The Distressed State . . . Once More Considered (1720)
This pamphlet was written by John Colman, in response to a rebuttal of his first pamphlet. The rebuttal, titled A Letter from one in the Country, has been attributed to Edward Wigglesworth, a clergyman who apparently filled various pulpits temporarily, according to Davis. This pamphlet is not so interesting as the original, although Colman's role as the instigator and treasurer of the Land Bank justifies making the pamphlet widely available.
Certain "Keynesian" aspects of Colman's thought were mentioned in his first pamphlet. There is one additional instance in this pamphlet. In discussing unemployment in Boston in 1720 (the eighteenth century term for unemployment being idleness) Colman asserts it is involuntary.
The pamphlet has been reprinted by Andrew McFarland Davis in Colonial Currency Reprints, 1682-1751, Boston: The Prince Society, 1911, volume II, pp. 64-90. The pamphlet appears to contain a number of typographical errors, such as doubled words, stray letters, and missing letters. I have attempted to correct these, and have noted the presence of a correction by using a colored font. All these alterations were exceedingly minor. Instances that appear to be the ordinary vagaries of eighteenth century spelling have been left intact.
Of the Town of
Once More Considered.
And Methods for Redress humbly proposed,
With Remarks on the pretended Country-man's
Answer to the Book, Entituled,
The Distressed State of the Town of Boston, &c.
With a Scheme for a
Laid down: And Methods for bringing in SILVER MONEY Proposed.
By John Colman.
The Distressed State of
B 0 S T 0 N
S Ince the Publishing of my Letter, Entituled, The Distressed State of the Town of Boston: Several pretended Answers have been Published, with Design to amuse the Country, by insinuating, that the State of the Town is not as I have Represented it; and that I have assigned wrong Causes for our Distresses. But it is a vain thing to endeavour to perswade People contrary to what they daily Experience; Had the Gentleman who hath given himself the trouble to make Answer, proje6led something for a Medium of Exchange, to pass among us, which is the only way to Extricate us out of our Difficulties; he would have merited well of his Country; but to fault what others do, and propose nothing, (save the empty notions of leaving of Trusting, and allowing Interest on Book Debts; Things impracticable at any time, but more especially in our present Circumstances) seems to me much below the Character of him, who is accounted the Author; the Writer doubtless thinks he hath done wonderful things in his Answer, but I believe I shall soon make it evident, that he hath not in the least answered my Letter; and demonstrate, he talks very ignorantly, and like a man utterly unacquainted with Trade, AND THE STATE of HIS COUNTRY ALSO.
He owns himself so short of a common Understanding, that after a careful Review of my Letter, he cannot find the Important Matters he hath omitted answering; I am sorry to find him so dull of Apprehension, that he cannot see the Evils I complain of, and the Remedy I drive at; What Proposal hath he made, to supply us with a Medium of Exchange? Without which, it is impossible this Town or Country can Subsist; What Method hath he thought on, to prevent the vast number of Law-Suits? Which it is a Scandal to the Land to name. Hath he Proje6fed any way to bring in Silver,.as the Paper-Bills sink! or bath he Contrived how to keep what doth Come in, from being Ship'd off again; Hath he shewn us the Art of Living without a Medium! Hath he found a way to prevent Mercenary Men's Oppressing their Neighbours, by anticipating, as well as exacting Interest, or by taking their Lands at half Value ! Hath he Contrived, how those who Live on their Salaries, shall be paid without Money! But bove all, What Contrivance bath he found, to support this poor Town the hard Winter approaching? Can they Subsist from day to day, without the Ready Peny ! These I think to be Matters of Importance, and what any man might have seen to be my Design in Writing that Letter; but he hath passed them over in Silence, being so intent I presume, on sinking the few Bills which are yet abroad, and thereby compleating the Ruin of the Land: (to gratifie the ambition of a few) That he could not see these Things, THOUGH OF THE LAST CONSEQUENCE TO US.
And that I may not be Charged with being Uncharitable, I shall next consider his Proposal of Leaving off Trusting, and allowing Interest on Book Debts, which is the only Remedy he proposes to Extricate us out of our Difficulties; the Proposal is so contrary to the Spirit of Christianity, that it fills me with Horror when I think of it. For I find poor People must have neither Money nor Credit, if this Charitable Man might have his Will, unless on the hardest Terms he could invent. Indeed, the Gentleman will allow, They shall be Trusted Six Months (provided they will from that time be content to allow Ten per Cent. Interest; When he knows, that in the Method we are in, there will not be in (seven years at most) a Bill Abroad, to Pay either Principal or Interest; The Law hath wisely limited Interest to Six per Cent. but that will not content him; he would be thought wiser than the Law, and therefore is for Ten per Cent. Truly his Brain seems to be addled with these Notions, that he forgets the Scriptures, though (if I am not out of my guess) his Profession is to Study them; I would advise him to Consult the Divine Oracles, and see whether Usury is so much encouraged there; and until he hath proved by Scripture, that Six per Cent is too little, not to think himself wiser than THE LEGISLATOR.
