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The information that government had come to an arrangement with the Bank having been communicated to the House of Commons, before the motion for referring theCity petition'to a committee had been made, that motion was withdrawn by Mr. Wilson; but both on this, and on some other occasions, the merits of the plan which had been adopted, and the superior efficacy and expediency of an issue of Exchequer bills directly by government, were discussed at great length. The general voice had, beyond doubt, been in favour of the latter measure, and it was supported by the authority of precedent and experience; yet the reasons why ministers rejected it, and preferred the interference of the Bank, rested on sound policy. It was bad, they said, in principle, because government was going out of its sphere when it intermeddled, in a pecuniary view, with the commercial interests of the country, and became a liberal banker, as it were, or a generous, and not very inquisitive, lender. To hold itself forth, likewise, as ready, on the occurrence of any general embarrassment, to pour forth its funds for the behoof of the involved trader, was, in reality, to offer a premium to improvidence, and seduce individuals to rely more on the relief which they might obtain from government, than on their own friends, their own prudence, or their own exertions. When the agricultural interests were suffering under a similar pressure, they made a similar demand: it was refused, not from any difficulty in the execution, but from objection to the principle; and if it were now granted under a commercial pressure, how could it ever again be denied? The very fact that the
Bank charter empowered that body to make advances in the way which was now proposed, proved that it had been foreseen that circumstances might arise, in which it would be proper and desirable to exercise that power, and on the Bank would depend all the efficacy even of an issue of Exchequer bills. The commissioners for superintending that issue might direct the funds placed at their disposal in the way best calculated to relieve the public; but this would be of no avail, if the Bank refused to cash the securities which the applicants received. If the Bank refused them, it was not to be expected that any other banker would accept them; and if nobody took them in, then, besides having failed to increase the quantity of circulating medium, they would add to the already over-stocked market of Exchequer bills—fall to a discount—be received at a premium by the Treasury—and thus necessarily render the revenue of the country less capable of meeting the demands upon it. The question would be different, if relief could be afforded in no other way; but the Bank itself, a mercantile establishment, was able and ready to do all that was necessary to be done to assist mercantile men, and would do it far better than it could be done by the government of the country.
To the objection, that, in advances made by government commissioners, the transaction itself, and the necessary inquiries attending it, were conducted with a degree of secrecy most desirable to the continued credit of the merchant, while the arrangement which had been adopted would expose his affairs and his difficulties to the ga2£ of the whole body of Bank directors, and their commissioners throughout the country (who, in general, would be fellow merchants of the applicants) it was answered, that the commissioners for issuing the Exchequer bills in 1793, the precedent on which the friends of such a measure principally relied, were merchants of the City, with two exceptions, and three of them were Bank directors. Besides, it would be only what took place every day at the Bank, to which merchants were constantly repairing with bills and securities, for the purpose of obtaining cash. The Bank did not accept such securities without ascertaining the credit and respectability of the parties; and what greater danger was there of injury to individual credit in the one case than in the other? There was nothing to be ashamed of: the necessity of relief was already proclaimed; the applicants were solvent; they had property to the full amount of the demands upon them; they did not ask credit merely on personal security, but they gave for it more than its amount in solid value; and the best proof that mercantile men themselves harboured no such apprehensions, lay in the fact, that the different deputations from the country had expressed their unanimous satisfaction with the arrangement which had been adopted. Again, the argument drawn from former issues of Exchequer bills to some similar ends was bad in principle, and inapplicable in itself. Although recourse might formerly have been had to a particular measure, it did not follow that the measure was good, and ought to be repeated; far less that a direct interference, which was altogether alien from the duties of government, should become a sort
