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The United States today is the most powerful superpower in history. Neither classical Rome nor ancient China—not even the Spanish and British Empires we have examined in this book—were able to exert the economic, military, and political influence that the United States has over the past century. The same is true of its institutional, ideological, and cultural influence. Whereas the hegemonic powers of the past have only held sway in one part of the world, American influence is global in its reach. It is in this sense that the United States can be described as the first global empire in history.
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Youngsoo Bae, Miguk Yeoeronui Daeaneul Chajaseo [In Search of Alternatives to American Exceptionalism], (Ilchokak, 2011), chap. 12.
Niall Ferguson, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (New York, 2004), pp. 15, 18.
Robert Fogel, Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery (New York, 1991), p. 102; Martin Daunton, Wealth and Welfare: An Economic and Social History of Britain 1851–1951 (Oxford, 2007), p. 167.
Youngsoo Bae, Miguk Yeoeronui Daeaneul Chajaseo [In Search of Alternatives to American Exceptionalism], chap. 1.
Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, enlarged ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1992).
Karen Ordahl Kupperman, The Jamestown Project (Cambridge, Mass., 2007); Peter C. Mancall, Hakluyt’s Promise: An Elizabethan’s Obsession for an English America (New Haven, 2007).
Benjamin Franklin, Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc. (Boston, 1751).
For population estimates, see David W. Galenson, “The Settlement and Growth of the Colonies: Population, Labor, and Economic Development,” Stanley E. Engerman and Robert E. Gallman (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of the United States Vol. I: The Colonial Era (Cambridge, 1996), p. 169; John J. McCusker and Russell R. Menard, The Economy of British America 1607–1789 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1985), pp. 211–235; GNP increased from 22 million dollars in 1650 to 1.89 billion dollars in 1774 (based on constant 1980 prices). McCusker and Menard, The Economy of British America, pp. 53–57.
McCusker and Menard, The Economy of British America, p. 121, figure 6.1.
The Virginia Company initially adopted a system of renting laborers to planters on contracts that were renewable on a yearly basis, but it soon abandoned this because planters were overworking their laborers.
Stuart Bruchey, Enterprise: The Dynamic Economy of a Free People (Cambridge, Mass., 1991), p. 36.
By the second half of the seventeenth century, Barbados (where sugar plantations first began) had a population density of 250 people per square mile. This drove white workers to leave Barbados after their contracts ended in search of other settlements, inflicting a blow on the food and lumber sectors that had depended on their labor. This demand was what the colonists of the West Indies and North America had in mind when they settled in South Carolina.
McCusker and Menard, The Economy of British America, pp. 170–181.
Edward Johnson, Johnson’s Wonder-Working Providence, 1628–1651, ed. J. Franklin Jameson (New York, 1910), p. 211; quoted in McCusker and Menard, The Economy of British America, p. 97.
McCusker and Menard, The Economy of British America, pp. 91–111, 318–321; Daniel Vickers, “The Northern Colonies: Economy and Society, 1600–1775,” Engerman and Gallman, The Cambridge Economic History of the United States Vol. I, p. 232.
McCusker and Menard, The Economy of British America, pp. 189–208.
John J. McCusker, “British Mercantilist Policies and the American Colonies,” Engerman and Gallman (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of the United States Vol. I, pp. 337–362.
McCusker and Menard, The Economy of British America, pp. 80–86, especially Table 4.1 on p. 81.
For the Seven Years’ War, see Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. (New York, 2001).
During the Seven Years’ War, Britons were paying 26 shillings in annual taxes per capita, while the American colonists were paying just 1 shilling. John Steele Gordon, An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power (New York, 2004), p. 54; for trade between the colonies and the enemy, see Thomas M. Truxes, Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York (New Haven, 2008); William Pitt, who led Britain during the war, is widely thought to have advocated the colonists’ rights, but he denounced the colonists’ violations of the Navigation Acts. For more on this point, see Anderson, Crucible of War, pp. 520, 578–579.
For a description of the shift in Britain’s policy toward its North American colonies in the 1760s, see Nancy F. Koehn, The Power of Commerce: Economy and Governance in the First British Empire (Ithaca, 1994); Daeryoon Kim, “‘Daepyo Eopsi Gwase Eopda’ reul Neomeo: Jeguk Gyeongjee Gwanhan Nonjaeng, 1763–1783” [Beyond “No Taxation Without Representation”: The Debate about the Imperial Economy, 1763–1783], Korean Journal of British Studies 19 (2008), 29–60.
For the non-importation and non-consumption campaigns, see T. H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (New York, 2004).
