THE CURRENCY, 1702-1730: DEPRECIATION AND
The revival of the bank controversy which again attracted public attention in the third decade of the century seems to have been due to the conditions under which the province bills were put forth after 1730. For a better appreciation of what the changes were which then took place, and for a clear understanding of the causes which led to them, a review of the history of the currency issues is essential. The depreciation had by this time called forth a volume of remedial legislation and propositions for laws, so great that their consideration at this point is also forced upon us. In a general way, a statement might be made in a few words which would comprehend the events during the period and fix the responsibility for the results with reasonable judgment. The task of analyzing the details of these events is full of difficulty and the prospect of reward through the discovery of new material which shall throw light upon the subject is slight indeed. Nevertheless it would be an evasion of an obvious duty in the treatment of the subject to accept, without further effort, the conclusions of such writers as Hutchinson and Douglass, and it may, perhaps, be a satisfaction if we shall discover at every turn precisely the results that might have been predicted from surrounding conditions.
Up to 1702, the annual issues and re-issues of the colony currency were accompanied by a statement in the several acts authorizing them, that "the present tax," that is, the tax of that year, was a fund for the retirement of the bills. In 1702, the practice was begun of postponing the time for levying the tax through which the bills should be called in. At first it was for one year. In 1704, the retirement of a part of the issues was carried forward to two years. In 1707, the time was lengthened to three years. In 1709, a part of the issues were not to be provided for until five years had elapsed. In 1711, the limit reached six years, and in 1714, another year was added. In this manner the dates for levying the taxes which were to retire the bills were from time to time postponed until 1722, when £6000 were issued not to be called in for thirteen years. Then an effort was made to cure this evil, and for a brief time short periods were assigned for retirements. These, however, were again lengthened, until, in 1730, £13,000 were issued which were not to be called in until 1741. In addition to this, the representatives in 1715, refused to make provision for calling in all the bills which by the terms of the funds established when they were issued, then matured, and after a prolonged struggle carried their point and postponed the retirement of a part of the issue seven years longer.
The effect of the redundancy of the currency; of the postponement of the dates at which provision was to be made for calling it in; and of the failure to abide by the terms of the acts of issues, is shown by the course of sterling exchange and by the movement of the price of silver. It is important, however, to bear in mind that quotations are invariably given in terms of "lawful money."
The rates of silver covering this period are to be found in the draft of an "act for the regulating, ascertaining and fixing the value of the bills of publick credit and for rendering the payment of debts more equitable and thereby to prevent any oppression or injury to debtors or creditors."(1) This act was introduced and read twice in the council, but failed to pass. It is however equally available for our purpose.
During the period of the decline of the notes the influence of the governors and of the council, especially after the decline became sufficiently pronounced for them to recognize the causes, was as a rule on the side of conservatism. They had no remedy to propose, but the governors in their speeches repeatedly pointed out the evils which would arise from failure on the part of the assembly to call in the notes at the appointed time, and the council many times refused to concur in bills which postponed these retirements. The effect upon those who were depending upon fixed incomes payable in current funds very soon manifested itself, and in a similar way the post office department was affected. Its charges were fixed and no compensation was possible for the loss occasioned by the decline of the currency. In 1713, the department complained to the Board of Trade that it could not get its dues for this reason.(2)
The governors not infrequently pointed out that the allowances made them for their services ought to be increased proportionately to the diminution in the purchasing power of the bills, and the members of the board and of the house took care that their own per diem pay was suitably adjusted. "I own some part of this community can fence against this evil," said Governor Shute in 1716, "and ward it off from themselves by advancing their commodities, but the other part must unavoidably suffer. All rents must fall of consequence, and what will your ministers do, who are highly worthy of their salaries, how heavily it will fall upon them and their families, when what they are paid in grows low in value and their necessaries in life are daily advancing."
Hutchinson writing concerning affairs in 1720, says: "The depreciation was grievous to all creditors, but particularly distressing to the clergy and other salary men, to widows and orphans whose estates consisted of money at interest, perhaps just enough to support them, and being reduced to one half the former value, they found themselves on a sudden in a state of poverty and want. Executors and administrators, and all who were possessed of the effects of others in trust, had a strong temptation to retain them. The influence a bad currency has upon the morals of the people is greater than is generally imagined."(3)
The clergymen of the province felt keenly the effects of the depreciation and an occasional reference in a published sermon shows that they introduced the subject in the pulpit. The following quotation will illustrate their method of treatment.(4)
"Is not the depreciating the bills of publick credit matter of provocation?
