October 23: Rolling In Debt

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Written by Matthew Mendez, Journalist

Cartoon credit: Seth Knoop

October 23, 1981. The United States reaches $1 billion in national debt. Ever since achieving independence from Great Britain, the U.S. has remained familiar with debt. Unable to levy taxes from the populace during the American War of Independence, the Continental Congress borrowed mainly from foreign and domestic financial support. In regards to foreigners, the United States owed at least $11.7 million, mainly to the French government and Dutch bankers. To domestic creditors, the fledgling nation owed an incredible $42 million, along with being $25 million in debt. Under the watchful eye of Alexander Hamilton, the first US Treasury Secretary, foreign creditors were paid and the majority of the debt removed. U.S. national debt would continue to fluctuate, especially in times of war and economic depression. Though the United States would continue to compile debt well over the billion dollar mark, 1981 remained a focal point in U.S. economic history.