Images de page

Mr. Boyd ftates, from documents laid before the Houfe of Commons, that the average circulation of bank notes for three years, ending in December 1795, was £.11,975,573; the circulation on the 26th Feb. 1797, was 8,640,250l.; and the circulation on the 6th of Dec. 1800, 15,450,970l.; and it is to this increafe, which he calls, an exceffive multiplication, that he afcribes the high price of provifions, &c. It would have been but fair to ftate the average circulation of the year ending on the 26th of Feb. 1797, and the average circulation of the three fucceeding years; but this would not have anfwered the author's purpofe; we will, therefore, adopt his own mode of calculation, unfair as it is, and take the difference between the average circulation of three years ending in 1795, and the highest circulation at any given period fince, viz. in Dec. 1800, which will give an augmentation of about three tenths. Now it must have occurred to Mr. B. that the only mode of ascertaining whether fuch increafe was right or wrong, a benefit or an evil, was by giving a com patative statement of the fituation of our trade, manufactures, and commerce; and of our exports and imports at the two epochs; be cause he could not be ignorant of what every child must know, that an extended trade cannot be carried on with the fame capital as a limited trade. Yet, though this is the point upon which the whole of his reasoning rests not one fyllable does he fay upon the subject. We would fain fupply this ftrange defect of his, but, unfortunately, we have not the neceffary tables at hand; thofe before us coming down no lower than the clofe of 1798. From these it appeass that the average of our imports, for three years, ending with Dec. 1795, was 21,426,666; and the amount of them in 1798,25,654,000;giving an increase, in three years, of 4,223,334. The average of our exports during the former period was, 24,812,000; and the amount of them at the latter, 33,800,000, giving an increase of 8,988,000. If our memory do not fail us, there has been a very confiderable augmentation of both our imports and exports within the last two years; and this brief statement will fuffice to fhew the neceffity of a confiderable multiplication of the circulating medium. It was Mr. Boyd's bufinefs to prove that the multiplication has been exceffive. Not having done this, his argument falls to the ground. We have taken no notice cf the lowest point of circulation, in Feb. 1797, because the author himfelf not only admits its total inadequacy to all commercial purposes, but even afcribes to it all the diftrefs which was experienced in the commercial world at that period. Had he been afked at the time what increase of circulation was requifite to refore the equilibrium of commerce, we much question whether he would not have fixed it at as high a rate as that at which it now ftands. At all events, it was his duty to specify the extent of the increase, then neceffary, in oppofition to that which he now condemns; and this appears the more neceffary in arguing from effect to caufe, as in the prefent cafe, because various. reafons may be affigned for the actual high price of articles of first neceffity, without recurring to an increafed circulation. Befide, if the caufe affigned were the real caufe of the rife, we fhould be glad learn from Mr. Boyd how the great difproportion between the cause

F 2


and the effect is to be accounted for; that is, how it happens, that when the increase of notes has been only three tenths the rife in price has been from 100 to 150 per cent? How too has it happened, that while the cause was increafing the effect should diminish; as it evi-.. dently did, by the confiderable fall, in the price of corn, previous to the last harveft? And again, if the caufe were real the effect would extend to all exchangeable property, which is not the cafe, as is manifeft in refpect of land and manufactures, in both which, though forming the bulk of the property of this country, the rife has been very trifling fince Feb. 1797. Such an increase, if it really exceeded due bounds, would alfo occafion a reduction of the rate of intereft, and an advance of the premium on the floating debt; neither of which has taken place.

But we believe the fact to be, that the quantity of bank notes never have exceeded, and never will exceed the natural digeftive powers of the country." It is both the duty and the intereft of the bank directors to prevent fuch an excefs, whatever Mr. Boyd, from spleen, difappointment, or malice, may be pleased to affert; because the digettive powers of the country are like the digeftive powers of the human ftomach, which immediately betrays the natural effects of repletion by throwing back the fuperabundant matter. Were the bank directors fo infatuated as well as fo unprincipled, as to encourage fuch an excefs, they would very fpeedily be made fenfible of the confequences of their mifconduct, by having the public confidence withdrawn from them, and their notes thrown back upon the bank. But they ftand too high in the world, both in reputation and in judgment, to be fufpected of fach egregious folly; their paft wiflom and difcretion are the best pledge of their prefent and future good conduct; and fo long as they continue to "deferve they will enjoy that confidence which is fo intimately connected with the credit and profperity of the country, and which none but an enemy to the country would endeavour to deftroy, or even to shake.

Two circumstances which Mr. Boyd is compelled to admit, because they are fo obvious, that if he had not admitted thein, they must have been preffed upon his notice, are equally deftructive of his main infe. rence with the reasons which have already been alledged. Firft; that if the bank had fufficient fpecie or gold to take up all their notes, there would exift no ground of complaint against them; and fecondly," that the paper of the bank of England, in its prefent ftate, unites, in a higher degree than any other paper, not convertible into fpecie, that ever was circulated in any country, all the qualities which entitle it to confidence ;" and, he afterwards admits that it not only does poffefs that confidence, to the fulleft poffible extent, but that it must continue to poffefs it.* It is evident then, that, if the wealth of the country

* This avowal deftroys the whole force of the arguments advanced on this head, unless it can be proved (which is not even afferted) that the confidence in Bank notes has not continued. It may here be afked whether any Bank can or does exist on any other bafis than con


country were fo increafed as to fupply a circulating medium, in fpecie, equal in amount to the Bank notes now in circulation, "a confummation devoutly to be wifhed," its effect on the price of provisions and other articles of use and confumption, would be precifely the fame as that which Mr. B. imputes to the increafed circulation of notes. And as the confidence of the nation gives the fame ftamp of value to the paper as to the gold, the ingenuity of man can demonftrate no difference between them.

But Mr. B.'s indignation feems to be confined to the notes of the Bank of England; for he undertakes to defend the notes of the Country Banks against all the prejudices which have gone forth against them; inferring, from the mere circumftance of their being payable, even in Bank notes, on demand that no iffues can poffibly remain in circulation beyond what the increafing profperity and industry of the country, where they circulate, can fairly abforb or digeft." If, while he attacked the prejudices of others, he had difmiffed his own, he would have perceived, that this reafoning was ftill more strongly applicable to the notes of the Bank of England. But, in the very next page, he obferves that," the Bank of England is the great fource of all the circulation of the country, and, by the increafe or diminution of its paper, the increafe or diminution of that of every Country Bank is infallibly regulated." Now, if there be any truth in this obfervation, if the Bank of England circulate too much paper the evil muft infallibly extend to the Country Banks, and, of course, the inference noticed above will either fail, or, if it be valid, there appears to be no danger from too great an emiffion of paper by the Bank of England.

The author is very ftrenuous in his efforts to perfuade the public, that the paper of the Bank of England is depreciated; and, on the word depreciation he rings the changes in various parts of his tract. But, how that paper can be faid to be depreciated, when a man going to the Corn-market with five pounds-worth of it in one hand, and with five pounds in gold and filver in the other, cannot purchase with fidence, and whether that confidence does not reft more upon the opinion entertained of a Bank's poffeffing property equal to its emiffion of paper, than upon the certainty of its being able to pay, on demand, the value in fpecie of fuch emiffion; the impoffibility of which, if the whole were to be demanded at once, must be obvious to every man. The Bank of England, having recently proved its folidity, in point of property, to the fatisfaction of the whole world, what reafon could poffibly exift for withdrawing from it any portion of the confidence which it is allowed to enjoy, notwithstanding the adoption of a public measure, felt and acknowledged, by all thinking and wellintentioned men, to have been a neceffary precaution, of a temporary nature, to counteract the plans of our foreign and domeftic enemies? Until it can be proved that the Bank of England has abufed the power of not paying all its notes in fpecie, there can be no ground for withholding perfect confidence in its paper, nor for attributing the high price of many articles to a depreciation of that paper.

F 3


his fpecie a fingle grain of corn more than he can purchafe with his notes, it would require the acutenefs of a Parifian banker to discover,

The collateral proof, in fupport of his frail argument, deduced by Mr. B. from the prefent high price of gold, is equally futile with his other proofs; becaufe, it is notorious, that this premium on gold has frequently exifted, without being attributed to a depreciation of paper; and therefore cannot be confidered, as arifing, at this moment, from too great an extenfion of the circulating medium.

Notwithstanding the reftrictions impofed on the bank, by the act of Parliament, it is ftill allowed to pay, and actually does pay, in fpecie, all its notes under five pounds, and iffues gold for fome other particular purposes. Though the author notices this circumftance as an exception, of a nature apparently trifling, yet certain it is, that the fums required for thofe particular purposes, with the amount of the fmall notes, will be found to form a very confiderable part of its paper circulation.

