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 VIII.
AMERICAN COMMERCIAL POLICY, 1776 TO 1789.
Commercial policy determined by the States, not by the Confederation , 132.
Commercial legislation during the Revolution , 133.
Import duties during the Revolution, 134, between 1783 and 1785, 135, from 1785 to 1789, 136.
The impost legislation of Massachusetts, 136.
The Pennsylvania tariff law of 1785 , 137.
The impost duties imposed by other States , 138.
Discriminating duties in aid of American shipping, 139.
Tonnage taxes , 140.
Export duties , 140.
Production bounties and navigation laws, 141.
Commercial legislation of the Confederation , 142.
General characteristics of the period , 143.

Within a short time after the declaration of independence the several colonies established State governments, and in 1781 the States united under the Articles of Confederation. The union thus formed was a loose one, each State retaining almost complete sovereignty, and reserving to itself the authority to legislate on finance, commerce, and other questions of common concern to all the States--matters that ought to have been intrusted to the general government.

American commercial policy during the thirteen years preceding the inauguration of President Washington was determined by the States, and is embodied in their laws instead of in the legislation enacted by the Federal Government. In order to secure the revenues indispensable to the maintenance and continuance of the Federal Government the Federal Congress sought in vain to obtain the consent of the States to the national levying of duties on imports; consequently the history of the commercial policy of the federation is a short chapter of unsuccessful efforts to get the power to do what was denied it by the States.

The period from 1776 to 1789 includes two distinct parts--the wartime to 1782 and the years of transition from federation to nationality. The legislation of the States during the war differed greatly from that of the six years intervening between the achievement of independence and the realization of efficient national existence under the Constitution. While the war was in progress commercial intercourse with Great Britain was prohibited both by the States and by Great Britain, and embargoes were laid by the States to prevent the exportation of certain commodities to any country. Trade with countries other than Great Britain was permissible as regards most commodities, but was reduced to small proportions by the vigilance of the powerful British navy. The States did not impose duties on imports from 1776 to 1782, but at the close of the war the levies were laid, at first for revenue only, but later for the two-fold purpose of affording protection to domestic industries and trade, and securing the necessary public funds. The promotion of American shipping was another important aim of the State laws.

-132-

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