The bank war (Classic) : Planet Money In the 1800s, populist president Andrew Jackson went head-to-head with the most powerful banker in America over who should control the country's money. This clash ended in disastrous results.

The bank war (Classic)

The bank war (Classic)

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

A note from the Second Bank of the United States. Museum of American Finance, NYC hide caption

toggle caption
Museum of American Finance, NYC

A note from the Second Bank of the United States.

Museum of American Finance, NYC

Note: This episode originally ran in 2017.

Banks and governments have been fighting each other for hundreds of years, but never more dramatically than during the showdown between President Andrew Jackson and Nicholas Biddle, the president of the Second Bank of the United States.

Jackson was a populist, who rode to victory on promises to wrest control of the country from the East Coast elite. He was angry at the power structure, and he was furious at the banks. To him, they were the phantom controllers of the economy, issuing spurious scripts that often vanished when the banks collapsed.

Biddle was pretty much the opposite of Jackson, raised in one of the country's earliest aristocratic families. He was a poetical kid and a classics scholar, who started Princeton when he was 17. He believed in banks and he believed that a well-run bank would serve the nation and create stability.

In the 1830s their two views of the nation collided, with disastrous and long-ranging results.

Music: "Been a Long Time" and "Love To Go."

Find us: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / TikTok

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify; and NPR One.

Want economics stories from the comfort of home? Subscribe to Planet Money's weekly newsletter.