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rigour of this blockade is not gener- man power have been extended, and ally known ; so effectual did it prove, the condition of the lower orders that numbers of the native inhabite of society ameliorated, a very conants, particularly of the lower orders, spicuous place ought to be assigned such as gondoliers, absolutely perished to the establishment of Saving Banks. through famine.
They have originated in a spirit of On the Isle di Murassi, already pure benevolence--placed within the mentioned, are a number of houses, of reach of the lowest and most helpa pretty enough appearance at a dis- less portion of the community the tance, but miserable on a nearer view; means of a secure and profitable dea they are inhabited by fishermen, who, posite, of which they are now eagerly with their wretched and squalid wives availing themselves—and in propora and children, flock around a stranger, tion as they are multiplied and exbegging with deplorable looks and tended, so must necessarily be the intones of penury and want. The great dustry, the frugality, the foresight, Laguna, or shallow lake, also already and the comparative independence, of mentioned, varies in depth from half the lower classes. What is no small a foot to three and four feet and more. recommendation-no complicated or From the eastern termination of the expensive machinery is required for pier at the Bocco del Porto, the course
either their formation or their manageof the deeper channel, accessible to ment; the time of the contributors very large vessels to the port of Ve- needs not be wasted in discussions and nice, is marked out by wooden stakes, arrangements to which their knowor beacons, placed at short distances. ledge and habits are but ill adapted ;
The long continued blockade of the and no opportunity is afforded for English annihilated the commerce of combination. Every one may lodge the port, and proved very disastrous to and withdraw his little hoard accordthe Venetian vessels, many of which be- ing to his convenience, instead of the came ruinous, and have been found time and amount being prescribed incapable of repair. For some days and enforced by penalties, by which during September last (1816), only the savings of many years may, withtwo vessels cleared out at the custom- out any delinquency which it was in house-one for Constantinople, and the contributor's power to avoid, be another for Corfu. About half a doz- suddenly transferred to his less needy en of small craft, Swedish, Danish, or more fortunate associates. To give Dutch, and Italian, were then lying facility and encouragement to the la- . at the births, waiting for cargoes, but bourer to save a little when it is in with little expectation of obtaining his power to save, with the most perthem. During the war, capital was fect liberty to draw it back, with ina wasted, and mercantile spirit extin- terest, when his occasions require it, guished; it is not surprising, there- is the primary object, and ought to be fore, to find the commerce of Venice the sole object, of this institution. at the lowest ebb. The merchants are Much of the distress of the lower ornow endeavouring to obtain from the ders may thus come to be relieved Austrian government some advantages, ` from their own funds, instead of their at the expense of the rival ports of having recourse to poor rates or priLeghorn and Trieste, but with slender vate charity. hopes of success; and it is not perhaps It does not seem necessary to enter without reason, that the Venetians into the details of these establishments, have begun to despair of any signal which are now sufficiently numerous revival of the commerce of this ancient to furnish room for selection, whatand once celebrated emporium-to ever may be the local circumstances which Europe, it may be remarked, in which it may be proposed to introwas indebted for the invention of pub- duce them. Nor is it consistent with lic banks.
my present purpose, and the limits to which this letter must be confined, to examine the rules by which their business is conducted. Little, that is of
real utility on this head, can be added MR EDITOR,
to what has been already laid before Among the numerous modern dis- the public, in the numerous pamphlets coveries, by which the limits of hu- and reports which this interesting VOL. I.
ON THE CONSTITUTION AND MORAL
EFFECTS OF BANKS FOR THE SAV-
novelty has produced, and in the pe- tainly is, that to place the Lord Lieuriodical works in which their merits tenant, the Members of Parliament, have been discussed. What is want- and the Sheriff of the county, for the ed, is not the knowledge of minute time being, among the honorary mem particulars regarding the plan and bers of so humble an institution as a conduct of the establishment, which bank for the savings of the labourers ought to be varied, perhaps, with any of a small district, calculated to call considerable difference in the num- down ridiculeon the whole undertaking. ber and character of the contributors, But should these gentlemen, constiand in the tract of country over which tuted members of the bank merely in it is expected to extend. I shall there- virtue of their official situations, choose fore content myself at present with a to interfere with the details of its busifew remarks on the nature and pur- ness, either directly or indirectly, withpose of Saving Banks in general, which out having first acquired by their perafter all that has been written on the sonal character, or the interest they subject, do not seem to be well under- may have taken in the prosperity of stood even by some of those who have the institution, the confidence of the made the most meritorious exertions great body of the depositors, there is in promoting them.
