780. A Republican
Independent Chronicle, 28 February 1788

Mess’rs. ADAMS & NOURSE, It was with pleasure I observed a paragraph in some late papers, informing the public, that subscriptions were filling up to build 3 Ships for the encouragement of our industrious mechanicks. So laudable and patriotick an undertaking must be pleasing to every well wisher to the prosperity of this country.

The encouragement of our commerce is one great object which ought to claim the attention of these States. This business without doubt will be among the first national concerns of the Federal Legislature.—The deranged situation which our trade has been in for many years, now calls for the utmost exertion to establish our mercantile affairs upon a permanent basis. Numberless individuals, of almost every occupation, are anxiously waiting for such arrangments, as will give vigour to our navigation, and promote an extensive and beneficial commerce.

Provided the proposed Constitution should be adopted, the several States within the Union would become more intimately connected with each other, than they have hitherto been: their interests will be more reciprocal—and the distinction of northern and southern States, will be absorbed in the comprehensive and amicable appellation of confederated States.—Living under one Federal government, all local attachments will naturally subside, and the concerns of the whole will soon become too extensive in their operations to give any one pre-eminence. We flatter ourselves the period is now commencing, when the commerce of these States, will be brought into some established system; it is of the utmost importance therefore, “That such plans should be devised as will effectually produce that union of sentiment, on which depend the advantage and stability of the American commerce.”—Not doubting if the resources of this country were properly called forth, and improved, they are fully competent to our independent and comfortable support,—and to our national opulence, credit and dignity. This cultivation and improvement must, however, originate in the virtues of individuals, and be directed to its proper end by the wisdom and firmness of the Federal government.

The want of a Federal system of commerce, has been the principal cause of the embarrassments we are now under. The powers of Europe, (particularly Britain) have taken the advantage of the deranged state of our trade,—and finding we had no uniform regulations to counteract their measures, have wantonly passed certain acts, with a design to throw our commerce into the most perplexed situation. They found the repeated calls of Congress to obtain powers competent to the protection of our trade, were disregarded: And though some States passed navigation laws, yet not being universally adopted, gave one State advantage over the other, which Britain with the greatest alacrity improved to their own emolument.—They therefore laughed at our feeble attempts to retaliate; and aggravated our embarrassments, by new acts to distress us.

The insults we have received from Britain, arose principally from their folly, in supposing that the jealousy of these several States, would never suffer them to unite in any system of navigation; and the States by not considering the importance of our exports in the scale of the European commerce, have hitherto neglected to adopt such measures of retaliation, as might check the designs of Britain. It is certain no country could become so powerful in their commerce as America,—provided we were united in our plans: as the articles exported are so essential to the British trade, in other European markets, and so important to their revenue. About one hundred thousand hogsheads of tobacco, have been annually exported to England—of which about twelve or thirteen thousand only have been for consumption in Great-Britain, the rest were shipped to different parts of Europe.—About 60,000 teiracs [i.e., tierces] of rice, were formerly yearly exported to Great-Britain, the chief part of which, was afterwards sent to Holland and Germany.

The best writers on the English commerce, have spoken of the great benefit resulting from the American trade; even in the article of shipping, America was able to supply them with ships, 30 per cent cheaper, than they could be built in Great-Britain. This trade also helped the manufacturers,—as cargoes of goods were yearly sent out to barter for ships. The American trade therefore, being so evidently to the advantage of Britain, we might 'ere long have restored it to a flourishing state, and effected the great purposes of our carrying trade, provided we had given Congress power to regulate our commerce upon national principles, and enabled them to meet the attempts of Britain, with similar restrictions on her navigation. But since the peace, we have become so infatuated, that notwithstanding the embarrassments of Britain on our trade, we have permitted the subjects of that nation, to send their vessels to any part of the Continent, for bread, flour, tobacco, rice, &c and ship them from most of the States, upon the same terms with our own subjects. We have inconsiderately imported to the ruin of our own manufactures, large quantities of their goods; drained ourselves of our currency; and so greatly involved ourselves in debt, that our valuable estates are every day falling into the hands of British creditors.

But however important the American trade may be to Europe, or the West-Indies, we can never expect to reap any advantage from it, 'till we are united in such measures as will produce an uniform system of operation. Our exertions will be ever futile, unless they are prosecuted upon national principles. All partial attempts will ever prove ineffectual, as they will only serve to impoverish ourselves without gaining any solid advantage.

In order therefore to establish our trade on a respectable footing, it is necessary that our mercantile affairs should be under some general regulations. For this purpose therefore, a CHAMBER OF COMMERCE should be established in each State, for the purpose of promoting an extensive trade, upon such principles as will lastingly cement the union of the whole confederacy. No measure could conduce more essentially to effect the great purposes of our carrying trade, and restore the commerce of America upon the footing of perfect equality with every other nation, than such a respectable establishment.

The want of a commercial system is greatly owing to the small communications the merchants of the several States have formerly had with each other. It is highly necessary at this time that a more intimate correspondence should commence between them, as measures might probably be adopted in consequence of such a social intercourse, as would produce lasting benefits to the whole confederation. Owing to a neglect of these communications, the resources of the States are but rarely known: It is true we have a general knowledge of the trade of each State, but we can never determine on any national plan, unless we are more fully acquainted with each other, in regard to our commercial proceedings; and until the merchants of the several States conceive themselves members of the same body, and conceive their interests as inseperable. Provided this harmony of sentiment should prevail between the northern and southern States, the regulations of our commerce would be founded on terms of reciprocity in the future arrangments of Congress. In consequence of such a friendly association, Congress would be furnished with every needful information on all mercantile concerns, and their various acts of navigation would be adopted upon such well authenticated documents, as would prove mutually advantageous to our ship building, fisheries, navigation and agriculture; and consequently to the support of the merchant, husbandman and mechanic.

The advantages resulting from a chamber of commerce must be evident, when we consider, that our commercial connections with the citizens of the several States, will in future be much more extensive than at present; consequently will require such general regulations as will operate uniformly throughout the confederacy: It should therefore be one great object with the merchants, so far to reverence themselves, as to have all their mercantile disputes adjusted by men who are acquainted with commercial negotiations; this measure would tend to guard individuals from being involved in tedious and expensive prosecutions in a federal Court. Such beneficial purposes might easily be effected, provided certain uniform rules were established, among the merchants throughout the States, to which every man who pretended to the character, should consider himself bound in HONOR to accede.

It is now of the last concern, that the people of America should adopt such measures as will securely fix, and safely rear the four federal pillars of this country, viz. AGRICULTURE, COMMERCE, TRADE and MANUFACTURES. These four interests must ever be cherish’d, otherways it is but of little consequence what form of government we are under. We may please ourselves with systems in theory, but unless we consolidate in measures to promote these essential branches, all our fancied prospects of national happiness will evaporate like the morning dew.