Entrepreneurial Adventure

Entrepreneurial Adventure:
The Development of Economics in The United States

“Capitalism came in the first ships.”
-Carl N. Degler
Barit Brown
United States History
Saturday, March 18, 2000
4,753 words

The United States was a nation of development. It was a nation of growth and of innovation. From the signing of the Declaration of Independence, to the end of World War II and so forth, complex dilemmas called for complex solutions and complex solutions called for innovation. While, many aspects of American Culture were built and perfected throughout the developmental years, none was more influential or powerful than the forming of the American Economic System. The history of economics in the United States can, most appropriately, be divided into two main sub-sections of development: technology and thought. Where between the introductions of the Constitution in 1787 up until around 1880, the only way for the ever-expanding nation to keep on top of it’s growth was to develop the most sophisticated network of communication and transportation, tying the nation together and maintaining the closeness that no other country had ever had before.
The prosperous nation of freedom and liberty was fueled by growth—socially, geographically, and most importantly, technologically. The period of time between the introduction of the Constitution (1787) and the last period of Reconstruction (1877) was one of the most innovative and influential periods in American history. As the country developed during these times, its economic system was molded and formed to the supposed best that it could be. Built on imitations and variances of existing nations economies, it became what was to be the cornerstone for modern day international capitalist economy. What made the United States the primary benefactor was its people’s “almost universal ambition to get forward”, thus creating the need for the technological innovations and sociological revolutions which became the building blocks of modern day economics (Taylor, 4). With new technologies being found everywhere, the merchant classes attempted to mold an entirely new, productive economic system—albeit good or bad—which The United States still rests upon today. Without these technological innovations, the country could never have developed in the way that it did—provided that other countries did not develop these technologies first, but in which case The United States would not have retained the influential power that it holds today.
The task of redefining economics would prove to be an extremely difficult one—sometimes requiring technologies or tactics that had yet to be discovered. The year 1815 marked the highpoint of merchant-capitalism and signified the start of a period where large-scale communication and transportation innovations first made their appearance (Taylor, 6). During this time the United States’ economy was primarily agricultural and, because of the tack of transportation, the Atlantic coast merchants directed virtually all of U.S. commerce, composing nearly 85% of the population and therefore creating a merchant-capitalist economy (Taylor, 6). With such extreme division of manufacturing, as related to geographic location, only a revolutionary development in both transportation and communication would make any form of industrial expansion feasible. The United States had many more reasons for its need of advanced transportation methods, however. Population was increasing at a tremendous rate as people were immigrating into the United States, creating a need for both geographic and industrial/agrarian expansions. Alongside the population increase was the huge amount of untapped resources that America had in it; coal and gold were among the many financial opportunities that were held back by the inefficiency of transportation (Bolino, 30). Not to say that the United States was in economic trouble, as the Atlantic coast merchants were engaged on their own account in the coastwise and foreign trade, but with the forward-thinking ideas embedded in almost every American the land was a goldmine locked away behind the inefficient transportation system. Many things called for change.
As a part of the transportation system of the country, the small rural road was seldom given its due, although its role was indeed large (Taylor, 19). Unacceptably poor, compared to late-twentieth century standards, a great network of these roads existed in the settled portions of the United States around 1815 (Flugel, 313). These small roads typically ran from farms to the nearest village if it was on navigable waters, otherwise onto a village that was. However, since the roads and waterways were the only available form of transportation,