"Nothing will satisfy you but money" Debt, freedom, and the mid-atlantic culture of money, 1670–1764
Politics in British America often centered on the issue of currency. Competing ideas about the nature of money and what constituted just relations of credit and debt also pervaded everyday colonial culture. By the late seventeenth century, some mid-Atlantic colonists believed that colonial debt laws and powerful urban merchants’ monopolization of coin led to the appropriation of debtors’ land and labor. Assembly emissions of bills of credit in New York and Pennsylvania in the 1710s and 1720s eased many debtors’ burdens, but the creation of provincial paper monies enhanced rather than diminished money’s importance as an object of social and political controversy in the region. By the middle of the eighteenth century, supporters of paper money believed that bills of credit uniquely embodied liberty, possessing the power to maintain ordinary inhabitants’ independence. Monetary scarcity, by contrast, portended dispossession and bondage. This article analyzes the petitions, pamphlets, editorials, broadsides, and crowd actions that contributed to the creation of a distinctive culture of money in the mid-Atlantic between the 1670s and 1760s.