the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Most of the money his firm made during the war came

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power of the American government. Most of the money his firm made during the war came from the fleet of privateers he outfitted that captured British cargoes in the Atlantic and Caribbean, which Morris regarded as a splendid example of patriotism and profit in one seamless package. When he accepted the call to put America’s financial house in order, he was forty-seven years old. The portrait painted by Charles Willson Peale about that time reveals a man comfortable with himself, with the customary accoutrements of middle age on display—a receding hairline and expanding girth. In addition to an enormous fortune, he brought two convictions to the task at hand: first, a firm belief that patriotism and its intellectual accomplice, virtue, were less effective motivating forces than interest; and second, an answer to the question everyone was asking—what will hold the states together once the war ends? Washington believed the answer was the western domain. Morris believed the answer was debt. He also brought a way of thinking about money that did not yet have a name. (The term capitalism did not appear until 1850.) The key concept in this emerging mentality was credit , a word derived from the Latin credere , meaning “to believe.” Credit refers not just to the money you possess but also to what others believe you will be able to pay. One economist has described credit as “money of the mind,” which focuses attention on the psychological dimension of a capitalistic marketplace. When Morris gave his note to a customer in Madrid or Kingston, for example, he seldom had the cash on hand to pay for the purchase, but he could make the trade because the customer believed he would eventually make good on his promise, when one of his many ships delivered its cargo somewhere else in Europe or the West Indies. Credit multiplies the amount of money in circulation, thereby giving a capitalistic economy greater productive potential, while making it vulnerable to endemic “bubbles,” when projections prove illusory, credit collapses, and market adjustment takes the form of a depression. Morris was able to avoid that fate by adroitly juggling his expenses and his sales and by making Willing, Morris and Company into a de facto bank, with cash reserves that allowed him to survive the inevitable cargo lost at sea. 17 All this became strikingly relevant when the Financier took command of the American economy. For Morris’s way of thinking was terra incognita for most southern delegates in Congress, especially the Virginians, who still regarded land, not money, as the ultimate measure of wealth, and for whom the manipulation of numbers on a balance sheet came across as some sinister form of magic, eerily similar to the calculations their English and Scottish creditors were employing to drive them into bankruptcy.
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  • Fall '16
  • Chemistry, pH, American Revolution, Second Continental Congress, American Revolution, Continental Army

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