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National Bank Act [June 3, 1864]

 

An Act to provide a National Currency, secured by a Pledge of United States Bonds, and to provide for the Circulation and Redemption thereof.

Be it enacted . .,, That there shall be established in the treasury department a separate bureau, which shall be charged with the execution of this and all other laws that may be passed by congress respecting the issue and regulation of a national currency secured by United States bonds. The chief officer of the said bureau shall be denominated the comptroller of the currency, and shall be under the general direction of the Secretary of the Treasury. He shall be appointed by the President, on the recommendation of the Secretary of the Treasury, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and shall hold his office for the term of five years unless sooner removed by the President, upon reasons to be communicated by him to the Senate.... The comptroller and deputycomptroller shall not, either directly or indirectly, be interested in any association issuing national currency under the provisions of this act.

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That associations for carrying on the business of banking may be formed by any number of persons, not less in any case than five, who shall enter into articles of association, which shall specify in general terms the object for which the association is formed, and may contain any other provisions, not inconsistent with the provisions of this act, which the association may see fit to adopt for the regulation of the business of the association and the conduct of its affairs, which said articles shall be signed by the persons uniting to form the association, and a copy of them forwarded to the comptroller of the currency, to be filed and preserved in his of fice.

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SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That no association shall be organized under this act, with a less capital than one hundred thousand dollars, nor in a city whose population exceeds fifty thousand persons, with a less capital than two hundred thousand dollars: Provided, That banks with a capital of not less than fifty thousand dollars may, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, be organized in any place the population of which does not exceed six thousand inhabitants.

SEC. 8. And be it further enacted, That every association formed pursuant to the provisions of this act shall from the date of the execution of its organization certificate, be a body corporate, but shall transact no business except such as may be incidental to its organization and necessarily preliminary, until authorized by the comptroller of the currency to commence the business of banking. Such association shall have power to adopt a corporate seal, and shall have succession by the name designated in its organization certificate, for the period of twenty years from its organization, unless sooner dissolved according to the provisions of its articles of association, or by the act of its shareholders owning two thirds of its stock, or unless the franchise shall be forfeited by a violation of this act; by such name it may make contracts . . . [ &c.] . . ., and exercise under this act all such incidental powers as shall be necessary to carry on the business of banking by discounting and negotiating promissory notes, drafts, bills of exchange, and other evidences of debt; by receiving deposits; by buying and selling exchange, coin, and bullion; by loaning money on personal security; by obtaining, issuing, and circulating notes according to the provisions of this act . . .

SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That the affairs of every association shall be managed by not less than five directors, one of whom shall be the president. Every director shall, during his whole term of service, be a citizen of the United States; and at least three fourths of the directors shall have resided in the state, territory, or district in which such association is located one year next preceding their election as directors, and be residents of the same during their continuance in office. Each director shall own, in his own right, at least ten shares of the capital stock of the association of which he is a director....

SEC. II. And be it further enacted, That in all elections of directors, and in deciding all questions at meetings of shareholders, each shareholder shall be entitled to one vote on each share of stock held by him....

SEC. I2. And be it further enacted, That the capital stock of any association formed under this act shall be divided into shares of one hundred dollars each, and be deemed personal property and transferable on the books of the association in such manner as may be prescribed in the by-laws or articles of association.... The shareholders of each association formed under the provisions of this act, and of each existing bank or banking association that may accept the provisions of this act, shall be held individually responsible, equally and ratably, and not one for another, for all contracts, debts, and engagements of such association to the extent of the amount of their stock therein at the par value thereof, in addition to the amount invested in such shares; except that shareholders of any banking association now existing under state laws, having not less than five millions of dollars of capital actually paid in, and a surplus of twenty per centum on hands both to be determined by the comptroller of the currency, shall be liable only to the amount invested in their shares . . .

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SEC. I4. And be it further enacted, That at least fifty per centum of the capital stock of every association shall be paid in before it shall be authorized to commence business; and the remainder of the capital stock of such association shall be paid in instalments of at least ten per centum each on the whole amount of the capital as frequently as one instalment at the end of each succeeding month from the time it shall be authorized by the comptroller to commence business....

SECT 16. And be it further enacted, That every association, after having complied with the provisions of this act, preliminary to the commencement of banking business under its provisions, and before it shall be authorized to commence business, shall transfer and deliver to the treasurer of the United States any United States registered bonds bearing interest to an amount not less than thirty thousand dollars nor less than one third of the capital stock paid in, which bonds shall be deposited with the treasurer of the United States and by him safely kept in his office until the same shall be otherwise disposed of, in pursuance of the provisions of this act; and the Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized to receive and cancel any United States coupon bonds, and to issue in lieu thereof registered bonds of like amount, bearing a like rate of interest, and having the same time to run; and the deposit of bonds shall be, by every association, increased as its capital may be paid up or increased, so that every association shall at all times have on deposit with the treasurer registered United States bonds to the amount of at least one third of its capital stock actually paid in....

