America’s first financial panic in 1792 is primarily known for the duplicitous actions of one William Duer. Up until 1791, Duer had been a respected individual that had signed the Articles of Confederation, member of Continental Congress, and most importantly secretary to the Board of the Treasury.
However, with his role at the Treasury providing intimate knowledge of government finances, Duer resigned from his post and began speculating on government debt, the Bank of the United States stock and Bank of New York stock (the first ever traded in Wall Street). Duer and his associates attempted to corner the market in these securities, while borrowing heavily from friends and family in the process. Duer used his friendship with Alexander Hamilton and former Treasury position to convince people he could offer guaranteed returns. Eventually the scheme blew up and Duer died in debtor’s prison in 1799.
Read More: The Panic of 1792