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An Empire of Free Ports: British Commercial Imperialism in the 1766 Free Port Act

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 April 2021


The Free Port Act of 1766 was an important reform in British political economy during the so-called imperial crisis between the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) and the American Revolution (1775–1783). In an explicit break from the letter if not the spirit of the Navigation Acts, the act opened six British ports in the West Indies (two in Dominica and four in Jamaica) to foreign merchants trading in a highly regulated number of goods subject to various duties. Largely understudied, this legislation has been characterized in most previous work on the subject as a fundamental break from British mercantile policies and meant to benefit North American colonial merchants. This article proposes a different interpretation. Based on the wider context of other imperial free port models, the loss of conquests such as French Guadeloupe and Martinique and Spanish Havana in the 1763 Paris Peace Treaty, a postwar downturn in Anglo-Spanish trade, and convincing testimonies by merchants and colonial observers, policy makers in London conceived of free ports primarily as a means of extending Britain's commercial empire. The free port system was designed to ruin the rival Dutch trade economically and shackle Spanish and French colonists to Britain's mercantile, manufacturing, and slaving economies. The reform marks a key moment in the evolution of British free trade imperial designs that became prevalent in the nineteenth century and beyond.

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Copyright © The North American Conference on British Studies, 2021

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1 Goebel, Dorothy, “The ‘New England Trade’ and the French West Indies, 1763–1774: A Study in Trade Policies,” William and Mary Quarterly 20, no. 3 (1963): 331–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 338.

2 The National Archives (hereafter TNA), Colonial Office Papers 101/9, fol. 206, “A Plain Narrative of Facts [. . .]” by various merchants of Dominica, submitted to the Commander at Dominica and to be sent to England, 27 January 1764.

3 Dalrymple to Lord Bute, 27 February 1763, Add. MSS 38200, fols. 260–61, British Library (hereafter BL), London.

4 Dalrymple to Lord Bute, 27 February 1763, BL Add. MSS 38200, fols. 262–63.

5 Dalrymple to Lord Bute, fol. 261.

6 Armytage, Frances, The Free Port System in the British West Indies: A Study in Commercial Policy, 1766–1822 (New York, 1953), 3640Google Scholar.

7 Armytage, Free Port System, 2.

8 Finkelstein, Andrea, Harmony and the Balance: An Intellectual History of Seventeenth-Century English Economic Thought (Ann Arbor, 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hont, Istvan, Jealousy of Trade: International Competition and the Nation-State in Historical Perspective (Cambridge, MA, 2005)Google Scholar; Reinert, Sophus A., Translating Empire: Emulation and the Origins of Political Economy (Cambridge, MA, 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 B. D. Bargar, Lord Dartmouth and the American Revolution (Columbia, 1965), 38; Paul Langford, The First Rockingham Administration, 1765–1766 (Oxford, 1973), 207; Richard Bourke, Empire and Revolution: The Political Life of Edmund Burke (Princeton, 2015), 236; P. J. Marshall, Edmund Burke and the British Empire in the West Indies (Oxford, 2019), 120; Nancy F. Koehn, The Power of Commerce: Economy and Governance in the first British Empire (Ithaca, 1994), 195–96. Bourke goes so far as to say the Free Port Act “undermined the rationale of fundamental aspects of the Navigation Acts.” Bourke, Empire and Revolution, 236. See the contributions in Philip J. Stern and Carl Wennerlind, eds., Mercantilism Reimagined: Political Economy in Early Modern Britain and its Empire (Oxford, 2013) for recent scholarly backlash to the term mercantilism. As such, I have not used this term when speaking of British commercial policy.

10 See Steve Pincus, The Heart of the Declaration: The Founders’ Case for an Activist Government (New Haven, 2016); Armytage, Free Port System; L. Stuart Sutherland, “Edmund Burke and First Rockingham Ministry,” English Historical Review 47, no. 185 (1932): 46–72; Langford, The First Rockingham Administration.

11 See, for example, Ernesto Bassi, An Aqueous Territory: Sailor Geographies and New Granada's Transimperial Greater Caribbean World (Durham, NC, 2016); Gregory E. O'Malley, Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619–1807 (Chapel Hill, 2014); and Adrian J. Pearce, British Trade with Spanish America, 1763–1808 (Liverpool, 2007).

12 Such works include O'Malley, Final Passages; Bassi, An Aqueous Territory; Bargar, Lord Dartmouth; Pincus, Heart of the Declaration; Langford, The First Rockingham Administration; and Jeppe Mulich, “Microregionalism and Intercolonial Relations: The Case of the Danish West Indies, 1730–1830,” Journal of Global History 8, no. 1 (2013): 72–94.