SEC. 21. And be it further enacted, That upon the transfer and delivery of bonds to the treasurer, as provided in the foregoing section, the association making the same shall be entitled to receive from the comptroller of the currency circulating notes of different denominations, in blank, registered and countersigned as hereinafter provided, equal in amount to ninety per centum of the current market value of the United States bonds so transferred and delivered, but not exceeding ninety per centum of the amount of said bonds at the par value thereof, if bearing interest at a rate not less than five per centum per annum; and at no time shall the total amount of such notes, issued to any such association, exceed the amount at such time actually paid in of its capital stock.

SEC. 22. And be it further enacted, That the entire amount of notes for circulation to be issued under this act shall not exceed three hundred millions of dollars....

SEC. 23. And be it further enacted, That after any such association shall have caused its promise to pay such notes on demand to be signed by the president or vice-president and cashier thereof, in such manner as to make them obligatory promissory notes, payable on demand, at its place of business, such association is hereby authorized to issue and circulate the same as money; and the same shall be received at par in all parts of the United States in payment of taxes, excises, public lands, and all other dues to the United States, except for duties on imports; and also for all salaries and other debts and demands owing by the United States to individuals, corporations, and associations within the United States, except interest on the public debt, and in redemption of the national currency. And no such association shall issue post notes or any other notes to circulate as money than such as are authorized by the foregoing provisions of this act.

SEC. 26. And be it further enacted, That the bonds transferred to and deposited with the treasurer of the United States, as hereinbefore provided, by any banking association for the security of its circulating notes, shall be held exclusively for that purpose, until such notes shall be redeemed, except as provided in this act; but the comptroller of the currency shall give to any such banking association powers of attorney to receive and appropriate to its own use the interest on the bonds which it shall have so transferred to the treasurer; but such powers shall become inoperative whenever such banking association shall fail to redeem its circulating notes as aforesaid. Whenever the market or cash value of any bonds deposited with the treasurer of the United States, as aforesaid, shall be reduced below the amount of the circulation issued for the same, the comptroller of the currency is hereby authorized to demand and receive the amount of such depreciation in other United States bonds at cash value, or in money, from the association receiving said bills, to be deposited with the treasurer of the United States as long as such depreciation continues....

SEC. 29. And be it further enacted, That the total liabilities to any association, of any person, or of any company, corporation, or firm for money borrowed, including in the liabilities of a company or firm the liabilities of the several members thereof, shall at no time exceed one tenth part of the amount of the capital stock of such association actually paid in: Provided, That the discount of bona fide bills of exchange drawn against actually existing values, and the discount of commercial or business paper actually owned by the person or persons, corporation, or firm negotiating the same shall not be considered as money borrowed.

SEC. 30. And be it further enacted, That every association may take, receive, reserve, and charge on any loan or discount made, or upon any note, bill of exchange, or other evidences of debt, interest at the rate allowed by the laws of the state or territory where the bank is located, and no more... . And when no rate is fixed by the laws of the state or territory, the bank may take, receive, reserve, or charge a rate not exceeding seven per centum.

SEC. 3I. And be it further enacted, That every association in the cities hereinafter named shall, at all times, have on hand, in lawful money of the United States, an amount equal to at least twenty-five per centum of the aggregate amount of its notes in circulation and its deposits; and every other association shall, at all times, have on hand, in lawful money of the United States, an amount equal to at least fifteen per centum of the aggregate amount of its notes in circulation, and of its deposits. And whenever the lawful money of any association in any of the cities hereinafter named shall be below the amount of twentyfive percentum of its circulation and deposits, and whenever the lawful money of any other association shall be below fifteen per centum of its circulation and deposits, such association shall not increase its liabilities by making any new loans or discounts otherwise than by discounting or purchasing bills of exchange payable at sight, nor make any dividend of its profit until the required proportion between the aggregate amount of its outstanding notes of circulation and deposits and its lawful money of the United States shall be restored: Provided, That three fifths of said fifteen per centum may consist of balances due to an association available for the redemption of its circulating notes from associations approved by the comptroller of the currency, organized under this act, in the cities of Saint Louis, Louisville, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburg, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Albany, Leavenworth, San Francisco, and Washington City: Provided, also, That clearing-house certificates, representing specie or lawful money specially deposited for the purpose of any clearing house association, shall be deemed to be lawful money in the possession of any association belonging to such clearing-house holding and owning such certificate, and shall be considered to be a part of the lawful money which such association is required to have under the foregoing provisions of this section: Provided, That the cities of Charleston and Richmond may be added to the list of cities in the national associations of which other associations may keep three fifths of their lawful money, whenever, in the opinion of the comptroller of the currency, the condition of the southern states will warrant it. And it shall be competent for the comptroller of the currency to notify any association, whose lawful money reserve as aforesaid shall be below the amount to be kept on hand as aforesaid, to make good such reserve; and if such association shall fail for thirty days thereafter so to make good its reserve of lawful money of the United States, the comptroller may, with the concurrence of the Secretary of the Treasury, appoint a receiver to wind up the business of such association, as provided in this act.

