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theory. They had also the evidence of a | Europe, or we must, for the present, have Mr. Monck on the same side of the ques- continued the bank restrictions. Happily tion, who said he would not accept of Bank for our character, honour, and greatness, of England paper at the same rate of value the latter alternative had been adopted.
as gold. The reason of which was ob--The right hon. gentleman then went vious: Mr. Monck was a coiner of local into a justification of his resolution retokens, and for his purposes, gold or silver corded last session, and contended that was much more useful than paper. With the paper of the Bank of England was, for regard to the practical question, he put it all legal purposes, equivalent to coin: to any one of the Bullion Committee to though certainly not so to those who say if it would be wise to cause the Bank wished to melt it down, or make it the subto resume its payments in specie at this ject of foreign trade, which, however, was, period; and if not, would it be expedient and had long been, contrary to the laws to pass a law, as they had formerly pro- of the land. Could it have been possible posed, to fix the resumption of cash pay- to enforce these penal laws vigilantly and ments at any specific time, the circum- perfectly, gold would have had no other stances of which they could not foresee? value than paper of the same denomination, He had at that time pointed out to the and the only difference between them was, satisfaction of the majority of the House, that the one could be converted into that similar rises in the price of the precious bullion, the other could not. The anometals had taken place when there was no maly of light guineas had been much anipaper currency at all, and when there was madverted on, but this was no new case; a paper currency convertible into its no- there were abundant instances in our hisminal value in money. This proved tory, of light guineas being more valuable that the rise did not depend on the than standard coin, long before the Bank depreciation of the paper currency. It restriction was ever thought of. The was true, as asserted on the other side, that enormous profits of the Bank had also gold had advanced in price within the last been dwelt upon to this he would bear year, and the argument they would draw testimony, that the Bank was an unwilling from this was, that the circulation of paper party to those measures whence the profits had increased, and consequently its worth accrued, and which were forced upon it diminished. Now the case was not so, by the government of the country. The and this fact afforded another argument in Bank had ever evinced a desire to be reconfirmation of the fallacy of their rea leased from these restrictions, and the soning. For his part, he found a sufficient preparations it made for resuming paycause for the rise of gold in the vast augments in specie were a sufficient proof of mentation of our foreign expenditure: and its readiness so to do, when it could be still more in the total interruption of the permitted consistently with the public supplies of the precious metals from South good. The practical question now was, America, which in itself was sufficient to whether the period had arrived, when account for the advance upon those metals they could give up the safeguards that had in the market. The circumstances of the been imposed for the preservation of our present year were also somewhat remark- metallic currency, and to protect the pubable. After the debates of last session the lic generally from individual vexation and price of bullion remained for some time oppression? All that the public wanted pretty steady; but of late it had risen was to go on quietly with the currency suddenly to the extent stated by the hon. they were used to; but this, it was in the gentleman opposite. It had so risen on power of any one to disturb, unless the the opening of the intercourse with Russia, present law was passed to protect debtors whence an excessive demand had occa- from the exaction of payments in a mesioned a similar rise all over Europe. dium, which it was out of their power to The nostrum of the Bullion Committee obtain. The act had arisen out of the was to resume payments in cash; but provocation of one individual, but for where was it to be got? The mines of whom they might have been quiet yet, America were stopped, and the balance of and the necessity for the law never have trade was against us with every other been raised. It was now indispensible country. It appeared then, that we must to protect the subject from grievous opeither have sacrificed our political pros- pression: and he submitted that there pects, withdrawn our army from the con- were stronger reasons for its continuance tinent, and have surrendered the hopes of than even for its being originally passed.
