ENFORCEMENT OF THE ROYAL INSTRUCTIONS DURING
We have followed the discussions concerning the currency which had arisen between the governors and representatives through the administrations of Shute and Burnet, and have noted the perplexing situation in which Lieutenant-Governor Dummer, the temporary successor of each of these governors, found himself when the responsibilities of the government were thrown upon his shoulders. The stormy and impetuous career of Burnet had resulted in blocking the wheels of public affairs and change of any sort was welcomed. While agreement was impossible, pending the arrival of a new governor, conspicuous collision was avoided, both under Dummer and under Tailer, the newly appointed lieutenant-governor, who assumed charge of affairs prior to the arrival of the successor of Burnet.
The condition of affairs in Massachusetts was such that the gubernatorial commission was not at this period an object of much contest. Jonathan Belcher, a native of New England and a graduate of Harvard college easily succeeded in obtaining it, notwithstanding his previous record. He was trained in the ways of the court and could adapt himself to the passing political breeze. A man of wealth(1) and prominent among the conservatives, he had, while in London, astonished his friends by acting as agent of the house notwithstanding its state of chronic warfare against the governors. As an applicant for the gubernatorial office he claimed that his citizenship would be an advantage and that his familiarity with the ways of the General Court would aid him in protecting the interests of the crown. While agent, he had, with his associate, Wilkes, signed a letter in which the following language was used "Of what value is the Charter if an instruction shall at pleasure take away every valuable part of it? If we must be compelled to fix a salary, doubtless, it must be better that it be done by the Supream Legislature than to do it ourselves ; if our liberties must be lost, much better that they be taken away, than we be in any manner accessory to our own Ruin."(2) Such language should naturally have brought him into disfavor, yet if it was known at court, it was overlooked and he was recognized as one who would sustain the royal prerogatives and who could be relied upon to enforce the royal instructions. His interest in local politics was shown by the fact that fourteen years before, he had contributed £500 to secure Shute's appointment as governor, which amount, according to Hutchinson was never repaid him.(3) Under the pretence that this expenditure had been made by him for the public good he had the audacity to petition the General Court for reimbursement, but met with a deserved refusal.(4)
Belcher arrived in the province in August, 1730, and found himself confronted with trouble from recent instructions. One of the last things that Burnet had done had been to write August, 27, 1729, that the effect of the instructions was being evaded by issuing bills of credit, not, as he said, by a law which would require approval, "but only by a resolve, that so his Majesty might not have occasion to disallow it according to the express words of the charter." In October of the same year, Dummer wrote that he had signed a resolve authorizing the issue of bills of credit, which, following the custom since the time of Shute, contained a clause submitting the disbursements to the whole Court. He explained that the necessities of the treasury compelled this and added that he thought the charter needed some explanation on this point.(5) These communications apparently aroused the Privy Council and the Board of Trade to a comprehension of what was going on, and instructions were thereupon issued that "no money be raised or bills of credit issued in that our province of the Massachusetts Bay, but by act or acts of assembly in which act or acts one or more clauses of appropriation may be inserted." The approval of the accounts and the issuing of the money or bills of credit were to be left to the governor and council, subject to the future inquiry of the assembly, as to the application of the money.(6) These instructions were communicated to the assembly by Dummer, May 28, 1730.
On the 9th of September, Belcher called attention to the fact that "exchange betwixt Great Britain and this province had risen in a few years from sixty to more than two hundred per cent", and on the 16th of December, he pronounced the bills of credit "a common delusion to mankind" and said they "must have an end according to the periods set by your laws, as you will see by his Majesty's 16th and 18th instructions to me."(7) The time was fast approaching when the last of the loans made to towns in 1721 must be paid. A committee of the representatives answering this message on the 1st of January, 1730-31, said in reply to the suggestion as to the retirement of the bills, that they were dependent upon these bills together with others then extant to serve as a medium in trade, and they added, "The committee can't but look upon it as the bounden duty of this court to revive that act."
