The Maritime Commerce of Colonial Philadelphia

The Maritime Commerce of Colonial Philadelphia

The Maritime Commerce of Colonial Philadelphia

The Maritime Commerce of Colonial Philadelphia

Excerpt

As I revised this work for publication I often felt that if I were confronted with it as a reviewer I would be tempted to observe that it appears to suffer from a split personality. Part of it attempts a descriptive analysis of the nature and growth of Philadelphia maritime commerce and the legal and geographical framework within which the merchants carried on their activities; another part attempts to describe British policy after 1763, to assess its effect on Philadelphia commerce, and to evaluate the role which the merchants played in the revolutionary movement in Pennsylvania. This seeming disjointedness may conceal a logic which is apparent to the author if not to the reader. The study began with a general interest in the revolutionary backgrounds of the United States and from this point narrowed down to the more specific question of the relationship between the colonial merchants and the revolutionary movement. My interest then focussed geographically on Philadelphia, the largest city and the busiest port in Great Britain's colonial empire. But a question immediately arose: how could I adequately evaluate the effect of British policy on the economic interests of the Philadelphia merchants unless I first understood the nature and extent of Philadelphia commerce itself? This deficiency in my knowledge apparently could not be supplied from existing secondary sources. Mary Alice Hanna's pioneer study of The Trade of the Delaware District had been somewhat cursory and had obviously made little use of the rich manuscript sources available at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Frederick Tolles' admirable account of the Quaker merchants had been confined to the years before 1763 and had been more concerned with the meetinghouse than the counting house. It then seemed reasonable to me to expand the scope of my study so as to include information about Philadelphia, commerce itself as an essential prelude to reaching any conclusions about the connections between the Philadelphia merchants and the revolutionary movement.

In the course of making this investigation I learned, among many other things, the necessity of caution in making broad gen-

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