Parliament comes to grips with American independence

[A collection of six Acts of Parliament, including important legislation responding to the end of the American Revolution.] London: Charles Eyre and William Strahan, 1783.
All folio, caption titles, dbd. Details below.
$3,500

Six 1783 Acts of Parliament, each revealing aspects of Great Britain’s adjustment to the new reality after the end of the American Revolution, including opening and facilitating trade with the United States, continued funding of certain military units in America, and attempts to provide reparations to Loyalists who had suffered losses of property. Printed in 1783, before the final ratification of the Paris Peace Treaty in early 1784, these are among the earliest official documents to acknowledge and name the United States of America.

Encouragement of trade with the West Indies
“CAP. VI. An Act to continue several Laws, relating to the regulating the Fees of Officers of the Customs and Naval Officers in America ; to the allowing the Exportation. Of certain Quantities of Wheat, and other Articles, to His Majesty’s Sugar Colonies in America ; to the permitting the Exportation of Tobacco-pipe Clay from this Kingdom to the British Sugar Colonies or Plantations in the West Indies ; and to the repealing the Duties upon Pot and Pearl Ashes, Wood and Weed Ashes, imported into Great Britain, and for granting other Duties in lieu thereof.” 179-182 pp. ESTC N58220.

A continuation Act, allowing benefits to the colonies in the West Indies and other sugar plantations such as St. Helena.

Permitting trade with the United States
“CAP XXVI. An Act to repeal so much of Two Acts, made in the Sixteen and Seventeenth Years of the Reign of His present Majesty, as prohibits Trade and Intercourse with the United States of America.” 471-472 pp. ESTC N58247.

Ordering the resumption of trade between Great Britain and its former colonies, now the United States of America. The Act has two parts: The first rescinds and Act prohibiting trade with the 13 colonies (all named here); the second rescinds an Act awarding prizes to privateers who captured patriot vessels and cargo. This is one of the earliest official references to the “territories now comprising the United States of America.” The Act concludes by removing the authorization for any hostilities against the Americans “after the respective periods set for in his Majesty’s Proclamation, for the cessation of hostilities between Great Britain and the United States of America, bearing date the fourteenth day of February, one thousand, seven hundred and eighty three.”

Facilitating trade with the United States
“CAP. XXXIX. An Act for preventing certain Instruments from being required from Ships belonging to the United States of America ; and to give to his Majesty, for a limited Time, certain Powers for the better carrying on Trade and Commerce between the Subjects of His Majesty’s Dominions and the Inhabitants of the said United States.” 735-736 pp. ESTC N58265.

Opening with the phrase “Whereas it is expedient, for the Purpose of opening a Commercial Intercourse with the Inhabitants of the United States of America,” this Act temporarily reduces paperwork requirements on American vessels arriving in or departing from Great Britain.

Funding the Army in North America
“CAP. LXXVIII. An Act for granting to His Majesty a certain Sum of Money out of the Sinking Fund; and for applying certain Monies therein mentioned for the Service of the Year One thousand seven hundred and eight-three; and for further appropriating the Supplies granted in this Session of Parliament.” 1519-1546 pp. ESTC N58326.

Granting the King funds (£ 2,200,000) necessary to run the country. Much of the detail in the Act concerns defraying the vast costs of maintaining the Army around the world, including a bit more than £ 25,000 “for defraying the Charge of Five Provincial Corps in America” for 121 days and another £ 38,000 for the following 183 days. Over the course of the Revolution, Great Britain had raised five regiments of Loyalists, perhaps 19,000 men in all, generally used as front-line infantry in New York in 1778-79 and the southern campaigns of 1780-81. Formalized in 1779 as the “American Establishment,” with nominally equal status to other units of the Regular Army, by some point in 1783 these regiments were all disbanded or amalgamated with other bodies.

Per the caption title, the funds were appropriated from the Sinking Fund. This had theoretically been established to pay down Great Britain’s enormous National Debt, much of which had accumulated in the course of acquiring its North American empire during the Seven Years War.

Encouraging coffee and cacao plantations
“CAP. LXXIX. An Act for the further encouraging the Growth of Coffee and Cocoa Nuts, in His Majesty’s Islands and Plantations in America.” 1551-1560 pp. ESTC N58328.

An act intended to encourage the cultivation of coffee and cocoa in Jamaica, among other things drastically reducing the duties payable on cacao nuts. Plantation owners must swear on oath that they have produced the nuts they sell, presumably to prevent non-British cacao from entering the country without paying duties.

Compensation for Loyalists
“CAP. LXXX. An Act for appointing Commissioners to enquire into the Losses and Services of all such Persons who have suffered in their Rights, Properties, and Possessions, during the late unhappy Dissensions in America, in Consequence of their Loyalty to His majesty, and Attachment to the British Government.” 1563-1568 pp. ESTC N58329.

Appointing a Royal Commission to support American colonists who had incurred losses on account of their loyalty to Great Britain. Tens of thousands, of loyalists suffered property loss through legalized or extralegal dispossession by local and state governments, or after voluntary or involuntary exile to Canada, England or other parts of the Empire. The Commission continue its work for several years, eventually expending a whopping £ 3,500,000 to settle thousands of claims.