§ The COMMITTEE of SECRECY appointed to consider of the slate of the Bank of England, with reference to the expediency of the Resumption of Cash Payments at the period fixed by law, and into such other matters as are connected therewith; and to report to the House such information relative thereto, as may be disclosed without injury to the public interests, with their Observations thereupon—1399
§ "Are engaged in deliberating upon their report, which they hope to be able to present to the House on an early day after the approaching recess.
§ "The committee having a confident expectation that, in that report, they shall be enabled to fix a period, and recommend a plan, for the final removal of the present restriction on the Bank, think it their duty to submit to the House, that the execution of any such plan would, in their opinion, be materially obstructed and delayed by a continuance of the drain upon the treasure of the Bank, on account of the engagement of the Bank to pay in cash all its notes outstanding, of an earlier date than January 1st 1817, and on account of the payment in cash of fractional sums under 5l.
§ "That the committee therefore think it their duty to suggest to the House, the expediency of passing forthwith a bill, restraining all such payments in gold coin, until the report of the committee shall have been received, and considered by the House, and a legislative measure passed thereupon."
§ The Report was ordered to be printed.
then said, that in moving for leave to bring in a Bill, founded on the Report which had been read, he was relieved by that Report from the necessity of offering more than one or two observations; both because they would be premature, and because the committee itself had alleged sufficient grounds for the proposition. The object of the bill for which he moved, would be to restrain the issue of sovereigns for fractional payments under 5l. in consequence of notices issued in the course of 1816–17, in which they undertook to pay in specie all notes dated previously to the 1st of Jan. 1817. In consequence of these notices issued by the Bank with the best intentions, the treasure of that body had suffered a very considerable drain. Accounts had been presented to the House, of the issues of sovereigns between the 1st Jan. 1816, and the 1st Jan. of the present year, and in that time it appeared, that 4,500,000l. had been issued from the Bank. Subsequently to the 1st Jan. last, it also appeared that 700,000l. more had been issued; so that the whole that had been issued by the Bank since Jan. 1816, amounted to 5,200,000l. The issue of that treasure had not been attended with any good to the nation; and he thought, indeed, it might have foreseen, that unless this issue had been 1400 accompanied by a simultaneous reduction of the number of bank-notes, the gold would find its way to those places where there was a greater demand for it. There was little doubt at present as to the place of its destination; for by a report of the minister of finance in France, it appeared, that within the first six months of the last year, 125 millions of francs had been coined at the French mint, three-fourths of which, it was understood, had been derived from the gold coin of this realm. This sum of 125 millions of francs, at the par of exchange, was about five millions sterling, three-fourths of which had been drawn from the Bank of England.—The object of the bill would be, to restrain, till the expiration of the present session of parliament, issues of cash in the manner he had described. The delay would enable the House to consider the subject, and to take the measures which the committee might hereafter suggest. The reasons for this measure lay within a short compass. Whenever the time came for removing the restriction, a large sum in cash would be necessary; that sum considerably exceeded the sum which the Bank had at present in its possession; and as it was manifest, that any diminution of this sum would not be productive of any advantage to the country by its immediate effects, so it was also plain, that this diminution of its treasure would make the Bank more unable to return to cash payments, and would therefore tend to postpone the period for the termination of the restriction. It was for these reasons, and in the fullest confidence that it would tend to hasten the period of cash payments, that he should propose the measure. The committee had stated, in their Report, that they confidently expected, that after the recess they might be able to propose a plan for the speedy removal of the restriction on cash payments: these expectations, he trusted, were well founded; and he could add to this, that he was equally confident, that the restoration of a standard of value in this country, as invariable as the nature of things admitted of, would not be accompanied by those inconveniences which some persons had apprehended. He then moved "for leave to bring in a Bill to restrain the Governor and Company of the Bank of England from making Payments in Cash, under certain Notices given by them for that Purpose."—Mr. Peel then added, as it was of the highest utility that 1401 the measure should pass as expeditiously as possible, he hoped the House would allow it to go through its several stages that evening.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, he felt himself, in no small degree, embarrassed by the course taken by the chairman of the Bank Committee, and the House, he was persuaded, would feel itself in the same embarrassment; for a measure was proposed to them, not on their confidence in the responsible advisers of the Crown, not on their acquiescence in the arguments of a committee of their own; but, on the intimation of some particular reasons, and on the allegation of something not explained, which had passed in the committee, they were called on to pass a measure of great importance, not only without discussion, but without the possibility of discussion. This, to say the least of it, was an extraordinary proceeding. When, on another occasion, a great legislative measure was found necessary, on an emergency, the course of proceeding was not only different, but directly opposite. In 1797, the responsible ministers of the Crown having received information on which they could rely, of