The Founders and Finance

The Founders and Finance

How Hamilton, Gallatin, and Other Immigrants Forged A New Economy

Book - 2012
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In 1776 the United States government started out on a shoestring and quickly went bankrupt fighting its War of Independence against Britain. At the warâe(tm)s end, the national government owed tremendous sums to foreign creditors and its own citizens. But lacking the power to tax, it had no means to repay them. The Founders and Finance is the first book to tell the story of how foreign-born financial specialistsâe"immigrantsâe"solved the fiscal crisis and set the United States on a path to long-term economic success.

Pulitzer Prizeâe"winning author Thomas K. McCraw analyzes the skills and worldliness of Alexander Hamilton (from the Danish Virgin Islands), Albert Gallatin (from the Republic of Geneva), and other immigrant founders who guided the nation to prosperity. Their expertise with liquid capital far exceeded that of native-born plantation owners Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, who well understood the management of land and slaves but had only a vague knowledge of financial instrumentsâe"currencies, stocks, and bonds. The very rootlessness of Americaâe(tm)s immigrant leaders gave them a better understanding of money, credit, and banks, and the way each could be made to serve the public good.

The remarkable financial innovations designed by Hamilton, Gallatin, and other immigrants enabled the United States to control its debts, to pay for the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, andâe"barelyâe"to fight the War of 1812, which preserved the nationâe(tm)s hard-won independence from Britain.

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012.
ISBN: 9780674066922
0674066928
Characteristics: viii, 485 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.

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StarGladiator
Nov 23, 2013

An excellent book in what is a most difficult field, historical forensic finance/economics, or trying to figure out how they were really doing things and what they were really about. If there were a true "father of America" it would not be George Washington, but Washington's cunning chief of staff (who was really his chief strategist) and first secretary of the treasury, Alxander Hamilton. Hamilton was anti-slavery, and the first real believer in forging a meritocracy (as opposed to Jefferson and Adams' idea of the landed gentry). As the reviewer mentioned, " McCraw then turns to Gallatin's ascendency in Congress, where in 1796 he denounced the growth in the national debt and decried high military spending." Even back then the direct correlation between military spending and the national debt was obvious!

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beetle101
Sep 16, 2013

Read this book and you'll realize just how fragile the newly-established US was right after the Revolution and how recent immigrants were instrumental in its survival, financially and diplomatically. Hamilton has been immortalized, but Gallatin deserves more than a statue.

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