For the Currency Act, see Joseph A. Ernst, “The Currency Act Repeal Movement: A Study in Imperial Politics and Revolutionary Crisis,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 25 (1968); for the views of the colonists about the Currency Act, the Stamp Act, and the alleged British plot to suppress their freedoms, see Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, chap. 4.
Gordon S. Wood, The American Revolution: A History (London, 2002), pp. 74–75.
Wood, The American Revolution, pp. 72–86; Brendan Simms, Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire (New York, 2008), pp. 579–661.
For the colonies’ financial situation during the war, see Ben Baack, “Forging a Nation State: The Continental Congress and the Financing of the War of American Independence,” Economic History Review, new ser., 54 (2001), pp. 639–656.
McCusker and Menard, The Economy of British America, pp. 361–362. The severe trade imbalance resulting from decreasing exports was mitigated by foreign loans and the activity of privateers. Privateers seized 12,000 commercial ships whose cargo was worth 18 million pounds (ibid., pp. 362–363). The United States also received 10 million pounds of overseas loans and aid between 1777 and 1783, and the military expenditures of the British and French armies also helped redress the deficit.
McCusker and Menard, The Economy of British America, pp. 374–375. Given the rapid economic recovery that began in the early 1790s, the situation in the United States immediately after independence must have been even worse.
The toll on the South was particularly severe. American exports from 1791 to 1792 were still just 75% of the level from 1768 to 1772, but exports in the Middle States and New England had already returned to or surpassed prewar levels. As a consequence, the South’s share of exports fell from 64% in 1770 to 48% in 1790, while its share of wealth fell from 46% in 1774 to 32% in 1789. David R. Meyer, The Roots of American Industrialization (Baltimore, 2003), pp. 15–16.
Between 1784 and 1789, the United States received 2.3 million dollars in loans from the Netherlands but only 1.9 million dollars in contributions from the various states, which illustrates the fiscal predicament of the central government. Richard Sylla, “Experimental Federalism: The Economics of American Government, 1789–1914,” Stanley E. Engerman and Robert E. Gallman (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of the United States Vol. II: The Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 2000), p. 487.
Wood, The American Revolution, pp. 142–144; Cathy Matson, “The Revolution, the Constitution, and the New Nation,” Engerman and Gallman (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of the United States Vol. I, pp. 372–382.
Max M. Edling, A Revolution in Favor of Government: Origins of the U.S. Constitution and the Making of the American State (Oxford, 2003).
Sonia Mittal, Jack N. Rakove and Barry R. Weingast, “The Constitutional Choices of 1787 and Their Consequences,” Douglas A. Irwin and Richard Sylla (eds.), Founding Choices: American Economic Policy in the 1790s (Chicago, 2011), pp. 39–41.
Mittal, Rakove and Weingast, “The Constitutional Choices of 1787 and Their Consequences,” pp. 42–46.
Douglas A. Irwin, “Revenue or Reciprocity? Founding Feuds over Early U.S. Trade Policy,” Irwin and Sylla (eds.), Founding Choices, pp. 99–100. During the 1790s, tariffs were a crucial part of the federal government’s fiscal income. In 1792, for example, tariffs accounted for 3.4 million dollars of the federal government’s total fiscal income of 3.7 million dollars. After Hamilton was appointed Secretary of the Treasury, the revenue that was collected by customs houses at major ports directly managed by the federal government increased by 600% between 1792 and 1795, and the federal government’s fiscal income (largely consisting of tariffs) also increased by 26% each year between 1790 and 1795. In regard to these points, see p. 101 in the same article as well as p. 73 in the following article, which appears in the same book: Sylla, “Financial Foundations: Public Credit, the National Bank, and Securities Markets.”
The following discussion of Hamilton’s reports is indebted to Gordon S. Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (Oxford, 2009), pp. 95–103, and Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788–1800 (Oxford, 1993), pp. 114–131.
Requoted from Wood, Empire of Liberty, p. 100. The argument is that agricultural states cannot become powerful because economic growth decelerates and eventually stagnates.
The goal of the Report on Manufactures was to support the growth of new industries. Hamilton was not interested in supporting existing industries that were already competing directly with foreign countries, and so the report did not consider providing assistance to craftsmen or household manufacturers. Wood, Empire of Liberty, p. 102.
Sylla, “Financial Foundations: Public Credit, the National Bank, and Securities Markets,” p. 85. Evidence for the boost in business activity can be found in the fact that more than 200 laws related to establishing corporations were passed in the 1790s. This is twice the number of laws that were passed in the 1780s; Pauline Maier, “The Revolutionary Origins of the American Corporation,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd. ser., 50 (1993), p. 54.
