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century. Most people were engaged in agriculture. In New England, the fisheries were second only to agriculture. Throughout all the colonies many people devoted all or a part of their time to lumbering or securing other forest products. Ship-building and flour-milling were relatively important industries in the northern colonies; but most other manufacturing activities were carried on as domestic or smallshop and small-mill industries.1 Factory processes were applied to some extent in the manufacture of iron and steel wares, woolen textiles, and shoes. There had been some diversification of manufactures during the Revolutionary War, but the restoration of peace soon checked the growth of the infant industries and no permanent industrial revolution resulted from the war. In general, the people of the United States, in 1790, were farmers and planters, fishermen, and traders. Manufacturing outside of the home or small shop and mill was relatively unimportant, although evidences of a change were at hand.

The best first-hand account of American industries at the beginning of the national period is to be found in A View of the United States of America in a Series of Papers, Written at Various Times, Between the Years 1787 and 1794, by Tench Coxe, who held in succession the offices of Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and Commissioner of the Revenue during Washington's first administration. His estimate of the relative rank of the agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing industries in America in 1787 was as follows:

"The commerce of America, including our exports, imports, shipping, manufactures and fisheries, may be properly considered as forming one interest. So uninformed and mistaken have many of us been, that it has been stated as our greatest object, and it is feared that it is yet believed by some to be the most important industry of New England. But calculations carefully made do not raise the proportion of property, or the number of men employed in manufactures, fisheries, navigation, and trade2 to one-eighth of the property and people occupied by agriculture even in that commercial quarter of the Union. In making this estimate, something has been deducted from the value and population of the large towns for the idle and dissipated, for those who live upon their incomes, and for supernumerary domestic servants. But the disproportion is much greater, taking the Union at large, for several of the States have little commerce, and no manufactures-others have no commerce and scarcely manufacture anything. The timber, iron, cordage, and many other articles necessary for building ships to fish or trade-nine parts in ten of their cargoes-the subsistence of the manufacturers, and much of their raw materials are the produce of our lands. In almost all the countries of Europe, judicious writers have considered commerce as the handmaid of agriculture;

'Tench Coxe stated in 1791 that there were "upwards of fifty paper mills" in Pennsylvania. The annual value of the output of these mills was $250,000, and the persons employed in them did not exceed 150 or 200. This is an indication of the small scale on which manufacturing was conducted.

"This is explained by the author to include only those whose regular occupations are other than agricultural. Persons who engaged in manufacturing to some extent were "little more than half of the people of New England."

if true there, with us it must be unquestionable. The United States have yet few factories to throw into the scale against the landed interests. We have in our lands full employment for our present inhabitants, and instead of sending colonies to newly discovered islands, we have adjoining townships and counties whose vacant fields await the future increase of our people."

Manufactures, though relatively unimportant as compared with agriculture, and though carried on within the homes or in small establishments, were, as Coxe states, "great, various, and universal." It was the day of small things in industry; but, when every other man was an artisan skilled in some kind of work, the product was socially, as well as financially, of high value.


The total foreign trade of the United States in 1790 amounted to about $39,000,000, the value of the exports being somewhat less than that of the imports. (See table 44, page 20.) Tench Coxe, writing in 1793, said:

"The imports of the United States consist in a small degree of necessaries, in a great degree of articles of comfortable accommodation, and in some degree of luxuries; but the exports consist chiefly of prime necessaries, with some articles of mere comfort and utility, and some of luxury."

Over three-fourths of the value of the exports was contributed by breadstuffs, tobacco, rice, and lumber-breadstuffs comprising about 40 per cent of the total and tobacco over 20 per cent. Other important items were products of the fisheries, potash, salted meat, live animals, and indigo. The imports were composed mainly of manufactures of sugar, molasses, salt, and beverages. Seybert characterized them as consisting "chiefly of articles which habit and fashion have made necessary for our consumption; but a small portion of them is subservient to our arts and manufactures."3

At this time, as during the colonial period, the trade of the United States was mainly with British countries; in 1790 nearly half of the exports from the United States went to Great Britain and her dominions, while those countries were the source of over three-fourths of the imports. Nearly two-thirds of the foreign trade of the United States was with countries under the British flag. The anticipated shifting of the foreign trade of the United States from England to France after the Revolution did not take place, although the relations of the United States with France were cordial until 1793. In spite of the political friction with Great Britain and of the fact that the British West Indies were closed to American ships, British countries offered the best market for the exports of the United States and English manufacturers and traders supplied the people of America with most of their imported

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manufactures. Nine-tenths of the imports from Great Britain, in 1790, consisted of manufactures, in exchange for which the United States exported chiefly food, naval stores, and materials for use in manufacturing.

Although Great Britain refused to enter into a commercial treaty with the United States until 1794, and insisted on regulating her trade with the United States arbitrarily by executive decrees, she really looked with favor upon the large trade with America as long as it could be so regulated as to consist chiefly of the exchange of British manufactures for raw materials, naval stores, and such provisions as Great Britain desired to import. The fact that American commerce was large and was handled by British merchants and in British ships also inclined Great Britain to regard the American commerce favorably. It is true that Great Britain refused to open the trade between the United States and the British West Indies to American shipping and declined to put American commerce on as favorable a footing as British commerce was; nevertheless, the people of the United States enjoyed more favors in their trade with Great Britain than were accorded to the countries of the continent of Europe. The policy of excluding foreign shipping from the British possessions was one which Great Britain had insisted upon ever since the adoption of the Acts of Trade in the middle of the seventeenth century.

