Economics thru the Long History of America's First Bank
Capitalism and the American nation have long been bedfellows; after all, they are both the children of eighteenth century Neo-Classical Liberalism. It is worth noting that both the “Declaration of Independence” and Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” were presented to the public in the same fateful year of 1776.
However, the America of Revolutionary days certainly was neither the financial nor business force that it is today, and understanding how the nation came to be so closely linked to capital is an important understanding. This is why this Unit Plan draws heavily on the Bank of North America collection a the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. A wide range of primary sources have been selected and digitized to represent the hundreds of volumes of bank material held at HSP.
Through the manuscripts, images, and financial data in the Bank of North America collection, high school students of Economics, History, and/or Government can come to terms with the capitalistic development of America.
What were the Founders’ opinions of banking in America?
How were financial institutions created?
What can be said about financial history and the consequences of war, epidemics, and politics?
Lessons on a variety of U.S. History, Government, and Economics topics have been developed in order to encourage students to think critically, engage primary source materials, and develop their own opinions on personal finance, commerce, and especially banking in America.
These lessons were created with a special focus on the Bank of North America collection, consisting of more than 650 volumes of material. Many sources were selected and then digitized in order to be used in these lesson plans. They are listed below, with the understanding that teachers might find different uses than that which was originally intended.
Primary Sources relating to the Founding of the Bank of North America
Primary Sources relating to the Bank's 1785 Charter Controversy
A letter from Thomas Paine to Bank President Thomas Willing
James Wilson, Considerations on the Bank of North-America
Bonus primary source! An Address to the Assembly of Pennsylvania on the Abolition of the Bank of North-America
Primary Source relating to the Yellow Fever Epidemic
A Memorandum Book recording minutes from the Bank of North America’s Board of Directors during the Yellow Fever epidemic (Vol 3).
Primary Sources Relating to the Civil War
Money in the Bank's Collection
Paper currency examples from HSP's Bank of North America Collection
Cause and Effect
How does continuity and change within the United States history influence your community today?
How has social disagreement and collaboration been beneficial to American society?
What does it mean to be a United States citizen, and what is your role in the history of the world?
What role do multiple causations play in describing a historic event?
What role does analysis have in historical construction?
Why is time and space important to the study of history?
Historical literacy prepares one for participation as active, critical citizens in a democratic society.
Historical comprehension involves evidence-based discussion and explanation, an analysis of sources including multiple points of view, and an ability to read critically to recognize fact from conjecture and evidence from assertion.
Historical causation involves motives, reasons and consequences that result in events and actions. Some consequences may be impacted by forces of the irrational or the accidental.
Historical skills - organizing information chronologically, explaining historical issues, locating sources and investigate materials, synthesizing and evaluating evidence, and developing arguments and interpretations based on evidence – are used by an analytical thinker to create a historical construction.
Textual evidence, material artifacts, the built environment, and historic sites are central to understanding United States history.
Long-term continuities and discontinuities in the structures of United States society provide vital contributions to contemporary issues. Belief systems and religion, commerce and industry, innovations, settlement patterns, social organization, transportation and trade, and equality are examples continuity and change.
Conflict and cooperation among social groups, organizations, and nation-states are critical to comprehending society in the United States. Domestic instability, ethnic and racial relations, labor relation, immigration, and wars and revolutions are examples of social disagreement and collaboration.
Analyze the interaction of cultural, economic, geographic, political and social relations for a specific time and place.
Articulate the context of a historical event or action.
Evaluate cause-and-result relationships bearing in mind multiple causations.
Contrast multiple perspectives of individuals and groups in interpreting other times, cultures and places.
Analyze a primary source for accuracy and bias and connect it to a time a place in United States history.
Apply the theme of continuity and change in United States history and relate the benefits and drawbacks of your example.
Summarize how conflict and compromise in United States history impacts contemporary society.
Analyze how a historically important issue in the United States was resolved and evaluate what techniques and decisions may be applied today.
Background Material for Teacher
From the Wells Fargo "Guided by History" Blog ...
Ryan Baum, Bank of North America: America's First Bank (16 April 2010)
Relevant Books available online ...
A History of the Bank of North America by Lawrence Lewis (Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott, 1882
A History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II by Murray N. Rothbard (Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2002)
Legislative and Documentary History of the Bank of the United States: Including the Original Bank of North America complied by M. St. Clair Clarke and D.A. Hall (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1832)
Relevant JSTOR articles ...
The Bank of North America and Robert Morris's Management of the Nation's First Fiscal Crisis Elizabeth M. Nuxoll Business and Economic History Vol. 13, Papers presented at the thirtieth annual meeting of the Business History Conference (1984) , pp. 159-170 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23702711
Thomas Willing (1731-1821): Philadelphia Financier and Forgotten Founding Father Robert E. Wright Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies Vol. 63, No. 4 (Autumn 1996) , pp. 525-560 Published by: Penn State University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27773931
Bank Ownership and Lending Patterns in New York and Pennsylvania, 1781-1831 Robert E. Wright The Business History Review Vol. 73, No. 1 (Spring, 1999) , pp. 40-60 Published by: The President and Fellows of Harvard College Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3116100
A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: ISAAC WHARTON AND THE BANK OF NORTH AMERICA James D. Anderson Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies Vol. 49, No. 1 (January, 1982) , pp. 48-59 Published by: Penn State University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27772792
Artisans, Banks, Credit, and the Election of 1800 Robert E. Wright The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 122, No. 3 (Jul., 1998) , pp. 211-239 Published by: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20093220
Legal Privilege and the Bank of North America M. L. Bradbury The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 96, No. 2 (Apr., 1972) , pp. 139-166 Published by: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20090621
Relevant Dissertations ...
"The Bank of North America and the transformation of political ideology in early national Pennsylvania." Hans Louis Eicholz, University of California, Los Angeles, Ph.D. 1992 dissertation.
"The Sources and Early Development of the Hostility to Banks in Early American Thought." George David Rappaport, New York University Ph.D. 1970 dissertation
End of Unit Assessment
Since this “unit” engages in multiple disciplines (especially history, government/civics, and economics), it would perhaps be most beneficial to fit a specific lesson into a teacher's pre-existing unit instead of judging a student’s overall performance based off of these 10 lessons altogether. Therefore, reflection questions and other forms of formal and/or informal assessment have been included in each specific lesson.
Plans in this Unit
Common Core Standards:
In Partnership with:
Wells Fargo Bank
About the Author
Leo J. Vaccaro, the Wells Fargo Teacher Fellow, completed these lessons in the Summer of 2015. Vaccaro is a high school teacher, currently working at St. Joseph's Preparatory School in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter: @MrVaccaro1
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