American Entrepreneur: The Fascinating Stories of the People Who Defined Business in the United States

By Larry Schweikart; Lynne Pierson Doti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Entrepreneurs in the New Nation:
1787–1840

It was apropos that Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations appeared in 1776, the same year as the Declaration of Independence. Both heralded the primacy of the individual over the state, marking a new stage in theories of political economy. Not until 1848, with the publication of the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, did thinkers seriously attempt to restore the state to its pre-Smith position.

For entrepreneurs in America, most of whom had never heard of Adam Smith, business in the new republic simply reflected a commonsense approach to economics. After all, they assumed that they knew more about their abilities, talents, productivity, and markets than some members of the House of Burgesses or some representatives of the Continental Congress. During the war and the subsequent period under the Articles of Confederation—with virtually no assistance from government—entrepreneurs had opened entirely new markets. For a time, government involvement in the economy was minimal.

Trade routes, although damaged, were repaired quickly. New York merchants established new contacts with China while shipping ginseng root on the Empress of China from Canton in 1784. A burgeoning Far

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