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Report by the Martin Bladen concerning general conditions in the American colonies, including letter from Bladen to Charles Townshend, Viscount Townshend
Bladen, Martin, 1680-1746
July 05, 1726
Volume 02, Pages 625-635

[B. P. R. O. Amer: & W. Ind: Plant. Gen. No. 602.]


Hanover Square July ye 5th 1726.

My Lord,

I had the honour to promise your Lordship some time ago, that I would lay my thoughts before you at your leisure, in what manner the several Plantations on the Continent of America might be reduced under one general Government, without injustice to the present Proprietors, or further expense to the Crowne.

Your Lordship has accordingly enclosed a short Essay upon that subject, and if it has the fortune to meet with your aprobation, I have some further hints to sugest upon the same subject, which may perhaps not prove unprofitable to his Majesty's service.

I am with all possible truth and respect

My Lord
Your Lordship's most obedient and
most humble servant
M. BLADEN.
Rt Honble Lord Townshend.

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A SHORT DISCOURSE ON THE PRESENT STATE OF THE COLONIES IN AMERICA WITH RESPECT TO THE INTEREST OF GREAT BRITAIN.

INTRODUCTION.

Happy are the People whose Lot it is to be Govern'd by a Prince who does not wholly Depend upon the Representations of others; But makes it a chief part of his Delight, to inspect into the Condition of hsi Subjects according to their several Ranks and Degrees; Who from the Rectitude of his own mind distinguishes the true merit of his servants: Leaving the Liberties and Properties of his People to be equally guarded and justly defended by a practical Execution of the Laws.

The unbounded Extent of Knowledge to be daily acquired by the judicious Enquiries and Application of such a Prince; will soon abolish the use of Flattery, and the pernicious Effects of all design'd Misrepresentations; The paths of virtue and Honor with a strict adherence to Truth, will be the only avenues of access to the Sovereign's Esteem; and the Royal Favours in such a Reign will ever be agreeably dispens'd in proportion to the usefull Conduct, and true merit of the Party.

So great an Example from the Throne will doubtless inspire every honest Breast with a better share of Public Spirit; Mens thoughts will not then be so intent on what they can get for themselves, as on what they can do for their Country: And for such parts of the Prince's Prerogative & Executive Power, as necessarily must be Intended with Ministers; They will ever be thought an Advantage & Security to a Nation. While the Conduct of the Ministry principally shines in the support of Liberty, which cannot fail to gain the Hearts and Affections of a Free People.

When either by Conquest or Increase of People, Forreign Provinces are posses'd & Colonies planted abroad, it is convenient & often necessary to substitute little dependent Provincial Governments, whose people by being infranchized, and made partakers of the Liberties and Priviledges belonging to the Original Mother State, are justly bound by its Laws, and become subservient to its Interests as the true End of their Incorporation.

Every Act of a Dependent Provincial Governmt therefore, ought to Terminate in the Advantage of the Mother State, unto whom it owes it's being and by whom it is protected, in all its valuable priviledges: Hence it follows that all advantageous Projects or Commercial Gains in any Colony which are truly prejudicial to, and inconsistent with the Interest

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of the Mother State; must be understood to be illegal, and the Practice of them unwarrantable, because they contradict the End for which the Colony had a Being, and are incompatible with the Terms on which the People claim, both Priviledge and protection.

Were these things rightly understood amongst the Inhabitants of the British Colonies in America, there would be less occasion for such Instructions, and strict prohebitions, as are daily sent from England to regulate their Conduct in many Points; The very nature of the thing would be sufficient to direct their choice in cultivating such parts of Industry & Commerce only, as would bring some advantage to the Interest and Trade of Great Britain: They would soon find by experience that this was the solid and true Foundation whereon to build a real Interest in their Mother Country and the certain means to acquire Riches without Envy.

On the other hand where the Government of a Provincial Colony is well regulated, and all its Business and Commerce truly adapted, to the proper End and Designs of the first Settlement; such a Province like a choice Branch springing from the main Root, ought to be carefully nourished and its just Interests well guarded; No little partial Project or Party Gain should be suffer'd to affect it, but rather it ought to be consider'd & weighed in the General Ballance of the whole State, as an usefull and profitable member; For such is the end of all Colonies, and if this use cannot be made of them it would be much better for the State to be without them.

