The second bank of the United States



In the Twenty-Second Congress (the second of General Jackson's administration) the bank question became prominent [the question of rechartering the Bank of the United States, founded in 1816, and whose charter would expire in 1836]. General Jackson had in his first message called the attention of Congress to the subject of the bank. No doubt of its constitutionality was then intimated by him. In the course of a year or two an attempt was made, on the part of the executive, to control the appointment of the officers of one of the Eastern branches. This attempt was resisted by the bank, and from that time forward a state of warfare, at first partially disguised, but finally open and flagrant, existed between the government and the directors of the institution. In the first session of the Twenty-Second Congress (1831-32) a bill was introduced by Mr. Dallas, and passed the two Houses, to renew the charter of the bank.

This measure was supported by Mr. Webster, on the ground of the importance of a national bank to the fiscal operations of the government, and to the currency, exchange, and general business of the country. No specific complaints of mismanagement had then been made, nor were any abuses alleged to exist. The bank was, almost without exception, popular at that time with the business interests of the country, and particularly at the South and West. Its credit in England was solid; its bills and drafts on London took the place of specie for remittances to India and China. Its convenience and usefulness were recognized in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. McLane), at the same time that its constitutionality was questioned and its existence threatened by the President. So completely, however, was the policy of General Jackson's administration the impulse of his own feelings and individual impressions, and so imperfectly had these been disclosed on the present occasion, that the fate of the bill for rechartering the bank was a matter of uncertainty on the part both of adherents and opponents. Many persons on both sides of the two Houses were taken by surprise by the veto. When the same question was to be decided by General Washington, he took the opinion in writing of every member of the Cabinet.

The removal of the deposits of the public moneys from the Bank of the United States [was] a measure productive of more immediate distress to the community and larger train of evil consequences than perhaps any similar measure in our political history. It was finally determined on while the President was on his Northern tour, in the summer of 1833, receiving in every part of New England those demonstrations of respect which his patriotic course in the great nullification struggle had inspired. It is proper to state that up to this period, in the judgment of more than one committee of Congress appointed to investigate its affairs, in the opinion of both Houses of Congress, who in 1832 had passed a bill to renew the charter, and of the House of Representatives, which had resolved that the deposits were safe in its custody, the affairs of the bank had been conducted with prudence, integrity, and remarkable skills. It was not the least evil consequence of the warfare waged upon the bank, that it was finally drawn into a position (though not till its Congressional charter expired and it accepted very unwisely a charter as a State institution) in which, in its desperate struggle to sustain itself, it finally forfeited the confidence of its friends and the public, and made a deplorable and shameful shipwreck at once of its interests and honor, involving hundreds, at home and abroad, in its own deserved ruin.





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