« PreviousContinue »
the representatives of gold or silver coin: the idea of using paper secu rities as the substitutes for coin, is not older than the period mentioned, when the Americans used it in this way, and we all remember when it was first applied in this manner at home, as well as the person to whom we are indebted for its introduction. When notes represented guineas, they could at any time be exchanged for them at the banker's who passed them; and in this way had all the advantages which the advocates for paper money have taken such good care all should know; but no sooner are they used as substitutes for guineas, or as a circulating medium that cannot be converted into the specie they stand for at the bankers, than they begin to produce those evils, which we have so sensibly felt of late years; which evils increase with more or less rapidity, according to the circumstances of the countries where they are used, till at last all become sensible of their cause, and then those paper plagues vanish, "and like the baseless fabrick of a vision, leave not a wreck behind." They resemble the vision indeed, in being the offspring of imagination, for to this faculty of the mind alone are they indebted for any value, but in their mode termination the difference is great: For when a dream ceases, the horrors it may cause are at once dissipated, but when the delusion relative to paper substitutes is over, then the worst evils of all commence.
get nothing, while from others we get whatever renders notes valuable; which shows its injustice clearly, both as it prevents us from getting any thing from the person, who is most bound in reason to give it; and at the same time enables him to possess himself of our property, for what in itself is worthless.
Paper not convertible into cash at the issuers house, leaves too much in the power of the banker, and is a temptation to risk the properties of others, which must require more virtue to resist than ordinarily falls to the lot of mankind. In this system from the banker only can we
Pitt, a great man now no more.
That bankers pursue this advantage with avidity, appears from a circumstance hitherto unobserved; which is, that they issue notes, which have the effect of notes for ten shillings, notes for five and six pence, and notes for two shillings and nine pence, while they appear to be for very different sums; these are the thirty shilling notes, those for two guineas, and those for one guinea; which it is evident have the effect of notes issued for the small sums mentioned, whenever the buyer or seller, by exchanging guinea notes for others, receive theur for such sums, or make them serve the purpose of so much silver, or other change. I have witnessed a degree of anxiety in a clerk at the bank of Ireland to pass thirty shilling notes, instead of one pound notes, which appeared to me ludicrous, before I understood what is here stated; but now this very circumstance convinces me that the bankers have long understood the effect of these notes, though the public did not. Writers of eminence have so clearly explained the mode in which the issue of uncon vertible paper increases its injurious effects, in proportion as the sum for which each note passes is smaller, that it would be superfluous to add any thing on the subject, and I shall only observe therefore, that the same reasoning which they have used to show the increase of injury to the public, from the bank of England issuing notes of smaller value successively, from twenty pounds to ten
pounds, five pounds, and one pound, will also apply to the issue of notes made to pass, in the manner mentioned, for ten shillings, five shillings and six pence, two shillings and nine pence, &c. &c. as well as for the various intermediate sums for which they can be made to answer, by interchanges of notes of this description for oneanother.
The only objection of much weight, which the researches of the advocates for paper have been able to point out against the use of gold and silver coin, is the expence of the purchase of so much of these metals, as would be required for the current cash of the nation; which certainly would amount to a large sum; but though convinced, that the advantages of cash payments in the old manner, would amply counterbalance this inconvenience, yet also knowing well the power of those who are interested in keeping up the delusion relative to the paper substitutes for coin, it seems to me unlikely, that this desirable change will be effected before some fatal distress, from the present system, shall compel the public at once to abandon it. In reflecting whether some other expedient might not be found to deliver the public from the risks they run by bankers, as well as from the other evils of paper substitutes, the following method occurred; to suggest which has been the chief object of this paper, written in hope that it may chance to catch the attention of seme one of sufficient influence to procure it attention, if the advantages it may possess, are not counter acted by inconveniences, which have escaped my research or that, if it has not this good fortune, it may produce a discussion of the subject, which may lead to the discovery of some better expedient.
