Business History Review

Articles

Banks and Economic Development in Post-Revolutionary Northern Virginia, 1790–1812

A. Glenn Crothersa1

a1 A. GLENN CROTHERS is assistant professor of history at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Indiana, where he is also director of the Floyd County Oral History Project.

Abstract

In order to facilitate commercial transactions and economic investment after the American Revolution, many inhabitants of northern Virginia became convinced that the region needed financial institutions. Indeed, most politically active residents of the region—at least after the 1790s—saw banks as crucial agents of economic development. Thus, the philosophy of “agrarian republicans” such as Thomas Jefferson and John Taylor of Carolina—who saw banks as monopolistic and anti-republican institutions—had limited appeal in the region. Moreover, the banks of northern Virginia were not controlled by planters who sought capital to finance the purchase of slaves and land. Instead, banks supported a wide range of economic endeavors—agriculture, industry, internal improvement projects, and commercial activities. The broadening access to bank capital in northern Virginia reveals that in the South—as in the northern states—there was a “democratization” of banking in the years after Revolution.

A. Glenn Crothers received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida, where he worked with the late Dr. Darrett Rutman and Dr. Bertram Wyatt-Brown. Since August 1997 he has worked as assistant professor of history at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany Indiana, where he is also director of the Floyd County Oral History Project. In June 1998 his dissertation, “‘The Projecting Spirit’: Social, Economic and Cultural Change in Post-Revolutionary Northern Virginia,” won the St. George Tucker Society's dissertation prize, and in September 1998 he was a finalist for the Economic History Association's Allan Nevins dissertation prize. He is presently revising the manuscript for publication.