An Address to the Inhabitants of North Carolina ...
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An Address to the Inhabitants of North Carolina and
An Address to the Burgesses of North Carolina (1746)

By William Borden


The Preface to the Reader

An Address to the Inhabitants of North Carolina

An Address to the Burgesses of North Carolina


William Borden, the author of this pamphlet, was born in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, August 15, 1689. He was the son of John Borden, one of the two progenitors of the Borden family in America. By profession he was a shipbuilder. Seeing the scarcity of duck cloth, necessary for the manufacture of sails, he became interested in its production, for which the growing of hemp was also essential. The Rhode Island Assembly was invoked for assistance and in 1721 that body enacted the first of a series of statutes designed to stimulate the growing of hemp and flax. In August of the following year (1722) Borden was granted a bounty for five years, to the exclusion of all other persons, of 20s. per bolt for every bolt of duck he should manufacture equal in quality to Holland duck; in October the period of the bounty was lengthened to ten years. Nor was this all; in 1724 he applied for and received a loan of £100 for one year to aid in financing his enterprise. In 1725 another loan of £500 for three years was granted, and in 1728 a much larger sum, £3,000, to run ten years, was also granted on condition that 150 bolts of duck be produced annually. In 1731 the exclusive bounty was renewed and the requirement to produce 150 bolts per annum waived, and in 1736 the ten-year loan was extended to 1746.

Between the lines of this legislation one may readily infer that there were difficulties in the manufacture of duck, and such was the case. Skilled labor was scarce and raw materials were not produced in sufficient quantity. The enterprise did not prosper and in 1732 William Borden disposed of his business and removed to North Carolina. He settled in Carteret County, on a stream which he called Newport River, and there he established a ship-building enterprise. He was undoubtedly a pioneer in that business and was widely known as William Borden, the shipbuilder. He was a member of the Society of Friends, and was elected to the Assembly, session of February, 1746/7. When the Assembly organized he declined to take the oath required of members, and requested that his affirmation be accepted. This was refused, and he did not take his seat. Two years later, in 1748, he died. His wife was Alice Hull, whom he married in 1715. To them were born one son, William, very prominent in North Carolina politics in the period of the Revolution, and four daughters, Alice, Catherine, Hope, and Hannah. Their descendants lived in Eastern Carolina and intermarried with the prominent families of that section.

Among the public questions of the day, Borden was keenly interested in the currency. This is the subject of his Address to the People of North Carolina. It is a very human document, showing an intimate knowledge of those commercial conditions in the province that were the background of its monetary policy. Fundamentally, a lack of good harbors threw the balance of trade against North Carolina, both with respect to inter-colonial as well as foreign trade.

"Are not the Inhabitants (for want of a proper Navigation in the Government) obliged to purchase all their foreign Necessaries at the very last and dearest Hand? When, perhaps, a Parcel of Goods or Merchandize have passed through the Expense of Navigation, etc., in the neighbouring Governments, and have passed through the Hands of many Merchants or Traders, and they have all had their Profits on them, and Livings from them, then, perhaps, poor North Carolina Planters have the Honour of eating, drinking, and wearing some of the riff-raff Remains at a dear Rate: Pray consider, then, what all this amounts to, but a supporting Navigation and Trade in the neighbouring Governments, at the Expense of the poor North Carolina Planters."

In these words are summarized North Carolina’s great trade problem—a problem that, in one form or another, has puzzled the minds of many public men from the days of William Borden to the present. Fortunately facts and figures are cited in illustration. "We may find," he says, "that at New York, Beef is sold from 40 to 60 s per Barrel; which being reduced to our Currency, at Six for One, is 12 to 18 l per Barrel, our Money; Pork, we may find, goes from 50 to 80 s per Barrel; which being reduced, at Six for One, is 15 to 24 l per Barrel, our Money: And, moreover, even the many sorts of Timber, in our neighbouring Governments, became valuable, by Means of a proper foreign Trade; whereby many of the Inhabitants (instead of being at an immense Charge to burn it in Heaps) were enabled, by the Produce thereof, to clear their Lands.

