Printable Version

British North America in 1755
Digital History ID 106



Immediately before the American Revolution, there were not just 13 British colonies in the New World; there were thirty, stretching from Guiana on the South American coast to Hudson Bay. Many people in Britain regarded the Caribbean as the most valuable portion of Britain's New World empire. Through the seventeenth century, the revenue produced in the West Indies was vastly greater than that produced by the mainland colonies. A single island, Barbados, had more people in 1676 than all of New England. By the mid-eighteenth century, however, the value of the mainland colonies both as a source of raw materials and as a market for British goods was becoming increasingly apparent.

A Maryland newspaper, excerpting a report from an English magazine, offers a perspective on why the French and Indian war had begun and why the American colonies were worth protecting.


A General View of the Conduct of the French in America, of our Settlements there.

But what engrosses the Attention at present is their Invasion of Virginia, in a profound Peace; and well it may, since that our Colonies on that Continent are of the utmost Importance....

Nova Scotia is a Country which has laid long neglected, but is capable of being made very considerable. Great Part of its Soil is very good, and wants only People to cultivate it, and produce every Kind of Corn which grows in England. The Country abounds in many Sorts of Timber, as Oak, Beech, Birch, Walnut, Fir &c. so that they can build what Number of Ships they please; but the principal Thing that will make this Colony very considerable is the Cod Fishery.... So that by this Trade you plant a Colony, increase your Number of Seamen, put off your Manufactures, and enrich yourselves.

The next Colony is New Hampshire and Main[e]: This is also known for its fishery: But is most famous for the excellent Masts and Yards that it furnishes to the Royal Navy of England, which you could not get in such Abundance, nor on such Conditions, in any Country of the World; for they do not take a Guinea from you: But for all their Fish, Masts, Etc., you pay them in Goods.

The Province of Massachusetts...comes next, of which Boston is the Capital. It...has a large Sea Coast, and many very good Harbours... Their soil is indifferent, producing Rye, Oats, Barley, Indian Corn, but no Wheat; They have excellent Pasture Land, and of course good Provisions. A principal Article of their Trade is Cod Fish, which they send to Spain, Portugal, Italy, &c. and the Whale Fishery is more considerable here than in any of the other Colonies....

From the Populousness of this country, it may easily be judged what Quantities of Manufactures are required there, all of which are paid for in building us Ships, in Oil, Pitch, Tar, and in Gold and Silver....

The Colony gave Peace to Europe; for it is well remembered what a Figure the Allies made in Flanders the late War; France carried every Thing before her, and nothing could check her Designs, till the Governor and Council of Boston resolved the Reduction of Cape Breton [northern Nova Scotia], laid an Embargo, beat up for Volunteers, enlisted 4000 Men, bought Arms, Provisions, hired Transports, and sailed in 40 days after the resolution first taken. They took the Place, which greatly alarmed the French King, who was then in Flanders. A Congress was held about two Years after at Aix la Chapelle; What had we to offer France in Lieu of all her Conquests? Why, nothing but Cape Breton; and for her Cape Breton she gave up all Flanders [because of the return of Louisburg Fortress].

We come next to Rhode-Island, which is about the Size of the Isle of Wight.... The principal Articles of their Trade are Horses, Lumber, and Cheese.... They bring a great deal of Silver, every Dollar of which finds its Way to London to pay for our Manufactures; they also build very fine Ships, with which they do good Service in Time of War.

Travelling Westward we next come to Connecticut.... The Soil of this Country is better than that of Boston, and is productive of every Kind of European Corn, they have a great Plenty of black Cattle, [wheat], Sheep, Hogs, and Horses; and abound in every Necessary of Life.... The consumption of our Manufactures in this Country is very great, and the Product of all the Provisions, Horses, and Lumber, that they export to other countries, comes to London for Goods.

The next Colony is New York.... They have for many Years carried on a considerable Trade to London and other Ports of this Kingdom, as well as to Spain, Portugal, all Italy, Africa, and all the West India Islands, and take several Hundred Pounds per Annum of our Manufactures; for which we are paid in Gold and Silver...and many Thousands per Annum in Beaver, and other Furs, Ships, and several other Articles.

