Thomas Jefferson: “Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank”

(1791)

The Bank of the United States, commented on by Thomas Jefferson in his “Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank” in 1791, was one of the keystones of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s plan for refinancing the Revolutionary War debt of the United States of America. After weeks of heated congressional debate that included questions about the proposed bank’s constitutionality, President George Washington requested statements from Hamilton and from the secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, who opposed the bank. Hamilton justified the bank by broadly construing the constitutional powers of Congress. Jefferson, however, rejected Hamilton’s argument by claiming that the ratified Constitution created a federal government that was strictly limited in its political and financial power.

The statements of these two respected political minds encapsulated the growing legal gulf that separated advocates of “loose construction” from those who supported a “strict...

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Jefferson's ”Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank“ (National Archives and Records Administration)

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