Answer. It must needs be, for great wrong is done to many persons who have received them according to their denominations; and have been forced to put them off as if they were of less value. Some men are able to help themselves, by getting greater wages for their work, and advancing the price of what they bring to the market; but others have been great sufferers by this practice: and if ever the bills are called in; such as are in debt, either to the publick, or to particular persons, will be great loosers. It may be some of them will be undone thereby. The temptation to the merchants was to get the money into their own hands, that thereby they might make returns to England. They would give thirty shillings in bills for twenty in silver."(5)
In a discourse preached on fast day, January 1747-48, the Rev. Nathaniel Appleton referred to the effect of the depreciation of the currency upon incomes and salaries. He pointed out how it affected officers and soldiers, widows, fatherless children, school masters, priests, the Lord's ministers and many others who live upon stated salaries. What he said about widows has been often quoted but will bear repeating : "Is there not the cry of many widows, who have taken up with a certain sum, or income, in paper bills, instead of their dower; that the value thereof is sunk in such a manner, and will purchase so much less of the necessities of life than at first, that they are brought into great difficulties for a living; and can get no redress." This sermon was published(6) and in a note the author pursued the subject as follows:
"I am credibly informed of an ancient widow, whose husband died more than forty years ago, who had three pounds a year settled upon her, instead of dower; which three pounds would at that day, and at the place where she lives, procure toward her support, the following articles; viz : Two cords of wood, four bushels of Indian corn, one bushel of rye, one bushel of malt, fifty pound of pork and sixty pound of beef; which would go a considerable way towards the support of a single woman. Now she can at most demand but seventeen shillings and three pence, new tenor ; which is but about an eight part of her original three pounds; and be sure won't purchase more than half a quarter of the above necessaries of life ; and this she must take up with, because there is no remedy in the land for her. And this is, in measure, the deplorable case of many widows in the land."
On the 14th of January, 1725-26, Warham Mather enclosed in a letter to Judge Sewall an argument against the emission of more paper money.(7) The author of this document classifies the sufferers from the inflated currency under seven headings: 1, ecclesiastical men; 2, orphans; 3, demandants on bills and bonds; 4, merchants having book debts; 5, lessors on long leases; 6, public officers; 7, the whole country.
During this period a practice was established of paying laborers in orders upon shops. This was nominally based upon the stringency of the currency and while it was in its infancy did not attract much attention. At a later date these orders, although the volume of them never could have been large enough to have seriously affected the currency, were still sufficiently in evidence to be christened "shop notes," under which title they are frequently alluded to. The writer of a pamphlet in 1720 refers to "men who turn poor laborers and tradesmen off with one half or two thirds goods," showing that the process was then sufficiently pronounced to attract attention.(8)
The town of Boston in a petition to the governor(9) December 29, 1735, complains that the abundance of European goods imported "exposed the inhabitants to appear in extravagant garbs, who would gladly avoid the same were they to receive money in lieu of their labor, manufactures and trade." The petition goes on to state that "they can not be paid but by notes on shops, which can not be avoided though allowed to be very pernicious."
