Jefferson's Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, 1791.
The bill for establishing a National Bank undertakes among other things:
1. To form the subscribers into a corporation.
2. To enable them in their corporate capacities to receive grants of land; and so far is
against the laws of
3. To make alien subscribers capable of holding lands, and so far is against the laws of
4. To transmit these lands, on the death of a proprietor, to a certain line of successors; and
so far changes the course of
5. To put the lands out of the reach of forfeiture or escheat, and so far is against the laws
Forfeiture and Escheat
6. To transmit personal chattels to successors in a certain line and so far is against the
7. To give them the sole and exclusive right of banking under the national authority; and
so far is against the laws of Monopoly.
8. To communicate to them a power to make laws paramount to the laws of the States; for
so they must be construed, to protect the institution from the control of the State legislatures, and
so, probably, they will be construed.
I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That " all powers not
delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved
to the States or to the people." [XIIth amendment.] To take a single step beyond the boundaries
thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of
power, no longer susceptible of any definition.
The incorporation of a bank, and the powers assumed by this bill, have not, in my
opinion, been delegated to the United States, by the Constitution.
I They are not among the powers specially enumerated: for these are: 1st A power to lay
taxes for the purpose of paying the debts of the United States; but no debt is paid by this bill, nor
any tax laid. Were it a bill to raise money, its origination in the Senate would condemn it by the
2. "To borrow money." But this bill neither borrows money nor ensures the borrowing it.
The proprietors of the bank will be just as free as any other money holders, to lend or not to lend
their money to the public. The operation proposed in the bill first, to lend them two millions, and
then to borrow them back again, cannot change the nature of the latter act, which will still be a
payment, and not a loan, call it by what name you please.