The Political Origins of Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act

33 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2018

See all articles by Parinitha Sastry

Parinitha Sastry

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Date Written: September 2018


At the height of the financial crisis of 2007-09, the Federal Reserve conducted emergency lending under authority granted to it in the third paragraph of Section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act. This article explores the political and legislative origins of the section, focusing on why Congress chose to endow the central bank with such an authority. The author describes how in the initial passage of the act in 1913, Congress demonstrated its steadfast commitment to the “real bills” doctrine in two interrelated ways: 1) by limiting what assets the Fed could purchase, discount, and use as collateral for advances, and 2) by ensuring that any newly created government-sponsored credit enterprises were kept separate from the Federal Reserve System. During the Great Depression, however, Congress passed legislation that blurred the line between monetary and credit policy, slowly chipping away at the real bills doctrine as it sought to combat the crisis. It was in this context that Congress added Section 13(3) to the Federal Reserve Act. In tracing this history, the author concludes that the original framers of Section 13(3) meant to sanction direct Federal Reserve lending to the real economy, rather than simply to a weakened financial sector, in emergency circumstances. This Depression-era history provides insights into the evolving role of the Federal Reserve as an emergency provider of liquidity.

Keywords: central banking, economic history, lender of last resort

JEL Classification: E42, E51, G28, N20

Suggested Citation

Sastry, Parinitha, The Political Origins of Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act (September 2018). Economic Policy Review, Issue 24-1, pp. 1-33, 2018, Available at SSRN: or

Parinitha Sastry (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of New York ( email )

33 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10045
United States

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