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of the" accommodation-system,” by be asked, how came this to be ? which this reckless speculation and Here, at least, there was no “overextravagance were carried on. It trading.” The fault must have was the revelation of these cases lain not in trade, but in something that was new in 1857—not their else. And that thing is the very occurrence. Such exceptional cases element of the question which the are, have been, and will continue to supporters of the “over-trading" occur in every large and active com- theory desire to overlook. It is that mercial community. One may as “something in the circumstances well hope to sever shadow from sun- of the country” which, as we have shine, or evil from good in this world, previously suggested interrogativeas to find a condition of trade in ly, on certain occasions makes our which many cases of recklessness and commercial classes appear to be mismanagement do not co-exist with over-trading when in truth they are legitimate and profitable enterprise. not. This element is the operation Cæteris paribus, the more numerous of the Bank Act; and this it is, a population is, the greater the and not periodical insanity on the amount of poverty, folly, and crime; part of the trading community, and in like manner, and from the which is the fundamental and origisame cause, the brisker trade is, the nating cause of our recurrent crises. more numerous will be the cases of They are not “ commercial," but bad trading. We may regret this, monetary crises. It is commerce as we deplore the other imperfec- indeed that suffers, but it is our tions of human nature, but we can- monetary system which deals the not help it. It is a clog upon pros- blow. The commercial community perity, but not a barrier to progress. is the vile corpus in which the The population of these islands has disease chiefly operates, producing doubled since this century began, misery and ruin; but it is the system and we are afraid to say how much pursued by the Bank, under Act of more numerous are the cases of Parliament, which is the source and crime and poverty amongst us now efficient cause of the calamity. than they were sixty years ago ; Apart from the fatal operation of but, despite these drawbacks, the the Bank Act, what was the nature nation has advanced immensely of the difficulty which our traders in its social condition and prosper. had to encounter ? We cannot ity. Progress in Trade is just like answer this question better than in progress in anything else. There the words of the Times. Commay be, and doubtless are, a greater menting on the large failures that number of bad failures now than in were taking place, it said: “ Messrs former times, but certainly there Dennistoun have houses in New are not more in proportion to the York and New Orleans, and the amount of trade carried on. And almost total cessation of remittances if, in 1857, among the scores of from those points has rendered the bankruptcy cases revealed in detail stoppage unavoidable.... What to the public, there were some of has caused Messrs Naylor, Vickers, more than usual shamelessness and & Co., and Messrs Dennistoun to recklessness, it must be also remem- stop? The simple fact that each bered that there were dozens of succeeding mail from America arcases of suspensions-probably re- rived without bringing them remitpresenting in value one-half of all tances of bills to enable them to the failures that then occurred-in apply for discount. Their capitals which the assets of the firms not only were ample.” + “Any firm with covered all their liabilities, but great- fair capital and credit is always ly exceeded them. It may well prepared to meet a short strain ;
* See a list of some of these cases given in the article on “ The Economy of Capital," in the March number of the Magazine.
+ Times,' November 9, 1857.
but few can be expected for weeks by the banks in the United States, and weeks to discharge the cost of / there was a delay in the usual remitwages, raw material, and all the tances from that country; and also, other items in the manufacture of a million and a quarter of gold was the goods they have shipped, when sent thither from this country, the returns for these goods are partly for the purpose of purchasstopped by a convulsion so violent ing American stocks, then unduly and so little foreseen that it is depreciated. Such investments, likened on the spot to an attack of made by our capitalists, were as leepilepsy." * Such was the embar- gitimate, and at least as profitable, rassment which our traders had to as if iron or cotton goods had been meet, -sudden unforeseeable, and exported to an equal value. But neither arising from nor revealing the export of property in specie, any fault on their part. The em- under our present system, has a barrassment, also, was as tempo- very different effect from the export rary in its nature as it was artificial. of property of other kinds. Merely “ In America," said the Times,' on temporary as was this absence of the 13th of October, “the arrears our usual reserve stock of specie, now due to England and the Con- the operation of the Bank Act was tinent are enormous, and are accu- such as to occasion an internal drain mulating every week; and the mo- likewise, and ultimately, and very ment the panic there subsides, and rapidly, shook down our fabric of the influence of the fortnightly gold trade altogether. The operation of arrivals again begin to be felt, the the Bank Act, when a drain of gold scarcity of bills upon us may be as takes place, is threefold-viz., 1. To remarkable as their present abund- raise the rate of discount even for ance. There is, consequently, no- first-class commercial bills to an exthing to excite apprehension that orbitant height; 2. To render many the disturbance will be protracted.”+ bills (i.e., the form of currency This, then, was the whole difficulty by which all our larger money trans- perfectly artificial in its charac- actions are carried on) upnegotiable ter, and temporary in its duration. I which in other circumstances would Any man of common sense will have been esteemed as perfectly wonder that so slight a difficulty good; and, 3, at the culmination should have led to so tremendous of the crisis, so to reduce the availa crisis. Our traders had capital able resources of the Bank as to enough, but they could not get render that establishment incapable money. Their credit was unques- of lending the customary assistance tioned, but our credit-system had to firms upon any terms,-even wholly given way. Again we ask, though the solvency of these firms Why was this?
