Timber Duties

Timber Duties First imposed in the 18th century to provide revenue, Britain's tariffs on imported wood were an integral component of the 19th-century British North American timber trade. As duties increased 1803-11, in order to replenish depleted treasury coffers and in response to Napoleon's Continental Blockade, Britain established a protected market for colonial producers. With Napoleon's defeat in 1815, colonial preference was attacked by Baltic timber interests and a growing free-trade lobby. Committees in 1820 and 1821 reduced the foreign-colonial differentials without removing the after-freight advantage they gave colonial wood. During the 1830s economic uncertainty increased the instability of the colonial trade. After Britain moved toward free trade in 1842, the colonial timber preference was halved within 2 years. Imports of wood from BNA lost ground to Baltic shipments after 1850, but despite the gloomy forebodings of colonial timber interests, the transatlantic trade was not eliminated by these changes. By 1860 foreign and colonial wood paid the same low rate and in 1866 Britain abolished the duties. Although the preference may have been essential to the establishment of N American trade, its continued high level through the 1830s probably inflated the price of wood in Britain.