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IN CONGRESS, May 21, 1781.
A letter, of 17th, from General Washington; and
One, of 17th, from R. Morris, enclosing a plan of a bank, were read: Ordered, That Wednesday next be assigned for considering the enclosed plan.
IN CONGRESS, May 26, 1781.
The report of the committee [consisting of Mr. Witherspoon, Mr. Sullivan, Mr. M. Smith, Mr. Clymer] on the letter from Mr. R. Morris [with the plan of a bank] was taken into consideration; 1 Whereupon, The Committee to whom was referred the letter from Mr. R. Morris of the 17 May 1781 together with a plan for establishing a National Bank, beg leave to Report,
1 The plan, in the writing of Robert Morris, is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, as follows:
Plan for establishing a national bank in the United States of North America.
I. That a subscription be opened for four hundred thousand dollars, in shares of four hundred dollars each, to be paid in gold or silver.
II. That the subscriptions be paid into the hands of George Clymer and John Nixon, esqrs. or their agents.
III. That every subscriber of less than five shares, pay the whole sum on the day of his subscription.
IV. That every subscriber of five shares, or upwards, pay one-half the sum on the day of his subscription, and the other half within three months of that day.
V. That every holder of a share shall be entitled to vote by himself, his agent, or proxy properly appointed, at all elections for Directors, and that he have as many votes as he holds shares; and that every subscriber may sell or transfer his share or shares at his pleasure, the transfer being made in the bank books, in presence and with the approbation of the proprietor, or his lawful attorney, the purchaser then to become entitled to the right of voting, &c.
VI. That there be twelve Directors chosen from among those entitled to vote, who, at their first meeting, shall choose one as President.
VII. That there be a meeting of the Directors quarterly, for the purpose of regulating the affairs of the Bank; any seven of the Directors to make a Board, and that the Board have power to adjourn from time to time.
VIII. That the Board of Directors determine the manner of doing business, and the rules and forms to be pursued, appoint the various officers which they may find necessary, and dispose of the money and credit of the Bank for the interest and benefit of the proprietors, and make, from time to time, such dividends, out of the profits, as they may think proper.
IX. That the Board be empowered, from time to time, to open new subscriptions, for the purpose of increasing the capital of the Bank, on such terms and conditions as they shall think proper.
X. That the Board shall at every quarterly meeting, choose two Directors to inspect and control the business of the Bank for the ensuing three months.
XI. That the Inspectors so chosen, shall on the evening of every day, Sundays excepted, deliver to the Superintendent of the Finances of America, a state of the cash account and of the notes issued and received.
That the bank notes, payable on demand, shall by law be made receivable in the duties and taxes of every State in the Union, and from the respective states by the treasury of the United States as specie.
XII. That the Superintendent of the Finances of America shall have a right, at all times, to examine into the affairs of the Bank, and for that purpose shall have access to all the books and papers.
XIII. That any Director or officer of the Bank, who shall convert any of the property, monies or credits thereof to his own use, or shall any other way be guilty of fraud or embezzlement, shall forfeit all his share or stock to the company.
XIV. That laws shall be passed making it felony without benefit of clergy, to commit such fraud or embezzlement.
XV. That the subscribers shall be incorporated under the name of the President, Directors and Company of the Bank of North America.
XVI. That none of the Directors shall be entitled to any pecuniary advantage for his attendance on the duties of his office as Director, or as President or Inspector, unless an alteration in this respect, shall hereafter be made, by the consent of a majority of the stock-holders at a general election.
XVII. That as soon as the subscription shall be filled, George Clymer and John Nixon, esqrs. shall publish a list of the names and sums respectively subscribed, with the places of abode of the subscribers, and appoint a day for the choice of Directors, to whom, when chosen, they shall deliver over the money by them received.
That they approve the said plan and are of opinion that when carried into Execution, it will promote the Interest of the Subscribers, facilitate the commercial intercourse of Individuals, and be highly convenient and advantageous to Government.
Your Committee therefore submit the following resolutions:
Resolved, That Congress do approve of the plan for establishing a national bank in these United States, submitted to their consideration by Mr. R. Morris, the 17 day of May, 1781; and that they will promote and support the same by such ways and means, from time to time, as may appear necessary for the institution and consistent with the public good:
That the subscribers to the said bank shall be incorporated agreeably to the principles and terms of the plan, under the name of The President, Directors and company of the bank of North-America, so soon as the subscription shall be filled, the directors and president chosen, and application for that purpose made to Congress by the president and directors elected.
On the question to agree to this paragraph, required by Mr. T[homas] Smith,
So it was resolved in the affirmative.
Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states by proper laws for that purpose, to provide that no other bank or bankers shall be established or permitted within the said states respectively during the war.
Resolved, That the notes hereafter to be issued by the said bank, payable on demand, shall be receivable in payment of all taxes, duties and debts due, or that may become due or payable to the United States: Resolved, That Congress will recommend to the several legislatures to pass laws, making it felony without benefit of clergy, for any person to counterfeit bank notes, or to pass such notes, knowing them to be counterfeit; also making it felony without benefit of clergy,
for any president, inspector, director, officer or servant of the bank, to convert any of the property, money or credit of the said bank to his own use, or in any other way to be guilty of fraud or embezzlement as an officer or servant of the bank.
IN CONGRESS, December 29, 1781.
An ordinance for incorporating the subscribers to the national bank, was read a first time:
The Committee appointed to confer with the Bank upon the act of incorporation proposed by them to Congress.
That it does not seem probable, that an Act of incorporation could be obtained from the Legislature of Pennsylvania before the middle of next March.
That in the Meantime, the finances of the United States must suffer considerably without the aid of the Bank.
That the Bank cannot operate without an act of incorporation from Congress itself.
