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The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860$
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Calvin Schermerhorn

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300192001

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300192001.001.0001

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Machines of Empire

Machines of Empire

(p.204) 7 Machines of Empire
The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860

Calvin Schermerhorn

Yale University Press

The growth of the American continental empire in the 1840s and 1850s expanded the slavery business, notably to Texas, and steamship companies exercised power as nonstate actors. This chapter follows the rise of Charles Morgan’s New York-based steamship line, which dominated steam travel on the Gulf Coast and became one of the largest shippers of enslaved people in the 1850s United States. Morgan’s company firm was powered by federal largesse and the republic’s expansion in the American Southwest. Army contracts during the U.S.–Mexican War gave him a commanding advantage over competitors, and a flood of westbound slaveholders sustained it. Proceeds from the slave trade permitted the firm to grow to such proportions that it projected private power in foreign affairs when developing the Nicaragua route to California. Morgan’s Nicaragua scheme was part of a geoeconomic process in which private firms’ strategies influenced and even undermined U.S. geopolitical interests.

Keywords:   Steamship, Empire, Texas slavery, Slave trade, Geoeconomics, Charles Morgan

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