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Marc Levinson

First U.S. Bank Regulations May Look Strikingly Familiar

One hundred fifty years ago, the U.S. was two years into a brutal Civil War. The financial cost left the federal government under enormous stress, leading to a result no one had imagined: the first modern system of bank regulation.

Before Congress passed An Act to Provide a National Currency on Feb. 25, 1863, government oversight of banking had been quite crude. The Second Bank of the United States, chartered by Congress in 1816 and 20 percent owned by the federal government, functioned in some ways like a central bank. At the time, there was no national currency, and most banks issued notes that were accepted as money.