A Victim of Circumstance: The Timber Bill of 1772 and the East India Company
In 1771 a bill was brought before the British Parliament to limit the tonnage o f East India Company ships. The Admiralty claimed that construction of the large trading vessels consumed vital and dwindling supplies of English oak required by the Royal Navy. After convening for a year, the Committee organized to investigate the "timber" bill reported that the Company was not solely responsible for the shortage of timber. However, by 1772 the Company was in serious financial difficulty. In the face of mounting pressure for government control of the Company, the timber bill became another vehicle in t he debate of whether the Crown or the Company should control India. Although passed, the timber bill had less to do with the merits of preserving vital oak for the Royal Navy than it did with efforts to limit the powers of the East India Company.