Again he saith, That making the Bills a lawful Tender, would not have kept up their Value, and gives this Reason, because our Import is more than the Produce of the Country will Pay for. A very poor Argument truly! When did we Raise sufficient to Pay for our Import! Doth not our Import from one place, pay for what we Import from another place? Is not our whole Dependance on Trade ? Do we not Export one Commodity, and Bring in another; and then Export that, and Bring in another? And this keeps the wheel a-going, imploys our Ships, and Men abroad, and our Trades-men at Home also; Silver was Shipt off as much before we had Province Bills, as since in proportion to our Trade; and ever will, while the Merchant can find it a better Return than Goods; Is it not so all the World over? What Place is there, from whence they do not Ship off Money, when it suits their Occasions? Doth not England Ship off vast Sums to the East-Indies, and other Places? And doth not the scarcity or plenty of Silver there, govern the Price of it, as well as other things ? Doth not England drein all the Plantations of Money, though they have Sugar, Indigo, and other Commodities to make Returns with. I am perswaded, if the Bills now Abroad, were all Sunk this Day, and there was so much Silver in its place, if the Silver were effectually secured from being Exported, it would not be One Peny better than the Paper Bills; neither would it have the least influence on the price of any Merchandize whatsoever; for what would the Silver be better than the Paper, if it could not be Ship'd off, but remain among us. Nay, it is plain, that the Paper would be better than the Silver, because of the Five per Cent. allowed thereon in Publick Payments; so that it is plain, Silver is no longer Money with us but Merchandize; and therefore the Bills ought not to be esteemed of less value, because Silver Rises, it being no other than Merchandize ; and sought after by none but those who want to Ship it off, as they do other Returns And farther, If we had as much Goods Imported from England as formerly, (in proportion to what we are grown to) can the Gentleman imagine, they would sell for Two Hundred per Cent. No, It is a Maxim in Trade, The Want of a Thing makes the worth of it; and therefore I say, if we had as full a Supply as formerly, Goods would be at the old Prices, and Silver would have staid with us, notwithstanding we had Province Bills; Exchange would have been as usual, and Returns also; so that you see, it is the Plenty or Scarcity of Goods which governs every thing; and if so, surely it is our Interest to court and encourage Trade; for it is the Price of European Goods that governs the Exchange, and the Price of Silver, and all other Returns; and this is very plain, for though the Bills grow scarcer, yet Goods of all sorts keep up their Prices: Nay, the scarcity of Bills helps to advance the Prices of Goods; for there being not a Medium to pay with, the Seller, if he must take other things in Exchange for his Commodities, will make his Price accordingly; & then the Shops, when they come to answer the Merchants Notes are obliged to advance according to the Prices they give; and by this means the burden is laid on the poor Tradesmen, & there the Hardship CENTERS, AND THEY ARE THE PEOPLE OPPRESSED THEREBY.
As I have said before, Money was always Ship'd Home; and yet all that hath been Ship d off, would not have Run us into these Difficulties, but that the Scarcity of European Goods have kept up their Prices, and there hath not been sufficient Returns, to pay for what hath been Imported; and the Springs from whence we used to have our Money, have failed of late, viz. Jamaica, Curizo, &c. so that there seems to be a complication of Misfortunes attending us, which hath Involved us in these Distresses; and I can see no likelihood of our having a Silver Medium, but by having a Paper Medium; as I shall shew you before I have done. For 1. There is no hopes of having Silver from Jamaica, &c. because of late years they find it more advantageous to bring Cocoa, and other Commodities from the Coast of New Spain, where they Trade, than Money; and this I experienced, by a Vessel I had on that Coast, not long since. And 2. We must expect none from Old Spain, or Portugal, or the Streights, while our Fish Merchants can Remit their Money to England or Holland, and make Two Hundred per Cent. profit on their Goods from thence; or if they will bring Iron direct from Bilboa, may make Three Hundred per Cent. The Treasurer of this Province, lately gave One Hundred and Forty per Cent. for a Bill of Exchange, to pay our Agent; then surely there is little likelihood of Goods falling, if such an Exchange be given; for as you Settle the Exchange between England and us, the Price of European Goods, and of Silver, and all other Returns will rise and fall accordingly; wherefore most certainly the way to make this Place flourish, is to make Trade as easie and free as possible, by having a sufficient Medium to manage it, and by encouraging every body to come to us; let them bring as much Goods as they will, the more they bring, the Cheaper it will be; it is reasonable to believe, that if we had of late Imported as much European Goods as formerly, in proportion to our Growth, they would have been at the old Prices as in times of Peace; and then One Hundred Pounds would have gone almost as far in making Returns, as Two doth now; and the Silver would have staid with us also. And another Reason is, when European Goods were plenty, we Ship'd off great quantities to other Places, and brought other Returns for them; and this ENCOURAGED OUR NAVIGATION, AND WAS A GREAT ADVANTAGE EVERY WAY.
