Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence

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Debt was an inescapable fact of life in early America. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, its sinfulness was preached by ministers and the right to imprison debtors was unquestioned. By 1800, imprisonment for debt was under attack and insolvency was no longer seen as a moral failure, merely an economic setback. In Republic of Debtors, Bruce H. Mann illuminates this crucial transformation in early American society. From the wealthy merchant to the backwoods farmer, Mann tells the personal stories of men and women struggling to repay their debts and stay ahead of their creditors. He opens a window onto a society undergoing such fundamental changes as the growth of a commercial economy, the emergence of a consumer marketplace, and a revolution for independence. In addressing debt Americans debated complicated questions of commerce and agriculture, nationalism and federalism, dependence and independence, slavery and freedom. And when numerous prominent men―including the richest man in America and a justice of the Supreme Court―found themselves imprisoned for debt or forced to become fugitives from creditors, their fate altered the political dimensions of debtor relief, leading to the highly controversial Bankruptcy Act of 1800. Whether a society forgives its debtors is not just a question of law or economics; it goes to the heart of what a society values. In chronicling attitudes toward debt and bankruptcy in early America, Mann explores the very character of American society.

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About the Author:

Bruce H. Mann is Carl F. Schipper, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Review:

Republic of Debtors is a superb, even dramatic, book about debt, the law on debt, and the experience of debt in the early American republic that reveals how problems over money, credit, and debt shattered lives and transfixed politics as thoroughly in the Revolutionary and early national eras as they still do in the twenty-first century. (Jon Butler, Yale University)

Bruce Mann has given us a superb study of the evolution of early American cultural attitudes towards personal indebtedness and their impact on law and legal procedures. His vivid stories of imprisoned debtors are both eye-opening and instructive. Mann has made a fresh, original, and immensely significant contribution to the history of the Early Republic. (Gloria L. Main, University of Colorado at Boulder)

This is a lucid, deeply researched, and powerfully insightful study of attitudes toward debt and bankruptcy in the "long eighteenth century." In sparkling prose, Mann introduces us to a key aspect of how Americans put their own spin on emergent capitalism while he also addresses the ambivalent legacies of the constitution-framing years. (Cornelia H. Dayton, University of Connecticut)

Writing with clarity, grace and wit, Bruce Mann tells a compelling tale that opens up fresh dimensions of the politics, imagination and nightmares of the founding generation. I emerged with a far better grasp of the complexities of paper money and credit than I ever hoped to have. As we struggle to handle our own credit cards, it is useful to reflect on the deeply ironic relationship among personal independence, personal identity, and personal indebtedness that has long characterized American life. (Linda K. Kerber, University of Iowa)

Readers now owe Bruce Mann a hefty debt of their own for this imaginative and painstakingly researched account of changing ideas of credit, debt, and bankruptcy in eighteenth-century America. Debt is one of those pervasive aspects of society that we take for granted, yet its functions and complications require unusual diligence to master. But mastery of this rich subject is exactly what Mann has gained. This model study contributes at once to the legal, social, economic, moral, political, and intellectual history of early America, while telling an intriguing story of shifting attitudes and relations. (Jack N. Rakove, Stanford University)

Bankruptcy, that familiar constant in an age of boom and bust, has a moral as well as financial component. Deservedly or not, in the early days of the American republic, shame and mistrust attached to a debtor who sought shelter and relief under the law...A fascinating work of economic history that sheds light on daily life in the young Republic. (Kirkus Reviews 2002-11-01)

This new work from Mann...examines the relationship between creditors and debtors during late 18th-century America. He specifically focuses on the transformation of society's view of indebtedness from a moral failing to an economic one...This thoroughly researched work is an excellent resource. (Robert K. Flatley Library Journal 2003-01-01)

In his new illuminating book...[Bruce Mann] identifies a fundamental societal change in attitude toward debtors...He traces the evolution of American attitudes toward debt and insolvency throughout the 1700s, culminating in the first federal bankruptcy law in 1800. (Stephen Smith Books and Culture 2003-04-01)

