A Dictionary of American History

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Author: Thomas L. Purvis  | Date: 1995

National Debt

National Debt After Alexander Hamilton reorganized the National Debt according to his Report on the Public Credit, it stood at $76,000,000 in 1790. It rose under the Federalists to $83,038,000 in 1800. Under Thomas Jefferson and Albert Gallatin, it was cut to $45,210,000 by 1811. The War of 1812 added $82,125,000, but sales of the public domain essentially eliminated all federal debt by 1834. By 1866 the Civil War had created a $2,755,764,000 debt, which was reduced by 64 percent by 1890. The debt then stayed at about $1 billion until World War I, which multiplied it to $25,484,506,000 by 1919. The last period of significant debt reduction was 1921–30, when Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon cut it by 32 percent. The era of a large, permanent National Debt began after World War II, and its growth greatly accelerated after 1970, the last year in which the federal budget was balanced in the 20th century. The debt first reached $1 trillion in 1981 and had doubled by 1986. By 1993, interest on the debt amounted to about 15 percent of the federal budget, the second-largest component after Social Security (see Social Security Administration).

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Chicago: Thomas L. Purvis, "National Debt," A Dictionary of American History in A Dictionary of American History (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Reference, 1995), Original Sources, accessed August 16, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3X2V8Z6CVP7RB65.

MLA: Purvis, Thomas L. "National Debt." A Dictionary of American History, in A Dictionary of American History, Cambridge, Mass., Blackwell Reference, 1995, Original Sources. 16 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3X2V8Z6CVP7RB65.

Harvard: Purvis, TL, 'National Debt' in A Dictionary of American History. cited in 1995, A Dictionary of American History, Blackwell Reference, Cambridge, Mass.. Original Sources, retrieved 16 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3X2V8Z6CVP7RB65.