The Panic of 1819: The First Great Depression

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The Panic of 1819 is the story of the first nation-wide economic collapse to strike the United States. It was much more than a banking panic or real estate bubble: it was the culmination of an economic wave that rolled through the United States, beginning before the War of 1812, cresting with the land and cotton boom of 1818, and finally crashing just as the country was confronted with the crisis over slavery in Missouri. The Panic introduced Americans to the new phenomenon of boom and bust, changed the country's attitudes towards wealth and poverty, spurred the political movement that became Jacksonian Democracy, and helped create the sectional divide that would lead to the Civil War. It was one of the turning points of American history, yet few Americans today have even heard of it-although we continue to repeat its mistakes, again and again.