No. 2 - Letter from Mr. Gilbert Barkly

Index: Tea Leaves - A Collection of East India Co. Letters, 1773 


I take the liberty to enclose for your consideration a memorial, regarding the establishment of a branch from the East India house in one of the principal cities in North America. Should the design meet with your approbation, as I am well acquainted with the teas most saleable in that country, shall be extremely happy in giving you every information in my power, I have the honor to be with due esteem, gentlemen,

Your most obedt. & very humble servant,

Gilb't Barkly.



Lombard Street,

26th May, 1773.

To the Hon'ble the Court of Directors of the East India Company.


The Memorial of Gilbert Barkly, merchant, in Philadelphia, in North America, who resided there upwards of sixteen years, and who is well acquainted with the consumption of that country, particularly in the article of Teas, &c.

Humbly proposes. In order to put a final stop to that destructive trade of smuggling:

That the Company should open a chamber in one of the principal, & central cities, of North America, under the direction of managers, and that an assortment of teas from England should be lodged in warehouses, and sales to commence quarterly upon the same terms & conditions as those in London.

By this means the merchants and grocers from the Southern and Northern Provinces will attend the sales and purchase according to their abilities. The goods thus brought from home to them, and sold cheaper than they can be smuggled from foreigners, the buyers will be bound by interest, and think no more of running that risk, to which may be added that they have them when paid for, immediately, for whereas, when commissioned from abroad, they generally wait six months before the receipt of them.

This country is now become an object of the highest consequence, peopled by about three millions of inhabitants, one third of whom, at a moderate computation, drink tea twice a day, which third part, reckoning to each person one fourth part of an ounce pr day, makes the yearly consumption of 5,703,125 lbs. This quantity, at the medium price of 2s. 6d. pr lb., amounts to £712,890 2s. 6d.

The common people in all countries are the greatest body, few of those in North Briton or Ireland drink tea, this is not the case in America, all the planters are the real proprietors of the lands they possess; by this means they can afford to come at this piece of luxury, which has been greatly introduced among them by the example of the Dutch and German settlers.

The great object to be considered is to bring the goods to market in such a manner as to afford them as cheap as they can be bought of foreigners. Should this be the case the success of the design is beyond a doubt.

The duty of 3d. pr lb. some time ago laid on teas payable in America, gave the colonists great umbrage, and occasioned their smuggling that article into the country from Holland, France, Sweden, Lisbon, &c., St. Eustatia, in the West Indies, &c., which, from the extent of the coast, (experience has taught) cannot be prevented by custom officers, or the king's cruizers, and as the wisdom of Parliament reckons it impolitical to take off this duty, the colonists will persevere in purchasing that article in the usual manner if the above method is not adopted, and the goods brought into their country and sold as cheap as they can have them abroad.

The freight, &c., of teas to America would not much exceed what they might cost to Holland, or any other foreign company, particularly as the ships may load back with masts, and other goods that might nigh pay the whole expence, and should the Company think of exporting their overstock of teas to Holland, or any other foreign country, it is not to be expected that the merchants abroad would buy them but with a view of profit. This, with freight, commission, duty, &c., would far exceed the expence of sales and freight to America.

If this scheme should be approved of, the sooner it is executed the better, as the smugglers in America will soon be laying in their fall and winter stock of teas, unless they are prevented by this design, and as Spanish dollars are the current coin in that country, the Company can be furnished with any quantity they may require towards their payment, should they require it.

The managers may be paid by a commission on the sales, and at the same time bound to obey such orders and directions as they may receive from time to time from the Hon'ble the Court of Directors, and as your memorialist is universally acquainted with the trade, and has respectable connections in that country, he humbly offers himself as a proper person to be one of the managers, and if required, will find security for the trust reposed in him. Your memorialist also presumes to mention John Inglis, Esq., of the city of Philadelphia, as another proper person, being universally esteemed in America, and well known in the city of London, as a man of probity, fortune and respect.