HC Deb 12 June 1855 vol 138 cc1867-909

said, I cannot understand why the war in which we are so unhappily engaged should prevent our making social progress. I, consequently, deemed it right to bring before the House a subject which I consider of much national importance, the decimalising of our coins, weights, and measures; and hope I may have the ear of the House in the discussion of an abstract question, on which you cannot expect to excite much enthusiasm. I am, however, in this fortunate position, that I hear of no dissentients from the principle—the only question is how best to accomplish the end. Probably I will he better understood if I speak of new farthings, which are 1–25 or 4 per cent less value than the present farthing. I will, therefore, proceed to bring before the House evidence which I think cannot be resisted, in favour of adopting the Report of the Decimal Coinage Committee, confining myself to the coinage; as I consider that weights and measures must follow, as matter of course. The decimal question was introduced into the House by Sir John Wrottesley, in 1824: the father of the present Lord Wrottesley. This was followed by the support of Mr. Babbage, in his work on the Economy of Manufactures: a gentleman whose high reputation is too well known for anything I could say to add to it. Much light has been thrown upon the subject by Lieutenant General Sir Charles Pasley, who, in 1834, published a work, showing, after much research and inquiry, the incongruity and discrepancy that exist throughout the United Kingdom in our coins, weights, and measures. By the destruction of the old House of Commons, our standards of weights and measures were lost, and a Commission was appointed by Mr. Spring Rice, now Lord Monteagle, for their restoration. That Commission consisted of G. B. Airy, Astronomer Royal; Francis Baily, Esq., V.P.R.S., and R.A.S.; J. E. D. Bethune, Esq.; Davies Gilbert, Esq.; Sir John F. W. Herschel, Bart.; J. G. S. Lefevre, Esq.; J. W. Lubbock, Esq., V.P.R.S.; Very Rev. George Peacock, D.D., F.R.S., Dean of Ely, and Lowndian Professor of Astronomy; Rev. R. Sheepshanks, F.R.S., F.R.A.S.; men of the greatest eminence in the kingdom; profound thinkers, who do not arrive at conclusions without great reflection and consideration. Their instructions were merely to restore our standards of weights and measures. Passing over this part of their inquiry, let us hear what they say about our currency— Having inspected the state of the standards recovered from the ruins of the Houses of Parliament; having collected the evidence of many persons from various classes, upon different points relating to, the general question of standards; having examined the most important publications upon it; having made themselves acquainted with the state of the law in several foreign countries; and having attentively considered the subject in all its bearings; have the honour to submit the following Report:—'V. The first point which has called for our special notice is the general question of decimal scale. In introducing this subject, we beg leave to invite the attention of the Government to the advantage and the facility of establishing in this country a decimal system of coinage. In our opinion, no single change which it is in the power of a Government to effect in our monetary system, would be felt by all classes as equally beneficial with this, when the temporary inconvenience attending the change had passed away. The facility consists in the ease of interposing between the sovereign (or pound) and the shilling, a new coin equivalent to two shillings (to be called by a distinctive name); of considering the farthing (which now passes as the 1–960th of the pound) as the 1–1000th part of that unit; of establishing a coin of value equal to l–100th part of the pound; and of circulating besides these principal members of a decimal coinage, other coins of values bearing a simple relation to them, including coins of the same value as the present shilling and sixpence. We do not feel ourselves at liberty further to enter into this subject; but we have felt it imperative on us to advert to it, because no circumstance whatever would contribute so much to the introduction of decimal scale in weights and measures, in those respects in which it is really useful, as the establishment of a Decimal Coinage. Upon this report the Edinburgh Review remarks— That little doubt can be entertained of the expediency of employing all the powers of the Government for the purpose of hastening the completion of the changes. The subject was then taken up by Professor De Morgan, one of the first mathematicians in the kingdom, a teacher of youth who stands pre-eminently high for the soundness of his opinions on every subject which he handles. Various papers from him will be found in the British Almanack from 1841 to 1853. No man is more capable of judging of the advantages that would arise in teaching arithmetic by the adoption of the decimal system. What does he say? "That it would relieve the master and scholar from much drudgery, and sate one-fourth in point of time, with one-twentieth of the complexity in teaching it." Sir John Bowring, in 1847, brought this subject before the House of Commons, in which he was ably supported by our lamented friend the late Mr. Hume. Some correspondence had taken place between the Master of the Mint and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer the right hon. Sir C. Wood, Bart., which induced Mr. Shiel to read an extract of a letter from him— I have no objection to the system of a decimal currency; but you must not, as your proposal does, take the penny as the basis, and make your coins multiples of a penny. The unit of British currency, the basis upon which everything else depends, and by reference to which the value of every other coin is determined, is the pound sterling. We should get into inextricable confusion if we departed from this. Then the issue of the florin was authorised as the 10th of the pound; this was the first practical step to a decimal coinage. A Parliamentary Committee was appointed in 1853 to examine into this question and report. They called before them twenty-seven witnesses, many of them recommended by Government as parties most likely to give us good information on the subject. The result of this inquiry the House is quite aware was a unanimous vote in favour of adopting the sovereign as the unit, divided into 1,000 mils or farthings, in place of 960; the florin as the tenth of a sovereign, a cent as the tenth of a florin, and a mil or new farthing, as the tenth of a cent. They recommended that 1, 2, 5, and 10 mil pieces should be coined. These four denominations of coin, the pound, florin, cent, and mil, are all that are necessary to give us a complete decimal system. They do not necessarily displace any of our gold or silver coins, our half-sovereign would represent 500 farthings, the crown 250, the half-crown 125, the shilling 50, and the sixpence 25; and the committee further reported that any other coins that suited public convenience might be adopted. Now, the House will see that from the simplicity of counting by tens, there is nothing to learn or nothing to unlearn, every man who has ten fingers has the decimal book constantly before him. The evidence of Messrs. Kirkman and Lindsay, who take in their respective pursuits about 1,000 farthings each per week, said that it would very soon be understood by the poor, and be satisfactory to them, when they found they could obtain 25 farthings for their sixpence, and 50 for their shilling. Mr. Gregory, an engineer of eminence, stated that two days at the pay counter would make the change perfectly understood. Some parties have attempted to mystify the tenly system, by stating that strings of decimal fractions would be necessary in calculations. The very object of decimals is to get clear of decimal fractions in the ordinary calculations of life. No alteration is necessary in our account-books, they may be kept in three columns as they are now. No derangement would take place in our Exchanges with the rest of the world, who pay in the coin of their respective countries their own coin for sterling bills. A second commission was appointed in 1853, for the construction of the weights and measures as determined on by the first Commission, and they wound up their Report with the following letter to the right hon. the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), then Chancellor of the Exchequer; it is signed by some of the former Commissioners, and others, men of equal distinction and celebrity:—

"Royal Observatory, Greenwich,

26th March, 1853.

"Sir,—By a letter which the chairman of this committee had the honour of addressing to you, under date of March 18th, you will have perceived that the committee are at this time preparing a Report on the subject of standards, and that, in connection with this subject, they have felt it to be their duty to represent that they are strongly impressed with the advantages of a decimal system of coinage. The members of the committee have since learnt that Her Majesty's Government have in contemplation an immediate coinage of copper, to a considerable amount. The committee have the honour to lay before you their urgent request that, before specific steps are taken in reference to the proposed coinage, the decimal system may be carefully considered. They trust that the result of such consideration would be, that the Government would decide on issuing coins related to the millesimal subdivision of the pound, and in respect to the one-thousandth part of a pound (by whatever name it may be called). They request permission to suggest that coins of the values of 1–1000, 2–1000, and 4–1000 of a pound (differing little from the farthing, halfpenny, and penny) might be extensively used by the public without present inconvenience, while the inscription of their values, as estimated in the decimal scale, would afford the means of shortly introducing that scale throughout the entire system. The committee have, &c.,

