ePub 版

was authorized by Parliament to issue orders for the regulation of the American trade; and at different times orders in council were issued, which were on the whole fairly liberal and did not by any means apply the old navigation laws in their full vigor. The trade in American ships with the British West Indies was, however, practically prohibited, and England, desirous of encouraging her own whale-fishery, did not permit the importation of American oil. As a result of these regulations the American shipping interests suffered much.

The Americans, with all their adaptability, insisted on following, when possible, the old lines of trade, and especially the old direct trade with England, just as they had done before the war in accordance with the navigation laws about which there had been so much complaint. They insisted on buying in British markets, and they did not properly develop their trade with the other countries of Europe. But even the direct trade with England was naturally less than before the war, and the balance was of course much in England's favor. Because of the retention of the frontier posts in British hands-for these were not given up at the close of the war—a large portion of the fur-trade, which had brought in considerable profit, was confined to the British companies and merchants.

· Sheffield, Observations (ed. of 1784), App., 340–345. · Adams, Works, VIII., 323. Pitkin, Statistical View of the Commerce of the U. S., 17, 30.


All this affected chiefly the New England carryingtrade, and points to a derangement of the old conditions and a need of adjustment. But the south, too, was suffering in a measure; it had recently been in the hands of the enemy and was much torn by civil strife; many thousands of slaves had been carried away by the British. The life of the plantation was therefore considerably disturbed, and the conditions necessitated or seemed to necessitate the introduction of more slaves; time was needed to get new supplies, “to rebuild their houses, fences, barns, etc., ... and to repair the other ravages of the war." 1 The exportation, therefore, of southern products diminished in amount and value in the first few years after the war. The decrease in ship-building was a discouraging sign of the general situation throughout the country.:

Of course it took time for commerce to find new outlets and for business to adapt itself to the close competition and careful bargaining of ordinary times after the excitement and risk of war. Some things the merchants of the north soon proceeded to do; they once again adjusted themselves to facts, not without loud outcries and not without ultimate profit. Ere long the hardy privateersman entered lustily into foreign trade; for the privateering, after · Jefferson, Writings (Ford's ed.), IV., 204.

Drayton, View of South Carolina, 167; Am. State Papers, Com. and Nav., I., 32, 33.

3 "Letters of Phineas Bond," in Am. Hist. Assoc., Report, 1896, I., 638.

all, was but an interlude, a passing stage, between the great negro and rum trade of the earlier days and the European and Oriental traffic that rapidly grew in importance in the first decade after the war. In February, 1784, the Empress of China sailed from New York for the Far East, and the next year the enterprising Derby sent out The Grand Turk for the Isle of France and Canton. With continental Europe a profitable trade was springing up. Sixty American vessels entered the port of Lisbon in 1785 from American and foreign ports and only seventy-seven European vessels from the same ports;' and with France and some of the other continental countries the traffic was considerable. In this way and in others the people were finding new industrial organization, making good such losses as they had suffered in the war, and reaching out for a new prosperity, which could only come in its fulness, however, when the political system gave assurance of protection and opportunity.

At the end of the war, in some portions of the country, if not in all, there was no dearth of money. Probably never throughout the course of colonial history had there been so much specie as circulated in the country immediately after the withdrawal of the English troops. For it must be remembered that during eight years and more the English exchequer had been sending its sovereigns to America,

1 Dip. Corresp., 1783-1789 (3-vol. ed.), II., 577.

that France had freely lent her gold,' that the American farmer and merchant had received the bright guineas and louis d'or of the foreign armies without even the appearance of hesitation. When we remember the merry winter that Howe spent at British expense in the “rebel capital,” we know how some specie got into circulation in the states. Some of this money left the country soon after the peace, for there was an enormous influx of European goods; markets were glutted and merchants cried aloud for buyers. It has been estimated that in the three years succeeding the war at least £1,260,000 in coin went to England. But in spite of the rising fear of paper money, which of course tied knots in the purse-strings of those who had good money, and notwithstanding all sorts of obnoxious laws that threatened the creditor with loss, commerce and industry were by no means lifeless.

To know, therefore, just what the situation was in 1785 or 1786 is difficult; but probably we are justified in saying that commerce had grown in vigor and was ready to enter upon a course of great activity, if it could be reasonably safe from the harassing perils of paper money and the annoyance of tender-laws, and could rely on the protection of a good government that could pass proper regulations for trade and form respectable treaties with foreign governments. Though the trade, especially of New England, was badly deranged, the commerce and industry of the country were by no means in a hopeless condition. Everywhere were indications of improvement, even if in some places the ravages of war had not been overcome. The main danger to commerce, and the cause of possible disaster, was the paper-money craze, of which we shall speak in another chapter. Trouble, confusion, and lament there were, and for complaint there was some reason; but, if we believe the testimony of many persons of insight, there was not poverty or destitution.

1 Wharton, Dip. Corresp. of Am. Rev., VI., 341.

2 Tench Coxe, View (Philadelphia, 1794), 49; Sheffield, Obser. vations (ed. of 1784), 248. 3 Pa. Gazette, July 19, 1786.

VOL. X.-7

"Population is encreasing,” Charles Thompson reported to Jefferson, “new houses building, new lands clearing, new settlements forming, and new manufactures establishing with a rapidity beyond conception, and what is more, the people are well clad, well fed, and well housed. Yet I will not say that all are contented. The merchants are complaining that trade is dull, the farmers that wheat and other produce are falling, the landlords that rent is lowering, the speculists and extravagant that they are compelled to pay their debts, and the idle and the vain that they cannot live at others cost and gratify their pride with articles of luxury." 1

To expect to borrow money abroad without making any effort even to provide means of paying interest was absurd, and the failure of the five-percent. impost scheme of course made the prospect of

IN. Y. Hist. Soc., Collections, 1878, p. 306.

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »