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What it meant at that day to be reduced to communication by
land may be realized from a contemporary quotation: "Four wagons loaded
with dry goods passed to-day through Georgetown, South Carolina, for
Charleston, _forty-six days_ from Philadelphia."[24] Under the heading
"New Carrying Trade" a Boston paper announces on April 28 the arrival of
"a large number of teams from New Bedford with West India produce, and
four Pennsylvania wagons, seventeen days from Philadelphia."[25] "The
enemy has commenced his depredations on the coasting trade of the
Eastern States on a very extensive scale, by several ships and
sloops-of-war, and five or six active privateers. The United States brig
"Argus" cruises at the entrance of Long Island Sound for the protection
of trade, latterly jeopardized;"[26] a position from which she was soon
driven by an overwhelming force. Hull, now commanding at Portsmouth,
reports April 9, "several privateers on the Eastern coast, which have
been successful in cutting coasters out of several harbors east." May 7:
"A small force is indeed needed here; the enemy appear off the harbor
nearly every day. A few days since, a little east of this, they burnt
twelve coasters and chased several into this port."[27] The town is
defenceless. The Governor of Rhode Island laments to the Legislature
"the critical and exposed situation of our fellow-citizens in Newport,
who are frequently menaced by the ships and vessels about Point Judith";
mentioning beside, "the burning of vessels in Narragansett Bay, and the
destruction of our coasting trade, which deprives us of the usual and
very necessary supplies of bread stuffs from other States."[28] The ship
"Maddox," blockaded for two or three months in the Chesapeake, escaped
in May, and reached Newport with five thousand barrels of flour. This is
said to have reduced the price by $2.50 in Boston, where it was ranging
at $17 to $18; while at Cadiz and Lisbon, thanks to British licenses
and heavy stocking in anticipation of war, it stood at $12 to $13. The
arrival at Machias of a captured British vessel, laden with wheat, was
hailed "as a seasonable supply for the starving inhabitants of the

_Drawn by Stanley M. Arthurs._]

Ships returning from abroad necessarily had to pass through the
cruisers which interrupted the coasting trade. "Many valuable vessels
arrive, making at times hairbreadth escapes." The trade of Baltimore
and Philadelphia is thrown back upon New York and Boston; but both of
these, and the eastern entrance of Long Island Sound, have hostile
squadrons before them. The letter-of-marque schooner "Ned" has
transmitted an experience doubtless undergone by many. Bound to
Baltimore, she arrived off the Chesapeake April 18, and was chased
away; tried to get into the Delaware on the 19th, but was headed off;
made for Sandy Hook, and was again chased. Finally, she tried the east
end of the Sound, and there made her way through four or five ships of
war, reaching New York April 24.[30] Of course, under such
circumstances trade rapidly dwindled. Only very fast and weatherly
vessels could hope to cope with the difficulties. Of these the
conspicuous type was the Baltimore schooner, which also had not too
many eggs in one basket. In the general deprivation of commerce a
lucky voyage was proportionately remunerative; but the high prices of
the successful venture were but the complement and reflection of
suffering in the community. The harbors, even of New York, became
crowded with unemployed shipping.

This condition of things coastwise, supplemented by the activity of
American privateers, induced abnormal conditions of navigation in the
western Atlantic. The scanty success of Rodgers, Bainbridge, and the
"Chesapeake" have been noted; and it may be observed that there was a
great similarity in the directions taken by these and others. The Cape
Verdes, the equator between 24 and 30 west, the Guiana coast, the
eastern West Indies, Bermuda to Halifax, indicate a general line of
cruising; with which coincides substantially a project submitted by
Stewart, March 2, 1813, for a cruise by the "Constellation." These
plans were conceived with intelligent reference to known British
trade-routes; but, being met by the enemy with a rigid convoy system,
it was often hard to find a sail. The scattered American traders were
rapidly diminishing in numbers, retained in port as they arrived; and
it is noted that a British division of four vessels, returning to
Halifax after a four months' cruise between the Banks of Newfoundland
and Bermuda, have captured only one American.[31] An American
privateer, arriving at Providence after an absence of nearly four
months, "vexing the whole Atlantic," reports not seeing a single
enemy's merchant ship. Niles' return of prizes[32] to American
cruisers, national as well as privateers, gives three hundred and five
as the total for the first six months of the war; of which
seventy-nine only seem to have been taken distant from the home
shores. For the second six months, to June 30, 1813, the aggregate has
fallen to one hundred and fifty-nine, of which, as far as can be
probably inferred, ninety-one were captured in remote waters.
Comparing with the preceding and subsequent periods, we find here
evidently a time of transition, when American enterprise had not yet
aroused to the fact that British precaution in the Western Hemisphere
had made it necessary to seek prizes farther afield.