"And on the other Hand, it is said, That Sugar, by the small Quantity, is sold from 4 to 8 d per Pound; which being reduced, at Six for One, is 2 to 4 s per Pound, our Money; Melasses is said to be sold, from 16 to 18 d per Gallon, by the Hogshead; which being reduced, at Six for One, is 8 to 9 s per Gallon, our Money; Thus it may appear, by a reasonable Computation, to any Eyes, except they are blind, and to any Understanding, except it is stupefied, that what Sugar the Inhabitants of New York expend in their Families, at 2 to 4 s per Pound, our Money, we cannot expend the same in our Families here, under 5 to 7 s and 6 d per Pound, in our Way of Trading; and so, in like Manner, what Melasses they expend in their families, at 8 to 9 s per Gallon, our Money, we must expend the same in our families here, at 25 to 30 s per Gallon, in our Way of Trade, or otherwise go without it. Salt, also, from 2 to 3 s in New York, which being reduced, at Six for One is 12 to 18 s per Bushel, our Currency, for which we must give 30 to 40 s per Bushel here; And so, in some proportion, we may conclude it is with other merchandise."

The adverse trade balance drained the colony of specie. Such a condition was an excellent background for emissions of paper money. The experiment was begun in 1712, at the time of the Tuscarora War. By 1729, the year of the transfer of the colony to the Crown, the amount of money that had been issued amounted to £48,000. Of this a considerable sum had been authorized as replacements, and if the monetary laws had been strictly observed the amount outstanding would have been only £10,000; evidence that far more than this was actually in circulation is the rate of depreciation, which was £500 colonial to £100 sterling, and the money was practically worthless outside the colony. To remedy this situation the Assembly of 1729 enacted a bold measure: £40,000 in bills of credit were to be issued, of which £10,000 were to be exchanged for previous issues then in circulation, and £30,000 were to be loaned on land mortgages at six per cent, one-fifteenth of the principal to be redeemed annually. It was believed that money with land as a security would not depreciate; but the population was around 35,000, bond and free, thus making the amount of paper more than £1 for every person in the province. Depreciation therefore continued, the ratio in 1731 being £700 or £800 to one pound sterling. Moreover, there were frauds in the valuation of land accepted as security for money, there was considerable counterfeiting, and it was impossible to collect all of the annual fifteenth of the principal.

Here was an excuse for further monetary legislation and in 1735 the installments due on the issue of 1729 were ordered to be reissued, thus preventing any currency contraction until the end of the fifteen-year period. Moreover, contrary to royal instructions, £12,500 of additional currency were authorized to meet current debts and the expense of monetary administration. The amount of paper in circulation was thus increased from £40,000 to £52,000, and by 1739 the rate of exchange was officially fixed at £1,000 colonial to £100 sterling.

Such was the situation as the end of the fifteen-year period for which the currency of 1729 was issued, approached. Governor Johnston called the matter to the attention of the Assembly in 1744. Then it was that William Borden proposed his plan for a new currency. He had no sympathy with the existing monetary policy and he knew that the Crown had issued instructions against further issues of paper; but he believed that these instructions would be waived if a sound currency could be provided. And to secure such a currency he deemed it necessary to adopt a policy that would stimulate external trade. He therefore proposed that £100,000 in paper be issued on land mortgages, one-tenth to be redeemed each year in produce. Considering the issue of 1729 there was nothing new in this; but he did add a new feature, original and unique. This was that the produce collected should be placed in public warehouses and sold by the government, three-fourths of the purchase price to be taken in goods of the West Indies or elsewhere and one-fourth in gold and silver. Through a constant turnover in this business, he estimated that at the end of ten years sufficient gold and silver would be accumulated to retire the £100,000 of paper.

There is no evidence that this proposal was considered by the Governor, Council and Assembly. In both sessions of 1744 the only measure the Assembly would consider was a bill for "a new currency," and over its details there was so much opposition from the Council that nothing was done. Therefore Mr. Borden made another plea for a sound currency, "the second month of 1745." In this he severely criticised the Assembly for failing to adopt any constructive measure and recommended a produce tax, the goods so levied to be exchanged by the government for specie and manufactured articles as the best means of improving trade and bringing sound money into the colony. "Is there not a duty incumbent upon the Inhabitants of North Carolina, who are almost destitute of a paper medium," he asks, "weightily and maturely to consider which way a proper Remedy may be calculated, in order to relieve the Government from its naked and distressed state?"