We go on to New-Jersey, most of which is a very level Country, and its Produce the same as that of New-York, and in great abundance.... They have but very little foreign Trade; New York is the principal Market for their Provisions; and supplies them with English Goods. This Colony was unfortunately granted to a certain Number of Proprietors; who often had Disputes about the Divisions of the Lands; so that Titles were precarious, which discouraged People from settling it; but within these 25 Years past, it is become very prosperous, and very populous.

Pennsylvania['s]...Product is the same in every particularly as that of New-York, and full as abundant.... There have gone only from the Port of Rotterdam, from 4 to 8,000 Palatines to Pennsylvania per Annum...besides many English, Scots, and Irish....

The next Colony is Maryland, of which Lord Baltimore is Proprietor: But whatever the cause, it is thinly inhabited. It is a very fruitful Country, and produces very good Wheat, and other European Corn, and a great deal of Indian Corn. The Inhabitants have Abundance of black Cattle and Hogs; but their principal Article is Tobacco, of which they send a great deal to England.... Unhappily for this Colony, the Felons of England are thought good enough to be incorporated with its Inhabitants. However the People take all our Manufactures that they have Occasion for, which they pay in Tobacco, Deer-Skins, and Fur.

Virginia is the most ancient of all the Colonies.... The Soil is extremely good, producing all Sorts of European and Indian Corn, in great Abundance, but is most famous for Tobacco.... The People live in great Plenty, but are not quite so Numerous as in some other colonies, because they employ Negroes in the raising of their Tobacco....

North very hot in Summer, and not very cold in Winter...and has been very indifferently managed. It is a very fruitful Country. Its Produce is Indian Corn, Rice, Pulse, Tobacco, Pitch, Tar, Deer-Skins, Fur, Wax, and Tallow. It contains many Sorts of Timber, the Principal is Pine of several Kinds. As the Inhabitants have but little Winter, they abound in Cattle and Hogs; of the latter the Woods are full; They fatten themselves on Chestnuts &c. so that they are no Expense to the Farmer. The greatest disadvantage is, that they have a dangerous Sand Bar all along their Coast, and but one good Harbour for Ships of Burden, which is Cape Fear, their principal Town....

South very hot and has but very little winter. Its Produce is the same with that of North Carolina; but its principal Produce is Rice, with which it supplies almost all Europe; and if the Article of Indigo, which they have lately fallen on, will succeed, this will soon become one of the richest Colonies we have; and we shall save the vast sums which we pay France annually for that Article....

The last Colony is Georgia...and is extremely hot, a poor light Soil, and but thinly inhabited; it was settled as our Frontier next to the Spaniards; and we had great Hopes of making there great Quantities of Silk. Some has been made, and more might...and if they bring the Affair to Perfection, it will be a prodigious Advantage to England.

Such is the British Empire in North America; which from Nova-Scotia to Georgia is a Tract of 1600 Miles Sea-Coast; a Country productive of all the necessaries and Conveniences of Life; and which already contains a greater Number of People than either the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily, Sardinia, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, or Prussia, or the Republic of Holland. In short, there are but three Powers in Europe, which surpass them in Number, the German Empire, France, and perhaps England. America is become the Fountain of our Riches, for with America our greatest trade is carried on....

This is the Country, which the French have many Years envied us, and which they have been long meditating to make themselves Masters of: They are at length come to a Resolution to attack us, in profound Peace, in one of the best of those Colonies, Virginia; and in that part of it which lies on the River Ohio, to which Country they never pretended before. Every one knows that the English were the first and only Europeans who settled Virginia.... The French however if they find their Way to the Coast of Virginia, will easily over-run the provinces, because each Province considers itself as independence of the Rest, and the Invaders from Canada all act under one Governor; to unite 13 Provinces which fill an Extent of 1600 Miles is not easy.... Canada must be subdued.

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: The Maryland Gazette, May 22, 1755

Copyright 2021 Digital History