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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Effects of the Embargo of 1807
By John Bach McMaster (1852–1932)
 
From a ‘History of the People of the United States from the Revolution to the Civil War’

PARALYSIS seized on the business of the coast towns and began to spread inward. Ships were dismantled and left half loaded at the wharves. Crews were discharged. The sound of the caulking-hammer was no longer heard in the ship-yards. The sail-lofts were deserted, the rope-walks were closed; the cartmen had nothing to do. In a twinkling the price of every domestic commodity went down, and the price of every foreign commodity went up. But no wages were earned, no business was done, and money almost ceased to circulate….  1
  The federal revenues fell from sixteen millions to a few thousands…. The value of the shipping embargoed has been estimated at fifty millions; and as the net earnings were twenty-five per cent., twelve and a half millions more were lost to the country through the enforced idleness of the vessels. From an estimate made at the time, it appears that one hundred thousand men were believed to have been out of work for one year. They earned from forty cents to one dollar and thirty-three cents per day. Assuming a dollar as the average rate of daily wages, the loss to the laboring class was in round numbers thirty-six millions of dollars. On an average, thirty millions had been invested annually in the purchase of foreign and domestic produce. As this great sum was now seeking investment which could not be found, its owners were deprived not only of their profits, but of two millions of interest besides….  2
  Unable to bear the strain, thousands on thousands went to the wall. The newspapers were full of insolvent-debtor notices. All over the country the court-house doors, the tavern doors, the post-offices, the cross-road posts, were covered with advertisements of sheriffs’ sales. In the cities the jails were not large enough to hold the debtors. At New York during 1809 thirteen hundred men were imprisoned for no other crime than being ruined by the embargo. A traveler who saw the city in this day of distress assures us that it looked like a town ravaged by pestilence. The counting-houses were shut or advertised to let. The coffee-houses were almost empty. The streets along the water-side were almost deserted. The ships were dismantled; their decks were cleared, their hatches were battened down. Not a box, not a cask, not a barrel, not a bale was to be seen on the wharves, where the grass had begun to grow luxuriantly. A year later, in this same city, eleven hundred and fifty men were confined for debts under twenty-five dollars, and were clothed by the Humane Society.  3
 
 
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