For the trade deficit and exports as a share of GNP, see Robert E. Lipsey, “U.S. Foreign Trade and the Balance of Payments, 1800–1913,” Engerman and Gallman (eds.), Cambridge Economic History of the United States Vol. II, pp. 685, 691, Table 15.3; for the significance of exports and particularly re-exports for economic growth, see Douglass C. North, The Economic Growth of the United States 1790–1860 (New York, 1966), pp. 24–26, 43–45. The value of American trade increased from 43 million dollars in 1790 to 246 million dollars in 1807, while the total value of re-export trade during the Napoleonic Wars was 490 million dollars. Wood, Empire of Liberty, p. 623; similar figures can be found in Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815–1846 (Oxford, 1991), pp. 22–23.
Around 1,500 American vessels were seized between 1803 and 1812, 917 of them by Britain and 558 by France. Wood, Empire of Liberty, p. 646.
Wood, Empire of Liberty, p. 655; Irwin, “Revenue or Reciprocity?” pp. 115–116.
For the Jeffersonian Republicans, see Elkins and McKitrick, The Age of Federalism, pp. 195–208 and passim; for Jefferson’s criticism of Hamilton and the emergence of the Republican Party, see Wood, Empire of Liberty, pp. 140–173.
Drew McCoy, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (New York, 1980), p. 186.
Quotation found in Wood, Empire of Liberty, p. 641.
Wood, Empire of Liberty, p. 357; McCoy, Elusive Republic, pp. 185–208.
In contrast with the huge amount of money spent on the Louisiana Purchase, the size of the federal government was greatly reduced under the Jefferson administration. Aside from Congress and officers in the military, there were just 153 employees in government ministries in Washington immediately after Jefferson took office; even in 1829, there were only 352. Sellers, The Market Revolution, pp. 36–37.
Wood, Empire of Liberty, p. 674. American privateers, on the other hands, were quite active. Between 1812 and 1813, they took no fewer than 500 vessels as prizes.
On the progress of the war, see Wood, Empire of Liberty, pp. 659–700. For Americans who wanted to incorporate Canada and Florida into the union and free themselves completely from the influence of Britain, the outcome of the War of 1812 was an obvious disappointment. They received some consolation, however, from the victory of American troops under Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans, which was the hardest-fought battle of the war. Thanks to this victory, which restored Americans’ flagging pride, Jackson was transformed into an American hero, which would serve as the springboard to his later ascent to leadership. For Jackson’s victory, see Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (Oxford, 2007), pp. 8–18.
Wood, Empire of Liberty, p. 689; Lipsey, “U.S. Foreign Trade and the Balance of Payments,” p. 723.
See the sources quoted in note 15.
McCusker and Menard, The Economy of British America, p. 363.
As we have already mentioned, Hamilton’s report was focused on the development not of existing industries but of new industries. While most of the tariffs that Hamilton proposed in the report were implemented, the rate of the tariffs was set low for fear of a clash with Britain over trade. Thus, the tariffs did not help protect infant industries in the short term. For more on this, see Douglas A. Irwin, “The Aftermath of Hamilton’s ‘Report on Manufacture,’” Journal of Economic History 64 (2004), pp. 800–821.
Meyer, The Roots of American Industrialization, pp. 15–54.
It took about 20 days of work for one adult woman to produce one pound of cotton yarn from raw cotton. The problem was that raw cotton was much trickier to handle than wool or linen. Gordon, Empire of Wealth, p. 88.
Wood, Empire of Liberty, p. 702; Meyer, The Roots of American Industrialization, pp. 96–111.
Bruchey, Enterprise, pp. 151–153; Meyer, The Roots of American Industrialization, pp. 113–119; Robert F. Dalzell, Jr., Enterprising Elite: The Boston Associates and the World They Made (Cambridge, Mass., 1987), pp. 26–44.
Imports from Britain were worth 85 million dollars in 1815 and increased to 151 million dollars the following year. Americans suspected that British merchants were dumping their products. Maurice G. Baxter, Henry Clay and the American System (Lexington, KY, 1995), p. 18.
Madison also apparently sympathized with this cause. During the first session of the 14th Congress (1815–1816), he asked Congress to find a way to support and promote the manufacturing industry that had arisen throughout the country during the European wars and had achieved an unprecedented degree of maturity. Baxter, Henry Clay and the American System, p. 19.
Sellers, The Market Revolution, p. 75; Peter Temin, “The Industrialization of New England, 1830–1880,” Temin (ed.), Engines of Enterprise: An Economic History of New England (Cambridge, Mass., 2000), pp. 113–114; Jeremy Atack and Peter Passell, A New Economic View of American History, 2nd ed. (New York, 1994), p. 130. Under the protection of the tariff, the American cotton textile industry enjoyed rapid growth. In 1807, for example, there were about 8,000 spindles in operation at 15 to 20 companies, but in 1810, there were about 80,000 spindles at 87 companies. By 1831, this had increased to 1.25 million spindles. New England’s cotton textile production increased from 4 million yards in 1817 to 323 million yards in 1840; Bruchey, Enterprise, p. 149.
