Phillip W. Magness

U.S. Economic & Political History

Rehabilitating King Cotton

| December 25, 2016

Earlier this month the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a feature about an ongoing debate between economists and historians over the relationship between slavery and capitalism. While some of the divergences between the two fields are methodological, they center upon the interpretation of evidence. The historians involved are all primary players in what has been called the “New […]

A Phony ‘Phocion’: Alexander Hamilton and the election of 1796

| August 20, 2016

On October 14, 1796 the Philadelphia-based Gazette of the United States newspaper ran the first of 25 “letters” that would forever change the nature of presidential campaigns. Bearing the pseudonym of the ancient Athenian orator ‘Phocion,’ the letters presented a systematic and, at times, bitterly personal argument against Thomas Jefferson’s candidacy for President of the United States. Over […]

A Note on Slavery and the Causes of Secession

| August 1, 2015

It is rare to see a discussion of civil war causality that does not turn at some point to the “secession declarations” of Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina. These statements from four of the original seven “deep south” states that created the Confederacy are among the most visible articulations of the pro-slavery cause from the Civil […]

Of Irish Famines, Slavery, and the libeling of laissez-faire

| September 6, 2014

In a recent column for the Washington Post, political scientist Henry Farrell attempted to lay part of the blame of two notorious historical events on what he sees as a “laissez faire” mentality that operates at the expense of human suffering. The occasion for Farrell’s claim is a curious one. He employed an ill-worded and somewhat tactless review […]