Tench Coxe - The First American Economist
Tench Coxe played an enormous role in shaping the economy of the Early Republic.
Tench Coxe could be considered Americas first political economist. His father had him educated with the intention of having Tench become a partner in the family counting house, which he did at age 21.
Coxe’s career was only just beginning when the American Revolution broke out. He was one of the many Americans (about 1/3) who tried to stay out of the war. Tench’s concern was his business, and his goal was to have it succeed no matter who was in charge.
Coxe left Philadelphia when the Continental Army took control of the city. He returned when the British began their occupation (presumably because he anticipated their victory).
When the British evacuated, Coxe was arrested by the rebels for treason. He was soon pardoned and returned to working in his counting house.
Having become wealthy, Tench Coxe devoted himself to a political career.
By 1786, he was the only Pennsylvania delegate to attend the Annapolis Convention. Their recommendations led to the Constitutional Convention, though Coxe did not attend. It was in Annapolis that Tench developed a friendship with Alexander Hamilton.
Coxe was soon thereafter a founding member of the Society for Political Inquiries. The purpose of this club was to promote a nationalist agenda and indeed many of it’s members would promote a strong federal government at the Constitutional Convention
May 11, 1787
It was a Friday. The following week the Constitutional Convention was meeting in Philadelphia.
The Society for Political Inquiries was meeting at Benjamin Franklin’s house. The keynote speech, A Commercial System for the United States, was given by Tench Coxe.
Coxe discussed many things; the need to control trade and produce goods internally, the increase of manufacturing using water and steam power, the need for taxation, and the restoration of public credit.
Most of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Constitutional Convention were in this room. The speech was later published and handed out to all the members of this Convention. Coxe’s speech would be the economic basis for the final document.
If some of the Commercial System speech sound familiar, it is because ‘Hamilton’s’ financial plan for the United States was based off Coxe’s outline. It should be no surprise, then, that Coxe was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Hamilton.
While Hamilton was the politician, Coxe was the economist.
The current economy of the United States of America have their foundation in the policies outlined by Tench Coxe in the nation's early years.
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Tench Coxe led an extremely interesting life. He would switch sides again and become a Democratic-Republican under the Jefferson administration. For more about him, check out one of these books from our affiliate Amazon: