chapter  2
17 Pages

ACCUMULATION AND THE CHANGING STRUCTURE OF BUSINESS, 1790-1860

The capitalism with which we are familiar is part of a historical process, with the next stage of development latent in the forms and methods of accumulation that dominate in any one period. Many features of our own economic institutions first became visible in the mid-nineteenth century, in the years between 1840 and 1860, although the interplay between accumulation and monopolization began much earlier. The newly independent United States of 1776 was a European transplant, already in a fairly advanced state of development; “ the commercial expertise, artisan skills, and capital resources for domestic industrial development had been generated in the northern cities and in the surrounding rural areas.” 1 The former colonies never cut their ties to the expanding mercantile system which was beginning to subordinate so many aspects of human existence to markets and prices. In fact, the economic development of the new nation is probably the purest example of capitalism in history, free as it was from the feudal encumbrances common to all its European mentors.