Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 4. The Revolution; Pelatiah Webster; S. Gale

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXIV. Economists

§ 4. The Revolution; Pelatiah Webster; S. Gale

With the outbreak of the Revolution a new chapter in economic discussion is initiated. The fiscal difficulties of the Revolution and the economic distress under the Confederation engendered much debate. Far and away the two ablest writers were Pelatiah Webster and S. Gale. Webster began in 1776, and continued for a decade, to expound, in consonance with the most modern principles, the currency evils of the time. These tracts were collected, with some additions, in a volume entitled Political Essays on the Nature and Operation of Money, Public Finances, and Other Subjects (Philadelphia, 1791). Gale, a native of South Carolina, published in three volumes four Essays on the Nature and Principles of Public Credit (1784–1786), which have, moreover, the distinction of being the earliest effort to illustrate economic problems by mathematical symbols. Other substantial contributions were made to the discussion, notably in An Essay on the Causes of the Decline of Foreign Trade (Philadelphia, 1784); James Swan’s A National Arithmetic or Observations on the Finances of Massachusetts (1786); William Barton’s The True Interest of the United States and Particularly of Pennsylvania Considered (Philadelphia, 1786); the anonymous Reflections on the Policy and Necessity of Encouraging the Commerce of the Citizens of the United States (Richmond, 1786); Matthew McConnell’s An Essay on the Domestic Debts of the United States (Philadelphia, 1787); and the anonymous Observations on the Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce of the United States by a Citizen of the United States (New York, 1789).