Monday, January 25, 2010

Paying the Provincials

a collection of coins commonly found at F&I era British sites (half pennies, pistareens)
with a 20 shilling Virginia note from 1757 and coin scales.

What kinds of money were provincial soldiers paid with? Judging from excavated materials, Pistareens and half pennies ( )were in wide circulation during this period. Early on in the conflict General Braddock brought over large quantities of Spanish silver “Piastrines” (a Pistareen or 2 reales being worth 15 d) from England, for payments in the hard currency starved colonies (see The Cumberland Papers in Windsor Castle. Edited by Stanley Pargellis page 81). Hard money was preferred, but many soldiers were paid in paper money (currency ) from their colony. Correspondence from the Washington papers indicates that from December 1755 onward payment for Virginia provincials was made in large denomination paper bills that were not taken at face value by merchants who preferred cash (coins, valued by weight): “The inconveniences that arise from paying the soldiers in large bills, are not to be conceived. We are obliged afterwards to give the pay of two or three soldiers to one man. He, ten to one else, drinks, games, or pays it away; by which means the parties are all dissatisfied, and perpetually complaining for want of their pay. It also prevents them from laying out their pay for absolute necessaries, and obliges them many times to drink it out; for they put it into the tavern-keeper's hands, who will give no change, unless they consent to take the greatest part in liquor. In short, for five shillings cash you may at any time purchase a month's pay from the soldiers; in such contempt do they hold the currency. Besides small bills, (if the thing is practicable,) I should be extremely glad to receive some part of the money in Spanish and Portugal gold and silver. There are many things wanted for the use of the regiment, which cannot be had here, and may at Philadelphia; but their undervaluing of our money, has prevented my sending thither.” (GW To JOHN ROBINSON August 5, 1756). To give a reference point, in 1758 a pipe cost a penny, Leaf tobacco 9 shillings per pound, American Whiskey or rum 5 shillings a gallon, Chocolate was 2 shillings 6 pence and Madeira cost 18 shillings a gallon (Based on figures charged by sutlers on the Forbes expedition).

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