LORD SHELBURNE TO THE LORDS OF TRADE.
October 5, 1767.
Several memorials and petitions having been presented to His Majesty by merchants trading from hence to North America or residing in the Colonies, setting forth the present state of the Indian trade and representing the necessity of some new regulation, I have His Majesty's commands to transmit to Your Lordships copies of the same for your consideration.
His Majesty observing the expenses of North America to be enormous, and to arise in great measure from the present manner of managing Indian affairs, by the intervention of Superintendents, who necessarily have a power of drawing for such sums as they shall judge expedient, as wells as from the number of forts subsisting ever since the late War ; and the distant stations in which the troops have remained for want of any regular plan or system having been adopted since the peace. I have it further in command to desire your Lordships to take into your consideration at the same time, how far the present expense, whether regarding the Indians or the disposition of the troops for Indian purposes, may with safety and propriety admit of being reduced ; and for this purpose your Lordships will state your opinion to His Majesty how far the appointment of Superintendents remains longer necessary, their first institution being supposed to be chiefly, if not solely, for the purpose of a general union of the Colonies, under His Majesty's immediate direction, to resist the encroachments of the French at the beginning of the last war ; or how far it may be right to strengthen the hands of these officers agreeable to their repeated applications, in order to give a more efficient strength to an institution independent both of the civil and military power. But as the general regulations of trade attempted to be carried into execution by the Superintendents are asserted in these petitions to be ill suited to the particular circumstances of the several provinces, and to serve rather to dog the trade with useless and vexatious restrictions, than to remove the evils of which complaint has been made ; and as it appears also from the correspondence that the Governors of several of the Colonies do not keep up a regular correspondence with these officers, paying little or no regard to the rules laid down by them, if your Lordships should think their further continuance unnecessary you will then state your opinion to His Majesty in what method it may be proper to entrust both the trade and management of the Indians to the care of the Colonies themselves, leaving it to them to judge of their several interests with those people, and to pass laws which shall be adapted to the circumstances of the respective provinces and which must afterwards in course be sent over hither to be submitted to His Majesty for his royal approbation or disallowance (if found
repugnant to the true interest of the Colonies or of Great Britain) subject always to such general restrictions as Your Lordships may judge proper to lay before His Majesty as expedient to be observed by the provinces, who must in consequence defray whatever expense they may judge necessary from time to time for their own quiet and security against Indian incursions.
And as the sole utility arising from the several forts which are now maintained appears to be the forming of a certain barrier against the Indians for the security of the colonies, your Lordships will take into consideration whether most of the posts now subsisting may not be reduced and others of them entrusted to the provinces themselves, in order to lessen the present heavy expense ; still preserving the necessary communications by means of a few posts remaining in the hands of His Majesty's troops on the great lakes and rivers which lead from Canada to the Mississippi and the frontiers of New York, which, together with a small number of vessels to command the navigation, may answer every intention of Government with regard to the Indians and at the same time secure an easy access for His Majesty's troops into the 'different provinces, keeping the forts of the army now collected and without hazarding its subordination and discipline.
His Majesty likewise commands me to refer to your Lordships extracts from several letters of Sir J. Amherst and General Gage, recommending the establishment of further new Governments on the Mississippi, the Ohio, and at Detroit, at one or more of which places a considerable body of French have been suffered to remain since the Peace without any form of Government ; also different proposals from private people for undertaking establishments in those parts. Your Lordships will consider the course of the several arguments which are brought in favour of these settlements, setting forth, That they will secure to His Majesty's subjects the command of the fur and peltry trade in preference to the French and Spaniards, preventing smuggling with them which, as appears by the extracts of General Gage's and Mr. Croghan's letters amounts to so considerable a sum annually as to become a national object ; That they will be an effectual check to the intrigues of those nations for gaining the effections of the Indians ; That they will promote the great object of population in general and increase the demand and consumption of British manufactures, particularly by affording to the Americans an opportunity of following their natural bent for the cultivation of lands and offering a convenient reception and occupation for their superfluous hands, who otherwise cooped up in narrow bounds, might be forced into manufactures to rival the Mother country ; an event which any other way, it might be difficult to prevent ; That by raising provisions of all sorts to supply such interior garrisons as it may still be found necessary, to keep up they would greatly contribute to lessen the extra-ordinary expense accruing not only from the establishments of the different forts, and the various contingent charges, but also from the necessity of transporting provisions as well as stores to supply the garrisons from the provinces on the coast by the rivers and by the Great Lakes, as well as by Land Portage, all which not only occasions an accummulated expense, but also often reduces the Garrisons to great distress, and in case of an Indian
war, when alone they can be useful, leaves them in a very precarious situation ; That these new colonies will prove in effect, a protection and security to the Old, forming of themselves an exterior line of defence, rendering most of the interior forts useless and equally contributing to diminish the present Indian and military expense. That being situated behind the other provinces they will be of singular use to keep the Indians in awe, and prevent their hostile incursions upon the frontiers to the East-ward, while those savages who are hemmed in by our Settlements on both sides must either become domiciliated and reconciled to our laws and manners, or be obliged to retire to a distance.
In case your Lordships should think it right to advise His Majesty to establish these new Governments, you will consider whether it will not be practicable to fall upon such a Plan as will avoid great part of the expense incurred by the estimates of the new Governments established after the Peace.
I send your Lordships all the Papers which can furnish any lights in these matters, which His Majesty desires that you will without lose of time take into your consideration in their fullest extent. Then, together with the materials in your Lordships' office, and the examination of such merchants as are most intelligent in the North American and Indian trade and such of His Majesty's Military Servants as have been in America (who will be ready to attend your Lordships and to give you every information in their power) will enable you to acquaint me for His Majesty's information in one or more reports in what manner your Lordships think these Points can be regulated so as most effectually to promote the prosperity and happiness of the several provinces, as well as the real and solid advantage of the Mother country ; objects which His Majesty has so much at heart.
I am, etc.,
[Here follow about 40 enclosures.]
No. 1.— Memorial of Canada Merchants for the regulation of Indian trade, etc.