It has ever been the Maxim of all polite Nations to regulate their Government to the best advantage of their Trading Interest; wherefore it may be helpfull to take a short View of the principall Benefits arising to Great Britain by the Trade of the Colonies

1mo. The Colonies take off and Consume above one 6th part of the Woolen Manufactures exported from Britain; which is the chief Staple of England & main support of all the Landed Interest.

2do. They take off and Consume more than double that Value in Linnen and Colicoes which is either the product of Britain and Ireland or partly the profitable Returns made for that product carryed to Forreign Countries.

3do. The Luxury of the Colonies which increase daily consumes great Quantities of English Manufactur'd Silks, Haberdashery, Household Furniture and Trinkets of all sorts, also a very considerable Value in E: India Goods.

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4do. A great Revenue is rais'd to the Crown of Britain by Returns made in the Produce of the Plantations, especially Tobacco, which at the same time helps England to bring near'r to a Ballance their unprofitable Trade with France.

5do. These Colonies promote the Int: and Trade of Britain by a vast Increase of shipping & Seamen; which enables them to carry great Quantities of Fish to Spain, Portugal, Leghorne & a Furrz Logwood & Rice to Holland where they help Great Britain considerably in the Ballance of Trade with those Countries.

6do. If reasonably encouraged the Colonies are now in a Condition to furnish Britain with as much of the following Commodities as it can demand Vizt Masting for the Navy & all sorts of Timber, Hemp Flax, Pitch, Oyle, Rosin, Copper-Oar, with Pig & Barr-Iron by means whereof the Ballance of Trade to Russia and the Baltick, may be very much reduced in Favour of Great Britain.

7do. The Profits arising to all those Colonies by Trade is returned in Bullion, or other usefull Effects to Great Britain where the superfluous Cash and other Riches acquired in America must center; which is not one of the least Securities that Britain has to keep the Colonies alwaies in due Subjection.

8do. The Colonies upon the main are the Granary of America and a necessary support to the Sugar Plantations in the West Indies which could not subsist without them.

By this short View of the Trade in general we may plainly understand that these Colonies can be very beneficially employed, both for Grert Britain and themselves without interfearing with any of the staple Manufactures in England and considering the Bulk and End of their whole Traffick 'twere pitty that any material Branch of it should be depressed on account of private and particular Interests, which in comparison with these cannot justly be esteemed a National Concern, for if the trade of the Colonies be regulated to the advantage of Britain, there is nothing more certain than that the Discouragement of any substantial Branch for the sake of any Company or private Interest would be a loss to the Nation. But in order to set this point yet in a clearer Light we will proceed to consider some of the most obvious Regulations on the American Trade for rend'ring the Colonies truly serviceable to Great Britain.

1mo. That all the Product in the Colonies for which the Manufacture and Trade of Britain has a constant demand be enumerated among the Goods which by Law must be first transported to Britain before they can be carried to any other Market.

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2do. That every valuable Merchandize to be found in the English Colonies, and but rarely any where else & for which there is a constant demand in Europe shall also be enumerated in order to assist Great Britain in the Ballance of Trade with other Countries

3do. That all kinds of Woolen Manufactures for which the Colonies have a demand shall continue to be brought from Britain only, & Linnen from Great Britain and Ireland.

4do. All other kind of European Commodities to be carry'd to the Colonies (salt excepted) entry thereof first to be made in Britain before they can be transported to any of the English Colonies.

5do. The Colonies to be absolutely restrained in their several Governments, from laying any manner of Duties on Shipping or Trade from Europe or upon European goods transported from one Colony to another.

6do. That the Acts of Parliament relating to the Trade & Government of the Colonies be revised and collected into one distinct Body of Laws, for the use of the Plantations, and such as Trade with them.

Supposing these things to be done, it will evidently follow that the more Extensive the Trade of the Colonies is, the greater will be the advantages accruing to Great Britain therefrom and consequently that the Enlargement of the Colonies, and the encrease of their People would still be an addition to the national strength, all smaller Improvements therefore pretended unto, and sett up by lesser Societies, for private Gain in Great Brittain or elsewhere, althō they might have a just pretence to bring some sort of Publick Benefit along with them, yet if they shall appear to be hurtfull to the much greater and National concern of these Trading usefull Colonies, they ought in justice to the Publick to be neglected in Favour of them: It being an unalterable Maxim, that a lesser publick good must give place to a greater, and that it is of more moment to maintain a greater than a lesser number of subjects well employed to the advantage of any State.

