Customer Reviews


4 Reviews
5 star:
 (3)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 
Most Helpful First | Newest First

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and Highly Pertinent, December 14, 2002
By 
Bankruptcy is in the air these days, from Enron to overextended former dot-commers. So-called "bankruptcy reform" -- intended to make bankruptcy more difficult and more punitive for debtors -- has been pushed by large creditors for years, and almost passed in the most recent session of Congress.
I'm a first-semester law student. I came to this book with a solid, basic understanding of modern bankruptcy law (gained as a business person and as a legal assistant prior to starting law school). As an undergraduate I took two semesters of legal history, and I have an extensive personal interest in American history.
Despite my background, until I read this book I had no real appreciation of the implications of failing to have an effective bankruptcy law. Focusing primarily on the second half of the eighteenth century (both before and after the American Revolution), Republic of Debtors does an amazing job of showing the social, humanitarian and economic consequences of failing to provide for an orderly discharge of debts in bankruptcy, especially when combined with creditors' remedies such as imprisonment for debt.
I, for one, had never confronted the fact that imprisonment for debt survived so long after the American Revolution, nor did I realize that, aside from some brief experiments, the US did not adopt a set nationwide laws on bankruptcy until the late nineteenth century.
Professor Mann tells the story by drawing on a wide variety of primary materials, including the diaries of imprisoned debtors and documentation of court cases. One particularly interesting chapter deals with the an elaborate form of self-government that evolved within one of the debtor's prisons. As many of those imprisoned were relatively well-educated and had been involved in the movement for independence from England, it was only natural that they would have their own constitution and elected government.
Then, as now, there was a tension between the moral and economic aspects of bankruptcy. On one hand, debtors can be viewed immoral spendthrifts, on the other, as hapless victims of the vicissitudes of a world-wide economy or the bad actions of others. These same tensions underlie the current debate on changes to bankruptcy law, driven by creditors who are seeking a return to a more punitive, moralistic approach to dealing with insolvent creditors.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the modern bankruptcy debate, early American legal history, or social and economic history generally. It is also just a cracking good read.
Cheers!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly but lively, April 8, 2012
This review is from: Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence (Paperback)
Meticulously researched and accurate. Excellent balance of anecdote, historical context and legal history. This book is a resource for bankruptcy lawyers yet a good read for anyone curious about treatment of debtors in early America, the development of US bankruptcy law, and this important aspect of our history.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Whither the Debtor's Prison?, April 17, 2012
By 
This review is from: Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence (Paperback)
In the 18th century, the inability to pay debts was considered a moral failure. Mann traces the changing culture of debt around before and after the revolution. After the revolution, insolvency goes from a sin to a risk. Instead of a moral failure, bankruptcy becomes an economic failure. Because debt was so pervasive and common, and was not limited to the poor, the young republic was forced to reinterpret its view of lending and borrowing. In the new economy, failure was possible without punishment. Instead of a classical moral economy, America entered a risk-taking, productive Capitalist economy.

Some of this thinking was already in the works. Cotton Mather, for example, had earlier declared that some debt is necessary and that it is not all sin. In the 18th century as well, Puritans were no longer against usury and they realized that some bankruptcy was the sign of healthy entrepreneurial activity.
Wartime disruptions in the market created debtors. The French and Indian War was in this way a trial run for the revolution. The war created so many debtors that leniency was necessary. Debtors appeals to sympathy for release, or to logic, arguing that house arrest of gaol meant inactivity and no productivity. Debtors fled to the trans-Appalachian West to secure independence. Especially tobacco farmers were at risk of debt. There was great uncertainty about supply and demand with cash crops that were destined for international markets. Overinvestment one year might lead to debt in the next. Yet all states had imprisonment for debt, most Americans assuming that this was a necessary punishment. But as debt redefined from moral failure to economic risk, debtors were put in separate gaols, kept away from other felons.

One's reputation was his credit. In pre-revolutionary society, money was scarce and a common account book in town helped regulate credits and debits. Bills of exchange served as a checking system through a third party. British merchants, however, had to be paid in specie. Notes and bonds transform society. Paper money becomes more common after 1776. And debt from speculation is no longer seen as a crime. Paradoxically, debt was the antithesis of republicanism. Republicans stressed independence and self-sufficiency. But debt created reliance.

Jefferson feared that the Banktuptcy Act of 1800 also could indemnify farmer with debt and take away their landed property. In the 18th century, land was never used to pay debts. The introduction of paper as legal tender injured state collectors who were forced to take in devalued currency. Forced legal tender for private debt was novel and controversial. Currency speculation, land speculation, and speculation in soldier certificates were all common in the 1790s. Although the Bankruptcy Act was overturned, it established precedent for the 19th century.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good overview in how bankruptcy is okay for elite, June 21, 2005
Today the rich can still find ways to get out of the spendthrift debts with trusts, shelters, and bankruptcy, but we have to crack down on the debts that poor people get into like student loans, medical expenses, unemployment and the like.

This book tells us that the elite in the U.S. have always been all in favor of getting out of their own debt while holding the lowborn to the "morality" of insolvency for life.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence
Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence by Bruce H. Mann (Paperback - April 15, 2009)
$22.00 $20.69
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.