Mr. Ponsonby expressed his surprise at some of the positions of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he was not less surprised at the conduct of the House, which, in direct contradiction to its own Resolution, had passed the present Bill, to prevent the effect of that inequality which the Resolution of the House went to deny. The Resolution asserted that bank notes and guineas were in equal public estimation, and perfectly equivalent; but if so, why did landlords demand payment of their rents in gold, and if the pretended equivalency did exist, why pass an act to force the landlord to receive paper? The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the House that bank notes were equivalent to gold, as applicable to all lawful purposes. Was the payment of rent a lawful purpose? And if paper was equal to gold, why pass a law to guard the tenant against the landlord's demand for gold? How the right hon. gentleman or the House could be persuaded to entertain such opinions, he could not divine; and yet the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer continued to tell the House that an equivalency still existed. Did that equivalency exist when the bank note was at what he called a depreciation of 5 per cent.? and did that equivalency remain unaltered, notwithstanding the depreciation had increased to 15, 20, and even 30 per cent.? Could the right hon.peated his question. He professed to be gentleman find any one who would give uninformed on the subject. He had never him a guinea for a pound note and a shil-heard of any similar refusal. He plainly ling? Could he go into a market and pur- saw that the right hon. gentleman would chase as much of a commodity with a not give time to new members to acquire pound note and a shilling, as with a guinea? information on the subject, but that, he was If that equivalency still existed, why did determined to cram his obnoxious Bill we find such difficulty in obtaining guineas? down the throat of the House. Such conWas any such difficulty experienced pre- duct he considered as indecent and imviously to the depreciation of paper? No; proper, and should therefore support the and the present difficulty was easily ac- Amendment of his hon. friend. counted for, because the Resolution of the House was not true. The right hon. gentleman referred the present scarcity and high price of gold, to the non-importation of bullion from America; but would this apply to England alone? Would it not affect France, and all Europe? Would the right hon. gentleman say that gold was as scarce and as dear in France? Would he assert that the paper circulating in that country was at a discount of 35 per cent.? He told the House that a bank note was equal to a guinea for all lawful purposes, but that it was not lawful to melt guineas; would the right hon. gentleman burn a bank note to prove
its value? fire would prove the value of a guinea, when melted it was even more valuable than before, but burn a bank note, and it produced only ashes. He was informed that the Bank had given notice to the bankers in London, that they could no longer be supplied with tokens. If the bank-note had not depreciated, why was that specie commonly called change so scarce as to bear a premium in almost every country town in England, nay, he had been told, even in the metropolis? The right hon. gentleman told the House, that the Bill was levelled against lord King: he did not know the motives of the proposers of the Bill. But he believed the Bill was intended to support the Resolution of that House, which it in fact disapproved, and to protect the paper, which had lost its legitimate protection-the good opinion of the public. He had no doubt the right hon. gentleman intended to press the Bill; but he saw no reason to hurry on its consideration at this period. Before he concluded, he wished to ask the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer what he paid for bills to remit to the continent; what premium he gave for such bills; what a hundred pounds cost the country, when remitted to the continent? [The Chancellor of the Exchequer signified his intention not to answer the question.] The right hon. gentleman re
Mr. Manning rose principally in consequence of an allusion made by the right hon. gentleman who spoke last to the insufficient issue of tokens by the Bank of England. It was true that the company had deemed it expedient to discontinue the issue of tokens to a certain extent to private bankers, from a fear that the supply would not be adequate to the demand: large as the sum might appear, it could be proved by incontrovertible testimony, that within the last fifteen months no less than nearly two millions sterling had been delivered from the Bank in tokens of 3s. and 1s. 6d. No opportunity had been lost of promoting their circulation, but its ex
tent must of course be governed by the amount of the importations. With regard to the issue of bank paper, he hoped that the House would believe him when he asserted, that as late as yesterday evening, it did not exceed twenty-two millions and a half. In July or August 1810, it would be remembered that the number of notes in circulation was about twenty-five millions sterling; but this excess was occasioned by the failure of two large houses in London, which produced a considerable sensation in the country. Bankers in the various principal towns then made demands upon the Bank, to ensure themselves against the consequences of a run upon their firms; but within six months the greater part of three millions was returned to the Bank of England, without having been employed. It could not, therefore, with justice, be said, that the issue of bank-notes at this time was excessive, or that the high price of bullion had been occasioned by it. One hon. gentleman had contended, that the Bank indiscriminately discounted commercial paper by its notes. This assertion was by no means correct, as it was established by evidence before the House; the issue for this purpose was always much below the demand. The hon. gentleman then adverted to the evil consequences that would result to the country if this Bill were not passed; and disclaimed on the part of the Bank of England any desire to have their notes maintained by parliamentary authority, since the confidence reposed in the company by the country at large was fully adequate to their support.
