Today’s second installment concludes Hamilton Establishes the United States Bank,
the name of our selection from A History of the Bank of North America: Prepared at the Request of the President and Directors by Lawrence Lewis and by Alexander Hamilton published in 1882. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Hamilton Establishes the United States Bank.
Place: New York City
“There is nothing in the acts of Congress which implies an exclusive right in the institution to which they relate, except during the time of the war. There is, therefore, nothing, if the public good require it, which prevents the establishment of another. It may, however, be incidentally remarked that in the general opinion of the citizens of the United States, the Bank of North America has taken the station of a bank of Pennsylvania only. This is a strong argument for a new institution, or for a renovation of the old, to restore it to the situation in which it originally stood in the view of the United States. But–there may be room to allege that the Government of the United States ought not, in point of candor or equity, to establish any rival or interfering institution in prejudice of the one already established, especially as this has, from services rendered, well-founded claims to protection and regard.
“The justice of this observation ought, within proper bounds, to be admitted. A new establishment of the sort ought not to be made without cogent and sincere reasons of public good. And in the manner of doing it every facility should be given to a consolidation of the old with the new, upon terms not injurious to the parties concerned. But there is no ground to maintain that in a case in which the Government has made no condition restricting its authority, it ought voluntarily to restrict it, through regard to the interests of a particular institution, when those of the State dictate a different course; especially, too, after such circumstances have intervened as characterize the actual situation of the Bank of North America.
“If the objections, which have been stated, to the constitution of the Bank of North America are admitted to be well founded, they, nevertheless, will not derogate from the merit of the main design, or of the services which that bank has rendered, or of the benefits which it has produced. The creation of such an institution, at the time it took place, was a measure dictated by wisdom. Its utility has been amply evinced by its fruits. American independence owes much to it.
“The Secretary begs leave to conclude with this general observation, that if the Bank of North America shall come forward with any propositions which have for their object the ingrafting upon that institution the characteristics which shall appear to the Legislature necessary to the due extent and safety of a national bank, there are, in his judgment, weighty inducements to giving every reasonable facility to the measure. Not only the pretensions of that institution, from its original relation to the Government of the United States, and from the services it has rendered, are such as to claim a disposition favorable to it, if those who are interested in it are willing, on their part, to place it on a footing satisfactory to the Government and equal to the purposes of a bank of the United States; but its coöperation would naturally accelerate the accomplishment of the great object, and the collision, which might otherwise arise, might, in a variety of ways, prove equally disagreeable and injurious. The incorporation and union here contemplated may be effected in different modes, under the auspices of an act of the United States, if it shall be desired, by the Bank of North America, upon terms which shall appear expedient to the Government.”
As far as can be ascertained, however, the management of the bank took no steps in accordance with the suggestions of the report. The quiet and prosperous business in which they were engaged, under State auspices, was to them preferable to the anxieties and hazards which would probably attend the new national undertaking; the scheme of a separate institution was, therefore, rapidly pushed forward, and on February 19, 1791, the first Bank of the United States began its corporate existence.
The Bank of North America now sustained a serious loss in the resignation of its president, Mr. Willing, on January 9, 1792, after a term of service extending over a little more than ten years. He had been chosen to preside over the affairs of the Bank of the United States, a station for which it was justly supposed that his talents and experience eminently qualified him. He was succeeded in office by John Nixon, an almost equally well-known and respected citizen. Born in 1733 of Irish parentage, Mr. Nixon for a number of years did a prosperous business in the city of Philadelphia. He was one of the many signers of the Non-importation Resolutions, and upon the breaking out of the Revolution made himself prominent by his strenuous efforts and warm interest in the national cause. He was a member of the Committee of Safety, and had the honor of first proclaiming to the citizens of Philadelphia the Declaration of Independence. During some portion of the war he did active service, with the rank of colonel, in the Continental Army. He was one of the original subscribers to the bank, and had been a director since 1784. He retained the office of president for seventeen years until his death, which occurred on December 24, 1808.
Meantime the business of the bank was rapidly increasing as the commerce of the country grew. The profits were so great that annual dividends of 12 per cent. were paid to the various stockholders. Nor did the institution cease to accommodate the public from time to time with loans of considerable extent. During the year 1791 the bank advanced to the Commonwealth, at different times, in all one hundred sixty thousand dollars, and in the following year something over fifty-three thousand dollars.
This ends our series of passages on Hamilton Establishes the United States Bank by Lawrence Lewis and Alexander Hamilton from their book A History of the Bank of North America … Prepared at the Request of the President and Directors published in 1882. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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