The British Credit System. Inflated Bank Credit
As a Substitute for "Current Money of the Realm."By Henry Carey Baird.
Henry Carey Baird & Co. Philadelphia Industrial Publishers, Booksellers, and Importers, 810 Walnut Street. 1875.
Bank Inflation in England.
To the Editor of the Press:—
The entire stock in trade of the American bullionist, the thing with which he frightens people who are wholly ignorant of finance, the means he uses to perpetuate his power as the great middleman, the parasite par excellence as a dealer in credit, is "Inflation." The only inflation, however, which he pretends to see himself, or wishes others to see, is that of the little monetary instrument—the circulating note, the people's rivulet that irrigates the whole land, and brings peace and prosperity in rills to all classes, rich and poor alike, and with these results, power to the State. He wholly ignores inflation of the great monetary instrument, bank and other credit, the Mississippi of currency, an inferior substitute which men are forced to use when the law places an arbitrary limit upon the one of superior quality, the "current money of the realm."
|That institution had a capital of Reserve||£1,200,000|
|But its loans were as follows :—|
|Discounted bills and advances||14,113,465|
What a grand system of "inflation"! An irresponsible private institution, with £1,800,000 of capital and reserve, adding £19,944,392 to the purchasing power of those who borrowed its credit, precisely as much so as would an addition of £19,944,392 to the circulating medium of the country add to the purchasing power of the whole people! But this was not all. This institution hold cash on hand to the amount of £2,461,448, being almost equal to the full amount of its capital, reserve undivided profits, and subscriptions paid on account of new shares. Still further, it held government and other stocks and securities, and real estate to the amount of £2,506,547.
Now how have these results, as magical as those which came from Aladdin's lamp, been accomplished? Why, by lending an ever-increasing volume of credit, which is based on a fixed sum of money or credit called capital, and receiving it, or that of similar English banks, in deposits, in the aggregate amounting to the almost unparalleled sum of £19,892,586, which deposits are, by means of checks and the clearing-house, kept floating round in a circle among these banks—the balances between the banks being settled without the use of a single pound sterling of money, but by cheeks on the Bank of England.* Be it remembered, too, that this London and County Banking Company has no circulation of its own, but that where it does use notes they are those of the Bank of England.
The result of the business of the bank for the past year, after paying large salaries and other expenses, was dividends amounting to 20 per cent., that too, in a land where the public fund-holder is content with a trifle over 3 per cent., and the small depositor in the Postal Savings Bank with 2½ per cent.
* To show how very small an amount of banking deposits are made in the form of money we give the following statement, made by Sir John Lubbock before the Statistical Society in June, 1865, in which he analyzed a sum of £19,000,000 paid into his bank by customers :—
|Checks and bills||£18,395,000 or||97 per cent.|
|Bank of England notes||408,000||3 per cent.|
|Country notes||79,000||3 percent|
|Coin||118,000||3 per cent.|
From which statement it appears that only 3 per cent, of banking deposits are paid in the form of money, that is, notes and coin together, and a little more than ½ per cent, in specie.—Patterson's Science of Finance, pp. 5, 6; Edinburgh, 1868.
The great, insolvable problem of the public debt of Great Britain awaits in the near future an easy solution. Let the government take from the Bank of England and all other banks the right to issue circulating notes, and issue them itself in exchange for consols, allowing the people full liberty to decide upon the volume of such notes, and making them at all times interconvertible with consols. These notes will take the place of mere unsubstantial bank credit, and flowing out among the people will disseminate the force now centralized in the hands of a few bank officers, stockholders, and borrowers, and enable the people, the real source of national wealth and power, to contribute almost immediately, at least as much toward the payment of the public debt as they did from 1816 to 1822, before resumption of specie payments, or £16,000,000 per annum; besides which the debt will certainly be carried at 2 per cent, per annum interest, instead of 3 per cent., and this alone will rapidly lighten its burden.* In addition to all of these advantages credit, misnamed "financial crises," will soon be a thing of the past, and the great body of the people of Great Britain will clearly see, as many do now among us, that "in the interchangeability (at the option of the holder) of national paper money with government bonds bearing a fixed rate of interest, there is a subtle principle that will regulate the movements of finance and commerce as accurately as the motion of the steam-engine is regulated by its 'governor.' Such paper-money tokens would be much nearer perfect standards of payment than gold and silver ever have been or can be." That all of these things will come to pass, and even in Great Britain, in the not very distant future, and that they will finally and forever drive pauperism from those islands, is my firm conviction.
