I am in Glasgow for the first time tonight and reading up on the history. Tobacco lords cannily hooked their west coast planters on cheap credit before gutting them with low prices - very reminiscent of drug lords or the Default credit swaps that led to the GFC. T Jefferson and G Washington were among the tobacco planters enmeshed in this clever Glaswegian scheme.

Is it possible that the fortune seeking of these tobacco lords was one of the factors that tipped the balance in the Americans tolerance of the mercantilism and colonialism of their Imperial masters resulting in the rebellion?

  • 3
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a conspiracy theory. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 22:34
  • I don't think so - I don't credit the theory - land poverty was much more important. I also think "their imperial masters" is absurd. But if someone were to point out that the revolution started to preserve their rights as Englishmen, it would answer this question in the negative.
    – MCW
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 22:53
  • Perhaps the Glaswegians were pawns in the game controlled by the Tobacco Lords?
    – Oldcat
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 23:41
  • I think the Boston Massacre might quality as a 'more poignant trigger'
    – Oldcat
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 23:42
  • Interesting theory. I tried to limit the scope of the question to "one of the factors."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 16:57

2 Answers 2


In a small way, yes it did.

However, the deleterious effects of this incident would have been almost entirely isolated to the southern plantation colonies of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Not only are those only four of the 13 colonies, but they happen to have been some of the rebelling colonies in which Royalists (colonists against the revolution and for staying part of England) were the strongest. For a while during the war, Georgia and South Carolina were under Royalist administration and were fighting on the side of the British.

Due to the necessity of correspondence in the trans-Atlantic communications involved in the dispute, the slide of the American colonies from loyalty into open rebellion is probably one of the better documented eras in history.

I recently got a compilation of such correspondence. From what I've seen, probably the best written and most comprehensive list of colonial grievances is the one laid out by Benjamin Franklin in late 1773, in his sarcastic piece Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced To a Small One. Note that there is a mention in there of "Stock-Jobbers", but it is one of nearly a hundred things. Being 1773, it misses the last 3 years of activity before the final breach, but if you imagine England doubling down on the behavior mentioned rather than retarding it, you'll get the idea.

There appears to have been a fundamental dispute of power between the British Parliament and the colonies. The colonists felt like they should be free British citizens, with all the attendant rights and privileges they would enjoy if they resided on the home island. One thing I'm finding is that the concepts of man's natural freedom expressed in the USA's founding documents were not original there. Rather they are just a concise expression of the rights free men in England already enjoyed. So the issue wasn't that Americans had a radically different conception of a citizen's rights than existed in England, but rather that they felt they ought to still possess them even outside the borders of that island.

Parliament's position seems to have been that the colonies, including all the property held within, were simply a Crown possession. As the official Government of England, they could make any law they liked governing the property and people inside an English colony. Any loyal British citizen must comply, and any failure to do so must be punished or it would just encourage such behavior worldwide.

So it is certainly fair to say that "stock-jobbers" like the tobacco lords had their hand in the revolt. However, they were just one of a cast of thousands. The root issue was a dispute over who had the right to legislate over the colonists. Nearly all the other problems flowed out of that.

  • I think the grievances of Washington and Jefferson due to the Glaswegians was highly significant, and I believe pushed them to become the revolutionary leaders they later would. If they had been "permitted" to simply amass fortunes, perhaps they would not have become so personally involved. I wonder if there would have been a different leadership matrix had these guys not suffered under the tobacco lords...?
    – Cris
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 13:16

The generation that undertook the revolution gave lots of specific arguments, many of which could be read in the Declaration of Independence and in Common Sense. Both documents were widely read aloud in public places. They cited lots of arguments about taxes, trade limitations, procedural abuses, unfree trials, and so on. The revolution had broad support, particularly in the north, so it's unlikely secret reasons or motivations played much role.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.