« PreviousContinue »
town were enlarged from time to time, it does not seem to have flourished. There is now extant a plan of Baltimore taken by Mr John Moale in 1752, at which time it contained only twentyfive houses. Two vessels were owned in the place, a small brig and a sloop. Mr Griffith thinks the town received an increase soon after in consequence of Braddock's defeat, as this event made the savages more lawless, and deterred many persons from settling in the interior. In 1756 a body of French neutrals from Nova Scotia, who left that country when it was taken by the British, sought a refuge in Baltimore, where the greater portion of them remained. A few of the original French emigrants are still living in the city at a very advanced age. 'Several houses
erected from timber cut on the lots by themselves, and yet standing, were occupied by some of them more than sixty years.' About this period, or soon after Braddock's defeat, the inhabitants of the town were expecting a visit from the Indians, and the women and children were put on board the boats in the harbor, that a safe retreat might be secured for them in case of immediate danger.
From this time till the revolution the town increased very slowly. No newspaper was established till 1773, before which, merchants were obliged to send their advertisements to Annapolis or Philadelphia. Fairs were held at stated periods, and the facilities of interchange were thus promoted, but Baltimore had not yet become the chief town of the province, nor gained that commercial ascendency, which gave indication of its future growth. During the revolution the spirit of enterprise began to show itself, capital centered gradually at Baltimore, privateers were fitted out with success, and as thriving a trade was kept up, particularly with the West Indies, as the circumstances of the times would allow. An unfavorable change occurred immediately after the peace, owing to the general depression suffered by every part of the country. The staple productions of Maryland, and of course the principal articles of export from Baltimore, were then, as they ever have been, tobacco, wheat, and Indian corn.
The tobacco trade was always one of great importance to the state and the city. Before the revolution, this was carried on almost exclusively by foreign agents, who resided at
the landings on the Chesapeake, and the rivers flowing into it, and received the product from the hands of the planters, to whom they usually made advances. It was shipped on account of the planters, and the profits of exchange went to the agents, and were thus carried out of the country. These agents were British, or Scotch, and the breaking out of the revolution interrupted this species of trade. As soon as peace was declared, however, it was resumed again by the British merchants, who had establishments at Annapolis, Upper Marlborough, Bladensburgh, Elkridge Landing, and other places on the rivers. By this process a great proportion of the Maryland tobacco, which was consumed on the continent of Europe, that is, in Holland and Germany, was carried to its ultimate market through the channel of England. Baltimore had but a comparatively small share of this trade till 1784, when an extensive commercial establishment from Holland was formed there, which made large purchases of this staple commodity on Dutch account. This example was followed by merchants from Hamburgh and Bremen. Under these changes the transportation was chiefly in foreign bottoms, but at length the Baltimore merchants themselves, as they gained means and shipping, took the lead in this traffic, and its profits were turned to stimulate their enterprise, and increase their resources. The British establishments gradually disappeared, Baltimore became the best market, and drew to it nearly all the tobacco produced in the
The amount of the tobacco crop in Maryland has ever been fluctuating. Before the revolution it was sometimes as high as 20,000 hogsheads annually; at the close of the war it was not more than 10,000, and it has since varied between that amount and 35,000. In the year 1823, the quantity exported from Baltimore was 21,733 hogsheads, and the crop of the state for 1822 was estimated at 28,000, the remainder having been shipped from the District of Columbia. The average weight of a hogshead is about 900 pounds. The first purchase from the planters is commonly made by persons, who attend the inspection houses for that purpose, and from whom the article passes by another sale to the exporter. No article demands a more practised skill in judging of its quality, or a closer attention to the details of trade, as
will be readily believed from the circumstance, that the price has every shade of variation from two and a half to twenty cents a pound, according to the quality of the article. The celebrated Kitefoot tobacco, so much sought after in Holland for smoking, is produced in its greatest perfection nowhere except in Maryland, and even here only in particular districts; and it sells at a price very much beyond that of any other kind. It has a thin, bright, yellow leaf, and possesses less of the narcotic principle, than the Virginia tobacco, or that which is produced on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake. It will grow only on newly cleared soil; two crops at most in succession are all that can be obtained; it will then degenerate. Various laws regulating inspections have been enacted, and inspectors are appointed by the state government. Capacious warehouses have been built in different parts of the city, to one of which every hogshead of tobacco sold in that market must be brought for inspection, before it can be exposed to sale.
