Colonies’ Purpose is to Serve the Fur Trade

The Lord Commissioners for Trade and Plantations formally represented to the ministry: that “the great object of colonizing upon the continent of North America has been to improve and extend the commerce, navigation, and manufactures of this kingdom.” They pointed out that His Majesty’s Proclamation of 1763, to which certain moot questions might properly be referred, was intended to keep the colonies in subordination to and dependence on the mother country and to make sure that settlement should extend no farther west than the kingdom’s trade should reach. No one could have more completely or more justly summarized the mercantilist principle that had opened a cleavage line across the British Empire in North America. The Commissioners proceeded to exemplify the insensitiveness to colonial realities that characterized the government of Great Britain in good King George’s glorious days. They took judicial notice that there was important capital in Montreal and a rich trade in the Indian country. So, “the extension of the fur trade depends entirely upon the Indians being undisturbed in the possession of their hunting grounds and … all colonizing does in its nature, and must in its consequences, operate to the prejudice of that branch of commerce.”

The colonial agent in London, Benjamin Franklin, preparing to take the scalp of the Commissioner who wrote the report, must have felt that the Lord had delivered his adversary into his hands when he read the further admonition, “Were they (the Indians] driven from their forests, the peltry trade would 263 264 • Prime Meridian [1774] decrease and it is not impossible that worse savages would take refuge in them.” Colonial savages.