13 The general idea of an informal or free trade empire has been subject to substantive debate. However, historians concur on British desires to make foreign realms dependent upon British exports and financial investment. See John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, “The Imperialism of Free Trade,” Economic History Review 6, no. 1 (1953): 1–15; Oliver McDonagh, “The Anti-imperialism of Free Trade,” Economic History Review 14, no. 3 (1962): 489–501; Christopher Abel and Colin M. Lewis, Latin America, Economic Imperialism, and the State: The Political Economy of the External Connection from Independence to the Present (London, 1985); Matthew Brown, ed., Informal Empire in Latin America: Culture, Commerce and Capital (Oxford, 2008); Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford, Rage for Order: The British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800–1850 (Cambridge, MA, 2016), 150–51.

14 See Reinert, Translating Empire, 23–25, 89–91, 170; James Livesey, “Free Trade and Empire in the Anglo-Irish Commercial Propositions of 1785,” Journal of British Studies 52, no. 1 (2013): 103–27.

15 Allan Greer, Property and Dispossession: Natives, Empires and Land in Early Modern North America (Cambridge, 2018), 5–7; Lauren Benton, A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400–1900 (New York, 2010); Immanuel Wallerstein, World Systems Analysis: An Introduction (Durham, NC, 2004).

16 This idea of emulation correlates with the discussions found in Mathew Wyman-McCarthy, “Perceptions of French and Spanish Slave Law in Late Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Journal of British Studies 57, no. 1 (2018): 29–52; Reinert, Translating Empire; and the contributions in Jorge Cañizeres-Esguerra, ed., Entangled Empires: The Anglo-Iberian Atlantic, 1500–1830 (Philadelphia, 2018).

17 See David Ormrod, The Rise of Commercial Empires: England and the Netherlands in the Age of Mercantilism, 1650–1770 (New York, 2003), 60–69.

18 For instance, according to British law, British colonial vessels could trade non-enumerated goods such as wheat, flour, staves, pork, and other agricultural surpluses to the foreign West Indies in exchange for products such as sugar, molasses, cash, bills of exchange, and slaves. See Cathy Matson, Merchants and Empire: Trading in Colonial New York (Baltimore, 1998), 44–49, 73–91.

19 For more on the Navigation Acts, see O. M. Dickerson, The Navigation Acts and the American Revolution (New York, 1951); Larry Sawers, “The Navigation Acts Revisited,” Economic History Review, n.s. 45, no. 2 (1992): 262–84; John McCusker, “Worth a War? The Importance of the Trade between British America and the Mediterranean,” in Rough Waters: American Involvement with the Mediterranean in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, ed. Silvia Marazgalli, James R. Sofka, and John McCusker (Oxford, 2010), 7–24.

20 David Hume, “Of the Jealousy of Trade” (1759), in Hume: Political Essays, ed. Knud Haakonssen (Cambridge, 1994), 150–53. See the introduction to Hont, Jealousy of Trade, 5–11; John Shovlin, “War and Peace: Trade, International Economy, and Political Competition,” in Stern and Wennerlind, Mercantilism Reimagined, 305–27, at 305–8; Michael Kwass, Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 8–9, 356; and Richard Whatmore, Against War and Empire: Geneva, Britain, and France in the Eighteenth Century (New Haven, 2012).

21 Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. R. H. Campbell, A. S. Skinner, and W. B. Todd, vol. 1 (Indianapolis, 1981), 493.

22 John McCusker and Russel Menard, The Economy of British America, 1607–1789 (Chapel Hill, 1985), 36; John Robert McNeill, Atlantic Empires of France and Spain: Louisburg and Havana, 1700–1763 (Baltimore, 2010), 49. This assessment of British political-economic logic challenges that of Julian Hoppit, Britain's Political Economies: Parliament and Economic Life, 1660–1800 (Cambridge, 2017), who argues that Britons had no coherent, well-enforced, or stable conceptions of political economy in the early modern period. Instead, I assert, most Britons shared similar political-economic goals, if disagreeing on the exact strategies to accomplish them.

23 Smith, Wealth of Nations, 481–502.

24 See, for example, Philip J. Stern and Carl Wennerlind, introduction to Stern and Wennerlind, Mercantilism Reimagined, 3–22, at 12–13; Gautham Rao, National Duties: Custom Houses and the Making of the American State (Chicago, 2016), esp. 19–48; Jack P. Greene, Creating the British Atlantic: Essays on Transplantation, Adaptation, and Continuity (Charlottesville, 2013), 102–3.

