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Congress Establishes the Bank of the United States as Part of Alexander Hamilton’s Plan
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[ALEXANDER HAMILTON]. Newspaper. Gazette of the United States, March 2, 1791. Philadelphia: John Fenno. Includes full text of February 25 “Act to Incorporate the Subscribers to the Bank of the United States.” 4 pp., 10 x 16 in.

Inventory #30050.01       Price: $2,500

An Act to Incorporate the Subscribers to the Bank of the United States

The establishment of a bank for the United States…upon the principles which afford adequate security for an upright and prudent administration.

This foundational act is printed in full on the front page under an engraving of an early version of the Great Seal of the United States. It is signed in type by George Washington as President, John Adams as Vice President and President of the Senate, Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg as Speaker of the House, and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State.

Historical Background

First U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton proposed a three-part financial system to stabilize and improve the nation’s credit and monetary supply. In addition to the assumption of state war debts, and the establishment of a federal mint and excise taxes, Hamilton proposed the creation of a national bank to handle the financial business of the United States government under the newly approved Constitution.

Hamilton’s idea was that the new bank could be funded by the sale of $10 million in stock, of which the U.S. government would purchase $2 million on loan to be paid back in ten annual installments. The remaining stock would be sold to individuals in the United States and abroad.

Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and James Madison opposed the idea of a bank and claimed that it was both unconstitutional and benefitted merchants and investors at the expense of most of the population. Despite such opposition, Congress approved the “bank bill,” giving the Bank of the United States a twenty-year charter, but President George Washington was initially hesitant to sign it. He asked for written advice from his cabinet, and both Attorney General Edmund Randolph and Jefferson thought the bill was unconstitutional. Hamilton answered their objections with a strong defense of the sovereignty of the federal government. On February 25, Washington signed the bill into law.

In 1811, the Senate tied on a vote to recharter the bank, and Vice President George Clinton broke the tie by voting against renewal, allowing the bank to expire. In 1816, Congress created the Second Bank of the United States with a new twenty-year charter.

Additional Content: Report on Senate’s reception of President Washington’s notice that he had signed the Bank Act (p2/c3); note that “The bill supplemental to the act, making provision for the reduction of the public debt,” was engrossed and passed (p3/c2); a report from Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton on the creation of a mint is continued from a previous issue (and continued in a later issue) (p4/c1-2); An Act regulating the number of Representatives for Kentucky and Vermont (p1/c3); a celebration of Washington’s birthday: “The Anniversary of the Birth Day of the President of the United States has been celebrated in all parts of the union, from which accounts have been received, with the highest testimonials of veneration and affection....” (p3/c2); and an advertisement proposing the printing of a collection of state papers, which Jefferson endorsed (p4/c2)

The Gazette of the United States (1789-1793) is often considered the most significant political newspaper of the late eighteenth century. John Fenno established the Gazette as a pro-Federalist voice in New York City in April 1789, and published it twice weekly. Fenno and the Gazette followed the government to its temporary capital in Philadelphia in 1790. Early Acts of Congress and Presidential Pronouncements were often first printed in this newspaper. Alexander Hamilton contributed articles to its columns under many different noms de plume, and John Adams published his Discourses on Davila in periodic installments in the Gazette between April 1790 and April 1791. It became the daily Gazette of the United States and Evening Advertiser late in 1793.


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