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which enacted, that no joint-stock members of these necessary estaba
of part of their charter, that “the grant no relief, and had referred panic had subsided, and confidence the merchants to the Bank, who was nearly restored,” had been se- had it in their power to advance, verely animadverted upon in par- money on the security of goods, a
, liament; and ministers were twitted resource which, he said, no mer+ with it, night after night, as dis- chant could adopt without bringplaying great ignorance, not only ing a stain upon his credit. He of what was passing all over the vindicated the merchants from the country, but especially of the situ- aspersions which had been cast ation of the metropolis itself. upon them, as having produced the From the opening of parliament, present calamities by their own ima the mercantile classes had expected prudence, and a fondness for spe+ that government would take some culation, reckless of consequences. immediate step to give them pre- With the ephemeral schemes of the sent relief, and applications to this preceding year, the merchants, as purport had been made at the Trea
a body, had had no more connecsury. The scarcity of money was
tion than other people, and, in many the evil complained of, and an issue cases, much less. It was notorious of Exchequer bills was the remedy that these bubbles had been the generally pointed out; but govern- creation of a few scheming attor ment had resolved not to lend it- nies, and idle and needy speculaself to a system of artificial relief tors; not of the real merchants of for a disease which they thought London, who now, from mere inawould better cure itself without bility to convert their securities their interference. They had ex- into money, were trembling on the pressed themselves willing, indeed, brink of ruin; and these bubbles to keep the Bank harmless to the had been as keenly pursued in St. extent of two millions, if it should James's street, as they ever could think proper to go into the market, be in the alleys of the city. Even and purchase Exchequer bills to the imprudent speculator was often that amount; but no definitive a man worth saving, if not on his step had been taken, when Mr. own account, at least on account Wilson, one of the members for of others with whom he was conLondon, brought the subject be- nected in agricultural, commercial, fore the House of Commons (Fe- or monied interest. The merchants, bruary 23rd), on the occasion of in general, were far from deserving presenting a petition from the mer- to be harshly told,"some of you chants, bankers, and traders of the have over-traded; some of you city, praying the House to take have speculated rashly; therefore into its consideration the present the whole body must be content to commercial distresses. He assured suffer, and suffer on, till every the House, that, so far from dis- thing finds its own level." He tress having disappeared, or danger was not pleading the cause of gampassed away, every day displayed bling share-holders, but of a class new victims; and the privations of individuals, who, from the geneand difficulties of even the last ral want of confidence that preweek, had brought many to the vailed, and particularly among the ground. The representations made banking part of the community, to ministers had been fruitless; were suffering under a pressure they had made up their minds to which could not easily be described,
but whose sufferings, if not relieved, ing the committee, they did not would describe themselves in a shrink from firmly announcing the way which the House would not principles on which they had acted be able to misunderstand. All in refusing the various applications that' was required was an issue of which had been made them, and Exchequer bills-a measure which on which they were determined on former occasions had been still to oppose them. ' Convinced often adopted, to relieve temporary, that the proposed measure but general embarrassments, and erroneous in principle, and miswhich, on no occasion, had either chievous in practice, tending to failed in its object, or been pro- produce, even by its temporary ductive of inconvenience to the efficacy, a future recurrence of the government. He gave notice that same evil, and an improvident trust on the 28th he would move that in the constant interference of gothe petition should be referred to vernment, when other and safer a select committee.
cures could be applied, they refused A long discussion followed, in to accede to that, as a popular which the same views were taken, expedient, which their knowledge and the same sentiments expressed, informed them was not necessary, by almost every member whospoke; and which their deliberate judgand Mr. Canning and the chan- ment taught them to reject as in cellor of the Exchequer found them- itself prejudicial to the interests of selves' deserted even by some of the community. their firmest adherents. The strong- The most provoking, the most est position taken against them unmanly, the most unjustifiable assuredly was, not so much the weapons of their adversaries, were threatening appearance of the mer- the insinuations thrown out that the cantile horizon, which no man could resistance of government proceeded deny, as the fact that the particu- from cold blooded insensibility to lar preventive measure urged upon the misery which prevailed, and the their attention was one of tried danger which threatened. efficacy, justified by the sanction of myself,” said Mr. Canning, “and great names, and one which the my colleagues, I totally disdain to country had been too much ac- answer such imputations. I impute customed to regard as a never-fail- to no man who now hears me, that ing resource in evil times. Many, he is so insensible; but for others to who had the evil before their eyes, impute to those upon would have allowed it to take its day and every night care and anxway, if it had been necessary to iety are brought by the considersearch for a remedy; but when ation of these distresses, in addithey saw at hand what they be- tion to the common sympathy in lieved to be a known specific, they which they share as men, is to readily joined in the wish that it impute to them not only a want should forthwith be administered, of feeling, but a want of sense that they might escape, with all that would unfit them not merely speed, from a painful spectacle. for the situations they fill in the But, although ministers did not government of the country, but to enter at large into the question, appear here, in the midst of those which would
more properly be dis- among whom they have the honour cussed on the motion for appoint, to sit.
