The Evolution of a National Burden – Part 4/7

The federal debt did not start with Presidents Ronald Reagan, H. G. W. Bush, G. W. Bush or Barrack Obama. The federal debt started in 1790 when the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, stabilized the dollar and refunded the debts incurred by the states fighting the Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783).

  • America’s first war cost $101 Million (equal to $2.52 Billion in 2012). The first federal debt caused by the revolution was 35% of GDP or $75.4 million ($1.885 Billion in 2012).
  • The War of 1812 (ended 1815) cost $90 million ($1.6 Billion in 2012).

By 1834, nineteen years later, the debt from America’s first two wars had been paid down to $33.7 thousand (equal to $886,984 in 2012).

  • Next came the Mexican War (1846 – 1849), and it cost $71 Million ($2.08 Billion in 2012).
  • The Civil War (1861 – 1865) pushed the federal debt to $3.2 Billion ($45 Billion in 2012).
  • The Spanish American War (1898-1899) cost $283 Million ($9 Billion in 2012)
  • The Philippine-American War also known as the Philippine War of Independence (1899-1902). During the suppression of this war of independence against the US, 200,000 to 1.5 million Filipino civilians were killed; there were 12,000 – 20,000 Philippine military casualties, and 4,165 US military dead. The US would not grant independence to the Philippine state until 1946. The cost of this war was $600 million (equal to $15.8 Billion in 2012)

To pay off debt and fund the growing pains of a nation becoming an expanding global empire, Congress passed the 16th Amendment to the Constitution on February 3, 1913 establishing Congress’s right to impose a Federal income tax.

Note: The Inflation calculator used  for this series of posts may be found at Dave, and the primary source for government spending was US Government

Continued on December 6, 2012 in The Evolution of a National Burden – Part 5 or return to Part 3

Also discover Each President’s share of the US National Debt and learn more from the National Debt Info-Graphic by President 1945 – 2012


Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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