The American System

Why we need the American System

American System, a term invoked by Kentucky representative Henry Clay in his 1824 speech. The concept of the American System is that it includes a broader set of policies that Clay and his supporters profounded as the best means for strengthening the country's economy and resurrecting the relationship between government and society. Clay's idea echoed around the earlier economic nationalism of Alexander Hamilton who in the Federalist Papers in 1787, had also referred to an American System characterized by a powerful, activist Federal Government that would guarantee the sovereignty and prosperity of the United States. Clay's platform reflected a similar conviction that government intervention could stimulate domestic economic development more sufficiantly than a reliance on market forces, and that a stronger economy would in turn make the country more resillent in dealing with foreign trade competition or military threats. By harmonizing the various economic interests within the United States, he maintained, such a policy would render American agricultural and manufacturing production more efficient than those of other nations. In addition to the tariff, Clay supported a strong central bank and federal funding for internal improvements to improve commodity circulation and make American producers more competitive. In particular, he called for increased construction of roads and canals, which he felt would unify the far away regions of the United States, facilitate the transport of goods, and improve the country's ability to defend itself against invasion or rebellion.