Page:The Bank of England and the State, 1905.djvu/25

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The Bank of England and the State.

the Bank of England as contrasted with that of ordinary bankers."

Here we have distinct declarations what the duties of the Bank of England, those undefined duties of which I spoke at the outset, were then conceived to be: and the final words of the Report are as follows:—

"Your Committee have stated the reasons by which it is established, to their satisfaction, that the recent commercial crisis in this country, as well as in America and in the North of Europe, was mainly owing to excessive speculation and abuse of credit; and also, that in the time of pressure, the houses which deserved assistance received it from the Bank of England in a manner in which that establishment would not have been able to give it, except for the bullion retained in their coffers; and your Committee are satisfied to have in the discretion of the Executive Government, the time and prudent opportunity of giving further effect to those principles by which the convertibility of the Bank of England note has been kept above suspicion."

It can well be conceived what the impression must have been on the public mind of a Report such as this, and the idea was confirmed that it was the duty of the Bank, in return for the special and valuable privileges enjoyed by it, in time of trouble to afford assistance to houses and institutions that might require it, provided that these could prove that they were solvent and had good security to offer. Under this impression, it is evident how the Bank came to be looked upon as the centre of all banking, and as such continued to be the bankers' bank, and consequently the keeper of the central cash reserve of the nation. I presume you have all read your Bagehot[1] and your Palgrave,[2] so that I need not enlarge on the later developments of the money market, and the advantages and drawbacks of the one reserve system.

In the report of 1858, the growing importance of joint stock banks and of the London Clearing House were already noticed.

  1. W. Bagehot. "Lombard Street."
  2. R. H. Inglis Palgrave. "The Bank Rate and the Money Market."