The chief circumstance which
prevents the public from seeing the difference between using paper as the representative of money, as formerly, or as money itself, as now done, is that every tradesman who passes a note, adds a value to it, equivalent to a certain portion of the goods which he sells; if a grocer, for example, passes a note, the receiver knows he can get a certain quantity of tea, or sugar, from him for it, whenever he chuses to bring it back to him again: and this removes any scruple he might have in receiving it. In short, all who circulate notes, are obliged to give some valuable article for them again, if brought back to them, except the very people whom reason and justice point out as those, who above all others should do so— namely, the bankers; from whom we can get nothing of intrinsic value, as long as their credit continues good; and if they become bankrupt, only so much of our property, converted into various effects, as they have not dissipated, and as shall remain after discharging enormous law expences of the commission.
The principle of what I have to purpose, consists in obviating this unjust inequality, and in enabling the public to obtain from the bankers real value for their property, whenever they shall prefer it: and besides effecting this, it will have the advantage of not occasioning any expence for a circulating medium, in which respect it will be preferable to coin, which, as before stated, must cost the nation large sums for the material of which it is made.
Gold, as long as it continues in the form of coin, can only be considered as representing the value of the articles, for which it is exchanged; but as it may at any time be melted down, and applied to other
purposes, it has besides an unalienable and unalterable value from this circumstance: bank notes in their original state, were the representatives of coin, but without the capability of being, like it, applied to other purposes equally valuable:
My plan consists in simplefying this proceeding, and, since we cannot have gold as a medium, making every bank note represent some other article of real and permament value.
The articles which would most exactly answer this description, are iron, lead, block-tin, quicksilver, ivory, and salt, two of which have been used as money by other nations, as has been before observed. Other articles might also be applied to this use, which though not of such an unalterable nature, sufficiently approximate to it, to render them very serviceable for the same purpose; such as indigo, vigonia wool, leather, linen, broad-cloth, refinedsugar, wax, isinglass, coals, soap, mahogany, logwood, and ebony.
Suppose now a banker kept a stock of iron, or of of the articles menany tioned, (in which he might trade also, as many bankers now do), and that his notes were drawn, promising Mr. *******, or order, so many tons, or other quantity, of best Swedish iron; or a specified portion of any other article of the above description in his warehouse. Would Hot such a note be perfectly nego ciable? and would it not do as well as those now drawn for either what cannot be obtained, will not be paid, or has only an imaginary existance? while it would not be subject to the same risks.
This method, besides the advantages stated, would perhaps be a better check to prevent a banker from hazardous speculations, than even payments in coin; for his stock of iron, or whatever orher arBELFAST MAG. NO. XXX,
ticle he dealt in, would be always visible to the public, whereas his stock of coin could only be estimated by secondary considerations.
Besides the articles mentioned for which notes might be drawn, bankers might also be enabled to nego ciate the titles to portions of land, (which perhaps might be more convenient for large sums, than the other mediums proposed), in the following manner. Suppose a banker had an estate of 20,000 acres, this estate he might have divided into lots of ten, twenty, fifty, or one hundred acres, and have them valu ed by appraisers duly sworn, and made responsible by legal obligations for an honest statement; then notes might be circulated promis ing the transfer in fee on demand of lot, no. (**) of such an estate valued so much. Such transfers of land might be facilitated by act of parliament, and all frauds prevented by penalties inflicted by the same means. I would not propose that such a note should give an actual possession of the lot of land, but only entitle the holder to receive the proper title deeds of it, whenever he thought fit, reserving the right of settling leases of it under 21 years, and without fines, to the banker, till the actual conveyance of it was made. Houses, rents of ground built on, and other immoveable property, might be made the subject of such notes, but they would not be so eligible as land, on account of their being of a less certain, and permanent value.
Among the articles mentioned in the first head, there is one that appears to be very fit for a circulat ing medium, if secured in proper packages, (which might be easily effected), namely quicksilver, which is about four times the value of copper for an equal weight, occupies little more than half its space, and
Ivory would however answer very well for the subject of notes of the description mentioned, but it is probable that leather would be still better for this purpose, as it is of more general utility, is in greater plenty, and being weight for weight about the same price as wrought copper, would not require much space for a bulk of great value. Refined sugar in loaves, if kept in a dry place, would also be fit for this use, being an object of general consumption.
