A Hercules in the Cradle traces the evolution of United States central state capacity in the sphere of fiscal policy and public finance. It demonstrates how within merely a few years after independence, the United States acquired the capacity to raise revenue through taxation and government borrowing. The new nation used this capacity to finance wars and territorial expansion that made the United States the predominant power on the North American Continent. In the first half of the book the creation of a productive fiscal regime and a well-managed public debt, made possibly by the framing and adoption of the Constitution and the institutions and policies adopted by the federal government in the early 1790s, is analyzed. The second half of the book investigates the uses of fiscal and financial powers in three major nineteenth-century wars: the War of 1812, the U.S.-Mexican War, and the Civil War.