This chapter discusses the need to understand two contexts that the clerical economists thought of as interrelated: the contentious and often chaotic world of ideas, and the equally contentious and chaotic world of new America. The clerical economists had an overriding concern to maintain order in both of these realms, and they often made surprising intellectual compromises to achieve that end. Their appropriation of Adam Smith's political economy was precisely such a compromise. To order-minded Americans like the clerical economists, the most threatening enemies of stability by far were the twin legacies of eighteenth-century Europe: religious skepticism and the social upheaval of the French Revolution. As educators of the future leaders of the American republic, the clerical economists knew that they had an important role to play in keeping the national ship afloat. The new nation, barely half a century old, was a huge gamble with extremely high stakes.
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