« ForrigeFortsett »
commence on 1st February 1820;* and this enabled that establishment, in the preceding autumn, when the crash began, not only not to contract its issues, but even in a slight degree to increase them.t
The effects of this sudden and prodigious contraction of the currency were soon apparent, and they rendered And on the next three years a period of ceaseless distress and anTom°mosuffering in the British islands. The accommodationdltlMgranted by bankers diminished so much, in consequence of the obligation laid upon them of paying in specie when specie was not to be got, that the paper under discount at the Bank of England, which in 1810 had been £23,000,000, and in 1815 not less than £20,660,000, sunk in 1820 to £4,672,000, and in 1821 to £2,676,000 !J The effect upon prices was not less
* Bank And Bankers' Notes.
—Parliamentary Papers quoted in Alison's Europe, chap. xcvi.; Appendix to Tooke On Prices, ii. 129.
Mr Sedgcwick, of the Stamp Office, estimates the contraction of country bank-notes as follows :—
1819, ..... £15,284,491
1820, ..... 11,767,391
1821, ..... 8,414,281
1822, ..... 8,067,260
—Tooke On Prices, ii. 128.
t Circulation Of The Bank Of England.
27th February 1819, . £25,126,970 31st August 1819, . 25,252,790
-tooke On Prices, ii. 96.
X Paper Under Discount At The Bank Of Enqland,
immediate or appalling. They sunk in general, within six months, to half their former amount, and remained at that low level for the next three years.* Imports sunk from nearly £36,000,000 in 1818, to £29,769,000 in 1821 ; exports from £45,000,000 in the former year, to £35,000,000 in the latter.t Distress was universal in the latter months of the year 1819, and that distrust and discouragement was felt in all branches of industry, which is at once the forerunner and the cause of disaster. The Three per Cents, which had been at 79 in January, gradually fell, after the Bank Restriction Act passed, to , Ann Rcg 65 in December; and the bankruptcies, which had been 86 in January, rose in May to 178: the total in the year was 1499, being an increase of 531 over the preceding year.1 J
The effects of this panic, and consequent distress, especially in the manufacturing districts, speedily appeared;
Prices Op The Undermentioned Articles In The Year, And Wheat In
t 1818, . . . £45,180,150
1819, . . . 34,252,251
1820, . . . 35,569,677
1821, . . 35,823,127
1822, . . . 36,176,897 —Alison's Europe, chap, xcvi., Appendix.
t Mr Tooke, whose industry and talents entitle his opinions to the highest respect, has laboured hard to show that the contraction of the currency in 1819 had no connection with the distress of that and the three following years, but that it is entirely to bo ascribed to overtrading; and in this opinion ho is followed by Miss Martineau. With what success their arguments aro founded may bo judged of by the facts above stated. Mr Tooke's arguments are based upon on idea which every one acquainted with the real working of commerce knows to be fallacious—that the effects of monetary changes, if real, and the demagogues -were not slow to turn to the best Chap. account this unexpected turn of fortune in their favour.
