On this day in 1775, London merchants petition Parliament for relief from the financial hardship put upon them by the curtailment of trade with the North American colonies.
In the petition, the merchants provided their own history of the dispute between the colonies and Parliament, beginning with the Stamp Act of 1765. Most critical to the merchants’ concerns were the £2 million sterling in outstanding debts owed to them by their North American counterparts.
The merchants claimed that, a total stop is now put to the export trade with the greatest and most important part of North America, the public revenue is threatened with a large and fatal diminution, the petitioners with grievous distress, and thousands of industrious artificers and manufacturers with utter ruin. The petitioners begged Parliament to consider re-implementing the system of mercantile trade between Britain and the American colonies, which had served the interests of all parties in the empire prior to 1764.
Following the Coercive Acts of 1774, the colonies had quickly agreed to reinstate the non-importation agreements first devised in response to the Stamp Act in the autumn of 1765. They threatened to enter non-exportation agreements if Britain failed to meet their demands by August 1775. Because debts the colonies owed British merchants were generally paid in exports, not currency, such an action would indeed have caused tremendous financial loss to the British economy. Non-importation had a comparatively minor impact, because British merchants could and did find other markets. However, no one else would pay the vast debts owed to the merchants by tobacco planters like Thomas Jefferson or New England shipping magnates like John Hancock.