We are pretty much Circumstanced like Holland, we Raise but little; if it were not for our Trade, we might Starve; and it’s easie to see the advantage of our Trade, by our Neighbours; who though they Raise for themselves, and supply us also; yet I presume none will deny, but that this Province hath grown in Riches and Strength faster than any of ’em; and may do so still, if it be not our own faults; for as we decline, so they decline also; so that it seems to me, as if Providence had designed this Place for the Head of these Provinces, if we are not wanting to our selves. The State of Holland I observe, (who are allowed to see their Interest with respect to Trade as much as any Nation in the World) are for drawing every body to them; and their Duty’s on what ever is Imported, is but a trifle from the Importer, they lay the Duty’s on the Consumption; but let Trade go in a manner free; and the Reason is this, say they, we are sure of getting by every Ship that comes to us; whether they get by coming to us, is their business to consider, and not ours; and what I have said is true, with respect to this Country also; but more especially with respect to this Town, whose Flourishing, or Decay will have a very great influence on the Estates of the whole Country.
The Gentleman saith, What I say about burthening Trade, with heavy Duty’s, he will not call Evasion; neither will any man, who remembers when Rum was Three Pounds Six Shillings, Eight pence per Hogshead, Duty’s, Wine, Fifty Shillings per Pipe, &c. This was it which drove away our Trade to the Neighbouring Governments; for before these Duties were laid, Carolina, Virginia Pensilvania, Rhode-Island, Connecticut, Piscataqua, &c. as well as our own Seaports, had their chief Supply from us; but these heavy Duties put them on Trade, and they soon found they could supply themselves at better Rates than with us; and now are got to that heighth, that they oftentimes supply us with the Commodities they used to buy of us; but perhaps the Gentleman never heard this before.
Again, he seems more positive, then is consistent with Prudence; He saith, he is sure, that to Emit more Bills, according to any Publick or Private Scheme, which hath been yet Projected, will but increase and prolong our Misery. I confess it is easie to Fore-see what may be the Consequences of Emitting more Bills on the Publick Scheme; for we may expect the same Causes will be attended with the same Effects, but what may be the advantages, or disadvantages of a Private Bank. I am of opinion, no man can foresee, until we have tried the Experiment, and see the conveniences and inconveniences thereof; I am of Opinion, that a Private Bank would not have been attended with the inconveniencies the Publick hath been; and yet I don’t pretend, that Silver would immediately fall in price, if there were a Private Bank; neither would it rise ; for I see no reason to think that Silver will fall in Price, until Goods from England fall in their Prices; but it is easie for the Government to make the Bank Bills, as good as the Province Bills; and they would not be daily Sinking as the Publick Bills are, to the great discouragement of Trade, as well as Distressing men in their particular Affairs.
Again, The Gentleman is sure he saith, that to leave off Trusting, as far as it is practicable enough to do it, would in some time set all things to Rights; and in another place he saith again, he would have it left off as far as it might be left of well enough; I think I may well enough put his Sense against my Friends Logick he finds faults with; but I hope that Trusting will for the future grow more and more out of fashion with us ; for that long Credit hath hurt us, no body will deny; But to make Laws to prevent it, or to charge the Debtor Ten per Cent. Interest, if he slips his time, agreed on with his Creditor, is what I presume was never attempted in any place whatsoever: Were Money so plenty, that men received nothing but Money for their Labour; and were this Truck Trade at an end, and the Trader Sold all for Money, and bought all with Money; Then I should think it a more proper time to propose such Laws, then now, when more than three Quarters of the Payments are made by Barter and Exchange of one Commodity for another; and it will be many years before it can be expected to be otherwise.
