[G. Edward Griffin] The Creature from Jekyll Islan(BookZZ.org) (1)
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[G. Edward Griffin] The Creature from Jekyll Islan(BookZZ.org) (1)


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is little doubt that 
there was considerable distrust between them and skillful maneu-
vering for favored position in any agreement. But they were driven 
together by one overriding desire to fight their common enemy. 
The enemy was competition. 
In 1910, the number of banks in the United States was growing 
at a phenomenal rate. In fact, it had more than doubled to over 
twenty thousand in just the previous ten years. Furthermore, most 
of them were springing up in the South and West, causing the New 
York banks to suffer a steady decline of market share. Almost all 
banks in the 1880s were national banks, which means they were 
chartered by the federal government. Generally, they were located 
in the big cities, and were allowed by law to issue their own 
currency in the form of bank notes. Even as early as 1896, however, 
the number of non-national banks had grown to sixty-one per cent, 
and they already held fifty-four per cent of the country's total 
banking deposits. By 1913, when the Federal Reserve Act was 
passed, those numbers were seventy-one per cent non-national 
banks holding fifty-seven per cent of the deposits. 1 In the eyes of 
those duck hunters from New York, this was a trend that simply 
had to be reversed. 
Competition also was coming from a new trend in industry to 
finance future growth out of profits rather than from borrowed 
capital. This was the outgrowth of free-market interest rates which 
set a realistic balance between debt and thrift. Rates were low 
enough to attract serious borrowers who were confident of the 
success of their business ventures and of their ability to repay, but 
they were high enough to discourage loans for frivolous ventures 
or those for which there were alternative sources of funding-for 
example, one's own capital. That balance between debt and thrift 
was the result of a limited money supply. Banks could create loans 
in excess of their actual deposits, as we shall see, but there was a 
limit to that process. And that limit was ultimately determined by 
the supply of gold they held. Consequently, between 1900 and 
1910, seventy per cent of the funding for American corporate 
1. See Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism (New York: The Free Press of 
Glencoe, a division of the Macmillan Co., 1963), p. 140. . 
THE JOURNEY TO JEKYLL ISLAND 13 
rowth was generated internally, making industry increasingly ~dependent of the banks.1 Even the federal government w~s 
becoming thrifty. It had a growing stockpile of gold, ,:as system~tl­
cally redeeming the Greenbacks-which had been Issued dunng 
the Civil War-and was rapidly reducing the national debt. 
Here was another trend that had to be halted. What the bankers 
wanted-and what many businessmen wanted also-was to inter-
vene in the free market and tip the balance of interest rates 
downward, to favor debt over thrift. To accomplish this, the money 
supply simply had to be disconnected fro~ gold and made more 
plentiful or, as they described it, more elastlc. 
THE SPECTER OF BANK FAILURE 
The greatest threat, however, came, not from rivals or private 
capital formation, but from the public at large in the form of what 
bankers call a run on the bank. This is because, when banks accept a 
customer's deposit, they give in return a "balance" in his account. 
This is the eqUivalent of a promise to pay back the deposit anytime 
he wants. Likewise, when another customer borrows money from 
the bank, he also is given an account balance which usually is 
withdrawn immediately to satisfy the purpose of the loan. This 
creates a ticking time bomb because, at that point, the bank has 
issued more promises to "pay-on-demand" than it has money in 
the vault. Even though the depositing customer thinks he can get 
his money any time he wants, in reality it has been given to the 
borrowing customer and no longer is available at the bank. 
The problem is compounded further by the fact that banks are 
allowed to loan even more money than they have received in 
deposit. The mechanism for accomplishing this seemingly impossi-
ble feat will be described in a later chapter, but it is a fact of modem 
banking that promises-ta-pay often exceed savings deposits by a 
factor of ten-to-one. And, because only about three per cent of these 
accounts are actually retained in the vault in the form of cash-the 
rest having been put into even more loans and investments-the 
bank's promises exceed its ability to keep those promises by a factor 
of over three hundred-ta-one.2 As long as only a small percentage 
1. William Greider, Secrets of the Temple (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), p . 
274,275. Also Kolko, p. 145. 
2. Another way of putting it is that their reserves are underfunded by over 
33,333% (IO-to-1 divided by .03 = 333.333-to-1. That divided by .01 = 33,333%.) 
14 THE CREATURE FROM JEKYLL ISLAND 
of depositors request their money at one time, no one is the wiser. 
But if public confidence is shaken, and if more than a few per cent 
attempt to withdraw their funds, the scheme is finally exposed. The 
bank cannot keep all its promises and is forced to close its doors. 
Bankruptcy usually follows in due course. 
CURRENCY DRAINS 
The same result could happen-and, prior to the Federal 
~eserve System, often did happen-even without depositors mak-
mg a run on the bank. Instead of withdrawing their funds at the 
telle~'s window, the~ simply wrote checks to purchase goods or 
services. People receiving those checks took them to a bank for 
deposit. If that bank happened to be the same one from which the 
check was drawn, then all was well, because it was not necessary to 
remove any real money from the vault. But if the holder of the 
check took it to another bank, it was quickly passed back t~ the 
issuing bank and settlement was demanded between banks. 
This is not a one-way street, however. While the Downtown 
Bank i.s demandin? payment from the Uptown Bank, the Uptown 
Bank IS also cleanng checks and demanding payment from the 
Downtown bank. As long as the money flow in both directions is 
equa.l, then eve?thing can be handled with simple bookkeeping. 
But If the flow IS not equal, then one of the banks will have to 
actually send money to the other to make up the difference. If the 
amount of money required exceeds a few percentage points of the 
bank's total deposits, the result is the same as a run on the bank by 
deposi~ors. :his demand of money by other banks rather than by 
depOSitors IS called a currency drain. 
In 1910, the most common cause of a bank having to declare 
bankruptcy due to a currency drain was that it followed a loan 
policy that was more reckless than that of its competitors. More 
~oney was demanded from it because more money was loaned by 
It. It was dangerous enough to loan ninety per cent of their 
customers' savings (keeping only one dollar in reserve out of every 
ten), but that had proven to be adequate most of the time. Some 
banks, however, were tempted to walk even closer to the precipice. 
~ey pu~hed the ratio to ninety-two per cent, ninety-five per cent, 
mnety-~me per cent. After all, the way a bank makes money is to 
collect mterest, and the only way to do that is to make loans. The 
more loans, the better. And, so, there was a practice among some of 
THE JOURNEY TO JEKYLL ISLAND 15 
the more reckless banks to "loan up," as they call it. Which was 
another way of saying to push down their reserve ratios. 
A BANKERS' UTOPIA 
If all banks could be forced to issue loans in the same ratio to 
their reserves as other banks did, then, regardless of how small that 
ratio was, the amount of checks to be cleared between them would 
balance in the long run. No major currency drains would ever 
occur. The entire banking industry might collapse under such a 
system, but not individual banks-at least not those that were part