"G. B. AIRY (chairman), ROSSE,

I was favoured with the perusal of the summary of letters from various bankers in the kingdom, in answer to queries addressed to them by Sir John Herschel, asking their opinions as to the convenience of using the half-crown or the florin. The great majority of opinions were in favour of the florin, as a step towards a decimal coinage. Much has been said about the difficulty that would arise from making those changes. None occurred in Ireland when the Irish shilling, 13d., was changed into the English shilling, 12d. Although the poor man might think himself cheated out of a penny, he soon found the English shilling had as much purchasing power as the Irish 13d. We had very clear evidence on this point from the Duke of Leinster. Nor did any difficulty arise in 1809, when the linen merchants in the north of Ireland induced the weavers to accept bank-notes in place of gold and silver for their linens. I was present when that changed mode of payment took place. When weavers found they could obtain gold and silver for their notes they were soon perfectly satisfied. I was in the United States when they were changing their pounds, shillings, and pence into a decimal currency. They almost imperceptibly passed from one to the other without the least disturbance. Holland, in 1811, changed all her currency. It is altogether a mistake to suppose that the change pro-proposed would with the humbler classes create any serious difficulty. The petitions which have been presented are:—Corporations, 31; inhabitants of towns, 26; Chambers of Commerce, 16; Scientific and Literary Institutions, 11; Mechanics' Institutions, 15; schoolmasters, 3; actuaries, 1; merchants, clerks, and operatives, 22; Sandhurst College, 1; merchants, &c., 5; Benefit Societies, 1; Insurance Companies, 1; total petitions, 133; signatures, 15,379; but 56 which were signed officially represented some very large bodies. There are two or three that require especial notice. That from the city of London is signed by 59 bankers, stock-brokers, and money-dealers; 38 merchants, foreign and general; 28 merchants, tea, sugar, spice, coffee, grocery, tobacco, &c.; 22 merchants, wine and spirit; 39 warehousemen, silk, linen, cotton, woollen, lace, ribbons, hosiery, straw plait, &c.; 13 shipowners, brokers, wharfingers, &c.; 5 miscellaneous; 45 assurance offices; 944 signatures. It commences with the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, and other banks; the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Stock Exchange, and many leading houses of great importance (none of their clerks were asked to sign), who, if trouble was apprehended in the change, would not petition for it. Forty-five insurance offices are amongst the number, all of whom have actuaries attached to them who can appreciate the advantages of a decimal system, and who could not be influenced by the views of others. The Bank of England buys and sells gold decimally. They formerly counted their notes by dozens, but they now adopt the tenly system. And the hon. Member for Westbury brought in a Bill this Session to legalise the troy ounce. The goldsmiths make their assays decimally, and the Mint wish to adopt a decimal system as soon as authorised. The Committee of Council have instructed their inspectors of schools to see that decimals are taught. One of those gentlemen called my attention to the Industrial school at Kirkdale, Liverpool, where there are 1,400 children. I examined a class, and found them perfect I masters of the subject. Mr. Hagger, their teacher, informed me if he had the coins to place before the children they would understand them in half-an-hour. What we want are the decimal coins, marked with the value in mils or farthings, to make the change understood at once. It is estimated that about 400,000,000 people use decimals. The following countries have adopted them:—Holland, Belgium, Lombardy, United States, France, Portugal, Madeira, Bermuda, China, Japan, Russia, Zolverein (in weights and measures), Poland, Sardinian States, Rome, Switzerland, Two Sicilies, Modena, Naples, Greece, Tuscany, Brazil, New Granada, Chili, Mexico, and Columbia. Sweden and Canada have or are about doing so. Every step that we take in abridging labour enables us to meet all nations who are our competitors in the markets of the world, and does not necessarily throw hands out of employment. The labour-saving machines increase the demand for hands, as is well known by the operatives in Lancashire. Fifty years ago they destroyed machinery. In the late strikes they only pulled the plugs out of the boilers, that nothing might be injured when they again went to work. Permit me to read an extract from Dr. Bowring's work, in which he alludes to the Chinese:— Wonderful are the ease and accuracy with which all calculations are made and recorded. In my own person I have had to settle a great variety of accounts with various classes of people in China, and I never remember to have detected an error; and, in cases where my reckoning has disagreed with that of the Chinese, I have invariably found that their amount was correct, and my own erroneous. In China it might almost be laid down as an axiom, that a mistake in an account is in itself strong evidence of fraudulent intention. I have compared my observations with those of persons of the longest and most extensive experience as to the general correctness of Chinese accountancy, and my opinion has been fully confirmed, that, among Chinamen intending to be honest, an error in reckoning is almost unknown. Mr. Miller, one of the cashiers of the Bank of England, who is well acquainted with the system of keeping accounts in the Custom House, shows the process that three butts of currants weighing 59 cwt. 1 qr. 16 lbs. go through at 15s. per cwt., to ascertain the amount of duty. Hon. Members have been furnished with the statement. It requires 172 figures by that process, and only twenty-one in decimals. These figures have to go through five or six hands to check them. This change it is estimated would save 200 clerks in the Custom House, and a vast number in keeping our national accounts. The decimal system is truly a labour-saving machine. Permit me to read to you an extract from Sir John Herschel's evidence, and what the right hon. the late Chancellor of the Exchequer said to a deputation which had the honour of waiting on him:— The decimal system being once introduced, the rules of 'compound arithmetic,' 'reduction,' and 'practice,' would no longer require to be taught in schools. The relief thus afforded, both to teacher and scholar would be immense. The four essential rules of arithmetic would be better acquired, and the drudgery spared, and the time saved for the acquisition of real knowledge would tell upon the education of every individual in every class of society."—Herschel. I have the greatest respect for the opinions of the deputation. I shall, therefore, not fail to give them my serious consideration; and I hope the association will persevere in their efforts to make the subject well understood by the people."—Gladstone. I can assure the House we have persevered, by discussions through the press, and by the distribution of 10,000 pamphlets—volunteer lecturers have sprung up in various parts of the country in support of our views—and we feel that we are now in such a position that we ought to make a further step in advance. I have already stated the importance of coins as books of education, and I hope and trust that the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will do himself the honour of giving to his country the advantage of a decimal system. It has not been the custom of enlightened Governments to wait until every individual in the country understood Acts of Parliament that were passed for their benefit. I therefore do hope and expect that this Government will not retard, but encourage useful progress. As an Amendment has been placed on the notice paper, I will state my objections to it. I think it is as impossible to have international coinage, weights, and measures, as international language. It has been attempted to make a general currency for the Zolverein, where they speak one language and pay the same Custom duties. Deputies met at Frankfort on the Maine about six years ago, but separated without doing anything. They met again at Vienna last year, and came to no result. When we consider that about the time of William the Conqueror, the pound of fine gold was coined into 9l., now into 46l. 14s. 6d., and the pound of fine silver at the same time coined into 24s. 6d., now into 66s., when in various reigns we have made such debasements and mutilations, what security have we that other States will not in their exigencies decrease the value of their coinage. Look at the blue rubles of Russia, the assignats of France, and the continental paper money of the United States. When the latter were our colonies they used our pound sterling, calculating the dollar at 4s. 6d. But before they decimalised their currency, in different sections of the Union, the dollar was taken at 4s. 8d., 6s., 7s. 6d., and 8s. The United States may be said to have an international currency at this moment, for by law the coins of most nations are taken at a fixed value, but their present master of the Mint, in his report to Congress, now lying on the table before me, recommends that this law should be abolished and their own coinage alone taken, for he finds great debasement of coins in many other countries, particularly in some of the South American States, where their dollars are passing in the United States at one-fourth less value than they ought to be. Within my recollection, the English sovereign in the United States has been depreciated and was taken at 4.44 dollars, again at 4.67 dollars, and now at 4.84 dollars, and they have lately depreciated the value of their silver, making it mere tokens. There is another disturbing cause to international money. Trade is continually making the balance of account to be in favour of one party or the other. Now, if we had a sovereign of 113 grains of fine gold adopted by France, England, the United States, and Germany, to pay the creditor when we cannot get good bills of exchange to remit, we would send gold—that at once destroys its universal circulation without cost, for it is clear that this intended international money is more valuable, and has more purchasing power in the creditor country than in the debtor, otherwise the debtor would not go to the expense of freight, insurance, loss of interest, and charges in sending it to pay his debt or buy goods. If we are right to-day, there is no security that we will not be wrong to-morrow. The Bank of England has ingots of gold, the Chinese a shoe, and the United States disks of gold, of one, two, or three ounces, &c., &c., stamped with their weight and fineness, but they cannot get clear of them in any way but as bullion, and they find their way into the melting pot. Two eminent American Statesmen, who are here, agree with me, that it is useless to attempt to have an international currency, and that seems to be the view of Mr. Adams, who was here as Minister from the United States, as appears by an extract from his report on this subject to his Government. John Quincy Adams says:— To this the wishes of their philanthropists, the hopes of their patriots, the researches of their philosophers, and the energy of their legislators, have been aiming with efforts so stupendous and with perseverance so untiring, that, to any person who shall examine them, it may well be a subject of astonishment to find that they are both yet entangled in the pursuit at this hour, and that it may be doubted whether all their latest and greatest exertions have not hitherto tended to increase diversity instead of producing uniformity. Such evidence against a congress of nations is conclusive in my mind against any attempt to form one. Permit me also to read an extract from a letter of Mr. J. E. D. Bethune on the same subject to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, dated 21st December, 1841— Many persons are desirous that if any change be attempted, our weights and measures should be made identical with those of the French scale. I believe this to be impossible. Difficulty has been suggested in dealing with tolls; when they or any sums are cumulative and rise to 6d. there is no change whatever by the proposed system. If the change is under 6d. and averages 2½d. there is neither a loss or gain of half a new farthing on the transaction. If they are penny tolls only, taking five new farthings for a time would indemnify the parties for taking four afterwards. In many cases taking four will be the interest of the parties to increase custom. In other cases of turnpike gates an adjustment may take place, neither to gain nor lose, by making some pay a little more and another less. The press need not be disturbed at all; you can give them a discount on their using five farthing stamps; that will leave them just where they are. Mr. Hill gave it as his opinion that four mils, or new farthings, would soon bring up the revenue to what it now is. Why longer delay a measure that would confer lasting benefits on the working classes, the landowner, the banker, the merchant, the tradesman, the scholar, the schoolmaster, men of science, and the nation at large from the great simplification of their accounts. I now beg to move the following Resolutions— That, in the opinion of this House, the initiation of the Decimal system of Coinage, by the issue of the Florin, has been eminently successful and satisfactory. That a further extension of such system will be of great public advantage. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that she will be graciously pleased to complete the decimal scale with the pound and the florin, as suggested by two Commissions and a Committee of the House of Commons, by authorising the issue of silver coins to represent the value of the one-hundredth part of a pound, and copper coins to represent the one-thousandth part of a pound, to be called cents and mils respectively, or to bear such other names as to Her Majesty may seem advisable.


