During the first administration of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton debated exactly what the Framers meant when they wrote "the necessary and proper clause" into the Constitution. Did the clause permit Congress to establish a national bank? Jefferson said, "no," and Hamilton said, "yes." Washington sided with Hamilton and signed the Congressional legislation. The First Bank was built during the 1790s. But President James Madison helped defeat the renewal of its charter in 1811. In 1812 Stephen Girard reopened the building as a privately held bank.
We have included the First Bank in our Historic Map because it is symbolic of the conversation that took place in Philadelphia during the last part of the eighteenth century concerning what the federal government could and could not do.