The Journal of Economic History


The Revulsion Against Internal Improvements*

Carter Goodricha1

a1 Columbia University

The purpose of this article is to examine a significant change that took place in American public policy during the nineteenth century. For many decades American governments, especially those of states and localities, had engaged in extensive programs for the promotion of economic development by the construction or support of works of internal improvement. It may now be pertinent, at a time when so many of the less industrialized countries are engaged in programs of economic development, to ask why and when and by what processes governments in the United States came to withdraw from direct participation in the promotion of canals and railways.

* Preparation of this article was made possible by a grant from the Council for Research in the Social Sciences of Columbia University. The author has had the assistance of Mrs. Vivian Carlip and Mr. H. Jerome Cranmer, and has profited by suggestions from his colleague, Professor Joseph Dorfman, and also from two resident fellows at Columbia, Mr. Harvey Segal and Mr. Nathan Miller, who are working on related topics.

Earlier articles prepared under the same grant are: “The National Planning of Internal Improvements,” Political Science Quarterly, LXIII (1948), 16–44 [OpenURL Query Data]  [Google Scholar]; “Public Spirit and American Improvements,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, XCII (1948), 305–9 [OpenURL Query Data]  [Google Scholar]; and “The Virginia System of Mixed Enterprise,” Political Science Quarterly, LXIV (1949), 355–87 [OpenURL Query Data]  [Google Scholar].