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The Suffolk Banking System reconsidered

Author

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  • Arthur J. Rolnick
  • Warren E. Weber

Abstract

The best-known example of a privately created and well-functioning interbank payments system is the Suffolk Banking System. Operating in New England between 1825 and 1858, it was the first regionwide net-clearing system for bank notes in the United States. Some historians portray the System as being owned and managed by a coalition of large Boston banks in order to achieve a public purpose. They argue that while the System was not particularly profitable, it maintained par circulation of bank notes throughout the region. We reconsider this history and find the public-purpose view of the Suffolk Banking System to be specious. The System was owned and operated solely by the Suffolk Bank. It was operated not to promote a common currency or any other public purpose, but to serve the private interests of the Suffolk Bank’s shareholders, which it did quite successfully.

Suggested Citation

  • Arthur J. Rolnick & Warren E. Weber, 1998. "The Suffolk Banking System reconsidered," Working Papers 587, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmwp:587
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Arthur J. Rolnick & Bruce D. Smith & Warren E. Weber, 1998. "Lessons from a laissez-faire payments system: the Suffolk Banking System, 1825-58," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 105-116.
    2. Shambaugh, Jay C., 2006. "An experiment with multiple currencies: the American monetary system from 1838-60," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 609-645, October.
    3. Laurent Le Maux, 2004. "L'émergence d'une banque supérieure sous le régime de la liberté bancaire," Recherches économiques de Louvain, De Boeck Université, vol. 70(2), pages 193-221.

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    Keywords

    Suffolk Banking System;

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