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One thousand English pounds was the price the English crown would pay for information leading to the arrest of the man who shot the English ship captain.  How much was a thousand pounds worth?

According to EH.Net, the difference in earnings between 1772 and 2000, in England, is about 1000.  [EH.Net operates the Economic History Services web site to provide resources for scholars in economic history. EH.Net is supported by the Economic History Association and other affiliated organizations: the Business History Conference, the Cliometric Society, the Economic History Society, and the History of Economics Society.]  So, in terms of earning power of a person, a person in 1772 who received 1000 English Pounds would be roughly like a person in the year 2000 getting  100,000 English Pounds (roughly a quarter million American dollars). 

The statistics of Lawrence H. Officer and Samuel H. Williamson, in "Computing 'Real Value' Over Time With a Conversion Between U.K. Pounds and U.S. Dollars, 1830 - 2005," MeasuringWorth.Com, August 2006, give somewhat the same conversion factor, as their statistics indicate about a 1000 multiplier in the value of money between 1830 and 2000.  See also, for a somewhat different estimate, but still of the same general nature, Lawrence H. Officer, "Purchasing Power of British Pounds from 1264 to 2006." MeasuringWorth.com, 2007.]

Another  reference point in thinking of the real value of the 1000 pounds reward lies in the purchase of the Gaspee, by the English Navy as one of  six schooners purchased for the Royal Navy shortly after the end of the French and Indian War in 1763.  The ships each cost between 420 to 545.  So a person with a thousand pounds could easily purchase a ship and still have plenty left over to operate it (see the cost of labor below), and then still have plenty left over to buy a house and live comfortably in it for a year or more.

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Thomas Hady, a economist of the sort who deals with statistics of our national economy, has this to say about the value of 1000 pounds during the time of the Revolutionary War (with some editorial alterations by us):

  • "While we are dealing with British pounds, I assume because we are in the United States, that changes in U. S. prices are the relevant ones.
  • Twenty five years ago, the United States Census published the Historical Statistics of the U. S. I find in that invaluable volume that in 1781, a carpenter, a mason, a cooper and a tailor in Virginia all earned about 5 shillings per day, Virginia currency. Roughly the same numbers applied in Rhode Island in 1776."  

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If we use Hady's noted 1776 figure of 5 shillings as the daily wage for a craftsman, that means that a 1000 pound reward in 1772 was the equivalent of a craftsman being paid every day for 54 years of labor.   Because the fact was that the average person only lived to his/her 40's or so, the reward was enough to put any person into a life of relative ease.

However, Hady's figures are for the value of money during the Revolution, when money might have had more value than in 1772.  There is a statistic regarding the value of money at the start of the Revolution, which might be more directly related to the value in 1772 when King George proclaimed the reward, in  Liberty, that great series by the Public Broadcasting Service.  It says that: "A typical landless farm laborer might earn 30 a year--- about the same wage as a school teacher." at the start of the Revolution. At this evaluation, the 1000 pounds reward translates into 33 years wages for a school teacher.  

In short, King George's reward was ample enough to be a fine temptation for an informer to come forth. What made the reward especially tempting is the fact that currency, especially "hard" currency of England, was a scarce commodity in the American colonies.  Any person who had cash had a considerable advantage in dealing with others.  Cash allowed a person the freedom of escape from the otherwise general need to rely on growing ones own food because of the lack of cash to buy it from others.  Cash allowed a person the upper hand in negotiating everything from ale to zealous workmen.

Use the links below to go to major areas of this site.

Summary of Attack ] Law as Weapon ] Theory of Attack ] Forensic History ] Attack Force ] Persons Involved ] Witnesses Said ] Post Gaspee Events ] JBS Library ]