Note: The following is part of a series of articles looking at the establishment and evolution of the banking system in Georgia and Bulloch County.
The issue of chartering a new Second National Bank of the United States was not popular in the South. Many Southerners hated the idea of another national bank.
When the vote was 81 for and 80 against the bank, Speaker of the House Langdon Cheves, from South Carolina, cast his vote against it. The vote was now tied.
After Congressman Bolling Hall of Georgia asked for a reconsideration, the bill was signed into law by President James Madison in 1816. Hall, now a political pariah, went into retirement.
Second National Bank President William Jones demanded that all other banks pay their debts to the bank in hard currency, because of all the "bad paper" in circulation.
According to one historian, Ralph Catterall, "The President (of the Savannah branch) and Cashier …engaged in ... reprehensible practices."
The Second National Bank allowed Georgia banks only $100,000 in credit, demanded that all debts over that be paid back in specie daily and agreed they could exceed the $100,000 limit only if they paid 6 percent interest.
The president of the Planters Bank complained to Senator Crawford of Georgia that they were being "severely crippled by the measures of the Bank of the United States," which threatened them "with absolute ruin."
State Legislators declared "the Bank … was an interference with her sovereignty … (and) had deprived the state of a circulating medium." Georgia's states' rights members became incensed at the national bank.
The Planters Bank and the Bank of the State of Georgia refused to deal with the Second National Bank. In January 1822, new National Bank president Nicholas Biddle was informed that "not a single deposit (was) made in the Savannah branch."
Catterall recorded, "The entire business of the Georgia office had finally to be suspended." The U.S. Supreme Court then decided in December 1824 that the Second National Bank could sue the Planters Bank for refusing to redeem its notes in specie.
The national bank won the case, so, in 1833, opponents of the SBUS decided to "break the bank" by causing a run at — of all places — the Savannah branch. They quietly began buying up all the outstanding notes of the branch.
Suspicious of the activity, the branch president ordered $200,000 in specie to be shipped to the Savannah branch. One day, a Mr. Clark of New York walked in and presented $173,000 in bank notes for redemption.
Five kegs of silver coins, weighing some 2,500 pounds, were promptly given to Mr. Clark, who then hired a private train car to transport his coins back to New York, and arrange for a small army of guards to keep it secure.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.