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Proceedings of the Fourth Congress at Atlanta, GA., April 28 to May 1, 1892
In Memoriam
Hon. John Jay Knox, New York


John Jay Knox, President of the National Bank of the Republic, died at his residence, 19 East Forty-first Street, on the 9th of February. Mr. Knox had been ill with pneumonia for several days, and toward the last his physicians had given up all hope of saving his life. John Jay Knox had been a conspicuous figure in the financial world during the last two decades. He was born in Oneida County, this state, on March 19, 1828. His father's ancestors were Scotch-Irish, and came from Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland, in 1759. He received his education at the Augusta Academy and the Water-town Classical Institute, and was graduated from Hamilton College in 1849. He began his business career in the bank at Vernon, of which his father was long President, as teller, at a salary of $300 a year. He held that position until 1852. He afterward was with the Burnet Bank, at Syracuse, and then was appointed cashier of the Susquehanna Valley Bank, at Binghampton.

In 1857 Mr. Knox and his brother, Henry M. Knox, started a bank in St. Paul, Minn. He came into prominence as a financier in the discussion which preceded the establishment of the national banks. He took a conspicuous part in the agitation of the questions that then arose, and made many valuable suggestions regarding the currency. He strongly advocated a safe and convertible currency, the issue of a uniform series of circulating notes to all the banks, and the guarantee by the government of circulation secured by its own bonds.

In 1862 Mr. Knox was introduced by Secretary Chase to Hugh McCullough, then the Controller of the Currency. Mr. Chase had. his attention attracted to Mr. Knox by the financial articles that appeared under his name in various magazines. Mr. Knox accepted a clerkship under Treasurer Spinner, but subsequently was transferred to the office of Mr. Chase as disbursing clerk, at a salary of $2,000 a year. After holding the position three years he accepted a position as cashier of the Exchange National Bank, at Norfork Va.

The Southern climate did not agree with him, so he returned to Washington. He was commissioned by Mr. McCullough to examine the branch mint at San Francisco. He also was then authorized to select a site for a new mint there. His report upon the mint service of the Pacific Coast was so valuable a document that Mr. McCul-lough printed it as a part of his official report of 1866, with a complimentary notice for the writer. The site for the mint which he selected was afterward purchased for $100,000 from Eugene Kelly, of this city.

Mr. Knox was next commissioned to go to New Orleans. A deficiency of $1,100,000 had been discovered in the office of the Assistant Treasurer there. He took possession of the office, and for some time acted as Assistant Treasurer.

The promotion of Mr. Knox to the office in which he was able to do himself the most credit and perform services to the country which are part of its financial progress occurred in 1867. At this time a vacancy was brought about in the Deputy Controllership of the Currency, and Secretary McCullough appointed him to fill it. Until May 1, 1884, he remained as Deputy, or head of the bureau, his terms of office being as follows: Five years as Deputy Controller, from 1867 to 1872; five years as Controller, from 1872 to 1877, appointed by Gen. Grant; five years, second term, as Controller, from 1877 to 1882, by President Hayes, on the recommendation of Secretary Sherman—the reappointment being made without his knowledge, before the expiration of the preceding term, and confirmed by the Senate without reference to any committee. He was again reappointed by President Arthur, April 12, 1882.

In 1870 he made an elaborate report to Congress, including a codification of the mint and coinage laws, with important amendments, which was highly commended. The bill which accompanied the report comprised within the compass of twelve pages of the Revised Statutes every important provision contained in more than sixty different enactments upon the mint and coinage of the United States—the result of eighty years of legislation. This bill, with slight amendments, was subsequently passed, and is known as "The Coinage Act of 1873," and the Senate Finance Committee, in recognition of his services, by an amendment, made the Controller of the Currency an ex officio member of the Assay Commission, which meets annually at the mint in Philadelphia for the purpose of testing the weight and fineness of the coinage of the year.

Through his official report Mr. Knox always exercised great influence over financial legislation, and he took an active, though quiet and unassuming part in the great financial movements which resulted in the resumption of the specie payment. It was in April, 1878, that he came to this city with Secretary Sherman and Attorney-general Devens. He arranged a meeting between these two Cabinet officers and the officers of ten of the principal banks, with the view of negotiating the sale of $50,000,000 of 4˝ per cent. bonds, the avails of which wore to be used for resumption purposes. The Presidents of the banks represented gave Secretary Sherman no encouragement for the purchase of the bonds at the rate proposed. The Secretary and the Controller were met at the Fifth Avenue Hotel later in the day by August Belmont, who had received from the Rothschilds a cable dispatch authorizing the purchase of the entire issue of bonds at a premium of 1˝ per cent. for the account of the syndicate. When the Secretary and the Controller returned to Washington and announced that their negotiations had been successful, there was a deal of chagrin among certain members of the Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, who were bitterly opposed to the resumption scheme proposed.

This negotiation was the first of a series of brilliant financial transactions preceding and following resumption on January 1, 1879, in which Mr. Knox was a leading figure. Afterward he arranged a conference, which was held in the Treasury at Washington in the evening, between leading bank officials of New York and Secretaries Sherman and Evarts, which resulted in the admission of the Assistant Treasurer as a member of the Clearing House, and the receipt by the banks of legal tender notes on a par with gold; and in 1881, by request of President Garfield, he attended a conference in New York between the leading financial men of the city and Secretary Windom and Attorney-general MacVeagh, which resulted in the issue and successful negotiation of 3˝ per cent. bonds.

After Mr. Knox left the public service, in 1884, he was President of the National Bank of the Republic in this city. He was the author of a book entitled "United States Notes." It was published by the Scribners and republished in London. In politics Mr. Knox was thoroughly independent, taking a personal interest in political matters only so far as financial, civil service, and tariff questions were concerned. He was the nominee of the independents for Controller of the city in 1886.

The last address made by Mr. Knox was in Boston at the dinner given by the Chamber of Commerce of that city. On that occasion he was one of the representatives of the New York Chamber of Commerce.

The funeral took place on Friday from St. Bartholomew's Church, in Madison Avenue, of which Mr. Knox was a member.

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