Douglass, writing in 1739 concerning wages, says that they are reduced by obliging the laborer "to take one half in shop goods at 25 per cent. or more advance above the money price."(10) Another writer refers in 1740, to a pernicious practice and cheating method of substituting drafts on shops in the place of a medium to pay artificers and poor laborers.(11) The caulkers in 1741 alleged that they had for "many years labored amid great inconvenience and had suffered much damage, wrong and injury, in receiving pay for their work by notes on shops for money or goods."(12)
One incident that occurred in the summer of 1711, is of interest in connection with the phase of the subject which we are now discussing, not only because we can obtain through its examination the details concerning a temporary loan of public bills effected at that time, but also because it furnishes us with one of the official statements of the rate of exchange, which we are enabled to pick up from time to time General Hill and Admiral Walker were about to undertake a joint expedition against Quebec. The combined forces of the army and navy were compelled to lay in supplies in Boston. The amount required was so great that all New England could not furnish it and prices rose in response to the demand. The first effort of the government was to check this by legislation and an order was passed "that no provisions, liquors or other things necessarily demanded for the service be any ways enhanced in the price thereof by reason of that occasion, but be had and taken at the ordinary market prices they stood at, at the time of the arrival of his Majesty's ships, the eighth current, with certain intelligence of the said designed expedition." It was proposed to pay for what supplies could be procured with bills of exchange on the Victualling Board, but the pay masters were unable to come to terms with the merchants of Boston. The governor and council were consulted and Sewall in his diary gives a quaint account of the meeting at which this consultation took place, entering into details as to the position at the table of the governor, the general, the admiral, the paymaster and the secretary, which bring the scene vividly before the reader. At this meeting the "Admiral had sharp discourse about the merchants offering but twenty per cent, for exchange," and "threatened to be gone somewhere else with the forces." On the representation of the paymaster general the council voted to loan two thousand pounds, but Sewall was not content with this action. He thought the motion should come from the general, which was conceded, and on the motion of the secretary the transaction was reduced to writing. This account of the meeting winds up with a statement that the "vote called for was in the presence of the above mentioned gentlemen," from which it may be inferred that the council were perhaps influenced by their presence which may have operated as a pressure to produce favorable action.(13)
It is difficult to conceive how the council could have loaned the two thousand pounds referred to by Sewall. Perhaps the vote was merely initiative and subject to confirmation by the representatives. At any rate this amount was certainly inadequate for the needs of the expedition and it appears from documents in the archives that the government was practically unable to do anything until the General Assembly should be in session. When the Court met the matter was arranged by a loan of bills of credit for two years to a number of Boston merchants who furnished the supplies, taking their pay in sterling bills of exchange, the rate of which was fixed at an advance of 40 per cent. The loan effected upon this occasion was in two instalments. The names of the subscribers to the first instalment of £40,000 are enrolled upon the court records and on the twentieth of July the members of the committee who obtained the subscriptions were publicly thanked. On the twenty-first a resolution was passed authorizing a loan of £10,000 more, on the same terms, and it is in this second instalment that the rate of exchange is fixed at an advance of 40 per cent.(14)
This transaction not only furnishes us with a rate of exchange, but gives us the details of a subscription loan. The recording the names of the subscribers on the court records indicates that patriotic motives influenced them. The £50,000 loaned at this time should have been returned to the treasury in 1713. The ability of the merchants who had borrowed the bills, to meet the obligation thereby incurred, rested upon the manner in which the exchange drawn by them upon the home government should be met. Payment of the exchange thus drawn was not fully made for several years and the issue of 1711 was in consequence kept out for some time beyond the period when by their terms the loans matured.
Notwithstanding the fact that this unusual quantity of bills was in circulation in 1714, there was an apparent stringency of the circulating medium which led to a controversy as to the best way of relieving it. Certain persons wished to organize a bank of issue which should lend its notes at interest upon real security, others wished the province to perform this function and receive the benefit of the interest on the loans. The details of this controversy between what were then termed the private and the public bank are voluminous and would require for their narration more space than can be given here.(15) It is enough for our purpose to say, that the policy prevailed of effecting relief for the supposed want of a circulating medium through the issue of £50,000 in public bills which were loaned to the inhabitants of the province on real security. It was stated in the preamble to the act through which this was accomplished, that the public bills of credit had long and happily supported the government in the long and expensive wars with the French and Indians; that they had served as a medium of commerce in the business of of the province and had greatly facilitated the payment for goods imported from Great Britain and other places, but they had now grown scarce and few of them were passing in proportion to the demand for the same, whereby payments of all sorts were hindered and business obstructed. It was to afford relief for these difficulties as well as to prevent the inconveniences that might arise through any private projections for providing some other medium of exchange, that the issue was to be made.
The superintendence of the lending of these bills was lodged in the hands of trustees who were to attempt a geographical distribution of the loans proportioned to the amounts contributed by the several towns to the public tax.
Some idea may be gained with regard to the effects produced by the steady depreciation of the bills through an examination of the remedial legislation proposed or actually passed during this period. As early as 1697, it was noticed that the precious metals were leaving the country and an act was passed to prevent the exportation of money or bullion. Another feature was the exodus of the copper money, to remedy which individuals intervened and stamped and emitted pieces of brass and tin at the rate of one penny each. This was forbidden by the General Court.(16) By 1706, the decline had become sufficiently pronounced to call for the appointment of a committee by the council to consider ways and means for supporting the credit of the public bills and methods for the payment of soldiers and others without the further use of certificates. The labors of this committee came to naught, the house not being willing to accept its conclusions, but the radical difference between the views of the two bodies on one of the recommendations is worth noting as a sign of the times. One of the troubles recognized by the council was the circulation of the debentures or certificates issued to soldiers and seamen, and this they wished to stop. The house not only refused to join them in this, but passed an order that a bill be brought in to make them pass as formerly. In 1718 an act for prohibiting the exportation of money and bullion was carried through to the point of engrossment, and in 1720, a bill was introduced for "prohibiting the selling and buying money at greater rates than they were set at and ascertained by an act of parliament." No conclusion was then reached but the bill was again brought up in 1721 when it failed of passage.
