"A Just and Honest Valuation": paper money and the body politic in colonial America, 1640-1765
Moore, Katie Alexandra
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My dissertation argues that paper money created a new regime of value in early America, inscribed on the money itself and expressed in the political ordering of society. The radical ideas about money and value that inspired the colonial currencies originated in Commonwealth England. Those ideas spread to the North American colonies after the Restoration, where they conveyed changing notions about membership in the political community. Paper money, its proponents believed, constituted not only the “sinews” of trade and key to limitless wealth but also the “blood” that nourished the body politic. Ironically, the expansion of paper money in early America after 1710 both reflected and helped kindle broader material and cultural changes throughout the wider English Atlantic world that strained the bonds of the provincial political community. Ultimately, however, it was not these changes, but British attempts to control paper money in the mid-eighteenth century, that became corrosive to the imperial order. Disagreements over the prerogative to create money and value, I contend, occupied a key role in the crisis leading to the American Revolution.