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The suppression of the United States Bank, that during its continuance controlled to some extent these excesses, instead of curtailing the paper circulation of the country, was followed, as we have already shewn, by a very opposite result. Numerous other banks were immediately ushered into a forced and unhealthy existence, to supply the stead of its several branches throughout the Union, that shared the fate of the parent establishment on its dissolution. Some of these were short-lived; those that escaped through the incipient, or early stages of a precarious existence, continued to augment the enlarged or overgrown list of the many already established within the Republic, and that needed the strong arm of power, and a steady watchfulness to control within reasonable limit, or to confine them to the strict measure of their assumed, or acknowledged usefulness.
The banking system in America is regulated on a somewhat diverse principle, and directed by a very different management, than in England; and until lately, when the State of New York set the example, under certain regulations, of a free trade in banking, was entirely conducted by chartered companies, under grants from the several States' legislatures, whenever any of these institutions happened to originate. The laws that are supposed to govern them, are of a very stringent kind; and are made to preserve to each local government, a controlling power over the money circulation of the State, within its separate jurisdiction..
OF THE UNITED STATES.
There is, however, a material difference between the American system of Joint Stock Banking, and that which is recognised in England, under its existing laws. In America, the liabilities of the shareholders, to pay the debts of the firm, in case of bankruptcy, or failure, is limited to the amount of their paid-up capital, and the other general conditions to which they are subject. In England, on the other hand, the law of copartnership renders every shareholder liable in the full extent of his property, for the entire amount of the responsibilities of such institution. The same provisions in this respect, may, however, be made to extend to banking associations in America, by a clause inserted in their articles of agreement, expressly declaring this intended and positive responsibility, and that could scarcely fail to afford some better protection, against the numerous and contingent losses to which the public are so often exposed, under the present system. On the relaxation in the law in the State of New York, and within six months subsequent to the permitting these joint-stock establishments to take effect, thirty-four new banks, with a. capital of 12,319,000 dollars, capable of being increased to 487,680,000, were added to the monied institutions of this State. The number of failures were in an equal proportion, and in two years and a half, exceeded twenty, out of eighty, the entire number of banks of this character.
There is seldom observed any great anxiety for the public accommodation, or its general welfare, in
the chartering of these institutions, that in many instances owe their existence to the political influence and stock-jobbing propensities of their early projectors. The practice, sufficiently frequent in America, of connecting banking privileges, to mere trading, or mercantile firms, such as railroad and canal companies, mining associations, marble and granite, trust and dock companies, and such like, is a system that can scarcely be otherwise than productive of evil consequences to the public at large, in the frequent disastrous effects of their general instability and frequent failure. The uniting the business of banking, always a difficult and complex science in itself-requiring much of experience of forecast, and somewhat more than ordinary prudence in its efficient and beneficial management, with any other calling, is an error, in our judgment, that will scarcely admit of any countervailing advantage as a reasonable excuse in adopting this practice :—while the banking transactions of all such institutions are generally made subordinate to the trading concerns of the company, either to sustain some monopoly, or to secure some selfish, or individual end-frequently at the expense of the community, on whom they are thus so unreasonably imposed.
There is scarcely a town or village in the United States, unblest by one or more of these establishments; inundating the country with their“ promises to pay,”—issuing their notes, even in the restricted amount of one and two-dollar bills, which constitute the principal, we might almost say, the only
circulating medium of the country. Specie of every kind, notwithstanding the very strenuous efforts of the late President Jackson, is of very limited circulation, and mostly confined to the fractional parts of a dollar, of foreign coinage, which are found necessary in the general daily interchange of the retail dealer; whilst in no part of the world is so large an extent of fictitious paper let loose upon the commercial surface. New banks are almost daily added to the overgrown bulk of those already in existence; though scarcely a week passes, without
e one or more of these establishments dying of premature decay, and in their turn, being numbered with the Capulets. The inconvenience, apart from the distress and difficulty,--the positive losses to the many, in some way or other, dependent on these institutions, is incalculable; not to speak of the frequent commercial embarrassments that must follow as a consequent.
It is utterly impossible for a traveller to prosecute his journey-a merchant or trader to conclude the most trifling negotiation, without apprehension of ultimate consequences, or to embark in the most trivial or unimportant business of the day, unless aided in his progress by frequent reference to the last published “ Bank Detector," or record of all lately “broken, fictitious, or doubtful banks,”which constitutes a necessary part of the countinghouse apanage of every merchant and man of business, to assure him, that he is not for the fiftieth time imposed upon by some well-executed
forgery, or else, that the assumed representative of the precious metals, so confidently offered to his acceptance, is not of the issue of some broken, suspended, or fraudulent institution, and now for the first time presented to his acquaintance.
A stranger, in like manner, seeking the temporary accommodation of small change for one of these notes, of one or two dollars, and without being recognised as a general customer, in any shop or store he may present himself for this purpose, or his identity being otherwise ascertained, is oftentimes looked upon with suspicion, while submitting to an unceremonious refusal in almost every instance of such application. To exchange such bill or note, without previous reference to the last printed circular of “ fraudulent, broken, and doubtful banks,” and of those whose notes have been “ forged and in circulation,” as a necessary and prudential measure of antecedent observance, is altogether out of the question ; while the time and trouble of submitting to this routine, and without remuneration, is more than an American can generally spare on the score of mere civility. We have been sometimes sadly inconvenienced on this account, and in one particular instance, recollect having to submit to this annoyance, in an unsuccessful application for the change of a one-dollar bill, in eighteen of the most respectable shops or stores, in the very centre of the business part of the city of New York, (Pearl Street,) and at length, compelled to take the note (a four-andsixpenny affair) of the Franklin Bank of this city,