“A Stimulating Take on the Intersection of American Slavery and Economic Policy”

“A Simulating Take on the Intersection of American Slavery and Economic Policy” — Kirkus Reviews

by Nancy Spannaus

February 28, 2024—The title quote is the concluding statement of the Kirkus review of my book Defeating Slavery, which I received today and has now been published on their website. (Click here to see it.) Kirkus Reviews (established 1933) is one of the major and most prestigious book review companies in the United States, and a major source for libraries, publishers, and bookstores. The Indie division is especially for self-published authors like myself.


"A Stimulating
The author with Defeating Slavery at a local bookstore signing event.

While the reviewer does make a couple of small errors (for example, the National Bank began functioning at the same time the Report on Manufactures was issued), the overall thrust is correct. Hopefully, it will encourage many to read the book and get the accurate story themselves.

I’m pleased to publish the review in its entirety below. More information and additional reviews can be found here on this blog.

Defeating Slavery: Hamiltons American System Showed the Way


Alexander Hamilton’s program of national industrial development could have made slavery obsolete without bloodshed, according to Spannaus’ provocative historical study.

The author, a historian, advances an economic analysis of American slavery as a brutal, backward system of production that was incompatible with a dynamic modern economy. Such an economy was envisioned, she observes, by Alexander Hamilton, America’s first Treasury Secretary, in his 1791 Report on the Subject of Manufactures. His report advocated a national bank to channel government revenue into industrial investments, the nurturing of an industrial manufacturing economy with tariffs to protect domestic manufacturers, and federal spending on roads, canals, and other infrastructure. Hamilton believed that this “American System” would make labor more productive with technology and machinery while fostering creative innovations by workers and businessmen. This economic juggernaut, Spannaus argues, would have outcompeted and peacefully swept away a Southern slave economy that relied on unskilled labor and denied enslaved workers the opportunity to develop their talents. Unfortunately, the author contends, Hamilton’s agenda was fought by Southern planters and “sabotaged” by President Thomas Jefferson, a slave-owner who championed small farmers, hated industry, and cut federal infrastructure spending. Spannaus asserts that matters would only get worse under President Andrew Jackson, who eliminated the government’s Bank of the United States, cut protective tariffs, and canceled canal projects. Challenging The 1619 Project and other scholarship that puts slavery at the heart of American society and economic development, Spannaus instead locates the center of the American experiment in the abolitionist movement that started in the 17th century and in Hamilton’s tacitly anti-slavery industrial policy. She supports her argument by citing a wealth of statistics and period thinkers, from Cotton Mather to Frederick Douglass, conveying it all in lucid, down-to-earth prose infused with sparks of passionate advocacy, as when she denounces revisionist historians’ “lies, distortions, and…glaring omissions of the leading international battle many American patriots waged against the scourge of slavery from the earliest days.” Hamilton’s growing reputation as the most progressive of the Founders will be further enhanced by this trenchant interpretation of his economic thinking.

A stimulating take on the intersection of American slavery and economic policy. – Kirkus Reviews

A copy of Defeating Slavery: Hamilton’s American System Showed the Way can be obtained with this QR code: