\mˈɜːt͡ʃənt məɹˈiːn], \mˈɜːtʃənt məɹˈiːn], \m_ˈɜː_tʃ_ə_n_t m_ə_ɹ_ˈiː_n]\
Sort: Oldest first
By Princeton University
By DataStellar Co., Ltd
In early colonial times American shipbuilders and merchants became such dangerous commercial competitors, from the superiority of their ships and the greater efficiency of their sailors, that the British Government, by the Navigation Acts, beginning in 1645, prohibited importation into the colonies except in English or colonial-built vessels. While the Navigation Acts restricted trade, they fostered shipbuilding. The merchant marine continued to thrive after the Revolution. Between 1789 and 1797 the registered tonnage increased 384 per cent, owing chiefly to the general state of war in Europe and the consequent increase in carrying trade. From 1837 to 1847 the tonnage rose from 810,000 to 1,241,000, to 2,268,000 in 1857, and culminated with 2,496,000 tons in 1861. The maximum tonnage of the United States at any one time registered and enrolled (or engaged in foreign and domestic trade), and in the fisheries, was in 1861, reaching 5,539,813 tons. It thus nearly equaled the tonnage of the whole of the rest of the maritime world, excepting Great Britain, whose tonnage was slightly greater. But since this time, from various causes, the American merchant marine service has declined until it is now wholly insignificant. This is due largely to the fact that, when iron and steam vessels began to be used, the facilities for constructing them were limited, and the navigation laws prohibited merchants from taking advantage of British superiority in construction. Income taxes and heavy taxes on gross receipts, especially since the Civil War, have greatly handicapped shipowners. The coastwise trade, too, has fallen largely into the hands of foreigners.
By John Franklin Jameson