On December 5, 1791, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton presented his "Report on the Subject of Manufactures" to Congress. This was Hamilton's third report and, by most assessments, his most provocative. Congress prepared to debate the report. Coming on the heels of successful Congressional adoption of two earlier reports by Hamilton, it seemed that Hamilton's political-economic vision for America had substantial political momentum. Yet James Madison and his circle viewed with alarm Hamilton's aggressive proposals. Then, a financial panic in August and September of 1791 engendered new anxieties about the rapid political and economic changes occurring in the United States. In the face of these concerns, would Congress sustain its support for Hamilton's vision?
This case and its accompanying B case (UVA-F-1784) can be used by themselves as resources for discussing Hamilton's ideology of robust government intervention in the early American economy. They can also be used as a sequel to the case "America's Depression of 1784-1787 and the Advent of Nationalism" (UVA-F-1778)?together, they illuminate the dramatic civic reaction to the depression of 1784-1787 and the panics of 1791 and 1792, the first following the establishment of the new Constitution. Generally, these cases represent the enormous range of civic reaction and recoil to severe economic events. Whereas the former case deals with the depression of 1784-1787 and focuses on civil unrest and the founding of the Constitution, these cases (UVA-F-1783 and UVA-F-1784) portray the continued fragility of the U.S. financial system and the sharpening divisions over the role of government in promoting economic development. These divisions ("the rise of faction") are an enduring legacy of economic turmoil.