The export of flour from Baltimore, after the war, was confined to the West Indies, and it was carried chiefly in American shipping of the smaller class. The average price was about four dollars a barrel. Wheat went in considerable quantities to Spain and Portugal, and in one or two instances to England, when the ports were open. A large portion of this trade was on .oreign account, and in foreign bottoms, which were sent out to this country for the purpose. The price of wheat varied from ninety cents to one dollar a bushel. Indian corn was exported to Portugal, and a brisk trade in this article was kept up coastwise to the eastern and southern states. This business, particularly to the south, has continued to be regular and constant to the present time. This article is brought to the city chiefly from the eastern shore of the Chesapeake in small schooners, and the price has commonly fluctuated between fifty and eighty cents, although it has sometimes risen higher. The fisheries of the Chesapeake consist of herrings and shad, which, in nearly all cases, make a part of an assorted cargo for the West Indies. There is a large consumption at home and in the neighboring states. The quantity of herrings caught in some seasons, at particular fisheries near the head of the Bay, is almost incredible. VOL. XX.-No. 46.
During the period under notice, the colonial system was rigorously enforced in all the European possessions, and our trade in the West Indies was consequently much restricted. The returns of colonial produce were scarcely sufficient for the consumption of the country, and of course the carrying trade, except in our own staples, was nearly cut off. But when the Federal Constitution was formed and ratified in 1788, and when the national debt was funded, a most salutary and encouraging change took place; public and private confidence were restored; an impulse was communicated to the main springs of commercial enterprise; and a reviving spirit pervaded every department of society. The certificates of the public debt, which had been selling at one fifth of their nominal value, now rose to par and even higher, and thus a large amount of active capital was at once created. Much of this centred at Baltimore and gave excitement to trade; shipbuilding began to be carried on extensively, and many vessels of the larger class were built. About the same time a deficiency in the grain crops of Europe caused a demand for the wheat and flour of Maryland, and gave activity to that profitable branch of commerce. One or two voyages were also made around the Cape of Good Hope to the Isle of France. In the year 1790, as stated by Mr Griffith,* the Bank of Maryland was incorporated with a capital of $300,000, which was the first bank established in Baltimore. The number of vessels belonging to the port in the same year was 102, of all sizes and descriptions; ships, brigs, schooners, and sloops, measuring in the whole 13,564
The year 1793 brought with it the war of the French revolution, which was soon succeeded by that in St Domingo. When the town of Cape François was attacked, plundered, and burnt by Galbaud and Gambis, such of the inhabitants as had it in their power fled from the island. Fiftythree vessels arrived together in Baltimore on the 9th of July, some of which were laden with rich cargoes, and in which came 1000 white, and 500 colored persons. Nearly as many more arrived within the three months following. Some of these emigrants were destitute and in distress; the inhabitants took them into their houses, and a private subscription to the
amount of $12,000 was raised for their relief. The greater portion of these refugees became permanent citizens; the merchandise brought with them was mostly sold in Baltimore, part for home consumption, and part for the European market, to which it was transhipped mostly in American bottoms. This accession of property and population turned out to the advantage of the city, and to this day the excellent vegetable market of Baltimore, second to none in the country, except that of Philadelphia, is ascribed to the industry and skill of the destitute emigrants from St Domingo, who betook themselves to gardening in the vicinity.
The carrying trade now began to gain daily in importance. The state of the war in Europe interrupted the direct trade between the mother country and several of the West India colonies; the Americans took advantage of this crisis; the supplies required by the Islands, being chiefly provisions, were obtained here; they were carried out by our shipping, which brought back in return West India produce; this again was transhipped to Europe in American bottoms; European goods were brought home for the supply of our own market and that of the West Indies, as far as the demand extended and thus the profits of this wide branch of carrying trade flowed into the United States. The southern situation of Baltimore, and the abundance of the staple commodities for the West India market which it possessed, gave it uncommon facilities for this branch of trade, and they were employed to their fullest extent. Importations from Europe increased by this process, and purchasers from the interior began to direct their attention to a place, where they found a well chosen assortment of goods, and a quick market for country produce. Establishments and agencies from all parts of Europe were fixed in Baltimore; the trade in German linens became particularly important, as connected with the West Indies; it was conducted mainly on account of merchants or manufacturers in Hamburgh and Bremen. Shipbuilding, mechanical employments, and all the common branches of industry flourished, and added to the growth and wealth of the city. The charge for freight more than doubled in a short time, labor of every kind was exceedingly high, and the value of real estate rose in proportion, thus creating with great rapidity a nominal, if not a real capital, which was converted to a com