the Country among the Hills near the Mountains, where there is a great Variety of native Grapes, which yield rich wines, which only want proper Vine Dressers to improve them Iron Mines also abound in the upper Countries and some of the upper Planters intend to erect Bloomeries

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or Forges. Hemp & Flax grow surprizeingly and flax seed has been exported by the way of Pensylvania from hence to Ireland, which has been found to exceed the best Pensylvania & New York Seed, but for want of a direct Trade to Ireland from hence being confined in our Exports, prevents the raising of Flax here, except for the Consumption of the Colony, which for want of having Returns to send to Britain and Ireland, all the back settlers are running into to serve themselves with their own Linnen; Besides these several Articles Tobacco wou'd thrive here and is of a better kind and yields more than in Virginia, but as that Article is rather over stocked, and wou'd prejudice the Trade of that Colony we give no Encouragement here none except the Planters on the Virginia Line and Roannock and Chowan being embarked in it as far as 2000 Hogsheads.

There are no Manufactures set up here but one or two Families who make a few ill made coarse hats, and some of the Irish back Settlers beginning to the Linnen.

I shall now beg Leave to lay before your Lordships the Difficulties we ly under in this Province in Relation to our Trade, which is a great Drawback upon our Improvements, and hope to make it appear to be equally so to Britain.

The Prohibition of the Trade of Salt from all Parts of Europe except Britain, to this & the southern Provinces on the Continent South of Cape Henlopen or Delaware is a considerable Drawback upon our Trade the English Salt is not found so good, as the French, Spanish or Portuguese in curing our Pork & Beef being too mild and the Isle of May Salt Tatuga & Turks Island Salt are too corrosive, eating away the Juices but the Bay and Portugal Salt is a Medium between them and found here the only proper Salt to cure Pork and Beef for the sugar Islands And therefore the Enumeration and Limitation of this Trade obliges us to take that Salt at great Disadvantage from New York and Pensylvania at double freight and a further advanced Price to the Northern Importers, so that no more salt is taken from England by the Restriction; But if the Trade was open'd from hence to Portugal and Spain directly for salt & Wine which we can have only from Madeira or the Azores Islands upon which Account the Wines are risen to a great Price in England as well as here, we shou'd open an immediate Trade with Portugal and Spain for their Wine and Salt and shou'd carry to them all kinds of Lumber, Indian Corn, Bees wax Ships, and Naval Stores, which they now take from foreigners and have some Return in Bullion for to make Returns directly to Britain for the choice Manufacture we must have from thence, when at present they cost the planters here near

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100 per cent advance, having no Returns for Britain, but at a Loss of above 30 per cent Discount, giving often 60 per cent to procure Bills; this must necessarily oblige the Planters & back settlers to go into Manufactures to the great Loss of Britain

We are also greatly cramp'd in our trade to Ireland, having little or nothing we can send from hence there except a little flax seed, for Lumber will not answer without an Assortment of other Produce from hence so that Ships coming from Ireland must return empty; upon this Account we are prevented from raising of flax, and what flax seed has been sent as a Specimen to Ireland we have been obliged to ship from Pensylvania or New York, to be carried from thence, which upon Tryal has been found to answer better in Ireland than any Seed from the Baltick, or Northern Colonies the Trade from Ireland being also limited to Linnens and Provisions, which we don't want, and to Servants and Irish Protestants who choose to come to reside in this Climate, the Ships for want of Returns carry them all generally to Pensylvania from whence at a great Expence they come by Land in Waggons to the Province, but their Wealth being expended they are incapable of improving or cultivating the Lands they take up for sometime which is a great Loss to this Colony. The depriving therefore these Southern Colonies of sending most of the innumerated Commodities directly to Ireland being obliged to enter every Ship first in England and to land & reship their Goods, inhances the Price so much without Benefit to England that very little of the Produce from hence can be sold in Ireland and they are obliged to take all they want with ready Money from Norway to the Baltick; Thus it stands as to naval Stores, Masts, Yards, Bowsprits, Tar, Pitch, Turpentine Rice, Indigo, &c As to Rice it seems very surprising that it shou'd be allowed to go to all Countries South of Cape Finisterre and not allowed to be carried to Ireland at least for their own Consumption; by which Means I don't believe 5 Tons is carried in a year from Britain to Ireland; If it was only intended to prevent its being exported again from Ireland to Hambro' or the Baltick that might be easily prevented by not allowing it to be re-exported from Ireland, only by its not having a Drawback; nor can I find any Benefit to Britain that Pitch, Tar, Turpentine, Masts, Yards, & Bowsprits, shou'd not be exported from hence directly to Ireland without a Premium, since it occasions all those Articles as also Timbers and Deals to be imported into Ireland from Norway and the Baltick with ready Money from Ireland, whereas if sent from these Colonies the Cash wou'd be saved at home by our remitting by Irish Bills to England or Cash from thence to answer the Payment of the rich Manufacturers we have from England, not one of these

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Articles can now be carried from hence to Ireland, for if a Tun of these enumerated Commodities shou'd be taken on board and landed there without carrying and entring the ship in Britain, the Ship & Cargo wou'd be forfeited, & therefore no Ship can go from hence to Ireland with Staves or Lumber because they can't carry a small Assortment of these inumerated Goods.

If these Difficulties were removed, then we shou'd have an immediate Trade with Ireland for our Produce, and take Linnens in Return and be able to make Remittances to England for their Manufactures, which would entirely prevent these Colonies from manufacturing Linnens, or entring into other Manufactures; It is also the same with Indigo, Ireland is now obliged to take these commodities from foreigners wth ready Money which then they wou'd get, for their Linnens. These are things so obvious when thought of, that I am surprised these confining Laws shou'd not be repealed, or allowed of under proper Restrictions;—As we have no Cacao Nuts of our own growth in the Islands, I think the Prohibition of importing these Nuts from the Spanish or Dutch Settlements can be of no Advantage to Britain or our Colonies, since if allowed at a moderate Duty might open some Trade on the Spanish Coast, or with the Dutch, which might bring us some Return in Bullion, and at present it is run, and brought chiefly from the French by the Neutral Islands, Eustatia, St Thomas, or Sta Cruz; wch wou'd be a further Vent to our Lumber & provisions These several Articles I lay before Your Lordships for your consideration but think until these points can be properly considered, that the Limitation of Portuguese and Spanish Salt & Wines as also from the Streights shou'd be immediately laid before the Parliament, as also the taking off the Exportation of naval Stores Rice & Indigo to Ireland, for England can gain nothing at present by the Restriction, as no Rice is imported into Ireland, and what Indigo goes from England to Ireland after receiving the prconciem in England is a Loss to England and an unnecessary Expence to Ireland, by obliging them to buy French Indigo at a higher Price than from our own Colonies; If your Lordships approve of these Observations the Agents for these Southern Provinces will chearfully prepare Petitions on behalf of these Colonies to be laid before the Parliament a Memorial to the Purpose I inclose with this to your Lordships, and a very short Bill wou'd repeal these restraining Laws, as far as may be found proper, with proper Restrictions, and they wou'd not only enable the Colonies to be at a further Expense in securing their frontiers, but add to their zeal in supporting the Rights & Commerce of Britain.

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These Observations I beg leave to lay before Your Lordships, as I think they are of great Consequence to the Trade of Britain, and the Colonies and submit them to your Lordships superior Judgement I am with the greatest Respect My Lords, &c.,

ARTHUR DOBBS.

Newbern 4th Janry 1755.


Additional Notes for Electronic Version: A list of taxables was enclosed with this letter - See Related Documents.