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Credit NationProperty Laws and Institutions in Early America$
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Claire Priest

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780691158761

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691158761.001.0001

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(p.166) 10 Conclusion
Credit Nation

Claire Priest

Princeton University Press

This concluding chapter explains how the history of the laws and legal institutions underlying the colonial credit economy speaks to the history of American democracy and capitalist society. The rise of representative government was closely connected with the ownership of property — both land and slaves — in the history of the United States. In colonial British America, democracy originated in assemblies of property owners often at odds with the policies of royally appointed governors. These first representative legislatures viewed the protection of property interests as a principal role of government. At the same time, however, the credit system promoted the growth of slavery. Property held in slaves was a central underpinning of colonial American credit markets; mortgages on slaves were used to purchase yet more slaves. Indeed, the economic prosperity that better access to credit made possible for White Americans rested in part on the increased suffering of enslaved Africans.

Keywords:   colonial credit economy, American democracy, American capitalism, property rights, colonial America, slavery, colonial British America, credit markets

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