The dependence of the community, upon the bills of credit as a medium for the settlement of debts had become so great by 1712 that it became necessary to clothe them with a quasi legal tender function. It was then enacted that a tender of payment in bills of credit should prevent the issue of an execution. It was evidently thought when the act was passed through which this was accomplished, that the situation was one for which there would be relief in the near future, for this law was only temporary in its operation. When by its terms it expired, it was succeeded by another temporary enactment of the same nature, and this by another, and so by successive acts this quality was maintained until October, 1741. The cause for this act is directly attributed by one writer to the £50,000 loan of 1711. The effects of so large an issue were, he says, "that silver began to be hoarded by some, and exported by others in large quantities, and the bills became the only measure and instrument by which all private trade and dealings were regulated and managed."(17)
In 1720, the evil of the redundant circulation was recognized as one for which no one government was exclusively responsible and for which no remedy would be available which was not participated in by all the governments of the New England colonies. A committee was appointed which was composed of individuals from each of the New England governments, to whom the subject was referred for recommendations. They reported that there ought not to be any more loans; that no more bills ought to be issued each year than were sufficient to meet the charges of the governments and that these should be invariably called in according to the terms of the acts under which they were issued. These recommendations, as far as they went, were beneficial in their nature and if they had been squarely adopted would have greatly ameliorated the situation.
The decline of the currency was, of course, in favor of the debtor class. In the first thirty years of the century the discount had reached about forty per cent. Traders were accustomed at that time to give long credits, and a variety of questions must have arisen between creditors and debtors as to the rate at which payments were to be applied when the latter were sluggish in meeting their obligations. Notwithstanding the attempt in 1712 to confer upon the bills the qualified legal tender function, it is obvious that the tradesmen resisted payments of old accounts in currency which was of less value when the payment was made than when the debt was contracted. In 1716, a proposition was made to the house which was doubtless intended to have some influence upon this question. A clause was attached to a report on one of the proposed bills for emitting currency, to the effect that a bill be drawn that all debts contracted after the publication of this act, should carry interest after one year from the time that they were contracted. The attempts of the tradesmen to protect themselves against loss on their long standing accounts through the continuous course of depreciation on the part of the bills raised a protest in 1718, against what was termed double payment and an attempt was then made on the part of the General Court to reduce the probability of controversies on this point by the passage of an "act for the regulation and limiting credit in trade and for preventing double payment of debts." For the space of five years from the passage of this act, the statute of limitations in so far as it applied to ordinary debts and book accounts was curtailed to two years. We may infer that this remedy was not favored by either debtors or creditors. The man who required credit was not likely to approve of any legislation the tendency of which was to restrain his capacity to run in debt. The tradesman who had been in the habit of carrying a load of open accounts with men who were slow in making payments must have found the curtailment of the life of debts and book accounts a serious interference with his business. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that at the expiration of the limit of the act, in 1723, the Boston merchants petitioned the court not to renew it. A new act was then passed which gave creditors three years more in which to collect their debts. When this act expired, matters reverted to the former custom under the statute of limitations. An attempt was made in 1727 to remedy the evil in another way. An act was then introduced "for the regulating, ascertaining and fixing the value of the bills of publick credit and for rendering the payment of debts more equitable and thereby to prevent any oppression or injury to debtors." Although this did not become a law, the measures therein proposed indicate that the community was still urgent for relief, through legislation, from the evils which the act of 1718 had failed to cure. In the preamble of the proposed law, it was stated that the bills of public credit were the only medium of exchange; that they ought to be of certain and unalterable value but experience had shown that since 1710 they had varied in value from time to time and that in a like manner similar changes might be expected in the future. In consequence of this, creditors had been and might be "prejudiced in their just dues", and debtors might be oppressed. As a remedy for these evils it was proposed to determine the rates at which silver had been valued, from year to year, beginning with the year 1710 and ending with Debts were to be made payable in bills of public credit and were to be estimated by means of the values fixed in this table, the date of the estimate being taken at the time of the maturity of the debt.(18)