every reason to believe that the conIt cannot be too frequently recom sequences would be most pernicious. mended to those who may take the The lower classes would be ready to lead in establishing banks for sav- suspect, whether with or without reaings, to study to combine simplicity son is of little consequence, that the with security, and to give to them such knowledge of their circumstances, and a constitution as may not contain withthe control over their funds, possessin itself the seeds of dissension and ed by these official characters, might party spirit. While the security of be employed in enforcing obnoxious the funds is not impaired, a preference measures of public policy. And on should always be given to what is sim- every occasion, when the popular feelple, and promises to be permanent, ing is opposed to the enactments of over what is artificial, of a remote or the legislature, how soon soever it may doubtful tendency, or merely calculat- subside, we might expect to see such a ed for producing a temporary effect. run made upon our Saving Banks, as Upon this principle I would venture happens on a larger scale of business, to suggest, that a Saving Bank should whenever the creditors of individuals, approach as nearly as possible in its of societies, or of the public, begin to character to a Mercantile Bank-that lose confidence in the prudence or no inquiry into the character or con- ability with which the affairs of their duct of the depositors should be toler- debtors are conducted. Add to this, ated for a moment-that the choice the habitual jealousy which the lower of managers should not in general be classes have been taught to entertain vested in the depositors, nor the mana of their rulers, so frequently kindled gers themselves taken from that body, into phrenzy by the arts of the disaf--and that it should be kept entirely fected ; and it may be laid down as a distinct from Benefit Societies, Annu- rule, that in these simple institutions, ity Schenies, Loan Banks; and its which ought to have no other object provisions strictly confined to its own than the ostensible one, every ground proper object of safe custody and for suspecting the influence of governprompt payment with interest. ment should be carefully excluded, as
In hazarding this opinion, it is not not only unnecessary, but likely to be necessary to deny the influence of great injurious. names on the list of honorary and ex
With this impression, it is impostraordinary members, in giving a mo sible not to feel some degree of alarm mentary eclat to a new institution, at the Bill introduced into Parliament and in inspiring the public with con last Session by Mr Rose. As I do not fidence in its respectability. But it know the provisions of this Bill in its may well be doubted, whether, after the amended form, I shall only venture to advantages of a Saving Bank have been observe, that the clause which requires generally understood, a parade of inef- the funds of the Saving Banks to be ficient officers will contribute much to invested in government securities, its permanency, and to its utility among ought on no account to be extended the lower classes. My own opinion cer- to Scotland, where banks of the most
ündoubted responsibility are always tion, but which is not the less just ready to receive, and to pay four per when this obvious distinction of charcent. interest for money deposited ; acter is, as I am inclined to think it and some of which have displayed so should be, preserved, both in its orimuch liberality, as to allow even five ginal constitution and in the conduct per cent. on the deposites of Saving of its affairs. Banks. It may be doubted, whether I have already expressed my consuch a clause would be advisable even viction, that a Saving Bank, in its chara for England. The first and imme- acter, ought as nearly as possible to diate advantage of such a provision, it approach to a common trading bank, is said, is greater security; and the or to that branch of its business which next and more remote one, that it will consists in receiving and returning give the lower classes a greater interest money deposited ; and, as in Scotland, in the stability of the government. But with interest for the time it has been its disadvantages are not less obvious, under its care. Whatever departure and to many may appear to prepon- from this principle, therefore, may be derate in the scale. From every just desirable in the commencement of a view of the nature and object of Sav- very limited local establishment, such ing Banks, every thing that has the as the parish bank of Ruthwell, in appearance of compulsion must be ex- Dumfriesshire, the inconvenience and cluded. This is one fundamental danger that must be felt from the poprinciple which should not be lost pular election of the officers of a nusight of in any of its operations. merous and extensive association, comAgainst this greater security, too, posed, with few exceptions, of the must be placed the perpetual and often, least informed portion of the commueven to well-informed people, the un- nity, seem to outweigh all the advane accountable fluctuation of the public tages which have been ascribed to it. funds; produced, as is well known, by While the institution is in its infancy, means not always the most creditable, and the zeal for its success, which in and therefore more likely to irritate some measure supplies the want of exthe minds of the depositors than to perience in the managers, may be parattach them to their rulers. Besides, amount to every other feeling in the it may be asked, what is the amount minds of the depositors, there
