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SURVEY OF AMERICAN FOREIGN COMMERCE AT THE
American industries in 1790, 3. Foreign and domestic trade in 1790, 6. The
Before considering in detail the history of the foreign commerce of the United States during the period of national life under the Consti tution, it will be helpful to survey the status of the industries and trade of the United States in 1789 and 1790. This will afford a fixed point from which to measure the progress antecedent and subsequent to the adoption of the Constitution.
The year 1789 was significant in the economic as well as the political history of the United States. The country was recovering from the business depression that had begun in 1785. The revival of industry from the setback of that year had been slow, but the country was in reality economically sound. Abundant available resources awaited development; and what was needed to enable business to expand was an effective government with power to provide itself with revenue, to establish public credit, to create a sound national currency, and to regulate interstate and foreign trade. The government under the Constitution, steadied by the judgment of Washington and guided by the financial and political genius of Hamilton, established conditions required for the internal development of the country.
The working out of international relations favorable to the foreign trade of the United States proved to be a more difficult task. Indeed, it was long after the second war with Great Britain that the United States first secured satisfactory commercial treaties with several important powers. The handicap which this placed upon the foreign trade of the United States was, as will be pointed out later, more than overcome, from 1793 to 1805, by the continental European wars that gave American merchants exceptional opportunities as neutral traders. The Constitution and the measures adopted early in Washington's administration enabled internal industry and trade to continue the growth that had started before 1789; but foreign commerce was given its first strong impulse by the continental wars.
The growth in population, by natural increase and by immigration, was rapid. The first census of the United States, taken in 1790, showed that there were 3,921,326 people in the country, of whom about fivesixths were white and one-sixth black. There had been an increase
'This chapter was written by Emory R. Johnson.
of approximately 1,000,000 during the decade following the surrender of Yorktown. While the population was still mainly between the Atlantic and the Alleghenies, commonwealths were rapidly forming in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.
AMERICAN INDUSTRIES IN 1790.
A concise, though general description, of the industrial characteristics of the United States is contained in a Report of a Committee of the Lords of the Privy Council on the Trade of Great Britain with the United States. This official British document, dated January 1791, pictures conditions in the United States, in 1790, as they appeared to Englishmen, whose impulse would be to understate rather than to exaggerate, and thus their account has the merit of being conservative as well as contemporary. The report (pp. 29-31) states that:
"In that part of the United States situated to the south of Pennsylvania, there are no manufactures whatsoever except a few articles made of leather which they are enabled to manufacture from the low price of skins purchased by them. The Legislatures of the Northern and Middle States have passed laws and established Societies for the encouragement of Manufactures. The inhabitants of these States manufacture some coarse articles for their own use, but few for exportation. In the Southern and Middle States there is some wool, but of an inferior quality and much dearer than in Great Britain. In the States of New England, linen of a coarse sort has been made, and some of it has been exported for the use of other States. In New England and Pennsylvania there are many Iron works, some of them were established before the war, and nails and inferior sorts of iron tools have been manufactured, so as to diminish very much the importation from Europe.
"In New England and New York many sorts of household furniture are made and every kind of carriage in tolerable perfection, as well as some other articles, the materials of which are principally wood and iron. In New England & Pennsylvania attempts have been made to introduce cotton manufactures, but it appears from the specimens transmitted to the Committee that these manufactures are in general of the common sort, and much inferior in quality and dearer than those of Manchester. In Pennsylvania, paper mills have been erected, in which paper is made of a tolerable quality, sufficient for their own consumption, and some even for exportation: and in this State, Sugar refineries have also been established (some even before the war) with success, and they are now endeavoring to draw sugars from a particular kind of maple which they have in great abundance, and thereby to diminish the quantity of sugar imported from the West Indies. They brew porter in Pennsylvania, but of a very inferior quality.
"The inhabitants of all temperate climates will occasionally employ themselves in manufactures for domestic use, during such seasons of the year as their lands do not require their attendance. But these domestic occupations seldom rise to manufactures of any great extent. The people of the United States find much greater profit from the cultivation of the earth, and it is astonishing how much they prefer agriculture to manufacture."
For the most part, the industrial activities of the American people, in 1790, were the same as they had been throughout the eighteenth