English Public Finance from the Revolution of 1688: With Chapters on the Bank of England

By Harvey E. Fisk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
The Early History of the Bank of England

THUS it was when, about twenty years after the happening of the events just described, William Paterson of Dumfries came forward with a project for a bank which would be the equal in strength of the Banks of Amsterdam, of Venice and of Genoa, he received a ready hearing in business circles. In 1691 Paterson urged the establishment of a national bank, so as to provide a safe means of borrowing money at proper rates of interest. Many of the great London merchants supported his project, notably, Michael Godfrey, one of the richest and most honest city men of that time. The plan was coldly received by Parliament, but the necessities of the Government for funds with which to prosecute the war against France led a committee of the Commons, to which a consideration of the project had been referred, to advise Paterson that they would receive any proposal to advance one million pounds on a perpetual fund of interest. As the committee were unwilling to concede any reciprocal rights, Paterson and his friends naturally were not interested and abandoned the project for the time. Finally in 1694 they achieved their purpose, but the proposal "had to be smuggled into Parliament under cover of a bill imposing a new duty on tonnage, for the benefit of the capitalists lending money toward carrying on the war with France." This was known as the Tonnage Act.

As it finally became a law the bill provided that the subscribers to a perpetual loan of £1,200,000 should form a corporation to be called "The Governor and Company of the

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