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One Nation Under Debt: Hamilton, Jefferson, and the History of What We Owe / Edition 1

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Overview

Like its current citizens, the United States was born in debt-a debt so deep that it threatened to destroy the young nation. Thomas Jefferson considered the national debt a monstrous fraud on posterity, while Alexander Hamilton believed debt would help America prosper. Both, as it turns out, were right.

One Nation Under Debt explores the untold history of America's first national debt, which arose from the immense sums needed to conduct the American Revolution. Noted economic historian Robert Wright, Ph.D. tells in riveting narrative how a subjugated but enlightened people cast off a great tyrant-“but their liberty, won with promises as well as with the blood of patriots, came at a high price.” He brings to life the key events that shaped the U.S. financial system and explains how the actions of our forefathers laid the groundwork for the debt we still carry today.

As an economically tenuous nation by Revolution's end, America's people struggled to get on their feet. Wright outlines how the formation of a new government originally reduced the nation's debt-but, as debt was critical to this government's survival, it resurfaced, to be beaten back once more. Wright then reveals how political leaders began accumulating massive new debts to ensure their popularity, setting the financial stage for decades to come.

Wright traces critical evolutionary developments-from Alexander Hamilton's creation of the nation's first modern capital market, to the use of national bonds to further financial goals, to the drafting of state constitutions that created non-predatory governments. He shows how, by the end of Andrew Jackson's administration, America's financial system was contributing to national growth while at the same time new national and state debts were amassing, sealing the fate for future generations.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780071543934
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/20/2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 742,443
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert E. Wright is the Rudy and Marlyn Nef Family Chair of Political Economy in the Division of Social Sciences at Augustana College and is a curator for the Museum of American Finance. He is the author of scores of articles, entries, reviews, and chapters, and has authored or coauthored nine books. Wright has written for Barron's, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Forbes.com, and other prominent publications, and has appeared on NPR, C-SPAN, and the BBC.

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Table of Contents

Preface     vii
A Twinkle In The Eye: The Importance of Government Debt     1
Parentage: European Precedents     17
Conception: Financing Revolution     41
Gestation: The Constitution and the National Debt     75
Birth: Alexander Hamilton's Grand Plan     123
Youth And Maturity: The Public Debt Grows Up, Then Slims Down     161
Life: The Life and Times of Federal Bondholders in Virginia     187
Blessings: American Economic Growth     237
Death And Reincarnation: Jackson's Triumph and Failure     269
Appendix     285
Notes     333
Bibliography     371
Index     387
About the Author     421
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2008

    What a great read about an important topic!

    This book is not only informative, it is a great read. Who would have thought that somebody could write a page turner about the national debt??? The author clearly loves this topic and his enthusiasm shows through on every page. America's national debt is currently over $9 trillion dollars. It began its life almost as deeply in debt 'fewer dollars but each dollar could buy a lot more back then and the economy was smaller' as it is today. Yet, it managed to pay its debt off without causing too many disruptions to the economic or political systems. But the early politicians were more statesmen, not vote mongers like today, so we are not likely to pay our current debt off. I also like how the author says that both Hamilton and Jefferson were right about the debt. Hamilton said it was a blessing and it was, short term, a point the author proves with a ton of data and interesting stories about bondholders and sugar beet farmers. Jefferson said the debt was a curse and ultimately was proven correct.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2008

    What a great read about an important topic!

    This book is not only informative, it is a great read. Who would have thought that somebody could write a page turner about the national debt? The author clearly loves this topic and his enthusiasm shows through on every page. America's national debt is currently over $9 trillion dollars. It began its life almost as deeply in debt (fewer dollars but each dollar could buy a lot more back then and the economy was smaller) as it is today. Yet, it managed to pay its debt off without causing too many disruptions to the economic or political systems. But the early politicians were more statesmen, not vote mongers like today, so we are not likely to pay our current debt off. I also like how the author says that both Hamilton and Jefferson were right about the debt. Hamilton said it was a blessing and it was, short term, a point the author proves with a ton of data and interesting stories about bondholders and sugar beet farmers. Jefferson said the debt was a curse and ultimately was proven correct.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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