Henry Carey Baird
* The public debt of Great Britain is now £779,283,245 = $3,787,316,570, and consequently a reduction of 1 per cent. per annum interest would give an immediate annual relief of $37,873,165. In fifty years, however, there would be a saving to the people and the State of $6,409, 654,563, being the difference between $16,603,217,111, the amount of the debt at the expiration of that time, at compound interest, at 3 per cent., and $10,193,562,548, its amount at 2 per cent.
Capital and Currency.
Including an attempt to show what it is that England loans and what our Government and Railroads borrow from her.
To the Editors of the Boston Daily Advertiser:—
Permit me to ask the favor that you will allow me to make a critical examination of an important sentence in the rejoinder of "W. E." to Mr. Wendell Phillips on "Capital and Currency," in your paper of the 18th inst. The sentence is as follows:—
"I said," says W. E., "that, in order to make the rate of interest permanently lower in this country, it would be necessary to make the supply of loanable capital larger than it now is, relatively to the demand for it, and that this could be done only by borrowing abroad, or by slow accumulation at home—in short, that capital, and not currency, was the thing needed to satisfy Mr. Phillips's desire, and that capital could not be created by any act of legislation."
The question which meets us at the very threshold of this investigation, and demands an answer, is, What is capital? Without this answer, and, in addition, an analysis of that which W. E. calls "loanable capital," we shall remain in ignorance as well of the nature of our conclusions as of our premises; we shall, indeed, not know what it is that we are talking about.
Capital has been defined by an eminent American economist as "the instrument by the aid of which production is directed to the uses of man," and exists, as he adds, in the form of land and its improvements, ships, ploughs, mental development, books, corn, roads, steam-engines, money, and that confidence between man and man which is known as credit. This latter has been characterized by a very acute and able Scotch economist, R. H. Patterson, as "our invisible capital." Let us now inquire what is the "loanable capital" to which W. E. refers, and the supply of which may, as he thinks, be increased "only by borrowing abroad or by slow accumulation at home;" and see if it is not mere credit, the "invisible capital" of Mr. Patterson. Let us trace out the manner of organizing and subsequently of working one of those greatest page 6 of all the credit institutions in the world, a London bank, and see if we cannot thereby shed some light upon the problem.
The stock subscribed for in a new bank in London is paid for almost entirely by means of checks drawn against deposits in the Bank of England, or other London banks, and which do not actually represent money in hand, but credits on the books of these banks. The operation, then, is but the mere transfer of the ownership of credits from individuals or corporations to the new bank, and these credits usually remain with the Bank of England, while they continue to be the property of the new bank. Customers now come to the new bank and ask loans or discounts on stocks, bonds, promissory notes, and bills of exchange, and credits are carried to their respective accounts on the books of the bank and are called deposits. Some parts of these deposits are transferred by means of checks to the creditors of these depositors, and of them some may remain with the bank as deposits to the credit of the new parties, while others are taken to other banks and deposited with them. But a small amount is drawn in notes or specie, and even of this a portion soon finds its way back to the new bank or goes to other banks. The "loanable capital" thus loaned, is, by the aid of checks, made to perform the same functions as circulating notes and specie", and by the aid of the London clearing house is kept revolving round in a circle among the banks, the balances being paid not by means of money, but simply by checks drawn upon the Bank of England, where all of the other bank's keep their accounts. Indeed, the deposits from day to day received from the public by the London banks and bankers consist of little else than the checks which transfer the ownership of deposits already held by the various city and country banks,* the original sources of the production of which deposits are loans.