be of this security, in so far as individual no great inconvenience in general meetcontributors are concerned ? They can- ings and periodical elections, which, not go to the stock exchange to make at this early period, it cannot be diffithe purchases themselves, but their cult for its philanthropic founders and money must pass through the hands patrons to direct or control. But it of two or more individuals before it is by no means probable that men, can be invested in the public funds, whose education and property entitle and through as many again when they them to influence the proceedings of choose to withdraw it; so that the res such associations, will always be found ponsibility of their own directors must, ready to undertake so difficult a task, at least in the first instance, be their and always successful in the attempt. principal dependence; to say nothing There is certainly more reason to fear, of the delay that must occur in the after the zeal of novelty has subsided, payments of the bank, unless a con and the founders have been removed siderable proportion of the deposites by death or otherwise, that the manbe retained by the treasurer, and con- agement of the concern may become the sequently be unproductive. The Quar- object of caballing and intrigue among terly Reviewers observe, (No 31) the members themselves, or among that “ the investment of money be- others in a station very little higher, longing to friendly banks should be and be seized by men whose knowleft to the direction of their members, ledge of business, or whose integrity, is or to that of the trustee whom they far from being their chief recommenmay appoint, and from whom they dation. It would display little knowmay require security for its proper ap- ledge of human nature to predict difplication;" an observation which im- ferent consequences from the popular plies, indeed, that the different char- election of the officers of Saving Banks actèrs of a creditor and of a member in a great town, where the association of a Saving Bank, must necessarily be must contain a large portion of heteroidentified in the plan of its constitue geneous and repulsive materials.
It may naturally be asked, who shall a Saving Bank to the management of: be the officers of these banks, if they all its details; and the success of these are not to be chosen by the contribu- Societies as a further proof of the adtors themselves, either out of their vantages to be expected from the choice own body, or from the higher classes ? of their own functionaries by the deTo this I might answer, by referring positors. But a Saving Bank and a to the highly respectable self-consti- Benefit Society are usually as different tuted banking companies in every part in the information and circumstances of Britain; but I am aware, that the an- of their members, as in their objects. alogy between these and Saving Banks The frequent meeting of benefit sois by no means complete. The object cieties, or of their committees, is neof the one is the profit of the partners, cessary for the admission of new memwhereas that of the other ought to be bers, and for carrying into effect, as to promote the welfare of the labour- occasions require, the
very purpose of ing classes ; and, on this account, the their establishment. The cases of apservices of its managers should be plicants must be speedily examined, either altogether gratuitous, or paid and such allowances made to them for at so low a rate, as to hold out no out of the funds as they are entitled inducement, in the shape of emolu- to receive by the rules of the society. ment, to such men as it would be safe. The responsibility of the managers is to intrust with its funds. But if there not confined to the security of the be a want of benevolent individuals funds, but extends also to the mode in among the higher classes, of their own which they are employed, and the reaccord to incur the responsibility, and ceipts and disbursements must there assume the direction of those Saving fore be investigated at short intervals. Banks, which by their constitution Every member has an equal and unexclude popular elections, it does not divided interest in the welfare of the readily appear, that the circumstance concern, from which he cannot withof being elected by the members, per- draw himself at pleasure, like the dehaps in the face of much opposition, positor in a Saving Bank. The partwill inspire_benevolence, or insure ners of a company in which the memefficiency. For, let it be observed, bers reciprocally insure one another, that whether the officers be or be not are held together by a bond of connamed by the depositors, it is indis- nexion, which can terminate only with pensable to the success of the establish their lives, or the dissolution of the ment, that they should be men of pro- partnership. Every member must perty and education, much above the therefore be known to the great body level of the depositors themselves. of his associates, all of whom are Even Mr Duncan, the founder of the nearly on the same level. But it is of Ruthwell Bank, and the advocate of importance to observe, that this level the popular system, has confined the is placed somewhat higher than that choice of its office-bearers, in the first of the great body of depositors in Savinstance, to the donors and annual be- ing Banks. The most numerous memnefactors of the society. It cannot well bers of benefit societies are not of the be doubted, that there are in almost class of common labourers, but men every country parish, and certainly in bred to trades, who have had the adevery town, a few respectable indivi- vantage of being educated in their duals, able and willing to undertake youth, or have since acquired that the management of a Saving Bank, knowledge of business which is neceswho might not, however, choose to at- sary to success in their professions, in tempt the far more arduous task of which many of them arrive at indepreserving order in a large assembly, pendence. From the very different or of appearing in it as candidates for objects and materials of a benefit sonomination, and mixing in the dis- ciety, therefore, it cannot be inferred, cussions, which, on such an occasion, that the principle of their organization can hardly fail to be introduced. is either necessary or suitable to that
