First Bank of the United States

First Bank of the U S
FirstBankofUS00 crop.jpg
3rd Street facade (2009)
Location128 South 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA
Coordinates39°56′53″N 75°08′47″W / 39°56′53″N 75°08′47″W / 39.9481; -75.1464
Built1795
ArchitectSamuel Blodgett,
possibly with James Hoban
Architectural style87001292 [1]
Added to NRHPMay 4, 1987

The President, Directors and Company, of the Bank of the United States, commonly known as the First Bank of the United States, was a national bank, chartered for a term of twenty years, by the United States Congress on February 25, 1791. It followed the Bank of North America, the nation's first de facto central bank.

Establishment of the Bank of the United States was part of a three-part expansion of federal fiscal and monetary power, along with a federal mint and excise taxes, championed by Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton believed a national bank was necessary to stabilize and improve the nation's credit, and to improve handling of the financial business of the United States government under the newly enacted Constitution.

The First Bank building, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, within Independence National Historical Park, was completed in 1797, and is a National Historic Landmark for its historic and architectural significance.

Background

In 1791, the Bank of the United States was one of the three major financial innovations proposed and supported by Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury. In addition to the national bank, the other measures were assumption of the state war debts by the U.S. government, establishment of a mint and imposition of a federal excise tax. The goals of Hamilton's three measures were to:[2]

  • Establish financial order, clarity and precedence in and of the newly formed United States.
  • Establish credit—both in country and overseas—for the new nation.
  • Resolve the issue of the fiat currency, issued by the Continental Congress immediately prior to and during the American Revolutionary War—the "Continental".

In simpler words, Hamilton's four goals were to:

  • Have the Federal Government assume the Revolutionary War debts of the several states
  • Pay off the war debts
  • Raise money for the new government[3]
  • Establish a national bank and create a common currency[4]
The tendency of a national bank is to increase public and private credit. The former gives power to the state for the protection of its rights and interests, and the latter facilitates and extends the operations of commerce amongst individuals.

— Alexander Hamilton, December, 1790 report to George Washington[5]