The Causes of the American Revolution

By John C. Wahlke | Go to book overview

Louis M. Hacker:


ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

In The Triumph of American Capitalism ( 1940), the best known of his many books and articles, Louis M. Hacker sets forth an economic interpretation of American history. His chapters on the American Revolution, parts of which are here reprinted, stress the importance of economic interests and interest groups in the events that led to the outbreak of hostilities in April of 1775. Professor Hacker teaches economics at Columbia University.


I. THE PRESSURES ON COLONIAL MERCANTILE CAPITALISM

1. COLONIAL COMMERCE. In a functioning imperial economy, the capitalist relationships between mother country and colonies as a rule lead to a colonial unfavorable balance of payments. The colonies buy the goods and services of the mother country and are encouraged to develop those raw materials the home capitalists require. In this they are aided by the investment of the mother country's balances and by new capital. Thus, in the southern colonies, tobacco largely was being produced to furnish returns for the English goods and services the plantation lords required; but, because the exchange left England with a favorable balance, by the 1770's its capitalists had more than £4,000,000 invested in southern planting operations. To meet the charges on this debt, southern planters were compelled constantly to expand their agricultural operations and to engage in the subsidiary activities of land speculation and the fur trade.

The northern colonies were less fortunately placed. The northern colonies directly produced little of those staples necessary to the maintenance of the English economy: the grains, provisions, and work animals of New England, New York, and Pennsylvania could not be permitted to enter England lest they disorganize the home commercial agricultural industry; and the fishing catches of the New England fishing fleets competed with the English fishery industry operating in the North Sea and off the Newfoundland banks. The northern colonies, of course, were a source for lumber, naval stores, furs, whale products, and iron, and these England sorely needed to maintain her independence of European supplies. By bounties, the relaxing of trade restrictions, and the granting of favored positions in the home market, England sought to encourage these industries, partly because it required these

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From The Triumph of American Capitalism by Louis M. Hacker, pp. 145-170. Copyright 1940 by, Simon and Schuster, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the publishers.

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