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The First Wall StreetChestnut Street, Philadelphia, and the Birth of American Finance$
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Robert E. Wright

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780226910260

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226910291.001.0001

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Hamilton's Vision

Hamilton's Vision

(p.66) 5 Hamilton's Vision
The First Wall Street
University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses how, to help ensure the stability of the dollar, Hamilton established the Bank of the United States, the nation's second “central bank,” charged with implementing the government's monetary policy. Taxes and debts were the two great bugaboos of early American politics, both combining to foment the revolution and then the movement for the Constitution. Due to the volatile interest rates and deteriorating balance sheets that had confronted them in the colonial and revolutionary periods, late eighteenth-century Americans feared and disdained debt of any sort. They knew firsthand that when interest rates jumped, the value of their assets—land as well as bonds—plummeted, ripping their net worth to pieces and exposing them to runs by liability holders. Under such circumstances, it was best not to have any liabilities, any debts, outstanding. Early Americans also hated taxes, as much as we do today if not more so. Taxes that had to be paid in cash—specie or bills of credit—were particularly onerous because cash was often in short supply.

Keywords:   dollar, banks, revolution, taxes, cash

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