A few years ago, a circumstance, occurred in Waterford, which in a good measure shewed how useful a plan of this kind would be to the public, and in a manner gave an example of it by anticipation. A banker in that city stopped payment, who had a large warehouse for the sale of hardware, and some other articles, carried on either in his own name, or that of his brother, I do not now exactly remember which; a brother of his also dealt in groceries to a large amount, in which business the banker was supposed to have some concern likewise; on the stoppage, notes to a certain amount (I think
this mode of payment, and I am sure none at all would, but for the hurry. I speak on this point from experience, for I had some of these small notes at that time, and can testify, that I lost nothing at all by receiving goods instead of cash for them.
Permit me in concluding to hope, that presenting this communication for publication without more pre paration, will not be deemed disrespectful to your readers; the hints thrown out here, if of any use, appearing likely to be of more service, by being speedily made known, than by being kept back for some weeks longer, for the sake of giving them a better form.
In what has been asserted here relative to notes, nothing is meant to the prejudice of bankers individually; country bankers particularly, being obliged to be furnished with notes of the national bank, may be more considered as fellow-sufferers from the present system of paper currency, than as aiding it: neither can the company of the national bank be justly blamed for the use they make of their privileges: but in justice and truth, the whole reprchension should fall on those ministers, who, for their own purposes, and through a mistaken policy, have given, and still continue to bankers, a power resembling that of those fabled magicians, who by writing cabalistical characters on could transfer the property of others paper, into their own coffers, and change a fertile and populous country into a desolate wilderness.
all under £5.) were received in pay- To the Editor of the Belfast Magazine. ment at those warehouses for any articles wanted: and notwithstanding the hurry caused by the crowds anxious for payment, very little loss or inconvenience was occasioned by
Na late number of your Magazine, Mr. Ensor is quoted as re
proaching the people in general for best moral philosopher that ever ex their little inclination to political reform, and his reviewer seems to coincide in the propriety of the remark. I am disposed to think the observation arises from a superficial view of human nature, and that this disinclination to change is the ballast which can alone give a proper degree of steadiness, in the agita
tion and fluctuations of life.
The truth appears to be, that in mind there is a vis inertia as well as in matter. This resistance to change seems to be a general law of nature, and human natore, far from forming any exception to it, is included in this law. The more we know of the laws of matter, the deep er we shall penetrate into the nature of mind. The study of medicine, taken in its most extensive sense, will be found the master-key into the mysteries of metaphysics, and such a physician as Dr. Hartley, is best qualified to become the clearest and most satisfactory me. taphysician. The great and comprehensive law of association will be found but a variety or additional exemplification of the still more general law of attraction, and those theories of mind, which begin upon the supposition of it not possess. ing a single quality in common, but all its qualities contrary to those of matter, will end in confusion worse confounded, like the theories of the world before the discovery of the Copernican system.
It appears to be a law of our nature, that every repetition creates a The frequent facility of action. repetition of action occasions à habit which renders the subsequent repetitions more easy, and the action more certain. Au action once repeated is an approximation to a habit. All our nature illustrates the line of Shakespear, perhaps the
"How use doth breed a habit in a man.' If there be, by repetition, 'a facility of action in one way, there will arise a difficulty, proportionally increased according to the frequency of repetition, of acting in any other man
doing what has been already done, It is this greater facility in and greater difficulty in altering a course of action, which tends to preserve uninterrupted, the order and regularity of all the vital, natural, and animal functions, and in general the tenor and continuity, if I may so speak, of human nature. It is thus which is only the collection of the a character is formed by a nation, habits of individuals, and without such habits, a people would always continue children, or changelings; a word which classes the disposition to change, with the extremity of folly.
"All men," says Herodotus, "are tenacious of their own customs. Darius once sent for such of the Greeks as were dependent on his power, and asked them what reward would induce them to eat the bodies of their deceased parents. sum could They replied, that no prevail on them to commit such a deed. In the presence of the same Greeks, who by an interpreter were informed of what had passed, he sent also for the Callatie, a people of India, known to eat the bodies of their parents. He asked them for what sum they would consent to burn the bodies of their parents? The Indians were disgusted at the question, and intreated him to forbear such language."
It is long after reason is convinced, before habit, either individual or national, can be broken. The famous argument against high roads, is