It may be said, however, that there of a Bank for Savings. can be no need for going out of the If we are to look forward to the genesociety itself for the necessary office- ral establishment, and to the permanbearers; and the organization of Bene ence of Saving Banks, some fears may fit Societies may be adduced, in proof be entertained for the constant and efof the competency of the depositors in fective operation of that part of the ma
chinery which is composed of the be the less probability there is of their nevolence of the higher orders. It is being faithfully discharged by men not altogether improbable, when these who give their services without a pebanks have become very numerous, cuniary reward. The benefit to which and stood so long and so firm, as to the depositors would be entitled, if seem to require only that protection their stock were converted into an anwhich the law confers on all the hon- nuity, must depend upon a variety of est pursuits of private interest, that circumstances, in particular upon their the zeal of that class, from which it is age; and the errors in calculation, proposed the managers should be which may justly be expected to occur, drawn, may not always be found suf- if an annuity scheme were ingrafted ficient for the conduct of their affairs. upon a Saving Bank in country parShould this apprehension be realized, ishes, would, in all probability, soon much stronger reasons than at present bring ruin upon the whole establishwill then be felt for having recourse to ment. It may be doubted, indeed, the alternative of the popular system ; how far it may be advisable to urge it and with much less danger of incon as a duty in the lower classes, to save venience, after all the details of man a part of that income which barely agement have become familiar by long suffices for their own maintenance, or practice. But though I am not so to excite a blind zeal for accumulation, well acquainted with the local arrange even though, as in the case of Saving ments of England, as to suggest the Banks, they be allowed to withdraw mode of eventually supplying this their deposites at pleasure. In prodesideratum, by means of the resident portion as the zeal of all concerned magistracy or clergy; yet, if Saving may at first be somewhat immoderate, Banks shall be found in any consider so is the danger that disappointment able degree to operate favourably upon may be succeeded by indifference. All the habits and condition of the lower that is really necessary, or perhaps exclasses, and particularly in diminish- pedient, is to afford to the labouring ing poor-rates, there is every reason to classes the opportunity of depositing hope, that the voluntary and gratuitheir earnings under safe custody, and tous services of men of property and of drawing them out again with ineducation will always be supplied in terest, when they are too small in aabundance. In Scotland, there is per- mount to be received by mercantile haps still less reason to fear the want banks; and if the advantages of the of such talents and disinterestedness. measure do not form a sufficient inIn every parish there are at least two ducement to them to avail themselves respectable individuals, the clergyman of it, it were idle to expect success to and schoolmaster, who may be confi- Saving Banks, as it is unjustifiable to dently expected to undertake the exe seek it, by any other means of excitecutive department; and the landed ment. proprietors of this country, justly a To obviate the objections which I larmed at the progress of poor-rates in am aware may be made to this excluEngland, and anxious to ward off the sion of popular interference, I must evil from themselves, certainly would beg leave to conclude this part of the not hesitate to give the most ample subject with observing, that hitherto security for the faithful administration I have chiefly had in view the Saving of all the affairs of the institution. Banks of Scotland, in which the depo
From these remarks on the object sitors are understood to be, at least the of Saving Banks, and the principle on far greater number of them, of the very which they should be formed and con lowest description of accumulators. It ducted, it will be seen that I am de- is for such people, principally, that cidedly averse to the measure that has there is felt a want of Saving Banks been recommended, of combining with in this country; for all our mercantile them a scheme for converting the de- banks are in the practice of receiving posites into annuities. Those who, so small a sum as £10 in one payment, from the best motives, would thus and returning it on demand with inhasten to rear the superstructure be- terest; and their agents are spread fore the stability of the foundation has throughout almost every part of the been proved, ought to consider, that country. But I can easily suppose, the more complicated and laborious the that a higher class of depositors may duties of the managers may become, avail themselves of this institution in