Historians remain divided over the role of banks in facilitating economic growth in the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Some scholars contend that banks played a minor role in the nation`s growing economy. Financial institutions, they argue, appeared only after the economy had begun to develop, and once organized, followed conservative lending practices, providing aid to established commercial enterprises but shunning those, such as manufacturing and transportation projects, that were more uncertain and capital-intensive (i.e., requiring greater expenditures in the form of capital than in labor).
A growing number of historians argue, in contrast, that banks were crucial in transforming the early national economy. When state legislatures began granting more banks charters in the 1790s and early 1800s, the supply of credit rose accordingly. Unlike the earliest banks, which had primarily provided short-term loans to well-connected merchants, the banks of the early nineteenth century issued credit widely. As Paul Gilje asserts, the expansion and democratization of credit in the early nineteenth century became the driving force of the American economy, as banks began furnishing large amounts of capital to transportation and industrial enterprises. The exception, such historians argue, was in the South; here, the overwhelmingly agrarian nature of the economy generated outright opposition to banks, which were seen as monopolistic institutions controlled by an elite group of planters.