Including loans and bills of credit which matured that year, there were then outstanding upwards of £270,000 according to the terms of the resolves and acts under which they had been issued, all of which, therefore, would have to be provided for in the successive years thereafter up to and including 1741, the latest year in which any of these bills were to be called in. Meantime, the government was permitted to issue annually for current expenses £30,000, the idea evidently being that such issues were to be called in by the tax levy of the next year. It was apparently thought, that after the outstanding issues had been called in £30,000 would serve as a circulating medium for the province, as it was further provided that after the retirement had been effected no more than £30,000 should be current at any one time. In his speech to the General Court, April 2, 1731, Belcher intimated that this instruction must be complied with. By the end of 1741, he said, all the bills of credit now outstanding must be paid into the public treasury. The £30,000 "in such paper bills"was totally inadequate for a circulating medium for the province and it is difficult to conceive how it could have been thought that in the absence of any silver or gold, business could be carried on with the value which this amount represented, even if it be supposed that it was rated at par. The representatives stated that they deemed it next to impossible that the necessary charges for the government should be defrayed with £30,000.
Important as this question was, it was overshadowed in the estimation of the representatives by the issue raised by Belcher's 30th instruction, which he communicated to them March 10, 1731. This was practically the same as the instruction which had been laid before the assembly by Dummer, May 28, 1730. Its presentation by a new governor meant that the disputed point of the control of the house over disbursements was to be decided through the agency of this instruction in behalf of the governor and council. The house did not yield without a struggle, but the governor told them that he proposed to carry out the instruction. "To give you the plainest understanding," be said, "I will inform you that for the future all accounts of service done for this province are to be brought directly to the governor and council, and to them only, for passing and paying." Appeals by the assembly in 1731 and again in 1732 were made to his Majesty in Privy Council for relief from this instruction. They were not decided until more than three years thereafter, when an order was passed in the Privy Council declaring "he king's displeasure at these repeated applications upon points which had been already maturely considered and determined by his Majesty in Council."(8) It was further ordered by the Privy Council that no alteration should be made in the 16th and 30th instructions. A memorial to the House of Commons had been forwarded at the same time as the address to his Majesty for presentation to the house in case the address should fail. It met with a rebuff from the Commons even more pronounced than that administered by the Privy Council. They asserted that the complaint was frivolous and groundless, that it was an high insult to his Majesty, tending to shake off the dependence of the said colony unto this kingdom, to which by law and right they are and ought to be subject.
For three years after Belcher's arrival there were but two issues of bills of credit for the general expenses of the government, one of £13,000 just after he assumed charge of affairs and one of £6,000 the next year. £13,900 were, however, issued from time to time during the same period to the governor as an allowance for his services and to the assembly for salaries.
It is needless to go into detail as to the discussions which took place during the period when the government was left almost entirely without means for current expenses. A few examples will suffice.
The governor having urged the representatives to make some provision for the government, pending a reply to their address to the crown, they replied that his Majesty was accustomed to take his own time in making such replies and that it was their duty not to commit themselves. Meantime they called upon the selectmen of the towns for instructions.
The governor at one time informed the representatives that he was surprised that they should bring in a supply bill which did not conform to his instructions and added that they might rest assured he would not consent to that bill nor to any other of a similar nature. At another time he said to them " assure you I will not so much as enter into any argument with you whether I shall break his Majesty's royal orders in giving my assent to any other supply of the treasury than what his Majesty has directed to and such as is agreeable to the charter."
The representatives in their replies thought that the 30th instruction could be cured by legislation. If, however, the governor thought otherwise they conceived that there was no way to relieve the empty treasury except for his Majesty graciously to withdraw the instruction. Again, they voted that supplying the treasury according to this instruction necessarily tended to destroy the powers and privileges granted to the General Court by the royal charter.