Mr. H. Thornton, as a member of the Bullion Committee, whose conduct and report had been so severely stigmatized, felt it necessary to say a few words in defence of that body. It ought to have been recollected by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer that at the time the committee recommended to the House that the Bank should be compelled to renew cash payments in two years, the country was by no means in the situation in which it was now placed. Our commodities were not then excluded from the continent by that regular system which at present prevailed, and the balance of trade consequently on all articles was not so much against us. The main question with regard to the Bill now under consideration was, whether the issue of bank paper did or did not tend to influence the exchange? And thinking that
it had that influence, he had voted that the cash payments should, at the end of two years, be renewed, with a view certainly, that if at the end of that period it was found from any causes impracticable, the time should be enlarged from year to year until the company had the means of calling in all their notes: at present every body would admit, that to compel the Bank to pay in specie would be a gross act of injustice. There were advantages belonging to a paper system, and even to an extended issue of notes. 1. It was a great convenience to merchants who could thus with ease obtain discount for their bills. 2. It was an equal facility to government in raising loans. 3. It laid a burden upon the shoulders of those who were best able to bear it, and diminished the weight that would otherwise be imposed upon the poor. It might also be a very serious question whether, supposing the Bank had always paid in specie, the legislature would not have been called upon to remedy inconveniencies resulting from that system, instead of passing Bills to amend errors belonging to the present, considering our relation with the continent of Europe. As matters now stood it was perfectly evident that Bank paper had depreciated 35 per cent. Where that depreciation would end it was impossible to divine, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by the Bill before the House, proposed no remedy to prevent its depreciation even to 100 per cent. Under these circumstances, the subject was to be viewed in a very serious and painful light, since its consequences might be so ruinous. Another point to be contemplated was the proposed abolition of local tokens, after the 25th of March. If such a measure were resorted to, what was to supply the deficiency? Small change for the common transactions of life was every where wanted, even with the aid of these local tokens; but when they were withdrawn the governor of the Bank had admitted that that establishment had it not in its power to issue any silver to make good the loss that would be sustained in the districts where local tokens were in circulation.
Mr. Whitshed Keene said, he had supported the measure on former occasions, as the only means to resist the military despotism with which we were threatened. It was perhaps paying dear, but not too dear, for salvation. As long as the spirit of the constitution should survive, this
little spot would continue to strive; but exertions were necessary, and considering the measure the Bill went to continue as one of those exertions, he would support it.
Lord Folkestone did not mean to discuss the principle of the Bill, but should suggest a course which he conceived it would be advisable to pursue. He thought that it would be the best way to suffer the Bill to pass, since ministers represented it to be of urgent necessity; but it would be better that it should be a short Bill renewing the present Bill for three or four months, so that after the recess the House might have full time to acquire the information necessary to the discussion of this important question in all its bearings. He thought the question of local tokens, which had been mentioned, was one which required much consideration. If the course he had proposed should meet the views of the House, he hoped his hon. friend would have no objection to withdraw his amendment.
Mr. Huskisson expressed his regret, that he was prevented by indisposition from delivering his sentiments on the important question before the House.
Mr. Creevey wished to know, before the question was put, whether ministers would accede to the proposal of his noble friend, and agree to have the Bill passed for a short period?
Lord Castlereagh said, that several branches of the present question must remain for discussion on some future occasion, but he was not aware of any circumstances which could possibly hap pen within the limited period which had been mentioned that could tend to render the present measure unnecessary.
Mr. Whitbread was sincerely sorry for the cause which prevented the hon. gentleman, who was a great authority on these subjects, from delivering his sentiments on the present occasion, which appeared the regular period for discussing the principle of the Bill. He certainly thought that there was something in this Bill so inconsistent with the resolutions upon which it was founded, that he thought the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the House, should be somewhat ashamed of first resolving that gold and paper were equal in public estimation, and then passing a law to force the public to act as if they were really of equal value in their estimation. He certainly considered that the act which had been passed