said, he rose to second the Motion; and in doing so wished to say, in the first place, that being well aware that the subject, although very important, was not so generally interesting as to excite much Parliamentary or popular enthusiasm, and also because his hon. Friend had gone through the principal points of the subject, he should compress into a short space what he had to state. He had complied with his hon. Friend's request to second his Motion, partly beause he had been a member of the Committee which sat two years ago on the subject, and partly because, however little acquainted with commercial matters, he felt himself competent to say that a great preponderance of opinion existed among the commercial classes in mercantile and manufacturing towns in favour of the change recommended by the hon. Gentleman. There might still be, as there certainly was at one time, an idea prevalent that any scheme for adopting a decimal system of coinage must be a vague indefinite idea, entertained by a few theorists, but not recommended by any great scientific authorities, or felt to be of any great practical necessity. If such an opinion now existed, he (Lord Stanley) would be content to oppose the authorities of Babbage, of De Morgan, of General Pasley, of Herschel, and many others who had been cited by his hon. Friend. There was also the favourable opinion of the Commission which sat upon weights and measures in 1848, and reported in 1851; of another Commission upon the same subject, which sat at a later period; and also of the Committee appointed by that House in 1853, which, he ventured to say, had approached the subject in a fair and impartial spirit, and which called before it a great mass and variety of evidence. In addition to those authorities, the change had the support of between 200 and 300 Members of both Houses of Parliament, not merely as favourable to a consideration of the subject, but as avowed partisans of the proposition embodied in the Report of the Committee he had just referred to. He might also add that most of the Chambers of Commerce, of the great mercantile bodies, of the banks and other commercial establishments were favourable not only to a decimal system of coinage in general, but to that particular form of it which was embodied in the Report of the Committee. With regard to the abstract question of the advantages to be derived from a change from the present system of coinage to a decimal system, there was no room for much argument; for he believed that the great mass of practical and scientific testimony in its favour was so overwhelming as to amount virtually almost to unanimity. There were advantages to be expected from a decimal system in any case. Even if we had now a system of coinage which proceeded by regular multiples of any other number than ten, the substitution of a decimal coinage would be a great advantage in all matters of calculation. But as it happened, we in England not only had not the advantage of a decimal system, but we had not even a system which proceeded in regular gradations by regular multiples of any number. In this country, therefore, the proposed alteration would be attended with a double benefit—first, the transition from a non-decimal to a decimal system, and, secondly, the transition from an irregular to a regular system. There were two practical questions to be considered—the first, and the most material was the unit or basis on which the proposed system should rest; and next whether any temporary or partial inconvenience would arise from that change which would counterbalance in any material degree the ultimate advantages which might he expected. With regard to the first and most important point, of what should be the basis of the coinage, three different plans had been suggested. The first, and one which had met with a certain amount of support, was that which he would call the uniform penny system; that was, the penny was taken as the basis of the coinage, the value of the next coin being ten-pence, and the next 100-pence, or eight shillings and fourpence. No doubt that proposition had some advantages to recommend it. It left undisturbed that particular coin in which the smaller transactions of business were carried on. It was, as far as it went, a perfectly simple and consistent plan; but there was a serious, and, in his opinion, a fatal objection to its adoption;—it could not be put in force without destroying every coin which at present existed, with the single exception of the penny unit, and consequently, by very far the larger part of the coin of the country must be withdrawn from circulation. They must destroy the sovereign, the half-sovereign, the crown, the half-crown, the florin, and the shilling, for these coins could no longer be used, either for the purposes of account or of circulation. Such a change would be most sweeping and revolutionary, and would entail a vast amount of labour, both on the Executive which had to introduce it and on those who had to make the first trial of it. There was another objection to that plan, and a not immaterial one—the largest coin in the system, being that which must necessarily be employed in all large transactions would be much smaller in value than that now used. Taking the penny as the basis, the next coin would be ten-pence, and then 100-pence, as the highest coin. Beyond that they could not go; for in the next step 1,000-pence would bring them to an amount exceeding 4l., an amount larger than could be conveniently embodied in any coin intended for general use. The highest coin, then, in which accounts must be kept would not be more than 8s. 4d., instead of the 1l. now in use, and the change would involve additional labour in keeping accounts, and require double the number of figures to be used. There would also be a certain actual material loss by such a coinage, for, as was well known, the expense of the coinage of small coins was proportionally larger than that of the larger coins. Thus the plan would increase the trouble of calculation, and would entail a considerable expense on the country. The decimal notation on this scale, moreover, must end with the penny; for a coin equal to 1/10th of a penny would be too small for practical use. Thus the scale would neither mount high enough for large operations, nor descend low enough for small ones. Those were the main objections which were raised against a decimal system with a penny unit for a basis. But there had been a modification of that system proposed, which had been supported with a considerable amount of talent, as a sort of compromise between the two opposing theories. It was proposed by that compromise to retain both the penny and the pound, taking the penny as the basis, making the next coin a ten-penny piece, the next coin of the value of 100 pence, and dividing the present pound into twenty-four ten-penny pieces instead of into twenty shillings. That system, it was true, would substitute a decimal piece for the shilling, but above the shilling it would retain in use the present clumsy and inconvenient method, nay, the existing inconvenience would be increased; for if there was any respect in which the change to a decimal system would produce inconvenience it would be in dealing with small amounts and with persons not conversant with commercial transactions, but here the supporters of the compromise proposed to introduce a decimal notation; while, where a decimal system was really advantageous—namely, in transactions involving large sums, and calculations requiring many figures, there the authors of this scheme did not propose to extend it, so that their plan ingeniously combined the faults of both the old and new systems. There being, therefore, these objections against the introduction of a decimal system founded on the basis of the penny, and against the compromise which would retain both the penny and the pound, he would come to the consideration of the only other alternative which remained; he meant that plan embodied in the report of the Committee, and which had to a certain extent been acted on by the Government. There had been very great exaggeration as to the amount of interference with the existing currency which would be necessary in introducing a decimal system founded on the basis of the pound. It had been supposed that it would be necessary in such case to totally destroy the whole copper coinage of the country, and it was alleged that a very high authority had stated that such a change would take a period of twenty years to establish. But the language held by the Master of the Mint had been misunderstood; all that he had said being that when a new coin was struck it would not come into circulation all at once, but that it would take twenty years before all the old coin would be absorbed and the new coin brought into exclusive use. Now what was the system of coinage proposed by the Committee? They proposed to retain the pound as the basis, and the halfsovereign, the crown, the shilling, and sixpence as decimal parts of the pound; and, if possible, to retain the half-crown also. It was true the half-crown had been objected to, but whatever inconvenience was found in its use arose from its being confounded with the florin, a coin now in circulation, so that this inconvenience, if it were one, was not owing to, and would not be increased by, the decimalisation of the coinage. As to the copper coinage, all that was proposed in the plan of the Committee was to modify it by adopting the mil (for which he should have preferred to retain the old name of "farthing")—and the cent of ten mils, and making the penny 1–25th less in value, so as to create a decimal proportion between it and the florin. This would not require any alteration in the penny, for the difference between the conventional value of the penny and the value of the copper of which it was composed, was so large as to render the proposed alteration of value inappreciable in comparison. No doubt, by changing the value of the penny they might inflict some slight loss on the holders of copper coin; but he apprehended that no person would have so large a quantity of copper coin in hand as to be seriously damaged thereby; and those who objected to the system need make no change in keeping their accounts, but might go on, if they pleased, with the old scale, and the old method of accounting, on the simple understanding that the shilling would be 12½d. in value instead of 12d. He thought that there could be no doubt that a system which would cause the least possible derangement of the present one would be preferable; and, although it was said the penny was the poor man's coin, and that any change in it would cause a loss to him, he denied that assertion, because the change proposed would be of the simplest possible character—only this, that 12½d., instead of 12d., would go to a shilling. Once impress that fact on the public mind and the difficulty was surmounted. Then it had been said that in cases of payment in the army and navy and to persons employed in the Government service some confusion must ensue. This was an assertion that could not be supported by any evidence, because in fact the payments were not made in copper. The only case in which inconvenience would result from it was with respect to the postage stamps on letters and the tolls on bridges, and in other cases authorised by act of Parliament. With respect to the Post Office, he thought that notwithstanding the loss to the revenue it would be expedient that the postage stamp should be reduced to the value of the new penny—the loss would be quite insignificant—and with regard to tolls, it might be convenient to raise them by a fifth for five years, and then to reduce them to the penny at its new value. Then, with regard to the alleged inconvenience that might arise as to the prices of articles, it was well known that all articles varied from time to time in price, and an alteration in our coinage would, therefore, merely add, once for all, one artificial cause of fluctuation to the many natural causes which already existed. The objections to the change were mostly, therefore, either illusory or unimportant; and there was no reason why the Government should not persevere in the system which it had already commenced—for the introduction of the florin was, in fact, the first step towards the adoption of a decimal coinage. We bad already a decimal coinage so far as two coins were concerned, and we only wanted a third to fit into them. With respect to the amendment which was to be proposed to the House by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. J. B. Smith), for inviting a congress of all nations to consider the expediency of establishing a uniform standard of moneys, weights, and measures, such an experiment had been tried under much more favourable circumstances a few years ago, its application being limited to the States of Germany alone; but an agreement on the subject was found to be quite unattainable, even among those allied and friendly States, in all of which the same language was spoken. Besides, even if several States were willing to enter into such an arrangement, there would be no sufficient security that the same nominal coins would be of equal weight and fineness in different countries; but, even assuming that difficulty to be got over, the fluctuation of the exchanges would prevent a perfect equality. Again, in the event of a congress of all nations determining, as it probably would, that our coins of 1d. and 1l. were not those which would be best adapted for the rest of Europe, neither the Legislature nor the people of this country would consent to abide by a decision which would substitute for that which we had, a coinage entirely new and foreign. For these reasons he must oppose the amendment, and could only express a hope that the Government would take in hand and carry through the proposition embodied in the report of the Committee.