the danger which attended the issues from the Bank, issued an order in council to restrain them, and then called on the House for its sanction, not suddenly and without discussion, but in the ordinary way, and with all the opportunity of debate which the forms of the House allowed. On that occasion, indeed, the House was not put in possession of all the facts; but a committee was appointed, and on the report of that committee the House proceeded; that report, too, was accompanied with reasons, and whatever part of those reasons were founded on confidence in the committee, they had at any rate reasons, the validity of which they had ample time to examine. The objection which he had now to make was, that ministers had deviated from this precedent; that they had not issued an order in council, and recommended to the House to institute an inquiry, or to refer to the committee now sitting to consider the propriety of their proceeding, after which a measure might have been passed with every opportunity for deliberation and discussion. There were two reasons, on one or both of which the measure might be recommended—its necessity to maintain the credit of the Bank, or its subserviency to ulterior measures which the committee might have to recommend. If it was solely 1402 on the first ground that the measure was proposed, he should be prepared to oppose it in all its stages, and even to meet it with that kind of opposition which one set of the forms of the House placed in the hands of a member, and which was probably intended to preserve the rest of their forms from violation. It would be, perhaps, one of the most unwarrantable kinds of proceeding, to commit a violent breach of the forms of the House to protect the House against its own regulations. The Bank had not been compelled to pay the notes issued before 1817; they had the option to pay or not to pay; they gave the notice of payment, and they were bound to make it good. If, therefore, the measure had been founded on the convenience of the Bank, he had no doubt as to the course to be taken; but he had more doubt when it was put upon another ground, which he took to be the real one; that the committee not having finished its investigation, but having made a certain progress in it, not seeing exactly to what end their deliberations would lead, had yet grounds for supposing, that they should conclude by proposing a measure of another nature, to the accomplishment of which this measure, if not necessary, would be mainly subservient. But when the proposition was thus stated, the question arose, why should this measure be hurried through the House with such extraordinary rapidity? The question now came to a balance of evils. If he was persuaded that the measure was necessary, and that if delayed for three or four days, it would be wholly nugatory, he might be content to take the extraordinary step which was recommended; but unless the right hon. mover, and the other members of the committee, could take on themselves to say this, he, for one, could not consent to see the standing orders of the House violated. The right hon. gentleman had increased their embarrassment in no small degree, by entering at all into the arguments in support of the measure. If he had said, "we cannot remove the veil of secrecy, but we assure you, on the credit of the committee, that the measure is necessary; so that if you do not pass it thus rapidly, you may as well not pass it at all;" he, (Mr. B.) should have been more disposed to agree to it than he was at present. The right hon. gentleman, however, had entered into a statement of the reasons of some part at least of the case, and he unavoidably drew them 1403 into a discussion. He had told them that the consequences might have been foreseen of paying the notes of certain dates in cash without a simultaneous reduction of the whole number in circulation. But was there any pressing evil to the country to be anticipated from the continuance for three or four days longer, of the operation which was the consequence of this measure of the Bank. The committee might have some answer to this; but was it merely on the reasons which had been stated, to be taken for granted that if, during two or three years, five millions had been issued from the Bank, in three or four days such a drain would take place that it was worth while to break through all their rules to prevent it? The committee might perhaps have evidence that during the few days that would intervene the issue of cash would be seriously increased; but unless this could be shown, they were not justified in calling on the House for this violation of its proceedings. He could only again regret that the ministers did not follow more closely the precedent of 1797. The king's ministers had indeed on that occasion derived their information, not from a committee, but from private sources; but if some of the ministers had obtained information as members of a committee, it was competent for them to proceed on it, as if they had obtained it from private communication with the Bank. The advisers of the Crown might have issued the order, the consequence would have been, that instead of hurry they would have had deliberation; they would have had all the advantages of promptitude; there would have been still less drain on the Bank; the order might have passed this morning, or in last Saturday's Gazette; and the House might have been called on to indemnify them for what they had done, and, if they saw cause, to render the prohibition complete. Having stated that nothing should have induced him to concur in the measure, if it were merely intended to support the credit of the Bank, he felt it necessary to explain, that if he thought the stability of that establishment, and through it the mercantile credit of the country, were in danger from the payment of old notes and fractional sums, however he might blame the Bank for their improvidence, he should have felt it necessary to protect the country from the consequences of this imprudence. But he would not consent to relieve them 1404 from the inconveniencies of their own regulations, though he was convinced the proposers of the measure would use that argument, and that the Bank themselves would not wish it to be understood that their own convenience was concerned.