Various supply bills were proposed and discussions of this sort were carried on between the governor and the representatives, as to his power of approval, he taking refuge behind his instructions and they asserting what they claimed to be their rights under the charter. One alone among these supply bills requires special attention. It fell to the ground in the conflict then raging, but it contains in the fixed rate for silver therein suggested the germ of the new tenor bill. March 15, 1730-31, Jacob Wendell and others, merchants of Boston, petitioned the General Court, asking them to issue fifty thousand pounds in bills of a new form to be loaned to merchants and others, on real security at fifty per cent, of the valuation, to be repaid to the province treasury, one-fifth part each year for five years, at the rate of seventeen shillings per ounce of silver. If successful, more bills might then he issued. If not deemed advisable for the province to enter into the scheme, then the petitioners prayed for an incorporation so that they might carry on the affair in their private capacity.(9)
This petition was referred to a committee of both houses, of which Thomas Hutchinson, the father of the governor, was chairman, and on the 1st of June he submitted a report in behalf of this committee to the council.(10) The committee thought that the scheme would be of public benefit and, therefore, recommended the issue.
They fixed the rate of the bills proposed to be issued at sixteen shillings per ounce for silver and the bills themselves were to be redeemable at the end of five years in silver and gold. A bill was ordered to be prepared to this effect on the 10th of June and it is probably the one which was passed to be enacted in July, but to which the governor refused his assent July 20.(11) On receipt of information of this action on the governor's part, the representatives informed him that they had yielded all that they could without manifest prejudice to the rights of the people whom they represented and they, therefore, asked for a recess. The governor then consulted with the council as to whether he could, conformably with his instructions, assent to such a bill and also whether it was consistent with the safety of the province to permit the General Court to rise without some provision having been made for the support of the government. To both of these questions the council replied in the negative.
In submitting to the governor this and other supply bills, which by their terms infringed upon his instructions, it may be assumed that the assembly hoped that the governor would, as had happened before, find some loop-hole in the instructions which would permit him to approve the bills. Such is evidently the interpretation to be put upon their reply August 21, 1731, to a message, in which they say that "whatsoever mischiefs and inconveniences may happen to the province by the treasury's remaining empty may be attributed to the instructions as now understood and improved by his excellency"and by a vote of the council in February, 1731-32, wherein they earnestly desired the governor "to take such measures that he may be enabled to give his consent to the said bill as soon as may be."(12) Yet, even after it was evident that he did not intend to yield, the representatives refused to accede to the instructions, and in April, 1733, they said that by so doing they "would basely betray their trusts, recede from the sentiments given by their principals, act against their conscience and the light of reason,"and in so doing "would give a wound incurable to our constitution." They also called the attention of the governor to the fact that when, as agent of the house, he represented them in England, he had not regarded their acts as disloyal and disrespectful. In June, 1733, the situation seemed hopeless, the governor rejected a supply bill with the assurance to the assembly that he should not give his assent to any bill projected in the manner of the one that he had under consideration and the house replied that they would not pass any bill which was framed upon any other method than that of the bill he had rejected.
The tone and character of this discussion has been adequately set forth in the foregoing and although in the end the house was obliged to yield, the gain was not entirely on the side of the crown, for in the meantime another contest had been waged in which the representatives prevailed. Belcher, by his instructions, was prevented from receiving compensation for his services in any other form than that of a fixed salary and this the representatives flatly refused to allow him. On this point, the crown was compelled to back down and give consent to his taking the annual appropriations, in the manner in which the assembly had been accustomed to make them.
On receipt, in 1733, of the order of the Privy Council dismissing the appeals of the assembly, the situation was accepted and an act was passed in November in accordance with the methods prescribed by the instructions in which provision was made for the issue of £76,500 in bills of credit, for discharging public debts. In this act allowance was made for wages some of which dated back to the fall of 1730.
At the same time that this act was passed the representatives entered a protest, asserting that they judged it more convenient to pass the present bill of supply and so suspend the exercise of their rights than further to insist upon them at the present time. They added that they left the exercise of these rights to be reassumed by any future assembly.
