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HISTORICAL SKETCHES OF EARLY BANKING.
No. III. The Merchants' Bank in the City of New York. In the year 1803 the only banking institutions in this city were the Bank of New York, the Manhattan Company, and a Branch of the Bank of the United States, wielding together an aggregate capital of 5,550,000 dollars.
In that year a meeting of Merchants and Capitalists was held, and resolutions passed inviting subscriptions to a banking institution under the name of the MERCHANTS' Bank in the City of New York. The amount of capital to be subscribed was limited to $1,250,000, which was immediately filled, and the original subscription list is still in possession of the Bank. The first Board of Directors chosen by the subscribers to manage its concerns, were, OLIVER WOLCOTT,
WYNANT VANZANDT, JR.,
HENRY J. WYCKOFF,
In order to avoid individual liability by the stockholders, the following form of
ank notes was prepared by Peter Jay Munro, Alexander Hamilton and Richard Harrison, counsel of the bank.
" Original capital stock 1,250,000 dollars. The President and Directors of the MERCHANTS’ Bank in the City of New York, promise to pay out of the joint funds or effects thereof, to John Hone, or bearer, on demand, One HUNDRED dollars : but the separate property of the stockholders is not liable; nor are they to be personally responsible, except so far as to cause the joint funds of the company to be applied thereto.--New York, 7th June, 1803.
LYNDE Catlin, Cashier. OLIVER. Wolcott, Presd't." Conditions similar to those contained in the circulating notes were attached to the bank book of each dealer with the bank.
But doubts still existed in the minds of timid stockholders as to their personal liability, and an application was made to the State Legislature for a charter in the winter of 1804.
Not only was this resused, in consequence of the opposition of the city banks and others, but a law was passed commonly called the “Restraining Act," prohibiting associations of this kind from carrying on the business of banking, and only exempting the Merchants’ Bank from its provisions until May, 1805. In April of that year, however, another application for a charter was more successful, and it was granted—but burthened by a bonus to the State of fifty thousand dollars. An additional Act of the Legislature in 1807 authorised the State to subscribe to its capital stock for the benefit of schools and colleges, whereby the State became largely interested in the bank, increasing its capital to $1,490,000, the present amount.
The first charter of the Merchants’ Bank expired in 1818. It was extended in 1813 to 1832; and by a subsequent act continued to 1857. Jis affairs are managed by thirteen directors, of which the Treasurer of the State is one ex-officio.
It has now been established over forty-five years, and has paid to its stockholders during that period, dividends averaging over seven per cent. per annum. The following is a list of its principal officers since its organization: Presidents.
G. B. VROOM.
0. J. CAMMANN. The following additional particulars in the history of this bank will be found interesting:
At the Session of the Legislature of the State of New York in 1805, the associates composing the Merchants’ Bank, applied for a charter. The application was based on the ground that more banking capital was required to facilitate commercial and other business in the City of New York; and that having invested their capital for banking purposes, when by law they had a right so to use it, and having incurred considerable expense in the prosecution of their objects, they claimed from the justice of the Legislature, either an act of incorporation or the privilege of using their money in the manner they were by law authorized to do when they incurred those expenditures. These grounds
would entitle them to some relief. But the leading Representatives from the City of New York in the Legislature, (including De Witt Clinton,) some of whom were largely interested in and Directors of the Manhattan Company, and also several of the most influential republicans of Albany, at the head of whom were John Taylor and Judge Spencer, and who were deeply interested in the State Bank at Albany-warmly opposed this application. They did not ostensibly oppose it, because the increase of banks would diminish the profits of existing institutions; but because they alleged that the public interest did not require an additional bank in the City of New York; and because, as they asserted, the granting of the application would be injurious to the Republican parly, the applicants being of the Federal party. Hence, the Republican or Democratic papers, the American Citizen of New York, and Albany Register, were made to announce that the applicants were “ Federalists and Tories,” and to urge that as a reason why the Republican members of the Legislature ought not to listen to the application
The applicants, finding they were resisted for reasons exclusively of a party character, resorted to such measures as they considered would be effectual, to secure the granting of their charter. According to Hammond's Political History of New York, from which we take these facts, the applicants for the bank appointed as their agent, Isaac Kibbe, a Burrite of some distinction, and for many years afterwards notorious for his services in the Legislative lobby. Through Mr. Kibbe and Ebenezer Purdy of the Senate, it afterwards appeared, as was alleged, that corrupt offers had been made to members of the Legislature, if they would vote for the act incorporating the Merchants’ Bank. The few Federal members who then belonged to the Senate, voted for the Bill. With them Messrs. Purdy, Savage, Hogeboom, Burt, and other Republican or Democratic members voted, so as to make up the number of fifteen in the affirmative, and there were twelve Senators in the negative.
When the Bill came into the Assembly from the Senate, it was taken in charge principally by William W. Van Ness, then a Federal member from the county of Columbia; and afterwards a distinguished Judge of the Supreme Court of the State. After some proceedings were had upon it in that body, and after a question had been taken on the first clause of the Bill, which was adopted by a majority of votes, a conplaint was made that the company had, by their agents, attempted to bribe some of the members of both Houses; and a committee was appointed to inquire into the truth of the charge, consisting of Messrs. Gilbert (of New York,) Livingston, German, McIntyre, Arcularius. Sylvester and Sush. On the motion of one of the Federal members of the House, the committee, after considerable debate, were instructed to inquire if any corrupt means had been used by these and other applicants for bank charters, by which it was no doubt intended to inquire into the means used by the State Bank to obtain its charter; but it does not appear that this branch of the inquiry was undertaken by the committee.