The unanimity, however, with rities, which occasioned the evil, which all parties seemed to urge but the inability to convert that the necessity of providing some wealth into money. Many a mermeasure of relief for the mercantile chant had his cellars and wareinterest, rendered it impossible for houses filled with merchandize, government not to lend its aid to which, in ordinary circumstances, any arrangement which did not would have justified him in thinkrequire its immediate interference. ing himself a rich man; and yet, Although determined to resist the from the universal distrust which issue of new Exchequer bills, even prevailed, and the complete prosupon securities, lord Liverpool tration of almost every branch of had already stated, in the House of traffic, he found himself unable to Lords, that, if the Bank would go meet his ordinary engagements. into the market, and purchase a The arrangement made with the certain amount of Exchequer bills, Bank was, that the Bank should government would keep them make advances to private individuals harmless
to the extent of two mil- upon the deposit of goods, merlions. The effect of these pur- chandize, and other securities; but chases would be, to bring forth an the whole sum to be advanced was equal quantity of currency, and not to exceed three millions. thus remove the stoppage of mer- Commissioners were appointed to cantile movements which only the carry
arrangement into execuwant of that currency had oc- tion in the principal commercial casioned. To this, however, the districts; the gloom began to disBank would not consent, and seemed perse, and confidence to return. to be fully as unwilling as minis- Yet the applications for assistters to involve themselves by any ance were far from being so nuextraordinary interference. But, merous as might have been exbetween the day on which Mr. pected from the loudness and unWilson presented the city petition, animity of the cries for relief; and, and that on which he had given at some of the provincial stations, notice of a motion to refer it to a the office of the commissioners select committee, the force of pub- was almost a sinecure. In truth, lic opinion, joined to the increasing where the reigning misfortune is agitation of the mercantile interests, want of confidence, such an expepersuaded government, that it was dient destroys, in a great measure, necessary to have recourse to some as soon as it is taken, the reasons expedient, and convinced the Bank, which made it necessary to take it that it would be prudent to com- at all. The knowledge that a ply, as far as they could, with the public fund exists ready to advance wishes of government. Besides money to those who can furnish the powerful voice of the city, substantial deposits, infuses a simideputations had arrived in London lar confidence into private indifrom Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow, viduals; and when one body and other important manufacturing celebrated for prudence and caution and trading districts, all calling has led the way in trusting its upon government to give its aid in neighbours, others are gradually removing, or relieving the existing encouraged to follow in the same pressure. It was not the want of path, and return to their ordinary substantial wealth, or good secus sources of gain,
The information that govern- Bank charter empowered that ment had come to an arrangement body to make advances in the way with the Bank having been com- which was now proposed, proved municated to the House of Com- that it had been foreseen that cirmons, before the motion for refer- cumstances might arise, in which it ring the City petition to a committee would be proper and desirable to had been made, that motion was exercise that power, and on the withdrawn by Mr. Wilson; but Bank would depend all the efficacy both on this, and on some other even of an issue of Exchequer bills. oecasions, the merits of the plan The commissioners for superinwhich had been adopted, and the tending that issue might direct superior efficacy and expediency of the funds placed at their disposal an issue of Exchequer bills directly in the way best calculated to relieve by government, were discussed at the public ; but this would be of great length. The general voice no avail, if the Bank refused to had, beyond doubt, been in favour cash the securities which the appliof the latter measure, and it was cants received. If the Bank rem supported by the authority of pre- fused them, it was not to be excedent and experience; yet the pected that any other banker reasons why ministers rejected it, would accept them; and if nobody and preferred the interference of took them in, then, besides having the Bank, rested on sound policy. failed to increase the quantity of It was bad, they said, in principle, circulating medium, they would because government was going out add to the already over-stocked of its sphere when it intermeddled, market of Exchequer billsfall to a in a pecuniary view, with the com- discount-be received at a premium mercial interests of the country, by the Treasury--and thus necesand became a liberal banker, as it sarily render the revenue of the were, or a generous, and not very country less capable of meeting the inquisitive, lender. To hold itself demands upon it. The question forth, likewise, as ready, on the would be different, if relief could occurrence of any general embar- be afforded in no other way; but rassment, to pour forth its funds for the Bank itself, a mercantile esthe behoof of the involved trader, tablishment, was able and ready was, in reality, to offer a premium to do all that was necessary to be to improvidence, and seducc indi- done to assist mercantile men, and viduals to rely more on the relief would do it far better than it could which they might obtain from gou be done by the government of the vernment, than
their own country. friends, their own prudence, or To the objection, that, in advantheir own exertions. When the ces made by government commisagricultural interests were suffer- sioners, the transaction itself, and ing under a similar pressure, they the necessary inquiries attending made a similar demand: it was it, were conducted with a degree refused, not from any difficulty in of secrecy most desirable to the the execution, but from objection continued credit of the merchant, to the principle; and if it were while the arrangement which had now granted under a commercial been adopted would expose his pressure, how could it ever again affairs and his difficulties to the be denied? The very fact that the gaze of the whole body of Bank