In this gripping account of being in debt in the land of the free, Bruce Mann illuminates the origins of Americans' ambivalent relationship to business failure...Mann employs his considerable talents to bring to life a world where much that seems normal and logical to us now--like a unified currency, or the fact that you cannot pay off a debt if you are stuck in jail--was not. Mr. Mann's genius is to explain in clear and human terms the legal and economic intricacies by which early American creditors and debtors lived and died. (Evan Haefeli Washington Times 2003-02-09)

Bruce Mann, a noted authority on early American law and society, offers an incomparable study of 18th-century indebtedness and insolvency, tackling a tough subject with clarity and sympathy...Anyone interested in the history of American law and business will find this an enlightening book. (Christopher Clark Times Higher Education Supplement 2003-10-17)

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9780674009028: Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence

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Book Description HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2009. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Debt was an inescapable fact of life in early America. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, its sinfulness was preached by ministers and the right to imprison debtors was unquestioned. By 1800, imprisonment for debt was under attack and insolvency was no longer seen as a moral failure, merely an economic setback. In Republic of Debtors, Bruce H. Mann illuminates this crucial transformation in early American om the wealthy merchant to the backwoods farmer, Mann tells the personal stories of men and women struggling to repay their debts and stay ahead of their creditors. He opens a window onto a society undergoing such fundamental changes as the growth of a commercial economy, the emergence of a consumer marketplace, and a revolution for independence. In addressing debt Americans debated complicated questions of commerce and agriculture, nationalism and federalism, dependence and independence, slavery and freedom. And when numerous prominent men-including the richest man in America and a justice of the Supreme Court-found themselves imprisoned for debt or forced to become fugitives from creditors, their fate altered the political dimensions of debtor relief, leading to the highly controversial Bankruptcy Act of 1800.Whether a society forgives its debtors is not just a question of law or economics; it goes to the heart of what a society values. In chronicling attitudes toward debt and bankruptcy in early America, Mann explores the very character of American society. Seller Inventory # APC9780674032415

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Book Description Harvard University Press. Paperback. Condition: New. 358 pages. Debt was an inescapable fact of life in early America. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, its sinfulness was preached by ministers and the right to imprison debtors was unquestioned. By 1800, imprisonment for debt was under attack and insolvency was no longer seen as a moral failure, merely an economic setback. In Republic of Debtors, Bruce H. Mann illuminates this crucial transformation in early American society. From the wealthy merchant to the backwoods farmer, Mann tells the personal stories of men and women struggling to repay their debts and stay ahead of their creditors. He opens a window onto a society undergoing such fundamental changes as the growth of a commercial economy, the emergence of a consumer marketplace, and a revolution for independence. In addressing debt Americans debated complicated questions of commerce and agriculture, nationalism and federalism, dependence and independence, slavery and freedom. And when numerous prominent menincluding the richest man in America and a justice of the Supreme Courtfound themselves imprisoned for debt or forced to become fugitives from creditors, their fate altered the political dimensions of debtor relief, leading to the highly controversial Bankruptcy Act of 1800. Whether a society forgives its debtors is not just a question of law or economics; it goes to the heart of what a society values. In chronicling attitudes toward debt and bankruptcy in early America, Mann explores the very character of American society. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9780674032415

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Book Description HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2009. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Debt was an inescapable fact of life in early America. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, its sinfulness was preached by ministers and the right to imprison debtors was unquestioned. By 1800, imprisonment for debt was under attack and insolvency was no longer seen as a moral failure, merely an economic setback. In Republic of Debtors, Bruce H. Mann illuminates this crucial transformation in early American society.From the wealthy merchant to the backwoods farmer, Mann tells the personal stories of men and women struggling to repay their debts and stay ahead of their creditors. He opens a window onto a society undergoing such fundamental changes as the growth of a commercial economy, the emergence of a consumer marketplace, and a revolution for independence. In addressing debt Americans debated complicated questions of commerce and agriculture, nationalism and federalism, dependence and independence, slavery and freedom. And when numerous prominent men-including the richest man in America and a justice of the Supreme Court-found themselves imprisoned for debt or forced to become fugitives from creditors, their fate altered the political dimensions of debtor relief, leading to the highly controversial Bankruptcy Act of 1800.Whether a society forgives its debtors is not just a question of law or economics; it goes to the heart of what a society values. In chronicling attitudes toward debt and bankruptcy in early America, Mann explores the very character of American society. Seller Inventory # APC9780674032415

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