From what has been said of the nature of Colonies and the Restrictions that ought to be laid on their Trade, it is plain that none of the English Plantations in America can with any Reason or good sence pretend to claim an absolute legislative power within themselves; so that lett their several Constitutions be founded on Antient Charters, Royal Patents Custom by prescription, or what other legal authority you please, yet still they cannot be possesed of any rightfull capacity to contradict or evade the true Intent and force of any Act of Parliament wherewith the wisdom of Great Brittain may think fitt to affect them from time to time, and in discoursing on their legislative powers (improperly so called

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in a dependent Government) we are to consider them only as so many Corporations at a distance, invested with an ability to make temporary By Laws for themselves agreeable to their respective Scituations and Climates, but no ways interfering with the legal Prerogative of the Crown, or the true Legislative Power of the Mother State.

If the Governors and generall assemblies of the several colonies would be pleased to consider themselves in this light, one would think it was impossible they could be so weak to fancy that they represented the King Lords and Commons of Great Britain, within their little districts, and indeed the useless or rather hurtful & inconsistent Constitution of a Negative Councill in all the Kings Provincial Governments has it is believed contributed to lead them into this mistake, For so long as the King has reserved to himself his Privy Councill the Consideration of, and a Negative upon all their Laws, the method of appointing a few of the richest and proudest men in a small Colony as an upper house with a negative on the Proceedings of the King's Lieutenant Governor, and the peoples Representatives seems not only to cramp the natural Liberty of the Subject there, but also the Kings just Power and prerogative, for it often happens that very reasonable and good Bills sometimes proposed for the benefit of the Crown by the wisdom of a good Governor and at other times offered by the peoples representatives in behalf of their Constituents have been lost and the enacting of such made impracticable by the obstancy of a majority in the Councill. only because such things did not square with their private particular Interest and Gain or with the views which they form to themselves by assuming an imaginary dignity and rank above all the rest of the Kings Subjects and as to the Security which it is pretended that either the Crown or a Proprietary may have by such a Negative Council, it is in fact quite otherwise, for that caution would be much better secured if this Councill was only a Councill of State to advise with the Covernor & be constant Witnesses of all Publick Transactions, and it cannot be thought that an Officer who is not only under Oaths and Bonds, but answerable by Law for his misdeeds and removeable at pleasure, would in the face of Witnesses so appointed contradict a rational advice thereby subjecting himself to Grievous Penalties and Losses, neither is it to be supposed that these men, if they had only the Priviledge of advising, would oppose such good Bills or other reasonable Propositions as they well knew they had no legal power to reject but while they find themselves possess'd of a peremtory Negative without being in any sort accountable for their opinions it is easy to imagine how such a power may be used on many occasions to serve their

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private Interest and Views in Trade, as well as to indulge the too natural propensity which mankind have especially abroad, to rule over and oppress their poor Neighbours; besides an Artfull corrupt Governor will find means by Preferments &c: so to influence a negative Councill, that knowing themselves to be under no Bonds or any other valuable penalty to answer the party aggrieved by their Opinions, they may without risque proceed in such a manner as to screen the Governor in many things which otherwise he would be personally & singly bound to account for in a legal and just way.

If then a Councill of State only to advise with the Governor shall appear in all Emergencies & Cases, that can be proposed to be equally usefull, and not attended with the Inconsistancies obstructions and disadvantages of a Negative Councill the one seems to be much preferable to the other and more agreeable to the Liberty & just Equality which is established by the Common Law amongst Englishmen and consequently less productive of those Grievances and Complaints which have been so frequent hitherto from the Plantations.

At first View it will appear natural enough for an Englishman who has tasted the sweetness of that freedom which is enjoyed under the happy Constitution of King Lords and Commons in Great Britain, to imagine that a third part should be formed in the little Governments of the Plantations in imitation of the House of Lords. But if we rightly consider it, that part of the Constitution is already most properly and fully supply'd by the Lords of his Majesty's Privy Council. Besides let us suppose that instead of a House of Lords in Britain the like number of select Commoners were invested with a power to sit apart, and to put a Negative upon the proceedings of the House of Commons consisting of three times the number of Persons of equal rank and representing all the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament, the Inconsistancy and unreasonableness of the thing does presently obtrude itself upon our minds and yet such is the very case of that Negative which is now practiced by the Councils in America.

