The Economies of the British North American Colonies in 1763

SOURCE: American Husbandry (London, 1775), 1, 256-7, 124-5, 181-2, 89-91;

To shew the vast importance of these colonies [Virginia and Maryland] to Great Britain, it will be necessary to lay before the reader the last accounts of their exports [1763?], from which we shall also see what proportion their common husbandry bears to their tobacco.

CommoditiesQuantity and PriceValue (£)
Tobacco 96,000 hogsheads, at £8 768,000
Indian corn, beans, pease, &c 30,000
Wheat 40,000 quarters, at 20s 40,000
Deer and other skins 25,000
Iron in bars and pigs 35,000
Sassafras, snake-root, ginseng, &c 7,000
Masts, plank, staves, turpentine, and tar 55,000
Flax-seed 7000 hogsheads, at 40 s 14,000
Pickled pork, beef, hams., and bacon 15,000
Ships built for sale 30 at 1000 1. 30,000
Hemp 1000 tons at £21 (besides 4000 tons more and 2000 of flax worked up for their own use) 21,000
Total 1,040,000

[Note: A hoghead (hhd.) is a large cask. The size might be anything between 60 and 140 gallons.]

Upon this table I must observe once more, how extremely important these colonies are to the mother country. To raise above a million sterling, the greatest part of which are true staples, and the rest necessary for the West Indies, with no fish, whale bone, oil, &c. commodities which some of the colonies have run away with from Britain, by rivalling her in her fishery-possessing no manufactures, even to such a degree that all attempts to bring the people into towns have proved vain. By manufactures, I mean those for sale; for as to private families-working wool, hemp, and flax for their own use, it is what many do all over America, and are necessitated to do, for want of money and commodities to buy them. A Colony so truly important, I say, deserves every attention from the mother country, and every encouragement to induce settlers to fix in it. . . .

I shall next lay before the reader the exports of this province [New York] as taken on an average of three years since the peace [of 1763].

CommoditiesQuantity and PriceValue (£)
Flour and biscuit 250,000 barrels, at 20s 250,000
Wheat 70,000 qrs. 70,000
Beans, pease, oats, Indian corn and other grains 40,000
Salt beef, pork, hams, bacon, and venison, 18,000
Bees wax, 30,000 lb. at Is 1,500
Tongues, butter, and cheese, 8,000
Flax seed, 7000 hhds. at 40s 14,000
Horses and live stock 17,000
Product of cultivated lands, 418,500
Timber planks, masts, boards, staves, and shingles 25,000
Pot ash, 7000 hhds. 14,000
Ships built for sale, 20, at £700 14,000
Copper ore, and iron in bars and pigs 20,000
Original Total£526,000
Corrected Total£[491,500]

Let me upon this table observe, that far the greater part of this export is the produce.of the lands including timber; and even the metals may be reckoned in the same class; this shews us that agriculture in New York is of such importance as to support the most considerable part of the province without the assistance of either the fishery or of commerce;. not that the city of New York has not traded largely, perhaps equal to Boston, but the effects of that trade have been chiefly the introduction of money by the means of barter, besides the exportation of their own products: whereas New England's exports consist five parts in six of fish, and the other products of the fishery; a strong proof that agriculture is far more profitable in one country, than in the other; for settlers in colonies will never take to the sea., in a country whose agriculture yields well; but in very bad climates, and such as destroy instead of cherishing the products of the earth, any branch of industry pays better than cultivating the earth. . . .

Before I conclude this chapter, I shall insert a table of the exports of the province [Pennsylvania].

CommoditiesQuantity and PriceValue (£)
Biscuit flour 350,000 barrels, at 20s £350,000
Wheat 100,000 qrs. at 20s 100,000
Beans, pease, oats, Indian corn, and other grain 12,000
Salt beef, pork, hams, bacon, and venison 45,000
Bees wax, 20,000 lb. at 1s 1,000
Tongues, butter, and cheese 10,000
Deer, and sundry other sorts of skins 50,000
Live stock and horses 20,000
Flax seed 15,000 hhds. at 40s 30,000
Timber plank, masts, boards, staves, and shingles 35,000
Ships built for sale 25, at £700 17,500
Copper ore, and iron in pigs and bars 35,000
Total £705,500

Upon this account I must observe, that far the greatest part is the cultivated produce of the land; which is the very contrary to New England, whose lands yield nothing to export. In proportion to this circumstance, is the value of a colony, for it is the nature of colonization, that the people ought, on first principles, to support themselves by agriculture alone. Wheat appears to be the grand export of this province: that, and other articles of food, amount to above half a million, which is a vast sum of money to export regularly, besides feeding every rank of people in the utmost plenty; but of late years this has risen to much more, for wheat, instead of being at 20s. a. quarter, is at above 30s. No circumstance in the world can be more strong, in proof of the temperature, moderation and healthiness of the climate, than this of exporting such quantities of wheat, which throughout the globe, thrives nowhere in climates insalubrious to mankind: . . .

I shall conclude this account, with a table of the exports of this province [Massachusetts] since the peace [of 1763].

CommoditiesQuantity and PriceValue (£)
Cod-fish dried 10,000 tons, at £10 £1007000
Whale and cod-oil 8500 tons, at £15 127,500
Whale-bone 28 tons, at £300 8,400
Pickled mackerel and shads 15,000 barrels at 20s 15,000
Masts, boards, staves, shingles, &c 75,000
Ships about 70 sail, at £700 497000
Turpentine, tar, and pitch, 1500 barrels, at 8s 600
Horses, and live stock 37,000
Pot-ash 14,000 barrels, at 50s 35,000
Pickled beef and pork 19,000 barrels, at 30s 28,500
Bees-wax, and sundries. 9,000
Total £485,000

Upon this table I must observe, that the fishery amounts to £250,900 of it; or rather more than half the total, which sbews what a great proportion of the people of this colony are employed in it. The other half is the produce of their lands, for so both ships and pot-ash must be esteemed; Cattle and beef, pork, &c. came to £65,500 all the rest is timber or what is made of timber; this is a proportion that gives us at once a tolerable idea of the colony. We are not from hence to suppose, that the great body of the landed interests in this country has, like Canada, no other resource to purchase foreign commodities with, than this small export. The case is very different, New England enjoys a vast fishery, and a great trade, which brings in no slight portion of wealth. The most considerable commercial town in all America is in this province; and another circumstance is the increase of population. These causes operate so as to keep up a considerable circulation within the colony. Boston and the shipping are a market which enriches the country interest far more than the above mentioned export, which, for so numerous a people, is very inconsiderable. By means of this internal circulation, the farmers and country gentlemen are enabled very amply to purchase whatever tbey want from abroad.