said, that although the accounts for which he was about to move were generally granted without opposition, he hoped, under the particular circumstances of the times, that he should be allowed a brief explanation of his views as connected with them. The accounts referred first to the balances lodged by the government, for the public, in the Bank; and next, to the charges for the management of the public debt, and other services performed by the Bank for the public. It was, perhaps, in the recollection of those who now heard him, that when he had first called the attention of parliament to the affairs of the Bank, the production of these accounts was resisted, not only by that corporation, but by the then chancellor of the Exchequer. After, however, a two or three years perseverance in calling for them, the resistance gave way, and on every successive year that he had since called for them, they were yielded without a struggle. It was thought by many, that the publicity which had been given to the transactions between the government and the Bank had been productive of public good. And, when he considered the approaching period of the expiration of the charter—a charter which he hoped and trusted would expire—he thought that, as the question between the Bank and the public was about to terminate, he should be allowed to say a few words for perhaps the last time, on the state of their affairs. The first class of accounts which he now called for related to the deposits of public money lodged in the Bank for current use, in the same manner as any gentleman kept his 159 cash account at his private banker's. He remembered that, at one time, the average amount of the public balance so placed for ten or twelve years amounted to no less a sum than eleven or twelve millions a year. Of late years this amount had, it was true, considerably decreased. In 1821, it was diminished to 3,900,000l. In 1822, to 4,200,000l. In 1823, to 5,200,000l. In 1824, to 7,200,000l. He was quite sure, that no practical man at all conversant with the value of these lodgments, would deny the advantage which they must confer upon the Bank; and he must repeat what he had often asserted, that the nature of the service performed by the Bank for the public, as compared with the profits accruing from the use of such large deposits, was so trifling, as hardly to admit of calculation in any proper settlement of these transactions. It was right to call the public attention to this circumstance; for when the period arrived of the expiration of the Bank charter, it would be for the government to consider what bargain it would renew for the transaction of the public business with the present Bank (for he thought it would still be preferable to deal with them); or whether a second bank on a large scale would agree to give the public a participation in the profits arising from the heavy balances in hand, and take such a sum as 10 or 20,000l. a year for the management of the national business. At all events, the public ought, whenever the bargain was again made, to receive a large participation in the profits derived from the use of so many millions of their own money. Let them consider how the public cash account stood at the Bank of England. The Bank had advanced 15,000,000l., the whole of its capital, to the public, at 3 per cent interest, and this large premium they were receiving for the year 1824, while they actually were holders of nearly seven millions and a half of the money of that same public. Surely there ought to be a balance of mutual profit struck, under circumstances like these. The next subject that he wished to refer to was the allowance made by the public to the Bank for the management of the public debt. The trouble of this management consisted in the daily transfer of Stock, and the payment of the annual dividends to the public. It was due to the Bank to say, that the whole of this business was invariably performed with promptitude, exactness, 160 and diligence; that, in fact, nothing could be better done; and there was only one complaint to be made respecting it, which was, that the price for the work was much too high. When the charter should expire, he hoped this matter would also be taken into consideration; indeed, on an equitable revision of this part of the bargain, the public ought to save 250,000l. The hon. member then concluded by moving for the said accounts.
§ Mr. Pearse
said, he had no objection, on the part of the Bank, to the production of these accounts; but he would not, on the present occasion, go into the merits of the public bargain with the Bank, or the terms which ought to accompany the contingent respecting their charter. He hoped that important subject would in due time be gravely considered; not as it regarded the Bank itself, but as it would best serve the government and the country. They would at least come to the discussion with the full knowledge of the eminent services performed by the Bank for the public, when that corporation had stood in the gap, and effected what, upon emergencies, legislative interposition would have failed to accomplish. What the consequences to the public would be, if there were not such an establishment in existence in its chartered form, he would leave others to anticipate. As to the allowances to the Bank, it would be time enough to discuss their amount when the charter was under consideration; but really when the hon. gentleman thought proper to estimate the services performed by the Bank, he should not keep back the immense risks and losses which they incurred, in transacting the public business. On a late occasion they had lost by the forgeries of a single person above 250,000l., and this, too, in the execution of the public business, and so contrived by the individual, that although the strictest inquiry was made into the conduct of the Bank clerks, in no single instance could negligence or impropriety be attributed to any one of them for it. There were other losses of the same character continually happening, which must be taken into the scale of estimating the advantages derived by the Bank from its connexion with the pecuniary business of the public. He regretted the allusions to the charter, and that the existence of it should be imputed as a matter of grave accusation to government. He hoped when the 161 proper time for discussion arrived, that gentlemen would not be governed by passion in their consideration of it, but be influenced by the principles of reason and sound sense.
, that the time had come when all those exclusive charters were to be abolished, by which the community at large always suffered for the gain of a few. Full of faults as was the paper lately sent by the government to the Bank, he entirely concurred in that passage of it which put an end to the hope of a renewal of the Bank charter. As the word "lottery" was introduced in the accounts called for, he was anxious to know how it had happened that the pledge given by the government two or three years ago for the extinction of lotteries in that year had not been fulfilled? It seemed to him that these lotteries were to be carried on perpetually; two of them were still advertised. How had this happened?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
replied, that on the subject of lotteries it was true, and he ought to take blame to himself that it was so, that when he had brought in his former bill, an adequate provision was not made for their speedier extinction. When he had moved the resolution in the year 1823, upon which the lottery bill was founded, he was not sufficiently aware of the mode in which these lotteries were practically conducted. It was never the custom, he had since ascertained, that they should be drawn in the same year, for the service of which they had been voted. The consequence was, that the lottery for one year spread over one or more future years, and hence arose the apparent inconsistency between the pledge he had given and the fact which the hon. member had stated, of the prolongation of these lotteries. There were now, however, only two of them remaining to be drawn, and these must be concluded within the present year, and he pledged himself that they should be the last.
condemned in the strongest terms the policy of government, in breaking down the old commercial system of the country, to make way for theoretical notions of a mischievous tendency. He alluded chiefly to the condition into which the silk trade had been thrown, and the manner in which government, whilst sweeping away other charters, were ready to set up a charter against that class of traders who deserved their encouragement.