Sellers, The Market Revolution, pp. 148–149, 272–273, 295–296, 316, 319–320, 330–331, 412; Howe, What Hath God Wrought, pp. 272–274, 407–408; Baxter, Henry Clay, pp. 21–33.
Paul A. David, “Learning by Doing and Tariff Protection: A Reconsideration of the Case of the Antebellum United States Cotton Textile Industry,” Journal of Economic History 30 (1970). The disparity between the American and British cotton textile industries was caused not by a difference in fixed capital investment but rather by a difference in workmanship, which is hard to measure through factor input alone. This was a disparity that could only be overcome by enabling workers to accumulate experience in the field. Tariffs bought the American cotton textile industry enough time to do this. For more on this debate, see Atack and Passell, A New Economic View of American History, p. 130.
Baxter, Henry Clay and the American System, pp. 16–33.
Sellers, The Market Revolution, p. 132.
Albert Fishlow, “Internal Transportation in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,” Engerman and Gallman (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of the United States Vol. II, pp. 550–551.
In the debate about the establishment of the Bank of the United States, the Federalists and Republicans were divided in their interpretation of Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution. The Federalists argued that this section—which gives Congress the power to make all laws that are “necessary and proper” for executing the powers listed in the Constitution—gave Congress broad discretion in all areas related to economic regulation and fiscal policy. The Republicans, on the other hand, argued that it was unconstitutional to exercise powers not mentioned in the Constitution, in accordance with the principle of strict construction.
Wood, Empire of Liberty, pp. 484–485; John Lauritz Larson, “‘Bind the Republic Together’: The National Union and the Struggle for a System of Internal Improvements,” Journal of American History 74 (1987), pp. 363–387. As a consequence, while the federal government spent 60 million dollars on projects to improve the transportation network between 1790 and 1860, state and local governments spent 450 million dollars on such projects; John Joseph Wallis, “The Other Foundings: Federalism and the Constitutional Structure of American Government,” Irwin and Sylla (eds.), Founding Choices, p. 183.
Atack and Passell, A New Economic View of American History, p. 178; Bruchey, Enterprise, pp. 268–270.
David A. Hounshell, From the American System to Mass Production, 1800–1932: The Development of Manufacturing Technology in the United States (Baltimore, 1984); for relative changes in the productivity of the United States, Britain, and Germany, see Stephen Broadberry, “How Did the United States and Germany Overtake Britain? A Sectoral Analysis of Comparative Productivity Levels, 1870–1990,” Journal of Economic History 58 (1998), pp. 375–407. According to Broadberry, the productivity of the American manufacturing sector was 80% higher than that of the British manufacturing sector in the period from 1869 to 1871 (Table 1 on p. 378).
Meyer, Roots of American Industrialization, pp. 281–284.
Looking at how the share of the total American population in the two regions changed over time, 63% of Americans lived in the North and 37% in the South in 1840, while 65% lived in the North and 33% in the South in 1860. Robert E. Gallman, “Economic Growth and Structural Change in the Long Nineteenth Century,” Engerman and Gallman (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of the United States Vol II, p. 52, Table 1.15.
Fogel, Without Consent or Contract, p. 102.
Jonathan Hughes and Louis P. Cain, American Economic History, 6th ed. (New York, 2003), pp. 169, 170; North, Economic Growth of the United States, p. 233.
For a discussion of the phrase “cotton is king,” see James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford, 1988), pp. 100, 195–196; in 1860, the slaves were worth around 2.7 billion dollars, an amount that was equivalent to three times the capital invested in the entire American manufacturing industry. Freeing the slaves would have meant a 23% reduction in the per capita income of whites in the 11 states that produced cotton through slave labor. That is why Southerners could have seen abolitionism as a threat to their property rights. Roger L. Ransom and Richard Sutch, One Kind of Freedom (New York, 1977), Table 3; Atack and Passell, A New Economic View of American History, pp. 356–358.
McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 94–100.
Requoted from Fogel, Without Consent or Contract, p. 107.
McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 100.
Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (Oxford, 1970).
The following discussion draws upon McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, and David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War 1848–1861 (New York, 1976).
In addition to the sources cited in note 79, see Marc Egnal, “The Beards Were Right: Parties in the North, 1840–1860,” Civil War History 47 (2001), pp. 30–56, and Richard F. Bensel, Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America, 1859– 1877 (New York, 1991).
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