Abstract: Domestic Networks as a Basis for New York City's Rise to Pre-eminence, 1780-1812

Rohit T. Aggarwala


Although several historians of New York's rise have found its major causes in international trade, a more important cause may have been the city's lead in domestic trade within the United States in the 1790s. Unlike Philadelphia, whose trade emphasized re-exported Caribbean articles, New York generally exported more American-produced goods. This reflected the fact that Gotham's merchants had invested dramatically in domestic shipping, and replaced much of the British shipping that had dominated Southern trade prior to 1793 but were pulled away by the European war. This domestic focus had two results that shaped New York's nineteenth-century commerce. First, it fostered deep trading connections with Britain, because British importers, unlike their Continental counterparts, sought American goods, not re-exports, from American ports. Second, it positioned New York to become the center of the cotton trade, which emerged in the mid-1790s.