Notwithstanding the fact that the prolonged contest between the governor and the representatives had prevented the province from receiving the benefit of the annual issue of £30,000 and that the debts of the government had in the meantime been allowed to accumulate, the assent of Governor Belcher to this act was the occasion of a renewed instruction on the subject issued three years thereafter in which he was enjoined, "under pain of our highest displeasure and of being immediately recalled from that our government" to see that the original instruction was carried out in the future. His defence was that the emission upon the whole, considering the period that it covered did not exceed the instructions.(13)
Taxes had been laid from 1730 to 1733 which, taken in connection with the impost and excise and other sources of revenue, had been estimated to provide for the calling in of £90,500 bills of credit in accordance with the resolves under which they were emitted. All the revenues had been used for this purpose and the government during this period had been destitute of means for meeting the greater part of the current expenses. Much suffering had been the result.
While this condition of affairs existed in Massachusetts, a number of the citizens of New London, Connecticut, organized a company called the New London Society, united for trade and commerce. Their first attempt in this direction was made in 1729, when they petitioned the Connecticut assembly for a charter. It is evident that their desire was to organize a bank of issue, similar to those which had been projected in Massachusetts in 1686 and 1714. Their petition, which set forth their purpose to emit bills of credit, was denied, but they applied again for incorporation in 1732, this time alleging that the purposes of the proposed company were for promoting trade and commerce. A charter was granted and the company immediately proceeded to emit bills to subscribers to the scheme, taking mortgages on real estate as security. Governor Talcott soon heard of their proceedings and in February 1732-33, summoned a special session of the assembly at which the charter of the company was annulled and provision was made for winding up its affairs.(14)
October 17, 1733, a joint committee of the assembly of Massachusetts Bay was appointed to consider what means could be taken to maintain the value of the public bills in view of the fact that a number of Boston merchants were about to emit £110,000 of their notes, and the neighboring colony of Rhode Island was also engaged in making large emissions of bills. On the 23rd the council instructed the secretary to write to the governor of Rhode Island for information as to these emissions. The joint committee reported November 6th, recommending that the governor should discourage the circulation of the Rhode Island bills and urging that some security should be furnished for the merchants' notes. They recommended that a bill be prepared to prohibit the circulation of the Rhode Island bills and to this the council agreed but the house thought it would be wiser to discourage their use. The governor declined to interfere. He thought a proclamation against the Rhode Island bills would encourage the merchants' notes, concerning the issue of which no scheme had been submitted to the General Court. Moreover, it was impossible for him to encourage their emission on account of the £30,000 limit set by his instructions.
This resolution of combined disapproval and sympathy requires some explanation. The restraint set upon the issue of bills of public credit by the royal instructions did not apply to Rhode Island. This colony saw a chance to supply the wants of the Massachusetts people in the way of a medium for trade, and simultaneously to derive from issues of public bills made for this purpose an income which would pay the running expenses of her government. In 1731, £60,000 Rhode Island currency had been loaned, and in July 1733, an emission was made of £104,000, £100,000 of which was loaned at interest for a term of years.(15) As an offset to this last emission a number of Boston merchants entered into an agreement not to receive the Rhode Island bills in trade, and following the suggestion made in the petition of Jacob Wendell and others heretofore referred to, they organized a company and issued £110,000 of their own promissory notes based upon silver at 19s. per ounce, the notes being so phrased that while they bore upon their face a value stated in coin, the promise was to pay a corresponding weight of coined silver, sterling alloy, or the value in coined standard gold. Payment was to be made in three installments covering ten years. The notes rested for their security solely upon the solvency of the individuals whose names were attached thereto. These notes were known as merchants' notes and found a ready acceptance in trade but owing to the fixed rate of silver in which they were payable, they did not long remain in circulation. (16)
In 1734, an organization of merchants was effected in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the purpose of which was to furnish the public with notes as a medium of trade.(17) The notes thus put forth were not like those of the Boston merchants, payable in silver at a fixed rate, but were to be redeemed in silver or gold at the rate which might prevail in 1746, when they would become due. They bore interest at one per cent. per annum.(18)
Although this experiment turned out to be a pronounced failure, yet in its inception it greatly alarmed the Boston merchants, who, under the lead of Andrew Faneuil and James Bowdoin, petitioned the General Court on the 15th of April, 1735, to give caution that the New Hampshire notes were a cheat and a delusion and they prayed that their circulation might be prevented. In prompt response to this a bill was passed April 18th, making it an offense to utter or offer to pay or put off or to receive or to take any of these notes, and the assembly requested the governor to issue a proclamation cautioning his Majesty's subjects against taking any of them.
