American History since 1865: HIS 204
Economic Growth in American History
The economy has had a great impact on American history. The rise and fall of the economy directly affected many facets of our culture and the financial aspects of American life. It designated social class within the American population, generated new businesses, and propelled the nation forward from a technological standpoint. In this paper, I will explain some of the economic changes that have occurred in American history and how the economy was directly affected by those changes.
During the period of 1865 - 1876, our nation went through a period of Presidential reconstruction that was implemented to aid the American people, including ex-slaves, to succeed in the economic world. President Abraham Lincoln, as stated in the text, “considered reconstruction his responsibility” (Davidson, Delay, Heyrman, Lytle, & Stoff, 2008, p. 472). He generated reconstructed governments in several southern states during the war, and experimented with giving land to ex-slaves. Although this act seemed to be a step in the right direction for our country, in regards to abolishing slavery, there were many issues that were overshadowed by the incentives of Lincoln’s 10 percent plan. Davidson et al. (2008) summarizes President Lincoln’s intentions stating that: Moreover, while he privately suggested permitting some black men to vote in the disloyal states, “as for instance, the very intelligent and especially those who have fought gallantly in our ranks”, he did not demand social or political equality for black Americans, and he recognized pro-Union governments in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee that allowed only white men to vote. (p. 473)
I can agree with the author’s stance on Lincoln’s intentions for the slaves, but I can also argue that it may have been too soon for the country to accept ex-slaves as property owners, or even having the same rights that the white American had. Even though I am totally against slavery, and I support equality on all levels, I think that the country had to take baby steps in bringing equality to or nation, and a good starting point was trying to give some ex-slaves financial freedom.
Not many people were as strong and free-willed as Joseph Davis, who sold his Mississippi plantations to an African American family that worked on the plantation for years. Even though he kept the sale private, due to the conflict that it would have caused at the time, “he was convinced that with proper encouragement African Americans could succeed economically in freedom” (Davidson et al., 2008, p.471). I think that it was progressive thinkers, like Davis, who believed in more than just the economic and social movement of white men, but also in the belief of the African Americans ability to contribute to the enhancement of our society on an economic level.
During 1877 - 1920, a major event that economically enhanced our society is the emergence of the corporations. “After the Civil War the modern corporation came into use for raising money and protecting business holdings” (Davidson et al., 2008, p. 544). These forms of large businesses helped sustain jobs for the American people that the small businesses could not do. Racism and slavery affected many facets of American culture, but it failed to put a halt to the economic progression of the United States. Wiener (1979) states that “the economy developed more or less automatically in response to the laws of supply and demand…the free market defeated efforts of white racist to interfere with its relentless logic”. Economically, the corporations became beneficial to both the consumers and the investors. It’s emergence in the United States contributed to economic growth by developing new goods and services. New modern day practices were also created such as integrated operations, cost accounting, and mass production. Due to higher efficiency rates...