SOME years ago at a banquet given by the Bankers' Association of the District of Columbia, I sat next to an eminent jurist of the District Bar. During the course of the evening our conversation drifted to the subject of the Currency Bureau and its management, and after relating to him some of the difficulties and situations which frequently confront the Comptroller of the Currency in his supervision of the national banks, he remarked that there must have come to my knowledge during my long connection with the service many incidents similar to those related which would make a very interesting narrative if assembled in book form.
This suggestion, therefore, is responsible for the publication of this volume, and is my apology for writing it. It is not an essay on banking and currency, nor a discussion of financial or economic theories. It is simply a narrative of events of more or less importance and interest in the history of the National Currency Bureau with some original deductions and comments. It contains many unvarnished truths, plainly told, with no attempt at literary excellence. It deals with men and measures, methods and motives in connection with the administration of the bureau, with no intention of contrasting one administration with another or of drawing invidious distinctions between them. It endeavors to right some wrongs where injustice has been done and to correct some erroneous impressions as to the powers and duties of the Comptroller of the Currency.
THOMAS P. KANE Deputy Comptroller of the Currency.
In May, 1886, I was tendered and accepted the position of Secretary to the Comptroller of the Currency, by William L. Trenholm, of South Carolina, who a month previously had been appointed Comptroller. I was sworn in and entered upon the discharge of my duties May 16, 1886.
Thus began a period of service in the Bureau of the Currency, which continued uninterruptedly for more than thirty-six years, undisturbed by political or other changes in Federal, departmental or bureau administration.
What little measure of success I may have attained in the bureau with which I have been connected so long, I owe wholly to a faithful and conscientious discharge, to the best of my ability, of such duties as were assigned to me from time to time in the various positions which I held, and to an appreciation of my services by all of the official superiors under whom I have had the honor to serve, and whose confidence and esteem, I am proud to say, I possessed to the fullest extent during their respective terms of office and since their retirement from the service, with a single exception.
It has been my privilege and my pleasure to know personally every Comptroller of the Currency from Hugh McCulloch, who organized the bureau in 1863, and was its first Comptroller, down to the present Comptroller, Mr. Crissinger, with the exception of Freeman Clarke and Hiland R. Hulburd, the second and third Comptrollers, and to have served five of them in the confidential capacity of secretary. These five were William L. Trenholm, Edward S. Lacey, A. Barton Hepburn, James H. Eckels and Charles G. Dawes - two Democrats and three Republicans. Upon the recommendation of Mr. Dawes, I was appointed Deputy Comptroller on June 29, 1899, to succeed Lawrence O. Murray.
When Mr. Murray resigned as Deputy Comptroller, Mr. Dawes, who was then Comptroller, was absent in the West. Some of the chiefs of division and others connected with the Comptroller's office were applicants for the place, and requested me to recommend them to Mr. Dawes for appointment to the vacancy. I wrote to Mr. Dawes at Chicago, advising him of Mr. Murray's resignation, who were applicants for the vacancy, and what I knew of their relative merits and qualifications. The only reply I received from him was a request to ask Mr. Murray not to make public his resignation until he returned to Washington. The morning following Mr. Dawes' return I met one of the applicants in the corridor of the Treasury Department, who had spent the evening before at Mr. Dawes' house and inquired of him who was to be the new deputy. He replied that while he knew, he was not at liberty to say, but that I would learn as soon as Mr. Dawes came to the office. When Mr. Dawes arrived at the office he said to me on entering the room: "Get me a stenographer, I want to dictate a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury." As I had always done his stenographic correspondence I thought the request unusual, but sent for one of the office stenographers. Mr. Dawes commenced his letter to the Secretary by informing him of the resignation of Mr. Murray and concluded by recommending me for the vacancy. I was completely surprised when I heard my name mentioned, and told Mr. Dawes that I was not an applicant for the place and had not thought of myself in connection with it. He replied that that was one of the reasons why he had recommended me, and the other was that he believed me to be better qualified for the place than any one of those who had applied for it.
This brief narrative of how I became connected with the Bureau of the Currency and my subsequent advancement grade by grade to the second position in rank in the bureau, many times and for long periods acting as its head, is not presented in any spirit of egotism, but simply as an introduction to what follows in the line of reminiscences of the bureau and a discussion of the principal events of each administration since the establishment of the national banking system, viewed at short range from the vantage ground of the opportunities afforded by thirty-six years' connection with the Comptroller's office, a close association with nine Comptrollers, and a personal acquaintance with all of the Comptrollers but two since the Currency Bureau was established.
THOMAS P. KANE.
Washington, October, 1922.