The Invisible Empire and the Land
Part Two is about economic dependence and independence among the citizens of the United States in the years between 1776 and 1826, and between those citizens as a whole and the international economic and political system. Domestically, dependence upon international markets for staple goods brought forth from the Southern planters a desire to sustain the subservience of their workforce. That had been true before 1776, when they had been largely dependent upon British markets and financing, and it became true again after 1783, and especially after the mechanization of cotton ginning in the 1790s. Their dependence and their demand for subservience had direct and terrible consequences for the land.
Following this story requires an expansion of view from domestic concerns to the larger international scene, following the widening of perspective on the part of the Founding Fathers as they met in Philadelphia in 1776. They were guided toward that breadth of vision by their most cosmopolitan members, especially Thomas Jefferson, whose final draft of the Declaration of Independence justified their revolution to an international audience on both political and economic grounds. Jefferson's language was of immediate interest to all colonial peoples, and he meant it to be so. The adversary against which he pitted his countrymen was not King George III taken alone but a colonial system which had become unbearable. That system had a history well known to Jefferson and his colleagues but, because of the rupture with Britain caused by them, not so intimately a part of the furniture of acquaintance with which we surround ourselves today.
The British had themselves been colonials, producers of crops to be manufactured by others, priced by others, and whose production was somewhat dependent upon being financed by others even in the Middle Ages. They had