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When it
is remembered that throughout 1813 the Eastern ports alone were open
to neutral ships, no commercial blockade of them having yet been
instituted, these results are the more noticeable.

The general explanation is that the industries of the United States at
that time divided into two principal classes,--agricultural and
maritime; the former of which supplied the material for commerce,
while the latter furnished transportation for whatever surplus of
production remained for export. Manufactures sufficed only for home
demands, being yet in a state of infancy; forced, in fact, upon an
unwilling New England by the policy of commercial restriction which
drove her ships off the sea. Domestic products for export therefore
meant almost wholly the yield of the fields, the forests, and the
fisheries. The latter belonged to New England, but they fell with the
war. Her soil did not supply grain enough to feed her people; and her
domestic exports, therefore, were reduced to shipments of wheat and
flour conveyed to her by inland transportation from the more fertile,
but blockaded, regions to the southward. Despite the great demand for
provisions in Halifax and the St. Lawrence region, and the facility
for egress by sea, through the absence of blockade, the slowness and
cost of land carriage brought forward an insufficient supply, and laid
a heavy charge upon the transaction; while the license system of the
British, modifying this condition of things to their own advantage, by
facilitating exports from the Chesapeake, certainly did operate, as
the President's message said, to regulate American commerce in
conformity with British interests.

The re-exportation of foreign produce had once played a very large
part in the foreign trade of New England. This item consisted chiefly
in West India commodities; and although, owing to several causes, it
fell off very much in the years between 1805 and 1811, it had remained
still considerable. It was, however, particularly obnoxious to British
interests, as then understood by British statesmen and people; and
since it depended entirely upon American ships,--for it was not to the
interest of a neutral to bring sugar and coffee to an American port
merely to carry it away again,--it disappeared entirely when the
outbreak of war rendered all American merchant vessels liable to
capture. In fact, as far as the United States was concerned, although
this re-exportation appeared among commercial returns, it was not an
interest of commerce, accurately so called, but of navigation, of
carrying trade. It had to do with ships, not with cargoes; its gain
was that of the wagoner. Still, the loss by the idleness of the ships,
due to the war, may be measured in terms of the cargoes. In 1805 New
England re-exported foreign products to the amount of $15,621,484; in
1811, $5,944,121; in 1813, no more than $302,781. It remains to add
that, as can be readily understood, all export, whether of foreign or
domestic produce, was chiefly by neutrals, which were not liable to
capture so long as there was no blockade proclaimed. From December 1
to 24, 1813, forty-four vessels cleared from Boston for abroad, of
which five only were Americans.[181]

Under the very reduced amount of their commercial movement, the
tonnage of the Middle and Southern states was more than adequate to
their local necessities; and they now had no need of the aid which in
conditions of normal prosperity they received from the Eastern
shipping. The latter, therefore, having lost its usual local
occupation, and also the office it had filled towards the other
sections of the Union, was either left idle or turned perforce to
privateering. September 7, 1813, there were in Boston harbor
ninety-one ships, two barks, one hundred and nine brigs, and
forty-three schooners; total, two hundred and forty-five, besides
coasters. The accumulation shows the lack of employment. December 15,
two hundred square-rigged vessels were laid up in Boston alone.[182]
Insurance on American vessels was stated to be fifty per cent.[183]

Whether tonnage to any large amount was transferred to a neutral flag,
as afterwards so much American shipping was during the Civil War, I
have not ascertained. It was roundly intimated that neutral flags were
used to cover the illicit intercourse with the enemy before mentioned;
but whether by regular transfer or by fraudulent papers does not
appear. An officer of the frigate "Congress," in her unprofitable
voyage just mentioned, says that after parting with the "President,"
she fell in with a few licensed Americans and a great number of
Spaniards and Portuguese.[184] The flags of these two nations, and of
Sweden, certainly abounded to an abnormal extent, and did much of the
traffic from America; but it seems unlikely that there was at that
particular epoch any national commerce, other than British, at once
large enough, and sufficiently deficient in shipping of its own, to
absorb any great number of Americans. In truth, the commerce of the
world had lost pretty much all its American component, because this,
through a variety of causes, had come to consist chiefly of domestic
agricultural products, which were thrown back upon the nation's hands,
and required no carriers; the enemy having closed the gates against
them, except so far as suited his own purposes. The disappearance of
American merchant ships from the high seas corresponded to the void
occasioned by the blockade of American staples of commerce. The only
serious abatement from this generalization arises from the British
system of licenses, permitting the egress of certain articles useful
to themselves.

