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Banks, Politics, and Political Parties: From Partisan Banking to Open Access in Early Massachusetts


  • Qian Lu
  • John Joseph Wallis


The United States was the first nation to allow open access to the corporate form to its citizens. The state of Massachusetts was not only one of the first states to provide its members with legally sanctioned tools to create organizations and enable open access but, on a per capita basis, had many more banks and other corporations than other states as early as the 1820s. Nonetheless, Massachusetts did not open access easily. This paper documents that until 1812, bank charters were only available to members of the Federalist Party in Massachusetts. When the Democratic-Republicans gained control of the state legislature and governor’s mansion in 1811-12, they chartered two new Democratic-Republican banks and threatened to eliminate most of the Federalist bank. The paper documents the close association of politicians and bankers. Before 1811, close to three-quarters of all the bankers we can identify had been or would eventually become a state legislator. The evolving relationships between politics and banking, the eventual opening of banking, and the wealth of bankers are tracked into the 1850s.

Suggested Citation

  • Qian Lu & John Joseph Wallis, 2015. "Banks, Politics, and Political Parties: From Partisan Banking to Open Access in Early Massachusetts," NBER Working Papers 21572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21572
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hilt, Eric & Valentine, Jacqueline, 2012. "Democratic Dividends: Stockholding, Wealth, and Politics in New York, 1791–1826," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(2), pages 332-363, May.
    2. Wallis, John Joseph, 2005. "Constitutions, Corporations, and Corruption: American States and Constitutional Change, 1842 to 1852," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(1), pages 211-256, March.
    3. Warren E. Weber, 2006. "Early state banks in the United States: how many were there and where did they exist?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, vol. 30(Sep), pages 28-40.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G2 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O5 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies

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