said, the hon. and learned gentleman had stated his opinion so fairly to the House, that he hoped there would be in the end no difference on the question. If the measure had been brought forward simply for the convenience of the Bank or for the support of its credit, it would have been unfit that it should be disposed of in the way now proposed. But they might discuss the measure without any view to the convenience or credit of the Bank; for the credit of that body was so high, that there would not have been any necessity to have interfered between the Bank and its creditors, except for public convenience. He concurred in opinion, that if they could not make out other grounds, the measure would be inexpedient in itself, as well as unfit to be passed thus rapidly through the House. The whole of the question therefore between him and the hon. and learned gentlemen was whether the course of proceeding now adopted was the proper one, or whether the precedent of 1797 should have been followed, in which case the executive first took measures and came to parliament for approbation and indemnity. But there was this marked distinction between the case of 1797 and the present, that though parliament then, as now, was sitting, yet at that time parliament was not deliberating on any measure of general policy with regard to the circulation; but apprehensions were communicated to the government, that the issues from the Bank would not only reduce the coin so as to make it incapable of supplying the purposes of circulation, but would deprive the public of the means requisite for carrying on the war. It was therefore felt at the time, that it belonged to the ministers of the Crown to interpose to protect the country against an imminent danger. The circumstances of the country were now totally different. An inquiry was pending as to the means of resuming cash payments. It would have been therefore an extraordinary step for the ministers of the Crown to interpose between the House and its committee, and before the committee or the House had come to a decision to decide themselves on so important a matter. If the hon. 1405 and learned member would not recommend such a step, as he thought he could not, what could be more proper than that the recommendation should come from the committee itself? It was obvious, that if the measure was to be passed at all, it must be passed with all the rapidity which the forms of the House admitted of. The reason of the proceeding in 1797 was by the promptitude of the measure to guard against the evils of delay; and the House would feel the necessity of acting in this case with the rapidity which was then attained by an act of the executive government. The recommendation came from the committee, in the purest spirit of contributing to the resumption of cash payments at the earliest period. The hon. and learned member understood the subject too well not to know that in proportion as the Bank was unnecessarily drained, the period of the restriction would be prolonged. As to the extent to which the drain on the Bank had already gone, he might remark, that the notices of the Bank issued at a time when the exchanges were favourable, and under the hope of the continuance of those favourable exchanges, were proofs of the bonâ fide intention of that body to resume cash payments, and showed that it contemplated that resumption at no distant period. His right hon. friend had stated, from the paper presented to the House, the sum issued by the Bank in sovereigns; but if they looked to other descriptions of coin also, the sum would be found to be still larger than had been stated. A large mass of guineas and half guineas had been issued, and if the sum in these coins and in sovereigns were taken into account, the whole of the gold thus drained from the Bank would be found to amount to not less than nine millions sterling. The hon. and learned gentleman had fairly said, that the question before the House was a balance of inconveniencies; but he trusted the facts would support the measure which was proposed. To-morrow, or the next day, the dividends would be in the course of payment, and he understood that no less than 3 or 400,000l. were generally paid on that occasion in fractional payments. If the measure also were not carried through as fast as the accelerated forms of parliament would admit, a notice would be given to all holders of notes of an early date to carry them in for payment. On the grounds, therefore, that the precedent of 1797 1406 could not be followed consistently with the respect due to parliament, and on the knowledge that the time for payment of the dividends was so near at hand, he hoped the House would concur in speedily passing the measure.
