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JACK THOMPSON TO S. BURLING.
St. Eustatia, April 13, 1776.
SIR: I wrote you the 9th instant via Maryland, to the care of Mr. Clement Biddle, Merchant, in Philadelphia, in whose hands I begged you long since to keep letters for me, as he would have more frequent opportunities to forward them than you from New-York; they having four pilot-boats in this trade, and they outsail every ship they meet with.
The sloop Wharton and Captain Porter are out, from this, nine weeks; no account of them. David Morris and two others, who sailed three weeks after them, are safe arrived in Philadelphia. Am very uneasy about Mount, and still I am very certain he was not taken in the West-Indies. We have daily advices from most of the Islands; but in case she is arrived, and not in your power to send her out again with safety, (which I should be very sorry for,) in that case, you and T. G. must be mindful of the remittance, and believe it would be as easy to make from Philadelphia, if not more so, than from New-York. The merchants there have large sums owing them at St. Kitts and Antigua, and the factors want to remit; and T. & A. no doubt would think hard of a disappointment, particularly at this time, when they have fathered so many American vessels, and they all want cash.
I apprehend you will have a warm summer, as all the troops have quitted Boston for New- York; and the preparation you are making, I hope, will enable you to give them a warm reception. I am astonished the merchants at New-York, Philadelphia, and other places on the Continent, do not fit out privateers as in last war, with commissions from Congress, to take all vessels coming from, or going to, Europe, from any part of the world whatever, as English bottoms. The Admiral has given two commissions at Antigua and one at Dominica, to vessels fitted out by the merchants and planters, to take all American vessels they can meet with; and I must say, I do wish the Americans would return the compliment. If two or more privateers were once to appear in the West-Indies, all kinds of produce, particularly sugar and rum, would fall twenty-five per cent.
Since we had advice of the fleet sailing from Philadelphia, the shippers to Europe offer ten per cent, against American privateers only, and many of the merchants who have written for insurance, expect to be disappointed.
By a vessel from Madeira, we are advised that three outward-bound Indiamen were laying there, waiting for convoy, with large quantities of wine on board; and I am very well convinced if a few privateers were sent into these seas, it would prevent any sugars being shipped this season, they are so damnably frightened since these few vessels sailed from Philadelphia.
Twenty-nine sail of transports under convoy passed here last Saturday, from Antigua, with troops and stores for the Army that was at Boston. Rum is very plenty in every Island, eighteen and twenty pence per gallon. The transports have taken in a large quantity at St. Kitts and Antigua, which kept the price at two shillings and six pence. Lumber is forty pounds per thousand; and in making sugar-hogsheads, every second stave is made out of boards brought from Egg-Harbour, and they will not have hogsheads for rum nor molasses; and the Congress would do right to forbid any lumber being shipped from any part of the Continent. And a few privateers to windward, to pick up the Irish vessels with beef and pork, would be the plan; and twenty or thirty sugar-ships convoyed in safety to any part of America, would be glorious prizes; and then to sell the cargoes on reasonable terms, would enable the Congress to carry on a war for seven years, if their vessels were constantly kept cruising. I am very well convinced every English Island in the West-Indies would be ruined in three years; and you may be assured if some such plan is not adopted by the Congress, America is ruined. The Army at Boston is constantly supplied with bread, flour, wine, rum, molasses, gin, beef, and pork, from the West-India Islands, and that will continue to be the case, let the Army go where they will, unless they receive a check from the privateers.
The great Mr. Burk, who was taken last winter going into Boston with a cargo of rum and sugar, has returned to Antigua, and is now fitting and loading three vessels for the same purpose. I am exceedingly sorry he made his escape, or was suffered to leave the Continent, as he is concerned in the two privateers that are fitted out there.
No beef nor pork in market; butter, six pounds twelve shillings per firkin; tobacco, five pounds per cwt.; rice, forty shillings; corn, sixteen shillings; pease, none; flour, twelve pounds per barrel, and plenty; hams, eighteen pence per pound; cheese, eighteen pence; sheep and poultry, any price you will please to ask.
My compliments to friend Helm and family, Captain Rutgers, and others.
To Mr. S. Burling, New-York.
EDMUND RANDOLPH TO VIRGINIA COMMITTEE OF SAFETY.
Williamsburgh, April 13, 1776.
SIR: It distresses me much that I should be obliged to refuse the distinction intended for me by the Congress, in their appointment of me to the office of Mustermaster for this District. The citizens of Williamsburgh having elected me to represent them in Convention, and an ordinance excludes all persons holding any military post of profit from a seat therein, I cannot desert them without the highest violation of gratitude. I must, therefore, entreat you, sir, to transmit these my reasons for not entering upon the duties of the above office, to the Congress, and my sincere acknowledgments for the favour.
I am, sir, with esteem and respect, your most obedient servant,
To the President of the Committee of Safety.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF VIRGINIA.
MY COUNTRYMEN: The fears of many lest we should not be able to provide sufficient funds for the support of an expensive war, has been the reason why they have been so reluctant to break that connection with Britain which has been the source of so many evils, and may probably incline them to spend that time in negotiation which they ought to employ in action; but a little attention to the advantages that we shall derive from unrestrained commerce, may dissipate their fears, and point out to them an ample compensation for all the expenses, the dangers, and the toils of the war. I shall only produce the trade of this Colony as an example; with which you are best acquainted. This has hitherto been almost wholly managed by foreigners, and in foreign bottoms; and will be so again, if, by any negotiation, our enemies can betray or bribe us to an accommodation on their own principles. You are without merchants, ships, seamen, or ship-builders; and thus want several very abundant sources of wealth, as well as nurseries of arts, and of numerous useful subjects to the State. Your trade is confined to a single spot on the globe, in the hands of the natives of a distant Island, who fix the market of all commodities at their pleasure, and we may be very sure will rate yours at the lowest, and their own at the highest prices, they will in any conscience bear. Every article of merchandise, that is not the produce of Britain, must first pay its duties to the Crown, perhaps must be increased in the price a very large advance per cent there, and then be reexported to Virginia, and undergo an additional advance of seventy-five, and sometimes near one hundred and fifty per cent here. This disadvantage is felt much more sensibly by those who are acquainted with the trade of the Northern Colonies, where they are not altogether so shamefully gulled as we have been from the first plantation of this Colony. You can there buy linens and broadcloths from the retail merchants at the same price your factors here tell you they obtain them at prime cost in Britain. By this means you fairly lose seventy-five pounds currency on every one hundred pounds sterling worth of merchandise you import from Great Britain that is not native to that country. If we suppose your imports from thence annually to amount to seven hundred thousand pounds sterling, (which can be no extravagant supposition,) and suppose upon one half of that sum you lose in the proportion which I have already mentioned, there will be lost two hundred and sixty-two thousand five hundred pounds per annum, which might be saved by a free and independent trade; or, to be sure that we are within bounds, fix it at two hundred thousand pounds.