The prefent ftate of Exchange, which is confiderably against this country, is another of Mr. B.'s proofs. But the large importation of grain, which he notices, (P. 34.) together with the remittances to the Continent for publick fervices, fufficiently accounts for the unfavourable exchange without reforting to the hypothetis of too great a circulation. It is to be observed, too, that the exchange upon Hamburgh has rifen confiderably fince the reverses of fortune which our Allies have experienced in Germany have led to a belief that no more fubfidies will be remitted to the Continent, which proves that it is not an increase of paper currency which has hitherto depreffed it.

In no inftance does he betray the weaknefs of his argument more trongly than in his imputation of the rife in the ftocks, to an increafed circulation of paper. If this be the cafe, how comes it that the ap prehenfion of a war with the Northern Powers occafioned a fall in the funds of 10 per cent.; and they have continued to fluctuate in proportion as that apprehenfion has been confirmed or weakened. This circumftance alone would expofe the fallacy of his reafoning. But the effect of taking 12,133,3711, for the redemption of the Land-tax) out of the market, together with the operation of the Sinking Fund, and the general belief of an approach towards peace, may very well account for the rife in the funds, when the nature of the two firft caufes iş confidered; at leaft, to a certain degree, a rife appears to have been an inevitable confequence of thofe meafures. Their avowed object was to produce this effect, and, though it may have exceeded the computations of fome perfons, it does not therefore follow that it is not to be afcribed to the natural operation of thofe caufes.

But it is not the fallacy of the author's reafoning that most excites our aftonishment, in this branch of his fubject; for it is followed by an obfervation, which it is impoffible, even by the utmost stretch of modern candour and liberality, to refer to any good motive; and which, from its manifeft tendency, cannot be too loudly condemned, nor too ftrongly reprobated. Dwelling on his favourite topic, the imaginary depreciation of paper," Mr. Boyd obferves the odium which it must entail upon the Country

country, ftanding, in this refpect, in the character of a debtor, pay. ing a real debt with a nominally equal, but really inferior, value, is rather to be deprecated than defcribed. If fuch a period fhould arrive, the public creditors will be juftly entitled to charge their debtor with having "kept his promife to their ear, and broke it to their hope." If a period fhould arrive when a dividend of 100l. in bank-notes will not exchange for more of the conveniences of life than 50l. did a few years ago, will not the perfons, receiving fuch dividend, be entitled to charge this country with having failed in its engagements as effectually as if an act of Parliament had ordered guinea to pafs for two-andforty fhillings?"-Unwilling, as we are, to pay a compliment to the author's understanding at the expence of his integrity, we feel difpofed to afcribe this remark, and the ftring of impertinent interrogatories to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by which it is followed, to a fottifh imbecillity which fuddenly invaded his mind, at the time when he

npofed the paffage we have cited. But there is fomething worfe than imbecillity in it; for Mr. B. must have known, when he put the cafe hypothetically, that the period, which he affected to deprecate, had actually arrived; fo that we fhall not fcruple to apply to him the for. mer part of the quotation from Macbeth, the laft line of which he has thought proper (how abfurdly we shall shew) to addrefs to Mr. Pitt.

“And be those juggling fiends no more believed,

That palter with us in a double fenfe."

The fact is, that this fhocking period has arrived long fince, and without producing any of thofe reproaches, the very dread of which feems to have produced fo powerful an effect on the delicate nerves of Mr. Boyd. It is pretty certain, that the difference in the value of moft conveniencies of life had already taken place, fince the first erection of public annuities; and there appears to be very little proba bility of its increafing in the fame ratio during the period to which the author looks forward. And nothing can be more obvious than that the increased wealth of a country, refulting from an extended commerce, will, inevitably, by the most natural and regular operation, produce a correfponding rife in the price of provifions and other articles of confumption. So that, according to Mr. B.'s curious hypothefis, the Minifter is to be reproached with perfidy, for having rendered the nation profperous and rich. Mr. Pitt, we conceive, will fet up no defence, but chearfully plead guilty to this charge of a high crime and mifdemeanour, against the patriotic fpeculations of Mr. Boyd. But the promise, with the breach of which he is accused, is fomewhat curious; it is nothing less than a promise to every man who lends his money to the public, that the price of every neceffary and convenience of life, fhall remain ftationary, in order to enable him to purchase the fame quantity of them for 100l. at any future period, as he could at the moment when he advanced his money. The landlord who lets his houfe on a leafe, the man who lends money on a bond or mortgage, and every other fpecies of private creditor, in short, would certainly be entitled to infist on a fimilar ftipulation in his favour. Could it be believed that any man of common understanding would



« PrécédentContinuer »