Mr Cobbett said afterwards, that the moment he heard in TM19America of the resumption of cash payments in Great Rapid inBritain, he prepared to return to this country, as he felt direction certain that the cause of Reform in Parliament could not ^e coun" long be averted; and the result proved that he had correctly scanned the effects of that measure. The disaffected, under the direction of their able and intelligent leaders, changed the direction of their tactics. They no longer confined their operations to the breaking of mills or destruction of machinery; political changes became their object; and their method of effecting them was by making displays of vast multitudes of men, in a certain degree disciplined, and closely banded together in feeling. At a great meeting of 30,000 or 40,000 persons, which took place at Glasgow on 16th May, called
upon prices, must be immediate, and, therefore, as be finds the Bank issues a shade higher in August 1819 than they had been in February of that year, he concludes that thero was no contraction to account for the distress, and that it arose entirely from overtrading.—(tooke On Pricts, ii. 96, 113.) He takes no account of the prodigious drain on the metallic currency which brought the bullion in the Bank down from £12,000,000 to £3,500,000, nor of the contraction of £5,000,000 in the country bankers' issues, from the passing of the act. But, in truth, his notion that there is an immediate connection between currency and prices if there is any, is entirely erroneous. Sometimes, doubtless, the effect is very rapid, but in general it is the work of time. If a sudden panic is either produced or arrested by legislative measures, the effect may be instantaneous ; but in other cases it is by slow degrees, and by working through all the ramifications of society, that a contraction or expansion of the currency acts upon the interests of society. If fivo millions additional are thrown into the money market, or gradually withdrawn, it by no means foUows that there is to be an instantaneous effect on prices. The effect takes place gradually, in consequence of the extended speculations and undertakings which are set on foot in the one case, or ruined or contracted in the other. The effect of the contraction of the currency, which began in 1819, continued through the whole three following years, till it was arrested by an expansion of it in 1823, which soon landed the nation in another set of dangers on the opposite side. The speculation of 1818 was doubtless considerable, and would probably, in any event and with the best regulated currency, have led to a check aud a temporary fall of prices, just as an abundant harvest for a season lowers the price of grain. But it is quite chimerical to suppose that the longcontinued distress, from 1819 to 1823, was owing to the importations of 1818. If they were excessive, that evil would speedily check itself, and restore prices to their average and healthful state. But that they were not excessive, aud
VOL. II. 2 C
Chap, to petition the Prince-Regent for relief and means to x' emigrate to Canada, an amendment was proposed, and 1819- carried by an overwhelming majority, that no good was to be expected but from annual parliaments, universal suffrage, vote by ballot, and diminished taxation. They now, for the first time, assumed the name of Radical Reformers, and began to use, as their warcries, the necessity of annual parliaments, universal suffrage, vote by ballot, and the other points which have since been combined in what is called the People's Charter. The leaders of the great meetings which took place, much to their credit, strenuously inculcated upon the people the necessity of keeping the peace, and abstaining from all acts of intimidation and outrage; and, considering the immense multitudes who were con
should not, if the currency had been let alone, have terminated in anything liko disaster, is decisively proved by the fact that they were not half as great, relatively to the population of the empire, as they have since become in years not only unaccompanied by disaster, but marked by the most unequivocal prosperity. This distinctly appears from the following table of exports and m ports:—
—Porter's Pari. Tablet; and Alisoh's Europe, Appendix, chap. cxvi.
It is true, several of these prosperous years terminated in disaster; but that was the necessary effect of the system of currency established in the empire, which rendered periods of disaster as necessarily the followers of prosperity as night is of day.
gregated together, amounting often to 30,000 and 40,000 Chap, persons, it was surprising how generally the directions
were followed. Aware from the symptoms in the poli- 1819" tical atmosphere of an approaching storm, but wholly iMartineau> unconscious that it had proceeded from their own acts, j^L^;^ Government strengthened themselves by the admission TMsn g'jg"* of the Duke of Wellington into the Cabinet as Master- Ann. Reg.
General of the Ordnance, on his return from the com-106.'' mand of the Army of Occupation in 1819.1
These political meetings were general in all the manufacturing towns of England and Scotland during the Meeting at whole summer of 1819, and the leading topics constantly Aug.rli°6,' dwelt on were the depression of wages and misery of the 1819' poor, which were invariably ascribed to the Corn Laws, the weight of taxation, the influence of the boroughmougers, or holders of nomination boroughs, and the want of any representation of the people in Parliament. The speeches, which were often eloquent and moving, acquired additional force from the notorious facts to which they could all refer, which were too expressive of the general distress which prevailed. No serious breach of the peace occurred till the 16th August 1819, when a great assemblage took place at Peter loo, near Manchester. As it was known that multitudes were to come to that meeting from all the towns and villages in that denselypeopled locality, great apprehensions were entertained by the local authorities, and extraordinary precautions taken to prevent a breach of the peace, in conformity with a circular from the Home Office on 7th July, which recommended the utmost vigilance on the part of the local magistracy, and the adoption of prompt and vigorous»Ann. RCg. measures for the preservation of the public tranquillity. loe^MarThe yeomanry of the county of Cheshire, and a troop of 2'asoLWe; Manchester yeomanry, were summoned; and the military, ^^Jff-f" consisting of six troops of the 15th Hussars, two guns 234,237; and nearly the whole of the 31st regiment, were also on Letter, the spot and under arms.2 A large body of special con