"The first bank organized in the United States was the Bank of North America, at Philadelphia, in 1781. This institution was established under the auspices of Mr. Morris, Superintendent of Finance, and a delegate to the Continental Congress from the State of Pennsylvania.
"During the year preceding its incorporation the finances and credit, both of the States and of the Continental Congress, were, as before stated, almost entirely exhausted. In order to procure supplies for the support of the Army, Congress and several of the State Governments had been obliged to have recourse to the issuing of bills of credit, which was the principal circulating medium.
"On May 10th, 1775, soon after the battle of Lexington, Congress made provision to issue Continental paper to circulate as money-$2,000,000 of which were put in circulation, commencing five days after the memorable battle of Bunker Hill.
"From month to month these issues, which in the aggregate reached $350,000,000, depreciated until eventually they became entirely valueless, notwithstanding the laws making them a legal tender for private debts. Until the issues exceeded $9,000,000 Continental currency, according to the concurrent testimony of Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Paine, passed at its nominal value. The depreciation was afterwards very great. In May, 1781, this currency ceased to circulate as money, but was afterwards bought on speculation at various prices, from 400 to 1, up to 1000 to 1. On May 17th, 1781, a plan for a National Bank was submitted to the Continental Congress, the principal provisions of which were as follows: The capital to be $400,000, in shares of $400 each; that there be twelve directors chosen from those entitled to vote, who at their first meeting shall choose one as president; that the directors meet quarterly; that the board be empowered, from time to time, to open new subscriptions for the purpose of increasing the capital of the Bank; statements to be made to the Superintendent of the Finances of America; that the bank notes payable on demand shall by law be made receivable in the duties and taxes of every State, and from the respective States by the Treasury of the United States; that the Superintendent of the Finances of America shall have a right at all times to examine into the affairs of the bank. On May 26th Congress passed the following resolution: 'That Congress do approve of the plan for the establishment of a National Bank in these United States, submitted for their consideration by Mr. E. Morris, May 17th, 1781, and that they will promote and support the same by such ways and means, from time to time, as may appear necesary for the institution and consistent with the public good; that the subscribers to the said bank shall be incorporated agreeably to the principles and terms of the plan under the name of ' The President, Directors and Company of the Bank of North America.' So soon as the subscription shall be filled and the president and directors chosen, an application for that purpose was made to Congress by the president and directors elected.' On December 31st, following, Congress passed 'an ordinance to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of North America.' The first president was Thomas Willing, and the bank formed a most important auxiliary in aid of the finances of the Government to the final conclusion of the war. This institution was incorporated by the State of Pennsylvania on April 18th, 1782. The bank commenced business in
January, 1782, with a capital of $400,000, of which $250,000 was subscribed by the Government. In the year 1785, when an ill-feeling had arisen between the Government of the State of Pennsylvania and the bank, the former repealed the charter which it had granted in 1782. The bank, however, continued its operations under the charter granted by the General Government until in 1787, when it was rechartered by the State of Pennsylvania. It has, from time to time, been rechartered, and in 1865 it was reorganized under the National Bank law, and now has a capital of $1,000,000, and a surplus of the same amount.
"Previous to the time when this bank commenced operations the Continental army became very much reduced, the necessary articles of clothing and provisions could not easily be procured, the soldiers became dissatisfied, and fears were entertained that the campaign must terminate unfavorably, or in a relinquishment of everything for which the American people were then contending. Owing, however, to the timely aid of Mr. Morris and other patriotic citizens, and the support given to the financial department of the Government by the establishment of this bank, confidence was in a great measure restored."