The Middle Colonies
Intensive farming was at its best in the middle colonies, which were the great producers of provisions. Live stock, cereals, fruit, and vegetables were raised in large quantities, the animal products and grain furnishing the chief products for exportation. Lumber and furs were also important items of commerce.
New York.—An observant English traveler who visited New York in 1760, gives the following excellent description of the colony: "The province in its cultivated state affords grain of all sorts, cattle, hogs, and great variety of English fruits.... The people ... export chiefly grain, flour, pork, skins, furs, pig-iron, lumber, and staves.... They make a small quantity of cloth, some linen, hats, shoes, and other articles of wearing apparel. They make glass also, and wampum; refine sugars, which they import from the West Indies; and distil considerable quantities of rum." He also noted that the New Yorkers were engaged in ship-building. The Indian traffic was mainly carried on through Albany. The foreign and coastwise trade was concentrated at New York, a city with a population of sixteen or seventeen thousand.
New Jersey.—New Jersey was fortunate in having an historian who has left us an excellent account of the province. Samuel Smith's history gives the following description: "Almost the whole extent of the province adjoining on the atlantick, is barrens, or nearly approaching it; yet there are scattering settlements all along the coast, the people subsisting in great part by raising cattle in the bog undrained meadows and marshes, and selling them to graziers, and cutting down the cedars.... Another means of subsistence along the coast, is the plenty of fish and oysters, these are carried to New-York and Philadelphia markets.... The lands in general, (perhaps something better than two thirds of the whole) are good, and bear wheat, barley, or anything else suitable to the climate, to perfection. As the province has very little foreign trade on bottoms of its own, the produce of all kinds for sale, goes chiefly to New-York and Philadelphia; much of it is there purchased for markets abroad; but some consumed among themselves."
Pennsylvania and Delaware.—Agriculture was the mainstay of the people of Pennsylvania and Delaware. The thrifty Quakers, Germans, Scotch-Irish, and Swedes who formed the bulk of the population, produced large quantities of grain and live-stock. The surplus was brought to Philadelphia, a well-built city of nearly twenty thousand inhabitants. Peter Calm has left the following picture of its industrial life: "Several ships are annually built of American oak in the docks.... The town carries on a great trade both with the inhabitants of the country and to other parts of the world, especially to the West Indies, South America, and the Antilles; to England, Ireland, Portugal, and to several English colonies in North America. Yet none but English ships are allowed to come into this port. Philadelphia reaps the greatest profits from its trade to the West Indies: for thither the inhabitants ship almost every day a quantity of flour, butter, flesh, and other victuals, timber, plank, and the like. In return they receive either sugar, molasses, rum, indigo, mahogany, and other goods, or ready money.... They send both West India goods and their own products to England; the latter are all sorts of woods, especially walnut, and oak planks for ships; ships ready built, iron, hides, and tar.... Ready money is likewise sent over to England; from whence in return they get all sorts of goods there manufactured, viz: fine and coarse cloth, linen, iron ware, and other wrought metals, and East India goods; for it is to be observed, that England supplies Philadelphia with almost all stuffs and manufactured goods which are wanted here. A great quantity of linseed goes annually to Ireland, together with many of the ships which are built here. Portugal gets wheat, flour, and maize which is not ground. Spain sometimes takes some corn. But all the money which is got in these several countries, must immediately be sent to England, in payment for the goods which are got from thence, and yet those sums are not sufficient to pay all the debts."
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