Terry Bouton is associate professor of history at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. His work looks at the connections between economics and politics in the American Revolution. His book, Taming Democracy: “The People,” The Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution (2007), uncovered the aspirations of small farmers and tried to understand why so many of them were disappointed with how the Revolution ended. Currently, he is working on a book that shows how European creditors demanded and got many key provisions in the U.S. Constitution.
A look at how George Washington nearly bankrupted himself when he came home from the Revolutionary War through luxury spending and aggressive speculations. In this lecture Dr. Bouton uses Washington's self-inflicted financial problems to reframe how we think about the role of economic interests in the creation of the US Constitution of 1787. Nearly every history of Washington at the Convention identifies his motivations as selfless patriotism, but a close look at Washington's finances suggests that there was also a strong economic incentive. Teetering on the brink of ruin, Washington went to the Constitutional Convention, in part, to remake the national government in ways that would save his imperiled finances. And he was not alone: many of the men at the Constitutional Convention were in exactly the same boat through their own overspending and over-speculation.