25 David Hancock, Oceans of Wine: Madeira and the Emergence of American Trade and Taste (New Haven, 2009), 107–12, 284–25, 394.

26 Harold Innis, The Cod Fisheries: The History of an International Economy (Toronto, 1978), 66–69, 199–206; Peter E. Pope, Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill, 2004).

27 Paul Langford, A Polite and Commercial People: England, 1727–1783 (Oxford, 1989), 182.

28 Wallerstein, World Systems Analysis, 2–26; Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World System (New York, 1974), chap. 1.

29 Adam Anderson, An historical and chronological deduction of the origin of commerce [. . .], vol. 1 (London, 1764), 288, The Making of the Modern World; Jacques Savary des Brûlons, The universal dictionary of trade and commerce [. . .], trans. Malachy Postlethwayt, 3rd. ed. 2 vols. (London, 1766), 1:730, 219, 2:872, Eighteenth Century Collections Online; Thomas Mortimer, A New and Complete Dictionary of Trade and Commerce (London, 1766), 166, 979, The Making of the Modern World.

30 “By the King: A proclamation declaring His Majesties pleasure to settle and establish a free port at his city of Tanger [Tangier] in Africa” (London, 1662), C3284/Bd.w./C7186, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC.

31 Philip J. Stern, The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Foundations of the British Empire in India (Oxford, 2011), 160, 182.

32 France also established Marseilles as a free port in 1669. Jeff Horn, Economic Development in Early Modern France: The Privilege of Liberty, 1650–1820 (Cambridge, 2015), 134–55, 107–10; TNA, SP 78/258, fol. 50, Neville to Halifax, 22 September 1763; Mortimer, New and Complete Dictionary, 587.

33 Mortimer, New and Complete Dictionary, 587.

34 For this definition, see Victor Wilson, Commerce in Disguise: War and Trade in the Caribbean Free Port of Gustavia, 1793–1815 (Åbo, 2015), 13.

35 Corey Tazzara, The Free Port of Livorno and the Transformation of the Mediterranean World, 1574–1790 (Oxford, 2017), especially 255–57; Joshua Gee, The trade and navigation of Great-Britain considered [. . .], 6th ed. (London, 1760), 119–22, The Making of the Modern World; “London, July 2,” American Weekly Mercury (Philadelphia), 22 September 1720.

36 See Tazzara, Free Port of Livorno; Francesca Trivallato, The Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period (New Haven, 2009). For more, especially on the development of European and Mediterranean free ports, see the work of the Global History of Free Ports research project, currently housed at the University of Helsinki (

37 For more on Curaçao and St. Eustatius, see Han Jordaan and Victor Wilson, “Eighteenth-Century Danish, Dutch, and Swedish Free Ports in the Northeastern Caribbean: Continuity and Change,” in Dutch Atlantic Connections, 1680–1800: Linking Empires, Bridging Borders, ed. Gert Oostindie and Jessica V. Rothman (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 273–308, at 275–81; Wim Klooster, “Curaçao as a Transit Center to the Spanish Main and the French West Indies,” in Oostindie and Rothman, Dutch Atlantic Connection, 23–51, at 25–28; Victor Enthoven, “‘That Abominable Nest of Pirates:’ St. Eustatius and the North Americans, 1680–1780,” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 10, no. 2 (2012): 239–301.

38 Wim Klooster, Illicit Riches: The Dutch Trade in the Caribbean, 1648–1795 (Leiden, 1998), 89–92, 95–97; Thomas Jefferys, West India Atlas (London, 1775), 26.

39 Koen Stapelbroek, “Reinventing the Dutch Republic: Franco-Dutch Commercial Treaties from Ryswick to Vienna,” in The Politics of Commercial Treaties in the Eighteenth Century: Balance of Power, Balance of Trade, ed. Antonella Alimento and Koen Stapelbroek (New York, 2017), 200–211; Koen Stapelbroek, “Dutch Decline as European Phenomenon,” History of European Ideas 36, no. 2 (2010): 139–52, at 144; Victor Enthoven, “Neutrality: Atlantic Shipping in and after the Anglo-Dutch Wars,” in Stern and Wennerlind, Mercantilism Reimagined, 328–47, at 334–37.

40 Thomas M. Truxes, Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York (New Haven, 2008), 82; Rafael Darío Herrera Rodrígues, Montecristi: Entre campeches y bananos (Santo Domingo, 2006), 32.

41 See especially Moreau de Saint-Méry, A topographical and political description of the Spanish part of Saint-Domingo [. . .], 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1796), 1:125; “Limites con los Francesas y Usurpacion en la isla Espanola,” 1736–1754, ES.41091.AGI/23.14/SANTO_DOMINGO/305, Archivo General de Indias, Seville.

42 Kenneth J. Banks, Chasing Empire across the Sea: Communications and the State in the French Atlantic, 1713–1763 (Montreal, 2002), 170.

43 On such neutral and “interloping” trades, see Pares, War and Trade in the West Indies; Truxes, Defying Empire; Cathy Matson, Merchants and Empire: Trading in Colonial New York (Baltimore, 1998), 265–73; Silvia Marzagalli and Bruno Marnot, eds., Guerre et economie dans l'espace Atlantique du XVIe au XXe siècle (Pessac, 2006).

44 See, for instance, “Representation of the Board of Trade to His Majesty” with “Depositions concerning an illicit Trade carried on from the Northern Colonies to Monte Christi,” 31 August 175, TNA, Treasury, 1/396, fols. 65–70, 9; “A letter from Mr. Pownall on illicit trade in cartel ships and to Monte Christo,” 7 March 1760, TNA, Treasury 1/403, fols. 181–84.

45 Erik Gøbel, “Volume and Structure of Danish Shipping to the Caribbean and Guinea, 1671–1838,” International Journal of Maritime History 2, no. 2 (1990): 103–31, at 123–29; Wilson, Commerce in Disguise.

46 Thomas C. Barrow, “Background to the Grenville Program, 1757–1763,” William and Mary Quarterly 22, no. 1 (1965): 93–104; Banks, Chasing Empire, 178; Bertie Mandelblatt, “How Feeding Slaves Shaped the French Atlantic,” in The Political Economy of the Early Modern World, ed. Sophus A. Reinert and Pernille Røge (New York, 2013), 192–220, at 209; Goebel, “New England Trade,” 336–62.

47 See Lowell Joseph Ragatz, The Fall of the Planter Class in the British Caribbean, 1763–1833 (New York, 1928), 137–38; Lauren Benton and Jeppe Mulich, “The Space between Empires: Coastal and Insular Microregions in the Early Nineteenth-Century World,” in The Uses of Space in Early Modern History, ed. Paul Stock (New York, 2015), 151–71; “King's separate and private instructions to Hertford,” St. James, 29 September 1763, TNA, Secretaries of State: State Papers Foreign, France, fols. 81, 89; Goebel, “New England Trade,” 336–62.

48 See Patrick Griffin, The Townshend Moment: The Making of Empire and Revolution in the Eighteenth Century (New Haven, 2017), 73–77; S. Max Edelson, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (Cambridge, MA, 2017), 62–63, 100.

49 Phillip Lawson, George Grenville: A Political Life (Oxford, 1984), 188–89.

50 Lawrence Henry Gipson, The British Empire before the American Revolution, vol. 10, The Triumphant Empire (New York, 1961), 203; Pearce, British Trade with Spanish America, 43–46.

51 Armytage, Free Port System, 24; Gipson, British Empire before the American Revolution, 10:203–6.

52 Langford, First Rockingham Administration, 115; Allan Christelow, “Contraband Trade between Jamaica and the Spanish Main, and the Free Port Act of 1766,” Hispanic American Historical Review 22, no. 2 (1947): 309–43, at 329.

53 See “Letters, Instructions, and Orders from the Secretary of State, the Lords of the Treasury, of the Customs, with Letters from the Colonies, relative to the Spanish Trade in America, 1763–1765,” Rockingham papers (hereafter R), 35/1a, Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments (hereafter WWM), Sheffield City Archives.

54 “Letters, Minutes, and Reports relating to the Bullion trade,” WWM R/34.

55 See Extract of a Letter from Madrid, April 25, “America; World; Intend; Supplied; European; Great,” Pennsylvania Journal (Philadelphia), 10 July 1766, 1–11, at 3.