Our Circumstances are such at this Day, that the Traders contrive how they can get others into their Debt, who they think will have Returns to Sell, that so they may secure to themselves the Refusal of the Commodities they Raise, or get out of the Sea, or Import from Foreign Parts, and think they serve themselves by paying before-hand ; because thereby they purchase that with Goods, which otherwise they must pay Money for; Nay, they have this double advantage; by this means they are sure in an ordinary way, to have the Commodities they shall want; and get off their Goods many times which would lie on hand, if they had not such ways to Dispose of them; but these Mysteries in Trade, the Gentleman is unacquainted with.
But I suppose we are to abound with Silver by and by; For the Gentleman tells us, there was Ten Thousand Pound in Silver brought in from one place the last year, and the like Sum Shipt off in one Ship which Foundered. I am sorry a man of his Character should be so weak to impose on the World in a matter wherein he may be so easily Detected; I have made Enquiry, and there was not One Thousand Pound aboard that Ship, there might be a little Gold also; but in all there was not much above One Thousand Pound, and the Ten Thousand Pounds he tells us was brought in, is at best a misrepresentation; for any one who Reads his Account of that matter, would think there was so much Money Imported hither from a Foreign Port; whereas it was Money brought to Rhode-Island; and I have reason to believe, it came great part of it from the Pyrates; and Gentlemen went up from hence, and bought up the Money, Hides, and other Goods for Returns.
Again, he tells us, There are Bills enough to Buy up all the Produce of the Country, and the Silver, &c. but I think I have proved the contrary; but were that true, Is there enough to Buy and Sell with in the Shops, is there enough to pay Labourers and Tradesmen, without forcing them to take Goods, which they know not what to do with, except to put them on their Backs; for which some people are very angry, and say they go beyond their degree; whereas the People would not Expend it in such ways, if it were at their own disposal; and the Merchants cannot pay them otherwise than by Shop Notes, because the Shops can’t Sell for Money; and consequently can’t pay Money to the Merchants; and thus is Trade miserably imbarras’d, and the Poor oppressed, for want of a Medium; I can’t but observe, that my Friend owns there is not enough to pay Labourers; and I must observe also, that he takes no care how they shall be paid.
I have heard some lay the Cause of the Distresses of the Town on the People; and say, Pride and Laziness will bring any People into such Circumstances; but I think whoever gives that Character of this Town, abuse them; they who say so of them, perhaps never did a days work in their Lives. This Town is as industrious a place as any, if they have Work to do; if they stand idle, it is because no man hath hired them; not that I will say, there are no Drones in the Hive. There are indolent Thoughtless People in all Places, but the Body of the People are willing to be doing, if they can find Employment. But it is well if for want of Business, the People do not get an habit of Idleness, and run into Vices, which when once accustomed to, it is hard breaking themselves of.
Next he tells us, he hath found two inconsistances; he saith, if the Import be so small, one would think the Produce of the Country will be sufficient for Returns; but I have told him already, that the Import being small, the Goods fetch near double what it used to do; and that we don’t Raise half the Returns we make, but Import it by our Trade; If we did not by our Trade to the Islands, North and South Carolina, Virginia, &c. Import Pitch, Tar, Hides, Tobacco, Rice, Skins, Sugar, Oyl, &c. What should we have to make Returns with? And if we had not occasion for these Returns, what would become of our Trade, on which the Welfare of the whole depend? His other Inconsistency is, That it is the Interest of every private man to Sell his Silver to the highest Bidder; then saith he it is the Interest of the Country in general, because all the private persons contained in it, will make up the whole Country; a wise Speech I protest, worthy of seven years study at the University; Well, I’ll venture to inform the Gentleman in this mysterious point; That which is the Interest of every men Collectively as a Body, is the Interest of the Country in general, because in that Relation they are the Country; but nothing is more certain, than that it may be the Interest of Private Men to Buy up Silver, and Ship it off; and that their doing so, may be hurtful to the Community. And now what is become of my Friends Inconsistencies ?
Again, he tells us, Our Silver and Gold is gone already, and our Lands will go next, (if Trusting be allowed) I presume he don’t mean, that the Factors wall Ship them off for England. So then, after all this mighty Tussel, he is come to me at last; for that I say, is what People are afraid of; That the Lands will fall into a few hands, and so we shall have a few Lords, and the Body of the People Beggars.
But now I have met with one Clause that I can heartily joyn with him in, and so will all the four Provinces. He saith, He is of the mind, that it is impossible, that either Town or Country should subsist without some Medium or other. And I’ll venture to be as positive as he; I am sure he is in the Right
As to the Opinion of the Whale-men, where the Gentleman hath lately been, I confess I am ignorant; but of this, I am well assured, that it is the opinion of by far the greatest part of the four Provinces, that unless there be more Bills, made on one foot or other, the Country will be ruined; and to make more on the old Scheme we see will never do; therefore I hope it will be done by private men, and I make no doubt we shall see the good Effects thereof: Our Answerer indeed tells us, a Private Bank will involve us into greater Mischiefs than the Publick hath done, but that his is only Opinion: And I must tell him, that men in Trade, whom I presume have as much reason to understand these things as himself, are of a quite different opinion.
