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The First Bank: Centerpiece of Hamilton’s “Cabinet Battle #1”

Posted on Friday, February 1, 2019

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If you cannot stop singing “Cabinet Battle #1” or "The Room Where It Happens", and you are in Philly, be sure to check out The First Bank of the United States.

The First Bank of the United States in Philadelphia

Many tourists may find it easy to gloss over The First Bank of the United States when they come to visit Historic Philadelphia, in part because The First Bank is not currently open to the public. However, if you are a fan of “Hamilton, An American Musical,” a closer look at The First Bank should be at the top of your list, since it is arguably the most prominently featured Philadelphia site in the smash Broadway musical. Hamilton's concept of the First Bank, which sparked the first great constitutional debate, is the very inspiration for “Cabinet Battle #1”.

In 1790, just before the nation’s Capital moved from New York City to Philadelphia, Alexander Hamilton released his First Report on the Public Credit.  Hamilton's report recommended state debts be assumed by the Federal government with the creation of a Federal banking system.  This was an extremely controversial idea, since many Southerners believed this would give too much power to the North. 

In the musical’s rap battle, Thomas Jefferson argued that Hamilton’s idea is unfair:

“If New York’s in debt -
Why should Virginia bear it?
Our debts are paid, I’m afraid,
Don’t tax the South cause we got it made in the shade.”

Hamilton then argued that Jefferson was out of touch with America, since he'd been in France for a number of years.  Hamilton also pointed out that the reason the South is in less debt is because of its reliance on slavery:

“A civics lesson from a slaver.  Hey neighbor
Your debts are paid cause you don’t pay for labor.”

First Bank of the United States, Philadelphia

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson only reach an agreement through the Compromise of 1790

Hamilton fans should also be familiar with this event thanks to the song “The Room Where It Happens”, in which Thomas Jefferson and James Madison agreed to Hamilton’s financial plan in exchange for moving the nation’s capital to the South.  Thus, the First Bank of the United States received its charter in 1791, and was built in Philadelphia.

If you’re going to visit, be sure to check out a few other Hamilton-related plaques near the First Bank.  Just North of the magestic First Bank along 3rd Street is one plaque representing the site of Hamilton's former office when he served as the first Secretary of the Treasury.

Office Site of Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury

There is also a second plaque marks his former home with Eliza on the 200 block of Walnut Street.

Home Site of Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, Where He Lived in 1791

Insider Info

If you’re interested in learning more about Hamilton and his time in Philadelphia, you can join us on The Constitutional Walking Tour. Both Independence Hall and The First Bank of the United States are visited on our standard tour. 

If you’re really interested in a deeper dive into the life of Alexander Hamilton in Philadelphia, you should consider booking The Constitutional's VIP Tour.  On our VIP Tours, guests receive their own private guided tour of Philadelphia that will accommodate your exact needs.  So if you want a tour that focuses on Alexander Hamilton and shows you all of the locations mentioned in this blog including the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, we would be happy to arrange that for you.  And don’t worry, if you’d rather focus on another individual or topic besides Alexander Hamilton, we can do that too! Just call 215.525.1776 or send us an email to info@TheConstitutional.com.

Additional Info

The First Bank of the United States
116 South 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Secretary of the Treasury Office Site
South 3rd Street (Between Chestnut and Walnut on the West Side of the Street)
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Site of Alexander Hamilton Residence
200 Block of Walnut Street (South Side)
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Site of Alexander Hamilton Residence in 1791, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


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