The attempt to prevent the invasion of the Rhode Island notes proved a failure. "Some of the Boston merchants, tempted by an opportunity of selling their English goods," says Hutchinson, "having broke through their engagements and received the Rhode Island bills, all the rest soon followed."(19) These various issues were followed by a sudden rise in silver.
The determination of the controversy as to the manner in which time bills of credit of the province should be issued did not prevent conflicts concerning the currency between the representatives and the governor. "There are several bills lying before me," said Belcher, July 5, 1736, "that have passed his Majesty's council and your house, for a supply of bills of credit to the public treasury, which exceed the sum limited in his Majesty's sixteenth royal instruction to me for which reason I cannot sign them, and I think proper to acquaint you therewith that you may conform the whole supply for the year to the said instruction."
Up to this time propositions which looked toward a resumption of a specie basis for time currency had received but scant consideration from the representatives, but it would seem that the career of the merchants' notes kindled hopes in the minds of the authorities of the government that the insertion of a clause in the public bills, making them in a similar way receivable at a fixed rate of silver, would have the effect of removing the discount. November 25, 1736, the governor recommended the emission of fifteen thousand pounds in bills that should "carry the value of money." This, he thought, would answer all the demands of the province. They would be worth more than fifty thousand pounds in the bills then in circulation, and might be emitted consistently with the restrictive orders given to him by his Majesty. This was certainly a strong argument in favor of the proposed scheme. If the public would accept these bills on a par with silver, the £30,000 limit would at once be expanded to the equivalent of over £100,000 in the public bills of the form then in use.
In January, 1736-37, the council approached the subject in very serious mood amid voted that "whereas his Majesty's good subjects have for many years been great sufferers by the uncertain and sinking state of the bills of public credit, which difficulty doubtless more particularly moved this Court in a very solemn manner to implore the divine guidance and blessing in the present session; wherefore to comply with this obligation and profession, it seems necessary that this Court shall do all that is possible to remedy this threatening mischief." As a result of this earnest appeal a joint committee was appointed, of which Thomas Hutchinson of the council was chairman, and this committee reported an act which was passed in February, 1736-37, which provided for the emission of eighteen thousand pounds in bills of credit of the present form(20) and tenor and nine thousand pounds in bills of credit of a new form.
