Coffee House Lobbying

Alison Olson looks at the role London coffee houses played from the Restoration onwards in providing the setting for the small groups of merchants trading with the American colonies to defend their interests.

House politics: a sketch by William Hogarth of 1720 shows two visitors to Button's Coffee House discussing a report of Commons votesIn 1700 there were about 1,500 London merchants trading with the North American colonies. The number had nearly quadrupled since 1640 when there were about 400 such merchants and it continued to increase, though not so rapidly, over the first half of the eighteenth century. The American traders were lesser men in the city's mercantile community; they operated not in large companies but in single family businesses, or two or three-man partnerships, and they got together to discuss commerce and colonies not in company buildings, but wherever they could.

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