Panic of 1836

The bitterest money war in American history and the wildest speculation of the nineteenth century had precipitated the first national depression. The final Specie Circular, Andrew Jackson’s broadside at the money trust, had gone into effect in August of 1836. Requiring hard-money payments for government lands, it had brought down the whole fantastic structure of speculation and with it the whole system of wildcat banking – that is to say, most of the American banking system and all the Western banks. Foreign investors had dumped their American securities, trade had all but halted, unemployment had spread across the country. It had been a bad winter for the United States, with bread riots in most cities and the unvarying gutlessness of financiers producing a mass despair not unlike the panic of the Mandans when the smallpox struck. It was a worse spring as Mr. Van Buren took office, specie disappeared, and doomsday seemed at hand.