Inter-American Connections: Commercial Strategies in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions, 1790–1822

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM
Columbia 11 (Washington Hilton)
Fabricio Prado, College of William and Mary
The growth in commercial exchanges among subjects of Spanish-American territories and subjects of other Atlantic empires is regarded as crucial to the crisis of the Spanish empire. During this period, the Spanish Empire allowed trade with neutral nations in the American colonies. Historians have emphasized the increase in trade with foreign subjects (especially British), as crucial to the region’s process of obtaining political autonomy and free trade. Although peripheral in the historical literature, during the Age of Atlantic Revolutions, U.S. merchants penetrated Spanish American markets in a significant and impactful manner. The number of Anglo-American merchant ships in Rio de la Plata during the period was similar to the number of British vessels. This paper examines in detail the commercial and legal strategies U.S. merchants developed to trade in the Rio de la Plata region under changing circumstances, namely the Bourbon Reforms, the British Invasion, and revolutionary movements after 1810. By examining the trajectory of Henry Curtis De Forrest, a New England merchant who conducted legal and illegal commerce under Spanish rule, participated in the US slave trade in the region, traded with revolutionary and monarchist administrations, and even outfitted privateer vessels for revolutionary governments, this paper illuminates the regional and Atlantic significance of inter-American connections during a critical period of state formation in the Atlantic World.
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