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actually to its counter, before procuring this trifling accommodation. That there may have been need of precaution we are ready to admit, from the shoals of fraudulent and counterfeit money at all times in circulation; some idea of which may be formed, from the following statement of the then condition of the banks of the eight northern States, with those “closed or broken,” as also, “fraudulent” banks, and those on which forgeries had been committed.
No. of banks closed 61
do. on which forged notes are in general
The corrected bank note list, published in the city of New York, for the week ending May 28th, 1845, which is the latest under our observation, contains the names of 412 banks, then belonging to five of the principal northern and eastern states, VOL. I.
comprising Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey; as also of 112“ closed, fraudulent, and broken banks,” with notes in circulation ; 64 of which were of the city and state of New York.
With the extended bank circulation of the United States, it may possibly be imagined, that discounts are at all times readily obtained on the security of good and unexceptionable paper, and that the evil working of a portion of the American banking system, is far outweighed, in the positive — the more immediate and substantive good secured through its means to the mercantile community, especially to the retail dealer and industrious citizen. The obverse, however, is more generally the case ; for, if there is any class beyond another, excluded from the reasonable advantage of bank accommodation, it most assuredly is the man, who, in the peaceful exercise of a legitimate and honest calling, would perhaps be the most benefited by pecuniary advances of this kind. It will be borne in mind, that every individual in America, the exceptions being extremely limited, is, in fact, a trader of some sort or other. It matters very little, whether he is removed in his pecuniary resources beyond this necessity, or that his advanced and declining years should reprove his continued restlessness in this respect, and urge him to a quiet and undisturbed repose for the residue of a fretful life, or that the overgrown bulk of an already amassed fortune, should present other objects of more grateful em
467 ployment to his ambition : he ends his days as he had begun, still onward to the latest moment, to increase his worldly store, in the same rugged and untiring path, and with the same zest and steady perseverance that marked his first advance in worldly independence. When no longer able to attend to the more laborious duties of an active mercantile life, he seeks employment in the profitable investment of his capital-speculates on land purchases, city or town lots, that probably he had never seen, with a view merely to their resale at an enlarged profit, at some future day ;--becomes in his turn, a bank director, as also of some trust and railroad company, and at length merges into that honourable and distinctive class of moneychangers, or money-lenders, that in American wording are called “money shavers," with which he identifies himself in feeling, as in conduct and general practice; still clinging to existence with an increased pertinacity, as each hour shortens its duration, from a reluctance to forego the realization of any of his past dreams of imaginary happiness, in the usurious and tortuous profits derivable from this last of his worldly occupations. He is of the chosen, whose early exertions have been rewarded with success, and can afford to hear unmoved, and with a calm and settled stoicism, the tale of untoward difficulty, and unredeemed misfortune, that have overtaken so many of his early compeers. His heart is steeled to every compassionate and generous feeling; he has neither sympathy, nor
friendly solace to impart, having generally outlived the kindlier sensibilities of our common nature, perhaps, the recollection of his own former troubles - the bankruptcy or failure of his first efforts-his early hopes.
Men of this class abound in the United States, and generally compose the élite, the aristocracy of American society—the incongruous conformation of which it is usually shaped and put together; who, fully aware of the influence that increased or augmented riches, (the more especially in the midst. of a purely commercial and trading community, governed by republican institutions, in which property is more equally divided, independent of its means of acquisition), will generally command, affect a superiority over the more intelligent, the virtuous, and because, of their being of the less affluent of their fellow citizens. Whenever the persevering industry of the American trader of restricted means, may lead him in the pursuit of a reasonable independence, he will generally be met on the threshhold of his speculation-thrown back from his exertions, by some one or other of these monied harpies, prepared to outbid him in his enterprise, and filch from him the reward of every patient and profitable undertaking.
The property which these men amass in early life, and that is usually appropriated after this mode, is seldom of advantage to any other of the community; and unlike to, and uninfluenced by the rule, or directed in its disposal by the motive,
469 that generally regulates the distribution of similarly acquired wealth in England, seldom finds its way in any very large proportions, through the same, or other returning channels, to benefit the community, or to encourage the general industry, by increasing the laudable competition of others, struggling in the pursuit of the same acquisition, by any other commendable or assiduous means. Though constituting a large proportion of the higher grades of American society, they, in truth, bear a very invidious contrast with our English aristocracy of birth, of education, or even of wealth, and beside
rrowed selfishness of their general conduct, are oftentimes, the most intolerant and overbearing in their deportment to others, except, it may be, to those whose title to respectability is determined by the same test, and placed beyond surmise in their estimation, from the extent of property-the actual number of dollars within their possession.
The banking institutions of almost every State, are, to a great extent, within their controul and management; and are so nearly identified with their individual proceedings, as almost to appear as if established for the purpose of advancing their mere personal objects, than to aid commerce in its legitimate efforts, or to encourage the industrious and persevering trader of safe, though, perhaps, of limited resources, with occasional or timely accommodation :-for this, after all, is of most difficult procurement in the United States, by any man of restricted capital, no matter the success attending