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

By Merrill Jensen | Go to book overview

10
The Roots of Recovery: Growth of Business Enterprise

AS AMERICANS reopened old trade routes and found new ones after the Revolution, they also developed new opportunities within the United States. They turned to manufacturing as they had never done before, and they began founding banks that were to be relatively permanent. There had been repeated demands for the development of manufacturing during the colonial period. Colonial legislatures from time to time had aided local manufactures by gifts of land and freedom from taxation. But manufacturing developed slowly, for it was an agricultural society in which labor was high, land was cheap, and ordinarily goods could be brought from England more cheaply than they could be made in the colonies. When successful colonial manufactures did develop, such as beaver hats, finished iron, and woolens, Britain attempted to check them. Some times, as in the case of naval stores, she gave bounties for the development of colonial products needed in England. But in general, the manufactures of the colonies were local in importance and domestic in character: boots, shoes, cloth, nails, and the like, and they were produced in homes and small shops.

The Revolution freed American artisans in many ways. It did away with British restrictions; the war itself acted as a protective tariff; the need for army clothing aided cloth manufactures; the need for powder and guns focused attention of American governments and artisans on that business and helped to expand the development of iron manufactures. The release from old restraints and opportunities born of war turned more and more men to

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