Guaranty of Bank Deposits

Performed by William Jennings Bryan
Recorded July 21, 1908

The fifteen million bank depositors of the United States demand security for their money, and the Democratic national platform pledges the party to legislation under which the national bank should be required to establish a guarantee fund for the prompt payment of the depositors of any insolvent national bank. The system could be available to all state banking institutions wishing to use it. Oklahoma has enacted a law compelling the state banks to establish such a guarantee fund, and permitting national banks to take advantage of it, and the experience under the Oklahoma law has been very satisfactory. This guarantee system has been in operation since February 14th of this year, and up to May 14th the secured banks have increased their deposits more than four million dollars, while the unsecured banks have lost in deposits a little more than one million. The decrease in deposits in the unsecured banks is proof that the depositors felt the need of greater security and the large increase in the deposits in the secured banks prove that some three million dollars has been gone from hoarding and hiding or from without the state. But one bank has failed during this period, and within one hour of the suspension the receiver had received authority to pay all depositors in full. This not only protected the depositors from loss, but protected the community from the embarrassment that follows a bank failure where no provision is made for the guarantee of deposit. The Federal government demands specific security when it deposits money in the national bank. States, counties, and cities require security when they deposit in either state or national banks. Why should the individual depositor be left without security? Why should the individual depositor be compelled to bear the loss if the stockholders and directors of the bank employ careless or criminal officials? During the last 40 years the average loss to depositors in national banks has been less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the deposits, and while this loss has sometimes been severe upon the individual depositors in failed banks, it would have been very light upon the banks themselves, and as Oklahoma has shown, the tax would have more than been offset by the increased deposits gone into the bank. There are two arguments made against the guarantee system. First, that it defies the large banks of the advantage which they now have over small banks. But why should large banks demand an advantage at the expense of the depositor and the community? They have advantage enough in their ability to make larger loans and in the value of the endorsement to those who do business with them. The second argument is that the guarantee of depositors would make the banks careless. There’s no weight in this argument because in case of failure, the stockholders of the bank lose all their stock, and additional penalty besides, before other banks lose anything. The fact that the stockholders would suffer such loss would be a sufficient punishment for carelessness. Most of the failures today come from careless management, and we can secure more stringent regulation of banks when all of the banks have to stand in back of each bank, for then all banks would be interested in the careful management of each bank. If the bankers are short-sighted enough to oppose the guaranteed banks, they must be prepared to accept the postal savings bank, for the depositors will not longer consent to having their savings jeopardized.