Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gilbart, James William

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GILBART, JAMES WILLIAM (1794–1863), writer on banking, descended from a Cornish family, was born in London 21 March 1794. In 1813 he entered as clerk a London bank, which stopped payment on account of the panic of December 1825. He was for some time after this engaged as cashier in the employment of a Birmingham firm, but soon returned to London, where in 1827 he published ‘A Practical Treatise on Banking, containing an account of the London and Country Banks, a view of the Joint-Stock Banks of Scotland and Ireland, with a summary of the Evidence delivered before the Parliamentary Committees relative to the suppression of Notes under five pounds in those countries’ (6th ed. 1856. Revised ed. 1871, republished in America at Rio de Janeiro and in Spain). Gilbart had already written a number of articles for popular periodicals. He was also connected with the Union Club, a debating society founded by J. S. Mill, of which Macaulay was a member.

In 1829 Gilbart went to Ireland, and managed in succession the branches at Kilkenny and Waterford of the Provincial Bank of Ireland.

Gilbart continued his literary activity, and became so well known that when joint-stock banks were established in London, there was a competition for his services. He agreed to become manager of the London and Westminster Bank, 10 Oct. 1833. The bank opened its doors 10 March 1834, and both before and after Gilbart had hard and delicate work to pilot the new institution through early difficulties. In 1836 the Bank of England obtained an injunction against his bank ‘prohibiting their accepting any bills drawn at less than six months after date.’ This seemed likely to kill the bank's country connection, but Gilbart skilfully evaded the danger by getting the country banks to draw upon his bank bills ‘without acceptance.’ He took this plan from the method adopted by his adversary in dealing with the Bank of Ireland. Not content with this, Gilbart wrote on the subject, gave evidence before various parliamentary committees, and saw his labours completely successful, when in 1844 Peel's Bank Charter Act enacted (inter alia) that joint-stock banks could sue and be sued by their public officers, and could accept bills at six months after date.

Gilbart's interest in his profession was shown in 1851 by his giving a prize of 100l. for the best essay ‘On the Adaptation of Recent Inventions, collected at the Great Exhibition of 1851, to the purposes of Practical Banking.’ In 1859 he retired on a pension of 1,600l. per annum from the bank. He died at Brompton Crescent, London, 8 Aug. 1863.

Besides being a fellow of the Royal Society, Gilbart was a member of the Statistical Society (to whose ‘Transactions’ he contributed various papers) and various other learned bodies. He took part in the International Statistical Congress held in July 1860. His writings on banking are valuable as the work of a man of good education and strong practical sense, who has a thorough mastery of the subject. ‘They contain,’ remarks McCulloch, ‘much useful information, presented in a clear compendious form.’ Besides the works noticed Gilbart wrote: 1. ‘The History and Principles of Banking,’ 1834, republished, revised, and incorporated with the ‘Practical Treatise on Banking,’ as ‘The History, Principles, and Practice of Banking,’ by A. S. Michie, in Bohn's Series, 1882. 2. ‘The History of Banking in Ireland,’ 1836. 3. ‘The History of Banking in America, with an inquiry how far the Banking Institutes of America are adapted to this country, and a Review of the causes of the recent Pressure on the Money Market,’ 1837. 4. ‘An Inquiry into the Causes of the Pressure on the Money Market during the year 1839,’ 1840. 5. ‘The London Bankers, an Analysis of the Returns made to the Commissioners of the Stamps and Taxes by the Private and Joint-Stock Bankers of London, January 1845,’ 1845. 6. ‘Lectures on the History and Principles of Ancient Commerce,’ 1847. 7. ‘A Record of the Proceedings of the London and Westminster Bank during the first thirteen years of its existence; with portraits of its principal officers,’ 1847 (privately printed). 8. ‘Logic for the Million,’ 1851 (6th ed. 1860, also ‘Logic for the Young,’ adapted from Watts's ‘Logic,’ 1855). 9. ‘Elements of Banking,’ 1852. 10. ‘The Laws of the Currency, as employed in the Circulation of Country Bank Notes in England since the passing of the Act of 1844,’ 1855 (reprinted, with a portrait, from the journal of the Statistical Society). 11. ‘The Moral and Religious Duties of Public Companies’ (in 1856, with portrait). 12. ‘The Philosophy of History,’ 1857 (not published). 13. ‘The Logic of Banking, a familiar exposition of the principles of reasoning, and their application to the Art and Science of Banking,’ 1859. 14. ‘The Social Effects of the Reformation,’ 1860 (a reply to Cobbett's ‘History of the Reformation’). All Gilbart's chief works went through several editions. They were republished in a collected form in six volumes in 1865.

[Memoir prefixed to Works; Bankers' Mag. September 1863, p. 652; Gent. Mag. September 1863, p. 385; McCulloch's Literature of Political Economy; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

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