Page:The Bank of England and the State, 1905.djvu/32

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26
The Bank of England and the State.

another question. The monthly publication of accounts which was the immediate result of Lord Goschen's recommendation is made by twelve only out of seventeen banks in the London Clearing House, and country banks generally have refrained from such publication. Unfortunately, the period of excessively cheap money following after the Baring crisis, and the natural increase of the stock of gold in the Bank of England consequent thereon, diverted attention from the importance of the subject. It is at times when money is abundant, when the available stock of gold is large, that the necessary steps should be taken, and I ventured in 1896, when such conditions prevailed, to suggest that then was the time to take the matter in hand; but, I regret to say, without avail. Bankers, however, did not lose sight of the subject, and Committees have been appointed to consider it. If the South African war had not intervened, further progress would no doubt have been made.

Although I myself have taken a somewhat active part in these discussions, and placed a tentative scheme of my own before a committee, I am not confident that the action of bankers alone can produce any effective result. It is difficult to procure combined action amongst them, for, as Sir Robert Peel pointed out in another connection, "It is vain for one bank individually to make a sacrifice when others will not do the same; no effect is produced on the aggregate, and competitors take advantage of the burdens others have taken upon themselves." Moreover, it would be inadvisable, in my opinion, for bankers in any way to assume a position which might be interpreted to imply that on them rested the responsibility of maintaining a gold reserve sufficient for the needs of the nation. That is the duty of the State, a duty acknowledged by Sir Robert Peel when in winding up the debates he said "he hoped the House would recollect the embarrassments which had been entailed on this country by the fluctuations of our monetary concerns, and he hoped that they would assist the Government in requiring, in order to support the issues of the Bank, a stock