* "To show how very small an amount of banking deposits are made in the form of money, we give the following statement, made by Sir John Lubbock, before the Statistical Society in June, 1865, in which he analyzed a sum of £19,000,000 paid into his bank by customers:—
|Checks and bills||£18,395,000 or||97 per cent.|
|Bank of England notes||408,000||3 per cent.|
|Country notes||79,000||3 percent|
|Coin||118,000||3 per cent.|
From which statement it appears that only three per cent, of banking deposits are paid in the form of money, that is, notes and coin together, and a little more than one-half per cent, in specie."—Patterson's Science of Finance, pp. 5, 6; Editburgh, 1868.
|That institution had a capital of Reserve||£1,200,000|
|Its loans were as follows:—|
|Discounted bills and advances||14,113.405|
Besides which, it held government and other securities and real estate to the amount of £2,506,547, and cash (mostly deposits to its credit in the Bank of England) to the amount of £2,461,448—this latter item representing almost exactly the amount of its capital, reserve, undivided profits, and subscriptions to new shares, or, in a word, the whole of its worldly possessions. How then is it enabled to make such large loans, or to hold securities and other property to such an amount as £22,450,939, seeing that in addition to doing and having these things, it holds all of its own worldly possessions in hand, in cash, or in the Bank of England? Why, by means of a gradual growth of debits representing loans, which give rise to credits called deposits, the latter constituting "loanable capital," the steady "evolution" of which is rendered possible so long as these deposits are not demanded in notes or specie, but are transferred by means of checks and clearing-houses. With the London and County Banking Company these credits called deposits had, on December 31, 1874, reached an aggregate of £19,892,586.*
* Bank loans and the resulting deposits accumulate in business centres in proportion to the ability of those centres to work bank credits through checks and clearing-houses, without demanding circulating notes or specie. In small towns doing business with rural populations they do not accumulate largely, because a demand for circulating notes or specie, almost the only circulating mediums there used, soon follows loans and draws upon the actual resources of the banks. In other words, these rural banks bank mainly upon their own resources, and not upon their credit, as city banks so largely do. In France these loans and deposits do not accumulate because the people generally use money and not checks in their business affairs. M. Pinard, Manager of the Comptoir d'Escompte, of Paris, testified before the French Commission of Inquiry, 1865-68, that the greatest efforts had been made by that institution to induce French merchants and shopkeepers to adopt English habits in respect to the use of checks and the keeping of bank accounts, but in vain; their prejudices were invincible; "it was no use reasoning with them, they would not do it, because they would not." . The private deposits in the Bank of France and its branches, May 20, 1875, were but $73,823,260, while the deposits in the banks of New York City, June 5, 1875—nearly all private—were $233,424,100. The private loans and discounts of the Bank of France and its branches, May 20, 1875, were but $118,243,800, while those of the bants of New York City were $281,401,100. Our country, being one of vast area compared with its population, cannot build up and work a genera! system of inflated bank credit like that of Great Britain, and must therefore, if for no other and better reason, have a full volume of "current money of the realm," as France has, or stagnate and annually waste labor-power worth thousands of millions of dollars, and at the same time be dependent upon foreigners for "loanable capital." While on May 1, 1875, the National Banks of the United States had—
|Their loans and discounts were||$964,574,114|
These debits and credits, these loans and deposits are well nigh without any financial base whatever, for the reason that the base upon which they are supposed to rest is little else than credits (deposits) with the Bank of England, which themselves only rest upon the same specie and loan to the nation (national debt due the bank), upon which the Bank of England bases its own operations, regardless of those of the London and County Banking Company, and the other banks which keep their accounts with it. Once cancel both these debits and credits, use the one to pay the other, and the great volume of this "slow accumulation" of "loanable capital" would instantly collapse and shrink from some £24,912,387 to about £2,461,4481 Perform the same process with three or four other large London banks, and it would result in a total collapse of British finance, trade, commerce, and industry!
How is it then, that a country, the instrument of payment of which is of such an inflated and ticklish nature, is able to lend so much "money," so much "loanable capital" to almost the whole world beside? The answer is, that the carrying of these loans is rendered possible by reason of this system of bank credit, while bills of exchange drawn against merchandise shipped to the borrowing or other countries, or against interest due on former loans, prevent the shipment of money—the latter being the actual form of capital which the borrowing country needs, no country having plenty of which, ever being under the necessity of becominy a borrower. Thus does the rest of the world get none of the thing it most needs, but merely goods, for which it does not then pay; or a funding of the interest which it then owes, or both; the individual consumers of the goods or the debtors for interest paying, however, while the borrowers have their indebtedness carried by and through the credits in favor of foreigners, created by means of goods then or pre page 9 viously purchased, and which are soon wholly consumed, while the debt for them remains a permanent charge upon their country at compound interest. All the while the borrowing country amuses itself with the idea that it is getting money for the reason that the individual borrowers of these credits obtain payment in bills of exchange for which in their own country they get money or bank credit; while at the same time, the lending country could not stand up under the effects of parting with so many goods without payment, did not bank credit at home supply an available substitute for it.
