Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





James Oakes


David Waldstreicher

Committee Members

Jonathan Sassi

Richard Newman

Andrew Shankman

Subject Categories



American History, Abolition, Slavery, Capitalism, Political Economy


“Human Capital” explores the relationships between the moral imperatives of the antislavery movement in the New England and the mid- Atlantic, and their connections to evolving manufacturing and agricultural political economies premised on free labor regimes. Tracing the sweep of history from the British-American imperial crisis through the American Revolution, and into the Early American Republic, “Human Capital” argues that northeasterners like Rhode Island textile capitalist and abolitionist Moses Brown, radical democrats like Thomas Paine, and political economists like Tench Coxe developed visions of capitalism in which chattel slavery’s gradual abolition in the northeastern states acted as a spur to economic development. These visions, it shows, brought them into direct political and economic conflict with southern planters and a small, but wealthy and powerful number of northeastern merchants at the national level by 1820, precisely as the Missouri Crisis over slavery’s proposed western expansion reached a crescendo. The dissertation concludes by laying the intellectual and political-economic groundwork for antebellum abolitionism by emphasizing the under-appreciated bridge figure of Benjamin Lundy and the formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.

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