Historians of the United States' Indian factory system focused their attention on its weaknesses and economic inefficiencies, failing to ask why, in light of these deficiencies, it lasted for a quarter of a century. Early American leaders of all political persuasions viewed trade less as an economic than a political enterprise, a way to promote peaceful relations between different nations and, more subtly, to manipulate other peoples with the mechanisms of consumer demand and debt. Native Americans agreed with Euro-Americans that commerce served as an engine of peace, a form of large-scale gift exchange, and a demonstration of reciprocity. Some also came to see the factories as political and economic assets, sources of credit, hospitality, gifts, and personal influence.
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