O.M.W. Sprague (the Man who "Wrote the Book" on Financial Crises) and the Founding of the Federal Reserve
O.M.W. Sprague was America's leading expert on financial crises when America was debating establishing the Federal Reserve. His History of Crises under the National Banking Act is one of the most enduring legacies of the National Monetary Commission; a still frequently cited classic. Since the Commission recommended a central bank, and its recommendation after some modifications became the Federal Reserve System, it might be assumed that Sprague was a strong supporter of establishing a central bank. But he was not. Initially, Sprague favored more limited reforms, a position that he did not abandon until the Federal Reserve became a fait accompli. Here I discuss the sources of Sprague's opposition to a central bank and the relationship of that opposition to his understanding of the history and structure of the American banking system at the turn of the nineteenth century.
This paper was prepared for a conference on alternatives to the Federal Reserve held at George Mason University on November 1, 2013. I thank the organizers of the conference George Selgin and Larry H. White; my discussant, David Wheelock; and other participants in the discussion for many helpful comments. Elmus Wicker and Eugene White read an earlier draft and made many helpful suggestions. The opinions expressed here and the remaining errors are mine. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Hugh Rockoff, 2015. "O.M.W. Sprague (the man who “wrote the book” on financial crises) and the founding of the Federal Reserve," Journal of Financial Stability, vol 17, pages 35-45. citation courtesy of