56 “Mr. Whately's Letter to the Commissioners of the Customs,” February 1765, Charles Townshend Papers (hereafter CTP)/8/34/73, fol. 18, William L. Clements Library (hereafter WLCL), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

57 See testimony of Richard Hamilton, Merchant of Manchester, 13 February 1766, BL Add. MSS 33,030, fol. 160. Anglo-Spanish commerce also received a mighty blow with the collapse of the British South Sea Company and the loss of Britain's claim to the asiento in 1748. Armytage, Free Port System, 24–26; Langford, First Rockingham Administration, 113–15; Nadine Hunt, “Contraband, Free Ports, and British Merchants in the Caribbean World, 1739–1772,” Diacronie 1, no. 13 (2013): 1–12, at 10.

58 George Thomas, Earl of Albermarle, Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham and His Contemporaries, vol. 1 (London, 1852), 252–53.

59 Liverpool Memorial on West India Trade, 17 August 1765, WWM R/60/1b.

60 Pearce, British Trade, 46.

61 “Copy of the Attorney and Solicitor Generals’ Opinion dated 11 Nov. 1765, relative to the importation of Foreign Bullion into the Plantations in America in Foreign Bottoms,” BL Add. MSS 33,030, fols. 47–49.

62 “Treasury Minister, 15 November 1765, On the Complaints of Liverpool and others,” WLCL CTP/8/34/73, fol. 33.

63 “Anonymous report on Trade,” November 1765, BL Add. MSS 33,030, fol. 73; for similar opinions, see TNA, Colonial Office Papers 137/33, fol. 108, Dunk Halifax to Board of Trade, 12 May 1764; Northington to Rockingham, 23 October 1765, WWM R/1/513; Yorke to Rockingham, 25 October 1765, WWM R/1/515; “Letters, Minutes, Reports, Statistics relating to the Bullion trade,” October–November 1765, WWM R/34; “Proposals to be Laid before the King, to remedy the Distress of the Trade with the Spaniards in the West Indies,” 1765, WWM R/35/8j.

64 “Proposals to be Laid before the King,” 1765, WWM R/35/8j; “Minutes to Customs officers and Naval officers,” 1765, WWM R/35/10a.

65 Pearce, British Trade, 47–48; Armytage, Free Port System, 31–34.

66 David Eltis, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas (Cambridge, 2000), 116–31; Allan Christelow, “Great Britain and the Trades from Cadiz and Lisbon to Spanish America and Brazil, 1759–1783,” Hispanic American Historical Review 27, no. 1 (1947): 2–29, at 16–21; Peggy K. Liss, Atlantic Empires: The Network of Trade and Revolution, 1713–1826 (Baltimore, 1983), 20.

67 The argument concerning Rockingham's association with merchants is based on those made by Gipson, British Empire before the American Revolution, 10:370; Langford's The First Rockingham Administration; Bourke, Empire and Revolution, 299–302; Koehn, Power of Commerce; and Sutherland, “Edmund Burke and the First Rockingham Ministry,” 46–72.

68 Evelyn Powell Jennings, “War as the ‘Forcing House of Change’: State Slavery in Late-Eighteenth-Century Cuba,” William and Mary Quarterly 62, no. 3 (2005): 411–40; Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766 (New York, 2001), 501–2; Andrea Elena Schneider, The Occupation of Havana: War, Trade, and Slavery in the Atlantic World (Chapel Hill, 2018).

69 Pares, War and Trade in the West Indies, 186–95; Anderson, Crucible of War, 315–16; Guadeloupe: Slave Disembarkations from 1759–1763, Transatlantic Slave-Trade Database, accessed 19 March 2019, Slave Voyages,

70 For information on earlier English jealous emulation of the Dutch, see Steve Pincus, 1688: The First Modern Revolution (New Haven, 2009); April Lee Hatfield, Atlantic Virginia: Intercolonial Relations in the Seventeenth Century (Philadelphia, 2004); Miles Ogborn, Indian Ink: Script and Print in the Making of the English East India Company (Chicago, 2007), 108–11; and Hont, “Free Trade and the Economic Limits to National Politics,” chap. 2 in Jealousy of Trade.

71 Reinert, Translating Empire, 2.

72 TNA, Colonial Office Papers 5/65, Part 1 1762/12, “Memorial of Liverpool Merchants asking to make Grenada a [free port].”

73 Francis Moore, “Thoughts on the Expediency of Opening Free Ports in Dominica, by a Person who Resided some years at the Island of St. Eustatius,” May 1766, BL Add. MSS 33,030, fol. 253.

74 Moore, “Thoughts on the Expediency,” fols. 257, 254.

75 Edward Davis to Marquess of Rockingham, WWM R/37/4. See also “Merchant Testimonies” and “Mr. Roger Halo Collector of the Customs at Boston,” in Charles Townshend Papers at Dalkeith, ed. Thomas Christopher Smout (Wakefield, 1964), microfilm, reel 2, bundle 34, fol. 10.

