Page:The Bank of England and the State, 1905.djvu/33

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27
The Bank of England and the State.

of gold, the expense of providing which should fall on the country at large."

The duty of the banker is to keep such reserves of cash or legal tender as prudence dictates to be necessary for the safe conduct of his business. To endeavour to provide for the safety of the legal tender itself would be going beyond his legitimate functions: but he should, as his business is a special one, and intimately connected with the currency of the country, co-operate with those in authority, and, if necessary, not shrink from recognising his responsibilities, even if such responsibilities should involve some sacrifice. But let those sacrifices be evenly and fairly distributed amongst all bankers and in proportion to their liabilities to the public; and if Chancellors of the Exchequer call upon banks, as they rightly and justly do, to co-operate with them in the public interest, bankers may at least fairly claim this, that no one shall be allowed to act as a banker or use the title " Bank," without submitting to certain prescribed conditions, such as periodical publication of accounts, perhaps in a specified form, registration of partnerships, etc.

If, during these last ten years, it was the bankers and not either the Government or the authorities of the Bank of England, who kept this question before the public, it is no doubt owing to the insight into the vastness of internal and international trade and finance, that their peculiar position, and especially that of the London bankers gives them. It is their duty, then, in the public interest, to insist that the necessary steps are taken, and taken before it is too late; and it is their duty to co-operate in such steps as, after mature consideration, may be deemed necessary; but beyond that their duty does not go. The initiative and the responsibility must be in other hands.

Of the various schemes that have been brought forward, it is not my intention to speak to-night; they might well form the subject of a separate paper. The necessity for some scheme seems abundantly clear.

It has been suggested in certain quarters that the case would be fully met by a general increase of bankers' balances in the