said, he quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire and the noble Lord (Lord Stanley), as to the importance of a decimal system of coinage. He did not think they overrated its advantages; he only condemned the principle which they were desirous of adopting; he thought the principle they advocated ought not to be adopted, at least without much further consideration. The question had certainly already been referred to a Select Committee of the House of Commons, of which he was himself a member; but that Committee appeared to have been appointed for the mere purpose of reporting on a foregone conclusion. Every member of it, with but one exception, was of the same opinion, and it was very remarkable that every witness who was summoned by the Committee was in favour of the pound sterling as the unit of account. The fact was, that they heard evidence on one side of the question only, and their Report therefore could not be taken as a safe or sufficient guide for decision upon so important a question. Now, what would be the effect of adopting the pound unit? It would be equivalent to asking Her Majesty to coin a piece of money representing the one-hundredth part of a pound and another the one-thousandth part of a pound. These coins would be utterly useless, inasmuch as they could not be used to pay any exact sum under sixpence. We could not pay a halfpenny or penny toll or a penny stamp with them. Before they could be used, all the duties on imports, and excise duties, and, in fact, every other tax, would have to be altered by Act of Parliament, and provision made to alter and legalise all contracts entered into under the old system of moneys. Then, supposing the Motion before the House was carried, they would have a decimal system of coinage and a duodecimal system of weights and measures, and that would entail very serious loss on the working classes in all their small transactions. In America they had adopted a decimal coinage, but they retained the English system of weights and measures; and the consequence was that in order to make the, two systems harmonise they were obliged to resort to two coins which were absolutely illegal, namely the one-eighth and the one-sixteenth of a Spanish dollar. Great bankers and dealers in millions might not object to such a measure, which would not affect them, but a loss of four per cent. on every small purchase, which would be the result of adopting the proposed new coins, was very material to the working classes. He apprehended his hon. Friend (Mr. Brown) did not propose that we should be always without a decimal system of weights and measures. He was of opinion that the coinage of a country should be adapted to harmonise with its system of weights and measures, and if we adopted a decimal system of coinage, we ought simultaneously to adopt a decimal system of weights and measures. But if the Motion of his hon. Friend were adopted for a decimal coinage only, we should introduce such a state of confusion into the country, as would go far to render a decimal system not only unpopular, but odious, because no sooner was the country recovering from the inconvenience of altering all our laws relating to payments for the purpose of accommodating them to the proposed decimal coinage than we should be compelled to undergo the confusion of a second alteration of the laws whenever we decimalised our weights and measures. The public would, doubtless, experience considerable temporary inconvenience in any change of the existing system, and it would therefore be desirable to endeavour to obtain the greatest amount of advantages to compensate for it. He could conceive no advantage to this country, as well as to all other nations, so great as the adoption of a common international standard of moneys, weights, and measures, and he was of opinion that, before we decided on the adoption of any change whatever in our present system, the Government should invite the different nations of the world to consider the practicability of agreeing upon a common system; and if we failed in this great object of facilitating the intercourse of nations, then let us adopt a system of our own, combining, as far as possible, simplicity, with the least amount of inconvenience in changing from our existing standards. His hon. Friend (Mr. Brown) said it would be as absurd to attempt the adoption of an international coinage as an international language. He had never heard that it had been proposed to adopt an international language; but he would remind the House that an international system of coinage had been attempted, and had been carried out with partial success. The first idea of that kind originated in France. In 1790 Talleyrand moved in the National Assembly that the King of Great Britain and the Sovereigns of the other nations of Europe should be invited to send representatives to a congress of nations to consider the practicability of adopting an international system of moneys, weights, and measures. At that time French notions were not very favourably received in this country, and we sent no representative to that congress; but the Netherlands and Switzerland sent two learned men, and they agreed on the system which was now in use in France and in those two countries. That was not, however, the only instance, for Holland had changed her coinage, and had adopted the same system as prevailed in southern Germany, and at the present time an uniform system of coinage was in use in Frankfort, Bavaria, Wurtemberg, Baden, Hesse, Nassau, and in other minor German States. He denied that the recent congress for considering a uniform coinage for Germany had been unsuccessful, as stated by the noble Lord. It had merely been adjourned, but not dissolved, and it separated for this reason—that as the circulating medium of Austria at present consisted of inconvertible paper money of no use out of the Austrian Empire, it was impossible for her, until she resumed specie payments, to assimilate her coinage to that of other countries. He hoped the Government would not adopt any one-sided view of this question. England had been the first to proclaim free-trade with all the world; and he thought it was peculiarly fitting that she should now invite the nations of the world to facilitate their mutual intercourse by sending representatives to a congress to consider the practicability of adopting a common system of moneys, weights, and measures; and he knew nothing that would tend more to produce feelings of goodwill among them than a course of that kind. The hon. Member concluded by moving as an Amendment—"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty would be pleased to invite a congress of representatives of all nations, at some convenient place, with the view of considering the practicability of adopting a common standard of moneys, weights, and measures."


