Hamilton, Paterson, and Economic Independence

Leonard A. Zax, president of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson, recently published an article in NorthJersey.com regarding Hamilton’s role in pushing America towards economic independence by building strong support for American innovation.  Zax states:

Fifteen years after the Declaration of Independence and long after the British had surrendered, America remained woefully dependent upon England for all manufactured goods, including military supplies. Hamilton recognized that America could never be free from foreign dominance without economic independence, and as treasury secretary he created an ambitious strategy to achieve it, starting in Paterson.

Hamilton’s plan was to harness the force of the Great Falls, then the most forceful waterfall in America —the British still claimed the lands around Fort Niagara — to power the new industries that would secure our economic future. The Paterson Great Falls are 300 feet wide and 77 feet high and pour up to 2 billion gallons of water into a narrow chasm each day. Hamilton knew the Falls could provide power to mills at a time when there was virtually no manufacturing in the United States.

Paterson became the world’s first planned city of innovation, the Silicon Valley of the American Industrial Revolution. Today, the Great Falls is a living reminder of the birthplace of American industry at a time when manufacturing was the high-tech of the day.

Paterson Great Falls

The Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park website states:

The history of the City of Paterson includes its beginnings as the ambitious project of Hamilton and the Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers (S.U.M.) in 1792 at the Great Falls, the early development of water power systems for industrial use, and the various types of manufacturing that occurred in the District’s mills into the 20th Century. These included cotton fabrics, railroad locomotives, textile machinery, jute, and silk spinning, weaving, and dyeing, among many others. preserves this important legacy.

Founders Online features many fascinating primary source documents showing Hamilton’s ambitious architecture for this early Silicon Valley hybrid.  These documents make clear how important Hamilton’s farsightedness was to the ultimate success of America’s early industrial revolution.  As Sax suggests, without Hamilton’s economic vision, the United States could have been a nation with independence in name only, dependent on Great Britain to supply all manufactured goods.

  • Prospectus of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures
  • Proposals to Contract for the Construction of the Manufacturing Plant of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures
  • Draft Minutes of a Meeting of a Committee of the Directors of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures

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