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notice of the illegal issue by the Bank of Wisconsin of these notes of a less denomination than five dollars is copied from the Green Bay Democrat.
3. Stay of Execution.
In his inaugural message to the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Wisconsin delivered on Nov. 7, 1837, the Governor (Henry Dodge) urged' that a bill be passed allowing the Stay of Executions for one year. In closing his discussion of this topic of his message he says: “Debts have been created, when bank notes of different banks were in general circulation in this Territory, by many of the most industrious and enterprising citizens who no doubt believed they would be able promptly to meet their engagements.” The bill failed to pass at this session although it was taken up for consideration several times.
4. Public Opinion in Regard to Banks.
The opinions of the people at this period in reference to banks seems to have been divided, irrespective of the lines of the party politics, into three classes: Those opposed to the granting of charters to private corporations for banking purposes, but in favor of a well-guarded system of free banks based upon sound financial principles; those not entirely in favor of the prevailing bank system, but who believed that carefully drawn charters should be granted to furnish a sound currency by the means of responsible banks located at home; those utterly opposed to any kind of paper currency and who wished for no other circulating medium than silver and gold. A typical statement from among the many found in the publications of this time is that of a writer under the pseudonym of “Interloper." He felt satisfied from the various signs of the times that a new era would soon commence in this country in relation to banking; and felt that public sentiment was rapidly changing on this
I See Inaugural Message, p. 3.
2 Published by request in Iowa News of January 18, 1837. First published in Milwaukee Advertiser.
subject, and that it would only be a short time until banking monopolies, “begotten by avarice, born in corruption and matured by fraud, which now throng the country, would be swept into oblivion; and a free banking system based on real capital and real responsibility will fill the void.” In this communication he stated that remonstrances against "our bank bill” had been generally signed by the busicess men and citizens, petitioning Congress to refuse its approval of it; and if this should be done, it would render some aid in producing "this desirable result in our young and growing Territory.” From this class and from the third class mentioned above, there were very many signers to the shower of remonstrances poured in upon Congress against its approval of the charter of the Miners' Bank of Dubuque, the Bank of Milwaukee and the Bank of Mineral Point.
The results, in part, of the second class is shown in the attempts to pass other and more carefully guarded charters such as that of the bill to incorporate the Iowa Bank in the First Legislative Assembly, 1836; and the bills to incorporate The Bank of Burlington and The Bank of Racine in 1837; and which produced the more conservative charter of The Bank of Wisconsin, located at Prairie Du Chien, which required one-sixth of the subscriptions to be paid in specie, and provided that the corporation could not contract debts to a greater amount than twice the amount of the actually paid up capital stock; the most prominent clause of all was that in regard to the "safety fund.”
The third class might have chosen for their spokesman John H. Baker, candidate to fill vacancy in the House of Representatives, who closes his “Card to the Voters" with the following sentence: "I am opposed to the whole banking system, believing that we have no use for any better money than gold and silver."
Presented to Congress January 1, 1837. 2 Approved January 17, 1838. 3 Iowa News, July 1, 1837.
5. Character of the Paper Money in Circulation,
In the early portion of 1838, meetings of the business men and citizens were held in the different towns to consider the state of the currency, and to fix the rate of discount at which the so-called “good bills" would be received in commercial transactions. The results of the meetings held at Galena, although without the Territory but immediately adjoining it, may be taken as an example. The first public meeting was held on January 29, 1838, and a committee was appointed to report about two weeks later the discounts at which the various bank bills would be received in trade. The rates of discount were: "At ten per cent., the notes of the Farmers' & Mechanics’ Bank of Detroit, State Bank of Michigan, Farmers' and Mechanics' of St. Joseph; at fifteen per cent., the notes of the Bank of River Raisin, Erie & Kalamazoo, Clinton, Ypsilanti, Calhoun, St. Clair, Tecumseh, Washtenaw, Constantine, Macomb, Green Bay, Lake Erie & River Raisin R. R. Co., all other banks of Michigan and Wisconsin twentyfive per cent.; and the notes of all other Banks not receivable in the Galena Branch of the Illinois State Bank at ten per cent. discount.”
