- Purchase/rental options available:
In 1784 the ship Empress of China set sail for Canton and initiated the direct tea trade between China and the United States. The United States thereafter grew to be the second-largest importer of tea, known as "green gold," from China in the nineteenth century. Carrying tea to America and continental Europe not only demonstrated U.S. cultural and political independence, but also allowed Americans to procure new lines of commercial credit from Netherlands and China, usually in the form of promissory notes, pieces of paper that represented gold and silver before English bills of exchange came into wide use in the China trade. By examining three types of credit extended from Chinese merchants to their American counterparts before 1815, this article challenges the understanding of the Old China trade as a strictly hard-money system and, at the same time, elaborates the power of credit in the early American economy. Handsome profits from the tea trade and new lines of credit from China enabled American businessmen to accumulate large amounts of capital within a short period. Furnished with "green gold" and "paper gold," China traders in New England and the mid-Atlantic states helped reshape the U.S. economy and link the Pacific and Atlantic worlds.