§ Mr. Tierney
said, that this was one of the most important measures that could be brought before parliament; and if one thing surprised him more than another, it was the extraordinary composure with which the proposition had been received. Since the order of council in 1797, the Bank had been restricted from paying in cash; but within a few years they had been allowed to resume the payment in cash of all or any part of their notes, giving six weeks notice to the Speaker. They now said that the only remaining chance for the resumption of cash payments, that is, by the voluntary act of the Bank, should be taken away. The Bank by notices of 1816 and 1817,had agreed to pay in cash all notes dated before Jan. 1817; and as to the practice of paying fractional dividends in cash it had prevailed ever since the restriction. It was notorious, that many individuals had collected notes of the description which he had mentioned, without the idea of immediately turning them into gold, but satisfied with having by them what they could at any time obtain gold for, fortified as they were by the promises of the bank and the faith of the legislature. They would now find that the promises of the Bank were worth nothing, and that the faith of the legislature was not more valuable than the promises of the Bank; for those who from excessive wariness, or perhaps from caprice (and in such a country as this, a man should be permitted to indulge his caprices in relation to his own property) chose to possess notes convertible into gold, were cut off by an act of parliament passed through each House in a single night, from the property which was gratifying to their own private feelings. In slating the matter thus drily, he knew not how he could put it more impressively than in that shape. But it would be said, necessitas suprema lex, and it was necessary to examine how the question of the issues stood. It was in 1817, that the notices were issued under which the payments were made, and the drain had gone on from that time to this without answering any other purpose than to enable the chancellor of the exchequer to make a speech, to say that cash payments were 1407 virtually resumed. In the last year he had brought in a bill for continuing the Restriction act, and at that time he saw with his eyes wide open, the drain which was then going on more rapidly than at any time since, yet he took no step to stop it. What was the time when this alarm first came upon him? Why, no sooner than this day at 12 o'clock; at any rate, he believed there was not a gentleman in the committee who before Saturday had heard a word either of the danger or the remedy, and, for his own part till yesterday, he should have no more thought of the committee making such a report, than of their doing the most improbable and extravagant thing in the world. The House at large were in the dark, from knowing too little: he, on the contrary, was in a difficulty from knowing too much as a member of the secret committee, and was continually afraid of letting some of his knowledge out. As the right hon. mover had stated that from the facts before the committee, he should adduce reasons for passing the measure, so he (Mr. T.) could bring reasons against it, were he not bound to secrecy. But, to mention a fact that was no secret;—what had been the conduct of the Bank? Their whole object, it was said, was to resume cash payments; they lived in the hope of it, the delay of it was misery. The noble lord was very anxious on the subject: he had laboured to prove, that the less money the Bank had, the less they could pay (for that was the amount of his proposition); but as for the Bank they felt no alarm whatever. They felt anxiety, perhaps, as most people did when they saw their money going out and none returning; but not to that degree that they came to any resolution of the court of directors on the subject; and so quiet were they, that no conversation had taken place between the governor and the chancellor of the exchequer for the last three months. He asked, what was the reason for so rapidly passing this measure? Why, merely upon a mysterious recommendation from the committee, that the adoption of such a measure was necessary, in order to enable the Bank to resume payments in cash. But it was said by the advocates for this measure, that its adoption was necessary to enable the Bank to resume cash payments at some time—it was not stated when. Whether he should ever live to see that time, was nothing to the question. But it was stated, that while§1408 gold was at 4l. 1s. an ounce, it would be quite unjust to call upon the Bank to issue gold at the rate of 3l. 17s. an ounce. The Bank would no doubt suffer a loss from this difference. But then some loss would at any time belong to the issue of cash payments, and to that loss the Bank must submit. The difference between the Mint and market price of gold, arose out of the issue of Bank paper, and the advance or reduction of the former, depended upon the quantity of the latter. To the Bank, then, it belonged, by regulating its issue of paper to reduce the nominal price of gold. But if those who had the management of the Bank thought proper to issue gold with one hand, while they issued paper to an