The evidence of the inability of Great Britain to loan actual money in any great amount, to foreign countries, is found in the fact that the transfer of the $15,500,000 indemnity under the Geneva award, which she had to pay to our government, she, for prudential reasons, effected gradually by means of bills of exchange and securities instead of money, the thing which was to be paid; and the further fact that the Bank of England served notice upon Mr. Boutwell that in case he attempted to draw specie from London for certain loans there negotiated, that institution would step in and break up his combinations and contracts; in other words, cut off the supply of loans—the "loanable capital"—from the banks and bankers who were about to buy the bonds, because these bank loans were not to be allowed to float round among the London banks in the form of deposits, but were to be drawn in specie for shipment.* The lesson to be learned from these facts is, that Great Britain with all her boasted wealth and power never willingly gives up that most royal of all things, Money, that species of capital which commands on the instant, indeed calls into being, almost all other forms of capital; without a struggle and the attempt or desire to force off instead something which she values less.
* " When the negotiations were going on in London for the sale of the largest amount of United States bonds that have ever been sold there at one time, it was foreseen by the Bank of England that a quantity of coin would accumulate as the proceeds of these bonds to the credit of the government of the United States. As a matter of fact, there was an accumulation of about $21,000,000. The Bank of England, foreseeing that there would be an accumulation of coin to the credit of the United States which might be taken away bodily in specie, gave notice to the officers of the Treasury Department of the United States that the power of that institution would be arrayed against the whole proceeding unless we gave a pledge that the coin should not be removed, and that we would reinvest it in the bonds of the United States as they were offered in the markets of London. We were compelled to do it."—Speech of Hon. G. S. Boutwell in U. S. Senate, January 22, 1874.
Will then Massachusetts, and New England generally, still continue to stand in the way of at least a trial of such a law? If they do they will assume an immense, a dreadful responsibility, which sooner or later they will be forced to acknowledge, when surrounded by yet still greater ruin, they are obliged to try that law, and trying it, they realize the beneficence of its workings amongst the people, and the independence and power it confers upon the State, an independence the celebration of which will in no sense be a mockery, as must be that of any other, while our government is at the mercy of foreign credit-mongers.
Henry Carey Baird.Tesmont House, Boston,
March 25, 1875.
Bullionism and Bank Inflation.
How they travel hand in hand together.
To the Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer—
My friend, Judge Kelley, having in a recent letter given some rather startling figures regarding the London and County Banking Company, of London, exhibiting the extent to which that institution carries the system of inflation of bank credits, I desire to place before your readers the evidence that those figures give but little more than a fair average specimen of the state of the London banks generally. To that end I have compiled from the supplement to the London Economist, May 15, 1875, the following:—page 12 page 13
From the foregoing figures it would seem that in London, at least, they have learned how "to pay debts without moneys," a lesson that Andrew Yarranton, the father of English political economy, desired to teach to his countrymen at as early a date as 1677; to-day nearly all of the large debts in that city being paid by mere bank credits, which have absolutely little or no monetary foundation whatever.
With a capital and reserve or surplus of £12,753,059, of which nearly the whole, or £12,545,063, is invested in public securities, real estate, etc., these institutions have gradually accumulated a line of loans of £100,504,385, resulting in credits to the borrowers or their assigns, called deposits, almost wholly the out-growth of these loans, of £100,605,085. So long as there is no extraordinary demand for payment outside of it, these deposits are readily kept afloat through and by means of the clearing-house.
