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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 73

A Merchant's View

A Merchant's View.

I shall conclude this lecture by reading to you a few sentences from a paper in the Westminster Review for December called "Financial Facilities," by Ed. Robert Ewen, who is, I believe, a Glasgow merchant, and who understands well what he writes about. He says:—

Mr Lowe, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and speaking of the connection of the Government with the Bank of England, hinted that the Bank was too much favored, and that it ought to be treated more like an independent banking company than as the sole Government Bank. If this were done, the Government would either have to divide its banking business with other Banks or establish a British National Bank in connection with the Treasury. If the latter course were taken, it would b[unclear: e] great advantage to the nation and to the whole public. A National Bank could issue national notes upon the security of the Government, than which nothing could be a better currency or circulating medium. These notes would be "legal tender," and pass for ready money over all the three kingdoms as freely as coin Mr Gladstone has frequently said be thought the Government should have page 19 the benefit of the note circulation or the issue of "legal tender." Speaking on the Irish Home Rule Bill on this point, he said: "Ireland might think fit to pass a law providing for the extinction of private issues in Ireland except under the authority and for the advantage of the State. I own it is my opinion that Ireland would do an extremely sensible thing if she passed such a law. It is my strong decided opinion that we ought to have the same law ourselves." If this is also the decided opinion of the present Government, there should be little or no difficulty in carrying out these views for the expansion of the currency, not only in Ireland but in Great Britain as well. We believe that would do more than tongue can tell to put trade into a prosperous state. If the Treasury will take its banking business into its own hands, and issue national notes, as already proposed, for say one hundred million pounds sterling, or such an amount as Parliament may authorise, in denominations of ten shillings, one pound, five pounds, and upwards, and lay aside or cancel consols for the same, these national notes would be a far safer and steadier circulating medium and measure of value than the sovereign or than gold bullion, which fluctuates like other metals.

He concludes his paper with the following hopeful words:—

The Bank of England is now over-flowing with money, and Punch in a humorous style hits off the scene of so many people coming with bagfuls of gold to the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street; she thus addresses them:

Oh, get away now, do, I'm really getting sick of you;
The proffered staff I must reíase, I have far more than I can use.
I've no more need or wish for money than a surfeited bee for honey.

There is, however, another view to take of this plethora of gold. It is making money plentiful, and credit cheap, and likely to continue so*. This is a good thing for the trade and industries of the country, and will, by and by, give plenty of employment to all classes. Long may this state of cheap credit and good trade continue! We can do without gold coin for the Home trade. Notes are as good or better than gold coin. The gold may be all left in reserve for foreign exchange at market price. Let us go back to Pitt's plan of banking and currency.


Printed at The Examiner Office, Vogel Street, Woodville, H.B.

* The Times City article lately stated that £1000 capital could be got the loan of for fifty shillings for a year's time—that was for large amounts in London. But banking must be brought down to the common people, and to retailers.