The American Banking System from 1800-1810 Essay example

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The American Banking System from 1800-1810

Looking back to the outset of the 19th century, it is impossible to say that any real banking system had really been developed in the US. This is to say that, though there were roughly 120 private commercial banks that had been chartered by new state governments, the so-called system was scarcely organized. It was ad hoc in nature and directly linked to the merchant banking practices of the pre-independence period. The years preceding the turn of the century were important because they brought a central banking authority onto the scene. In 1789 the new federal government established a position for the Secretary of the Treasury. As we know, the first to hold this prestigious title was
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Before achieving independence, there were no commercial banks. The first commercial bank, the Bank of North America, was established in 1781. “British merchant banking houses stood at one end of a long chain of credit that stretched to the American frontier. They gave short-term (less than a year) credits to American merchants who then extended them to wholesalers of their imports, and the wholesalers passed them on to both urban and rural retailers - country stores and wandering peddlers” (Foner/Garraty, 1991: 191). After the Constitution was enacted in 1789, the Bank of North America was chartered along with two state banks in Massachusetts and New York. Not surprisingly, following in the merchant traditions of previous years, the primary function of these banks and their followers was to make short term loans. They did this through the issuance of their own bank notes and/or by issuing a deposit account to the individual borrower and providing them with checks useful for withdrawl. Naturally, the issuance of bank notes was tantamount to the promise to pay specie to the bearer upon his demand. This meant that banks were responsible for keeping sufficient reserves to cover all demands. Maintaining sufficient reserves, however, was a very complicated task which ultimately forced many banks into bankruptcy because they had overexteded their loans and
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