Nicholas Biddle, financier born in Philadelphia, January 8, 1786, the son of Charles and Hanna (Shepherd) Biddle and first cousin of state Senator John Marks Biddle; private education in Philadelphia; the University of Pennsylvania at age 13; and graduated from Princeton in 1801, valedictorian. Nicholas received an appointment as secretary to John Armstrong, United States minister to France; mission in Paris, 1804, during Napoleon's coronation, and another when diplomatic relations between France and the United States soured. Mr. Biddle was detailed to audit and pay certain claims against the United States, from funds tied to the Louisiana Purchase. He traveled throughout Europe, returning to England as secretary for James Monroe, US minister to England. In 1807, Mr. Biddle returned home and practiced law and contributing literary papers to numerous publications, becoming in 1812, publisher of the "Port-Folio," which included coverage of Lewis and Clarke's report from the mouth of the Columbia River, including an introductory memoir to Captain Lewis from Thomas Jefferson. Biddle was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1810, promoting legislation for public education; he was a member of the Senate of Pennsylvania, 1814-1817; and appointed Director of the re-chartered United States Bank by President Monroe in 1819. His oversight of the “Second Bank of the United States” became an integral point of American history.
During the War of 1812, Biddle delivered his first speech expressing the need for the re-charter of the United States Bank. The speech was considered a success, as well as representing his first leap in the nation’s financial history. In 1819, his, and other national bank advocate hopes were realized as President Monroe re-chartered the institution as the Second United States Bank in Philadelphia. The following account from Appleton’s Encyclopedia is a succinct a description of subsequent developments of the Jackson-Biddle Second bank dispute:
“President Monroe appointed him a government director (1919 Bank Charter), and on the resignation of Mr. Cheves he became president of the bank, conducting its vast business with marked ability. During his connection with it he was appointed by Monroe, under authority from Congress, to prepare a "Commercial Digest" of the laws and trade regulations of the world, which was for many years an authority. The ‘bank war,’ inaugurated by President Jackson in 1829, undermined the credit of the institution, and after the bill for its re-charter was vetoed in 1832 (by Jackson), Mr. Biddle's efforts to save the bank were unavailing. The withdrawal of the government deposits by Jackson's order in 1833 precipitated financial disasters that involved the whole country. Mr. Biddle's friends assert that his refusal to lend the influence of the bank to partisan ends was the provoking cause of the president's hostility, but this is denied by Jackson's admirers. The literature of the ‘bank war’ is voluminous, including a series of letters by Mr. Biddle, vindicating his course. Surrounding Biddle in support (1832-33) was a collection of state Senate Democrats called the “inglorious eight” by Jackson men. The eight “Bank Democrats” joined Whigs and Antimasons in voting for a state Charter of the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia, despite Jackson’s 1832 veto. In 1839, Biddle resigned the bank presidency, and in 1841 the (now) state bank finally failed. It exists today as the Customs House, aka the Marble Palace, in Philadelphia. However unfortunate Biddle’s attempt at establishing a central bank, its model is replicated in a number of fashions today. Senator Nicholas Biddle died in Philadelphia on February 27, 1844.