undue extent with the other, and the consequence was an enhancement of the price of gold, why should such enhancement be pleaded as a reason for postponing cash payments? To admit that reason, would indeed be to allow the managers of the Bank to profit by their own folly. But, allowing that the Bank would suffer a loss of certainly no material amount, this was not a competent reason for suspending the principles which were always understood to prevail in a great commercial country. It was said, on the part of the Bank, that they did not ask for this measure. It was indeed only on Saturday night that the expediency of such a measure was suggested by two hon. gentlemen, the one a Bank director, and the other a gentleman, no doubt, of mercantile consequence. But it was for the House to consider, whether it would allow, upon such a suggestion, all its usual forms to be suspended, in order to carry a measure, of the necessity for which it had no evidence whatever. For himself, he was free to say, that he did not as a member of the committee agree to this proposition. In his judgment, it was quite preposterous to maintain, that to save the Bank from a loss of 350,000l. the rules and orders of that House should be suspended, and a very unusual course of precipitancy adopted. The precipitancy adopted in the year 1797 afforded no precedent applicable to the present proposition; for there was no analogy between the two cases. In 1797, the pressure upon the Bank and the exigencies of war, with all the circumstances of that extraordinary crisis, furnished reasons for hurry which did not at all belong to the present times.
§ Mr. Ricardo
began by requesting the 1409 indulgence of the House, which he hoped be should experience, especially as he was about to dispute the opinions of the right hon. gentleman who had just spoken with so much eloquence. It appeared to him very extraordinary, indeed, that the Bank should be called upon as the right hon. gentleman argued, to issue gold at 3l. 17s. while they were obliged to pay 4l. 1s. for that very gold. Those who obtained the gold upon such terms must, of course, profit by the difference, and they could only derive that profit by acting contrary to law—that was either by clandestinely exporting the gold, or by melting it down. Would parliament consent to allow such a class of persons to obtain profit at the expense of the Bank? Such a class was, indeed, he apprehended, the very last to which parliament would consent to grant any peculiar favour or protection. That the resumption of cash payments by the Bank must be preceded by a reduction of its paper issues, was quite obvious. But then that reduction ought to be gradual, and in order to enable the Bank to resume its cash payments, such a measure as that now proposed appeared to him essentially necessary. He approved of the views of the right hon. gentleman as to the provision of an adequate guard against the repetition of the dangers, hitherto resulting from the improvident conduct of the Bank. He also agreed, that before the Bank could pay in gold, it must take measures to replenish its coffers, and that to replenish its coffers by providing an adequate supply of gold, it must reduce its issue of notes. But, with a view to enable the Bank to resume its payments in cash, he was decidedly of opinion that the proposed measure was essentially necessary, and was sorry that it had not before now been adopted.
§ Mr. Manning
regretted that the right hon. gentleman opposite should have applied the term "stupid" to the proceedings hitherto adopted by the Bank. The payments in specie, which it was the object of this bill to suspend, had been made in concurrence with the wishes of parliament. If the step, therefore, on the part of the Bank, was a stupid one, there were others to share in the stupidity which attached to it. Circumstances, which could not have been foreseen at the time, had certainly, to a great extent defeated the intentions of the Bank, in making the payments to which he allotted. The Bank could not have foreseen the nego- 1410 tiations respecting the French loans, the deficiency in the harvest of 1817, the great importation of foreign corn, and the various events which had so materially affected the foreign exchanges, and disappointed the views of those who thought the course taken by the Bank likely to lead to the best results. With reference to the present measure, he would beg leave most distinctly to say that it was introduced without the previous knowledge or desire of the Bank. The right hon. gentleman had complained of the mode of introducing the measure. On this point, all he should say was, that if any other course than the present were taken, he was sure the right hon. gentleman would have been louder in his objections to it; he would have complained that the privy council had interposed, and deranged the labours of the committee. He thought the present to be the safest course of proceeding which the House could adopt, and that the right hon. gentleman's objections were ill-timed and futile.
considered the measure as intended only for the convenience of the Bank, and at the expense of the country. They would exchange their flimsy paper for gold, and inundate the country with it.
