Nicholas Biddle was born in Philadelphia in 1786, the son of patriotic Pennsylvania politician Charles Biddle and the nephew of a Revolutionary War naval hero also named Nicholas Biddle. A precocious youth, Biddle at age 15 was valedictorian of the graduating class at Princeton. He then traveled widely in Europe until 1807 when he returned to Philadelphia to serve as editor of Port Folio magazine and to prepare Lewis and Clark’s report of their expedition into the heart of the recently acquired Louisiana Territory. He found it impossible to complete the latter work, however, after entering the Pennsylvania state legislature, where he vociferously supported the re-charter of the first Bank of the United States.
Elected president of the Second Bank in 1822, Biddle ran the institution virtually flawlessly, a fact reflected in the bank’s dividend record and stock price. In 1825, Biddle used the bank as a lender of last resort, thereby averting the importation of a calamitous European financial panic. During the Bank War with Jackson, however, Biddle made several strategic blunders, including making the re-charter an issue in the 1832 election, that ultimately cost the Second Bank its bid for re-charter. Biddle countered by establishing a new bank, the United States Bank, under a Pennsylvania state charter. He died in 1844 with his reputation and fortune much diminished by the failure of that institution in 1841.
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