The Committee therefore
Report the following act of incorporation (here read the act, and let a question be taken upon reading it a second time on Monday next) and the Committee beg leave to sit again.
Ordered, That Monday next be assigned for a second reading.
IN CONGRESS, December 31, 1781.
The ordinance for incorporating the subscribers to the Bank of North America, was read a second time, and ordered to be read a third time at two o'clock.
The ordinance being read a third time, was agreed to as follows: An ordinance to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of North America.
Whereas Congress on the 26th day of May last did, from a conviction of the support which the finances of the United States would receive from the establishment of a national bank, approve a plan for such an institution submitted to their consideration by Robert Morris, esq. and now lodged among the archives of Congress, and did engage to promote the same by the most effectual means; and whereas, the subscription thereto is now filled from an expectation of a charter of incorporation from Congress, the directors and president are chosen, and application hath been made to Congress by the said president and directors for an act of incorporation: and whereas, the exigencies of the United States render it indispensably necessary that such an act be immediately passed:
Be it therefore ordained, and it is hereby ordained, by the United States in Congress assembled, that those who are, and those who shall become subscribers to the said bank be, and forever after shall be, a corporation and body politic to all intents and purposes, by the name and stile of "The President, Directors and Company of the Bank of North America."
And be it further ordained, that the said corporation are hereby declared and made able and capable in law, to have, purchase, receive, possess, enjoy, and retain lands, rents, tenements, hereditaments, goods, chattels and effects, of what kind, nature or quality soever, to the amount of ten millions of Spanish silver milled dollars and no more; and also to sell, grant, demise, alien, or dispose of the same lands, rents, tenements, hereditaments, goods, chattels and effects.
And be it further ordained, that the said corporation be, and shall be forever hereafter, able and capable in law, to sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded, answer and be answered unto, defend, and be defended, in courts of record or any other place whatsoever; and to do and execute all and singular other matters and things that to them shall or may appertain to do.
And be it further ordained, that for the well governing of the said corporation and the ordering of their affairs, they shall have such officers as they shall hereafter direct or appoint: Provided nevertheless, that twelve directors, one of whom shall be the president of the corporation, be of the number of their officers.
And be it further ordained, that Thomas Willing be the present president, and that the said Thomas Willing, and Thomas Fitzsimmons, John Maxwell Nesbit, James Wilson, Henry Hill, Samuel Osgood, Cadwallader Morris, Andrew Caldwell, Samuel Inglis, Samuel Meredith, William Bingham, Timothy Matlack, be the present directors of the said corporation; and shall so continue until another president and other directors shall be chosen according to the laws and regulations of the said corporation.
And be it further ordained, that the president and directors of the said corporation, shall be capable of exercising such power for the well governing and ordering of the affairs of the said corporation, and of holding such occasional meetings for that purpose, as shall be described, fixed and determined by the laws, regulations and ordinances of the said corporation.
And be it further ordained, that the said corporation may make, ordain, establish, and put in execution such laws, ordinances and regulations as shall seem necessary and convenient to the government of the said corporation.
Provided always, that nothing herein before contained, shall be construed to authorize the said corporation, to exercise any powers in any of the United States, repugnant to the laws or constitution of such State.
And be it further ordained, that the said corporation shall have full power and authority, to make, have and use, a common seal, with such device and inscription as they shall think proper, and the same to break, alter and renew at their pleasure.
And be it further ordained, that this ordinance shall be construed, and taken most favorably and beneficially for the said corporation. Done in Congress &c. &c.
Resolved, That it be recommended to the legislature of each State, to pass such laws as they may judge necessary, for giving the foregoing ordinance its full operation, agreeably to the true intent and meaning thereof, and according to the recommendations contained in the resolutions of the 26th day of May last. [Editor's note: See pp. 3, 19, 412.]
Report of Secretary of Treasury (Alexander Hamilton), on a National Bank
COMMUNICATED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DEC. 14, 1790.
First Congress, 3d Session
[Source: American State Papers, Finance, vol, 1, pp. 67-76]
TREASURY DEPARTMENT, December 13th, 1790. In obedience to the order of the House of Representatives, of the ninth day of August last, requiring the Secretary of the Treasury to prepare and report, on this day, such further provision as may, in his opinion, be necessary for establishing the public credit, the said Secretary further respectfully reports:
That, from a conviction (as suggested in his report herewith presented) that a National Bank is an institution of primary importance to the prosperous administration of the finances, and would be of the greatest utility in the operations connected with the support of the public credit, his attention has been drawn to devising the plan of such an institution, upon a scale which will entitle it to the confidence, and be likely to render it equal to the exigencies of the public.
Previously to entering upon the detail of this plan, he entreats the indulgence of the House towards some preliminary reflections naturally arising out of the subject, which he hopes will be deemed neither useless nor out of place. Public opinion being the ultimate arbiter of every measure of government, it can scarcely appear improper, in deference to that, to accompany the origination of any new proposition with explanations, which the superior information of those to whom it is immediately addressed, would render superfluous.
It is a fact, well understood, that public banks have found admission and patronage among the principal and most enlightened commercial nations. They have successively obtained in Italy, Germany, Holland, England, and France, as well as in the United States. And it is a circumstance which cannot but have considerable weight, in a candid estimate of their tendency, that, after an experience of centuries, there exists not a question about their utility in the countries in which they have been so long established. Theorists and men of business unite in the acknowledgement of it.
Trade and industry, wherever they have been tried, have been indebted to them for important aid. And government has been repeatedly under the greatest obligations to them in dangerous and distressing emergencies. That of the United States, as well in some of the most critical conjunctures of the late war, as since the peace, has received assistance from those established among us, with which it could not have dispensed.