Tunnels: Part One – Newburyport became rich from smuggling

To understand how such a statement came to be – there are two factors. One was that America, in particular, Massachusetts, was a colony of Britain, which was an Empire. In this kind of political setup, all wealth is supposed to flow into the Mother Country. What did the Communists always say about the Europeans? They were imperialists. Technically, the Americas were to be weak, subordinate and dependent on England with all their wealth flowing back to the British Isles. And when it came to the New England States, if the status quo was maintained; they would have indeed been a miserable lot. They had nothing to sell to England. In Virginia, it was tobacco which was in great demand throughout Europe; Georgia had cotton and the Carolina’s had rice and wheat. The only possible commodity for New England was lumber and it was rapidly disappearing with even the far reaches of Vermont stripped of its supply.

New England though had rum. Showing the ignorance of our present day politicians, the Daily News reported recently a politician blaming the Puritans for the limited number of liquor licenses allowed issued by a local town or city.    So very wrong!    The Puritans drank copious amounts of rum; the limiting of licenses came from the abstinence movement of the middle to late 19th century and culminated in Victorian-issued limits.

The difficulty was the molasses to make the rum could technically only be received in from England and its Caribbean colonies and even then, most of that resource was supposed to be sent off to the Mother Country.    At least on paper, the law as spelled out in The Acts of Navigation and Trade, meant that goods could only come from another British Colony.    Worse, since technically; as an empire, the British Isles were to be the primary recipient, tariffs were attached to the goods which did not end up at that final destination.      To make matters even worse, New England Refineries couldn’t get enough to satisfy demand (almost two-thirds of rum went right to the colonists themselves) nor enough to export for profit.      Just trying to be a law-abiding British subject, put the balance of trade in favor of England, which even with all these roadblocks; could barely meet the supply that the American Colonies demanded.


The Americans quite illegally bought from other country’s colonies – notably the French and the Dutch and the Spanish, which were often rivals (and often enemies) of the British.   They would buy it cheap and fill their quota and, to further their profits, would make plenty more to export in the infamous Triangle Trade.

But what of England?    What did they think about this international smuggling issue?


With the hefty profits, the Americans soon were able to buy British fine goods – the nicest fabrics, finely crafted furniture and manufactured goods that were very sophisticated.    The British on the other hand had eager buyers in America and much profitable business was to be made.      Everyone knew about the smuggling, but it was not mentioned in polite company and frankly; since everyone was benefiting, the hard truth was ignored.

Except for one person who was repeatedly being stiffed!       The King of England and his rapidly depleting coffers which would be desperately needed whenever yet another European war should be fought.

In the next post, we will see that smuggling was behind the great split with England.

-P. Preservationist



This entry was posted in Archeology, Businesses, Economics, History. Bookmark the permalink.

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