While Philadelphia was the nation's premier commercial and financial center at the close of the American Revolution, Robert Wright states that by the 1840s (as the "Market Revoltuion" was winding down) Philadelphia had been eclipsed by New York in terms of commercial and financial prominence. What are the reasons that Wright cites for this shift in The Financial Founding Fathers: The Men Who Made America Rich?
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I have included the title of the text to which you are referring so as to make your question more specific. Robert Wright, as you probably already know, has written some other books as well. Your question, of course, refers to the book called The Financial Founding Fathers: The Men Who Made America Rich. The answer to your question is found deep within the chapter on the great Alexander Hamilton as on of our country's "financial founding fathers."
When Hamilton left his homeland in Nevis in 1772, never to return, agriculture was king in America. (Even ironworks, the largest manufacturing enterprises, were called "plantations" because much of their value stemmed from their forest-clearing activities.) The mainland colonies had no joint-stock banks, only a few small corporations (and their stock did not trade), and only tiny amounts of publicly traded debt.
It was the change from "agriculture" as "king" to "industrialization" as "king" and the opening of the borders to allow so many immigrants in to so some of those menial industrial jobs that changed in the "market revolution" from Pennsylvania to New York. A further reason was that New York City could actually be expanded and "man made" by moving earth around. As a result, it became the hub of entrance for many immigrants even before Ellis Island opened in the later 19th century. New York, and not Philadelphia, was the hub of immigration for our rapidly increasing industrialization.
Further, there were some things that make finances eventually frown upon Philadelphia and smile upon New York. One of them was the outbreak of yellow fever at the turn of the century, another was the switch from agriculture to industrialization, and yet another was the already-planned switch over to Washington DC as the capital of the country. Note another line about the influence of New York finances:
The innovation came not so much from the bank itself, which closely followed the procedures established by its predecessor, the Bank of North America. Rather, the innovation came from the way in which the bank, the very same Bank of New York that still graces Wall Street, found legal life.
Remember the original reasoning behind Philadelphia as the United States' first capital? It was because it was centrally located within the original thirteen colonies. This was perfect to connect everyone during the American Revolution. However, after the Revolution was over, there was more business to be conducted. Before the civil war, there was a lot to do with the commerce of slavery and after the civil war, the huge influx of immigrants took over many menial jobs. Note that, even in the quote above, the original "Bank of North America" eventually became the "Bank of New York" that still exists today!
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