of rule, to be applied in every derangement of commercial relations. But, in truth, former instances did not apply to the case which now existed; for, in all former instances, excepting perhaps one, the derangement had arisen, not as at present, from the course of trade itself, be it good or be it bad, but from the positive influence of political events, during periods of actual war, and had arisen, moreover, under the reign of the restriction on cash payments. But there was a great difference between the adoption of such a measure, when growing out of a political crisis, and the application of it to the relief of commercial distress, when the latter had no connection with any political emergency. Even the instance of 1793, to which the opponents of the present arrangement so constantly referred, was, in a great degree, inapplicable. The difference between it and 1826 was this, that, whatever might have been the primary causes of the distresses which prevailed in 1793, the breaking out of the war had a great and decided influence in aggravating and prolonging them. There was then a great fluctuation of affairs, and much distress, arising, however, not from private speculations, which the nature of trade itself would cure, but from public events which had produced the most serious consequences on the mercantile world. That was a derangement which was the consequence of public events, and gave the sufferers a claim on the government for relief; but the present pressure had been created by no public events, nor could such a claim properly exist in the eleventh year of profound peace. If we had advanced to the agricultural interest in 1822, the four millions which they craved; if we had lent to Ireland in 1823, the million which she asked for, in her distress; if, in the same year, we had advanced to the West-Indian proprietors the five millions which they "wished to relieve their embarrassments; and if we were now to lend five millions more for the assistance of the merchants; government, in the course of four years, would have lent no less a sum than fifteen millions; and who would pretend that such a system was right; or that a single example, which led to such consequences, ought to be followed, even if it were applicable?
With one alteration, namely, that the Bank agreed to lend on collateral security, as well as on the security of deposited goods—a change which would, it was thought, in some measure remove the objection of injurious notoriety, by enabling the merchant who had goods, to lodge them with private friends who would be accepted as personal securities—the measure was immediately carried into execution. Commissioners were appointed by the Bank in the principal provincial towns. These commissioners were almost uniformly mercantile persons belonging to the place for which they were appointed; and, although prudence required such an arrangement, in order that local knowledge might secure prudence of procedure, yet it greatly increased the unwillingness of many to disclose the state of their affairs, their necessities, and their resources, to their own local competitors. The whole sums applied for, fell far short of the three millions which the Bank had set apart to this object; and, in some of the provincial towns, the
office of their commissioners was almost unfrequented. The applications for advances were made with the utmost moderation. None were required beyond what were absolutely necessary; and, in every instance, the parties shewed the strongest desire to have only the smallest sum which would suffice to meet their immediate wants.
The adoption of this measure rendered it necessary for the security of the Bank, to introduce a new bill, or rather to anticipate the operation of an act of the preceding session, regarding the law of principal and agent. By the common law of England, an agent or factor, holding goods of his principal," and being in possession both of the goods themselves and of the documents relating to them, although he might effectually sell the merchandize, yet he could not, by the general rule, effectually pledge it; and, in many cases, where he had so pledged it, apparently in the character of owner, the lender's claim had been disappointed by that of the real owner. Accordingly, in 1811, when the Bank had made advances on the security of deposited goods, it had been protected from this danger by a special provision. The evils of the general rule had been so severely felt in the mercantile world, that, in the session of 1825, an act had passed, modifying the law, and providing that goods pledged by a factor, should be as effectually pledged, in regard to the innocent lender, as if the factor had been the real owner. But this act was not to come into operation till October 1826; it having been thought proper to give foreigners, so much interested in the powers and liabilities of their agents in this eountry, due time to become acquainted with the change which had taken place in this important department of our mercantile law. The Bank, however, in consenting to advance three millions, in the present instance, made it a condition of their compliance, that the protection of this statute should be extended to them immediately. Accordingly, a short bill was brought in, and passed, to enable persons in the possession of goods, and possessed likewise of the documents conferring the property of them, although such persons should be merely factors or agents, to pledge them with the Bank as effectually as if such persons were the actual owners. It was confined to deposits made with the Bank: the time limited in the act of last session for the general application of the principle to all such transactions, was left untouched.
