By Amy Dru Stanley

About Amy Dru Stanley

Amy Dru Stanley is Professor of History at the University of Chicago. She is the author of From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation. Her current book project explores human rights in the age of slave emancipation.

Contract

“Contract” is at least as old as the Old Testament and as new as the market transactions of the moment—local, national, and global. It encompasses the provinces of religion and commodities, state and civil society, public and private exchange, the rights of persons and the rights to property. Puritan theology speaks of covenants, Enlightenment liberalism of social contracts, political economy of commercial contracts, the law of liberty of contract. Informed by those traditions, U.S. culture has long been infused by contract. Just after the Civil War, a primer handed out by Yankee liberators to former slaves testified to contract’s vast province: “You have all heard a great deal about contracts, have you not since you have been free? . . . Contracts are very numerous; numerous as the leaves on the trees almost; and, in fact, the world could not get on at all without them” (Fisk 1866, 47). The …

Ideologies, Money, Power
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