Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 16. The Industrial Transition; The Disappearance of Free Lands

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXIV. Economists

§ 16. The Industrial Transition; The Disappearance of Free Lands

The last quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed a marked change in economic conditions. The two fundamental facts were the industrial transition with the advent of modern capitalism, which completely transformed the East and which was fast spreading inland; and, on the other hand, the gradual disappearance of the free lands in the West. These facts were responsible for the emergence of the labour problem in its modern setting. Moreover, the rapid growth of the railway system brought that subject to the front, and the fall in prices coupled with the growing pressure of taxation attracted attention to the silver problem and the general fiscal situation. In short, the United States now reached its own as a more or less fully developed modern economic community and was confronted by a multiplicity of difficult economic questions. The great strike of 1877 sounded the first note of the newer and modern campaign. Almost simultaneously a number of young and enthusiastic scholars went abroad to seek on the Continent an economic training which could not be obtained at home. It was these younger men who on their return at the end of the seventies and in the early eighties founded the modern scientific study of economics in the United States. Before speaking of them, it may be well to mention a few of the more distinguished representatives of the older school who had grown up amid the former conditions.