Next to the Legislative power we shall proceed to consider the Civil Jurisdiction in the Plantations which by their own Acts is branch'd out into so many different Forms, almost in each Colony that it is scarce practicable to reduce them under such heads in any one discourse as to make it intelligible to those who are altogether unacquainted with American Affairs.

It is generally acknowledged in the Plantations, that the subject is intitled by Birthright unto the benefit of the common Law of England;

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But then as the Common Law has been alter'd from time to time and restricted by Statutes it is still a question in many of the American Courts of Judicature, whether any of the English Statutes which do not particularly mention the Plantations, can be of force there until they be brought over by some Act of Assembly in that Colony where they are pleaded, and this creates such confusion that according to the Act or Influence of the Lawyers and Attornies before Judges who by their Education are but indifferently qualified for that service, they sometimes allow the force of particular Statutes, and at other times reject the whole especially if the Bench is inclinable to be partial, which too frequently happens in those new and unsettled Countries, and as Mens Liberties and Properties in any Country chiefly depend upon an Impartial and equal Administration of Justice this is one of the most material Grievances which the Subjects in America have just cause to complain of; But while for the want of Schools and other proper Instruction in the principles of moral virtue; their people are not so well qualified, even to serve upon Juries and much less to Act upon a Bench of Judicature, it seems impracticable to provide a Remedy until a sufficient Revenue be found out amongst them, to support the charge of sending Judges from England to take their Circuits by turns in the several Colonies on the main, which if it be thought worthy of consideration will appear neither to be improper nor impracticable, and until that can be done all other attempts to rectifie their Courts of Law will be fruitless and may be suspended.

Courts of Chancery which are known to be necessary in many cases to correct the Severity of the Common Law, seem to subsist there on a most precarious foot, for it does not appear that there is a proper and legal Authority to hold such a Court in any of the Colonies, neverthelesss by Custom everywhere some kind of Chancery is to be found in one Form or other, so that when a Rich man designes to contest anything in Dispute with his poor neighbour, if he can continue to bring him into Chancery he is sure the matter will rarely or never be brought to issue which on many Occasions proves an intollerable Oppression, wherefore it is hoped that so high a Jurisdiction, issueing immediately from the Crown will in due time be put on a more regular and certain Establishment abroad.

A Militia in an Arbitrary & Tyrranical Government, may possibly be of some service to the Governing Power, but we learn from Experience that in a free Country it is of little use. The people in the Plantations are so few in proportion to the lands they possess, that servants being scarce, and slaves so excessively dear, the men are generally under a

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necessity there to work hard themselves in order to provide the Common necessaries of Life for their Families, so that they cannot spare a day's time without great loss to their Interest wherefore a Militia there would become more burthensome to the poor people than it can be in any part of Europe. But besides it may be questioned how far it would consist with good Policy to accustom all the able Men in the Colonies to be well exercised in Arms. It seems at present to be more adviseable to keep up a small regular standing Force in each Province which might be readily augmented for a time if occasion did require and thus in case of war or Rebellion the whole of the regular Troops might be without loss of time united or distributed at pleasure, and if as has been said before a suitable Revenew abroad can be raised for the Defence and Support of the Plantations, it would be no difficult matter both to form and execute a proper scheme of this nature.

Land is so plenty, and to be had so very cheap in America that there is no such thing as Tenants to be found in that Country, for every man is a Landlord in Fee of what he possesses and only pays a small Quitt or Ground Rent to the Lord of the Soil, and this makes it impracticable to find an Assembly of such Freeholders in any of the Colonies, who will consent to lay any Tax upon lands, nor indeed is it to be expected they should. Voluntarily agree to raise any Revenue amongst themselves except what is absolutely necessary for erecting and supporting Court Houses, Bridges Highways and other needfull Expences of their Civil Government which is commonly levyed upon Stock an Excise on Foreign Liquors retail'd or a small Poll Tax and the Publick there is generally in debt Because they are extremely jealous of attempts upon their Liberties & apprehensive that if at any time their Publick Treasury was rich, it might prove too great a temptation for an artfull Governor in conjunction with their own Representatives to divide the Spoile and betray them. It must be allow'd that a share of personal Interest or self love, influences in some degree every Man's affections, and gives a natural Impulse to all our Actions; and tho' this is most perceptable in Trade or Commercial Affairs, yet there is not any other Transaction in Life that passes without it, and as it is with Men in this case, so we find it has ever been with all States or Bodies Politick so long as they are independent one upon another; The Wisdom of the Crown of Britain therefore by keeping its Colonies in that situation is very much to be applauded, for while they continue so it is morally impossible, that any dangerous Union can be formed amongst them, because their Interests in Trade & all manner of Business being entirely seperated by their Independency; Every advantage

