Privy Council Committee on Trade and Plantations, 1696-1782
Administrative / biographical background:
In the seventeenth century a succession of committees, commissions and councils of trade and plantations, all to a greater or lesser degree subordinate to the Privy Council, were established to superintend the affairs of the new colonies in America and the West Indies. The last of these, the lords of trade and plantations or Board of Trade, was established in 1696 and continued until 1782. Although from 1675 the secretaries of state were always lords of trade, their involvement in colonial affairs was at first slight and only developed in the eighteenth century.
At first either secretary might be concerned, but eventually it became established that the colonies were the responsibility of the secretary of state for the Southern Department. He was the channel of communication between the crown and the Board of Trade, but depended on the board for effective action in many fields of colonial affairs.
In 1768 a third secretary of state, the colonial or American secretary, was appointed and the colonial functions of the southern secretary were transferred to him. From 1769 to 1779 he was also president of the Board of Trade. With the loss of the American colonies the Board of Trade and colonial secretaryship were abolished by an act of 1782, and until 1801 colonial affairs were in the hands of the Home Secretary. In 1784 the Board of Trade was revived and established on a permanent basis in 1786, but it had advisory functions only and its authority on colonial questions quickly declined and hardly continued after 1801.
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