In view of the incompleteness of the data it is difficult to state
more than broad conclusions. It seems fairly safe, however, to say
that after the winter of 1812-13 American commerce dwindled very
rapidly, till in 1814 it was practically annihilated; but that, prior
to Napoleon's downfall, the necessities of the British Government, and
the importunity of the British mercantile community, promoted a
certain collusive intercourse by licenses, or by neutrals, real or
feigned, between the enemy and the Eastern States of the Union, for
the exportation of American produce. This trade, from the reasons
which prompted it, was of course exempt from British capture.
Subsidiary to it, as a partial relief to the loss of the direct
American market, was fostered an indirect smuggling import from Great
Britain, by way of Halifax and Montreal, which conduced greatly to the
prosperity of both these places during the war, as it had during the
preceding periods of commercial restriction. It was to maintain this
contraband traffic, as well as to foster disaffection in an important
section of the Union, that the first extension of the commercial
blockade, issued by Warren from Bermuda, May 26, 1813, stopped short
of Newport; while the distinction thus drawn was emphasized, by
turning back vessels even with British licenses seeking to sail from
the Chesapeake. By this insidious action the commercial prosperity of
the country, so far as any existed, was centred about the Eastern
States. It was, however, almost purely local. Little relief reached
the Middle and South, which besides, as before mentioned, were thus
drained of specie, while their products lay idle in their stores.

As regards relative captures made by the two belligerents, exact
numbers cannot be affirmed; but from the lists transmitted a fairly
correct estimate can be formed as to the comparative injury done in
this way. It must be remembered that such losses, however grievous in
themselves, and productive of individual suffering, have by no means
the decisive effect produced by the stoppage of commerce, even though
such cessation involves no more than the retention in harbor of the
belligerent's ships, as the Americans were after 1812, or as had been
the case during Jefferson's embargo of 1808. As that measure and its
congeners failed in their object of bringing the British Government to
terms, by deprivation of commerce, the pecuniary harm done the United
States by them was much greater than that suffered in the previous
years from the arbitrary action of Great Britain. She had seized, it
was alleged, as many as nine hundred and seventeen American
vessels,[33] many of which were condemned contrary to law, while the
remainder suffered loss from detention and attendant expenses; but
despite all this the commercial prosperity was such that the
commercial classes were averse to resenting the insults and injury. It
was the agricultural sections of the country, not the commercial,
which forced on the war.

Niles' Register has transmitted a careful contemporary compilation of
American captures, in closing which the editor affirmed that in the
course of the war he had examined not less than ten, perhaps twelve,
thousand columns of ship news, rejecting all prizes not accounted for
by arrival or destruction. It is unlikely that data complete as he
used are now attainable, even if an increase of accuracy in this point
were worth the trouble of the search. Up to May 1, 1813, he records
four hundred and eleven captures, in which are included the British
ships of war as well as merchantmen; not a very material addition. The
British Naval Chronicle gives the prize lists of the various British
admirals. From these may be inferred in the same period at least three
hundred seizures of American merchant vessels. Among these are a good
many Chesapeake Bay craft, very small. This excludes privateers, but
not letters-of-marque, which are properly cargo ships. Both figures
are almost certainly underestimates; but not improbably the proportion
of four to three is nearly correct. Granting, however, that the
Americans had seized four British ships for every three lost by
themselves, what does the fact establish as regards the effect upon
the commerce of the two peoples? Take the simple report of a British
periodical in the same month of May, 1813: "We are happy to announce
the arrival of a valuable fleet from the West Indies, consisting of
two hundred and twenty-six sail, under convoy of the "Cumberland,"
seventy-four, and three other ships of war."[34] This one fleet among
many, safely entering port, numbers more than half of their total
losses in the twelvemonth.

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