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that is lost or neglected by one Colony is immediately pick'd up by another; and the Emulation that continually subsists between them in all manner of Intercourse and Traffick is ever productive of Envies Jealousies and Cares how to gain upon each others Conduct in Government or Trade every one thereby endeavouring to magnifie their pretention to the Favour of the Crown, by becoming more usefull than their Neighbours, to the Interest of Great Britain.

But to Render the Colonies still more considerable to Britain and the managemt of their Affairs much more easy to the King & his Ministers at Home, it would be convenient to appoint particular Officers in England only for the Dispatch of Business belonging to the Plantations, for often persons that come from America on purpose either to complain or to support their own just Rights are at a loss how or where to apply; this uncertainty does not only fatigue the Ministers, but frequently terminates in the destruction of the Party, by his being referr'd from Office to Office untill both his money and patience be quite wore out; such things in time may cool peoples affections and give them too mean an opinion of the justice of their Mother Country which ought carefully to be prevented for where there is Liberty the Inhabitants will certainly expect right, and still have an eye towards obtaining it one way or another.

It may be considered therefore how far it would be serviceable to put all the Crowns civil officers in the Plantations of what kind soever under the direction of the Board of Trade, from whom they might receive their several Deputations or appointments and unto whom they ought to be accountable both for their Receipts and Management and if a particular Secretary was appointed for the Plantation affairs only, or if the first Lord Commissioner of that Board was permitted to have daily access to the King in order to receive his Majesty's Commands in all business relating to the Plantations, the subjects application would be reduced into so narrow a compass and the Board of Trade would always be so perfectly acquainted with the Kings pleasure that great dispatch might be given even to those distant matters without taking up too much of the Ministry's time and interfiering with other perhaps more important business; The people of the Colonies would be pleased to find themselves thus equally reguarded without giving one any undue preference to another, and all the Rents, Customs Reveneus and other Profits in any manner arising from the Plantations would then center in one place where another proper member of the same board might be appointed Treasurer of that particular Revenue, to answer all such orders as should

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be issued from time to time for the Plantation service, and as the Revenues from America would in all probability be encreasing daily, it may be reasonably expected that the Expence of paying the Board of Trade and other officers wholly employed in Plantation affairs which is now born by the Civil List would then more properly arise and be discharged out of the American Fund and the overplus remaining would in time become a most usefull stock for purchaseing of proprietary Lands, erecting Forts, and extending the present Settlements as far as the great Lakes or might be applyed to such other uses as his Majesty should think proper for that service.

All that has been said with Respect to the improvement of the Plantations will it is supposed signifie very little unless a sufficient Revenue can be raised to support the needfull Expence, in order to which it is humbly submitted whether the duties of Stamps upon Parchment and Paper in England may not with good reason be extended by act of Parliament to all the American Plantations.

When we do but cast an eye upon the vast Tracts of Land and immense riches which the Spanish Nation have in little more than one Century very oddly acquired in America in so much that the simple Priviledge of Trading with them on very high terms too, is become a Prise worth contending for amongst the greatest Powers in Europe surely we must on due Reflection acknowledge that the preservation and Enlargement of the English settlements in those parts is of the last consequence to the Trade Interest and Strength of Great Britain. And moreover considering how that the last resort of Justice in the Plantations is solely lodg'd in the King's sacred person with the advisement of his Majesty's Privy Council Exclusive of Westminster Hall or any other Judicature. The brightening of that Jewel in the Crown may not perhaps be thought unworthy of the present happy reign to which the improvment & future security of so large a part of the British Dominions, the advancement of Trade & universally supporting the glorious cause of Liberty seems to be reserved by the peculiar hand of Providence.

Finis.