These deposits, which are worked through checks, become an instrument of payment as potent as would be the addition of £100,000,000 to the money of Great Britain. In other words, they are in their effect equal to the doubling of the gold circulation of the realm, which is now estimated by the highest authorities at £100,000,000, but with this difference, that the deposits being worked by the few, they become an instrument for the aggrandizement of those few and for the enslavement of the many These credit-mongers and those in our own country understand this full well, and when they cry out against "inflation" they pretend to be opposed to the very thing they are in favor of. What they are really opposed to, is having such a normal volume of "current money of the realm" as will obviate all necessity for that immense volume of bank credit, through the use of which they annually levy taxes upon the public to the amount of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The "cash" £14,586,366 held by the London banks above named, small as it is compared with their liabilities payable on demand, consists largely of mere deposits (credits) with the Bank of England, thus constituting the latter the almost exclusive base upon which rests this towering superstructure of bank credit. The Economist has recently, said "the reserve of the Bank of England is the only reserve the nation possesses, and has not been increased in proportion to the very great amount of the demands to which the bank is now exposed, as compared to those it had formerly to meet." The weight of these "demands" may be inferred from the fact that during October and November, 1874, the deficiency of the bank note reserve of the Bank of England, as compared with the mere bankers' balances in its hands, ranged from £734,000 to £2,478,000. The reason why the burden has so increased, is found in the fact that, while since 1844, the trade of Great Britain has increased many fold, the circulation of coin has increased but little, and that of notes not issued on coin or bullion actually in hand, not at all. Hence the growing trade has annually to call upon banks for an increasing page 14 volume of their inferior substitute, credit circulating through the London and other clearing-houses.*
Judge Kelley and the gathering hosts of which he is now the acknowledged leader, only demand that the people of this country shall no longer be placed under the tyranny of such legislation as limits the money of the country below the actual wants of business, to be followed by the creation of an inflated, expensive, and unstable bank credit system like that of England. To that end, they advocate a full volumed currency, at all times interconvertible with United States bonds bearing a fixed rate of interest, not exceeding 3.65 per cent. Such a currency will in time cause nearly all business to be done for cash as in 1864-5, and will save us from those desolating crises which, sooner or later, in Great Britain, here, or elsewhere, follow an inflated credit substitute for a sufficient volume of "current money of the realm."†
Henry Carey Baird.Philadelphia, August 2, 1875.
* In 1844 the deposits in the following banks were :—
|London and County||£1,231,000|
|London Joint Stock||2,245,000|
|London and Westminster||2,076,000|
|In 1874 they were :—|
|London and County||£19,892,586|
|London Joint Stock||20,527,276|
|London and Westminster||30,015,194|
† The ticklish nature of the British system of inflated hank credit is well shown by the following from The Economist, the highest English authority on finance, July 10, 1875 :—
"There can be little doubt that we have very narrowly escaped a panic. The great mercantile disasters which have followed so rapidly one after another, the failure of two bill brokers, and above all, the very serious losses avowed by our joint stock banks, and especially by the London and Westminster (the one whose business is largest, and whose repute greatest) would, in former times, have nearly or quite shaken the foundation of credit. The mercantile disasters which primarily caused the panic of 1857, were certainly not much greater; perhaps they were even less. The main cause to which we owe our escape is the increase of the cash reserve in the banking department of the Bank of England. The panic of 1857 found the bank with a reserve of £2,700,000; the late events found it with one of £10,344,000, which had increased to £12,385,000 before the second group of failures came. And it is to this great improvement that we owe our present safety. As was natural, the great increase of the fund which we hold to give confidence in times of alarm, had the effect of creating that confidence. Even as it is, we, on a former occasion, showed that we have but narrowly escaped. If a war had broken out between France and Germany just before these events, when it was so much feared even by many who ought to know, and if, as is most likely, like the previous similar war of 1870, it had caused £3,000,000 to be taken from our banking reserve for the Continent, these great calamities would have found the bank with a probably insufficient reserve instead of a sufficient one. But, nevertheless, in comparison with such times as 1857, much praise is justly due to the present policy of the Bank. Though it did not provide for the contingency, which was near occurring, it did provide for the contingency which did happen, and we all have to be grateful to it."
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Proctor.—A Pocket-Book of Useful Tables and Formulæ.for Marine Engineers. By Frank Proctor. Pocket-book form $2 00
Roseleur.—Galvanoplastio Manipulations. By A. A. Fesquet. 127 illustrations. 8vo. $6 00
Shaw.—Civil Architecture. By Edward Shaw. 102 plates. 4to. . . . $10 00
Smith.—The Dyer's Instructor. 800 receipts. By David Smith. 12mo. . $3 00
Vogdes.—The Architect's and Builder's Pocket Companion and Price Book. By F. W. Vodges. Cloth, $1 50; tucks, $2 00
Wohler.—Hand-Book of Mineral Analysis. Edited by Prof. H. B. Nason. 12mo. $3 00
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