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William Leggett and the Melodrama of the Market

William Leggett and the Melodrama of the Market

(p.199) 8 William Leggett and the Melodrama of the Market
Capitalism Takes Command
Jeff rey Sklansky
University of Chicago Press

The market as it is known today was the greatest creation of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, made possible by combining classical economics and popular culture. William Leggett (1801–1839), a New York City newspaper editor and labor leader, provided a life-like portrayal of the market and championed the free market amid the tumultuous boom and bust of the 1830s. Like many less ardent and articulate Jacksonians, however, he discovered a scourge for the market he revered in paper money and the banks that supplied it. The colossal conflict between the “natural economy” and the “money power” gave rise to a political melodrama that personalized the abstract and often intangible operations of capital. Leggett arrayed “publick credulity” against “soulless corporations,” labor against money, and democracy against monopoly, thus casting political economy as a moral clash between the forces of good and evil.

Keywords:   market, William Leggett, free market, paper money, banks, natural economy, money power, capital, corporations, political economy

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