Trading with Dutch Ships
By Jeannette Holland Austin
The struggling colonists preferred to trade with the merchants of dutch ships and did very little to block that trade. Yet, during the year of 1623, Governor Wyatt was put in a quandary as to whether or not to allow a certain dutch ship which had passed at sea with the intention of making a voyage in Virginia, to exchange supplies for the principal commodity of tobacco. A major issue in this decision was the fact of the 1622/3 massacre of the English residents of Jamestown by the Powhatan Indian tribes.
Earlier, during the first months of the Jamestown settlement, the Virginia Company had sought to enforce tobacco and sassafras from all independent trade and failed. Eventually, the London Company succeeded with its strict regulations preventing Dutch trade, and the law was enforced.
The importation of English merchandise into Virginia during the 17th century designed to meet the needs of its inhabitants was the beginning of a vast colonial trade which helped to increase the wealth in England and also gave the mother country the undisputed supremacy among commercial nations. As early as 1664, when the second Act of Navigation had been in operation for only a few years, the merchandise imported into Virginia and Maryland was thought to be worth 200,000 pounds annually. This equates into the purchasing power of the economy of today to total about four or five millions of dollars. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the value of goods shipped from England each year to her colonies was estimated to be worth 2,732,036 pounds. And this was under a restrictive tariff. Meanwhile, while the mother country steadily imposed stiff regulations upon trade and exchange, and passed laws to prevent dutch ships from trading in the colony, the colonists were compelled to pay higher prices and tariffs for ordinary goods. Inventories of old estates reveal a hoarding of plank boards and nails, as buildings were torn down and building supplies recycled.
During the closing years of the 17th century, brick was so common that it was used in supporting the marble slabs of tombs. In the last will and testament of Francis Page of York County he provided for the erection of a brick structure over his grave of equal height with the tombs, also of brick, covering the remains of his parents. John Kingston of York County was a brick mason in possession of a good estate in York County. Among those indebted to him for work done in the course of his trade was Robert Booth whose inventory of estate showed an account in Kingston's favor of seven pounds sterling. Another brick mason in the county was Edwin Malin who purchased fifty acres and built his plantation. Others were Thomas Meders, Richard Burk, Robert Wiggins and Thomas Wade.
Sources: British State Papers, Colonial, vol. II, No. 26, Governor Wyatt to John Ferrer; Sources: Records of York County, vol. 1690-94, p. 169.
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