It was provided that the taxes to be assessed for calling in the bills of the new tenor could be paid either in bills of that tenor, or in bills of the old tenor in the proportion of three to one. If any of the bills should be outstanding in 1742, the treasurer was authorized to redeem them in coin at their expressed value.(21)
The passage of this act furnished opportunity for the opponents of the governor to attack him before the Board of Trade, of which he heard and in the following November he put in a vigorous defence. He claimed that the instructions did not indicate what sort of bills of credit were to be issued nor of what value they must be. There was no gold and no silver in the province and it was impossible for the government to get along without bills of credit. Bills of the form which had been in use had declined so much that £30,000 in them was hardly worth £20,000. He might, indeed, have said £10,000. The province was growing and the annual charges were increasing and if he should tell the people the government must be supported without letting them have wherewith to do it, he could really expect no other answer from the assembly but that he was an Egyptian task master asking them to make bricks without straw. The new bills, he said, had already lowered exchange with London 50 or 60 per cent. and he expected this advantage to increase till the time the bills should be paid off.(22)
The new tenor bills were received with great disfavor by a part of the community. The town of Boston, on the 10th of May, 1738, appointed a committee to draw up instructions for the representatives on certain points among which were the trade of the province and the paper currency. On the 17th the instructions drawn up by the committee were submitted. They call attention to the "neighboring governments, especially Rhode Island, who are daily rivalling us of our trade and medium in paper currency" and ask if their hands are to be tied, while Rhode Island can make what paper bills they please, which their necessities oblige the people of Boston to receive. They strongly enjoin the representatives not to consent to any supply for the treasury unless the funds for discharging the same be put on suitable years after 1741. They likewise enjoin them to use their power and influence to obtain an act for striking off as many bills of the old tenor as will re-exchange all the bills of the new tenor already exchanged for the old, and they submit a table showing the operation of calling in the bills by 1744 to show its impractibility. May 18th, 1739 these instructions were renewed.(23) In the winters of 1737-38 and 1738-39 attempts were made to resume specie payments by means of loans of public bills the value of which was to be stated in a fixed rate of silver, which bills were to be loaned to merchants, who should agree to pay their loans in silver. It was evidently in connection with the second of these attempts that in January, 1738-39, the council again appealed to the governor to consent to the emission of £60,000 in bills which they described as redeemable in silver and gold and which they said were on a different foundation from those which occasioned his Majesty's prohibition. The governor had on the previous day, the twelfth, announced that he could not consistently with his Majesty's instructions give his assent to the bill. In consequence of this the council craved leave to point out the great and distressing difficulties of his Majesty's good subjects of this province if the aforesaid bill or one of that nature should not take effect. The people relied upon public bills to pay their taxes and to meet their engagements in trade and commerce. By the end of 1741, all outstanding bills must be retired. The amount now in circulation was computed at £250,000 0. T. and it would bring great distress, if not an entire stagnation of trade, if they should be entirely removed and nothing substituted in their place. Moreover the court had at that session found it necessary to discountenance the bills of the neighboring governments.(24) The governor, in his reply, said he would use his best endeavors to secure the royal approval of the £60,000 bill.
The term of Belcher's service was now rapidly drawing to a close. He had made enemies and among them were some who were unscrupulous and who intrigued against him in Great Britain. They were successful in securing his downfall, but when the means by which it was accomplished were understood, he was soon restored to royal favor and received compensation by appointment to another government. During the latter part of the time that he remained in this province he was engaged in a contest with the promoters of the land bank. The story of that experiment is of very great interest and has not received adequate treatment from historians. Its incorporation, however, in detail, at this point would swell the narrative to proportions utterly inconsistent with the limits which control a discussion of the currency. We must, at present, therefore, practically confine ourselves to a consideration of the influence which this remarkable experiment had upon the currency of the province, leaving the detailed account of the rise and fall of the company for treatment in that portion of the work devoted to the subject of banking.
The year 1740 was propitious for an experiment of this sort in Massachusetts. The withdrawal of all the currency emitted by the province was impending and no provision had been made for a medium of trade, other than the £30,000 permitted by the royal instructions for the annual expenses of the province. In this dilemma the representatives turned to the public, and in 1739 appointed a committee which was authorized to receive in the recess of the court any scheme or proposals from any persons, whomsoever, for the furnishing a further medium of trade in such way and manner as that the value thereof might be maintained. This furnished an opportunity for John Colman, who in 1720 had published a pamphlet in which he had brought out a proposition for a bank which should emit bills on real security.(25) He at once set to work and by December of that year had secured nearly four hundred subscribers to a scheme for emitting bills secured by real estate which was on the fifth of that month submitted to the General Court. The petitioners desired incorporation and the subject remained under consideration for some time, the representatives favoring the petitioners and the governor and council being opposed to them. The ultimate result was that the company began business in the fall without incorporation. The note which was then emitted by the company was signed by certain of the directors and was in the form of a promise in behalf of the signers and their partners to receive the same in all payments at the expressed value "lawful money six shillings and eight pence per ounce" and after twenty years to pay the same in the produce or manufactures enumerated in their scheme. The articles thus referred to in which the notes were to be paid were nearly all of them productions of the province. A limit of £150,000 was set to the amount of notes which could thus be emitted. The scheme found favor in the rural districts of the province. Many towns voted to take the notes, and subscribers to the number of about one thousand joined in the enterprise.
