The Triumph of American Capitalism: The Development of Forces in American History to the End of the Nineteenth Century

The Triumph of American Capitalism: The Development of Forces in American History to the End of the Nineteenth Century

The Triumph of American Capitalism: The Development of Forces in American History to the End of the Nineteenth Century

The Triumph of American Capitalism: The Development of Forces in American History to the End of the Nineteenth Century

Excerpt

IT IS A curious thing that American historians, when they have reflected on the distinctive part that the United States has played in the history of modern times, have given weight to considerations that almost entirely disregard our economic institutionalism. The doctrine of Frederick Jackson Turner and his disciples has been an attractive but only partial explanation: that American uniqueness has largely been caused by anthropogeographic conditions.

Isolated from the main currents of European development by three thousand miles of ocean, and largely preoccupied for the first three centuries of our history with the problems attending the conquest of a moving frontier made possible by the happy circumstance of an arable soil and rich timber and mineral resources, we have been able to build an American civilization to which, in the cultural-anthropological sense, most of the significant peoples of Europe have contributed.

Tried in and shaped by common experiences, and looking perforce inward rather than outward, this conglomeration of nationalities was able in time to take on distinctive qualities. The American, as a type, became an individualist, a democrat, an egalitarian, and a utilitarian; and he looked upon government only as an effective device for assuring his happiness and curbing the oppressive tactics of the monopolists.

Such an analysis, obviously, has real merits. It justifies a national pride; and it has the further effect of maintaining morale when times are out of joint. But it must be apparent, after some reflection, that a historical theory based almost exclusively upon increasingly remote pioneering experiences leaves out many facets.

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