Absolutely rare unrecorded 1689 Handwritten Manuscript admonition asserting England's dominion over colonial American trade [William III - King of England]. WE GREET YOU WELL ... from the King of England to ‘OUR PLANTACIONS’ (sic) OF NEW ENGLAND. This is an extremely important original manuscript document pertaining to the history of colonial America concerning the issues that would eventually result in American Independence. It was a "Draught of a License for New England Concerning the Violating of the Plantacion Laws" -- carried to the "Committee of Councils" by Sir John Werden on September 18th, 1689. Three pages of text and one.
Background and context: Immediately upon England’s deposition of James II in December of 1688, Boston merchants also seized and imprisoned Edmund Andros, the despotic royal governor of the ‘Dominion of New England’. The Dominion had been established in 1684 after England annulled various colonial charters in order to regulate
their internal policies to the benefit of the Crown. Each of the colonial components of the Dominion resumed their former independent colonial status (including free trade) after the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688-89 which brought William to the throne. Upon his ascension in August 1689 King William III had written, ‘to the Government of Massachusetts Colony in New England’ in a letter, implicitly recognizing their intra-colonial autonomy. Nevertheless in this document dated September 1689, King William III reasserts control over New England’s trade, navigation and customs policies. He herein refers to the Navigation Laws as for ‘Our Revenue’. That very issue - precedent of colonial trade as royal ‘revenue’ - would prove a key rubbing point between the Colonies and Crown until the American Declaration of Independence. How did the contents of this document ultimately effect the African Slave Trade, especially in light of the Acts of Parliament mentioned above?
On one hand (as stated herein) William’s decree refers to the New England provinces as they were severally restored to their pre-Dominion condition, calling them: “the Several Colonies and Provinces (of New England).” The singular ‘Dominion of New England’ was thereby confirmed as being officially terminated and reconstituted in their “Several” colonial distinctions (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, etc.) On the other hand, (and most interestingly) is the fact that this document at the same time also refers to New England again as ‘Our Territory and Dominion,’ which indicates that the post-Revolution Crown was asserting (for the first time!) its uniform “Dominion” right over American trade. In other worlds, England was restoring constitutional self-government in the American provinces, by declaring its “Dominion” rights divine right) over American commerce itself. This is a most remarkable document to have been issued in the very year of Britain’s Glorious Revolution! This previously unrecorded piece of Anglo-American diplomacy is therefore of extreme historic importance as the contents presents the astonishing constitutional genesis of the issues which would eventually erupt in the break of the colonies from the motherland.
The document begins: ‘Whereas we are Informed that the several Laws Relating to Our Plantacons (sic) have been Lately Broken and Violated in Our Territory and Dominion of New England, to the Prejudice of our Revenue of Customs and the Trade and Navigation of this our Kingdom, Our will and pleasure is, That you Cause the said Laws to be Effectually observed and Executed according to the True Intent and Meaning thereof, within our Said Territory and Dominion of New England, and the Several Colonies and Provinces thereof". The document then lists several prior Acts of Navigation and Trade and features the regulating points pertaining to American commerce. The thrust of the earlier Acts of Navigation quoted enumerate the Plantation Trade restrictions which prevented Americans from freely exporting commodities such as tobacco sugar, wool, etc.
Another astonishing fact is that this document predates the Navigation Acts passed by Parliament under William III by over six years! This unique document therefore defines the official Anglo/American revenue relationship for over six years - those most important years between the “Glorious Revolution” and the infamous British Acts of Trade which commenced in 1696 and ultimately drove America to Independence in 1776! Only one other such customs notice by William III is known (Andrews IV ‘England’s Commercial and Colonial Policy’, 1938, p. 148-49). Andrews locates only a 1697 entry which was issued following the newly enacted Anglo-American Navigation Acts. That, a retained copy, remains in the the House of Lords Manuscript collection. Its companion (now lost) was also ‘transmitted to the customs officials themselves, constituting a code of customs law for their guidance.’ Again, more significantly, this present document was issued years earlier for the like purpose during the year of the great constitutional revolutions in both England and America. Its contents are unrecorded, unpublished and of considerable historic importance as they specifically represent the advent of the provincial issues which would eventually culminate in our nation’s birth.
If this document was brought over to America, was this one of the documents that General Gage took back to England with him when he realized that he had been defeated by George Washington's army? Good question....
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