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 VII.
PERIOD OF THE REVOLUTION AND CONFEDERATION, 1775-1789.

Indirect trade with Great Britain during the Revolution, 122. The effects of the war upon American trade, 123. Effect upon American shipping and ship-building, 123. Reasons why trade was chiefly with Great Britain after the Revolution, 125. Conditions affecting American commerce from 1783 to 1789, 127. British regulations affecting American commerce, 1783-1789, 128. Changes in destination and routes of American foreign trade, 130.

Both the non-intercourse agreements of the colonies that preceded the Revolution and the war itself necessarily restricted the over-sea commerce of America, because the trade of the colonies was mainly with Great Britain; but the interruption to trade was not especially serious after the first three years of the war. After 1778 foreign goods of great variety and of relatively large quantities were obtained by resort to privateering, and, fortunately for the American people, it was possible to continue to engage in foreign trade by sending traffic via roundabout routes to ports whereby the commodities exchanged became neutralized.

Macpherson states in his Annals of Commerce (Vol. III, 591) that a marked effect of the war was a great reduction of the direct trade between the thirteen colonies and Great Britain, and the growth of a large indirect trade, carried on through numerous circuitous channels. "The British, Danish, and Dutch islands in the West Indies were filled with British manufactures which were exchanged for American provisions, lumber, tobacco, and other products to the great emolument of the dealers on both sides." The statistics of exports at the ports of Great Britain indicated a large increase in the value of commodities sent to Nova Scotia during the period of the war, and it is probably safe to assume that many of these articles sent to Nova Scotians were subsequently smuggled into the United States. Moreover, for considerable periods of time during the war, New York, Carolina, and Georgia were under British control, and while such was the case, British merchant ships might enter from Great Britain and clear for that country.

The restoration of peace and the achievement of American independence changed the status of the foreign commerce of the United States. Before the war the greater share of the trade was with Great Britain, which, by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, became a foreign country. While the British Acts of Trade had hampered American commerce, they had also given British colonies many favors which foreign nations did not enjoy in trading with England and Scotland. When the United States became a foreign country most, although happily not all, of the special commercial privileges which Great Britain had previously granted were withdrawn.

The development of American trade during the years immediately following the Revolution was hindered by the political conditions

-122-

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