(Well, but now my Friend sensible of his weakness, and tells us, he doubts he shall be playing the fool again; and I confess, I am very apt to believe him, for I have seen little else in his whole performance; by what he saith in his twelfth page; he seems to fear the Government being byassed by the Power of Money as well as the Bankers; but I have a better opinion of those Worthy Gentlemen, and would hope there is no danger of that; & that if ever a Bank be Erected, the Government will have a careful and jealous Eye over it, to prevent the Bankers doing any thing which may be hurtful to the Publick; and farther, I am of opinion, it always will be in their Power so to do.
Well now I find the Gentleman answers a whole Catalogue of Evils which were mentioned to him by this short Sentence (Leave off Trusting) this is his sovereign Remedy to cure all Maladies: Nay, he tells us, this will bring Silver amongst us again, but I protest I can’t believe him, because I observe, that since we have given less Credit then formerly, Money yet grows scarcer than ever; and what is worse still, Silver doth so as well as Bills; whereas he told us, that Silver would come in as the Bills left us, and stay amongst us.
But the Gentleman tells us, If People can’t Live in the Town, let them go into the Country; but certainly he spake before he thought, when he made that proposal; perhaps the Gentleman is in hopes of a good Benefice in the Country in time, (though he is no Salary Man at present he tells us) & it may suit him well enough to go there, & be maintained honourably, as I would have all of his Function be; But it is very hard for Tradesmen, who have Lived all their Days in the Town, and have got Families, to pluck up Stakes, And remove into the Country, to seek their Subsistence in a way they have never been accustomed to; and know nothing of; and again, there are abundance of People in the Town, who make a shift by their Labour, to maintain their Families comfortably; but lay up little afore-hand, such People have nothing to carry with them into the Country; so that they and their Families must be more miserable there, than in the Town: but I think he would have them turn Labourers (a very hard proposal I confess) and said, they want their Labour in the Country, if they would work at a moderate rate, and tells us, they don’t want Money to pay them; but I find the people in the Country generally differ very much from the Gentleman in this matter; and complain they can’t get Money to pay Taxes to the Government, and the Ministry; and say, if there be not some Medium found, their Stocks must go quickly for these Uses; and their Lands at last. I have heard that some say, it will never be good times, until Labourers come to work for a Groat for Six-pence a day; but I hope it will never be so in New-England; and that the Poor will always live like men, as hitherto, through the good Providence of God they have done, and not as bad or worse than our Indians; as it is in some parts of the World.
Again, My Friend tells us, There is no danger of People getting their Neighbours Lands at half value; but we have only his bare word for it; for I am sure, he hath not given us any reason to induce us to believe the contrary; though he answers that matter darkly, I’ll set it in so true a light, that he that runs may Read it; suppose Silver should come to Twenty or Thirty Shillings per Ounce, as it is at Carolina; for it may come to be so scarce, that it can’t be purchased at any rate ; for I say, the plenty or scarcity of it, governs the Price of that, as all other things; then I suppose our good friends will value Thirty Shillings in Bills, to be worth Six Shillings and Eight Pence; and Mens Estates will be taken from them at a price accordingly; and so an Estate which cost a Thousand Pounds, will go for Two Hundred, and this is the Contrivance to keep the Estates in many men's hands; but the Gentleman may preach it long enough, before he will bring any body to believe him.
Well, now the Gentleman comes to see his Error, and owns, that he hath expressed himself in too strong terms, about shortning Credit; and allows some Credit is necessary among Traders; and therein he saith no more than the whole World will justifie him in: But yet I see his great aversion to Foreign Commodities clings to him; and his whole plea is for a Ready Money Trade; these things seem wonderfully to affect him; Though the Medium is so Exhausted, that there is scarce one Eighth part of the Trade managed with Money; and what Money is abroad, is daily going into the Treasury, and all methods used which can be thought on, to prevent making more; (yet all his Proposal is to give no Credit, but rather all hands turn Usurers) How consistent this is with a Money Trade; I leave my Answerer to Determine.
Again he saith, That man hath a mind to think hard of the Government, who thinks that they will not (when things come to Extremities) admit Mortgages to be Redeemed, and Taxes to pay in the Produce of the Country, or in Silver. A fine Speech I confess, as if any man were so ignorant to think, that the Mortgagee would Refuse Silver, or that Silver would not answer for Taxes; May not I call this an amusement, or what will you call it?
