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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Cost of the American Revolution

Jay Cost at National Review:
On an absolute scale, the American Revolution was a relatively modest affair. However, judged in light of the tiny American economy of 1776–83, it was an enormous undertaking. As a percentage of GDP, the Revolutionary War cost the United States about as much as World War I did (and remember that, before the absolutely massive conflict of World War II, World War I was known as “the Great War”).
The war effort was the single greatest reason for the nationalist movement of the 1780s, which led in turn to the Constitution. The 1770s was characterized by a revolutionary fervor — informed by a simple, virtuous type of republicanism that rings through the Declaration of Independence. That was the ethos of Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, and Samuel Adams. But five years later, it was others — such as George Washington, Robert Morris, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton — who had to reckon with the prospect of a failed revolution. They had to deal with the impossible challenge of running a government completely unequipped for the task at hand. This is the origin of our Constitution, born first and foremost of the sacrifice of the Revolutionary soldiers.