Nevertheless, all went well until the British came up Chesapeake Bay and burned Washington. Then the banks in that part of the country boxed up all their gold and silver and sent it away, lest the British should get it. This forced them to “suspend specie payments”; that is, refuse to give gold or silver in exchange for their own paper. As soon as they suspended, others did the same, till in a few weeks every one along the seaboard from Albany to Savannah, and every one in Ohio, had stopped paying coin. The New England banks did not suspend.
%289. No Small Change.%—The consequences of the suspension were very serious. In the first place, all the small silver coins, the dimes, half dollars, and quarter dollars, disappeared at once, and the people were again forced to do as they had done in 1789, and use “ticket money.” All the cities and towns, great and small, printed one, two, three, six and one fourth, twelve and one half, twenty-five, and fifty-cent tickets, and sold them to the people for bank notes. Steamboats, stagecoaches, and manufacturing companies, merchants, shopkeepers—in fact, all business men—did the same.
In the second place, as the banks would not exchange specie for their notes, people who did not know all about a bank would not take its bills except at very much less than their face value. That is, a dollar bill of a Philadelphia bank was not worth more than ninety cents in paper money at New York, and seventy-five cents at Boston. This state of things greatly increased the cost of travel and business between the states, and prevented the government using the money collected at the seaports in the East to pay debts due in the West.
[Footnote 1: McMaster’s History, Vol. IV., pp. 280-318.]
%290. The Second Bank of the United States.%—Lest this state of affairs should occur again, Congress, exercising its constitutional “power to regulate the currency,” chartered a second National Bank in 1816, and modeled it after the old one. Again the parent bank was at Philadelphia; but the capital was now $35,000,000. Again the public money might be deposited in the bank and its branches, which could be established wherever the directors thought proper. Again the bank could issue paper money to be received by the government in payment of taxes, land, and all debts.
The Republicans had always denied the right of Congress to charter a bank. But the question was never tested until 1819, when Maryland attempted to collect a tax laid on the branch at Baltimore. The case reached the Supreme Court of the United States, which decided that a state could not tax a corporation chartered by Congress; and that Congress had power to charter anything, even a bank.
1. The census returns of 1790 showed that population was going west along three highways.
2. As a result of this movement, Vermont (1791), Kentucky (1792), Tennessee (1796), and Ohio (1803) entered the Union.