Certain Boston merchants who were opposed to the scheme organized an opposition company which was known as the silver bank or silver scheme, the purposes of which were: first, to emit bills which like the merchants' notes of 1733 should have the value expressed in silver at a given rate per ounce; second, to secure the mutual agreement of the subscribers to refuse to receive the bills of other governments not redeemable in gold or silver, except at a discount to be fixed by the company; and, third, not to receive the land bank notes on any terms. The notes emitted by this company were in the form of promissory notes, and were payable in 1755. While they bore upon the face a denominational value, the promise was to pay a specified weight of coined silver, sterling alloy, the denominational value being ascertained on the basis of twenty shillings for an ounce of silver. The company afterwards amended their scheme by agreeing to anticipate payment of these notes in the following manner:
and so on with an annual reduction of seven pence in the rate of silver until it reached twenty shillings in 1755, when the notes were redeemable according to the terms expressed on the face. The proposed emission of this bank was £120,000 in their own notes. The silver rate at which it was agreed that these notes should be redeemed in 1741 was 28s. 4d. The annual change in rate in the scale of redemption was 7d. per ounce and this would make the rate at which the notes were probably emitted, 28s. 11d. per oz. On this basis the £150,000 emitted by the land bank was equivalent as a circulating medium to more than five times the £120,000 emitted by the silver bank, provided it were possible that the land bank bills should actually have found currency on the basis of 6s. 8d. per oz. for silver, according to the terms of the notes.
The silver bank like the land bank had applied for incorporation and like the land bank had been obliged in order to accomplish its purposes to proceed in the emission of its notes as a private concern. The governor came to its aid as far as he could, and brought to bear unsuccessfully all the power of his official patronage with which to impede the progress of the land bank, but in the fall of 1740, both schemes were launched and both emitted their notes. The apparent success of the land bank gave birth in the spring of 1741 to a number of local imitators in different parts of the province, one of which located in Ipswich, actually proceeded to emit bills. The career of all of these, together with that of the land bank and the silver bank, was suppressed in the summer of 1741 by means of parliamentary intervention, brutal in its disregard of the rights of the colonists who were engaged in these unfortunate enterprises, and full of consequences in the hostility which it provoked, but effective through the support which it received from the governor and from the assembly, not ready as yet to contest the supremacy of parliament.(26)
So long as Belcher remained at the head of the government, his relations with these affairs continued unchanged, and his persistent activity in opposition to the land bank did not tend to diminish the feeling of hostility against him, which had been aroused in the minds of the members of the popular branch of the government by the prolonged contests about the currency.
It resulted, therefore, that the representatives preserved their aggressiveness in all their discussions with the governor, and as late as April 5, 1741, alluding especially to the insertion of a suspending clause in acts of the assembly, they said, if "the representatives should not struggle in every way to maintain and preserve their liberty they would act more like vassals of an arbitrary prince than like subjects of King George, their most gracious sovereign."(27)
Belcher was relieved of his official connection with the government in August, 1741. If his successor had assumed office a few weeks earlier, the name of Belcher would have been conspicuous in the list of governors who ruled during the days of the emission of bills of public credit, for its freedom from association with any of the great avalanches of bills which from time to time were forced into the circulation. He had faithfully adhered to his instructions, but in the summer of 1741, came orders to promote enlistments for an expedition under Admiral Vernon against the King of Spain's settlements in the West Indies. Bounties could not be offered; supplies could not be purchased; transports could not be secured, and garrisons for forts could not be maintained, except through the issue of a large quantity of bills of credit. In making the emission necessary for these purposes and for discharging certain debts of the province, the old form of bill was reverted to, and £80,000 old tenor were in July launched upon the market. The approval of the legislation through which this was accomplished was one of the last important acts in Belcher's official career.
