Effects of the War on Money, Credit and Banking in France and the United States

By Benjamin M. Anderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
New York at the Outbreak of the War

The outbreak of the war found the United States With a very safe credit position. Trade was dull, merchants and bankers were moving under shortened sail, no great new enterprises had recently been undertaken and the general situation was thoroughly solvent. There had been indeed no real boom since the panic of 1907. Ordinarily following a panic and a period of depression such as that of 1907-1908, there comes a revival of business with progressive tempo, culminating in a period of active prosperity. The "business cycle," as we know it, is an alternation of prosperity, crisis, depression and prosperity again. But following the panic of 1907 there had been a steady drag. The year 1909 had been an active year and 1910 had continued activity with some reduction in the tempo, but 1911, as shown both by figures for prices and for physical volume of production (indicated by railroad gross receipts) had shown a setback. In 1912, there was a substantial rise in wholesale prices followed by a substantial setback in 1913, with a moderate continuance through both these years of physical productivity, as indicated by railroad gross receipts. But there had been nothing following 1907 that could be called a real boom.1

In retrospect, it is possible to offer' an explanation of this, though some shrewd observers, as Mr. A. D. Noyes, had seen the explanation before the outbreak of the war. For a good many years before 1914 Europe had seen the war coming. The Banque de France as early as 1899 began its policy of accumulating gold, primarily as a war chest. Between 1899 and 1910 the Banque de France increased its gold reserves by 75 per cent, but increased its discounts and advances during the same period by only 5 per cent. In general, for several years before the war,

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1
Vide the present writer's Value of Money, page 278, for the statistics referred to.

-143-

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