Building a New Nation

Constitution provided a national environment in which free enterprise could thrive. A central authority, the U.S. Congress, had control over interstate and foreign commerce, federal tax collection, the coinage of money, defense of states, and patents and copyrights. The Constitution also supported property rights, the sanctity of contracts, and due process of law. Supreme Court decisions, such as Dartmouth v. Woodward (1819), showed that the Court, at least under Chief Justice John Marshall, supported a business-friendly environment. (One of the implications of the Dartmouth decision was that a corporation charter is considered a contract, which is protected under the U.S. Constitution.)

Although the Constitution helped ease the concerns of many businesspeople, it did not solve all the economic problems of the nation. A national monetary system had to be put into place; and the issue of debt, both national and personal, still loomed large. The responsibility of dealing with these issues was given to the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.