Toward Modern Banking
The practice of usury or amicable loans could not, any more than that of deposits or written transfers, provide the economy with the financial means needed to supply the credit so vital to economic life. The existing systems were sufficient for the everyday needs of the citizen, but not for the businessman confronted by market opportunities. Thus, not surprisingly, businessmen created a new system: the drawing of bills of exchange, or tratte, which was to pave the way to modern banking.
The exchange involved here is not essentially different from what we have already encountered at the money changer's stall: the exchange of one kind of money for another. The diversity of species at the beginning and end of the transaction—in both time and space—was to remain an essential condition for the smooth operation of drawing. Equally important were the methods for disguising the payment of interest beneath the differences in rates of exchange, something the nonspecialist found hard to grasp. But this exchange was no longer simply manual. The money changer, as we know, gave out coins in exchange for others received, everything passing from hand to hand. The client gave florins and received écus. The essence of the matter lay in the act of changing; everything was immediate. There were no delays and no written documents, apart from the record of accounts that the money changer was entitled to make and that was vital for him to keep if he looked after deposits in a variety of coinages and hoped to make any kind of a profit. The drawn bill of exchange could not, of its nature, be immediate. For the florins that he received, the dealer, called the cambiste,