said, he had made it his business to look into this question, and he had formed a strong opinion upon it; but an opinion quite different from that of the hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. W. Brown). He thought that the authorities which had been cited by the hon. Member for South Lancashire in favour of his Resolution had in some degree been perverted from their original intention. The greater number of those gentlemen whose opinions the hon. Gentleman had read only meant to express their preference in favour of a system of decimal coinage—a question about which there could be little difference of opinion; but it did not follow from that that they were in favour of the particular plan advocated by the hon. Gentleman. To do away with the compound rules of arithmetic in the reckoning of money was an object well worthy their attention; but the question at issue was the modus decimandi, and he was far from thinking that the hon. Gentleman's plan was the best. The money subscribed to promote the introduction of a change generally had been devoted to forwarding a particular change by the circulation of able works, and had, therefore, thrown great weight into the scale in favour of that change. He would now briefly state his objections to the system proposed by his hon. Friend. They must remember, in the first place, that they were very well able to carry on their affairs with the system now in existence—although no doubt it had many faults—and before giving it up they ought to be satisfied that the system to be substituted for it was better both in theory and practice, because a change such as was proposed was in itself an enormous evil. His first objection was, that the unit it was proposed to take was too high. A unit was not given them by nature, but was chosen by themselves, and ought to be adapted to the convenience of the greatest number. It was proposed that the unit should be so high that all other coins would be arrived at by division—instead of by addition, as in other countries where the decimal system had been adopted. By taking a large unit they would be guided by a decimal scale, instead of by the convenience of mankind, and would be obliged to adopt a coinage inconvenient in itself and ill adapted to their wants. If they wished for an improved system for the mensuration of distance, an hon. Gentleman said, "The mile must be preserved—the British mind was wedded to the mile—it was connected with our history, our poetry, our literature—we obtained it from the Romans, and we would not part from it"—what would be done? They would have to divide the mile by ten, to reduce it from 1760 to 176 yards, then to seventeen six-tenths yards, and so on to inches, decimalising most beautifully, but arriving at measures that would never be wanted to measure anything, The florin had been forced into existence as the tenth of a pound, and its success as a coin had been vaunted:—but what merit of any kind had the florin, except that it was the decimal of a pound? Did they calculate in florins? He was glad that some hon. Gentlemen had derived benefit from the issue of florins; his only experience of their convenience was, that when he ought to have received half-a-crown he had generally received a florin, and when he ought to have paid a florin he had generally paid half-a-crown. From a florin they got to two two-fifths of a penny, but who ever bought anything—who ever reckoned or wished to reckon in such a coin as that? Such a coin could never come into general circulation, because it represented nothing which corresponded with any of the wants of the people. They then arrived a step further—at the mil, which had no other recommendation than that of being the 1,000th part of a pound. His objection to the mil was, that it was either too large or too small. It was too large if they wished for a coinage that would give the people the benefit of the fluctuations of price in articles of general consumption; and they certainly wanted some small coinage for that purpose, because several articles of manufacture were sold as low as the sixty-fourth part of a penny; but a mil, which was little less than a farthing, was too large. In another point of view the mil was too small. If the proposed system were adopted, they would all be condemned to live in decimals for ever; if a man dined at a publichouse he would have to pay for his dinner in decimal fractions. He objected to that, for he thought a man ought to be able to pay for his dinner in integers. It was proposed that the integer should be taken so high that they would have to add a fourth column to the present three columns of £ s. d., and they all knew what an addition an extra row of figures would make to the labours of book-keeping. Farthings were now neglected in keeping accounts, because it was supposed that those which were gained would counterbalance those which were lost, but such a sum as two two-fifths of a penny could not be neglected. Wherever the decimal system had been adopted the mean coins were obliterated in the keeping of accounts, the largest and smallest only being reckoned. In America accounts were not kept in dollars, dimes, and cents, but only in dollars and cents; and in China accounts were kept in only two out of four coins, taels and cash. Then, in France there was the decimal division of the two sons piece, the tenth part of a franc, but only the 100th part of a franc was used in accounts. He thought this plan of reckoning in the smallest and the largest coins was a very serious evil, because it would tend to put coins in circulation which would never be used in accounts. He had hitherto been arguing on the supposition, unfavourable to himself, that the decimal system had already been introduced. He admitted its scientific accuracy, but he contended that its introduction would be difficult, and he denied that it had the perfection attributed to it, because the integer and the unit were taken too high. To prove that wherever there was a decimal system it was the tendency of mankind to take a low integer, he might refer to the fact that in France no one kept his accounts in half-Napoleons or ten francs, but in francs and centimes. Looking at the experience of other nations, he thought they would be unwise to introduce a system which involved a complicated subdivision. This subject had not yet been satisfactorily dealt with, and the difficulties in it had not been grappled with. They ought to go upon the principle of getting as scientific a decimal coinage as possible, and they must comply with the condition of taking as a unit something which would divide the pound without a remainder. But he did not see the necessity for taking a pound, or the decimal part of a pound. The present system, however, had not yet been changed into the decimal system. That change might appear very easy to accomplished mathematicians and men of science, but it was one which it would be very difficult to carry out. What would have to be done? Every sum would have to be reduced into a vulgar fraction of a pound, and then divided by the decimal of a pound—a pleasant sum for an old apple-woman to work out! It would not be an agreeable task, even for some members of that House, to reduce 4½d., or nine halfpence, to mils. The main objection was, if they went below 6d., that the new scale of coins would not be commensurate in any finite ratio with anything in this new currency of mils. No less than five of our present coins must be called in, or else—which would be worse—new values must be given to them. If a poor man put a penny into his pocket, it would come out a coin of different value, which he would not understand. Suppose he owed another man a penny; how was he to pay him? Was he to pay him in mils? Four mils would be too little and five mils would be too much. The hon. Gentleman said, there would be only a mil between them. That was exactly it. He believed there would be a "mill" between them. What would be the present expression for fourpence? Why, 0166 with 6es ad infinitum; for threepence? .0125; for a penny? .004166, with 6es ad infinitum (a laugh) for a halfpenny? .002083, and 3s ad infinitum. What would be the present expression for a farthing? Why, .0010416, and 6es ad infinitum. And this was the system which was to cause such a saving in figures, and these were the quantities into which the poor would have to reduce the current coin of the realm. With every respect for decimal fractions, of which he boasted no profound knowledge, he doubted whether the poor were equal to mental arithmetic of this kind, and he hoped the adoption of the system would be deferred until there was some proof that they would be able to understand it; for, after all, this was the question of the poor, and the whole weight of the change would fall upon them. Let the rich by all means have permission to perplex themselves by any division of a pound they pleased, but do not let them, by an experiment like this, impose difficulties upon the poor, and compel men to carry ready-reckoners in their pocket to give them all these fractional quantities. Another objectionable feature of the proposed system was, that it would interfere with the vested interests of companies which had invested their money on the faith of receiving tolls and charges which the proposed system would not give them. Parliament would have no power to give them help in such a case. They had power, no doubt, to alter tolls and taxes, but he firmly believed there were cases in which it would be impossible to do justice. The last remark he had to make was, that the proposed coins would be incommensurable with foreign money. Take French money, which would have to be multiplied over and over again. The same process must be repeated as in the reduction of 4½d. The French money must be reduced, making allowance for the exchange of the day, into vulgar fractions of a pound, and then back from vulgar fractions to decimals, and that process must be gone through with all accounts in foreign money. But if they had a coin of 10d. (upon the propriety of which he expressed no opinion), then, by adding a percentage for the exchange, they might easily calculate the difference. It would be found that, under the proposed system, when you came to very small quantities you would come to very large numbers. In invoices where there was a number of yards or ells, or pounds of goods of small value, it would be necessary to increase the figures at the right hand of the decimal, and although those figures on the extreme right might be neglected in adding up the total, yet the parties could not afford to leave them out in multiplying, and the labour of calculation would therefore be greatly increased. He doubted whether the new machinery, in the form in which it was now presented to the House, would save labour at all. He was no friend to a congress on this point, for, if different countries should adopt the same coins, the variations in the rate of exchange would render them of different value. Although men of science had petitioned in favour of the change, and though it had been supported by 280 Members of that House, he entreated the House to pause before they introduced a system which, if it gave relief to the ledger, would make serious inroads in the daybook, and which would infallibly disturb the comfort of the poor. Let the House, if they would, examine gentlemen who might point out some means of avoiding the objections to which the proposed change was liable; but let them not rashly rush into a system which would in many cases multiply trouble, and which would occasion serious error and confusion to the labouring classes, who were least able to give their time to any new combinations such as the new saytem would render necessary.


said, the humorous speech they had just heard had left him more than ever convinced of the desirability of adopting the proposed plan. In the first place he denied every one of the hon. Gentleman's assertions. In every foreign country in which the decimal system had been adopted a uniform advantage had been derived from it by the poorer classes. Let any hon. Member go to the market at Brussels, and he would find how easy it was to purchase fruit and vegetables under a system in which the franc was divided into 100 parts, and the centime into ten. The labouring classes there were able to make their purchases under advantages which the same class in this country did not possess. No inconvenience had been felt by the adoption of the decimal system in France, except that which arose from the depreciation of paper. No accounts in the world, whether finance accounts or the accounts of public departments, were kept more correctly or with so much ease as in France. There were never more than three figures on the right hand, and when the sum was under 100 there were only two. This system had been adopted with great advantage in France, Belgium, and Holland, and he was certain that no practical inconvenience could result from the adoption of the system here. With regard to the Amendment, he was very much afraid they would never get a congress of nations to consider the subject fairly—every deputy would probably insist upon his own views. In his opinion, they ought to have a decimal system of weights and measures as well as a decimal system of coinage. The French system of weights and measures was founded on a scientific basis, and he thought we could not do better than adopt it. He believed no inconvenience would result from the change, and that the labouring classes would be greatly benefited by it. The inconvenience spoken of by the hon. Member for Kidderminster was purely imaginary; even applewomen would experience none of the difficulty he had anticipated. The discussion would be of advantage, and, under present circumstances, he did not advise the hon. Member for South Lancashire to press his Motion to a division.


considered it was perfectly competent for them to act upon the information they possessed, and adopt a decimal system, without regard to any congress of nations. It would be only consistent with the general progress and intelligence of which Englishmen were in the habit of boasting, to take some means to put an end to the present system, which appeared to him to be a disgrace and a discredit to this great commercial country. The hon. Member for South Lancashire was reproached for not proposing a decimal system of weights and measures as well as of money; but he presumed the hon. Member thought it was better to proceed by steps, and that he intended, if he convinced the House of the expediency of a decimal coinage, to follow it up with a similar system of weights and measures. Our present system of avoirdupois and other weights was most complex and unintelligible to strangers. If a merchant were asked by a foreigner to explain the system of avoirdupois weight, he would perhaps say the smallest weight was a grain, and the largest a ton; but if he were pressed to explain more than the maximum and minimum, he would have to say there were 27 grains and 34.375-thousandth parts of a grain to a drachm, 16 drachms to an ounce, 16 ounces to a pound, 14 pounds to a stone, 2 stones to a quarter, 4 quarters to a cwt., and 20 cwt. to a ton. The answer of the foreigner would probably be the same as was given to a friend of his, "Ah, this is part of your English constitution which is 1,000 years old, but it is perfectly unintelligible to us foreigners." Now, if the system had continued through all the changes of 1,000 years, that might be something in its favour; but the fact was, that until within recent times, the whole system of weights, measures, and money rested upon an intelligible basis, and there was an intelligible relation between the pound of each; and it had been abrogated and complicated only by modern legislation. It was well known that the hundredweight was the foundation of all calculations in commercial transactions; but the greatest inconvenience arose from our hundredweight consisting of 112lbs. He had been told, on good authority, that if 100lbs. were substituted for 112lbs., the saving in keeping accounts in the Custom-house alone would be 10,000l. a year; if such would be the result in one department, what must the saving be if universally adopted? There was plenty of evidence to justify his expressing an opinion in consonance with that of the hon. Member for South Lancashire; and, although the hon. Member for Kidderminster had endeavoured to show by some humorous remarks how complicated would be the system if the pound sterling were divided decimally, he doubted if the hon. Gentleman could persuade any merchant's clerk in the city of London or the town of Liverpool of the correctness of his views. He might convince some old applewomen that the change would be difficult, and that they would suffer by it; but he defied the hon. Member to convince any banker's clerk or Liverpool merchant that such would be the consequences of adopting the decimal system. Recently the Bank of England had adopted the ounce troy of 480 grains, and divided it decimally, and that system had been found to work so well that they asked the Government to allow them to bring in a Bill to enable them to buy and sell gold by that system. The Bank had, however, been waiting for a long time for the Government to legalise those weights, but in vain; and therefore it was very satisfactory to find that an independent Member had brought the subject before the House. He thought the House and the country were deeply indebted to the hon. Member for South Lancashire for the trouble he had taken and for giving them the benefit of his great commercial experience upon this important subject.


