THE PERIOD OF WARS AND ECONOMIC TRANSITION 1764-1815
ECONOMIC CONDITIONS, 1764-1775, AND THE CAUSES OF THE REVOLUTION
The General Character of the Period of Transition. Before we take up the specific topic of this chapter, it is essential to explain something of the general character of the period extending from shortly before the outbreak of the Revolution to the end of the War of 1812, to which we now turn. This period is an unusually complicated one necessitating a method of treatment in some respects different from that used in describing the course of events in most other periods. Also, an understanding of the general character and significance of the period in its relation to the rest of our economic development is essential to an appreciation of the meaning and relative importance of the detailed facts and movements that are to be described.
Perhaps the period can best be understood and interpreted as one in which two distinct sets of forces dominated the course of events in our economic life. One set of forces is found in the wars, domestic and foreign, that were being waged during all but a few of the years embraced within the period, together with the political and other changes incident thereto that reacted on our economic life. These were the forces that introduced what we may call an abnormal element into the situation--if we may assume that war is abnormal--for the wars reacted powerfully on the course of our economic life; in some instances they created tendencies diverse from those that prevailed when the country and the world were at peace, and in other instances they abnormally hastened movements in line with what was destined to prove the more normal trend of economic development. The second group of forces that we shall investigate may be grouped together as those developments, not primarily due to the wars and more in line with the normal course of economic development, incident to the introduction of a more economical organization of industrial society and the slow transition from the colonial economy to the