Lidderdale, William (DNB12)

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LIDDERDALE, WILLIAM (1832–1902), governor of the Bank of England, born at St. Petersburg on 16 July 1832, was second of the six sons of John Lidderdale, a Russia merchant, by his wife Ann Morgan. When ten years old he was brought to England, and after education at a private school at Birkenhead he began his commercial career in 1847 in the office of Heath and Co., Russia merchants of Liverpool. He next became cashier to Rathbone Bros, and Co. of Liverpool, representing that firm in New York from 1857 to 1863. Becoming a partner in 1864, he started the Rathbones' London house, and his business ability quickly brought him to the front rank of London merchants. He became a director of the Bank of England in 1870, deputy-governor in 1887, and governor in 1889.

During Lidderdale's deputy-governorship effect was given by the bank to the reduction of the interest on the national debt, in accordance with the National Debt Conversion Act passed in 1888, by George Joachim Goschen [q. v. Suppl. II], the chancellor of the exchequer. During his second year of office as governor Lidderdale was faced by the gravest responsibility. The money market had been for some months in an unsettled state owing to the large drain of gold to foreign parts, especially to South America. On Friday, 7 Nov. 1890, the bank rate was suddenly raised to 6 per cent. On the following day Lidderdale was informed that the great accepting house of Baring Bros. was in need of assistance being called upon to meet certain commitments in respect of the Buenos Ayres harbour and water works. Their liabilities were 22,000,000l., against which were liquid assets immediately available of 15,000,000l., whilst the personal estates of the partners were valued at about 11,000,000l. Lidderdale immediately consulted not only his fellow directors but the leading bankers and merchants. By the following Wednesday afternoon he had purchased 1,500,000l. of gold from Russia and borrowed 3,000,000l. from France. On Thursday, 14 Nov., Messrs. Baring laid a statement of their affairs before the directors; on Friday Lidderdale placed the British government in full possession of the facts of the coming emergency and of the steps taken and proposed to be taken to meet it. On the same afternoon a guarantee fund was opened at the bank, and by noon the next day a subscription of 16,000,000l. had been secured, and he was able to announce to the public that the situation was saved.

The bank, supported by the chief joint-stock banks, discount houses, and a few leading firms, undertook the liquidation of Messrs. Baring's affairs by means of a committee to last for three (eventually extended to four) years, during which it was hoped that the whole of the firm's assets would be satisfactorily realised. In his dealing with the inevitable difficulties of the liquidation, Lidderdale, by his firm action, still further increased the confidence of the City in his financial leadership. At the close of this alarming crisis, which the country had hardly time to realise before it disappeared, the services of Lidderdale and his fellow directors received marked public recognition. On 30 Dec. 1890 a committee from the Stock Exchange presented the governor and directors with an appreciative address. On 27 Feb. 1891 Lidderdale was presented with the honorary freedom of the Grocers' Company. On 6 May he was admitted to the honorary freedom of the City of London; at the banquet in his honour which followed at the Mansion House, Lidderdale insisted that the maintenance of a sufficient reserve for national wants was the concern not only of the Bank of England, but of all the banks of the country. He was made a privy councillor on 30 May 1891.

Lidderdale was continued in office as governor for a year beyond the usual term, so that he might bring to a conclusion negotiations with the government for changes in the management of the bank, which eventually took shape in the Bank Act of 27 June 1892. To his personal investigation of the details was largely due the judgment of the House of Lords on 6 March 1891 (reversing the decision of the lower courts), in the intricate case, Vagliano Bros, versus the Bank of England. Thereby the bank was finally relieved, after three years' litigation, of a claim to pay the plaintiffs a sum of 71,500l. which a clerk of theirs had fraudulently drawn from the firm's account at the Bank of England in 1888. The result was warmly welcomed by the banking interest.

Lidderdale, who became a commissioner of the Patriotic Fund in 1893, and held (among other financial offices) the presidency of the council of the Corporation of Foreign Bondholders, died on 26 June 1902 at 55 Montagu Square, London, W., and was buried at Winkfield, near Windsor. He married in 1868 Mary Martha, elder daughter of Wadsworth Dawson Busk of Winkfield. Berkshire (formerly of 8t Petersburg), by his wife Elizabeth Thielcke ; of hill eight children four Aona and three daughtent survived him.

[Journ. Inst. of Bankers, xxiii. 400-8; Joseph Burn, Stock Exchange Investments in Theory and Practice, 1908, pp. 54-7; Arthur D. Elliot, Life of Viscount Goschen, 1911, ii. 169-75. 283-4; Men and Women of the Time, 1899; Men of Note in Finance and Commerce, 1900-1, p. 139; The Times, 27 June and 23 July 1902; City Press, 6 and 9 May 1891; private information.]

C. W.