Thomas Jefferson Papers

I. The Governor of Massachusetts to the Secretary of State, 25 October 1790

I. The Governor of Massachusetts to the Secretary of State

Boston Oct. 25: 1790


Having laid your Letter of the 24th. of August last before the Legislature of this Commonwealth; an order passed that assembly appointing a Committee to meet as soon as may be, and consult, and determine the proper means of obtaining full, and authentic information respecting the Whale, and Cod fisherys as heretofore, and now carried on in this Commonwealth and to lay the same before the Governor, to be transmitted to you agreeable to your request. The Committee have since met, and made their report which is accordingly inclosed. The fisherys altho particularly beneficial to this State must at the same Time be of very great advantage, for obvious reasons, to the United States.—I flatter myself that due attention will be had to so interesting a Subject, and am with great Esteem, and respect Your obedient & very huml. Servt.

[John Hancock]

FC (MBA). Recorded in SJL as received 22 Nov. 1790. Enclosures: (1) Resolution of the General Court of Massachusetts designating Peleg Coffin and others as a committee to gather information on the fisheries, 17 Sep. 1790. (2) Report of this committee to John Hancock, 13 Oct. 1790, printed below. (3) State of the cod fishery from 1765 to 1775 (for texts of this and following enclosure, see Report, Appendix No. 2). (4) State of the cod fishery from 1786 to 1790. (5) State of the whale fishery from 1771 to 1775 (see Report, Appendix No. 12). (6) Account of the whale fishery of Nantucket before and after the war, showing that from 1772 to 1775 there were 150 vessels having a tonnage of 15,000, employing 2,025 seamen and producing 30,000 barrels of whale oil, spermaceti oil, and headmatter selling at Nantucket at £22, £40, and £50 per ton respectively, most of which was exported to England. The Account further showed that in 1783 the Nantucket fleet had been reduced to 19 vessels having a tonnage of 1,485, employing 253 seamen and producing 2,649 barrels, with market values the same except that headmatter had increased to £60 per ton; that from 1784 to 1787 the fleet had averaged 28 vessels of 2,370 tonnage, employing 376 seamen and producing 4,813 barrels exclusive of headmatter, with Nantucket prices at £20 for whale oil, £20 for spermaceti oil, and £45 for headmatter; and that from 1788 to 1790 an average of 39 vessels having a tonnage of 4,207, and employing 349 seamen had produced 11,703 barrels, with a decline in prices to £13 per ton for whale oil and £50 per ton for headmatter, and no market at all for spermaceti. The account indicated that in 1788, 7,000 barrels of whale oil were exported to France and 1,620 barrels of spermaceti were shipped to France and London, while the next year the comparable figures were 6,000 and 2,897. In 1790 half of the production of the whale fishery remained on hand. This fact and the reduction in prices after 1783 were explained in the following marginal note: “The difference in the price of Spermo. Oil from 1783 to 1784 was Owing to the duty of £1830 Sterlg. p Ton imposed on American (as foreign) Oil imported into the Ports of Great Britain.—Great Britain having lately prohibited the Importation of American Oil into their Ports, even in British Bottoms, there is therefore the greatest half Obtain’d on the present season now on hand.”

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