The Economy of Maryland in the 1660's

SOURCE: George Alsop, "Upon Trafique, and what Merchandizing Commodities this Province affords, also how Tobacco is planted and made fit for Commerce"; from George Alsop, A Character of the Province of Maryland, 1666, ch. iv; In Clayton Colman Hall (ed.), Narratives of Early Maryland, 1633-1684 (New York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1910), 363-4.

The three main commodities this country affords for traffic, are tobacco, furs, and flesh. Furs and skins, as beavers, otters, musk-rats, racoons, wild-cats, and elk or buffalo, with diverse others, which were first made vendible by the Indians of the country, and sold to the inhabitant, and by them to the merchant, and so transported into England and other places where it becomes most commodious.

tobacco is the only solid staple commodity of this province. The use of it was first found out by the Indians many ages ago, and transferred into Christendom by that great Discoverer of America, Columbus. It's generally made by all the inhabitants of this province, and between the months of March and April they sow the seed (which is much smaller than mustard-seed) in small beds and patches digged up and made so by art, and about May the plants commonly appear green in those beds. In June they are transplanted from their beds, and set in little hillocks in distant rows. Dug up for the same purpose; some twice or thrice they are weeded, and succoured from their illegitimate Leaves that would be peeping out from the body of the stalk. They top the several plants as they find occasion in their predominating rankness. About the middle of September they cut the tobacco down, and carry it into houses, (made for that purpose) to bring it to its purity. And after it has attained, by a convenient attendance upon time, to its perfection, it is then tied up in bundles, and packed into hogsheads, and then laid by for the trade.

Between November and January there arrives in this province shipping to the number of twenty sail and upwards, all merchantmen loaded with commodities to traffic and dispose of, trucking with the planter for silks, hollands, serges, and broad-clothes, with other necessary Goods, prized at such and such rates as shall be judged on is fair and legal, for tobacco at so much the pound, and advantage on both sides considered; the planter for his work, and the merchant for adventuring himself and his commodity into so far a country. Thus is the trade on both sides drove on with a fair and honest decorum.

The inhabitants of this Province are seldom or never put to the affrightment of being robbed of their money, nor to dirty their fingers by telling of vast sums. They have more bags to carry corn, then coin; and though they want, but why should I call that a want which is only a necessary miss? The very effects of the dirt of this province affords as great a profit to the general inhabitant, as the gold of Peru doth to the straight-breecbt commonalty of the Spaniard.

Our shops and exchanges of Mary-Land, are the merchant's storehouses, where with few words and protestations goods are bought and delivered; not like those sbop-keepers boys in London, that continually cry, "What do ye lack Sir? What do ye buy?," yelping with so wide a mouth, as if some apothecary had hired their mouths to stand open to catch gnats and vagabond flies in.

Tobacco is the current coin of Mary-Land, and will sooner purchase commodities from the merchant, than money. I must confess the New England men that trade into this province, had rather have fat pork for their goods, than tobacco or furs, . . .

Medera wines, sugars, salt, wicker-cbairs, and tin candlesticks, is the most of the commodities they bring in. They arrive in Mary-Land about September, being most of them ketcbes and barks, and such small vessels, and those dispersing themselves into several small creeks of this province, to sell and dispose of their commodities, where they know the market is most fit for their small adventures.

Barbados, together with the several adjacent islands, has much provision yearly from this province. . . .