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Henry George and the Crisis of InequalityProgress and Poverty in the Gilded Age$
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Edward O'Donnell

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231120005

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231120005.001.0001

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“To Be Something and Somebody in the World”

“To Be Something and Somebody in the World”

(p.3) 1 “To Be Something and Somebody in the World”
Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality

Edward T. O’Donnell

Columbia University Press

This chapter focuses on Henry George's early life and how he hoped to make his mark doing something and, as his mother encouraged him in a departing letter, “to be something and somebody in the world.” Henry was born in Philadelphia on September 2, 1839. His mother was Catherine Pratt Vallance, who came from an old family from that city. His father was Richard Samuel Henry George, who published religious books for the Episcopal Church. At the time, Philadelphia was steeped in tradition and galvanized by the revolutionary potential of the nascent market economy. In other words, Henry was born between two revolutions: the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. This duality would shape Henry's worldview throughout his life. This chapter also examines two critical influences in Henry's early life: his family's strong evangelical Christian faith and the emerging culture of entrepreneurial republicanism and its offshoot, the ideology of “free labor.” Finally, it considers Henry's evolving political economy and radicalism, with particular emphasis on his conviction that the land question was the question facing Gilded Age America.

Keywords:   free labor, Henry George, Philadelphia, Catherine Pratt Vallance, Richard Samuel Henry George, American Revolution, Industrial Revolution, entrepreneurial republicanism, political economy, radicalism

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