regretted that some member of the Government had not risen to express any opinion upon a question of such considerable and consummate importance. He had not yet heard a single argument against the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire, notwithstanding the facetious speech of the hon. and learned Member for Kidderminster. The hon. and learned Gentleman had stated that those who had subscribed for the support of a decimal system had done so without a knowledge of the particular system proposed by what was called the Decimal Association, which, after all, was only the plan proposed by the Parliamentary Committee, and made patent to the world. Among the subscribers to the Decimal Association he found the Bank of England for 100l., the Union Bank 20l., the London and Westminster Bank 20l., and the names of Sir J. Lubbock, the Duke of Leinster, Mr. Travers, and many others, including the highest members of the commercial body. He thought the opinion of those most interested in facilitating the keeping of accounts was fully expressed by the names he had quoted. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster had found fault with the plan proposed by his hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Committee, but had wisely abstained from proposing any plan of his own; he had admitted the importance of a decimal coinage, but, without propounding any scheme of his own, he had confined himself to picking holes in the plan of his hon. Friend. He (Mr. Ricardo) thought the system proposed by the hon. Member for South Lancashire possessed less disadvantages than any other. No reforms could be made without some derangement, and the same remark applied to any alteration of the coinage; but a system which retained nearly all the present coins—the pound, the florin, the shilling, and the sixpence—and only made a change when it came to the penny, was as unobjectionable as could be framed. His hon. Friend said that the unit was too high. He (Mr. Ricardo) could not see the meaning of this. Why should we not choose our own unit? Those who thought a pound too high might divide it, and reckon and talk upon it so divided. The statement of the hon. Gentleman about four columns was a fiction altogether; as was the difficulty about the decimal point. If persons did not choose they need not employ columns at all; thus 9 7 3 6 would express 9 pounds, 7 florins, 3 cents, and 6 mils; at present it required six figures to express 3l. 17s. 10½d., but under the decimal system in no case would more than four figures be required. The hon. Gentleman was very facetious on the abstruseness of the calculations which the adoption of this system would render necessary among the common people, and the ludicrous effects which would ensue; he instanced the fictitious case of an old applewoman, and amused the House with a statement of how she would puzzle her brains. But he (Mr. Ricardo) did not think the common people would have any such difficulty, and, at all events, that was not quite the way in which to argue the case. It would be no more necessary to put two or three noughts and a decimal point before the mil than it was to put two or three dots before the farthing at present. His hon. Friend who moved the Amendment (Mr. J. B. Smith) wished for further inquiry. Surely the investigation the subject had already had was sufficient to satisfy the most prudent man. There had been two Commissions and one Committee of that House, and that Committee, after examining the most eminent men, had hit upon this very plan. It had been alleged that the inquiry of this Committee was quite one-sided; but why was it one-sided? Because the evidence was all one way and went entirely to prove the proposition. No greater reason could be given why they should carry the measure. If other testimony was to be found, why was it not produced? His hon. Friend (Mr. J. B. Smith) was himself a Member of that Committee, and did not summon one witness to contradict the evidence. He had no doubt that his hon. Friend would have had great difficulty in bringing witnesses forward to contradict such a self-evident proposition as that now before the House, and, therefore, he acted wisely in refraining from the attempt. The hon. Member suggested there should be a congress of nations called to decide this point. Such an idea was Utopian; and if, in endeavouring to obtain a decimal system of coinage for this nation alone, such difficulties were to be encountered, they would have similar difficulties not only with respect to the penny, but every other coin, in endeavouring to frame an international system. The great argument against the adoption of the system no doubt arose out of the numerous transactions in which the penny was an element, and the numberless duties which that coin performed. He did not, however, think that the inconvenience which would arise in dealing with that coin was so great as to induce them to reject the advantages detailed by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) that would result from the introduction of a decimal system based on the pound. Some inconvenience, of course, must arise in effecting changes in the currency, however beneficial they might be, but he did not think the inconvenience in this case would be great, the values of goods would naturally adjust themselves to the new denomination and the inconveniences would be merely temporary. He had often gone to other countries where the denomination of money was quite different, but, after being a little while there, he had no difficulty in arranging his ideas accordingly. When his hon. Friend said he did not like to dine off decimals, he (Mr. Ricardo) could only say that if his hon. Friend went to France, to Holland, or to America, he must either adopt that system of payment or starve. Englishmen of the labouring class were often employed abroad on railway or other works. They easily adapted themselves to the coinage of the country; and he had seen them bargaining as briskly with schellings as with English coins. His belief was, that if a decimal system of coinage were introduced into this country tomorrow, in less than a month the labouring classes would adapt themselves to it, while he believed its adoption would immensely simplify the mode of calculation. Sir John Herschel in his evidence before the Committee, spoke most strongly in favour of the decimal system, and said that it would abolish the use of rules of compound addition, &c., in schools. There could be no more decided step in education than to do away with unnecessary forms, the difficulties interposed by which had been felt by all, and of which he had a very lively recollection. The noble Lord had told them that his Government was to be a liberal Government, that would support all measures of reform. He had looked in vain for those measures of reform, but here was an opportunity which he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not let slip, and he trusted that he would now rise and say so to the House.


