Originally Posted by MarkV
The Lower Canadian economy was boosted by the effective closure of the Baltic during the Napoleonic war when the important timber trade shifted to Canada. Part of my own family had been timber merchants and ship owners trading with the Baltic for at least a century and shifted their business entirely to the North Atlantic trade with Canada. The British ship building industry both merchant and naval became dependent upon Canada for masts and spars - much of the timber coming down the St Lawrence.
The Eastern North American white pine was the tree of choice for masts and spars, light but strong due to its' slow growth. Running up to the American Revolution the Royal Navy's confiscation of the trees running up rivers like the Penobscot in Maine became a major source of grievance with New England Colonists. The British Navy would mark the white pines with this mark made with three axe marks known as the "King's Broad Arrow"and with the mark made the tree became the property of the crown, a practice the Royal Navy began in North America in 1691, here is what the mark looked like:
It was a source of grievance with New Englanders to the point of the American colonists deliberately seeking out and cutting the trees so marked. Here is a quote demonstrating the extent of the grievance:
The Revolutionary War was about many things, and Eastern White Pine weighed heavy on the minds and hearts of the colonists desire for independence. Some historians believe that denial of use of these trees was at least as instrumental as taxation of tea in bringing about the American Revolution and the first acts of rebellion against British rule. In fact, the Eastern White Pine was the emblem emblazoned on the first colonial flag, including one bearing a white pine purportedly flown at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Here is the "Eastern White Pine Flag" that was purportedly flown at the Battle of Bunker Hill:
That doesn't seem to be much of a flag to rally behind but it is noteworthy that the white pine is the symbol on the the State of Maine's flag, where most of the white pine masts were harvested in British North America prior to the revolution:
After the Revolutionary war the British continued the practice of confiscating white pines for masts for the British Navy in the neighboring (to Maine - then part of Massachusetts) colony of New Brunswick (then part of the colony of Nova Scotia). The two great rivers of New Brunswick - the Miramichi and the St John Rivers (which I live on) were the main rivers the Royal Navy scoured for suitable white pines for ship masts, and indeed, as Mark states, this became very urgent and more pronounced during the Napoleonic Wars once Baltic supplies were cut off, and the St Lawrence river and its' tributaries in Lower Canada were also an important source.
A discussion of the practice of confiscating white pines in pre-revolutionary America using the "King's Broad Arrow" mark and the agitation it created is here:
kings broad arrow/