Nevertheless, the feeling in the United States was strong against Great Britain for closing her West Indies to American ships and for refusing to entertain a favorable commercial treaty. There was much sentiment in favor of adopting retaliatory measures against Great Britain. Madison incorporated this policy in the tariff bill of 1789, and the House of Representatives passed the bill with this feature included; but the Senate refused to sanction the plan of discrimination against the country with which the United States carried on the major share of its foreign trade. Jefferson was also an advocate of retaliation against Great Britain, and in the report which he made, in June 1792, as Secretary of State, at the request of Congress, upon the "State of the Commercial Intercourse between the United States and Foreign Countries," he urged the policy upon Congress. Jefferson, however, was opposed by Hamilton, whose influence both in 1789 and in 1792 prevailed with Congress and President Washington. It was fortunate for the country that Madison and Jefferson failed in their efforts to persuade the United States, at the beginning of our trade expansion under the effective National Government established in 1789, to begin a commercial war against the nation with which the people of the United States chiefly traded. It would have been almost as serious a blunder as Jefferson made in 1807, when he influenced Congress to lay an embargo on all American trade with Great Britain and Francean act that injured the United States far more than it did the countries it was intended to punish.

What the domestic and internal trade of the United States was in 1790 is not known, because no records of it were kept. It is certain that the traffic handled coastwise was much larger than that by land routes. The original States were all maritime, and the larger share of their population, even in 1790, was on or near the seaboard. When water routes are conveniently accessible, freight can be moved on them more cheaply than upon the best of highways; and, as there were practically no good roads in the United States until after 1790, both intrastate and interstate traffic must, whenever possible, have been transported by boats. Fortunately, the rivers, bays, sounds, and natural harbors of the Atlantic seaboard greatly favored the coastwise trade.

Contemporaneous writings indicate that much traffic was handled in small craft along the New England seaboard and upon such protected waterways as Long Island Sound, the Hudson River, the Delaware and Chesapeake estuaries and their affluent streams, and upon the Carolina rivers and sounds. Larger vessels carried traffic by the open sea between the New England and Middle States and between the northern and southern sections of the seaboard.

In 1789 the American tonnage enrolled for the coasting trade was over half that registered for the foreign trade; thereafter, for a number of years, the enrolled tonnage was about one-third of the registered. These figures for enrolled vessels do not include the considerable tonnage employed in the fisheries, nor the craft of less than 20 tons that were not required to enroll. It is probable that much local traffic was handled in boats of less than 20 tons register.

The ratio of the cargo tonnage of coastwise traffic to the cargo tonnage of foreign commerce would naturally be greater than the ratio of enrolled-vessel tonnage to registered tonnage, because the coastwise vessel, moving over a short route, would make more trips per annum than could the registered vessel engaged in the over-sea trade. Philadelphia, for example, had a relatively large foreign trade; but "the coasting vessels entered at the custom-house of Philadelphia in the year 1785 were 567 sail; all the other entries of sea-vessels in the same year were 501.

In spite of the absence of improved highways, there must have been a good deal of local and interstate highway traffic. Naturally, bad roads would be used more regularly and frequently by travelers than by shippers. The stage coach upon unimproved roads could at least divide passenger traffic with the small coastwise sailing vessels, and thus there was regular stage service in 1790 between the principal cities of the United States. The establishment of a wagon freight service by public carriers, except in rare instances, could hardly ante

1Coxe, View of the United States, 9 (note).

date the construction of good roads; and thus it may safely be assumed that such commodity traffic as was transported in wagons in 1790 was moved by the owners of goods being sent to, or brought from, the market.

Nevertheless, there must have been not only a local, but an interstate overland freight movement of some volume. "That interstate traffic by land had grown to considerable importance, before the meeting of the Constitutional Convention, is proved by the provisions in the tariff acts of the various States for regulating such traffic by duties upon goods thus brought into the several States, and by other measures." As the population spread back from the seaboard into the interior of the States an increasing volume of goods had to be carried to and from distant markets by wagons. Sometimes the best market for an inland section would be within the same State, sometimes within an adjoining State.


The fisheries had been of basic importance to the foreign commerce of America during the colonial period. The condition of the industry at the close of the Revolutionary War is pictured as follows by Mr. Raymond McFarland:

"The fishing industry had been shaken to its foundation by a decade of inactivity and suspension. There had been rapid and disastrous depreciation of the property used for the furtherance of fishing interests. Wharves had fallen into decay, mainly through lack of trade to keep them in repair. Many vessels, too, had become valueless for the same reason; others had been employed in the privateering service, never to return as fishing vessels. Flakes and other shore apparatus used in curing fish had long since disappeared. Men, too, had lost the habit of their old vocation in following varying fortunes of service in the army and navy. The younger generation of boys had received little training in the shore fisheries, such as their fathers had, and none of them had acquired practical experience in deep-sea fishing by a trip to the Grand Bank as 'cut-tail' aboard a New England schooner."2

Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that the war had left the fisheries severely crippled, they seem to have recovered a large measure of their former prosperity during the ten years intervening between the close of the American Revolution and the outbreak of the continental wars in Europe. The cod fisheries, in particular, had probably regained the position they had held before the Revolution, but their development was held in check by the technical reservation of the British West Indies markets to Canadian and British fish. This policy was adopted by Great Britain in 1782 for the purpose of building up the fisheries of Canada, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, the rivals of the United States. The French government also discriminated against the fish

'Brown, The Commercial Power of Congress, 2.
'A History of the New England Fisheries, 130.

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