American Economic History

American Economic History

American Economic History

American Economic History

Excerpt

The trailing clouds of glory that lay around our nation's youth have begun to fade away. With the war we reached middle age at a bound. We are now counting our resources, human and material, as we never did before. The results of the inventory are not wholly reassuring, and we are checking up our waning natural resources, our political institutions, our education, our social philosophy, to find where there is waste and lost motion. Mankind may not be at the crossroads, but it is dimly conscious that the road ahead is not the broad and happy highway of the past. It is more necessary than ever before that we should study our national history from every standpoint, and especially the economic. I think this book will be counted among the most useful of the aids yet provided for such study.

It may be well to point out that he who writes the economic history of any age or land undertakes a difficult task. If it be an economic history of the United States, as this volume is, the task is not less but rather more difficult. His subject is a country where nature has been bountiful and the exploitation of natural wealth has been less trammeled by old institutions and social customs than in Europe. Here the political individualism of a pioneer people has given freer play than ever before in human history to all the acquisitive impulses of men and groups of men. The faith of a youthful people that it lived in a land of inexhaustible resources and that nothing could happen to it that had happened to older lands where soil and forests became exhausted and the mineral wealth dissipated has opened the door for a material development unparalleled in the history of nations. How easy then for him who starts with the point of view implied in the title "economic history" to forget that the history of significant men and nations is, in its end results, but the charted field of a battle between their inherited ideas and unrealized ideals, on the one hand, and the material circumstances of their physical environment, on the other. I believe the author has written an account of our economic history free from the errors of one-sided materialism.

It is the achievement of this book that it is American history seen whole and sturdily, though from the given standpoint of its title. The reader has . . .

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