§ The motion was agreed to.
§ Mr. Ellice
gave notice that on Thursday next, he would move for an account of all the issues of gold coin at the Bank from July 1823 to the 1st of February 1826. In 1823, he believed the 1l. and 2l. notes had been entirely withdrawn from circulation, and he meant to show what portion of the amount had been supplied by specie, for the purpose of exposing the fallacy which prevailed respecting the real quantity of cash required for the circulation of the country. There was a great deal of gold coin, it should be always remembered, which remained in the hands of bankers, without being issued at all in the manner supposed. He should move for these returns, that the House might be in possession of all the information of which the subject was susceptible. On the present occasion, he begged to move for a return of Bank notes in circulation on the 1st and 15th of each month, for six months, to the 1st of February inclusive, and the same return of Bank post bills.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
, while he had no objection to the production of these returns, because, under existing circumstances, he thought a case was made out to call for them, begged to enter his protest against such motions being considered as mere matters of course. Neither the Bank nor the government opposed the production of these returns; protesting, however, against their consent being taken as a matter of course.
§ Mr. Pearse
thanked the right hon. gentleman for the manner in which lie had delivered the consent of the Bank; for certainly this information ought not always to be given as a matter of right. Indeed so impressed were the Bank proprietors of the injury to the public interests which might follow these constant disclosures of the state of the Bank affairs, that they had by large majorities refused to grant them in general courts. The directors were ready to give every necessary information; though he renewed their protest against its being called for as a matter of course.
§ Mr. Monck
condemned this mystery on the part of the Bank of England, and preferred publicity as by far the better course, both for the Bank and the country. They had the example of the Bank of France in favour of the public inspection of such accounts, and it ought to encourage similar publicity in this country.
said, that the Bank proprietors might refuse to call for the accounts, from a confidence in their directors, but it did not follow that parliament should participate in the same confidence. He did not mean to say whether parliament confided, or did not, in that body, for he would decide on each case as it arose. With reference to the stoppage of the stamping of country bank notes, it was, on the part of ministers, a glaring violation of the existing law, and ought not to have been done without notice. Did the government mean to continue the instructions already sent to the board, to prevent the further stamping. If they did, he would tell the right hon. gentleman that the proceeding would cast such a discredit on the country bank notes, as to throw the local circulation in every corner of the kingdom into the greatest confusion. The effect would necessarily be, that the panic, which was said to be subsiding, must become perpetuated. There was no analogy between the mode of effecting this matter, and the regulating the duty on thrown silk; for, in the latter, the thing was cautiously done, and proper security was received from the parties. But was any security here taken for the loss of revenue which the country would suffer from stopping the stamping of country bank notes
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that government had been induced to send that order to the Stamp-office, that advantage might not be taken by the country bankers to get stamped an unusual quantity of notes; by which means the effect of the proposed measure would be forestalled. He did not intend to deny, that the issuing such an order might require an act of indemnity from parliament, but he trusted, when the necessity of the case was taken into consideration, that the House would not impute such a proceeding to any improper motive.
did not mean to say, that ministers were actuated by improper motives; but he believed that in this, as in many other instances, they had committed a great error in judgment, and fallen into heavy mistakes. Why not have mentioned their intention? The parties would then have, known their real situation? The ministers might rely upon it, that this harsh and abrupt measure would deteriorate the local currency, and keep alive the panic which they thought had subsided.
§ Mr. Ellice
approved of the course adopted by government. If they had not stopped the stamping of country notes, the consequence would have been, that the country banks might have supplied themselves for a year to come, by which means the laudable intention of government would have been defeated. He granted that such a proceeding was illegal; but, in a case of so much importance, the duty of government was, to weigh what would be of the least inconvenience to the public; and, in his opinion, they had chosen the right course.
was surprised at the lightness with which his hon. friend appeared to treat the subject. He supposed his hon. friend was not aware that every country bank had taken out and paid for a license, which entitled them to get notes stamped up to next October, under the sanction of an act of parliament. He was glad to see the right hon. gentleman treat the subject more seriously.
§ Mr. Ellice
disclaimed having recommended the measure; but did not apprehend the same consequences from it as his hon. friend.
beheld the measure with great alarm. From the information which he had received from the country, he could add his testimony to what had been stated by his hon. friend, of the effect which it was likely to have in deteriorating the country bank notes. He regretted that government had taken, upon its own authority, to effect this object in so strong and unconstitutional a manner, without the previous interposition of parliament. He had heard of notes being sent up to be stamped, and which were expected back to meet previously formed engagements. Let the House contemplate the inconvenience which must follow from such a state of things. He hoped ministers would re-consider the matter before it was too late, or else the agricultural distress of 1821 and 1822 would return upon the country with redoubled force.
was no advocate for the banking system, but must condemn the measures which were in contemplation. After encouraging extensive circulation, it ill became ministers so abruptly to suspend it.
§ Mr. Monck
thought the measure most salutary. In proposing it, government had not led, but followed, the public mind, which was unequivocally in favour of it. The injury done to the private bankers 165 was not so extensive as was represented; For, without any enactment on the subject, that species of circulation would have ceased to exist before the expiration of a year. Perhaps the measure in question might have been rendered unnecessary by a resolution, declaring that all notes issued since the 4th of February, should be recalled from circulation. In taking it, however, ministers were fully justified.
§ The motion was then agreed to.