Some among us have had the advantage of Selling their Silver, and advancing thereon, until they have Raised it to Twelve Shillings per Ounce; by this they have advanced their Estates one third part, & now they have no Silver to make an advantage by Selling, they are for turning the Scale; just now the Bills were too light for the Silver, and therefore they must have Twelve Shillings, for Eight Shillings worth of Silver: And now they would have every thing Regulated by what Silver was at, when it was plenty amongst us: And when the Bills are all in, you must procure ’em Silver at Eight Shillings per Ounce; nay, it may be at Six Shillings Eight Pence, to Redeem an Estate, because you don’t procure `em Province Bills, according to the Tenor of your Mortgage, when it will be impossible to procure Province Bills to do it; for admit there were enough Bills abroad to Redeem all the Mortgages to the Publick; what will become of the Mortgages made to Private Men, and of the Bonds abroad from man to man, on Personal Security; where is a Medium to Discharge them with? The only Method that the Gentleman hath contrived to Extricate us out of our Difficulties, is to turn Usurers; but after all he hath said thereon to shew the feazibleness of it, I believe all Trading Men will think (as he seems to be aware they would) that it is the most unhappy one he could have hit on; and had he consulted the Prophet Nehemiah, he would have known better, then to have made such a Proposal. But I think I have said enough concerning our Methods in Buying and Selling, to shew the impossibility of coming into his Proposals at present: Were Money as plenty as in Solomon’s Days, the Government I am perswaded, would never be brought into such a Law; much less in our present Circumstances. I am sorry the Gentleman hath meddled in an Affair, in which he is so ignorant; and made himself a Tool to a party, some of whom perhaps know as little of Trade as himself: There are some who would be glad of Silver to pass among us again, but will never venture any part of their own Estates to bring any to us. All their Cry is, when the Bills are sunk, we shall have Silver, but don’t consider the Difficulties which attend bringing it in; We have a little comes in now, because it fetches Twelve Shillings per Ounce; but were it at Eight Shillings per Ounce, you would not have a Peny, because Goods would be more advantageous to the Importer.
I would advise the Gentleman to stick to Divinity for the future, and have done with the Mysteries of Trade, I find they are too wonderful for him; and (as he seems to own) past his Comprehension. I like him much better in the Pulpit, there I’ll willingly receive his Instructions; but now he is out of his Sphere, and so he must Excuse me, if I differ from him in Opinion.
Proposals for a Medium of Exchange.
I Had Thoughts at the Meeting of the General Court to propose a Method for a Bank, which may answer the Occasions of the Land at present and be a means to bring Silver to pass among us again in time; for it is my fixt Opinion, it must be the work of time, and that it will be many years before we must expect a Medium of Silver currant with us; and the Method I would propose, is as followeth.
1. That a suitable Sum be agreed on, and that a Land Bank be Erected, for we have no other Foundation to build upon.
2. That no Inhabitant of the Province, who hath an Estate in Lands, be Excluded from being a Partner therein; because the more persons are concerned in it, the better will the Credit of the Bills be, which are issued therefrom; it being their joynt Interest to encourage and support it; and those who put in their Lands as Security, to be Intituled to the Profits, which is but reasonable, because their Lands are laid under an incumbrance to give the Bank a Being.
3. That no person have out in Bills more than two Thirds of the Value of his Lands, for which he shall pay Six per Cent. Interest in Bills.
4. That the whole profits, arising by the Interest, after the necessary Charge is defray’d, be laid out in Silver on the best terms it can be purchased, and remain in the Bank as a Fund, or colateral Security, until the profits amount unto the original Sum Emitted; this will add to the value of the Bills, and as the Profits grow by the Interest, so will the Bills grow in value; and by this Project I suppose, in about twenty years, the Profits will amount to the Sum first Emitted; and the Bank may (if it be tho’t best by them who then have the management of Affairs) In one day Call in all their Notes, and pay every one Silver for his Note, at Eight Shillings per Ounce, and thee will be the same Sum abroad in Silver, which was abroad in Paper before
5. I would propose, that any person concerned in the Bank be paid in Bank Notes, or have Credit in the Books of the Bank be at his Election : This will be a great ease in Trade, as well as safe for those Concerned.