76 John Campbell, Candid and impartial considerations on the nature of the sugar trade [. . .] (London, 1763), 152–55, The Making of the Modern World.

77 “News,” editorial, Lloyd's Evening Post, 28 April 1766–30 April 1766, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Burney Newspapers Collection.

78 “Colonel Dalrymple's Report of the State of Trade, presented soon after his return to England to the first Lord of the Treasury and Board of Trade,” 1765, in The American Papers of the Second Earl of Dartmouth in the Stafford Record Office, ed. Colin Bonwick (East Ardsley, 1993), microfilm, reel 11, 1052.

79 TNA, Colonial Office Papers 101/1, fol. 13, Colonel Scott to the Board of Trade, 15 May 1763.

80 “Colonel Dalrymple's Report of the State of Trade,” reel 11, 1052.

81 Unlabeled document, in Charles Townshend Papers at Dalkeith, reel 2, bundle 34.

82 “Mr. Huske's Scheme for Free Ports in America,” BL Add. MSS 33,030, fols. 318–23; “Scheme for Free Ports in America to Secretary Conway,” WLCL CTP/8/34/21.

83 Francis Moore, “Thoughts on the Expediency of Opening Free Ports in Dominica,” fol. 254; Francis Moore, “Thoughts on opening the ports of Dominica and Jamaica,” 1 December 1765, WWM R/37/5.

84 “Considerations on Manchester manufactures,” ca. 1765, WLCL CTP/8/34/ 2a, fol. 4; B. F., “Bristol, 16 April, 1766,” Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London), 21 April 1766, 578, Newspaper Archive.

85 “Answers to Questions about America,” WLCL CTP/8/34/34, fol. 1.

86 I borrow imperium via emporium from Victoria De Grazia, Irresistible Empire: America's Advance through Twentieth-Century Europe (Cambridge, MA, 2005), 1–4.

87 For more evidence concerning British free ports serving British domestic mercantile and manufacturing interests, see William Hargreaves's “Dissertation on Trade,” 22 March 1766, WWM R/96/2, fol. 34; “Petition of Merchants of London to House of Lords,” March 1766, BL Add. MSS 33,030, fol. 208; “Memo on Free Port in Dominica,” 1766, BL Add. MSS 33,030, fol. 251.

88 Bourke, Empire and Revolution, 231, 237–38; Gipson, British Empire before the American Revolution, 10: 370; Langford, First Rockingham Administration; Koehn, Power of Commerce; Sutherland, “Edmund Burke and the First Rockingham Ministry,” 46–72.

89 Koehn, Power of Commerce, 7–9.

90 Lewis Namier, England in the Age of the American Revolution (London, 1961), 250.

91 Edmund Burke, Short Accounts of a Late Short Administration (London, 1766), 4, Eighteenth Century Collections Online.

92 Armytage, Free Port System, 28–29; Langford, First Rockingham Administration, 178. See also Charles Townshend's correspondence with John Huske: John Huske to Charles Townshend, WLCL CTP/Bowhill Box/1/5/1-4.

93 See Gipson, British Empire before the American Revolution, 10:10–11, 194, 380; Langford, First Rockingham Administration, 200–1.

94 Rockingham to Arthur Heyward and the Merchants of Bristol and Liverpool, 11 May 1766, WWM R/58/5.

95 Rockingham to Leeds Merchants, August 1766, WWM R/59/6.

96 “Mr. West Report on House of Commons to Newcastle,” 30 April 1766, BL Add. MSS 32975, fol. 58.

97 Dowdeswell to Townshend, “On Duties,” n.d. [ca. 1765–1766], WLCL CTP/296, fol. 2; Dowdeswell to Thomas Townshend, 11/13 November 1766, WLCL, William Dowdeswell Papers, Correspondence/1/10/fol. 1; Dowdeswell to Townshend, 24 July 1765, WLCL CTP/296/1/22.

98 Dowdeswell to Pitt, 31 July 1766, WLCL, William Dowdeswell Papers, Correspondence/1/8, fol. 1.

99 “Draft of Observations Relative to Mr. Dowdeswell's Proposal,” 1765, WWM R/35/6c.

100 Dowdeswell to Rockingham, “Remarks on the Virgin Islands to be included with the ceded Islands for payment of the 4½ p. Cent,” n.d., WWM R/43/15.

