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reflect upon the chill and dismal Christmas of the- thousands from whom , commercial gain-Ming has withdrawn for a time the means of life . What is the merry day to them ? They hear the tintinabulations of Christmas , and they look wan , and their little ones have scant food , and their clothing lias been exchanged for bread , and , if they have heard of
Christian brotherhood , they ' wish that the r ich manwould think that he has brethren outside the door . And often the rich man does think , and is munificent ; but this is a season of extraordinary claims . With no kill-joy motive , we point to the unnumbered orphans and widows who have lost the hope of their-lives on Indian battle-fields , and to
the hard-handed workmen at home to whom a commercial crisis means destitution . The wind , we say , has been tempered to the shorn lamb . The physical cruelties of winter have not hitherto been felt by the suffering poor ; but there is work enough for benevolence to perform , even under the sneer of that immaculate science which says to the famished labourer , " Xoung man , if nature has ' provided no knife and fork for you at her table , it ' s time you died ! " Wisdom cries " Patience" io the poor , and whispers " Charity " to the rich .
_ This Christinas wre pay the penalties of indifference and improvidence . Our prosperity in India seduced . us into neglect , and while the empire , widened the treachery of a hundred thousand soldiers prepared itself for action under our very eyes . We , or our heaven-lorn rulers , were too proud to take precautions , and we have had to struggle for existence . Our prosperity at home lured us into commercial excesses , and our social law is that the classes least responsible shall endure
the heaviest punishment . But , if we moralize , let us moralize justly . Administrators and speculators are the scapegoats of our day , but turn them into the desert , and will righteousness remain alone in the land ? Sect , faction , selfishness , arrogance , apathy , will still inhabit their palaces and their cottages , and speak from printingpresses , platforms , pulpits , and divide the nation against itself . It is not only that rmies
a are destroying one another in India , or that ruin has "broken up the basis of trade , that a pestilence has decimated Lisbon , or that an earthquake lias shaken Naples ; the earth breeds a million of petty wrongs , and , in addition to war , famine , plague , or a . crisis that scatters fortunes like a storm , the malignant parasites climb and cling ; nob even time extirpates them . The divine holiday has never yet been celebrated—the one Christmas day of universal release
m passion , animosity , and egotism . Trade ceases , churches are opened , labour rests , the people revel ; but war and the causes of war , rancour and the motives of rancour , evil and the principle of evil , continue at work without a cessation or a sabbath . But wandering among these moraliats-nwthe circle of cynicism—we reach t
ue hope and prophecy of our coramemora-. taon , —that life is more powerful than death , and that , toiling , and enduring , by the sweat of the brow , and through the blood of battles , mankind is in pursuit of a blessing of which the foretaste can only be enjoyed by those ¦ who -worship with the heart , and on that ailtap light a flame of charity to hallow Christmas and the other three hundred and sixty-ibur days of the year .
JOINT-STOCK BANKS . The merchants , bankers , and traders of London will not readily forget the deep gloom that hung over the City the second week of N ovenuber . Each day hadits special disasters :
the great City annual festival inaugurating a new Mayordom waa clouded , by the news of the stoppage of De ^ itistoun and Co ., of London , Liverpool , and Glasgow , and by the failure of the Western Bank of Scotland ; the next day witnessed the fall of Sanidersok , SAHDEMAjr and Co . ; the next , the City of Glasgow Bank , accompanied by a run on other of the GHasgow banks , as well as by discredit in Ireland ; the following , morning ¦ was one of anxiety and distrust , men ' s minds on the rack , and a general feeling ; pervading the commercial community that some great change was impending : that things could not go on much longer as they were : that the fever had reached its height : that the crisis had come : and that a few hours must witness a pretty general ' crumbling , to atoms' or the dawn of returning confidence . Happily , a , favourable change took place , and City men returned home to dinuer with better appetites than might have been anticipated , and with minds greatly relieved , The means of relief was the Treasury letter which arrived in the afternoon of the 12 th , authorizing the Bank of England to create additional notes upon the deposit of securities . This satisfied all commercial houses who held real and bona . fide paper that there would be no insuperable objection to their obtaining accommodation if necessary , and so an intolerable burden of anxiety and suspense was taken off the public mind . ( The Treasury letter was expressed in no ambiguous terms ; indeed , for a Government manifesto , it was remarkably explicit . The cause of the interference of the Executive was stated to be ' the recent failure of certain joint-stock banks in England and Scotland , as well as of certain large mercantile firms , chiefly connected with the American trade . ' Parliament met three Aveeks later , when Heb Majesty , with that clear and distinct
utterance on which reporters love to dwell , announced from the throne that the failure of ' certain joint-stock banks and commercial firms' —had compelled her to assemble both Housesof Parliament at that unwonted period of theyear ; and the very same expression about the joint-stock banks and American houses was inserted in the Act of Parliament which is now enrolled in the annals of the nation , and from which future historians will derive their materials foe the narrative of the disasters of 1857 .