Sir, I think the House is under great obligations to my hon. Friend opposite for having, for the first time, brought this subject under its consideration. The first occasion on which the plan of decimal coinage, which he has detailed to the House, was proposed by any public body in an authentic form was by a Commission appointed in 1838 to investigate the subject of measures, in consequence of the yard measure and other longitudinal measures having been destroyed in the conflagration of the Houses of Parliament. That Commission was composed of scientific persons; and, in the course of their report, they expressed a strong opinion in favour of a system of decimal coinage, and sketched out in clear terms the precise plan which the hon. Gentleman has to-night laid before the House. In 1853 a Committee of this House was appointed to investigate the subject, and they examined many witnesses upon the plan in favour of which they reported—that plan being precisely the one proposed by the Commission. Last year a further Commission was appointed to report on the best mode of constructing measures, and that Commission added their testimony to that of the previous one in favour of the decimal plan of coinage now under our consideration. It is impossible for any one who has heard the speech of my hon. Friend to doubt the earnestness of his convictions, or of his being actuated by public motives alone in bringing forward this question. It is evident that he has devoted much time and thought to the subject, and is impressed with its importance, and it certainly deserves from the House their very best consideration, being a subject in which the whole community, from the greatest merchant and most wealthy banker down to the poorest day labourer, has a concern. But, doing full justice to the motives of my hon. Friend, it is necessary that we should look closely to the nature of his motion in order to form a judgment as to its practical operation, should it be adopted by the House. The first circumstance which strikes one in examining the motion is, that it assumes that the pound is to be maintained as the standard of currency, and that the coin next to be taken is the florin. We have now the florin in circulation as a coin, but it is not money of account; we do not reckon in florins; though in extended circulation, we do not buy and sell with the florin. The proposition of my hon. Friend is to convert the florin into money of account. He then proposes to introduce two new coins to be put in currency, which he also proposes to constitute moneys of account, one being the one-hundredth part, and the other the one-thousandth part of a pound sterling, and these he calls cents and mils. That is the outline of his system; and if the Address to the Crown which he proposes should be agreed to, the House will declare for the adoption of that system. It will be necessary, in building up this decimal system, that we should shape the existing currency into the form of the pound, the florin, the cent, and the mil, being four denominations of moneys of account, instead of three as at present. The cent would be a coin of the value of twopence and two-fifths of a penny, and the mil would be 24–25ths of a farthing. The House cannot be in ignorance that this subject has been considered by many persons besides the Committee and the Commissions to which I have referred, and that some scientific and mercantile persons have come to different conclusions as to the construction of the currency on a decimal basis. I shall lay before the House some of the plans that hare come under my observation. The first is that which has been explained very clearly by the noble Lord opposite, as proposed by Mr. Rathbone, and which, instead of descending from the pound, ascends from the penny. His opinion is supported by very plausible arguments. The coinage he proposes to retain is the penny at its existing value and denomination; to have a new coin, which he calls an Albion, at tenpence; and a gold coin, called an imperial, at 100d. This plan would abolish the pound, but retain the penny. There is another gentleman, Mr. Davidson, who starts from the farthing. He proposes a mil, of the value of a farthing; a cent, of the value of 2½d.; a dime, valued at 2s. 1d.; and a prime, equal to 1l. 0s. 10d.—one cent being equal to ten mils, one dime to 100 mils, and one prime to 1000 mils. Sir John Herschel, an authority on this subject, and who was examined before the Committee of 1853, an astronomer and mathematician of first-rate excellence, and who was lately Master of the Mint, does not agree with the plan proposed by my hon. Friend, but he suggests that the mil should be equal to a farthing, ten mils to 2½d., one florin to 2s. 1d., and a Victoria he proposes as equal to 1l. 0s. 10d. There is another plan by Mr. S. A. Good, who takes as his smallest coin what he calls a cash—making one cash equal to a farthing, five cash equal to a penny, fifty cash to 1s., 100 cash to one cent, and 1000 cash to one mil. That would also be a decimal coinage constructed on a plan different from the one proposed by my hon. Friend. Another scheme is that proposed by Mr. Munro, of Glasgow, on what he calls the octagal system, and in which he would divide by twos, fours, and eights. He suggests that one mil should be equal to 24–25ths of a farthing; four mils to one cent, or 321–25ths of a farthing; forty mils to ten cents or one decim, and 400 mils to ten decims or one imperial, the imperial being equal to 8s. The only other plan I shall mention is that of Mr. Oliphant, a barrister, who proceeds on a different principle. He says we ought to adopt the principle of the coinage of foreign countries, and he starts on the French system. He proposes that one farthing shall be equal to two centimes; one lion to ten farthings; one florin to ten lions; and one queen to ten florins. I do not wish to go into the details of these plans, but I have thought it right to mention them to show that several systems have been suggested, and that a number of persons who have applied their minds to the subject have arrived at results differing very widely from the proposition of my hon. Friend in the Motion he has submitted to the House. I will not trouble the House with any analysis of these plans, but I will merely confine myself to an examination of the plan which my hon. Friend himself proposes. In the first place there is, in my opinion, an objection to the cent and the mil as coins. The cent, as it is described in the Resolution, would be a silver coin of the value of 2 2–5d. Now, a silver coin of that value, unless it were mixed with some alloy, would be so minute as to be extremely inconvenient; it would not maintain its ground in circulation; and I think I may confidently assert that any attempt to establish a silver coin of the value of 2 2–5d. would be a signal failure. On the other hand, if, to avoid the inconvenience of so small a silver coin, an attempt were made to circulate a copper coin of the same value, it would be so large and bulky that it could not maintain its place in the currency. The same is the case with regard to the mil, which is something less than a farthing. Now, a farthing is no doubt used to a certain extent among the labouring classes, but it is a coin with which a very large portion of the community are practically unacquainted, and great inconvenience would arise if the penny were abolished, and all computations now made by the use of the penny were made by multiples of a mil, which is the necessity to which my hon. Friend would drive us. Instead of saying, for instance, that the interest on Exchequer bills was 2d., or that the duty on a certain article was 4d., we should say it was so many mils, a mil being a coin less than a farthing. There is this further objection to the two new coins which my hon. Friend seeks to introduce—that neither the cent nor the mil is a multiple of the existing coinage; and in reducing the new coins he proposes to the existing denominations it would be necessary, as my hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe) explained to the House, to resort to a long series of decimals. I will just state to the House the number of figures in which the Mint and Bank prices of gold would, under this system, have to be described. The Mint price of gold is 3l. 17s. 10½d., and this amount must be thus expressed according to the mode of reckoning proposed by my hon. Friend—3l., eight florins, nine cents, and 3.075 mils. The Bank price of gold is 3l. 17s. 9d., which would have to be thus described—3l. eight florins, eight cents, and 7.005 mils. These reductions would lead, in practice, to considerable inconvenience at the time when the transition from the one system to the other took place. Thus in adjusting the new rates of duties or payments it would be necessary to fix upon sums either greater or less than the present sums. I agree with my hon Friend below the gangway (Mr. J. L. Ricardo), that when once the new currency had been introduced an arrangement would soon be adopted in the markets between buyers and sellers; but with regard to prices fixed by act of Parliament, such as tolls, and payments in any denomination less than a florin, a most intricate and troublesome process, involving several figures of decimals, would have to be gone through, and it would then be necessary to take a sum either greater or less than the present amount, inasmuch as the cent and the mil are not exact multiples of 1d. If this process of adjustment were undertaken by Parliament the trouble would be endless, and such as would exhaust the patience of any legislative assembly. If, instead of adopting that course, a discretion was left to the executive Government—which would be the only way in which the adjustment could be made—a very inconvenient duty would be devolved upon the Government, and one which it would be impossible for them to discharge without exciting universal dissatisfaction. But there are other serious difficulties in the way of the practical adoption of my hon. Friend's plan, which I observe differs most materially from that suggested by Sir John Herschel in his very elaborate evidence before the Committee. [The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to quote several passages from the evidence of Sir J. Herschel, who, when asked in what way he would introduce the decimal system to practical use, said, that the introduction of the system would divide itself into three scales, spreading over a considerable period of time. The first would be simply and entirely anticipatory, and would be directed towords familiarising the public with the new denominations on coin,—florins, half-florins, and quarter-florins being issued by the Mint. When the public mind had thus been prepared for the adoption of the new system for some time, it might be expected that some decisive indication would be afforded, by petitions or otherwise, of an impression having been made upon the mass of the population favourable to ulterior steps.] I think that we can hardly be said to have reached the point at which a number of petitions indicates any decided feeling on the part of the people upon this question. The hon. Gentleman who proposed the address has stated that the number of petitions hitherto presented amounts to 133, and surely that number can hardly be regarded as indicating any general or wide-spread feeling on the subject. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER then read some further extracts from the evidence of Sir J. Herschel, who said, that when the people had shown themselves favourable to ulterior steps, a legislative enactment might be passed, fixing the period at which the public accounts, the Bank books, and the accounts of public bodies and institutions should be kept and public contracts entered into upon the decimal system; and providing that after some definite time no action for the recovery of money at law should lie unless the amount sued for was described in that denomination.] Sir J. Herschel proposed that a copious supply of twenty mil and thirty mil pieces should then be issued, and that the existing copper coinage should be called in; and he calculated that about twenty years from the commencement of the system would probably elapse before the process was completed and a totally new coinage was adopted. My hon. Friend has not held out to us a prospect of any legislative measure by which his new system is to be introduced, and I must call his attention and that of the House to the fact that, as the law now stands, no effectual change can be made in the denomination of the currency. We cannot introduce new moneys, we cannot attempt to supersede the shilling and the penny as legal denominations of coin in this country without a legislative enactment. Although the prerogatives of the Crown with respect to the coinage are ample, yet those prerogatives have been limited and contracted by Acts of Parliament, and I think I can satisfy the House, by referring them to the provisions of two or three statutes, that it would be impossible, by an Address to the Crown, or by an order of the Crown, or by the simple issue of new coin, to carry into effect the very extensive change which my hon. Friend contemplates. The Act of 56 Geo. III., c. 68, section 9, provides that silver should be coined at the rate of sixty-six shillings to the pound troy "in crowns, halfcrowns, shillings, or sixpences, or pieces of a lower denomination." That Act was amended by the 12 & 13 Vict., c. 41, which authorises silver to be coined after the rate of sixty-six shillings to the pound troy "in crowns or any pieces of a lower denomination." The 6 Geo. IV., c. 79, assimilates the currency of Great Britain and Ireland, and section 11 defines the rate in pence at which the gold and silver coins of the realm shall pass current in Ireland. The 56 Geo. III., c. 68, section 11, enacts that the gold coin shall hold the weight and fineness prescribed by the then existing Mint indenture—that is, at the rate of 3l. 17s. 10½d. per ounce of standard gold The 7 & 8 Vict., c. 32, section 4, enacts that all persons may demand notes from the Bank of England at the rate of 3l. 17s. 9d. per ounce of standard gold. These enactments will satisfy the House that in order to proceed effectually in the matter, it is necessary that a Bill should be brought under the consideration of the House, and not a mere Address to the Crown, calling upon the Crown to issue two new denominations of coins—namely, cents and mils. Such an issue would not be effectual for the purpose my hon. Friend has in view, and, if it were adopted, it would only create confusion and uncertainty as to the denomination of coins and as to the stringency of contracts. In fact, the House would only exhibit itself in the unfavourable position of taking a precipitate step, and at the same time of not giving legal and effectual operation to its intention. Now, what would be the effect of the adoption of the address of my hon. Friend? Its adoption would lead simply to this, that if the Crown were advised to comply with the Address of the House of Commons, and if the House should think fit hereafter to vote an additional sum of money for the coinage of cents and mils, a new coinage of these two denominations would be issued, and at the same time there would be no Act of Parliament that would constitute them moneys of account. The same moneys of account that now exist would still continue to exist; all contracts would be made, as at present, in pounds, shillings, and pence; the statute-book would remain unaltered; all duties of the customs, excise duties, rates of interest, tolls on turnpike roads and bridges would be taken, as at present, in pounds, shillings, and pence; but the Crown would issue from the Mint a certain supply of a coin called a cent, and of a coin less than a farthing called a mil. Now, what inducement could there be to place these coins in circulation? Would the smallest practical convenience be derived from the circulation of a minute piece of silver of about the value of 2½d., and a copper coin differing by an infinitesimal sum from the farthing now in circulation? I feel convinced that, if the resolution of my hon. Friend were adopted, and these coins were struck at the Mint, they would not pass into general circulation. A few of them might find their way into the cabinets of numismatic collectors, but, as a practical mode of improving the currency and providing for the convenience of the public, the Resolution would be utterly without effect. That, I think, must be the conclusion of the House upon considering the plan proposed by my hon. Friend. It is certainly the result at which I have arrived after having given to the subject my best attention. I believe that the object my hon. Friend had in view was to bring this matter under the consideration of the House in order to obtain a discussion upon it; but I do not think he will be desirous of committing himself finally or asking the House to commit themselves irrevocably to the adoption of the details which have been brought under our notice. I freely admit all that has been said as to the theoretical advantages of having a decimal computation of our coinage, and I should rejoice in the realisation of any idea by which a scheme combining a scientific division of the coinage with the convenience of the public could be carried into effect. But though I acknowledge that the subject is one that is worthy of further consideration, I cannot think that the House will be prepared at this moment to record any definite resolution upon so intricate a subject. It must be remembered that this is not a mere abstract question, and that we are not legislating for an Utopia, in which there are no existing habits to fetter our discretion. We are making laws, not in Republica Platonis, but in fœce Romuli. We must not conceal from ourselves the difficulty of reconciling the established habits of the country with the desire to obtain scientific arithmetical perfection. Under all the circumstances of the case, I hope my hon. Friend will not object to withdraw his Motion, and I am quite willing to give him an assurance that the subject shall receive the most careful consideration possible from Her Majesty's Government.


