Front Page Titles (by Subject) AUTHOR'S PREFACE. - A History of Banking in all the Leading Nations, vol. 1 (U.S.A.)
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AUTHOR’S PREFACE. - William Graham Sumner, A History of Banking in all the Leading Nations, vol. 1 (U.S.A.) 
A History of Banking in all the Leading Nations; comprising the United States; Great Britain; Germany; Austro-Hungary; France; Italy; Belgium; Spain; Switzerland; Portugal; Roumania; Russia; Holland; The Scandinavian Nations; Canada; China; Japan; compiled by thirteen authors. Edited by the Editor of the Journal of Commerce and Commercial Bulletin. In Four Volumes. (New York: The Journal of Commerce and Commercial Bulletin, 1896). Vol. 1: A History of Banking in the United States.
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THE essential function of a bank is to facilitate transfers of capital. In the United States, however, the function of note issue has always occupied the chief place in public thought about banks. It is as note issuers that they have had their greatest share in the national life, and it is in this capacity that the historian has chiefly to deal with them.
The material for this history is very intractable. It bristles with details which defy attempts at condensation. There is a general history of banks which centers around the federal government; but we begin with thirteen commonwealths, in each of which banks, beside their shares in the general history, had a history of their own, and the number of commonwealths increases to thirty, before the present National Bank system was established.
Should the narrative be constructed on the chronology, or on the subdivisions of the subject, or on the State division? Each of these methods has its claims. In order to try to do justice to each of them, I have adopted the following construction of the work. Taken as a whole the treatment is chronological; it is not evolutional; for scarcely any genetic development can be traced. Six periods are marked off, which are based on the grander vicissitudes of the history. The chapters and sub-chapters are constructed on the analysis of the subject matter within the period. They allow the reader to pursue any one subject consecutively, if he so desires. The Table of Contents presents this chronological and analytical construction. From point to point surveys of the States are taken, which present the history of banks in the several States. The references in the Index, under the names of the States, will enable the reader to connect these detached sections into a history of the banks in any State.
The authorities on which I have relied are the Session Laws, Court Reports, State and Congressional documents. I have examined the Session Laws of all the States south and west of Maryland, from the beginning of the Colony or Territory until the adoption of the National Bank system. For the States north and east of Maryland, I have relied more on secondary authorities, consulting the Session Laws for special laws or periods. In this connection I have to express my obligations to the Bar Association of the city of New York for the unlimited facility of using their splendid collection of the Session Laws which they allowed me. All secondary authorities are cited at the foot of the page, and need not be mentioned further here. As to documents of the States, I have been obliged to be content with such as have drifted by chance into the libraries within my reach. To do more than this it would be necessary to travel from State to State and spend much time in each. Even if one could do this, how many States possess collections of their documents, from the beginning of this century, in an accessible form?
With few documents at hand, it is impossible to answer the doubts and queries which arise, especially in condensing, and also it is impossible to make the combinations by which, in a work of this kind, the investigator verifies and ratifies the statements of fact. The section in which this lack has been felt the most is Chapter 16, Section 1, on the period 1845-60. The place in reference to which the most uncertainties remained uncleared was New Orleans. The history of the banks of that place will yet furnish an interesting and important subject of special study for some investigator who has the local information within his reach.
For the reasons now stated, I have often been compelled to advance with a great feeling of uncertainty, and I cannot hope that I have avoided mistakes. I shall eagerly welcome corrections, or references to documents and authorities which I have neglected, if gentlemen who have local opportunities of information will send them to me.
W. G. SUMNER.
Yale University,February 1, 1896.