chapter  1
12 Pages

Symmetry and repetition: patterns in the history of the Bank of the United States Eric Lomazoff

Introduction For those who wish to explore the dense historical forest that is national banking in the early American Republic, past scholarly visitors have cleared and marked multiple trails. One might, for example, pleasantly venture forth using personalities as guideposts. Biographers have chronicled how figures large and small in American history imagined, made, sheltered, managed, and ultimately destroyed the Bank of the United States (Chernow 2004, Govan 1959, Newmyer 2001, Wright 1996, Remini 1984, 1998). Institutional purposes offer a second set of markers for navigating the historical terrain. Economic historians have repeatedly noted that while the “First” Bank was chartered to serve as a fiscal auxiliary to the federal government, the “Second” Bank was created to realize a mixture of fiscal and monetary goals (Redlich 1947, Hammond 1957, Womack 1978).1 Constitutional principles offer a third way to tour the site and provide the way which is potentially the most straightforward. Scholars of American constitutionalism have portrayed the Bank as the focal point of a recurring twosided dispute over the meaning of the Necessary and Proper Clause (Brest, Levinson, Balkin, and Amar 2000: 7-70, Gillman, Graber, and Whittington 2013: 123-37 and 201-6, O’Brien 2003: 60-62 and 497-500).