11 April 2015

1780's Post Revolution War Depression

The Anti-Federalists by Jackson Main, 1961, Edited Excerpts

The depression was aggravated by a number of factors:

Pre-Revolutionary debts owed to the English and Scottish merchants was exceedingly heavy. Most of the debt was held by Federalists, for the certificates were concentrated in the wealthier and the urban areas.

Losses suffered during the war and heavy buying after the war created new debts, further debts were contracted for expansion and crop failures, and a state war debt necessitated heavy taxation.

A large proportion of farmers were in debt and were vulnerable to a depression. After the war, planters hastened to repair their plantations and purchase slaves, borrowing heavily, overextending themselves, counting of good crops and high prices. Their situation was made worse by crop failures.

During the mid-1780’s, economic conditions grew worse. The scarcity of money, due in part to heavy exportations of gold and silver to England, resulted in bankruptcies among merchants and caused high interest rates. It became exceedingly difficult to pay taxes and private debts. By the end of 1784, the economic depression was severely felt. Debtors were forced to sell their property at a fraction of its true value. The principal economic hardship was suffered in the rural towns and countryside where the people were less able to bear financial losses. The rapacity of the lawyers was regarded as contributing to the general distress which led to violence. There were riots among debtors in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina.

Debts motivated farmers to take an interest in politics. As a debtor, the farmer hoped that the judicial process might be made more favorable to him. He demanded the more convenient location of courts, lower court costs and lawyer fees, laws obliging creditors to accept property at a “fair” value, the abolition of imprisonment for debt, and laws delaying the recovery of debts.
Economic problems gave rise to political issues.

Dorothea Lange - Photographer

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