The Mission Complex: Economic Development, “Civilization,” and Empire in the Early Republic
Abstract

The "mission complex" expanded the influence and power of the United States in the Ohio Country and beyond. It linked missionaries, humanitarians, manufacturers, federal employees, and indigenous peoples through networks of markets and capital: the material goods used in the agricultural missions offered a means both to stimulate business for eastern (and developing western) manufacturers and to develop a new consumer base in the Ohio Country. Attention to the functioning of this system, based upon free yet hierarchical relations of power, reveals how the early U.S. empire thrived off of economic growth. Paying attention to indigenous peoples’ appropriation and manipulation of the complex, moreover, reveals that some Native communities and individuals endeavored to take advantage of missionary labor, while others endeavored to facilitate their engagement with the U.S. economy by reinforcing ties with both the federal government and Euroamericans. Ultimately, analysis of the mission complex reveals that imperial state policy, as well as a myriad of Native and non-Native actors, facilitated the development and expansion of capitalist markets and forms of labor in the early republic.


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