“Americans have a long history with debt. They also have a long history of mobilizing for debt relief. Throughout the nineteenth century, indebted citizens demanded government protection from their financial burdens, challenging readings of the Constitution that exalted property rights at the expense of the vulnerable. Their appeals shaped the country’s periodic experiments with state debt relief and federal bankruptcy law, constituting a pre-industrial safety net. Yet, the twentieth century saw the erosion of debtor politics and the eventual retrenchment of bankruptcy protections.
The Political Development of American Debt Relief traces how geographic, sectoral, and racial politics shaped debtor activism over time, enhancing our understanding of state-building, constitutionalism, and social policy.”