be as unquestioned as that of the A word will explain the matter. Bank itself, and though their susA drain of gold—though, as we pension would cause a panic which have shown, a merely superficial would endanger the position of event, in no way necessarily con- every bank in the kingdom. For nected with national loss, or ex- example, in November 1857, the pressive of national indebtedness— great house of Peabody & Co., temunder our present system, is the porarily embarrassed by the susgrand cause of the recurrent“crises” pension of payments in America, which inflict such vast losses upon applied to the Bank for the loan of our commercial classes. In 1857, in nearly a million sterling, which the consequence of the panic and tem- Bank, with its power of issue reporary suspension of cash-payments stricted by the Act of 1844, was
# Times,' Oct. 26, 1857.
+ Ibid., Oct. 13, 1857. In truth, so ephemeral was the difficulty, that within two months after the crisis reached its height, we had not only got from America all the gold that we had sent thither, but three times as much-namely £3,200,000.
unable to give; and all London in exacting them. Bankers have tottered,-for it was known that if to make a profit on money, just as that great firm went down, dozens traders make a profit on goods; and more would fall with it, and the the higher they can raise the rate, panic would become universal. The the better for themselves. But suspension of the Bank Act alone there is one point about which prevented this catastrophe, by re- there can be no dispute. Trade laxing the arbitrary fetters on the must have discounts." Yet, under Bank's issues, and thereby enabling the existing regime, these fail trade it to advance the sum required. We at the very times when they are may add, so thoroughly solvent, in- most urgently required. The Bank deed excessively wealthy, was this turns its back upon Trade : the Act temporarily embarrassed firm, that says, “No—you cannot have your the private property of the chief bills discounted upon any terms." partner was of itself held by the even while there are six or seven Bank to furnish sufficient security millions of gold in the Bank. Those for this enormous, but urgently- millions are wholly withdrawn needed, loan. * But if Peabody from Trade : they were set apart, & Co. were saved — and we re- in 1844, for the purpose of securing joice that they were so—why were the convertibility of the note,-a the Dennistouns, Nayler, Vickers convertibility, be it noted, which & Co., and many others, sacri- is never endangered, seeing that ficed? The circumstances of all the public never want gold if they these firms were alike,why was can get notes. Moreover, there is a their fate different ? Each had an great blunder in the framing of the ample capital-each, from no fault Act; videlicet that these six or seven of its own, was temporarily embar- millions are absolutely useless for rassed; why then was not the re- the purpose for which they were set quired assistance given equally to apart. When the Bank has exhaustall ? Simply because we have an ed its powers of issue as restricted unworkable Bank Act which it is a by the Act, it has still these millions point of honour with some theo- of gold on hand—yet not one soverists, and a point of self-interest reign of that immense sum can be with all money-dealers, to uphold used, either for discounting purto the last, though trade and in- poses or in exchange for notes, dustry go to wreck and ruin. without violating the Act. The
Without discounts, there can be reserve, in fact, as established by no trade. A stoppage of discounts the Act, is useless. These seven on the part of the Bank brings the millions cannot be used to cash a whole fabric of industry to the single note,- so that they are helpground. The rate of discount has less to preserve convertibility. Yet been extremely high of late. Trade for the sake of keeping up this has now to pay twice as much for inert deposit, these millions are its usual discounts as it did in withdrawn from banking purposes, similar circumstances ten years ago. and the whole commerce of the It may be, though it certainly is country is periodically sacrificed. not probable, that the profits of A drain of gold comes-a panic and traders are so much greater now “crisis” ensue-the Bank restricts than formerly that they can afford its discounts, and Trade is brought to pay these higher rates of dis- to the ground. This, in brief, is the count: and if such be the case, position. How long will it be albankers of course are quite justified lowed to last ?
* For some graphic and interesting incidents connected with the threatened failure of this great firm, and of the eminent philanthropist who was at the head of it, see the recently published “Notes on Speculation' by that veteran City man, Mr Morier Evans. VOL. XCVI.—NO. DLXXXVIII.
THE DEATH OF SPEKE.