101 Peter D. G. Thomas, George III: King and Politicians, 1760–1770 (Manchester, 2002), 139.

102 “Cash Account Books: Payments made to Burke on 25 November 1765,” WWM R/15/1. Burke had also applied to be the London agent for the recently conquered islands of Grenada, the Grenadines, Dominica, St. Vincent, and Tobago. Bourke, Empire and Revolution, 229.

103 Edmund Burke to Charles O'Hara, 4 March 1766, in Correspondence of Edmund Burke, vol. 1, April 1744–June 1768, ed. Thomas W. Copeland (Cambridge, 1958), 239–40; Burke to O'Hara, 23 April 1766, in Correspondence of Edmund Burke, 1:252.

104 Burke to O'Hara, 4 March 1766, in Correspondence of Edmund Burke, 1:239–40.

105 Burke to O'Hara, 29 March 1766, in Correspondence of Edmund Burke, 1:247.

106 Burke to Anonymous, 13 March 1766, Burke Papers, WWM 1/94.

107 “Observations on Trade” and “Cotton Manufacture,” n.d., in Charles Townshend Papers at Dalkeith, reel 2, bundle 34.

108 “Observations on Trade,” in Charles Townshend Papers at Dalkeith, reel 2, bundle 34.

109 Andrew Summer to Townshend, “On Manufactures,” n.d., in Charles Townshend Papers at Dalkeith, reel 2, bundle 34.

110 “Mr. Townshend's Observations on Free Ports,” ca. 1765, WLCL CTP/8/34/67.

111 “Mr. West Report on House of Commons to Newcastle,” 30 April 1766, BL Add. MSS 32975, fol. 58.

112 Newcastle to Rockingham, 6 May 1766, BL Add. MSS 32975, fol. 89.

113 “A Bill for Establishing certain Ports in Islands of Jamaica and Dominica,” WWM R/37/9.

114 See Steve Pincus, Heart of the Declaration; Armytage, Free Port System; Sutherland, “Edmund Burke and the First Rockingham Ministry”; Langford, First Rockingham Ministry.

115 See Ragatz, Fall of the Planter Class, 137–41; Perry Gauci, William Beckford: First Prime Minister of the London Empire (New Haven, 2013), 123–24.

116 Eric Williams, From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean, 1492–1969 (New York, 1970), 130.

117 William Pitt, Correspondence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, vol. 2, ed. William Stanhope Taylor and John Henry Pringle (London, 1838), 420–21.

118 Thomas, George III, 140.

119 Mr. Grenville's Diary, in The Grenville Papers: Being the Correspondence of Richard Grenville, Earl Temple, K. G., and the Right Hon: George Grenville [. . .], vol. 3, ed. William James Smith (London, 1853), 215.

120 Horace Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of King George the Third, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1845), 2:316.

121 Mr. Whately to Mr. Grenville, 23 May 1766, in Grenville Papers, 3:234.

122 Whately to Grenville, 3:240.

123 See also Whately's “Letter from the Lords of the Admiralty and Secretaries of State relative to Spanish West Indian trade,” ca. 1763–1765, WWM R/35/12.

124 “Mr. West Report on House of Commons to Newcastle,” 30 April 1766, BL Add. MSS 32975, fol. 58; Marshall, Edmund Burke and the British Empire, 115–20.

125 Armytage, Free Port System, 40; Langford, First Rockingham Administration, 203.

126 “News,” London Evening Post, 26 April 1766–29 April 1766, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Burney Newspapers Collection.

127 Burke to Charles O'Hara, 8 April 1766, in Correspondences, 1:248.

128 “Answers to Interviewing Mt. Sayre,” in Charles Townshend Papers at Dalkeith, reel 2, bundle 34.

129 See “Questions posed to be asked Mr. Kelly,” 1766, CTP/8/34/74, WLCL; “Observations on the North American Trade by Mr. (William) Kelly,” CTP/8/34/71, fol. 3, WLCL.

130 Correspondence of Chatham, 2:420; Armytage, Free Port System, 40; Walpole, Memoirs of the reign of King George the Third, 2:316.

131 See Marie Peters, The Elder Pitt (London, 1998), 158–61; Jeremy Black, Pitt the Elder (Cambridge, 1992), 257–58.

132 Armytage, Free Port System, 41; Langford, First Rockingham Administration, 205; Koehn, Power of Commerce, 195; “Proposal for free ports in Dominica” and “Dominica opened under Restrictions,” in Charles Townshend Papers at Dalkeith, reel 2, bundle 34.

