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The Origins and Economic Impact of the First Bank of the United States, 1791-1797

The Origins and Economic Impact of the First Bank of the United States, 1791-1797

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This book focuses on the impact of the introduction of the First Bank of the United States (1791-1811) on the nascent financial system. The Bank dominated the financial scene of early America. Its prestigious list of clients included the United States Treasury, which deposited the bulk of the nation's money in the vaults of the Bank in return for various banking services.

The stage is set by describing the background events of 1791: Treasury Secretary Hamilton's Bank Report and Congress's reaction, the script bubble for Bank shares, and the choosing of board members and their decision to create nationwide branches. The Bank's headquarters commenced business on December 12, 1791. New evidence shows how the Bank strongly affected the economy within two months of opening its doors, initially by flooding the market with its paper and then by sharply reversing course and curtailing liquidity. While the added liquidity helped initially to push a bull market in securities higher, the subsequent drain caused the Panic of 1792 by forcing speculators to sell their stocks. The role of early central banking is discussed in light of the Panic, the Bank, and the U.S. Treasury Department. Evidence is presented that points to a new interpretation: the Treasury Secretaries played the role of the Central Banker and the Bank acted the part of the Central Bank. There was continuity in the mindsets, dialogues and actions of the Treasury Secretaries, leading to a conclusion that early U.S. financial policy makers developed an operational central banking thought and procedures during the era of the First Bank. The financial implications of Bank policy on several historical events during the 1790's are examined. By focusing on specific times when the board directed a change in loan policy, new conclusions are drawn with respect to the Bank's impact on the credit markets and its central banking role. This book adds clarity to the ongoing historical debates about the behavior of the early U.S. economy and its credit markets by examining the institution which was at the center of the American business world at that time.