History of Domestic and Foreign Commerce of the United States - Vol. 1

By Emory R. Johnson; T. W. Van Metre et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I.
GEOGRAPHIC INFLUENCES AFFECTING THE EARLY DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN COMMERCE.
Development of commerce the resultant of many causes , 3.
Analysis of the conditions controlling economic progress, 3.
The continental shelf and the fisheries , 5.
Shore line and harbors , 6.
The rivers, the fur trade, and water power , 7.
Glaciation and its consequences , 8.
The Coastal Plain and Fall Line , 9.
The Piedmont, 11.
The Appalachian or Great Valley , 12.
The rivers as highways of inland commerce, 13.
The Allegheny passes and the beginnings of western commerce, 14.
General results of control , 15.

The development of the commerce of any country is a resultant of many causes. Social ideals, individual traits and aptitudes, the status of political organization, the legislative policies followed--each of these has had its influence; but they are neither the primary nor the most potent determinants of the nature and scope of a nation's comerce. Economic conditions are the cause of trade and they most strongly control its growth.

Social ideals may strengthen the impulse of the individual to trade and cause him to develop mercantile and maritime traits. The history of New England for more than two centuries affords a striking confirmation of this truth. The aspiration of a country to become an impregnable naval power will impel the government to give large aid to trade and shipping--a fact amply verified by the history of Japan since 1895, of Germany since 1890, and of England and Great Britain since 1650.

When social ideals, individual aptitudes, and economic conditions harmonize, and are favorable to international commerce and to the building and operation of ships, as they are to-day, to a marked degree in Great Britain and Germany and largely in Japan, legislation for the promotion of commerce and shipping may be an effective auxiliary; but when these fundamental prerequisites are wanting, as they are in great part in France, laws can accomplish but little. During the latter half of the nineteenth century the social and economic conditions controlling the investment of capital and the expansion of industry in the United States brought about a large foreign trade; but ships could not be built profitably for sale abroad or for operation in competition with vessels under the flags of other countries.


ANALYSIS OF THE CONDITIONS CONTROLLING ECONOMIC PROGRESS.

The economic conditions that control the development of industry and commerce are partly natural or geographic, and partly artificial or of man's creation. The earth, as the field of human endeavor, broadly controls what man may do; it may bestow free gifts upon mankind;

-3-

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