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The Founding Fortunes

How the Wealthy Paid for and Profited from America's Revolution

Tom Shachtman

St. Martin's Press

The Founding Fortunes Download image

ISBN10: 1250164761
ISBN13: 9781250164766


352 Pages



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While history teaches that successful revolutions depend on participation by the common man, the establishment of a stable and independent United States first required wealthy colonials uniting to disrupt the very system that had enriched them, and then funding a very long war. While some fortunes were made during the war at the expense of the poor, many of the wealthy embraced the goal of obtaining for their poorer countrymen an unprecedented equality of opportunity, along with independence.

In addition to nuanced views of the well-known wealthy such as Robert Morris and John Hancock, and of the less wealthy but influential Alexander Hamilton, The Founding Fortunes offers insight into the contributions of those often overlooked by popular history: Henry Laurens, the plantation owner who replaced Hancock as President of Congress; pioneering businessmen William Bingham, Jeremiah Wadsworth, and Stephen Girard; privateer magnate Elias Hasket Derby; and Hamilton’s successors at Treasury, Oliver Wolcott, Jr. and Albert Gallatin.

The Founders dealt with tariffs, taxes on the wealthy, the national debt, regional disparities, the census as it affected finances, and how much of what America needs should be manufactured at home in ways that remain startlingly relevant. Revelatory and insightful, The Founding Fortunes provides a riveting history of economic patriotism that still resonates today.


Praise for The Founding Fortunes

“An ingenious examination of how money played the central role in the founding of the United States . . . a provocative argument.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Enlightening history with contemporary parallels.”—Booklist

"A commendable treatment of pecuniary matters during this country’s embryonic stages . . . recommended for readers interested in fiscal matters and American economic habits."—Library Journal

“Shachtman marshals his evidence efficiently and enlivens his account with bold, direct statements . . . Colonial history buffs will savor this sharply focused study.”—Publishers Weekly

About the author

Tom Shachtman

TOM SHACHTMAN has written or co-authored more than 35 books, as well as documentaries for ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and BBC, and has taught at New York University and lectured at Harvard, Stanford, Georgia Tech, the Smithsonian, and the Library of Congress. He is a former chairman of The Writers Room in Manhattan, a trustee of the Connecticut Humanities Council, a founding director of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, and an occasional columnist for the Lakeville Journal of Northwest Connecticut.

Anne Day

Tom Shachtman

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