The Roots of Recovery: Expansion of American Commerce
AS ONE examines the evidence for the expansion of American commerce and business enterprise after the Revolution, the simple picture of economic depression as a cause of the movement for a stronger central government begins to disappear. Even a brief analysis of the complex interests and ideas at work in the United States demonstrates the inadequacy of such "an economic interpretation," although it is accepted without question by those writers who in the same breath denounce Charles A. Beard An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States.
He who would examine economic life during the 1780's must content himself with only the most scattered figures. Statistics have about them an aura of immutable truth for men of the twentieth century. Men of the eighteenth century professed a belief in immutable laws, but they were "laws of nature." Twentieth century tables, graphs, and charts would be a meaningless jumble for them. Instead, they were concerned with the relations of man to man and of class to class in society, not with figures as we use them. They kept records, of course, but in a casual way that both shocks and intrigues. Many of their records have been lost; others are cryptic or, at best, the notations of a kind of bookkeeping which viewed life as a series of relationships rather than as a matter of the annual balancing of accounts.1 Toward the end of the eighteenth century men began to use____________________