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The Revolutionary Transformation of American Merchant Networks: Carter and Wadsworth and Their World, 1775–1800



American merchant networks facilitated, and were in turn transformed by, the War for Independence. They also played a crucial role in the establishment of financial and political institutions in the new republic. John Carter (a.k.a. John Barker Church) and Jeremiah Wadsworth were among the foremost merchants and financiers of the Revolutionary era. This article follows their careers from the beginning of their wartime activities through to the end of the Federalist Era in 1800. It explains how they created and manipulated networks of supply and credit, and how they invested the proceeds of their success in the years after the war. Through this case study, the article demonstrates how wartime requirements reshaped merchant networks, not simply by increasing risk and encouraging retrenchment, but by creating influxes of credit and pressures for expansion. It argues that war led to increased inequality among merchants in terms of wealth and credit. Furthermore, this increased inequality impacted the nature of postwar finance and commerce. It shaped the economic and political structures of the new republic, in part through the agency of successful merchants like Carter and Wadsworth.



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The Revolutionary Transformation of American Merchant Networks: Carter and Wadsworth and Their World, 1775–1800



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