Empire State Building: Interests, Institutions, and the Formation of States and Parties in New York, 1783-1845

Murphy, Brian Phillips, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Onuf, Peter, Department of History, University of Virginia
Mccurdy, Charles, Department of History, University of Virginia

Empire State Building: Interests, Institutions, and the Politics of State Formation in New York, 1783-1850 argues that the proliferation of bank chartering, canal building, and railroad construction that gripped antebellum New York was catalyzed by the state's offer of exclusive privileges and competitive advantages to business coalitions. Lacking money to fund projects directly, state legislators outsourced internal improvement projects to favored groups of private investors. These investors, in turn, recruited political allies to act as their lobbyists and embedded party organizations within corporate networks to protect and enhance their capital, institutionalizing political competition well before the emergence of the so-called Second Party System. Using both natural environmental advantages and the framework of the federal union, entrepreneurs sought opportunities beyond New York's borders and aligned their economic interests with those of the state; ports, canals, and rails put them at the center of an expansive market that stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to western American borderlands. As they bridged distances and lowered the costs of trading and transporting goods, corporations began to disentangle themselves from the partisan infrastructure they helped to create, delineating distinct public and private spheres of policy, and eroding the exclusivity of economic opportunity in a new culture of capitalism.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

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