Sovereign of the MarketThe Money Question in Early America

Sovereign of the MarketThe Money Question in Early America

Jeffrey Sklansky

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780226480336

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


What should serve as money, who should control its creation and circulation, and according to what rules? For more than two hundred years, the “money question” shaped American social thought. This book explores how and why the means of payment became a central subject of political debate and class conflict over market relations in early America. The book comprises three parts devoted to major episodes in the career of the money question. Part I focuses on the political economy of paper money in colonial New England, Part II turns to the battle over commercial banking in the new United States, and Part III concerns the struggle over the national banking system and the international gold standard in the late nineteenth century. Each section explores a broader problem of power that framed the conflict over currency, considering the money question as a question of circulation raised by the growth of commerce in the colonial British Atlantic, a question of representation arising from the emergence of popular democracy along with industrial capitalism in the Jacksonian era, and a question of association tied to the ascendance of big business in the Gilded Age. More concretely, each part consists of intellectual biographies of two leading reformers who staked out opposite sides of the issue in their respective periods. These paired essays pursue the connections between the money question and other aspects of early American culture including natural law and natural history, melodramatic literature and neoclassical architecture, and Christian fellowship and fiduciary trust.

Table of Contents

Front Matter

Part One Paper Money and the Problem of Circulation in the Colonial Era

Part Two Commercial Banking and the Problem of Representation in the Jacksonian Era

Part Three Big Business and the Problem of Association in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

End Matter