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Soulless Monsters and Iron Horses

Soulless Monsters and Iron Horses

The Civil War, Institutional Change, and American Capitalism

(p.249) 10 Soulless Monsters and Iron Horses
Capitalism Takes Command
Sean Patrick Adams
University of Chicago Press

The government had long been in charge of the regulation of the economy and maintenance of the social order, but the Civil War changed all that. Aside from saving the Union and ending slavery, it transformed the relationship between political authority and economic practice, as mass mobilization forced Northern legislatures to grant corporations wide-ranging protections in order to boost the economy and support the military effort. As a result, the state no longer had to regulate industrial development and instead became an active partner in such an endeavor. New corporate charters were instituted that strengthened the rehabilitation of corporations, often disparaged as “soulless monsters” by political critics during the antebellum era, into engines of national progress. The government’s promotion of general prosperity complemented industrial capital’s unmatched ability to organize resources, setting in motion the rise of the corporate enterprise and capitalism in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Keywords:   government, Civil War, slavery, corporations, industrial development, corporate charters, industrial capital, capitalism, America, economy

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