In June 1913, President Woodrow Wilson confronts a legislative deadlock over terms to define a new Federal Reserve Bank for the United States. The recent Panic of 1907 triggered a major civic reaction that sought to dispense with a 100-year-old antipathy to central banking. Now, Wilson must decide how best to harness the civic reaction in framing a new central bank.
Wilson's dilemma occurs in the midst of a dramatic regime shift in American politics. The rise of Populists and Progressive politicians in reaction to the rapid transformation of America in the Gilded Age marks 1913 as a historic pivot point. It is useful to consider how the Panic of 1907 contributed to that pivot and how the public subsequently reacted to the panic.
This case and its supplemental B case are a vehicle for illuminating the dynamics of financial crises, comparing systems for financial stability such as clearinghouse associations and central banks, considering the origin of the US Federal Reserve System, and exploring the dynamics of government policy making in the context of a regime shift in political sentiment.