While following to this point the various attempts at legislation for the adjustment of the differences between debtors and creditors which arose from the decline of the currency, we have necessarily passed the dates at which certain events should have been narrated, if it had been deemed important that they should be dealt with in exact chronological sequence. One of these, mention of which has already been made, was the introduction in the house, March 16, 1721, of a bill "for prohibiting the selling and buying of silver money at greater rates than they were set at and ascertained by an act of parliament." The parliamentary statute here referred to was the one which was passed for enforcing the proclamation by Queen Anne fixing the rates at which foreign coins should pass in the plantations. On the 15th of March, the governor had called the attention of the General Court to the depreciation of the bills of public credit and had urged some remedial action. The house replied to this part of the governor's speech on the 21st. They agreed with him that further emissions would depreciate the bills and they had, therefore, passed a bill prohibiting the buying, selling, bartering or exchanging silver at higher rates than those set in the act of parliament. "In our humble opinion," they added, "had such an act been made by the government at the first issuing out of the paper bills, they had to this day been in equal value and credit to silver." The bills were at a discount of over fifty per cent. when this statement was made and the futility of legislation of this character was so apparent to the council that when the bill came before them the next day, they unanimously non-concurred in its passage.
June 17, 1724, a joint committee was appointed to consider of some proper method for retrieving the value of the bills of credit. The report of this committee, which was submitted November 17, is entitled to special consideration. They recognized the true cause of their troubles and were willing to adopt measures which would certainly have helped the situation. The lessening of the number of the bills was, they said, the best way to increase their value. One way to accomplish this was to offer borrowers under the £100,000 emission ten per cent. premium for all payments that they would make on the portions of this loan then outstanding. This £100,000 had been distributed in 1716, to the counties to be loaned to citizens on mortgage security for the term of ten years. Some of the loans then made became permanent investments and as early as 1720, the probability that this was so was discovered. November 28 of that year, a resolution was introduced, in the preamble of which the following assertion is made "divers persons have mortgaged their estates and taken bills tinder the £100,000 loan and have neglected to pay interest and allowed their mortgages to be sued out and some have offered to resign their titles showing that the lands mortgaged were not worth double the value of the loans." Such was the state of affairs which the committee wished to remedy by offering this premium, the operation of which would not only have tended to wipe out some of these doubtful debts but would simultaneously have reduced the volume of the currency. They also insisted that the General Court should raise by taxation each year an amount equal at least to the charge of the preceding year. As a means of preventing the increase of the currency, they recommended that instead of issuing twenty thousand pounds in bills of credit, the like amount should be borrowed from those in circulation for which they proposed that the province should pay eight per cent. per annum. Notwithstanding the apparent absurdity of the province borrowing its own promises to pay, it is evident that heroic measures of this sort would have produced a beneficial effect. This very step had, indeed, been taken in 1692 and was thought by some to have had influence in maintaining the bills of that time at par. The committee concluded their report with a recommendation in which they seem to have lost their balance. It was to this effect "That some speedy care be taken to prevent the English half pence passing at two pence a piece as they now frequently do." This report was not adopted, but the last clause brings before us the "great inconvenience" alluded to by the council in June, 1722, which arose, they said, from the want of small money for change, the copper half pence having been sent out of the province. Ill-minded persons, they added, had presumed to split and tear the new small bills of the province to the great dishonor of the government.
The amounts of the annual issues were largely influenced by the military situation. Immediately after the peace of Ryswick and for a time after the peace of Utrecht, there was no cause for apprehension of French attacks on Boston and no opportunity to organize expeditions against Port Royal or Quebec. Quiet, however, did not always prevail in the colonies when the relations of Great Britain with France and Spain were of a peaceful character. The eastern Indians were restless and were easily incited to outrage. The necessity of occasional aggressive movements against them and the constant need of watchfulness involved the annual expenditure of large sums in excess of the ordinary needs of the government upon a peace footing. In the year 1723, twenty-three thousand pounds were issued; in 1724, fifty-five thousand pounds; in 1725, seventy thousand pounds; in 1726, twenty-five thousand pounds; in 1727, sixteen thousand pounds, and in 1728, in addition to the sixty thousand pounds which were then loaned to towns, forty-eight thousand pounds were issued to cover the various expenses to which the government had been put.
