Small Business – the Heart and Soul of America

Small business is the largest employer in America, and greatest source of new jobs since the Great Recession.

Some things never change.

Small business has been the heart and soul of America since the earliest days of the Republic – and before.

The Boston Tea Party was instigated and executed by colonial tea merchants whose businesses were being underpriced and undercut by cheap imports from the globalist multinational enterprise of the day, the British East India Company.

Small independent entrepreneurs – those who owned their own business, farm or shop - formed the core constituency of a new political party that emerged in the middle of the 19th Century, the Republican Party.

The party championed the small businessman as the driving force of the growing manufacturing sector.

“The manufacturing industry of this country,” said Representative Samuel Blair of Pennsylvania, “must look to men of moderate means for its development- the men of enterprise being, as a class, in such circumstances.”

A society based on small business stood in contrast to one built on the large, vertically integrated enterprises of the day, the plantation.

Small business was also a foundation of the westward expansion of the nation. Historian Eric Foner writes that on the eve of the Civil War,

large factories and great corporations were the exception, not the rule, even in New England. In the West, manufacturing establishments were widely dispersed, located near raw materials such as flour and lumber, and servicing local markets. The typical enterprise employed only a few workmen and only a small amount of capital, and was owned by an individual or partnership. … [E]ven in New England the expansion of so important an industry as boot and shoe production in the 1850’s and 1860’s was due largely to the establishment of many new small plants, not the expansion of old ones.

The Springfield Republican newspaper described the base of the new party:

Those who work with their hands, who live and act independently, who hold the stakes of home and family, of farm and workshop, of education and freedom – these as a mass are enrolled in the Republican ranks.

Abraham Lincoln’s chief economic adviser Henry C. Carey envisioned a United States with a decentralized economy, of numerous small towns where artisans, farmers and small factories served small regional economies.

As industry grew larger, a new generation of small businesses arose to supply the great factories turning out vehicles and other mass-produced goods. Machine shops, mold makers, foundries, forges and other workshops – small businesses all - were and are indispensable links in the manufacturing supply chain.

Today, the future is brighter than ever for small business in America. Web sites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and Indiegogo can help startups (aka small business) raise capital, and the “buy local” ethos, whether ‘farm-to-table’ or Etsy, can provide a growing market for their products and services.