Financial History of the United States: Fiscal, Monetary, Banking, and Tariff, Including Financial Administration and State and Local Finance

By Paul Studenski; Herman E. Krooss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8: THE SEARCH FOR NEW GUIDEPOSTS, 1816 TO 1828

The United States emerged from the War of 1812 into a maelstrom of new developments and changing trends in social, political, and economic life. These years marked the beginning of the westward movement and commercial farming, of nascent manufacturing and slowly awakening tradeunionism, of stimulated cotton cultivation and solidification of the slavocracy. Against this background stood in sharp relief the money, banking, and fiscal problems of the postwar years--price inflation and deflation, broken-down banking and a disordered currency, a magnified national debt, swollen government expenditures, and high taxes.

Faced with these new trends and problems, the American people and their political spokesmen sought new viewpoints and philosophies. These were not easily developed, and it was not until the middle twenties that each section and each economic group were finally successful in arriving at an ideology which would best advance their own economic welfare.

The Congressional debates of this period, in fact for the next forty years, were dominated by Daniel Webster, the leading spokesman for New England; John C. Calhoun, who represented the Southern point of view; and Henry Clay of the new West of Kentucky and Tennessee. Each of these shifted his position from time to time, reflecting changes in the condition of his own section and of the country as a whole. Webster spoke first for the shippers, later for the industrialists. In the early postwar period, he was a leading exponent of free trade, but as New England manufacturing developed, he switched to a policy of protection, emphasizing a large spread between duties on raw materials and those on finished goods. John C. Calhoun, at first an advocate of nationalism and protection, transferred his allegiance to state rights and free trade. Henry Clay, originally an and-Bank agrarian, became the political sponsor of a new Federalism, emphasizing high tariffs, internal improvements, and the beneficence of a central bank.

The two Presidents of this period, Monroe and John Quincy Adams, allowed their Secretaries of the Treasury to dominate the national financial scene. For a year after the war, the Treasury remained under the control of Secretary Dallas, a champion of national banking, rapid debt repayment, and protective tariffs. His successor, William H. Crawford, held office until 1825 and also supported the national bank, conservative fiscal

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