Such were the measures recommended by ministers, and adopted by parliament, not so much to remove the existing distress, as to palliate its symptoms in the mean time, and to provide a sort of security against the recurrence of some of the causes which had produced it. The advances by the Bank, indeed (to be considered, in some measure, an act of government), were sources of immediate assistance; but this assistance was confined to a limited class; and that class itself made use of it, not to push their usual mercantile and manufacturing occupations, and thus restore employment to the artisan, but only to maintain their credit, by discharging their instant and pressing engagements. The suppression of small notes, and the unlimited enlargement of the number of partners in private
banks, were measures purely of prospective security. They could not supply, nor could any measures supply, capital to the manufacturer, that he might again employ the families of his work-people: they could not remove, and no measures could immediately remove, the glut which prevailed in many of the principal foreign markets, and create a demand for cotton yarn and calicoes from Lancashire and Glasgow, or works in iron and steel from Birmingham or Sheffield, which should again call for the industry of the cotton-spinner, the weaver, and the grinder: and still less, therefore, could they, or could any measures, provide cargoes for vessels, whose unfreighted owners, and unemployed mariners, were loudly complaining. As there were many who thought that more immediate relief might be given, and not a few who maintained that, for that purpose, it was only necessary to repeal certain measures which had lately been adopted, the attention of parliament was again directed towards the assistance which might be derived from emigration, from changing the corn laws, and from giving up the more liberal policy which had been lately introduced into our commercial intercourse with foreign nations.
Extensive emigration is, perhaps, the last expedient to which a country, whose strength lies in its population, ought to have recourse in order to escape from a temporary inconvenience, and is at all times, a remedy, the effect of which can only be temporary. Tf the numbers be such as to afford any effectual relief to those who remain, they can be so only by consisting of those who have nothing, who can neither emigrate nor settle, at their own expense,
and who must therefore be removed and settled by laying an additional burden on those who are left; for it is but few who quit their native land, (unless urged by political feeling), while they remain in that state of competency, which is implied in the ability to emigrate and settle. The adventurers who, not long ago, went eut from Scotland to Van Dieman's Land, did so at their own expense; but what effect did the exile of so small a body produce on any interest in the country? If, again, the numbers which are removed be so great, that, even after the expense of their removal has been borne, a greater degree of comfort will appear among those who remain, then it would seem that this very increase in the means of comfortable subsistence would, in a short time, re-produce the superabundant population which had been thrown off, and bring a new necessity for recurring to the same temporary palliative. Ireland has never been benefitted one atom by the shoals of labourers whom she annually disgorges on the shores of Scotland. Emigration can never be effective, excepting on a large, and a continued scale ; and as such it ought never to form a regular feature in the administration of a government, and, least of all, in one, a large portion of whose population derive their means of subsistence from manufactures. Those who are removed will generally, if the scheme be well conducted, be greater gainers than those who remain behind. During the last four years government, on more occasions than one, had lent its aid to emigration to Canada. The general misery which prevailed during the present year increased tenfold the claims of emigration upon its notice as a means of relief. In Scotland, even the landholders of a county applied to ministers to supply encouragement tointended emigrants, and, among the artizans themselves, societies were formed for the purpose of projecting schemes of emigration, and obtaining assistance towards their completion, as well from the crown, as from other public and private sources. Government felt, that whatever might be done in that way, ought to be preceded by much inquiry and deliberation, and a perfect knowledge of the effects of what had been already done. While, therefore, they declined to act upon such crude and hasty suggestions, they did not deny that the matter was one of grave importance, or shut the door against its consideration; and, on the 14th of March, Mr. Wilmot Horton moved for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the expediency of encouraging emigration. He expressed his hopes that the principle of emigration would be found to be a sound one, and rested these hopes on what had been effected hitherto. In 1823, parliament had voted fifty thousand pounds, for the purpose of enabling a certain number of men, women, and children, to emigrate to our North American colonies. The number of persons who availed themselves, on that occasion, of the encouragement held out by government, amounted in all to two hundred and sixty-eight; and the expense incurred by the country for each person was twenty-two pounds. These persons, from being in a state of extreme misery, were now comfortably and prosperously settled. This first experiment hav•