Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Tench Coxe, 23 June 1791

From Tench Coxe

[Philadelphia], 23 June 1791. Enclosing account of Cuba and statement of Newfoundland fishery for three years. Also sends the Virginia imports which TJ will see are “near a half a million greater in value” than register’s return, owing to later quarterly returns from some customhouses which were then deficient.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 22 June 1791 and so recorded in SJL—an error in date made either by Coxe or by TJ. Enclosures: (1) An account by Oliver Pollock of the military and naval forces in Cuba and of the exports from Havana. As to the former, Pollock stated that some 200,000 men were on the island, about half of whom were in or near Havana, being “one third nearly white, and one third of colour, and the remaining third Black” that the Havana militia were well disciplined but not likely to sustain any test of prowess, while the country militia were scattered, inefficient, and could not be depended on in any emergency whatever; that the fortifications were very strong, particularly near Havana, though the strongest fort was not finished; that the marine consisted of only one 74-gun ship, two badly manned frigates, and a 100-gun ship under construction, though the workmen on it and on the fortifications were idle because of the financial difficulties of the government; and that “The Inhabitants of the whole Island of Cuba may without any exception be pronounced universally dissatisfied, with the heavy Yoke, imposed by their despotic System of Government, and they doubtless will at some future period, eagerly embrace the earliest favourable opportunity, to shake off the Galling Chain, nay even the military part are far from being pleased with their situation.” Pollock estimated that imports totalled 40,000 barrels of flour and an equal amount of beef, pork, rice, gammon, lard, butter, cheese, spermaceti candles, beeswax, apples, potatoes, codfish, beer, cider, masts, iron, and steel, the whole of which he thought could be valued at $800.000. As to the latter, he gave a detailed account based on customs records of the exports from Havana for 1783 and 1784, consisting principally of sugar, molasses, spirits, tobacco, lumber, tar, pitch, raw hides, beeswax, and gold and silver, both in coins and in ingots—the figures for these being unreliable because of smuggling. “The slightest view of the soil and attention to the happy Climate of this Fertile Island,” Pollock concluded, “must force conviction, that were the Inhabitants permitted to purchase slaves proportioned to their abilities to pay for them, their exports … would be increased many fold, for no industry is to be expected from the exertions of the white Inhabitants of that region of Sloth” (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 65: 11200–2, signed by Pollock; undated, with the following note added by Coxe: “date unknown, but subsequent to 1784”; endorsed by TJ: “Military Force &c. at Havana”). (2) A table of shipping and imports for the various ports of Newfoundland from 10 Oct. 1786 to 10 Oct. 1789, showing that 335 vessels with tonnage of 37,913 arrived from Great Britain while only 11 with tonnage of 1,395 were from Canada, Nova Scotia, and the United States; that the principal imports were bread, flour, beef, pork, butter, cheese, salt, tea, sugar, molasses, rum, wine, gin, cider, tobacco, coffee, soap, candles, coal, pitch, tar, lumber, oxen, sheep, and poultry. A note to the table indicated that articles not specified—linens, woollens, sailcloth, cordage, leather, and iron—were all imported from Great Britain and Ireland. It also stated that the table covered those parts of the coast of Newfoundland where the fishery of Great Britain was carried on and provided a summary of its results for the years covered (MS in tabular form in DLC: TJ Papers, 65: 11203; in clerk’s hand, undated).

The enclosures provided further information for the report on commerce which TJ expected to submit at the ensuing session of Congress (see Report on Commerce, 16 Dec. 1793).

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