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

(1791)

Impact

Historians have typically sided with Hamilton in regard to the national bank, either because they agree with his interpretation of the Constitution or owing to the perceived benefits of stabilizing the currency and funding the national debt. Hamilton's proposals were far from radical, as the British had a national bank, and a similar institution had been created under the Articles of Confederation. Nonetheless, many Americans considered these policies to be “un-American,” and some politicians insisted that Hamilton was overly fascinated with British forms because he was an Anglophile.

The passage of the bank bill affected American politics in two ways. First, it provided a forum in which manners of constitutional interpretation were widely discussed. Neither Hamilton nor Jefferson conceded his argument, and their political descendants continued to defend their positions for decades to come. More significantly, the debate on the bank bill polarized national politics and...

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

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