Economic Annals of the Nineteenth Century

By William Smart | Go to book overview
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BY January, hope of a lasting peace was waning, and the funds were going down. When the Bank Restriction was again renewed in February, the debates showed very well how things were tending. No reasons were alleged for its renewal except that £20 millions of specie had been sent out of the country to pay for the vast quantity of grain purchased during the past three years, and that it would take some time to get it back. The country was confessedly in a state of the highest prosperity; the Bank position was sound; the directors were quite willing to resume specie payments.1 The idea of continuing the restriction originated solely with the Government, and what the Government left unsaid, Auckland did not scruple to hint -- he "would offer no decided opinion on the probable period to which the continuance of the peace might extend" -- "it might," said Grenville, "be of very short duration." Large additions to the army and navy were voted. France imposed a rigidly protectionist tariff, which put an end to all hope of a commercial treaty. On 8th March, the King's message to Parliament, asking additional measures of precaution for the security of the British dominions, in face of "very considerable military preparations being carried on in the ports of France and Holland"

War again.

Thus far, however, no inconvenience had attended the restriction. Tooke shows that there was no rise of prices due to an increase in the current money. All the same, attention was now being drawn to the danger of overissue. Previous to 1797, the average amount of the circulation of Bank of England notes had been about ten millions. Since then, it had been up to fifteen and sixteen millions. The overissue in Ireland was becoming notorious. The issue there had been about £600,000 in 1797; now, it was some £2,600,000. In May, Lord King moved, without success, that the Bank of Ireland be compelled to pay in Bank of England notes -- the Marquis of Sligo pertinently asking how it would be possible to get these notes except by giving guineas for them ( Hansard, xxxvi. 1247).


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Economic Annals of the Nineteenth Century
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