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1. Belcher is described as follows in an elegiac poem called forth by the death of his wife:
"To you, o Fav'rite Man, the Pow'r supream
Gives wealth, and titles, and extent of fame
Joys from beneath, and blessings from above;
Thy Monarch's plaudit ; and thy people's love."
To His Excellency Governour Belcher, on the death of his lady. An
Epistle by the Reverend Mr. Byles. [Oct. 13, 1736.]
2. This letter was dated April 25, 1729, and was printed in the Mass. Bay House Journal, June 27, 1729.
3. History of Massachusetts (ed. 1795), vol. 2, p. 329.
4. Mass. Arch., vol. 20, no. 182.
5. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 2, p. 222.
6. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 2, p. 574.
7. The 16th instruction was to the effect that he was not to give assent to any act whereby bills of credit were to be issued unless such act contained a clause requiring the approval of the Board of Trade before it should be operative. Annual issues to the extent of £30,000 were, however, permitted without this approval first having been obtained, provided they were made for the expenses of the government. Not more than £30,000 of such bills were thereafter to be current at any one time.
The 18th instruction directed the governor to take care that the bills be called in in accordance with the terms of the acts under which they were issued.
8. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 2, pp. 701-703.
9. House Jour. Mass. Bay, March 15, 1730-31. See also June 10.
10. Mass. Court Rec., vol. 15, p. 82.
11. A bill bearing the same title and for the same amount was passed to be enacted January 20, 1731-32. The governor refused his assent a second time February 2, 1731-32.
12. Mass. Court Rec., vol. 15, p. 242.
13. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 2, p. 745.
14. An account of this company derived from the published records of the colony was printed in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 13, October, 1898. See also Publications Colonial Society of Massachusetts, January. 1898. Additional information derived from the archives was communicated to the same society December, 1898. These details will be found in the form of a continuous narrative in Part II of this work, devoted to banking.
15. The first three "Banks" amounting to £120,000 were then outstanding.
16. Not much is known concerning this company, but such details as to their methods of business as have come to light in this investigation will be found in Part II: on banking.
17. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 2, p. 747.
18. Very little is known about the merchants' notes of New Hampshire, but such details as have been gleaned from the various sources of authority will be found in Part II of this work.
19. History of Massachusetts, (ed. 1795) vol. 2, p. 341.
20. The "present form" being what was thereafter known as "old tenor."
21. The following is the form given in the act for the new tenor bill of
Twenty Shillings. Twenty Shillings.
This bill of twenty shillings, due from the province of
the Massachusetts Bay in New England, to the possessor
thereof, shall be in value equal to three ounces of coin'd
silver, Troy weight, of sterling alloy, or gold coin at the
rate of four pounds eighteen shillings per ounce and shall
be accordingly accepted by the treasurer and receivers
subordinate to him in all payments (the duties of impost,
of tunnage, of shipping and incomes of the light-house
only excepted), and for any stock at any time in the
Boston, By order of the great and general
Court or Assembly.
Twenty Shillings. Twenty Shillings.
22. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 2, p. 845.
23. Boston Town Records, from 1729 to 1742. 12th Report, pp. 198, 199, p. 227.
24. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 2, p. 965.
25. The distressed state of the town of Boston once more considered, and methods for redress humbly proposed, etc., etc., etc., by John Colman.
26. As in the case of the land bank the consideration of the details concerning the silver bank and the Ipswich bank have been postponed to Part II of this work. The necessity for this has compelled the narrative of these important events in merest outline. The student who shall have patience to study carefully the course of these so-called banks will realize their value to the economist, and the enormous influence which this parliamentary legislation had in determining the position of those who in the end opposed the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy.
27. Mass. Court Rec., vol. 17, p. 537.