[C5] "Our Talisman, No. 5," Spirit of the Times, Jan. 22, 1842: Another Scene in Bank

Our Talisman—No. 5

ANOTHER SCENE IN BANK—The Board of Directors—How Notes are Discounted—The Injunction of Secresy —The "Gentleman in Black" his Protest, his Speech, and Flib's Exit.

            "Flib" popped his red head into our sanctum yesterday morning, and disturbed us in the midst of a profound reverie on Lord Monboddo's theory that men were originally monkeys, and gradually rubbed their tails away by the use of cane-seat chairs.

"Sir," said he.  "Well?"  "I'm here sir, I am."  "Well?"  "I've been to the bank this morning, and here's what  happened.  I'll be smothered! If it wasn't an affecting scene, it was."

            Here he handed us a bunch of paper, redolent of garlic and peppermint water, (Flib belongs to the "teetotal society,") and having decyphered it, we publish it for the benefit of our readers.  It is an accurate picture of a scene which occurred on Thursday morning, at the meeting of the Board of Directors of one of our city banks.

            "I rubbed the ring," wrote Flib, "and became invisible.  I entered the Bank.  The Board of Directors was sitting in all the majesty proper to the individual disposers of millions.  Below waited in anxious expectance the clerks with their bank books, the brokers with their interest tables, and some poor devils who were fools enough to imagine they could get their bank notes converted into specie.

The box containing the "notes for discount" was brought forward.  I took a peep at it.  It was divided into three compartments, and alphabetically arranged from A to izzard.  It was filled with notes ready to be capsized on the table for the inspection of these demigods in the temple of Mammon.

            Thinks I, "what are these codgers ruminating about," and making the wish, the map of their fancy lay open to my observation.

            "Now is my chance," old Portly was soliloquizing to himself, "Let me see—Slap, Dash &  Co. can't hold out much longer—last discount day I got their note through for a thousand—out of that I got eight hundred—humph! That'll do—they'll stand a week more I guess—I think I'll go another thousand to-day for them—they'll buy that lot of wool from me for $700—it cost $250—net profit $450—yes! And then I  can put the new crimson lining and cushion to my pew in —Church.  Good!  Suppose they do wind up—the Bank can compromise for 50 cents on the dollar—a man's first duty is to himself—the next to his Church, and if he have any left, society at large may come in for the balance."

            The "young gentleman in black"—the State Director I alluded to before—sat immediately opposite the President. "I wonder what he is thinking about" said I to myself. "He looks mightily grave."  I cast a squint at his mind's operations.

            "What in the deuce! is coming next," he was muttering to himself.  "I hope they won't renew the old injunction to secrecy.  I hate secrecy.  Suppose the old President were to appeal to me as a newly elected member, just as he did three years ago!  'Young man,' he would say, 'the rules of this Society require a profound silence out of doors as to whatever passes in this Hall, sacred to Finance.  Gentlemen cannot transact business, if all their little affairs about notes are not kept as quiet as the grave.  Self-respect should teach you without further instruction to comply with our injunctions.'"

            The young gentleman in black, now looked up for a moment, and then began soliloquising again. "Ah. Ha! I see it now," said he to himself.  "The legislature took care to say nothing about 'secrecy' in the re-charter of the Bank.  The public mind, that year, was violently opposed to all 'Secret Associations.'  Hence the necessity for that broad insinuation!"

            At the centre of the table sat Pale Face, reading a copy of my favorite paper, the "Spirit of the Times."  By-the-bye almost every director had a copy of it, and the way they abused me, was awful to contemplate!  It pleased me almost to death, to hear 'em—they did it with such excruciating asperity.

            The President now spoke. "Gentlemen will please come to order."  Here he read a letter from the Chairman of the Committee on Banks in the legislature, (the Cashier all the while looking as innocent as a tea-pot), desiring to know when it would be convenient for their High Mightinesses to commence paying their debts, i.e. resuming specie payments, as the people were beginning to complain about an irredeemable specie currency.

            This occasioned a rambling argument, which was stopped by handing around the notes for discount.

            "Here is A. offers B. for two hundred dollars."

            "That will do—pass it round," says another.

            "B. offers C. for $450." Done.

            "C. offers D. for $520."  Done also.

            "D. offers E. for $2000." "Oh! That is too much—make it special," says Portly.

            Here Sharp Face winked to Big Nose—as much as to say "never mind, we'll put them to their purgation, and work it through after a while."

            Some went through.  A number were reserved for special consideration.

            "Here S. offers T. for $112." "Pooh! He's a paltry mechanic—let him run—can't do it-havn't got the money," observed one.

            "But he's poor, and honest, and is pressed for the money," whispered another.

            "Oh! pshaw," said a third, putting his thumb to his nose, in the usual classic manner.

            "Well, here V. offers X. for  $93."


"Who are they?" inquired somebody. "Tradesmen," was the reply.

            "Can't be done."

            "But they are prudent, industrious men, in good business—times are hard—bills can't be collected-money is scarce, and if this note is not discounted, V., who is a worthy, hard-working honest fellow, will be ruined."

            "Let him go to the brokers."

            "I'll shave it at my office," said Big Nose.  "I'll give him $30 for the note, as you say it's a good one."

            At length a pretty large note attracted the attention of the gentleman in black, who had been quietly attentive to all that passed.  While he was examining it, another note for $1500 was placed in his hands.

