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342
[FRENCH
BANKS AND BANKING

on the bank charter and the currency of the 6th of May 1844 have not yet been fulfilled. "I rejoice," he said, "on public grounds, in the hope that the wisdom of parliament will at length devise measures which shall inspire just confidence in the medium of exchange, shall put a check on improvident speculations, and shall ensure the just reward of industry and the legitimate profit of commercial enterprise conducted with integrity and controlled by provident calculation."

The extreme measures which have been required since the act af 1844 point out for themselves the necessity for reform. Three times since the date of the Bank Act of 1844 it has been needful to give permission for the suspension of that act which forms the very foundation of the monetary system of Great Britain. This, whenever it has occurred, has exercised a very injurious effect on credit abroad, as well as on prosperity at home.

The British money-market, the clearing-house of the world, is, in consequence of the smallness of its reserve, exposed to greater fluctuations than that of any other country. These fluctuations may arise from the need of meeting the requirements of other countries for specie or those arising from domestic trade. The recorded excess of imports over exports, £147,000,000 in 1906, though the difference is eventually balanced by the "invisible" exports, gives foreign nations at times a power over the British money-market greater than has ever previously been the case. The current must always have a tendency to flow outwards; this is enhanced by the great increase in the number of foreign banks which have branches in England. The need of providing sufficient reserves to meet requirements thus occasioned is obvious.

As regards the banks in which British interests are concerned in British banking abroad. British colonies and other countries we can only speak briefly. It must not be overlooked that in the Dominion of Canada there are 29 banks, many of them large, managed much on the Scottish principle with capitals of nearly £19,000,000 and deposits of about £140,000,000. These banks have more than 1200 offices. In Australia and New Zealand there are 24 banks with capitals of nearly £18,000,000 and deposits of about £130,000,000. The number of offices is nearly 1700. There are, including the three Presidency banks, about 15 banks doing business mainly in India—in some cases connecting neighbouring countries and places like Bangkok, Hong-Kong and Zanzibar. These banks have capitals of more than £5,000,000 and deposits of fully £36,000,000 and over 210 offices. There are at least 8 banks in South and West Africa with capitals of nearly £5,000,000, deposits of nearly £50,000,000 and nearly 370 offices. There are 5 banks, including the Colonial Bank, in other British territories with capitals of about £1,000,000 and deposits of £3,300,000, and about 25 offices. There are thus, besides many private firms doing very considerable business, more than 80 joint-stock British banks working in the colonies with capitals amounting to £48,000,000, deposits £360,000,000 and offices 3505. Outside British territories there are 6 banks, principally in South America, with nearly £4,000,000 capital, £36,000,000 deposits and about 60 offices. There are 6 large banks doing business principally in the East with more than £6,700,000 capitals, £77,000,000 deposits and 106 offices: and 7 other banks, including Barings, with about £4,500,000 capitals and £22,000,000 deposits There are thus about 20 British banks doing business in foreign countries with capitals amounting to £15,200,000, deposits £135,000,000 and offices 173.

In this statement we have included only the more important banks, which collectively wield about £63,000,000 capital and more than £495,000,000 deposits—in all about £560,000,000 of resources operating at about 3700 offices situated in places as different from each other and as widely separated as California and Hong-Kong, Constantinople and New Zealand.

France.—In France the first bank of issue, originally called the Banque Générale, was established in 1716 by John Law, the author of the Mississippi Scheme and the Système. Law's bank, which had been converted into the Banque Royale in 1718, and its notes guaranteed by the king (Louis XV.), came to an end in 1721; an attempt at reconstruction was made in 1767, but the bank thus established was suppressed in 1793. Other banks, some issuing notes, then carried on operations with limited success, but these never attained any real power. There were many negotiations on the subject of the establishment of a bank in 1796. The financial difficulties of the times prevented any immediate result, but the advice of those engaged in this plan was of great assistance to Napoleon I., who, aided by his minister Mollien, founded in 1800 the Bank of France, which has remained from that time to the present by far the most powerful financial institution in the country. The objects for which it was established were to support the trade and industry of France and to supply the use of loanable capital at a moderate charge. These functions it has exercised ever since with great vigour and great judgment, extending itself through its branches and towns attached to branches over the whole country. At its establishment and for some time subsequently the operations of the bank did not extend over the whole of France. Departmental banks with the privilege of issue had been formed under a law adopted in 1803. At the close of 1847 there were nine of these banks existing in as many of the larger towns. In 1848, however, they were absorbed into the Bank of France, which has since possessed an exclusive privilege of issue, and in 1863 took over the Bank of Savoy after that province was united to France.

The Bank of France has successfully surmounted many political as well as financial troubles both during and since the times of Napoleon I. The overthrow of the government of Louis Philippe in 1848, the war with Germany in 1870, the many difficulties that followed when the Commune reigned in Paris in 1871, the payment of the war indemnity—not completed till 1873—were all happily overcome. Great pains, too, have been taken, especially of recent years, to render services to large and small businesses and to agricultural industry. In 1877 the offices of the Bank of France were 78 in number; in 1906 they were 447, including the towns "connected with the branches"—an arrangement which, without putting the bank to the expense of opening a branch, gives the place connected many of the advantages which a branch confers. The quantity of commercial paper discounted is very large. More than 20,000,000 bills were discounted in 1906, the total amount being £559,234,996. The advances on securities were in the same year £106,280,124. The rate of discount in Paris is as a rule lower and the number of alterations fewer than in London. From May 1900 to January 1906 there was no change, the rate remaining uniformly at 3%. Bills as low as 4s. 2d. are admitted to discount, including those below 8s.; about 232,000 of this class were discounted in 1906. Since the 27th of March 1890 loans of as small an amount as £10 are granted. In most cases three "names" must be furnished for each bill, or suitable guarantees or security given, but these necessary safeguards have not to be furnished in such a manner as to hamper applicants for loans unduly. In this manner the Bank of France is of great service to the industry of the country. It has never succeeded, however, in attracting deposits on anything like the scale of the Bank of England or the banks of the English-speaking peoples, but it held, as stated in the balance-sheet for the 23rd of December 1906, about £35,000,000 in deposits, of which £14,000,000 was on account of the treasury and £21,000,000 for individuals, and the amount held in this manner gradually increases. The report for 1904 says "each year the movement in these increases, and this economical and safe mode of effecting receipts and payments is more and more appreciated by the public." In one respect the Bank of France stands at a great advantage in connexion with this branch of its business. The average amount held in this manner for individuals during 1906 was about £23,000,000. As the accounts numbered 77,159 the average for each account was comparatively small. Accounts so subdivided give a great probability of permanence. The figures of the accounts for 1904 were as follows:—


11,178 current accounts, with power of discount.
4,576 simple current accounts.
26,709 current accounts, with advances.
  24,106 accounts, deposits.
Total 66,569 accounts, against 59,182 at the end of 1903.


At the present time the Bank of France operates chiefly through its enormous note circulation (averaging in 1906 £186,300,000), by means of which most business transactions in France are carried on.

The limits of the circulation of the Bank of France and the dates when it has been extended are as follows:—


Dates Millions of
Francs
Converting the
Franc as 25 = £1.
15th March 1848 350 £14,000,000
27th April, 2nd May 1848 452 18,000,000
2nd December 1849 525 21,000,000
12th August 1870 1800 32,000,000
14th August 1870 2400 96,000,000
29th December 1871 2800 112,000,000
15th July 1872 3200 128,000,000
30th January 1884 3500 140,000,000
25th January 1893 4000 160,000,000
17th December 1897 5000 200,000,000
    In 1906 5800 232,000,000