Not only was this portion of the Territory deluged at this time with innumerable counterfeits of various banks, including a large issue of counterfeits on the State Bank of Indiana, but also with a countless number of forged notes and notes of banks with no legal existence. An example of this last class even sprang into existence within the boundaries of this Territory. One sentence, in one of the many notices, in regard to the issues of this bank, The Prairie Du Chien Ferry Co. Bank, conveys to the modern reader a vivid idea of one of the queer financial views of this time. The sentence referred to is: “We have seen a bill purporting to be on the •Prairie Du Chien Ferry Co. Bank,' but we do not know
1 Iowa News, February 17, 1838. 2 Iowa News, March 31, 1838.
whether the persons' who sign these bills as President and Cashier are men of property or not; yet, the safest plan will be to refuse them.”
A newspaper advertisement of one of the merchants of Dubuque, inserted in the lowa News of April 14, 1838, shows some of the peculiarities of the currency of the time, and the light in which it was viewed, at least by one merchant:
Than perish in the danger we may shun. My specie traps and Benton bullets being exhausted, I became overpowered with “Wild Cat,' and in my own defense have shut the doors of my menagerie.
Now that I have got the animal conquered, those of my old friends and customers who are in debt to me will please favor me with a few more specimens of the breed. In the future, however, I will prefer the Sucker, Puke or Hoosier Tame Cat, and occasionally one of the old domestic species of Buckeye or Corncracker. In a few days my doors will be thrown open to public patronage, but I will never again entrust my person or property to those crazy animalculae imported over the mountains or lakes. The far fetched I leave to ladies.
CHARLES CORKERY. April 14, 1838.
In April, 1838, the circulation of the northern portion of Wisconsin Territory was made up almost wholly of the notes of the banks organized under the general banking law of Michigan. The Bank Commissioners, who had been appointed, were diligent in the performance of their duties and had reported among the long list of the banks that had forfeited all claims to public confidence the Bank of Manchester and Jackson County Bank. The notes of these two banks had constituted the principal portion of the circulation of Dubuque County up to this time.
neveroors Pics Of Bome
I "A bank was started this year (1837) called the Prairie Du Chien Ferry Co. Bank. Handsome bills were issued. George W. Pine, President. H. W. Savage, Cashier. It did not circulate well here, as it had no charter. It did less damage than most of the wild cat institutions of that day." P. 12, Annals of Prairie Du Chien, by S. Burrie.
2 Senate Exec. Doc. No. 38, 52d Cong. 2d Session, p. 34.
The Miners' Bank of Dubuque had put a large amount of these notes in circulation. Of these notes given out to its customers it had been redeeming some with current notes of banks, and receiving some on debts due the bank. By these two methods it had already redeemed the larger part of this depreciated money, with which it had been largely instrumental in flooding the channels of trade.
St. Louis bankers and merchants, at this time, refused all kinds of bank notes except those of Illinois, and the general tenor of public opinion was that even this bank would not long retain its credit. For it had commenced operations in a manner unsatisfactory to many of the people, and had issued notes to a very large amount, and by means of legislation, that many deemed corrupt, it had been able to suspend specie payment for eighteen months. And the general opinion seemed to be that notwithstanding the interest on this large amount of “Suspended specie payment notes,” that it was probable that it would yet be forced into the footsteps of the banks of Michigan.
By the middle of June,' the Mineral Point Bank gave notice that it would take the notes of the Bank of Milwaukee, as a specie paying bank; and by this time the general opinion seems to have crystalized into such a shape as to lead the people to believe that the banks of Wisconsin Territory were upon as sound a basis as the State Bank of Illinois. Of this opinion they were to be disabused, at least in part, a little later.
According to the Burlington correspondent of the Iowa News, the people of that city were still heaping maledictions upon the unfortunate head of the Secretary of the Territory because he had at the close of the last session of the Legislative Assembly paid out a large amount of these Jackson County and Manchester Bank bills. Over seven thousand dollars of them had been paid to residents of the city, a large portion of that amount was still there with the likelihood of remaining permanently unless he would redeem them.
1 Iowa News, June 16, 1838. 1 Ibid.