            "I am opposed to this," said he, turning to the President.

            "Who the d—l cares if you be," looked Big Nose—and then muttered aloud, "Mr. President, that note has been discounted—I move the vote be taken on it."

            It was done, and all but the Board voted in the affirmative except the gentleman in black, who remarked that as the Directors were personally responsible, he would never enter his protest against the discount of the note alluded to.

            Here one of the Directors arose, and whispered to Big Nose, who said, "Mr. President, I withdraw my resolution;" but after sundry moves he remarked "Let us continue our business.  Why are we disturbed in this manner?  If the gentleman is going to write protests, let's give him pen, ink and paper." 

            Here all was confusion.  Several directors got upon the floor, and commenced speaking at once—The President interrupted them, and lectured the young gentleman in black for not permitting the Directors to do as they pleased. "If you don't holler as soon as a note is out of the box, it is considered discounted."

            "Very well," observed the young man. "I'll do it in future; but while I was taking down these few notes in my hand, to which I object, and against which I have here written a Protest, several whappers , amounting to from ten to fifteen thousand dollars, passed through, including the one of my friend Portly."

            "Egad!" thinks I, "I'd like to see that Protest."

            I peeped over his shoulder, and, while he was talking, copied it down on my memory.  Here it is.


Philadelphia, Jan. 20, 1842.

            The undersigned respectfully presents this his protest against the discounting of the following Notes by the Board of Directors of the * * * * * Bank.

            [We leave out the names, this time, as we have no desire to injure men of business.]





Payable to


Oct. 26, '42

4 m's.




$1542 17

Aug. 10, '42


J. & B.

J. W. L.

J. W. L.

  1166 00

June 30, '41


J. D.

J. D.

J. R.

  1809 90

Jan. 11, '42

90 ds.

W. & B.

J. W. R.

J. W. R.

  1208 68

Aug. 14, '41

8 m's.

B & P.

H W & Co.

H W & Co

  1064 50

Aug. 15, '41


D R & R.


P R & R.

  1315 52


$8106 77

            He offers the following reasons for Protesting:—Firstly, Because none of his colleagues seconded the call for the yeas and nays.  Secondly, Because he considers the notes to be each and every one too large in amount, and that the bank by discounting such large paper encourages an extent of trade and credit which past experience has proved to be injurious to the interest of the stockholders both State and individual, as well as the community at large.  Thirdly, He considers that the gentlemen named having large accounts on deposit in the bank entitles them to no extra claim, as large deposits were the great objection urged against continuing specie payments in October, 1839.  Fourthly, He believes, in consequence of the determination of his colleagues to discount the large paper, some thousands of small paper was rejected, thereby favoring a small portion of the depositors to the injury of many.  Not being acquainted with the gentlemen named, he begs leave to state that he has no other objections whatever to their paper—all of which is respectfully submitted by

The Gentleman in Black.


            Here a random debate occurred which led to much dispute in relation to the appointment of a Committee from other Banks, and decide upon a suitable reply to the Chairman of the Committee on Banks.

            "The Bank can resume specie payments instantly," said one Director.

            "She can't do it between now and the day of judgment," replied another.

            "It is high time," remarked a third, "that the Bank should make as many friends as possible, (why don't they make a friend of Flib?) and that the account of my friend the rich Merchant Tailor should be taken in the Bank without delay."

            The young gentleman in black now rose to speak.

            "Let's hear what he has got to say," cried Pale face.  "Young man," said the President, "stick to the text and don't wander."

            "You anticipate me," was the reply. "Call me to order when I wander as the rest have done."

            "Hear him!" said Big Nose.

            Expecting some fun, I stole a sheet of paper and wrote down word for word, what he said.  Here it is.

            "Gentlemen, my speech will not be long.  One of the gentlemen present has said, that if the Legislature were to compel specie payments, this Bank could resume at once!  This I doubt; but I do say that if this Bank can resume, it ought to resume immediately!  It is dishonest to wait until compelled to do it."

            "But," interrupted the Cashier, "with a scornful curl of his lip, "how can we resume if the other Banks do not?"

            "Sir," continued the State Director, "I have yet to learn that there are other Banks embraced in the charter of the one in whose direction I have been elected to assist.  What have we to do with other Banks?  If other men engaged in the manufacture and sale of carpets were to refuse to fulfill their obligations, would it at all exonerate me from the fulfillment of mine?"

            "That's a fair comparison," said the other State Director.

            "It's no comparison at all," said the Tailor, "for Banks are not Carpet Stores by a jug full."

            "As to instructing the Committee," continued the gentleman in black, "I would recommend, since you are determined to persevere in a suspension of specie payments, when the Committees meet this evening from the various Banks, that they prepare a snug, cosy letter, well digested, and direct it to the Chairman of the Committee on Banks.  He is a quiet, easy, gentlemanly sort of man, and I have no doubt that with a few additional hints from our Cashier, (here the Cashier grinned a ghastly smile,) he will prepare a bill of any character you may desire, and postpone the day of resumption until the Millennium."

            Now a great bustle took place. "Is 'Flib' about here?" whispered one.  "I'll bet an X that all our proceedings will appear in the Times."

            An immediate hunt was made with care for my corporeal presence, and laughing at their abortive efforts, I walked off.  Here I am."

            "Flib, you may go."