133 “An act for opening and establishing certain ports in the islands of Jamaica and Dominica [. . .]” (London, 1766), fol. 807, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

134 “The Petition of the Merchants of the City of New York in the Colony of New York in America,” 1766, WLCL CTP/8/31/13; “A Meeting of the Committees of the West Indian and North American Merchants at the Kings Arms Tavern, March 10, 1766,” WLCL CTP/8/34/51.

135 For evidence of fatigue, see Mr. Onslow to Newcastle, 5 May 1766, BL Add. MSS 32975, fol. 81; Thomas Nuthall to Pitt, 8 May 1766, in Correspondence of William Pitt, 2:417–19.

136 Sophus A. Reinert, “Rivalry: Greatness in Early Modern Political Economy,” in Stern and Wennerlind, Mercantilism Reimagined, 348–70, at 348–49.

137 Hont, Jealousy of Trade, 185–87.

138 Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 38; Bourke, Empire and Revolution, 236; Langford, First Rockingham Administration, 207; Koehn, Power of Commerce, 195–96.

139 Reinert is one of the only historians who has mentioned eighteenth-century thinkers who made this direct connection between commerce and conquest, asserting that William Patterson in 1700 hoped that the Scottish colony in Darien would allow Scotsmen to “give laws” to both oceans by controlling commercial flows and that Antonio Genovesi and his protégé Michele de Jorio from the 1750s to the 1780s commented on how nations that produced raw materials would be dependent on foreigners and be under the “dominion” of commercial powers that inundated them with manufactured goods. See Reinert, Emulating Empire, 23–25.

140 Historians such as Ernesto Bassi have similarly challenged a neat dividing line, arguing for a more fluid and longer lineage of informal or free trade empire. Such scholars point to moments in the eighteenth century when the British intentionally forged commercial and economic connections with foreigners to at least try to make them British imperial subjects in all but name. See Bassi, Aqueous Territory, 118–20.

141 See Emma Rothschild, “The Atlantic Worlds of David Hume,” in Soundings in Atlantic History: Latent Structures and Intellectual Currents, 1500–1830, ed. Bernard Bailyn and Patricia L. Denault (Cambridge, MA, 2009), 405–48, at 413.

142 See “Mr. Huske's Scheme for Free Ports in America,” BL Add. MSS 33,030, fols. 318–23, for hopes for a wider free port system.

143 See, for instance, “The Petition of the Merchants of the City of New York in the Colony of New York in America,” 1766, CTP/8/31, WLCL.

144 See Gipson, British Empire before the American Revolution, 10:3–7; Christopher L. Brown, “Empire without Slaves: British Concepts of Emancipation in the Age of the American Revolution,” William and Mary Quarterly 56, no. 2 (1999): 273–306, at 282–83.

145 For instance, the Antigua Gazette reported, “a war with France, Spain, and Holland must soon happen.” Antigua Gazette (St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda), 29 September 1767, fol. 2, NewsBank.

146 For a full assessment of the later British free port system, see Armytage, Free Port System, 1–6, 43–55, 127–37; Langford, First Rockingham Administration, 207–8; and Pearce, British Trade with Spanish America, 52–58.

147 Armytage, Free Port System, 43–44.

148 Roy Miller, Britain and Latin America in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (London, 1993), 73.

149 Thus, ironically, an increase in free trade went hand in hand with an expanded slave trade. Bassi, Aqueous Territory; O'Malley, Final Passages; Marshall, Edmund Burke and the British Empire, 122–24. For the underdevelopment of Latin America, see Salvucci, Richard J., Textiles and Capitalism in Mexico: An Economic History of the Obrajes, 1539–1840 (Princeton, 1987), 135–76Google Scholar; Llorca-Jaña, Manuel, The British Textile Trade in South America in the Nineteenth Century (New York, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Even the early United States remained dependent on Great Britain for its clothing and finished cottons. Historian Jonathan Eacott argues that calicoes were a means for Britain to reconquer America through the selling of manufactured finished goods and importing of raw materials. Eacott, Jonathan, Selling Empire: India in the Making of Britain and America, 1600–1830 (Chapel Hill, 2016), 438–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

150 Such conversations on “free ports” lasted into the twentieth century, as advocates of 1930s foreign trade zones in the United States and Ireland saw themselves following the tradition of early modern European free ports. Ogle, Vanessa, “Archipelago Capitalism: Tax Haven, Offshore Money, and the State, 1950s–1970s,” American Historical Review 122, no. 5 (2017): 1431–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 1455.

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