A Professor’s Classroom
Subject: Am. History/Economics
I realize that is post will not sit well with those so called “patriots” that believe that the American Revolution was this spontaneous eruption of the desire for independence. Sorry, that just is not so. Reality bites! If anyone wants a true picture of the early days of the revolution then the study of economics would be the place to start. The decisions in the early days were more those of economics than some radical political philosophy.
Today, 9/11, is Patriot’s Day. I want to talk a bit about the original patriots. Actually, I feel that Remembrance Day would be a better title for the day….but what do I know?
The history of America is been taught and taught, but unless you are a student of economic history, the story of the beginning is a bit obscure. We are taught that taxation without representative was one of the major reason that the Colonials wanted out from under the thumb of King George. That is part of the reason but not the major one. It was n0t that Joe farmer sat in a pub and longed for freedom from England…far from the real occurrence.
You recall the Sons of Liberty, that covert group that held tea parties and other protests. In reality only some were concerned with independence, most were wealthy merchants that saw that they could make more profit without dealing with England and its tariffs and such. These people saw a God-given right to make more profit.
The “Founding Fathers” were rich merchants, lawyers, speculators, etc…the common man was not concerned with freedom at this point. They were more concerned with their existence and that of their families. Fighting the British army was far from their minds and independence may have been discussed but few thought it possible.
Yes, I am saying that the original intent of the independence movement was economics not political. Decisions were being made by the greed of the wealthy, not by the common man working the fields. That will come later and with the help of an Englishman.
After the French and Indian War, the population of the colonies was booming and spreading and about this time the wealthy colonials began to consider a way to get out of England’s shadow.
With an expanding population, from an economic point of view, meant landowners could increase the value of their holdings. Speculation was on the rise with the opening of the lands to the West of the Colonies. Merchants saw the growing population as more and larger markets. To traders it meant an expansion of imports and exports. Ship owners saw the growth as an increase in the volume of goods being shipped. Finally, manufacturers saw the growth in population as larger markets, a larger supply of labor and a decrease in the amount of wages to be paid.
All in all, a larger population would mean that all colonial economic endeavors would be profitable, but first they would have to find away to break with England. You see the wealthy of the 1770′s were no different than today….they want money money and more power. But to do what they wanted they needed to get out from under the thumb of British merchantilism.
Mercantilism? Yep, where the central figure was the authoritarian king. The mercantilist state aimed for the enlargement of the national power or the monarch in this case, not the gratification of individual aspirations of material advancement. Only the king truly embodied the realm’s best interests. Only he could lead and manipulate the realm’s economic interests.
The “founding fathers” interests were in the maximizing their profits, not the liberation of a country and its people from the iron grip of a monarch. The “founding fathers” were true capitalists.