Sunday, January 13, 2013

291. George Washington and US Trade with China

In order to obtain first hand knowledge of the materials on the China trade and its influence in the US , Washington visited Captain John O'Donnell (died c 1805) in August 1785, when the owner and master of the Pallas sailed to Baltimore with a cargo from China and bought about 2,000 acres on the Baltimore waterfront east of Fell's Point where he built a mansion and named it "Canton". Washington planned to expand the China trade from New England to Virginia.

In 1787, he instructed David Stuart to inspect the Potomac River and to find a place where a warehouse for the objects needed in trade with China could be constructed. In order to observe the advancement of the America trade with China, he requested his subordinates to provide with him the previous year's list of the ships that were in Canton, China in July 1789. In 1789, when Washington was elected as the first president of the US , he fully stated the significance of the trade to his still-young country.

Washington told the Marquis de Lafayette that the national revenues had been considerably more productive than had been imagined they would be because of the China trade. Since 1784, the value of American trade with China increased greatly. In 1790, it was estimated that trade with China accounted for about one seventh of US imported goods. By 1792, the value of the American trade with China had surpassed that of Holland, France and Denmark, and was second only to Great Britain, which had had established commercial relations with China for over 100 years.

In 1840, American business with China amounted to nearly US$75 million, a sum greater than the total debt of the American Revolution. Trade with China helped revitalize the US and port cities like Salem, New York and Boston hugely benefited from it. The trade brought back hard money that capitalized new industry. Factory towns sprang up, and Americans began to experiment with the techniques of mass production. Soon the groundwork had been laid for the greatest industrial expansion the world had seen.


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