said, he was not surprised that his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was not prepared at once to take a step to alter the coinage, because there could be no doubt that, whatever were the scientific merits of the question, the practical view of the subject was to consider whether the time had arrived in which the people were prepared to submit to a change. He wished the House, however, to bear in mind this important fact, that they were not dealing with a variety of plans, but with a plan recommended by the Commission of 1838, consisting of the most eminent men in the country, and afterwards confirmed by a Committee of the House of Commons, in 1853. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. J. B. Smith), said the Committee was one-sided; but his hon. Friend having been himself a member of the Committee, if he had thought that it was one-sided, ought to have taken some means for providing that both sides of the question should be entered into. Certainly the Committee had come to an unanimous conclusion in favour of the decimal plan of coinage. To that plan Sir John Herschel gave his entire concurrence, as might be seen from his evidence; and his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was in error when he said that the opinion of Sir J. Herschel was not in favour of the Report of the Committee. Sir J. Herschel, when asked what he would make the principle, supposing a decimal scale was introduced, stated that, beyond a doubt, it ought to be the pound sterling.


was here understood to say that he had, by mistake, quoted Sir J. Herscher's evidence erroneously.


—It was most important that the opinion of this eminent authority should not be misunderstood. Sir J. Herschel had also been supposed to have stated that he thought it would require a period of twenty years to enable them to effect a transition to a decimal system of accounting; but what he had really said was, that if they attempted to call in all their present coin, and substitute for it coin having on the back of it imprints containing the precise fraction of a pound (which was one part of the scheme for general convenience), they could not expect to accomplish that process within less than twenty years. That, however, was a totally different statement from the other, and had nothing to do with the possibility of introducing to-morrow a system of decimal coinage and decimal accounts. It had been argued that a silver coin to be called a "cent," would be of an inconvenient size for minting purposes, being only of the value of twopence and two-fifths of a penny; but they were already all familiar with threepenny pieces, which were very little larger. Again, as to the mil to be coined in copper, it would be only 4 per cent. less than our present farthing, and the difference between the two as to size would be totally inappreciable. It was said that the poorer classes desired a greater subdivision of money than the mil for making their small purchases; but the failure of the attempt to circulate the half-farthing showed that a coin of about the value of a mil was the minimum which we should adopt. The country had been favoured with a complete deluge of schemes for establishing a decimal coinage, and indeed it was marvellous with how much perverted ingenuity some people had perplexed themselves by suggesting the most gratuitous and almost unimaginable changes in our currency; and it was, therefore, remarkable that no other plan than the one proposed by this Motion had been recommended to the House that evening. Even his bold and fearless friend, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), although he was convinced of the excellence of the decimal system, yet considered that the proposition of the Committee was so absurd as only to need examination to be laughed out of the House, had refrained from committing himself to the advocacy of any other scheme of decimal coinage. Therefore, they had surely achieved one stage of this controversy when it was seen that, in a full discussion of that House, the only question really lay between this scheme or no scheme. The subject, no doubt, was one of great complexity. It was, of course, very difficult to alter the whole habits of a people in regard to their pecuniary dealings. They would have to revise the postage and other stamp duties, and also their mode of keeping the public accounts; while the schedules of rates of charge incorporated in numerous Acts of Parliament must likewise be dealt with. They must further declare that, from a certain day, a penny should not be reckoned precisely what it was, and that all contracts in pence should be subject to a difference of 4 per cent.; but then the whole of these difficulties had been carefully examined seriatim by men like Professor Airy, Sir J. Herschel, and Professor De Morgan, who had shown that they were not insuperable; and, in fact, had pointed out how they were to be met if they were really to be grappled with at all. The testimony, therefore, of these eminent witnesses furnished the practical answer to almost every difficulty that could be suggested. He remembered saying to his hon. Friend (Mr. Brown), when he came to him at the Board of Trade on the subject, that he would co-operate heartily with him on condition that the public mind was prepared for the understanding of the subject—that being in his (Mr. Cardwell's) opinion essential to a new scientific arrangement of the coinage. His hon. Friend agreed with him, and moved for a Committee of the House, and had done all he could to get the subject considered. In so doing, his hon. Friend had done great service to the public on this question, and had reason to be satisfied with the progress which it had made. But he (Mr. Cardwell) did not himself think that the time had yet arrived when the change which he contemplated could be safely carried out. The wisest nations, in former days, had exercised the greatest caution in dealing with their coinage, even where no alteration in value was involved. It was always hazardous to make such changes until the public mind was sufficiently prepared to receive them without alarm or distrust. The coinage of the commercial community of ancient Athens, while they were most elaborate in their works of art, did not exhibit that perfection of skill which might have been expected to proceed from their Mint, and was, in fact, far behind the currency of less civilised countries in beauty of execution. And what was the reason assigned for this by the historian? Eckhel stated that the ancient coinage of the Athenians recommended itself so strongly by its purity, and was so universally known among the Greeks and barbarians by its primitive emblems, that it would have been impossible to make any considerable change in its form or workmanship (even when no alteration of its value was contemplated) without exciting great suspicion against it, and eventually contracting its circulation. The same thing happened at Venice when it was the great centre of commerce, and where the ancient form of the coinage was preserved for fear of confidence being shaken in it. A depreciation in our own coinage took place in Ireland when King James II. was engaged in war in that country, but it was redressed again in George IV.'s reign without difficulty. But those who were familiar with the "Drapier's Letters," knew that it was not always so, and that there was great excitement produced on the subject of the currency in Ireland by those Letters; and, strange to say, precisely the same scenes happened in Ireland in Dean Swift's time as occurred in Athens 2000 years before. The moral he drew from this was, that you could not disregard public opinion, and the preparation of public opinion in dealing with the question of currency, and this appeared to him to be a maxim as worthy the attention of the House of Commons, as were those great scientific doctrines which had been brought before them in the Report of this Committee. The House had before them cumulative authority of the highest kind, and a decimal plan of great scientific value, which might be adapted to our currency with the least practical inconvenience at home, and the least disarrangement of the exchanges abroad. But, although something had been done to prepare the minds of the intelligent with regard to the change, the great mass of the people were supremely ignorant on the subject, and had not had the means of preparing themselves for the change, so that if a sudden alteration were now made by Act of Parliament in the coinage with which they were familiar, it would be difficult to estimate the inconvenience which would result. He came, therefore, to the conclusion that, while his hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire had rendered great service in the course he had pursued, he would do wisely to abstain from pressing his Motion to a division; for if the House were called upon now to record their opinions, his hon. Friend would lose the support of many persons who, like himself, cordially concurred in desiring the ultimate attainment of the object in view, but who thought the question as yet was hardly ripe for legislation.


, in reply, said that his motive in moving the Address to the Crown was not to embarrass the Government, but if it were thought that any such embarrassment would ensue, he had no objection to leave out that part of the Resolution, and simply to move "that in the opinion of this House, the initiation of the decimal system of coinage, by the issue of the florin, has been eminently successful and satisfactory, and that a further extension of such system will be of great public advantage."


objected to this alteration in the Motion.


hoped his hon. Friend would be induced to follow the recommendations of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, backed, as it had been, by the opinion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell), and would be content with the discussion to which his Motion had given rise, and not press the House to a division. Even among those who thought a decimal coinage necessary, there was such differences of opinion as to the particular way in which that object should be attained, that the House could hardly be expected to concur in a Resolution which appeared to affirm that one particular mode of carrying this object into effect ought to be adopted. For his own part, if he were called upon to carry the decimal system into effect, he could not say he should differ from the opinion of the hon. Member—that the pound should be taken as the starting-point, and the coinage decimalised in the lower denominations. His own opinion, as far as it was formed, would go that way; but there were many gentlemen who, thinking decimal coinage desirable, would begin at the other end, and would take for their unit the lowest denomination of coin. Now, the hon. Member, if his Motion were agreed to, would not only pledge this House to one particular system, but would lead the country to suppose that the thing was, so far, matured, and that the change would be effected at an early period upon system. Considering the vast importance of this alteration in all the money transactions of the poorer classes, and the inexpediency of making a change which would so deeply affect their interests without much more investigation than had been yet given to it, he thought sufficient ground existed why his hon. Friend should content himself with this discussion, and not ask the House to come to any decision on the subject. If his hon. Friend persisted in dividing the House, he should certainly vote against the Motion, because he thought that, if the present proposal for a decimal coinage were not to be carried into effect, they would be exciting groundless apprehensions; and if it were to be adopted, it would at present cause great confusion, and would be attended with incalculable evils to large classes of the poor. It was evident, too, that no change could be effected by the mere exercise of the prerogative of the Crown; so that, unless the hon. Member was prepared to bring in a Bill on the subject, his Resolution, even if carried, would be a dead letter.


hoped that the hon. Member for South Lancashire would not consent to withdraw any part of his Resolutions.

Motion made, and Question put— That, in the opinion of this House, the initiation of the Decimal system of Coinage, by the issue of the Florin, has been eminently successful and satisfactory.

The House divided:—Ayes 135; Noes 56; Majority 79.

ResolvedThat a further extension of such system will be of great public advantage.