The Practice and Politics of Fiat Finance: North Carolina in the Confederation, 1783-1789

By James R. Morrill | Go to book overview

IX. Conclusion

As this study has emphasized, the financial policies and practices adopted by the government of North Carolina in the post-Revolutionary period should be judged by the economic realities and immediate fiscal options of the eighteenth century rather than by those of the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century. Possessed in the 1780's of an agrarian economy that afflicted the state, as it had throughout the colonial period, with an unfavorable balance of trade, North Carolina faced a drain of specie that was accelerated during the postwar years by heavy purchasing of manufactured imports, overextension of credit, and overproduction of domestic produce that glutted world markets and thereby greatly reduced market prices. Restricted by limited resources, sparse population, and a shortage of investment opportunities other than land, the economy of North Carolina was, for the foreseeable future, inescapably pre-industrial and therefore saddled with its unfavorable balance of trade and its specie shortage. These, then, were the economic realities facing the government of eighteenth-century North Carolina and these are the realities by which, as E. James Ferguson suggests,1 the government's policies should be evaluated.

Plagued by the severe and inescapable shortage of specie, North Carolina in the 1780's faced many pressing demands, not the least of which was the enormous certificate and fiat currency debt incurred by the state in fighting the Revolution. So large was this debt that its redemption with specie or other tangible property was patently impossible, and it was

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1
E. James Ferguson, The Power of the Purse: A History of American Public Finance, 1776-1790 ( Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1961).

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