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National DutiesCustom Houses and the Making of the American State$
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Gautham Rao

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226367071

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226367101.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Commerce or War?

Commerce or War?

(p.103) Chapter Four Commerce or War?
National Duties

Gautham Rao

University of Chicago Press

The Haitian Revolution forced Americans to confront the dark side of the federal customhouses’ dependence on merchant capitalists. Since customs officers negotiated authority with the merchants in their ports, the officers had limited ability to coerce or punish merchants that ran afoul of the law. During the Haitian Revolution, American merchants in Baltimore and other ports pursued commerce of questionable legality with black Haitians by arming their vessels and fighting through French naval convoys and blockades. Were American merchants pursuing commerce or prosecuting war? Seeking to limit the armed Haiti trade, Congress passed several commercial restrictions that were to be enforced by the customhouses. Yet since customs officials’ authority was so intertwined with the merchant capitalists who did business at the customhouse, they were unable to muster the wherewithal to enforce the Haiti regulations.

Keywords:   Haitian Revolution, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Gallatin, France, arms, commerce

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