Nicholas Biddle - Encyclopedia

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NICHOLAS BIDDLE (1786-1844), American financier, was born in Philadelphia on the 8th of January 1786. He was the nephew of a naval officer, Captain Nicholas Biddle (1750-1778), who lost his life while fighting on the American side, during the War of American Independence. After almost finishing the prescribed course at the university of Pennsylvania, the boy went to Princeton, where he graduated with high honours in 1801. During1804-1807he was the secretary, first of John Armstrong, minister to France, and then of James Monroe, minister to Great Britain. After his return to America he practised law for several years in Philadelphia, was an associate editor of Dennie's Portfolio, to which he contributed both prose and verse, and, with much literary skill, prepared for the press from the explorers' own journals a History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark (1814). He was a prominent member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in1810-1811and of the Senate in 1814-1817, and in 1819 became, by President Monroe's appointment, one of the five government directors of the Bank of the United States. In 1823 he replaced Langdon Cheves as its president. In general he followed a conservative policy and showed marked ability in the management of the bank, but during President Andrew Jackson's warfare upon that institution, his character and his policy were violently assailed by the president and his followers. The bank's national charter lapsed in 1836, but it was immediately chartered by Pennsylvania as the "Bank of the United States, of Pennsylvania"; and Biddle remained president until 1839, two years before the bank failed. As president of the board of trustees appointed for the purpose, he took a prominent part in the establishment of Girard College, in accordance with the will of Stephen Girard. He died in Philadelphia on the 27th of February 1844.

His SOn, Charles John Biddle (1819-1873), served in the Mexican War as a captain of infantry, earning the brevet of major at Chapultepec; practised law in Philadelphia; was a representative in Congress in 1861-1863; was long editor-in-chief of the Philadelphia Age; and published "The Case of Major Andre, with a Review of the Statement of it in Lord Mahon's History of England," in the Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (1858).

The best account of Nicholas Biddle's administration of the bank may be found in an excellent work, by Ralph C. H. Catterall, The Second Bank of the United States (Chicago, 1903).

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