Perfecting Independence: Tench Coxe and the Political Economy of Western Development
Abstract

Abstract:

The article examines how the Republican coalition, when it came into power, responded to the collapse of the European state system and the derailment of the French Revolution. Against the backdrop of the international conflict, consequent commercial unpredictability, and persistent domestic divisions, policy-makers and political thinkers found themselves forced to reconsider conventional tenets of political economy. Seeing the international revolution failing and the prospects of a more liberalized international trading system fading, Republicans reassessed established conceptions of economic federation and the United States' position in the Atlantic trading system. This article focuses closely on the writings of Pennsylvania political economist, international merchant, and Federalist-turned-Republican Tench Coxe and examines why the prescription he presented for industrial and territorial growth was embraced by divergent interests within the new majority coalition at this particular moment in time. Contrary to the conventional understanding, the push for territorial expansion, as exemplified in the Louisiana Purchase, was premised on a predicted concomitant expansion of the manufacturing sector. With more resources under direct American control, a growing population, improved transportation networks, and more diversified productive activities, the dependence on foreign markets and goods could be greatly diminished. A more balanced and better integrated national economy would increase the United States' capacity to resist foreign pressure and at the same time bind the different parts of the union closer together. In times of peace as well as war, under conditions of free international exchange as well as widespread autarky, Coxe and fellow Republicans argued, a recalibration of the American economy would lead the way toward enhanced security, regional comity, and stable growth