Reported 280 Years Ago (April 1739): We are losing out to France, say sugar traders

The Belfast News Letter of March 30 1739 (April 10 modern calendar)
The Belfast News Letter of March 30 1739 (April 10 modern calendar)
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From March 30 News Letter 1739 (April 10 modern date):

Abstract of the Votes of the House of Commons in England.

A Petition of the Merchants and Planters and others trading to and interested in his Majesty’s Sugar Colonies in America, was presented to the House; setting forth the Importance to this Kingdom of the said Colonies and the Trade thereof; and represented to the House the present flourishing Condition of the French Sugar Settlements, and the present low Condition of the British Colonies; and attributing this surprising Alteration in the Condition of the British and French Sugar Colonies, among others, to the following Causes, viz. to the great Disadvantage and Inequality the British Sugar Trade lyes under to that of France, from the very high Duties both at home and in the Plantations on our English Sugars, compared with those laid on the French;

to the Supplies and Provisions and other Necessaries the French have from Ireland and North America, without which they could not subsist; and to the Restraints the British Colonies are under, as the Laws now stand, from sending any Sugars, Coffee, Cocoa, Indigo and Ginger to Foreign Markets, before they are first landed in Great Britain, by which means they are liable to the great Charge, Risque and Delay attending a double Voyage;

and represented to the House, that the Liberty of a direct Exportation of the Products of our Sugar Islands to the several Foreign Ports in Europe is the only means left to regain the Foreign Sugar Trade, and to put the British Merchants once more in a Capacity of disputing the Foreign Sugar Markets with the French;

and expressing the hope of the Petitioners, that the great Advantage the Trade and Navigation of Great Britain as well as the Province of South Carolina have received by a Liberty of the same Nature with regard to Rice, will be a farther inducement to this House to grant this Liberty to our Sugar Plantations; and further representing to this House, that another great Disadvantage the British Sugar Settlements labour under, arises from the Duties payable on Cocoa, Coffee, Ginger, and Rum imported into Great Britain from the British Colonies, and the Prohibition to sell Rum in less Quantities than two Gallons;

and setting forth, that as the Petitioners out of a due regard to the Sense of this House, and to the general Good of the Nation, have with great Deference submitted to the apparent Disadvantages they labour under by the act against retailing spirituous Liquors in less Quantities than two Gallons, without presuming to ask any alteration in the same, they are encouraged to hope, that the Duty and Excise on Rum shall be lessened, and further representing to the House, a farther great Discouragement the British Sugar Colonies labour under the importation of French Sugars, Rum, and Molasses into Great Britain, and our Northern Colonies in America, without paying any more Duty than if they had been of British produce, the present laws for preventing the same being most notoriously evaded, and by no means sufficient to remedy this Evil;

and therefore representing it as a matter absolutely necessary for the supporting the Sugar Colonies of this Kingdom, that the Laws already made for laying Duties on Foreign Sugar, Rum and Molasses imported into Great Britain and America, may receive such alterations and additions thereto, as may be sufficient effectually to prevent all such clandestine Commerce for the future;

and further representing to the House, that the Trade in Indigo, which our British Colonies had formerly so large a Share in, as to be able not only to supply enough for our home Consumption, but also to export great Quantities thereof to Foreign Parts, is now wholly gained from us by the French, from whom we are under a Necessity of buying almost all the Indigo we use; the Loss of which Trade was entirely owing to the high Duties laid on this Commodity in Great Britain; and that there is too much Reason to fear the like ill Consequences may attend the present high Duties on our Sugar, Cocoa, Coffee, and Ginger;

and that the Necessity we are under for Indigo is so great, that, when the Trade for that Commodity was in our own Hands, it was subjected to a greater Duty than it could bear, yet that, now it is entirely in the hands of Foreigners, the Legislature has thought fit, as an Encouragement to the Importation of it, to exempt it from paying any Duty at all, and that the Sum this Nation pays yearly to France for Indigo does not appear for Indigo does not amount to less (as the Petitioners believe) than 15000l. and therefore submitting to the Consideration of the House, whether it would not be of great Benefit to the Publick that some proper Encouragement should be given to the Planting of Indigo, so as thereby to be enabled to recover that Trade, and that such a Reduction be made in the Duty and Excise on other West India Commodities, as may preserve and promote our Trade therein;

and further representing to the House, the many ill Consequences to this Kingdom which the loss of our Sugar Colonies must be attended with; and therefore praying the House to take the Premises into their most serious Consideration, and to provide such ample and effectual Remedies, in such of the several Particulars before named, as shall at present be thought most expedient, and as the House shall judge proper.