Frank W. Garmon Jr.
Bankard Fund in Political Economy, Pre-Doctoral Fellow, 2013-2014
Advisor: Mark Thomas
Fields & SpecialtiesAmerican Economic and Business History, Taxation and Public Finance in the Early Republic, History of Technology
M.A. University of Virginia, Corcoran Department of History, December 2010
B.A. Christopher Newport University, Department of History, Magna Cum Laude, May 2009
I study American economic history with an emphasis on fiscal policy, taxation, and public finances in the years following the American Revolution.
My dissertation, “State Taxes, Wealth, and the Issue of Public Debt after the American Revolution, 1775-1820,” examines the ways in which state governments dealt with the vast debts incurred during the Revolution, and emphasizes these policies’ implications for economic growth. In the absence of strong taxing authority under the Articles of Confederation, the burden rested entirely on the newly-formed state governments. Dealing with the debt proved particularly challenging in the decade following the Revolution, as consistent deflation magnified the states’ obligations. State governments operated independently during this period, and pursued a variety of policy strategies to address their fiscal crises, with mixed results.
Through using property tax records to measure changes in wealth levels, wealth distribution, and insolvency, my project surveys the lasting effects of state-level fiscal policy. While some states found ways to mitigate the effects of the tax burden on the populace, other states encountered violent resistance to tax collection and widespread insolvency as a result of their tax policies. Through implementing changes in their tax laws, seven states succeeded in eliminating their war debts completely by 1790. In the years that followed, additional states modified their tax collection practices, and increased revenues by shifting the tax burden from poor farmers to wealthy consumers.
By comparing and evaluating the various strategies state governments employed, my dissertation studies the effects of early fiscal policy in facilitating economic growth in the Early Republic.