For First, It will be an easein Trade, for any man, who hath Credit in the Bank, may draw a Note on the Bank, and his Creditor, will go and receive his Bills, or have so much Transfer’d to his Account, by virtue of his Note, or he may Endorse his Note to a third person, and he to another, and so from man to man; by which much time may be saved. And Secondly, by this method he who hath Credit in the Bank runs no Risk of his Bills, either of Fire, Thieves, or any other Casualty; and though this being a new thing here, People at first perhaps may rather chuse to receive & pay their Bills away themselves; yet in a little time the ease and conveniency of it would be so obvious to every man, that there would not be abundance of Notes, or Bills abroad: and this would be a great means to prevent Counterfeits; and I am of opinion, a short note on stampt paper, part printed, & part written, would be safer than Ingraven Plates; how easie it is to Counterfeit those Plates, experience hath shewn us; & certainly the Notes should be fill’d & Sign’d by good Pen-men; for it is easier to Counterfeit bad Writing than good. As to the method of managing such a Bank, it is time enough to propose that, when the Government are Consenting to it.
These things I have thought on, as a likely method to keep us alive, until Silver become again currant among us, which I fear will not be very suddenly; for I can see no way to bring in any quantity of Silver; for while European Goods continue so very high, we can’t expect it from Old Spain; and the Islands who used to fetch it from New-Spain, find it their Interest to Trade with them for other Commodities rather than Silver; so we can’t expect much from them. What little comes in, goes away as fast as it comes for Returns to England; how vain then is is for us to pretend to have Silver to pass among us; and all men agree in this, that there is no living without some Medium: Then surely what can be the design of those who oppose every thing of this nature, and propose nothing to Relieve us: We are a dependant Government, and have our bounds set us; our Charter carries with it a ne plus Ultra: We are to do nothing which may seem to bear hard on the Trade of Great Britain, else I would propose that some way be contrived to prevent the Exportation of what Silver comes in; tho it be but little it, would help us something; but there is no way, but by making severe Laws, & to see them carefully Executed; and whether it would be allowed us by the Crown so to do, is what we have reason to suspect However, I‛ll venture to mention them, and so leave ’em with them, whose Province it is to consider what is most proper to be done at such a time as this is. (1.) That a Law be made, that neither Buyer nor Seller, shall give or receive for Silver, more than Eight Shillings per Ounce, on penalty of forfeiture of the Money, and Six Months Imprisonment; the Money so forfeited, to go to the Informer. And (2.) That every Master, Sailor, or Freighter, before any Vessel Sails, be obliged to Swear, that they neither have, nor will put an Ounce Aboard their Vessel they Sail in, or Freight on: This I confess would be attended with difficulty; but could it be effected, it would keep your Silver, and raise the Value of your Bills also: for what would the Silver be better than the Bills, if it could not be Ship’d off. It’s plain, that the day you prevent your silver being bought and Sold as Merchandize, that day will your Paper Bills be equal, if not superiour to Silver, according to Act of Parliament: so that Silver being as I said before, only Merchandize, the value of your Bills ought not to be regulated thereby, any more than by the Price of Oyl, or any other Returns, did Silver pass Currant in payment amongst us, at Eight Shillings per Ounce as formerly, and the Bills would pass in Trade but for Fourteen Shillings in the Pound, then I would own the Bills were Fifty per Cent. worse than the Silver, and not until then.
But it is a vanity I confess to think that a private Bank would answer, without the Government support & encourage it by suitable Laws, as they have done the Province Bills: and why they should refuse so to do, I must leave What is the Interest of Private Men, surely is the Interest of the whole, in a matter of this nature, it being of a publick nature, tho’ in the hands of particular persons: if such a Bank were allowed to go on, the Government might so steer it by their Laws, that it would never be in the power of the Bankers to do any thing prejudicial to the Publick Good.
Most certainly the Country would be greatly inrich’d by it: That I think I can make very plain, & the Riches of a place very much strengthens it, suppose these were Two Hundred Thousand Pounds Emitted on Land Security, which with what Publick Bills are now out, might I am of opinion, sufficient to manage the Trade at present: The Interest thereof would be Twelve Thousand Pounds per Annum, allow One Thousand Pounds per Annum to Officers, and for other Charges in managing it: There remains Eleven Thousand Pounds per Annum. This is so much gained, and no man hurt by it: for if a man Mortgage his Estate: Surely none will say, he is the poorer for so doing, since he Receives so much thereon, either to pay his Debts, or to improve in Trade, and those who want it: for neither of the before mentioned Uses, will yet be fond of being concerned in the Bank because they can let their Bills out to Interest on personal Security, and be Intituled to their Profits in the Bank at same time: so that the Country will be £200000 Richer, if this Projection were set on foot, as soon as the Subscriptions are full.