Upon investigation it appeared that the applicants for the charter had offered John Ballard, Gurdon Huntington and Peter Betts, members of
the Legislature, if they would vote for the bank, the right of subscribing for a given number of shares of the institution, with a guarantee that those shares should be purchased of them at an advance of twenty-five. It also appeared that Purdy had attempted to corrupt Stephen Thorn, a Senator, and Obadiah German, an influential member of the Assembly. But notwithstanding these palpable proofs of attempts at corruption, the vote in favor of the Bill on its final passage in the Assembly, was stronger than the vote on its enacting clause. Public opinion in the City of New York was decidedly in favor of the bank and its incorporation. It was also savored by Governor Morgan Lewisand having passed the Council of Revision, became a law.
Mr. Hammond, in the work referred to, (Political History of New York,) remarks, that he believes the applications to incorporate the State Bank of Albany, and the Merchants’ Bank of New York, were meritorious, and ought, standing on their own merits, to have been granted; and that the error consisted in permitting those interested in banks to make a political question of a matter not properly such, with a view to subserve their own individual interests.
The connection of the Merchants’ Bank and other similar city institutions, with the passage and operating of the Safety Fund Act, will be noticed in a future article.
GOOD AND BAD LUCK.-I may here, as well as anywhere, impart the secret of what is called good and bad luck. There are men who, supposing Providence to have an implacable spite against them, bemoan, in the poverty of a wretched old age, the misfortunes of their lives. Luck for ever ran against them, and for others. One with a good profession, lost his luck in the river, where he idled away his time a-fishing, when he should have been in the office. Another, with a good trade, perpetually burnt up his luck by his hot temper, which provoked all his employers to leave him. Another, with a lucrative business, lost his luck by amazing diligence at every thing but his business. Another, who steadily followed his trade, as steadily followed his bottle. Another, who was honest and constant to his work, erred by perpetual misjudgments—he lacked discretion. Hundreds lose their luck by indorsing, by sanguine speculations, by trusting fraudulent men, and by dishonest gains. A man never has good luck who has a bad wife. I never knew an early-rising hard-working prudent man, careful of his earnings, and strictly honest, who complained of bad luck. A good character, good habits, and iron industry, are impregnable to the assaults of all the ill luck that fools ever dreamt of. But when I see a tatterdemalion creeping out of a tavern late in the forenoon, with his hands stuck into his pockets, the rim of his hat turned up, and the crown knocked in, I know he has had bad luck-for the worst of all luck is to be a sluggard, a knave, or a tippler.—Lectures to Young Men, by H. W. Beecher.
PRODUCTIONS AND CAPITAL OF THE U. S.
From the New Orleans Commercial Times.
In examining the resources of our country, no single object-indeed no half dozen objects—should determine the estimate. The whole field of labor and capital should be carefully surveyed, to ascertain its production, on the best evidence at command.
Previously to 1840 no regular effort had been made to obtain a statistical view of the pursuits and property of our people; but, with the census of that year, a mass of information was ordered to be taken, which has since formed the basis of reports and dissertations upon our national industry. We have drawn from this common storehouse the data on which a statement of the agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and general condition of the United States, comparatively, has been prepared. The rule adopted in arriving at the amounts in our tables, has been to add twenty-five per cent. on the returns of 1840, as that is the generally supposed increase of population within the last eight years, and of course the proper ratio of the productive energies of the country. Our plan is designed to be intelligible to all. The matter collected is a fair representation of our annual products from the soil, and in part from machinery. Much labor has been bestowed in the preparation of the tables below, as may be inferred from the nature of the work. Under the head of "crops” thirteen articles are included, on each of which the value has been adjusted to the several States, with the necessary advance on the same items, as they were reported in 1840; thus affording the approximate value of the crop of 1818, together with the sums invested in manufactures and merchandise, respectively. In making up the 6 Crops” in our table, prices have been assumed as follows : Cotion at 6 cents per pound; 4; rice 3; tobacco 7. Wheat 60 cents per bushel; corn 30; barley oats 25; rye 40; buckwheat 50; and potatoes 30 cents. Hay $10 and hemp and flax $50 per ton. These are the home prices, before transportation to market, and apply to the first column of the following table : Estimated value of the Crops of 1848, and the sums invested in Manufactures
and Merchandise in each State.
Crops. Manufactures. Merchandise. Maine,
$13,000,000 $ 10,000,000 $5,000,000 New Hampshire,
9,000,000 12,000,000 3,000,000 Massachusetts,
11,000,000 52,000,000 16,000,000 Rhode Island,
1,500,000 13,000,000 4,000,000 Connecticut,
9,000,000 17,000,000 8,000,000 Vermont,
15,000,000 5,000,000 4,000,000 New York,
79,000,000 69,000,000 53,000,000 New Jersey,
11,000,000 14,000,000 5,000,000 Pennsylvania,
55,000,000 50,000,000 45,000,000 Delaware,
1,800,000 2,000,000 1,300,000 Maryland,
10,000,000 8,000,000 13,000,000 Virginia,
38,000,000 13,000,000 21,000,000 North Carolina,
19,000,000 5,000,000 6,000,000