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1791-1824: We forge a nation where the people rule

Does the Constitution permit the new government to establish a National Bank?

No sooner had the ink dried on the Constitution than disagreements arose about how to interpret it. Some, following Alexander Hamilton, argued that the Constitution gave Congress the power to charter a national bank. Others, following Thomas Jefferson, said Congress had no such authority.


LINDA: If we expect to function as a nation, then we need a national bank.

JOHN: The ink is barely dry on the Constitution and you’re already trying to expand federal powers beyond anything the states agreed to. The federal government has only those powers specified in the Constitution and there’s no provision for a bank in there.

LINDA: The federal government can collect taxes, where’s it going to put the money? The National shoebox under the National mattress? It’s true that there’s no specific mention of a National Bank in the Constitution, but it does say that Congress can do what’s necessary and proper to do its job.

JOHN: Necessary and proper to do only what Congress is specifically allowed to do. Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists think that necessary and proper means anything whatsoever. Well, it doesn’t. It’s like Thomas Jefferson says, that if we don’t hold the federal government to the strict limits set by the Constitution, the federal government won’t have any limits. We’ll be right back where we started, with England and Parliament. A national government in some far off place, trampling on our liberty.

LINDA: What is so unnecessary or improper about creating a bank to keep the governments money? Or to loan that money to citizens to help finance business, making the whole country stronger and more prosperous.

JOHN: Who do you think is going to get those loans? Friends of the people who run the government, that’s who! The fastest way to a corrupt government is a National Bank. That’s why the Constitution didn’t authorize one in the first place. Jefferson is right, our county’s liberty and prosperity will only grow if our economy is driven by farmers, producing real goods we can export to the world.

LINDA: Alright, you and Jefferson can have your farmers’ paradise in Virginia, but you’ve got no right to keep the rest of us poor and backwards too. We need more than farms to be prosperous and free, we need the ability to finance our own American businesses and it is necessary and proper that the American government be strong enough to make that happen. The Constitution has to be a source of strength for the national government not just limits.

JOHN: Everyone knows that this National Bank is just the beginning for Hamilton and the Federalists’ broad use of the necessary and proper clause in the Constitution. It’ll only make a monster out of the federal government with no respect for the rights or sovereignty of the states.

LINDA: Well if we’re trying to be one nation then a government that lets a few farming states ensure the economic ruin of the rest of us, is no national government at all.

JOHN: And a federal government with the power to do anything it wants is just a tyrant in disguise.

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