Again his advice and program were ignored, for the measure adopted in 1745 was simply to levy a redemption tax, a measure foredoomed to failure, and soon followed by another agitation for more paper. Disappointed at the futility of the policy adopted and anxious that his own ideas be adopted, he entered the political arena, and was elected a member of the Assembly which convened in February, 1746/7. As previously stated, he would not take the oath required of members, his affirmation was refused, and he was not allowed to take his seat.

It was in 1746, doubtless about the time of his election, that an edition of his plan for a sound currency and his criticism of the Assembly of 1744 were presented to the public by his constituents in Carteret and Onslow counties. There being no printing press in the province, the work was issued from the press of William Parks, at Williamsburg, Va. The copy from which this reprint is made is in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society and it is now published with the permission of that organization.

Whatever criticisms one may make of the soundness of William Borden’s plan for a sound currency, it must be conceded that he had at heart the welfare of North Carolina, that he had no sympathy with existing monetary policies, and that his remedy for the adverse trade balance was ingenious. Finally, in a day and generation when government money was greatly depreciated, the due bills issued by William Borden were widely circulated and were known as "Borden’s Scrip."


Kind Reader:

WHEREAS the following Address and Propositions was put forth, under a Consideration, That we, the Inhabitants of North-Carolina, fall far short of having an equal Chance in the Value of our Labour with our neighbouring Colonies, for Want of a proper furthering Trade amongst us, put forth by William Borden, of Carteret County, for the Encouragement of the People of this Province, to procure Commodities suitable, at their just Value, that would induce Farmers to import furthering Good into the Government; whereby they may have Opportunity to purchase the furthering Necessaries at the best and cheapest Hand, by granting a new Emission of Paper Bills; lent out without Use, or any other significant Incumbrance; founded upon the Incouragement of Industry, stayed and answered in Respect of its Value, by Silver and Gold, it being their End and Center, as will more fully appear by the following Address or Proposition hereto annexed; or without Bills, as appears by a Proposition of a latter Calculation, but stitched in one Volume in Quarto; to which Propositions we refer the Reader for it is mature Consideration; and we, the Inhabitants of Carteret and Onslow Counties, that have Opportunity to peruse and weigh them, are of real Opinion, that they would be of great Benefit, and vast Advantage to the Province, if rightly carried on by Act of Assembly, and prudently managed in each County; which behooves the Inhabitants to see to; therefore we thought, for our own Interest, and the Interest of our Neighbours, ourself under an Obligation, and in Duty bound, to give our neighbouring Counties the like Opportunity to peruse and [2] weigh them; For we think them of great Importance, and the most proper Method, seeming to us, to put them in Print, and the most likely Way to give the Inhabitants the quickest Knowledge of them; therefore we have taken that Method now, respecting the first, and Intent of the latter Proposition: We are of Opinion, That the first Proposition would be vastly more advantageous, to the Province than the latter, with that Proviso Liberty can be obtained, from the King, for a new Emission of Paper Bills, if Need require; which we doubt not but He would readily grant, if there appeared Prospect of Advantage to His Province; which evidently appears in the first Proposition, viz. For a Paper Currency; and is made manifest by reasonable and sound Arguments, and proved by Arithmetick: And as to the latter, we believe it will be of great Advantage to the Province, and was calculated in case the King, upon Trial, should refuse to grant a new Emission of Paper Bills; but if we obtain our Request in that, we esteem it to be inferior to the former. Now, thinking it needless to advance further in Recommendation of them, concluding they are sufficient to recommend themselves, we shall not add, only this we have to request of our Neighbours, and Countrymen of this Province, in each County, that after a settled Perusal of them, and they appear to be warrantable, that you assent to, and pass them on to the Assembly, for their Perusal and Consideration, in order, that if there appears no other Proposition of more Weight and Value, manifest by more reasonable and sounder Arguments, proved more authentickly by Arithmetick, to be of greater Ease and Benefit to the Inhabitants of this Province, to be put into a Law.

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