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'America's Bank,' By Roger Lowenstein

MULTIZ321

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'America's Bank,' By Roger Lowenstein - by Robert E. Rubin/ Sunday Book Review/ International New York Times/ The New York Times/ nytimes.com

"Most Americans know the story of that hot Philadelphia summer in 1787 when prolonged debate led to the creation of the United States Constitution to overcome the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation. Disagreements about the extent of federal power and the design of our democratic institutions were resolved through long arguments and, ultimately, principled compromises.

Few Americans, on the other hand, are familiar with the analogous history of periodic financial crises and economic duress throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries that gave rise to the creation of an effective American central banking system. Decades of fervent debate finally led to the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913. That is the story Roger Lowenstein tells, vividly and compellingly, in “America’s Bank.” It should be required reading for anyone who is engaged in, or interested in, the actions of the modern Fed, and the continuing debates about those actions and about its governance.

The remarkable tale of the politics, disagreements, decisions and crises that culminated in the Federal Reserve Act is the core of the book. But Lowenstein, the author of several works on economics and finance, builds off it to describe the history of the era, the rise of the Progressive movement, the compromises and machinations that were critical to Congressional passage and the key figures in the drama of creating the Federal Reserve System..."

25RUBIN-master675.jpg

"The Signing of the Federal Reserve Act," a 1913 painting. Credit Howard Kurtz/Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Staunton, Va.


Richard
 

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From Rubin's Review -

...Lowenstein also gives us striking portraits of key figures, well known and unknown, involved in the creation of our central bank. William Jennings Bryan, remembered as a commanding figure in the Democratic Party and the Populist movement, exercised great statesmanship in abandoning his longstanding opposition to a central bank; he provided crucial support for the passage of the Federal Reserve Act. President Woodrow Wilson, whom many remember as an austere former academic who ultimately lost his battle for the League of Nations, is portrayed in the book as having almost Lyndon Johnson-like legislative skills, cajoling, pressuring and corralling members of Congress to support legislation. Among the legislators who figure prominently in Lowenstein’s large cast of characters are Senator Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island, the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representative Carter Glass of Virginia, who led the charge in the House. And the immigrant financier Paul Warburg, virtually forgotten today, who for decades was an advocate of an effective central banking system, emerges as one of the book’s heroes..."

For those who are interested in learning more about Paul Warburg, I recommend Ron Chernow's book -'The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odessy of a Remarkable Jewish Family'.

Another good book by Ron Chernow about banking is - 'The Death of the Banker: The Decline and Fall of the Great Financial Dynasties and the Triumph of the Small Investor'.

Also a book by Fritz Stern that won the Lionel Trilling Award and was Finalist for the National Book Award will give you insights into the relations between diplomacy and banking - 'Gold and Iron: Bismark, Bleichroder, and the Building of the German Empire'.

And a shout out to Beaglemom3 if you're reading this thread - I know you saw and enjoyed Hamilton the play. But if you haven't finished Chernow's 'Alexander Hamilton' book, I encourage you to pick it up again - definitely worth it.


Richard
 

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From Rubin's Review -

...Lowenstein also gives us striking portraits of key figures, well known and unknown, involved in the creation of our central bank. William Jennings Bryan, remembered as a commanding figure in the Democratic Party and the Populist movement, exercised great statesmanship in abandoning his longstanding opposition to a central bank; he provided crucial support for the passage of the Federal Reserve Act. President Woodrow Wilson, whom many remember as an austere former academic who ultimately lost his battle for the League of Nations, is portrayed in the book as having almost Lyndon Johnson-like legislative skills, cajoling, pressuring and corralling members of Congress to support legislation. Among the legislators who figure prominently in Lowenstein’s large cast of characters are Senator Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island, the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representative Carter Glass of Virginia, who led the charge in the House. And the immigrant financier Paul Warburg, virtually forgotten today, who for decades was an advocate of an effective central banking system, emerges as one of the book’s heroes..."

For those who are interested in learning more about Paul Warburg, I recommend Ron Chernow's book -'The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odessy of a Remarkable Jewish Family'.

Another good book by Ron Chernow about banking is - 'The Death of the Banker: The Decline and Fall of the Great Financial Dynasties and the Triumph of the Small Investor'.

Also a book by Fritz Stern that won the Lionel Trilling Award and was Finalist for the National Book Award will give you insights into the relations between diplomacy and banking - 'Gold and Iron: Bismark, Bleichroder, and the Building of the German Empire'.

And a shout out to Beaglemom3 if you're reading this thread - I know you saw and enjoyed Hamilton the play. But if you haven't finished Chernow's 'Alexander Hamilton' book, I encourage you to pick it up again - definitely worth it.


Richard

Hi Richard,

You hit the nail on the head. I am plodding through it as has a tendency to be drawn out in parts and yes, I do put it aside and pick it back up. I need a block of uninterrupted time to finish it. I pick it up at night, but find myself nodding off while reading it. Still, it is a good read.
An early job I had in high school was working at the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston. It was down in the lower regions where we would batch millions of checks. Hard work.

Thanks !
 
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