• The Opinion Of Alexander Hamilton On The Constitutionality Of The United States Bank

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    ALEXANDER HAMILTON, The Opinion Of Alexander Hamilton On The Constitutionality And Expediency Of Incorporating The United States Bank, February 23, 1791, Dutchess And Ulster Counties, Published by Samuel Freer 1839. A rare pamphlet, 24 pp, stitched, detailing Hamilton’s brilliant arguments, made in 1791, to establish The United States Bank.


    He begins by addressing his opponents. In small part, “...The objectives of the Secretary of State and Attorney General are founded on a general denial of the authority of the United States to erect corporations. The latter indeed, expressly admits, that, if there be any thing in the bill which is not warranted by the constitution, it is the clause of incorporation.


    “Now, it appears to the Secretary of Treasury, that this general principle is inherent in the very definition of government, and essential to every step of progress to be made by that of the United States; namely, that every power vested in a government, is, in its nature SOVEREIGN, and includes by force of the term, a right to employ all means requisite, and fairly applicable, to the attainment of the ends of such power, and which are not immoral, or not contrary to the essential ends of political society...


    “The circumstance, that the powers of sovereignty are, in this country, divided between the National and State Governments, does not afford the distinction required...To deny that the Government of the United States has sovereign power as to its declared purposes and trusts, because its power does not extend to all laws, would be equally to deny, that the State Governments have sovereign power in any case, because their power does not extend to every case. The tenth section of the first article of the constitution, exhibits a long list of very important things which they may not do; and thus the United States would furnish the singular spectacle of a political society without sovereignty; or of a people governed without government...”


    The last three pages contain small articles – Extract from the Report of Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, Extract from President Madison’s Message to Congress, December, 1815, Extract from the Report of Alexander J. Dallas, Secretary of the Treasury, Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, noting that in the February term of 1819, the court unanimously decided that the United States Bank was constitutional.  The court wrote, “A State cannot tax the Bank of the United States...”  Finally, an Extract from Daniel Webster’s speech noted, “The bank (1791) went into operation, and its success was great and instantaneous...”


    Hamilton’s experiment in central banking began in 1791 to assist a post-Revolutionary War economy and ended 20 years later.  Hamilton’s idea was to create a national bank.  He submitted a report to Congress in 1790 outlining his proposal.  He used the charter of the Bank of England as the basis for his plan.  He argued that an American version could issue paper money, provide a safe place to keep public funds, offer banking facilities for commercial transactions and act as the government’s fiscal agent, including collecting the government’s tax revenues and paying government debts.  Thomas Jefferson opposed the plan, fearing it would create a financial monopoly that might undermine state banks and adopt policies that favored financiers and merchants who tended to be creditors over plantation owners and family farmers.  Despite opposition, Hamilton’s bill cleared both the House and Senate and President George Washington signed the bill into law in February 1791. By 1811, many who opposed the bank in 1790-91, continued to oppose it and felt that the charter should be allowed to expire. By this point, Hamilton had been killed in a duel with Aaron Burr and his pro-Bank Federalist Party was out of power.  Moreover, the number of state banks had increased greatly and those financial institutions feared the competition from the national bank and its power.  But as noted above, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Bank of the United States as constitutional in a unanimous decision in 1819. [Research included]


    Irregular page sizes, chipping on the bottom left.  Stable, quite readable and a remarkable example of early American banking history by one of the nation’s most important founding fathers whose life was cut short by Aaron Burr. 


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