Educator Seminar: American Political Economy
Virginia is home to some of the first economics courses ever taught in North America. Bishop James Madison began using Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations as a textbook for his students at the College of William and Mary in the mid-1780s, and the Commissioners for the University of Virginia explicitly recommended the study of “political economy” as a core object of higher learning in 1818. Following the spirit of Virginia’s early educators, this seminar spotlights major American debates concerning the relationship between politics and markets. Our focus will be on political and philosophical issues, rather than formal economic mechanisms: How did competing understandings of manufacturing and agriculture shape how Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson debated national banking and debt? And how did such disagreements inform their views of virtuous character and American citizenship? After examining the economy at the Founding, we will turn to the clash between “neo-Hamiltonians” and Jacksonians during the antebellum period. Then we will discuss how significant figures during the Gilded Age and Progressive era theorized the relationship between the individual, the state, and capitalism. This seminar led by Dr. Danielle Charette encourages educators to consider what is political about the development of American political economy.