The result of years of research, this lengthy and erudite book by a Southern historian is both a biography of Nicholas Biddle (1786-1844), Philadelphia millionaire and diplomat, President of the Bank of the United States and a man largely forgotten today, and a detailed study of the early financial history of this country: the conflict between the Jeffersonian adherents of a financial policy of laissez faire, as exemplified by Andrew Jackson, who hated all banks, and the Hamiltonians, personified by Biddle and detested by Jackson, who believed in the control of national credit and currency through a nationally chartered institution -- the United States Bank. Through his Bank, Biddle (known to American historians for his superb editing of the Lewis & Clark papers) established a policy of national security which endured for years but which was overthrown in 1839 by Jackson, advocate of free speculation. By wrecking the Bank Jackson also destroyed the financial security of the nation, for after its closing speculators moved without restraint; the effects of his policies lasted until this century. Biddle, who lost reputation and private fortune in the crash of the Bank, lived for some years on his wife's money and died in 1844. Specialized in subject, formidable in content and style, this weighty book, a valuable addition to the records of America's financial history, belongs in historical, financial and the larger public libraries; it will hold little appeal to average readers of history or biography.