Historians remain divided over the role of banks in facilitating economic growth in the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Some scholars contend that banks played a minor role in the nation's growing economy. Financial institutions, they argue, appeared only after the economy had begun to develop, and once organized, followed conservative lending practices, providing aid to established commercial enterprises but shunning those, such as manufacturing and transportation projects, that were more uncertain and capital-intensive (i.e., requiring greater expenditures in the form of capital than in labor).
A growing number of historians argue, in contrast, that banks were crucial in transforming the early national economy. When state legislatures began granting more bank charters in the 1790s and early 1800s, the supply of credit rose accordingly. Unlike the earliest banks, which had primarily provided short-term loans to well-connected merchants, the banks of the early nineteenth century issued credit widely. As Paul Gilje asserts, the expansion and democratization of credit in the early nineteenth century became the driving force of the American economy, as banks began furnishing large amounts of capital to transportation and industrial enterprises. The exception, such historians argue, was in the South; here, the overwhelmingly agrarian nature of the economy generated outright opposition to banks, which were seen as monopolistic institutions controlled by an elite group of planters.
The passage suggests that the scholars mentioned in the highlighted text would argue that the reason banks tended not to fund manufacturing and transportation projects in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was that
these projects, being well established and well capitalized, did not need substantial long-term financing from banks
these projects entailed a level of risk that was too great for banks' conservative lending practices
banks preferred to invest in other, more speculative projects that offered the potential for higher returns
bank managers believed that these projects would be unlikely to contribute significantly to economic growth in the new country
bank managers believed funding these projects would result in credit being extended to too many borrowers