In January 1815, the United States had just completed the War of 1812. The federal government’s financial position was weak, and the nation was in the midst of a broad economic slump. Many people thought that a national bank would provide relief for the country’s ailing economy and help in paying its...
In January 1815, the United States had just completed the War of 1812. The federal government’s financial position was weak, and the nation was in the midst of a broad economic slump. Many people thought that a national bank would provide relief for the country’s ailing economy and help in paying its war debt. The matter became urgent when many state-chartered banks stopped redeeming their notes, which convinced President James Madison and his advisers that the time had come to move the country toward a more uniform, stable paper currency. Six men figured prominently in establishing a new entity to solve these problems, which is commonly referred to as the Second Bank of the United States: the financiers John Jacob Astor, David Parish, Stephen Girard, and Jacob Barker; Treasury Secretary Alexander Dallas; and Congressman John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. In April 1816 Madison signed the act establishing the Bank.
The capitalization for the Bank was authorized at $35 million, which meant that that much capital needed to be raised. Subscriptions for shares went on sale in July 1816, and the sale period was set at three weeks. To make it easier for investors to buy subscriptions, sales were held in twenty cities. Subscribers received subscription receipts signed by the three commissioners handling the sales in their cities. In Philadelphia they were Stephen Girard, Cadu Evans, and Thomas Seiper.
Document signed, being one of the original stock subscription receipts, Philadelphia, July 23, 1816, certifying that merchant and privateer Joseph Beylle had paid “the sum of Two hundred Dollars in coin, and the sum of one thousand Dollars (at the rate allowed by law) in funded debt, being the amount of the first installment on Forty shares subscribed to the Capital of the Bank of the United States…” It is signed by Girard, Evans and Seiper as Commissioners.
It’s interesting to see that to raise such a substantial sum, the promoters were only asking for a down payment of $200, with the balance to be paid off later. In any case, at the end of the three week sale period, $3 million of scrips remained unsold. So Stephen Girard stepped in and bought them, and the subscriptions were complete.
Girard was not only one of the moving spirits of the Bank, but chairman of the stockholders after its establishment. He was largely influential in effecting the replacement of the incompetent initial leadership with the sounder administrations of Langdon Cheves and Nicholas Biddle.
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