James Cusick


Spanish Governor Zéspedes, writing in 1788 to a superior about his impressions of East Florida, decried the colony’s reliance on Havana as its sole source of supply. The majority of the colonists were far too impoverished, he wrote, to afford the high prices of goods shipped via Cuba. He continued: “[T]hat a poor immigrant at the end of one year, when he has made his first crop, or a Minorcan with a wife and four or five children who does not earn half a peso fuerte a day, should have to provide his family with goods bought from that place [Havana] and feed them with food from New Spain— I must honestly say that I consider such a thing impossible even with the most industrious effort on their parts, at least until this country has developed for several years with some measure of free trade.“1 A few years later, a group of merchants expressed similar concerns about freedom of trade in a petition to Governor Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada. They complained that the Panton, Leslie & Company’s monopoly rights to the Indian trade in Spanish Florida had created a stranglehold on commerce, impeding the importation of cheap goods.