The extraordinary expenses which swelled the annual expenditures at this time were variously defined in the resolves as muster rolls of the eastern forces, expresses dispatched for the government, the charge of Castle William and other forts and garrisons, the expenses of transports, and the muster rolls of soldiers and sailors. The war with the French of which the expedition of Sir William Phips against Quebec was an incident, was terminated by the peace of Ryswick in 1697, which was followed by the submission of the eastern Indians in 1699. Hostilities were resumed with the eastern Indians in 1703. There were expeditions against Port Royal in 1708 and in 1710 and against Quebec in 1711. From 1719 to 1726 there was constant necessity for vigilance or active measures against the eastern Indians.
Beside the temporary loan of fifty thousand pounds incurred at the time of the Quebec expedition in 1711, loans amounting to two hundred and sixty thousand pounds(19) had been made, the most recent of which was the loan of sixty thousand pounds to towns in 1728. None of these loans was promptly settled. Some of them were made upon inadequate security and were never collected. It was feared, even before it was due, that the £100,000 loaned in 1716, would not be called in at maturity, and Shute called the attention of the Lords of Trade to the apprehensions that he had that proper steps would not be taken in May, 1727, for calling in the loans. An order was thereupon issued to Lieutenant-Governor Dummer to the effect that their Lordships expected that he would take care that these bills were called in and destroyed in May, 1727. Yet Douglass says that in 1739 some of these loans had not been sued out.
It will be noticed that in the table which has been quoted from the abortive act of 1727, in which the rate of silver is given for a series of years, the person who drafted the proposed act dates the beginning of the decline of silver so far as it seriously affected the adjustments between debtors and creditors in 1710. The selection of this year may have been influenced by the great increase of the currency in 1711, caused by the loan in aid of the Quebec expedition.(20) Other causes may also have contributed. About that time the General Court failed to make provision for some of the recent issues in accordance with the promises made at the time of the emissions. The confidence in the bills based upon the belief that they would be called in according to the language of the resolves under which they were issued received a blow, which, undoubtedly, affected the circulating value of the currency.
In 1720, the practice began of inserting in the resolves in which new issues were authorized a clause permitting tax-payers to settle the taxes which were to be laid at future dates for calling in the bills, in various kinds of produce. Many resolves were passed which did not contain this clause, but for several years, the majority of them contained a list of twenty-three articles which could be used in payment of taxes. It by no means followed that when the corresponding taxes were levied this clause would be incorporated in the tax act, but in October, 1727, this was done. This practice was temporarily discontinued, but afterwards revived, although the articles of produce receivable in payment of taxes were then limited to hemp and flax. Subsequently other articles were also included in the list to which this privilege was attached. The alleged object of these proceedings was because "through the scarcity of bills of credit it may be more easy for some persons to pay their taxes in produce of the province than in bills of credit."
Notwithstanding the obvious truth that a portion of the community were during the period of the decline of the public bills brought face to face with the fact that the purchasing power of their incomes was steadily diminishing, there are indications that there was in Boston at that time greater extravagance in the ways of life of many people and more display in the houses then constructed, than had theretofore been the custom. Note was taken of these facts by the controversialists of the period and arguments were deduced therefrom whose character differed according to the position assumed in the discussion. June 26, 1719, a bill was introduced in the council and carried through to engrossment, for the purpose of preventing and discouraging the growing extravagance of the province. In 1721, an act was passed to retrench the extraordinary expense at funerals. At a time when the circumstances of the province so loudly called for all sorts of frugality, it was stated that the charge or expense of funerals had become so extravagant, especially in the giving of scarves, that it worked a great detriment to the province and tended to impoverish many families. For three years to give away a scarf at a funeral was made the subject of a penalty. In 1724, the act was continued in force for five years longer.(21)
It was the custom of the treasurers of the province to make a return of the bills outstanding at the end of May, in each year. Some of these returns have been preserved and from them we can ascertain the circulation of the bills at certain periods. Except for these returns we can only obtain approximate results. We can from the resolves authorizing the issues and the tax levies through which the funds were laid for calling in the bills, estimate the amount that should have been outstanding at any given date, but it is seldom that these estimates can be made to agree with such returns as we have at the hands of the treasurers. These were made by footing up the amounts which had passed out of the treasury, deducting therefrom the bills which had been destroyed as unfit for circulation, and adding thereto the five per cent. allowance and also all bills then in the hands of the treasurer. Apparently they do not include the loans, and it may also be noted that in some instances the treasurer makes a deduction for bills on hand. Throwing out of consideration shillings and pence we have returns showing £69,688 in circulation in 1709; £108,603 in 1711; £145,450 in 1712; £133,250 in 1713; £109,416 in 1717; £81,016 in 1718. From a report of the committee of the assembly we learn that in November, 1724, there were in actual circulation £191,530; this again would seem to require correction by adding the amount then outstanding, loaned to the inhabitants of the province. It is difficult to reconcile some of the above statements with the current legislation concerning emissions and retirements, although there are some points in which an estimate of the amount in circulation, based upon the legislation, does not vary much from the reports. The amount outstanding in 1730 was said to have been £164,755, 5s, 5d.(22)
Return to Brock home page.
