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The Founders and Finance: How Hamilton, Gallatin, and Other Immigrants Forged a New Economy [Kindle Edition]

Thomas K. McCraw
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In 1776 the U.S. owed huge sums to foreign creditors and its own citizens but, lacking the power to tax, had no means to repay them. This is the first book to tell the story of how foreign-born financial specialists—the immigrant founders Hamilton and Gallatin—solved the fiscal crisis and set the nation on a path to long-term economic prosperity.

Editorial Reviews


Well told by McCraw are the familiar stories of Hamilton's consolidation and funding of the public debt, of his incessant fighting with Thomas Jefferson, and of his final duel with Aaron Burr...McCraw shows just how different was Jefferson's party from the one doing business under the Republican banner today.--James Grant"Wall Street Journal" (11/02/2012)

About the Author

Thomas K. McCraw was Straus Professor of Business History Emeritus at Harvard Business School and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3095 KB
  • Print Length: 496 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0674066928
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 8, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009S9ZFSG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,863 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars OK Narrative, Weak Analysis December 29, 2012
This is a somewhat disappointing book. The author was a distinguished scholar of American business and this is his last book. The Founders... is essentially a pair of short biographies of the 2 most important early Treasury Secretaries, Hamilton and Gallatin. These narratives are solid but no more than you'd get from any good biography. The sections on Gallatin are probably the best parts of the book, largely because Gallatin deserves to be better known. Despite the subtitle, there is relatively little in this book about the emergence of the US economy in the early Republic and surprisingly little about public finance. McCraw makes little effort to put the efforts of Hamilton and Gallatin in larger context. How did these early American efforts compare with other states across the Atlantic world? McCraw remarks on Hamilton prodigious reading as part of his efforts to understand finance but what did he read and how did it influence him? There are a number of remarks comparing Hamilton with Jefferson, pointing out the latter's relative provincialism and unfamiliarity with commercial activities but Jefferson was a widely read individual and spent significant parts of his life in Europe. Did Jefferson's economic views have something to do with French Physiocracy?

McCraw's positive effort at analysis is to stress Hamilton and Gallatin as immigrants, part of an argument he makes that immigrants played a very large role in the development of the early American economy. This argument is overblown. McCraw argues that immigrants were only a small fraction of the American population. This is correct, but small compared to what? Certainly compared to the huge influx that occurred in the later 19th century but the correct comparison would be to contemporary Britain.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Money, Debt, and Politics in the Early Republic December 7, 2012
I liked "The Founders and Finance" very much: it's a breezily-written and handsomely-produced dual biography of Alexander Hamilton and Albert Gallatin, two of our earliest and most influential treasury secretaries. Readers should know, however, that the book is not really a comprehensive economic or financial history of the early U.S. While topics such as the public debt, tariffs, and the Bank of the U.S. are discussed, just as many pages are given over to military and diplomatic events, the political conflicts between Federalists and Republicans, and the personal histories of early American leaders. In fact, economic and financial developments are often treated fairly superficially, and fans of Thomas McCraw's other books on business and economic history might be disappointed.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an insightful look at the birth of the U.S. economy November 19, 2012
Starting a new country, with a widely disparate population and a vast expanse of territory, is no easy undertaking. But that is the task that the American Revolution brought to America. Everything was new: there was no central government, only a series of weak state governments; there was no hand guiding economic policies; there was no common culture, no common understanding of the country's values, no foreign policy. In fact, it took five years after the defeat of the British forces before the first president of what then was called the United States of America took office. The first administration faced innumerable problems, the most important of which were economic issues. The United States was functionally bankrupt, its credit with the money centers in Europe was non-existent, its economy was mostly agrarian, its foreign trade was managed mostly by the British and the engines of economic growth did not exist.

It was with this background that our first president, George Washington, recruited his most trusted military aide, Alexander Hamilton, to his cabinet in the position of Secretary of the Treasury. This was perhaps Washington's most successful act as president. Hamilton, a poor immigrant from St. Croix, proved to be a remarkable choice. He was industrious and smart, organized and persuasive, forceful and unyielding in his views. He had the vision to form the first Bank of the United States, a major step in expanding the supply of money in the economy. He paid the debts of the country at face value, a step that stimulated the extension of credit from formerly wary foreign investors. He supported the developing manufacturing industries.

For all of Hamilton's talents, he had his full share of faults.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Two of my favorite topics in one book.. US History and Finance. If you have any interest in the history of some of great shapers and developers of our US Treasury, this is the book for you. I loved the section about Hamilton and there were a few new facts the author focuses on but the real meat was in the introduction of Gallatin. I have never studied about him until now and that's what makes this book great, it's shows how much of huge impact these two men have, to this day, on our country. A top notch book that is insightful and a joy to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book was a pleasure to read, however I must agree with Mr. Albion who gave it only 2 stars for superficial analysis. I also agree with the other two 4 star raters who said this book did not go into sufficient overall detail regarding U.S. economic history. Nonetheless, for readers interested in a quick overview of the early Republic's economic situation, I would still recommend this book along with another book entitled: A Nation of Deadbeats, by Scott R. Nelson. Nelson's book summarizes most of our financial panics from 1792 to the present, and adds more details than Mr. McCraw did with his focus on just two secretaries of the treasury an a couple of businessmen inventors.
When reading McGraw's book , one gets the erie feeling we are repeating our history during the years 2001 to 2015. The question for our generation becomes: can we overcome our many problems now, like we did from 1781 to 1821? There were two panics in that earlier time period -- 1792 and 1819. The early period of the republic also witnesseda depression in the 1780s until Hamiltons economic plans took effect by the mid 1790's.
Page 88: As Mr. Hamilton saw it, unless the U.S. paid its debts, managed its foreign policy wisely, and made the most of its economic oppurtunites, then the gains of the Revolution would be lost. The Union itself might also disintegrate. New England differed from the Middle Altantic states, which differed from the Cheasapeake area, which inturn differed from the Deep South. There were large states, small states, agricultural , commerical , slave, and free states all competiting with one another to earn a living and get wealthy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 4 months ago by Federico
3.0 out of 5 stars Fiscal Failing
This is a well written - though terse pair of biographies of two Secretaries of the Treasury. I found the book 'disappointing' for the same reasons as the first reviewer (R. Read more
Published 5 months ago by VA Duck
5.0 out of 5 stars few knew of the details of the poor, if not threatening
A really enlightening and enjoyable read about the backgrounds of some men that we, or at least, I did not know well from my studies in U.S. History. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Ben Wechsler
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding aspect of our American history
The role of finance in our history is often over looked or downplayed at best. As this book points out, understanding the role of finance gives us a perspective and an appreciation... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Donald A Chambers
3.0 out of 5 stars Alexander Hamilton lovers will love this book
Great historical content, well written and insightful on the subject. Alexander Hamilton was a brilliant mind to have had such amazing foresight into the financial structure that... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Elizabeth Tantillo
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Respect For Hamilton and Gallatin
A great read. It is easy to see why the author (who died late 2012) won a Pulitzer prize for history in 1985. I'm glad he finished the book before his passing. Read more
Published 16 months ago by P. GIBSON
4.0 out of 5 stars A great history lesson
One of the great lessons of our founding fathers that in, in my opinion, should be mandatory reading in public education.
Published 17 months ago by John H. Baker
4.0 out of 5 stars Real, useful history
Rarely have I read a book that took an essential subject such as the beginning of American finance and capitalism and used history to place the immense consequence of it in its... Read more
Published 18 months ago by W. Scott Miller, III
5.0 out of 5 stars Tom's last book
His last but not least book. It is a great regret not to read his new book any more. He died young.
Published 20 months ago by Ichiro Horide
5.0 out of 5 stars America's unique and fortunate history at its best.
McCraw did a great service writing this book. Those who go through life without a solid understanding of finance do so at their own risk and perhaps live an avoidable life of... Read more
Published 20 months ago by john b. mcnally
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