This hitherto untitled letter appeared on December 8, 1762, in Lloyd’s Evening Post, or British Chronicle. It was first attributed to Oglethorpe by Ettinger (Oglethorpe, 287). He was probably correct. The signature “Britannicus et Americanus” designates an author who felt himself both a Briton and an American; and the writer dated his letter from Soho, which was Oglethorpe’s residence at that time. Moreover the author shows the same mercantilist concerns that Oglethorpe had voiced as early as The Sailors Advocate in 1728: the need to develop shipping for the export of colonial raw materials. Oglethorpe’s correspondent may have been Lieutenant Governor William Bull, Jr., the son of his deceased friend.
The text is that of Lloyd’s Evening Post, with two obvious typographical errors silently corrected.
TAKING up the Daily Advertiser of yesterday, at St. James’s Coffee House, I was not a little surprized to see the Exportation of the Province of South Carolina so very trifling to what it might, and ought to be, when compared with its annual exportation between the months of December and September. I had scarce got home to my house in Soho, before I received the following letter from a person of the first rank in that province, which, for the publick good, I could not help sending you; this letter was brought me from that province, by the fleet just arrived here.
“THE prospect of great crops still continues as great as when I wrote you last; the hurricane season being now over, we have nothing to prevent its being the richest crop ever known of rice, since the first settlement of the colony. But I am sorry to inform you, we have suffered much already for want of vessels to convey it to the European markets; I mean the crops of the last year, which did not exceed seventy thousand barrels of five hundred neat weight, of which number many thousands still lye on our hands. What to do with our present great crops I know not, for should we want ships to take it away, it must perish with us, or be given to the hogs, it being principally rice, which is a perishable commodity in these hot climates. Some few vessels have been here and took in rice for London, and for Cowes, and the markets, at the extravagant freight of eight pounds ten shillings per ton, and by that means it was sold for less than four shillings sterling per hundred weight; nor do I know whether it will turn out to the advantage of the shippers, unless it should bear a proportionable price in Europe, to make amends for the great freight paid here. But the loss falls very heavy on the Planters of the province; for it being so excessively cheap, they cannot clear the expenses yearly incurred by planting, by which means the Merchants here must lye out of their money perhaps double the time they should, consequently must suffer for want of making remittances home to the Carolina Merchants of London, who must also be sensible of the great inconvenience attending the want of shipping here, which, in fact, is the very reason they have not the value of their goods, shipped here every year, returned in the commodities of the province annually; for it is well known, if the Planters could vend their produce, they would lay out double the money with the Merchants they do at present, and could always pay them the full price of their goods. I am concerned for the good of the province, and have set the matter so clear to you, that you may know the true state of it; for I am greatly concerned to see any place, where I am so much concerned in public matters, suffer, especially in the station you know I am in, and whose greatest happiness would be to see the province flourish. The crop, it is said, and with the greatest foundation, cannot be less than 150,000 barrels, of 500 weight neat each barrel.”
So real and warm a zeal, as my friend here expresses himself, will most certainly excite every lover of his country’s interest, and all encouragers of trade and commerce, the bulwark of this kingdom and nation, to remedy the inconvenience and misfortunes attending the want of shipping, and proper vending the produce. Let the rice be shipped to different parts of Germany, and let a number of vessels be sent over, which would lower freight, by which means the province there would reap a competent benefit, returns made properly to the Merchants here, ships have a reasonable freight, and the markets of Great Britain and Germany have it reasonable. The shipping, this bulky commodity would employ constantly, would find employment for great numbers of our sailors and seamen, that now must be discharged from the Royal Navy. This would also be a means of its being sent higher up the Rhine, than it has ever yet been; and the quantity encreasing yearly, and had on reasonable terms, would also invite the Merchants to ship it where it has never yet been sent, to the remoter parts of the European continent. The Province, grown richer by this means, would send yearly larger quantities to Europe, which must all pay a duty in England; which duty, we are very sensible, is far from being inconsiderable to the national advantage, as the duty is high, and no one who deals in that commodity can be insensible of it. But, whilst vessels are wanting to take off the crops, it must be dear throughout England, Holland, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and other parts, whilst it lies useless to every one in its own clime.
It is also to be much lamented, that we are greater encouragers of the Indigo made in the dominions of France and Spain, than that made in our own dominions; though it is well known, by the trial of some of the best Dyers in England, that the Indigo, of the growth and produce of our colonies of Carolina and Georgia, is equal in goodness to the best French and Spanish; but prejudice, and want of judgment, have given the preference to French and Spanish, to the great hurt of our own interest, in discouraging the colonies. It is to be hoped, the encouragement of hemp will not be as that of the indigo has been. They are now making, in the two above-mentioned colonies, hemp which is equal to the best Russia hemp, as we have already seen by some small quantity sent over this and the last year. This is also a bulky commodity, which would encourage shipping; and, instead of sending our money to foreign countries, we should send it to our own colonies, where we should get it again in return for British commodities.
Soho, Dec. 5, 1762.
BRITANNICUS ET AMERICANUS.