Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: A Financial Crisis

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A Financial Crisis

The financial panic of 1837, though a national issue, belongs to the history of every town in the land, for none escaped its baleful effects. A surplus of nearly forty million dollars of government money, after the national debt had been liquidated, was distributed among the states, and, in New Hampshire, at least, loaned to the towns willing to receive it. Hampton at first voted not to receive the surplus money; but at a special town meeting, April 19, 1837, that vote was recalled and the town voted to receive their proportion of the public moneys of the United States, assigned to this town, by act of the Legislature of this state, approved January 13, 1837; and that the town pledge its faith for the safe keeping and repayment of the same, according to the terms of the act.

Voted, "that Daniel Towle, town treasurer, be agent, to receive of the state treasurer this town's proportion of said public moneys; and then, he is to loan it in sums not exceeding five hundred dollars, nor less than one hundred dollars, to individuals, with satisfactory security; and all money remaining in his hands sixty days after the reception thereof, he may loan to some bank, for not less than five and one half per cent, or buy bank stock, as he may think proper."

After loaning to nine or more individuals, the remainder was invested in the Exeter bank, as indicated in Chapter XXV. The selectmen's accounts for that year are not now available; but the accounts presented at the annual town meeting in 1839, give the following figures:

Amount of notes in the treasury, $3395.00
Cash in Saving Bank at Exeter,     220.00
Stock in the Exeter Bank, estimated at,   1200.00
Cash on hand, being part of the principal,       16.01
Total, $4831.01
With money so easily obtained, men everywhere grew careless; speculation, especially in real estate, became rife; and, from the sale of public lands, the surplus continued to accumulate, till people were crazed with the golden visions dancing before their eyes. But this very measure of withdrawal of the public money from the banks and distribution among the states caused a general suspension of specie payments, paralysis of trade, business failures and universal distress. There were hard times in Hampton, as elsewhere.

In 1837, there were two hundred forty-one ratable polls in this town.

THE TWO HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY of the settlement of Hampton was observed on Tuesday, the 25th of December, 1838, by a public gathering in the meeting-house, with commemorative services. Joseph Dow, then preceptor of the Academy, delivered an historical address, which was afterwards published; and the ministers of Hampton, North Hampton and Greenland took part in the exercises.

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