§ Mr. Grenfell
could not conceive on what ground the hon. director could assert, that the measure of 1817 had received the concurrence of parliament. If the parliament were satisfied with one part of the measure, they could not be said to be satisfied with that which accompanied it—the extension of the Bank issue.
§ Mr. Manning
explained, that all he meant to state was, that the conduct of the Bank had met with general approbation.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
conceived the measure to be only a continuance of the system of restriction; with this difference, that when such a measure was proposed before, some grounds were stated for it, and those grounds discussed; but at present it was to be carried without any discussion of its merits. The only authority the House had was, that the measure was conceived necessary by the committee; but why it was so conceived was not explained. He looked upon it merely as part of that system, where the government, professing a wish for the resumption of cash-payments, were still determined to act with the Bank in preventing them.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, he never entertained a stronger conviction of the necessity of any measure than of that before the House. If he were an advocate for the continuance of the restriction, he would most certainly oppose the present motion; but he would support it, because he did not give credit to the Bank for sincerity in their declared willingness to resume cash payments, and wished that measure to be pressed upon them. If it were argued that an order in council might effect what this measure was intended to secure, he should say, that he did not know any measure more dangerous and more monstrous than such a one would be. When the House had confided the examination of the matter to a committee, who had the best possible means of getting information upon it, he thought it would be monstrous, if the ministers of the Crown, who could not be supposed to possess such information, were to take the matter as it were out of their hands, and advise the passing of such an order in council; which order would afterwards, in order to its being approved by the House, in all probability, be sent before the same committee for consideration. He thought that it was sufficient, that the committee had stated the measure to be necessary in order to facilitate the eventual general resumption of cash payments.
§ Mr. Calcraft
said, it was a bad precedent, that, without any information, the House should be called upon to legislate in this hasty way; and for what?—that the Bank might be saved the issue of 700,000l. in specie. He did not believe that the Bank could or ought to pay at the present moment; but was it worth while to suspend the regular mode of proceeding in the House for such a consideration? He would admit that the Bank ought not to resume cash payments until they were enabled to do so in full; and he did not object to the principle, but to the mode of the present measure.
said, the particular grounds of the measure could not be stated, as that would tend to destroy the very object which the committee had in view. The House had appointed a committee to examine into the state of the Bank with respect to the expediency of resuming cash payments; and if they had, as he conceived they ought, a proper confidence in that committee, that should be a sufficient ground for adopting a measure which they had declared to be necessary. 1412 The hon. gentleman who spoke last had only objected to the mode, not to the principle, of the proposed measure; but the mode was only adopted, in order to procure that celerity in its progress which could not otherwise be acquired. The House must feel that the particular reasons which induced the committee to propose this measure could be known only to such members as composed it, and that such information could not be made public without risking the advantages which were expected to be derived from it. Grounds for the measure supposed to actuate the committee were assumed; but he could assure the House that he should give a direct contradiction to those grounds did he not believe that the publicity of the real cause would only tend to aggravate the evil which it was intended to avoid and also that he should in doing so be violating that secrecy which was imposed upon all the members of the committee. It had been said that the mode was objectionable, and that that which was adopted in 1797 should be followed in preference. But it should be recollected, that, in 1797, the government did adopt an instantaneous remedy, by the orders m council, and afterwards came to parliament for its sanction. True it was, that the Bank, if it pleased, might have refused to obey those orders in council, and the creditors of the Bank might have disputed them; but then it was not probable they would, and it was seen they did not. The danger was seen, and the remedy was immediately applied; the government wisely judging, that a discussion of its merits at the time would only tend to augment the danger which it was intended to avoid. The government at the present moment could not know officially that this measure was called for. It was true, that some of its ministers formed part of the committee, but he had yet to learn that they could, without the permission of that committee, act upon any information which they might derive in their capacity as members of it. He would admit that the present measure might look like a continuance of the Bank restriction; but then, what was to be done when the majority of the committee firmly believed that the present system would lead to danger, and that they could not expect to come to that result which was ultimately hoped for, unless this measure was carried?