The results from the conditions above analyzed are reflected in the
returns of commerce, in the movements of American coasters, and in the
consequent dispositions of the enemy. In the Treasury year ending
September 30, 1813, the value of the total exports from the Eastern
states was $3,049,022; from the Middle section, $17,513,930; from the
South, $7,293,043. Virginia is here reckoned with the Middle, because
her exports found their way out by the Chesapeake; and this
appreciation is commercial and military in character, not political or
social. While this was the state of foreign trade under war
conditions, the effect of local circumstances upon coasting is also to
be noticed. The Middle section, characterized by the great estuaries,
and by the description of its products,--grain primarily, and secondly
tobacco,--was relatively self-sufficing and compact. Its growth of
food, as has been seen, was far in excess of its wants, and the
distance by land between the extreme centres of distribution, from
tide-water to tide-water, was comparatively short. From New York to
Baltimore by road is but four fifths as far as from New York to
Boston; and at New York and Baltimore, as at Boston, water
communication was again reached for the great lines of distribution
from either centre. In fact, traffic from New York southward needed to
go no farther than Elk River, forty miles short of Baltimore, to be in
touch with the whole Chesapeake system. Philadelphia lies half-way
between New York and Baltimore, approximately a hundred miles from

The extremes of the Middle section of the country were thus
comparatively independent of coastwise traffic for mutual intercourse,
and the character of their coasts co-operated to reduce the
disposition to employ coasters in war. From the Chesapeake to Sandy
Hook the shore-line sweeps out to sea, is safely approachable by
hostile navigators, and has for refuge no harbors of consequence,
except the Delaware. The local needs of the little communities along
the beaches might foster a creeping stream of very small craft, for
local supply; but as a highway, for intercourse on a large scale, the
sea here was too exposed for use, when taken in connection with the
facility for transport by land, which was not only short but with
comparatively good roads.

In war, as in other troublous times, prices are subject to complicated
causes of fluctuation, not always separable. Two great staples, flour
and sugar, however, may be taken to indicate with some certainty the
effects of impeded water transport. From a table of prices current, of
August, 1813, it appears that at Baltimore, in the centre of the wheat
export, flour was $6.00 per barrel; in Philadelphia, $7.50; in New
York, $8.50; in Boston, $11.87. At Richmond, equally well placed with
Baltimore as regarded supplies, but with inferior communications for
disposing of its surplus, the price was $4.00. Removing from the grain
centre in the other direction, flour at Charleston is reported at
$8.00--about the same as New York; at Wilmington, North Carolina,
$10.25. Not impossibly, river transportation had in these last some
cheapening effect, not readily ascertainable now. In sugar, the scale
is seen to ascend in an inverse direction. At Boston, unblockaded, it
is quoted at $18.75 the hundredweight, itself not a low rate; at New
York, blockaded, $21.50; at Philadelphia, with a longer journey,
$22.50; at Baltimore, $26.50; at Savannah, $20. In the last named
place, nearness to the Florida line, with the inland navigation,
favored smuggling and safe transportation. The price at New Orleans, a
sugar-producing district, $9.00, affords a standard by which to
measure the cost of carriage at that time. Flour in the same city, on
February 1, 1813, was $25 the barrel.

In both articles the jump between Boston and New York suggests
forcibly the harassment of the coasting trade. It manifests either
diminution of supply, or the effect of more expensive conveyance by
land; possibly both. The case of the southern seaboard cities was
similar to that of Boston; for it will not be overlooked that, as the
more important food products came from the middle of the country, they
would be equally available for each extreme. The South was the more
remote, but this was compensated in some degree by better internal
water communications; and its demand also was less, for the white
population was smaller and less wealthy than that of New England.

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