The bronze statue of George Washington on the steps of Wall Street's old Sub-Treasury Building marks the symbolic birthplace of a nation. It records the position where, on 30 April 1789, Washington stood on a balcony to be sworn in as the first President of the United States. Among the ten thousand witnessing the inauguration that day was a young lawyer named Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton had been Washington's trusted aide-de-camp in the war against the British, the war that had secured the new nation's independence five and a half years earlier.

Washington knew the nation he was about to lead required a strong financial system. To oversee its establishment he offered Robert Morris, financier of the war against the British, the job as the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury. Morris declined but recommended Hamilton be appointed instead. The young lawyer accepted and was appointed in September of 1789. He got the ball rolling quickly, creating a new central bank and issuing debt in the name of the United States government. The new bank scrip and government bonds required a secondary market for their trade. By March of 1792 a stock exchange had been organised at 22 Wall Street. Since there was no monopoly on stock trading, a rival group of brokers operated independently in the open air down the street. Five securities were traded — three forms of government bonds and the securities of the Bank of New York and the Bank of the United States. ...

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