Go on to the next Chapter.
1. Felt gives this list, Historical account Mass. currency, p. 83.
2. Board of Trade Journal, quoted by Palfrey, History of New England, vol. 4, p. 332. The post-master general soon complained to the lord-treasurer "of the loss which that branch of her
Majesty's income in North America is like to suffer, by the currency of paper bills." Chalmers' Introduction to the history of the revolt of the colonies, vol. I, p. 320, or p. 346 of the reprint, Boston, 1845.
3. History of Massachusetts (ed. 1795), vol. 2, p. 210.
4. An answer to some cases of conscience respecting the country, by Solomon Stoddard, A.M., pastor in Northampton. Boston, 1722. p. 3.
5. Lindsay Swift in his paper on the election sermons read before the Colonial Society of Massachusetts in December, 1894, refers to several election sermons in which the topic was discussed. Publications of the Col. Soc. of Mass., vol. I, pp. 417418.
6. The cry of oppression where judgment is looked for and the sore calamities such a people may expect from a righteous God: illustrated in two discourses from Isaiah, V. vii, on January 28th, 1747, 8, which was set apart by the government for fasting and prayer, etc., etc., etc. By Nathaniel Appleton, AM., Pastor of the First Church in Cambridge. Boston, New England, 1748, pp. 34, 35.
7. Address in opposition to issuing more paper money. A speech without doors touching the morality of emitting more paper-bills. Sewall's Letter Book, vol. 2, Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc., 6 series, vol. 2, pp. 235239.
8. A letter from one in the country to his friend in Boston containing some remarks upon a late pamphlet entituled The distressed state of the town of Boston. Boston, 1720, p. 3. The author of Second part of South Sea stock says the same thing, p. 16.
9. Boston Town Records, 12th report record commission, p. 121.
10. A discourse concerning the currencies of the British plantations in America, etc., p. 23.
11. A letter from a country gentleman at Boston, etc., etc., 1740. p. 4.
12. News Letter No. 1926. February 19, 1741.
13. Sewall's Diary, vol. 2, Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc., 5 series, vol. 6, p. 317.
14. The foregoing is set forth in Mass. Court Rec., vol 9, pp. 118, 129, 134, 135, 137, 138. See also A journal or full account of the late expedition to Canada, etc. By Sir Hovenden Walker, Kt. London, 1720.
The exact amount loaned at this time is said to have been £48,623, 16s. 8d. An enquiry into the state of the bills of credit of the Massachusetts Bay in a letter from a gentleman in Boston to a merchant in London, 1743, p. 6.
15. They are to be found in Part II which treats of banking.
16. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. I, p. 445.
17. A brief account of the rise, progress, and present state of the paper currency of New England, etc., etc. Boston, 1749. p. 4.
18. Mass. Arch., vol. 101, no. 473. Referred to by Felt in his Historical account of the Mass. currency, p. 83. The table showing the value of silver each year, 17101727 has already been given, p. 90.
19. 1714 £ 50,000 direct.
1716 100,000 through counties.
1721 50000 " towns.
1728 60,000 " "
20. "Whilst the sum [of the bills of credit] was small, silver continued the measure, and bills continued their value. When the charges of government increased after the second expedition to Canada in 1711, the bills likewise increased and in the same or greater proportion the silver and gold were sent out of the country." Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts (ed. 1795), vol. I, p. 357, note; see also vol. 2, pp. 187188.
21. It was revived in 1741 for five years and the ban was then placed upon gifts of gloves, wine, rum and rings as well as scarves.
22. Enquiry into the state of the bills of credit, etc., 1743. p. 10.