Petition to Parliament Reasons for making bar, as well as pig or sow-iron 1750


Englishmen engaged in producing finished iron products were eager to increase the supply of pig and bar iron, and, as expected, this group supported the Iron Act of 1750. Since at least 1736, these English enter prisers encouraged colonial producers of bar and pig iron in the same spirit that certain groups in England encouraged the colonial production of pitch, tar, and turpentine. A correspondent to The Gentleman's Magazine supported the idea of encouraging American pig iron and excluding the Swedes.
"For Whereas the Swedish markets receive none of our British manufactures in exchange of theirs, but drain us of our ready specie, and thereby consume the very vitals of the nation; our brethern of America on the contrary will, for their pig and bar iron, take the very same commodity back again manufactured into locks, nails, utensils, and other various implements necessary for their accommodation; so that the mother country has the benefit of employing her own hands for the colonies in the very same commodity they send her for the common use of both."

Later in 1770, Arthur Young, in Travels to Northern England, observed of iron works near Newcastle:

"They use a great deal of American iron, which is as good as Swedish, and for some purposes better. They would use more of it, if larger quantities were to be had, but they cannot get it."
The document is one of a number of petitions submitted.

  1. Except Bar as well as Sow-Iron be admitted, the Quantity in the Plantations wifl fall much short of what may be expected, it being hoped we may make more Sow-Iron than our Market at Home can take off.
  2. The Iron Works in England not being able to supply near one Third Part of the BarIron demanded, must occasion the same Importation as hath hitherto been from Sweden, and consequently carry out our Bullion to purchase it, unless more Works he erected, which would still create a further want of Wood.
  3. This will prevent the Exportation of our Manufactures of Woollen, etc., which would be sent to purchase it in our own Plantations; besides the Discouragement to our Navigation, and the imploying of our Poor in the Plantations and at Home.
  4. To have a Supply of Iron, in his Majesty's Plantations, in case of a Rupture with Sweden or Spain, would prevent the distressing our Manufactures; as hath so lately happened to the Discouragement of Trade, and raising the Price of Manufactured Iron Wares amongst us.
  5. To extend this Law only to Sow or Pig Iron, would in a great measure frustrate the good Design of the present Bill now before this Honourable House.
  6. The Manufacturing Iron into small Wares in the Plantations can never be effected, till their Labour comes to one Fourth Part of the Price that it now is: Iron being made into Bars there for Forty Years past, and Nine or Ten IronWorks of many Years standing, and no Hindrance to our sending IronWares from hence; which is a clear Demonstration that we are in no Danger.
  7. Making Bar, as well as SowIron, in the Plantations, will greatly increase the Quantity, and consequently the Riches of the Nation.
  8. The want of Iron for this Two Years past, has created great Uneasiness in our Workmen, and put their under great Difficulties to subsist, and given Opportunity to our Neighbouring Countries to tempt them away.

Upon Examining the Imports for the Years 1714 and 1715, when a Free Trade was settled, we find imported in those Two Years above Forty Thousand Ton of Foreign Iron; which with the Swedish New Duties, and Tonnage on our Shipping, could not stand in so little as 12l. per ton.

That our usual Exports of wrought Iron is from 1900 to 2000 Ton yearly.

That about Six Hundred Ton thereof is exported to our Neighbouring Kingdoms of Europe.

That from 13 to 1400 Ton is annually exported to our Plantations; much about one Half thereof is sent to the SugarIslands, the rest to New England, Virginia, etc.

Those that are afraid of injuring our Manufacturies by making BarIron in America, will not pretend any Danger of our Trade to the SugarIslands, for they can make no Iron; therefore allowing that full 700 Ton is now exported to the Continent, and that this Nation should lose all the Manufacturing thereof, and allowing full 12s. per Hundred for the Workmanship, it comes but to ,8400l. For the first cost of the Iron must be deducted.

But 20,000 Ton of Iron at 12l. per Ton comes to 240,000l. and `tis well known, Sweden takes nothing from us for their Iron, but our Bullion. And therefore on a Supposition, that 8400l. worth of Labour in the Iron Manufactories may be injured, we must be necessitated to send out our Gold and Silver Annually to supply us with Iron, which might be purchased with our Woollen and other Manufactures, and the Labour of our own People from our own Plantations, and keep us dependant on the Courtesy of Sweden, etc., for Iron and other Naval Stores, as we have been for many Years.