Biddle, Nicholas, American financier

Biddle, Nicholas, 1786–1844, American financier, b. Philadelphia. After holding important posts in the American legations in France and England, he returned to the United States in 1807 and became one of the leading lights of Port-Folio, a literary magazine, which he edited after 1812. He was also commissioned to write the history of the Lewis and Clark expedition, but turned over the job to Paul Allen, a Philadelphia journalist, when he was elected (1810) to the state house of representatives, where he served a single term. In 1819, President Monroe appointed him one of the government directors of the Bank of the United States. He became its president in 1823, and his administration illustrated his belief in the necessity of a central banking institution to stabilize the currency and curb the inflationary tendencies of the era. He became the leading target of the Jacksonians in their war against the bank. After the bank failed of recharter, Biddle operated it as a private bank until it collapsed (1841) as an aftermath of the Panic of 1837. He was charged with fraud but was subsequently acquitted. Biddle's public correspondence dealing with national affairs (1817–44) was edited by Reginald McGrane (1919).

See biography by T. P. Govan (1959); study by G. R. Taylor (1949); B. Hammond, Banks and Politics in America (1957, repr. 1967); R. V. Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Bank War (1967).

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