In the season when the leaves change from green to brown, and are swept round and round by the eerie autumn winds—when the summer purposes are ended, and those of winter are not yet begun in the midst of the customary changes through wbich, year after year, we have all passed from summer into winter the electric wires startle us with the astounding news that the boldest explorer of the age has been killed in an English stubble-field by the accidental discharge of a gun. The world stands in breathless awe at such an event. It had but bare time to master that stirring history of patience, faith, endurance, and courage crowned with success, when it learned that the hero of the great triumph had become for ever deaf to the echoes of its applause --that the great heart beat no more with aspirations of achievements to come. It is impossible to overlook the parallel with Bruce, and the life extinguished by such an accident as might befall a London alderman, whose whole perils of existence lie in the transit between the drawing-room and the dining-room; and those who are least prone to read special meanings in the decrees of Providence cannot well avoid an inference from events which seem to justify their favourite scepticism by confounding the knowledge of the wise, and proving how little is to be predicted of ultimate effects from apparent causes. He who had for years stood face to face with death in all its forms—who had thus more fully than perhaps any other living man mastered all the causes and sources of danger to life-swept away by the kind of casualty that occasionally picks off an inexperienced schoolboy! What a terrible reminder of the fallibility of man! What an awfully solemn sermon on the text which tells us that the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong! Had the event occurred in that classic age when seeking the source of the Nile was proverbial as a hunt after the unattainable, the great lyric might have grouped it with the abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem, and the other incongruities which show that human nature is not constituted to achieve perfection.
The world knows what it has lost in the tried soldier, the bold explorer, and the sagacious discoverer; but to a little special world nearer to him, his death is the closing of a friendly eye-the extinction of a sunny smile. In the best sense of the word, he was very amiable. The charm of his sweet temper and kindly ways fell on all who came into friendly intercourse with him ; and it was a sincere and fundamental amiability, fulfilling the precept of a modern sage, who said, “ The best way to make people like you is to appear to like them, and the best way to appear to like them is really to like them." By the friendly hearth, in fact, he had so much good-humour, docility, and pliability about trifles, that people who saw no more of him might have formed the utterly mistaken notion that he was infirm of purpose, and wanting in the hardness of character necessary for great achievements. And so he realised that fine old idea of true chivalry, in which the hero in the field became a lamb at home.
Children, the most sure judges of true goodness of nature, were delighted with him. He took to them, not with the patronising air of people doing the benevolent, but as one of themselves. De Quincey, in one of the most spiritual of his essays, speaks of “the eternal child" that dwells in fine natures-the remnant of the simplicity and candour of childhood surviving through the sagacity and strength of manbood and its contests with the world. No man had more of this than Speke. In a group of children, he took and communicated enjoyment; and their sports were actually sport to the hunter of the tiger and hippopotamus. Even while these reminiscences are passing through the mind, a little group, with subdued voices, are recalling his kindly romps, and especially that occasion when an illustrious table was spread for him in vain, because it was a gala-day, and he could not drag himself from the genuine enjoyment he felt in the sports of a group of children who were making the long passages and hiding-holes of a quaint old house ring with their shouts and their laughter.
This genial assimilation with young folks and their enjoyments was a very pleasing feature, but it was one of many that went together to form the noble simplicity of his nature. This was shown powerfully in the way in which he bore his honours. Both when he returned triumphant, and when he issued the wondrous narrative of his difficulties and their conquest, the great lionising world was roaring at his heels, demanding him as its prey, but he heeded it not. He did not, like vulgar repudiators of popularity, let it overtake him that he might conspicuously repel it, but he kept quiet at his work and among his friends, avoiding all occasions of notoriety. To this line of conduct he made one characteristic exception. Like many Englishmen who become famous, he had a little world of his own in his own county of Somerset, where his social position was possibly an object of as much real pride and satisfaction as his wide fame. He belonged to an old county family of worshipful repute for many centuries. So when one of the Spekes of Jordans became famous over the world, his fame was part of the property of the district, in which its inhabitants must partake ; and in his kindly nature he submitted with the best grace to the ovation offered him in his native district, knowing that to evade it would be a sore mortification to old friends and good neighbours.
One who had risen so high could not escape the fate of eminence to bring forth carpers and detractors. A solemn silence will now pervade the field of strife. We refer to it merely for the purpose of dropping a word of explanation on what seemed the most plausible charge brought forward by his censors that in his books he has not done full justice to other persons who have laboured meritoriously, though with imperfect success, in the field of his triumph. It might be a sufficient answer to any such charge, that he does not profess to write the history of African exploration and discovery, but merely to narrate what he himself did and saw. But all who personally knew him would acquit him of any design to be even passively ungenerous. Every one who reads his fresh narratives will see that he has not been trained in the art and mystery of professional book-making. The book-writer, like the lawyer and the actor, has certain traditional conventionalities, and among them one of the most tiresome is the acknowledgment of obligations to intelligent assistants. If you analyse and estimate the rounded sentences in which these acknowledgments are usually expressed, you will invariably find that they tend to uplift the glory of the author. They place him in that rank most envied of all the niches in the temple of fame—that of the master-mind that can find good human tools wherewith his fame and fortune are to be hewn out. There are no better samples of insolent condescension to be found than these acknowledgments of assistance as they are commonly expressed. Speke was not sufficiently adroit in the craft of book-making to be acquainted with the method of that form of pride that apes humility ; nor, if he had been instructed in it, would it probably have commended itself to his accept ance. He told his own story plainly and frankly, and left others to tell theirs. Before the world he thus put in no claim to the reputation of