Using a political economy framework, Woody Holton argues that state fiscal policies during the 1780s constitute primitive accumulation, that violent process by which powerful men steal the means of subsistence of common folk, thus forcing them into waged labor and creating a class of proletarians. Clearly, the process was not completed in the nineteenth century. But this is not, I would argue, because the ruling class acquiesced in the demands of small farmers, as Holton argues, but resulted from a fierce conflict between small producers and capitalists and their allies that lasted more than a century.

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