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Jacksonian Monetary Policy, Specie Flows, And The Panic Of 1837

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  • Rousseau, Peter L.

Abstract

The Panic of 1837 stands among the most severe banking crises in U.S. history, marking the start of a business downturn from which the nation would not recover for six years. Given the serious consequences of the panic for the rapidly evolving commercial and industrial sectors, it is thus not surprising that a number of hypotheses have emerged to disentangle the "true" causes from a host of aggravating domestic and international shocks. To this day, however, the event remains not fully understood. In this paper, I organize previously unexploited information from the U.S. government documents and contemporary newspapers to take a fresh look at the panic. These sources point to a new explanation which places neither the official distribution of the federal surplus to the states in the Spring of 1837 nor an international shock at the heart of the crisis, although the latter may have served as a catalyst in the final weeks. Rather, a series of hitherto unremarked interbank transfers of government balances ordered in the year leading up to the crisis combined with a policy-induced increase in the demand for coin in the Western states to drain the largest New York City banks of their specie reserves and render the panic inevitable.
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Suggested Citation

  • Rousseau, Peter L., 2002. "Jacksonian Monetary Policy, Specie Flows, And The Panic Of 1837," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 457-488, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:62:y:2002:i:02:p:457-488_00
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    1. John W. Kendrick, 1961. "Productivity Trends in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kend61-1, January.
    2. Richard H. Timberlake & Jr., 1960. "The Specie Circular and Distribution of the Surplus," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 68, pages 109-109.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bordo, Michael D., 2012. "Could the United States have had a better central bank? An historical counterfactual speculation," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 597-607.
    2. Peter L. Rousseau, 2013. "Politics on the road to the U.S. monetary union," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 13-00006, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    3. Matthew Jaremski & Peter L. Rousseau, 2013. "Banks, Free Banks, And U.S. Economic Growth," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(2), pages 1603-1621, April.
    4. Kaloyan Ganev, 2014. "Early theories of business cycle and their role on the development of economics," Economic Thought journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 3, pages 39-56.
    5. Edward L. Glaeser, 2013. "A Nation of Gamblers: Real Estate Speculation and American History," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 1-42, May.
    6. Young, Andrew T. & Dove, John A., 2013. "Policing the chain gang: Panel cointegration analysis of the stability of the Suffolk System, 1825–1858," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 182-196.
    7. Zhang, Qunzhi & Sornette, Didier & Balcilar, Mehmet & Gupta, Rangan & Ozdemir, Zeynel Abidin & Yetkiner, Hakan, 2016. "LPPLS bubble indicators over two centuries of the S&P 500 index," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 458(C), pages 126-139.
    8. John Joseph Wallis, 2006. "The Concept of Systematic Corruption in American History," NBER Chapters,in: Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History, pages 23-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Joseph Davis & Marc D. Weidenmier, 2016. "America's First Great Moderation," NBER Working Papers 21856, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Charles W. Calomiris, 2009. "Banking Crises and the Rules of the Game," Working Papers 2009/14, Czech National Bank, Research Department.
    11. Charles W. Calomiris, 2007. "Bank Failures in Theory and History: The Great Depression and Other "Contagious" Events," NBER Working Papers 13597, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. John Joseph Wallis, 2001. "The Property Tax as a Coordinating Device: Financing Indiana's Mammoth Internal Improvement System, 1835 to 1842," NBER Historical Working Papers 0136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Wallis, John Joseph, 2003. "The property tax as a coordinating device: Financing Indiana's Mammoth Internal Improvement System, 1835-1842," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 223-250, July.
    14. Michael D. Bordo & David C. Wheelock, 2004. "Monetary policy and asset prices: a look back at past U.S. stock market booms," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Nov, pages 19-44.
    15. Peter L. Rousseau, 2016. "The Politics of Financial Development: A Review of Calomiris and Haber's Fragile by Design," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(1), pages 208-223, March.
    16. John Joseph Wallis, 2004. "The Concept of Systematic Corruption in American Political and Economic History," NBER Working Papers 10952, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N21 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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