From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Bank of North America was chartered on December 31, 1781 [1] by the Congress of the Confederation and opened on January 7, 1782, at the prodding of Finance Minister Robert Morris, and was rechartered in 1784. This was thus the first modern United States bank. It was succeeded by the First Bank of the United States. After Robert Morris became superintendent of finance in May 1781 continental currency had ceased. Earlier, on April 30, 1781, Alexander Hamilton, then only twenty-three years old and still serving in the military, had sent Morris a letter. First, Hamilton revealed that he had recommended Morris for the position the previous summer when the constitution of the executive was being solidified. Second, he proceeded to lay out a proposal for a National Bank. Morris, who had corresponded with Hamilton previously (1780) on the subject of funding the war, immediately drafted a legislative proposal based on Hamilton’s suggestion and submitted it to the Congress. Morris persuaded Congress to charter the Bank of North America, the first private commercial bank in the United States.

Meanwhile, Hamilton made public endorsement of the establishment:

“Congress have wisely appointed a superintendent of their finances,—a man of acknowledged abilities and integrity, as well as of great personal credit and pecuniary influence.

“It was impossible that the business of finance could be ably conducted by a body of men however well composed or well intentioned. Order in the future management of our moneyed concerns, a strict regard to the performance of public engagements, and of course the restoration of public credit may be reasonably and confidently expected from Mr. Morris’ administration if he is furnished with materials upon which to operate—that is, if the Federal Government can acquire funds as the basis of his arrangements. He has very judiciously proposed a National Bank, which, by uniting the influence and interest of the moneyed men with the resources of government, can alone give it that durable and extensive credit of which it stands in need. This is the best expedient he could have devised for relieving the public embarrassments, but to give success to the plan it is essential that Congress should have it in their power to support him with unexceptionable funds. Had we begun the practice of funding four years ago, we should have avoided that depreciation of the currency which has been pernicious to the morals and to the credit of the nation, and there is no other method than this to prevent a continuance and multiplication of the evils flowing from that prolific source.”

– ‘The Continentalist’ No. IV, August 30, 1781

Morris deposited large quantities of gold and silver coin and bills of exchange obtained through loans from the Netherlands and France. He then issued new paper currency backed by this supply. He also managed to meet the interest rates on the debt which he estimated to be about thirty million dollars. The Bank of North America along with the First Bank of the United States and The Bank of New York obtained the first shares in the New York Stock Exchange.

Pennsylvania Bank

John Nixon helped to organize the Bank of North America, and succeeded Thomas Willing as its president, serving from 1792 to 1808. William Frederick Havemeyer was its president from 1851 to 1861 and brought it successfully through the crisis of 1857.[2] The bank remained in business in Pennsylvania through the nineteenth century under a variety of names and continues to operate under the national bank charter #1 presently held by Wachovia Bank, N.A.. Wachovia still operates a branch at the corner of 6th and Chestnut in Philadelphia that was the original home to the Bank of North America and is the longest continuously operating branch bank in the United States, operating in that location since 1781.

See also


  1. ^ New International Encyclopedia
  2. ^

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