The New Nation: A History of the United States during the Confederation, 1781-1789

By Merrill Jensen | Go to book overview

8
War and Peace: Boom and Bust

THE ASSOCIATION at the beginning of the Revolution was a stunning but not fatal blow to American economy. Americans stopped importing British goods. Farm produce could not go to its normal markets along the coast, the West Indies, and Europe. Nearby armies were a temporary but often a dubious market. Merchants were hemmed in ports by British troops or ran the risk of losing their ships to the British navy if they ventured out of port. In many towns the pattern of economic relationships was upset by such events as the burning of Norfolk, the flight of Loyalist merchants from Boston, and the occupation of New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston by the British.

As the war went on the effects of its outbreak wore off except in the immediate presence of fighting. Commerce found its way back into many old channels, and found new ones, for Americans were at last free of the trammels of the English Navigation Acts. In both old and new channels American merchants found greater risks, but also greater profits than they had dreamed of before the war. By 1778 European luxury goods as well as necessities were advertised in American newspapers as they had been before 1776.1

The steady rhythm of farming was little interrupted except in the immediate presence of warring armies. Even this was no unmixed evil, for the British and the French armies traveled with cash in hand to pay for supplies. After 1776 New England farmers were untouched except by militia duty. The back country of the middle states continued to produce the breadstuffs for which it

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1
Edward Channing: A History of the United States ( 6 vols., New York, 1905-25), III, ch. xiii.

-179-

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