The Great Challenge: The Myth of Laissez-Faire in the Early Republic

Frank Bourgin, Author George Braziller $22.5 (223p) ISBN 978-0-8076-1217-0
Bourgin's cogently argued study deflates the cherished national myth that the early American republic flourished under a policy of benign government noninterference in economic matters. The doctrine of laissez-faire was scarcely known to the framers of the Constitution; the merchant and financial classes, as the author demonstrates, espoused a mercantilist philosophy while they used the powers of the central government to improve their own status. Bourgin shows how Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson both pushed for a strong planning role for the national government. He also focuses on Albert Gallatin, who, as Jefferson's secretary of the treasury, drafted an ambitious federal program for roads and canals, and on John Quincy Adams, a frustrated but prescient central planner. This doctoral dissertation has an unusual history: the University of Chicago rejected it in 1945, and it has only now found a publisher through the intercession of Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who contributes the foreword. Reversing itself in 1988, Chicago accepted Bourgin's thesis and awarded him a Ph.D. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Paperback - 246 pages - 978-0-06-097296-7
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