last session had done great violence to the property of landlords, whose estates had been let out on long leases. The effect of it was, that the landlord was to receive less, and the farmer to pay less, than what was contracted for, although the farmer was also to have all the advantages of the depreciation, by an increased price on every thing which his farm produced. The fact was, that when lord King issued that notice to his tenants, which had been so much canvassed, he required of his te nants either to pay him in gold according to the contract, or else in Bank-paper at a rate stated in the notice, which was less in fact, than he would be entitled to according to the fair value. A great deal had been said, by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, about public estimation. The right hon. gentleman was a grave man, and delivered his opinions in a grave manner; yet nothing could be more ludicrous than his assertion, that in all transactions where men were not inclined to incur the penalties of the law, the bank note and guinea were of equal value. Let that right hon. gentleman go, if he could disguise himself sufficiently-as he had desired him (Mr. W.) to turn informer, though he would not himself inform about his friend the Jew-let him go into any shop, and he would find that a shop-keeper would give 5s. worth more of goods for a guinea than for a note and a shilling. In the estimation of such a person-in the estimation of the Jew,-and in the estimation of the buyer of light guineas mentioned by his hon. friend, it was clear that the two things were not reckoned equiva lent. Some persons, indeed said, that bank notes were superior to guineas, because they could not be hoarded in the same manner, for instance, in an invasion, and thus check the means of purchasing necessaries. This was true. People hoarded what was valuable, and what, if re-produced, would demand an equivalent; whereas in an invasion, Bank-notes, whe ther above ground, or below it, would be of equal value, that was of no value at all. An hon. gentleman had argued as if this Bill had been the cause of our maintenance of the Spanish struggle, and had carried lord Wellington through the campaign: whereas, in fact, the Bill was not passed till the end of the year 1811, when it came, forced upon the unwilling ministers, from the other House, like a clap of thunder. But had it filled the military chest of lord Wellington? No! that chest
was altogether empty, and lord Welling-1 ton had been forced, at Madrid, to make a loan of a few thousand dollars. The of ficers of his army (all except those of the very first rank) were so destitute, that they had not even one piece of metal for the common comforts and necessaries of life. A material question had been asked, though the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not thought proper to answer it; what price he gave for bills to remit abroad, and whether the premium did not make that very article disappear which was most wanted? Robespierre had prohibited certain articles from being sold above a certain price, which caused those articles to vanish entirely from the market. Tokens had been issued from the Bank, and they had disappeared in proportion as the depreciation overtook the currency. He should be glad to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether by connivance, or otherwise, the government bought guineas, while, at the same time, they were, by their attorney and solicitor, prosecuting, convicting, and punishing others for the same offence? The right hon. gentleman had been applied to, and refused to act in contravention of his own law; he nobly disdained the offer, but did he make any inquiries after the offender? The guard of the coach had been taken and convicted; and marked money and other means were employed for the detection of offenders; but a man came with a friend offering to commit a breach of law with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and no enquiries were made; no marked guineas issued. Thus the only avenue being stopped for those guineas, they would be necessarily hoarded: but abolish the law, and gold would find its real value, and come in plenty to the market. In the mean time public credit would be ruined, for St. Paul's might as well stand without a foundation, as public credit without a metallic currency. The hon. gentleman concluded by saying that he should vote for the Amendment.
Mr. Canning was unwilling to allow the motion to go to a division without shortly stating the reasons that induced him to abstain from voting against a bill, the general principle of which was, without qualification, in direct opposition to all those long-established maxims of political economy, the soundness of which, until the last few years, no man in that House or in the country had ventured to question. Every measure brought before the legis lature might be considered in two points of view; the one with reference to the general and abstract principle of right or expediency, the other with reference to any system already established, from which the measure might be said necessarily to emanate. It was in that last point of view, as proceeding from the principle adopted by the House after mature deliberation-a principle the adoption of which he had resisted to the best of his power-that he felt bound to acquiesce in the Bill. He had always contended, that the steps which had been subsequently taken must be the necessary consequences of the first step-that memorable resolution to which the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had persuaded the House to come, namely, that the paper currency and the gold coin of the realm were, in public estimation, of equal value. On that occasion he had taken the liberty of stating, that the principle of the resolution was proposed in spite of individual knowledge and public notoriety, and that it was adopted by the House of Commons of the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at a moment when it was perfectly known, that in one part of that united kingdom at least, guineas were publicly sold at a premium. He had at that time foretold the inevitable consequence of passing such a resolution in the teeth of the fact; and accordingly it so happened, that that which in May was declared to be the ope ration of public opinion, was in July made to be the operation of the law; the pains and penalties of which were called in, to overcome the obstinacy of those who were not to be persuaded into conviction. He had at that time told the right hon. gentleman, that in all cases in which an attempt was made to force public opinion by the authority of the legislature, recurrence must ultimately be had to legal means, and to the secular arm of power. He heartily wished that the question were now as open as it was before the adoption of the resolution to which he had alluded. The pro
The Chancellor of the Exchequer denied most solemnly, as he had done on a former night, that agents were employed, either directly or indirectly, by government, to purchase guineas. The man alluded to, and who had offered 27,000 for sale, was not prosecuted, because it was supposed he had no criminal intentions. The last price paid by government for bills to the continent was 67 pence per milrea.