§ Lord Althorp
could not allow the con- 1413 sideration of any loss the Bank could sustain between the bullion and mint price of gold, to weigh with him in the discussion of the question. If the Bank should be losers in their endeavours to replenish their coffers, it was also to be recollected that they had gained considerably by the restriction on cash payments. It was not enough to say that a loss would be incurred, as it was impossible, under the present system, to return to a metallic currency, without a sacrifice. He could not see, in the reasons stated, a sufficient ground for hurrying the measure in opposition to the standing orders of the House. Every man conversant with the subject acknowledged that the restriction of their issues by the Bank was the best preparation to return to cash payments. Any measure that, in its tendency, led to an interruption to that event, ought to be opposed. Believing, therefore, that the present measure would operate to increase the issues of the Bank, and consequently to increase the difficulty of payment in specie, he could not acquiesce in it.
§ Mr. Huskisson
said, that if the motion had only for its object to protect the Bank from the loss or sacrifice which a return to cash payments would produce to that corporation, he should not have given it his support. The noble lord, however, had overlooked the main question; namely, that under the present drain from foreign countries, it was impossible that the treasure of the Bank, if passed into circulation, could remain in the kingdom. He would venture confidently to state, that were the Bank to continue its partial payments in specie, and endeavour to repurchase at any price the treasure it expended it would not advance, but retard the object which the House and the country felt as most important. As the specie thus circulated would not remain in the country, it would to the public be useless, and as affecting the return to cash payments, it would tend to make that more impracticable to the Bank. With respect to the recommendation of the secret committee, it was to be viewed as a preliminary which the committee, contemplating ulterior measures, calculated to prevent the influence of the events that now retarded the return to cash payments, had prospectively suggested.
§ Mr. Ellice
wished to state his cordial concurrence in the measure proposed by the committee, and to express his regret 1414 that a similar committee had not been appointed two years ago, from which a similar measure might have emanated, and saved to this country a drain of nearly nine millions of specie, which had gone to enrich the treasury of France. It was, indeed, some confirmation of the hopes he had ventured to express at the appointment of the committee, that the most beneficial results might be expected from its labours, to hear a measure of this nature recommended to the House in a report, and a speech from the chairman, founded on principles diametrically opposite to those on which the financial concerns of the country had been conducted for the last two years by the chancellor of the exchequer. That right hon. gentleman had only considered to what rate he could reduce interest, and increase the temptation to capitalists to send their property abroad; and the Bank, to render the result of his measures more certain, had lent their aid, by giving the means to persons so disposed to invest their capital in an issue of gold, which was exported, as soon as it was issued.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that when the proper time arrived to enter upon the details of this subject, he should be prepared to show that there was no inconsistency whatever between the principle of this bill, and the principle which governed his other arrangements on this subject. He only regretted that the measure had not been earlier introduced. The fact was, that hopes were entertained last year that the state of exchange might have come round, and obviated the inconveniences complained of.
The House having resolved into a committee on the Bank restriction acts, leave was given to bring in the bill. The House having resumed, the bill was read a first and second time, committed, and reported. On the motion, that it be read a third time.
said, that before this bill finally passed, he could not abstain from expressing his fear that the measure would be productive of more evil, than could be compensated by any good that might be expected to accrue from it. It was brought forward at a moment of great commercial pressure, and great suspicion in the monied part of the community, and appeared likely to occasion a degree of alarm extremely to be deprecated. The finding parliament run through a bill in this hurried manner, to prevent 1415 the Bank from performing its engagements, wisely or unwisely made, must tend to shake all confidence in any of their future arrangements. It appeared to him a measure, at least singularly timed. The three reasons given for gold having reached an adventitious price were the large issues of Bank notes, the demand for gold for France in consequence of the payments to the allied powers, and the great importation of corn. The Bank issues were lessened. The demand for France was over.—The ports were closed against the importation of corn;—and now, surely, if ever, gold might be expected to find its natural level in this country. In saying this, he wished to guard himself from being understood to Be one of those who were sanguine enough to expect that gold should, under the burdens contracted during the late war, ever permanently fall, or indeed be forceably reduced, to the Mint price of 3l. 17s.10½d. per ounce, without dragging down the prices of all other things to a degree which would render those burdens absolutely unbearable.
§ The bill was then passed.