George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 12 February 1791

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia Feby 12th 1791


I had arranged a course of animadversions to be transmitted to you, on the expediency of the Bank-bill—but after the recollection of the two conversations, which I have had the honor of holding with you on this subject, I am uncertain whether its expediency constitutes a part of your enquiry from me. If it should be your pleasure, that I should enter into this branch of the question, I can accomplish it on the notice of a few hours.

The enclosed observations No. 1. go as far as I am able to discover, to the substance of the dispute. They arise from an examination of the Constitution itself.

There is indeed a minor class of arguments against the Bill, which I have received through the public prints & other sources of communication. There is also an inferior order of Arguments in favor of the bill, obtained thro’ the same channels, both descriptions are destitute of influence on my mind but lest I may have depreciated them below their value, I have resolved to state them to you in the paper No. 2. I have the honor sir, to be with the greatest respect Your Mo: Obedt Servt

Edmd Randolph


Alexander Hamilton’s report on further provisions for establishing the public credit, recommending the establishment of the Bank of the United States, was received by the House of Representatives on 14 Dec. 1790 (see Hamilton to GW, 13 Dec. 1790). On 23 Dec. 1790 the report was sent to the Senate, which appointed a committee to prepare a bill. Caleb Strong introduced a bill to incorporate the subscribers to the bank on 3 Jan. 1791, and after debate and amendment this bill was passed by the Senate on 20 Jan. 1791. The House of Representatives received the Senate bill on 21 Jan. and debated the measure from 31 Jan. to 8 Feb., when the bill was agreed to by a vote of 39 to 20. It was signed by the speaker of the house and the vice-president on 12 Feb. and transmitted to the president for his signature on 14 Feb. 1791 (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 4:171–73).

During the congressional debates James Madison and other opponents of the bill contended that the Constitution did not authorize Congress to establish such a bank. GW and Randolph discussed the issue, apparently on two occasions, probably between 8 Feb. and 11 Feb. 1791; on one of these occasions GW asked Randolph to prepare a written opinion. After receiving Randolph’s opinion GW solicited a written opinion from Thomas Jefferson (see Jefferson to GW, 15 Feb. 1791). Since both men argued against the constitutionality of the bank, GW referred their opinions to Hamilton for his response (see GW to Hamilton, 16 Feb. 1791).

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