Unlike previous bankruptcy law demands, which were largely motivated by crises, the late-nineteenth-century demands for a bankruptcy law sought a permanent law suited to the needs of a commercial nation. The Bankruptcy Act of 1898 was designed to help creditors liquidate the assets of an insolvent debtor, but one of the important features of current bankruptcy law is the provision for the reorganization of insolvent companies. In the first period, which covers most of the 19th century, Congress enacted three laws in the wake of financial crises. Laws that don't encourage debt repayment increase the risk for creditors and reduce the supply of credit.
Debtor and creditor laws and their enforcement are important because they influence the supply and demand for credit. The repeal of the Bankruptcy Act of 1867 was almost immediately followed by a well-organized movement to obtain a new bankruptcy law. The main innovations of the Bankruptcy Act of 1841 were the introduction of voluntary bankruptcy and the expansion of the scope of occupations that could use the law. To say that there was no bankruptcy law in the United States for most of the 19th century does not mean that there were no laws that regulated insolvency or debt collection.
The Thacher Report's recommendations for a bankruptcy administrator were not enacted, largely due to opposition from dedicated lawyers. Despite their short duration, more than 41,000 bankruptcy filings were filed, most of them voluntary, under the 1841 Act. The widespread belief that debtors should not be subject to the harshest elements of debt collection law can also be seen in numerous state laws enacted during the 19th century. The debates in the Annals of Congress are brief, but suggest that the demand for the bill came from people who were struggling financially.
Bankruptcy attorneys have played a prominent role in drafting and lobbying bankruptcy reform since the 1930s. In his 1859 Treatise on Railroad Law, Isaac Redfield explained that “the railroad, like a complicated machine, is made up of a large number of parts, whose combined action is necessary to generate revenue. Complaints that the law was expensive to administer, that it was difficult and expensive to travel to federal courts, and that the law offered opportunities for fraud led to its repeal after just two years. First, the details of collection laws varied from state to state, requiring them to know the laws of every state in which they wanted to sell goods.