America's First Great Depression: Economic Crisis and Political Disorder after the Panic of 1837

America's First Great Depression: Economic Crisis and Political Disorder after the Panic of 1837

by Alasdair Roberts


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For a while, it seemed impossible to lose money on real estate. But then the bubble burst. The financial sector was paralyzed and the economy contracted. State and federal governments struggled to pay their domestic and foreign creditors. Washington was incapable of decisive action. The country seethed with political and social unrest. In America's First Great Depression, Alasdair Roberts describes how the United States dealt with the economic and political crisis that followed the Panic of 1837.

As Roberts shows, the two decades that preceded the Panic had marked a democratic surge in the United States. However, the nation’s commitment to democracy was tested severely during this crisis. Foreign lenders questioned whether American politicians could make the unpopular decisions needed on spending and taxing. State and local officials struggled to put down riots and rebellion. A few wondered whether this was the end of America’s democratic experiment.

Roberts explains how the country’s woes were complicated by its dependence on foreign trade and investment, particularly with Britain. Aware of the contemporary relevance of this story, Roberts examines how the country responded to the political and cultural aftershocks of 1837, transforming its political institutions to strike a new balance between liberty and social order, and uneasily coming to terms with its place in the global economy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801478864
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 05/14/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 536,320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Alasdair Roberts is Director of the School of Public Policy and Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is author of America's First Great Depression and The End of Protest. Follow him on Twitter @alasdairroberts.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Back to the Future1. Boom and Bust
Hard times
Gauging the losses
The bubble
The collapse2. The States' Crisis
Defaulting on state debts
Disgrace in Europe
Shackling the states3. The Federal Government's Crisis
Gridlock in Washington
The fraying national compact
Losing the arms race
Reconciling with the superpower4. Law and Order
Rebellion in Rhode Island
The anti- rent war
Cannon fire in Philadelphia
Building civic armies5. The End of the Crisis
A proxy war in Mexico
RedemptionConclusion: Freedom, Order, and Economic CrisisNote on Method and Acknowledgments

What People are Saying About This

Richard Sylla

"Alasdair Roberts's poignant yet balanced account of the financial, economic, and political crises of the 1830s and 1840s provides us with a distant mirror reflecting our current travails. By not knowing and learning from history, we continue to make the same mistakes our ancestors did. If you want to complete your education, America’s First Great Depression is a good place to begin."

Daniel Walker Howe

"Alasdair Roberts tells a wide-ranging story of the depression that began in 1837 with lucidity, emphasizing the role of global financial markets and finding plenty of analogies to the economic problems of today."

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America's First Great Depression: Economic Crisis and Political Disorder after the Panic of 1837 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Polymath35 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a well written book that is easy to read. If you know 19th century United States history, this book isn't going to have very much new for you with one exception. Specifically, the book spends time discussing in detail the number of states that defaulted on their "state" debt during the business depression and how that affected the United State's relationship with Britain. I knew about these defaults in a general way, but had never read a more detailed history about it. It's no wonder since the last monograph related specifically to these defaults is about fifty years old. If you are not strong in your 19th century U.S. history, this monograph will very beneficial to you.