SEC. 32. And be it further enacted, That each association organized in any of the cities named in the foregoing section shall select, subject to the approval of the comptroller of the currency, an association in the city of New York, at which it will redeem its circulating notes at par. And each of such associations may keep one half of its lawful money reserve in cash deposits in the city of New York. And each association not organized within the cities named in the preceding section shall select, subject to the approval of the comptroller of the currency, an association in either of the cities named in the preceding section at which it will redeem its circulating notes at par.... [Provided] . . ., That every association formed or existing under the provisions of this act shall take and receive at par, for any debt or liability to said association, any and all notes or bills issued by any association existing under and by virtue of this act.

SEC. 36. And be it further enacted, That no association shall at any time be indebted, or in any way liable, to an amount exceeding the amount of its capital stock at such time actually paid in and remaining undiminished by losses or otherwise, except on the following accounts, that is to say:

First. On account of its notes of circulation.
Second. On account of moneys deposited with, or collected by, such association.
Third. On account of bills of exchange or drafts drawn against money actually on deposit to the credit of such associationj or duethereto.
Fourth. On account of liabilities to its stockholders for dividends and reserved profits.

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SEC. 38. And be it further enacted, That no association, or any member thereof, shall, during the time it shall continue its banking operations, withdraw or permit to be withdrawn, either in form of dividends or otherwise, any portion of its capital. And if losses shall at any time have. been sustained by any such association equal to or exceeding its undivided profits then on hand, no dividend shall be made; and no dividend shall ever be made by any association, while it shall continue its banking operations to an amount greater than its net profits then on hand, deducting therefrom its losses and bad debts....

SEC. 4I. And be it further enacted, That the plates and special dies to be procured by the comptroller of the currency for the printing of such circulating notes shall remain under his control and direction, and the expenses necessarily incurred in executing the provisions of this act respecting the procuring of such notes, and all other expenses of the bureau shall be paid out of the proceeds of the taxes or duties now or hereafter to be assessed on the circulation, and collected from associations organized under this act. And in lieu of all existing taxes, every association shall pay to the treasurer of the United States, in the months of January and July, a duty of one half of one per centum each half year from and after . . . [January I, I864] . . ., upon the average amount of its notes in circulation, and a duty of one quarter of one per centum each half year upon the average amount of its deposits, and at duty of one quarter of one per centum each half year, as aforesaid, on the average amount of its capital stock beyond the amount invested in United States bonds; . . . Provided . . ., That nothing in this act shall exempt the real estate of associations from either state, county, or municipal taxes to the same extent, according to its value, as other real estate is taxed.

SEC. 44. And be it further enacted, That any bank incorporated by special law, or any banking institution organized under a general law of any state, may, by authority of this act, become a national association under its provisions, by the name prescribed in its organization certificate.... Provided, however, That no such association shall have a less capital than the amount prescribed for banking associations under this act.

SEC. 45. And be it further enacted, That all associations under this act, when designated for that purpose by the Secretary of the Treasury, shall be depositaries of public money, except receipts from customs under such regulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary; and they may also be employed as financial agents of the government; and they shall perform all such reasonable duties, as depositaries of public moneys and financial agents of the government, as may be required of theme And the Secretary of the Treasury shall require of the associations thus designated satisfactory security, by the deposit of United States bonds and otherwise, for the safekeeping and prompt payment of the public money deposited with them, and for the faithful performance of their duties as financial agents of the government: Provided, That every association which shall be selected and designated as receiver or depositary of the public money shall take and receive at par all of the national currency bills, by whatever association issued, which have been paid in to the government for internal revenue, or for loans or stocks.