House Executive Documents

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Author: James H. Eckels  | Date: 1895

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The Clearing-House System (1890–1893)

BY COMPTROLLER JAMES H. ECKELS

B. ECKELS’S REPORT,

THE unprecedented condition of the money market from June to September called for extraordinary remedies, not only to avert general disaster to the banks but to prevent commercial ruin. This remedy was the issuing of clearing-house loan certificates, which were brought into use as in 1873, 1884, 1890–’91, by the associated banks of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other cities where needed. The service rendered by them was invaluable, and to their timely issuance by the associated banks of the cities named is due the fact that the year’s record of suspensions and failures is not greatly augmented.

. . . The subject . . . constitutes a very important part of the year’s banking history, and for the additional reason that here and there are to be found those who entertain an entirely erroneous idea of the purpose for which these certificates were issued and what was accomplished by their issuance. Briefly stated, they were temporary loans made by the banks associated together as a clearing-house association, to the members of such association, and were available to such banks only for the purpose of settling balances due from and to each other, these balances under normal conditions of business being always settled in coin or currency. . . .

At a time when vast sums of coin and currency were being withdrawn from the banks, to be hoarded, these loan certificates, by performing the functions of the currency or coin customarily required for settling daily balances at the clearing house, released so much currency or coin to the legitimate and current demands of business and unquestionably placed it within the power of the banks in the cities named to extend to outside banks the aid needed on the one hand and liberally granted on the other. In no instance were these certificates designed to nor did they circulate as money. They were but due-bills and their sole function consisted in discharging the single obligation at the clearing house. An attempt on the part of a bank in any of the associations issuing these certificates to use them otherwise would have incurred a fine anti other penalties provided in the rules governing such associations. Their issuance at so early a date in the financial derangement of the country was most opportune in not only preventing an acute panic, but in tending to restore public confidence, such action demonstrating that by mutual agreement of all, the weak banks of the association would be, so far as depositors and other creditors were concerned, as strong as the strongest. . . .

The following figures, showing the movement and amount of the issue of loan certificates in 1893 in the cities named, will indicate the measure of relief afforded by them:

, 52 Cong., 1 sess. (Washington, 1892), XXIV, No. 3. pt. 1. pp. 12–13 passim; 53 Cong., 2 sess. (Washington, 1895), XXIII, pt. i, No. 3, pt. 1, pp. 15–16 passim.

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Chicago: James H. Eckels, "The Clearing-House System (1890– 1893)," House Executive Documents in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903), Original Sources, accessed December 3, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3Q5I1H1IXD5RWN4.

MLA: Eckels, James H. "The Clearing-House System (1890– 1893)." House Executive Documents, Vol. XXIII, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 4, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1903, Original Sources. 3 Dec. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3Q5I1H1IXD5RWN4.

Harvard: Eckels, JH, 'The Clearing-House System (1890– 1893)' in House Executive Documents. cited in 1903, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 3 December 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3Q5I1H1IXD5RWN4.