But some will say, what signifies the Profits in the Bank, when it is proposed, they should remain there, & not be divided: I answer, it will answer the end of the Person concerned, as well as if divided; for in a few years, when the Profits are come to be worth dividing: Any man who is minded to part with his Profits, whose occasions oblige him to do may Sell it to his Neighbour, as Bank Stock is Sold in London, every day; and no doubt in a few years the Stock here would be so transferr’d from man to man daily as it is there, and I can see no harm in improving a man’s Money this way, any more than in any other way: it behoves every man in Buying and Selling, to have a care of Sharpers: for they may be Cheated other ways, as well as by Stock Jobbing.
But the grand Argument with some men against a Paper Medium is this: They say, Paper hath no intrinsick value in it, and ridicule it, saying, what value is there in a piece of Paper? But I think that a very weak argument, and indeed unfair, to compare Bank Bills, or Province Bills to blank Paper: What intrinsick value is there in Silver, or Gold, more than in Iron, Brass, or Tinn, but only the common acceptation of it by men in Trade, as a Medium of Exchange. Is not every thing in this World, just as men esteem and value it: If a man give me his Bond, it is as good in my Opinion, as Silver; and the only reason why it is so, is, because it will pay my Debt, or command wherewith to Pay it: Surely then if a Bank Note will answer for that end, and will purchase for me Food, Physick, and Cloathing, and all necessaries of Life, it answers all the ends, which Silver & Gold can answer for: & then why is there not as much intrinsick value in one, as in the other We find by daily experience, that our Bills will answer all he aforesaid ends: and therefore I say it is, and ought to be esteemed as good as Silver: Nay, it is better to us than Silver, because it can’t be Ship’t off, but will remain with us: Another Objection against a Private Bank is, that the Bankers will Emit so much of this Paper Medium, that we shall be filled with it, and the plenty of it will make it of no value. This Objection I think is already obviated, for if it be under the inspection of the Government, as I have already proposed: They will appoint Visiters, to whom the Books must always lie open, so that it will not be in the Power of the Bankers to Emit any thing more than what the Government approve of. No doubt but they will (as the Province Bills sink) find it necessary to allow the Bank from time to time, to make as many Bank Bills as they sink of the Province Bills.
I have been in the Bank of England, & have observed the great Conveniencies thereof, & am perswaded in the time that Bank hath stood: Such a Bank as I have proposed would answer our Occasions, as well as the Bank of England or the Bank of Holland answers with them: The only Argument which is brought against it, is, That they have Money; and any man may have Money for his Note on demand: There indeed we differ, they abound with Money, but we have none at all; Had we a plenty of Silver as formerly, we should have no need of a Bank; but I am perswaded we shall never have Silver pass among us again as Money, until Trade take such a Turn, that European Goods falls so in prices, that it will not answer to send away Silver, or that we by going on Manufactures, live more independent of them, for that being our main Trade: The plenty or scarcity of their Commodities, will govern Exchange, and consequently the price of Silver. So that I say, there is no likelihood of having a Medium of Silver, without having a Medium of Paper sufficient to manage our Trade, with more life then of late it hath been managed: The question then will be, Whether it can’t be done by the Publick : That I know would be most pleasing to many Gentlemen, and I could heartily fall in with them, if I did not think the inconveniencies & mischiefs attending it, will be greater by far in our Circumstances, than in the hands of private Men, & under the inspection of the Government, Were we not a Dependent People, I should have quite different tho’ts. Doubtless the Parliament of England might so Establish a Publick Bank there, as to make it equal, if not superiour to any private Bank; but then it must be observed, that they are the grand Court of the Empire, and accountable to no body: whereas we can do nothing, or at best all that we do is nothing, without the Sanction of the Crown.
Thus I have adventured to give my thoughts as to the Causes of our present dark Circumstances, which I have done, with a sincere aim at the Publick Good; I Acknowledge my unfitness for such an undertaking; and wish that some of the Bright Gentlemen of our Land (of which it is not Barren) had saved me the labour; & that some of them would yet bestow a few Hours in thinking what may be for the Releife of the Place, and indeed this I think to be the duty of every Man, and would hope that out of the Projections of many, something may be found that may be of service what I have now written I expect will be Received according to the different Sentiments & Interests of men; I am sorry for the growing divisions amongst us, and believe our growing difficulties are in a great measure the cause, and wish that a Remedy may be found to heal them, I conclude with this wish, That the Blessing of Heaven may attend the General Court in their present Sessions; in all the arduous affairs which may come before them, and that they may be the happy Instruments in the Hand of the Almighty to Repair our Breaches, that the Blessing of them that are ready to perish may come upon them.
Boston 20th July 1720.
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