On three several public occasions , thenin the letter from the Treasury , in the speech from the Throne , and in the Act of Parliament—it is formally recorded that the immediate cause of the deliberate violation of the law of the land , and the consequent assembling of the Legislature , was the discredit and distrust occasioned by these failures . The public had taken the alarm ; variousrumoura , partly founded on truth and partly exaggerations and distortions of the truth , were
current in the clubs and other places of public resort ; and in consequence the joint-stock banks , which had in some quarters been previously over-praised , were now by the very same parties brought under suspicion ; large transfers of their deposits wexe made into Government Stock and other investments ; and their'establishments generally were subjected to an ordeal of a trying character , through which the greater part of them have safely passed .
It is pretty generally understood that tho management of those banks will form ono of the subjects of inquiry before the now Committoo , whew probably some clearer notions will be gained of tho nature of their operations , and tho influence they have lmd with reference to tho late commercial crisis . The experience they havo acquired during tho lato trying events will not be lost on them ,
pears a grate oi interest on money deposited with them In cases where large sums of money are ic-fb a long and specified period , it is quite intelligible that a bank could with tolerable safety allow a comparatively good rate of interest ' but that competition should be carried so far as to induce establishments to accept any sums of money that may be deposited by theirxustomers and by the public in general allowing 7 , 8 , and even higher rates of interest amounts
to be the allowance of hih and they wilL no doubt reconsider many of thfc practices which had grownup in connexion with their modern mode of banking and take such steps generally as they may con sider desirable to avoid for the future induerisks—security being , as all confess , the first great object in every well-conducted bankW establishment . : ' ° The great element of weakness in tie modern system of joint-stock banldn « - a ^
on payable on demand or at a very short notice , has long been a matter of surprise , and has at length- drawn from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the opinion ( and all who know Sir Cornewait , Lewis look upon him as a particularly cautious ami guarded man ) that it is a system ' eminently liable to abuse , and containing within it clements of danger , and that to this system many of the evils of the recent crisis may be attributed . ' *
It requires indeed no great penetration , nor anything beyond an ordinary acquaint ' ance with money matters , to be able to trace generally the workings of the system . Large sums of money are taken in which bear interest from the clay of their receipt ¦ as a matter of course they must be employed immediately These sums , be it remembered , are repayable either on demand or at a very short notice , say three or seven days . At the moment wo write the rate of interest allowed -is 8 percent . From the newspapers we learn that loans on the Stock Exchange for short terms on the security of Consols and ~
Exchequer bills can be effected at 5 per cent . only , while good bills are discounted at 8 to 8 ^ per cent . It is therefore obviously impossible to lend this money ( which , be it always remembered , is liable to be demanded at a very short notice , if not at call ) for any short time on Government securities without loss ; although possibly if it he locked iip for a month as much as 9 per cent , may be had . The only other mode of employing the money on improved bunking principles 13 to
lend it on mercantile securities , or to discount first-rate bills of exchange having comparatively a short time to run ; but whether the margin of - ^ to ^ per cont . per annum insufficient to cover all risks—especially in such times as these—to pay the expenses of a largo establishment , and to yield a proiib , is a- question which probably none but the directors of these banks can answer with any certaint }^ . It is generally understood that the managers of several of these establishments aro themselves in doubt whether they
have not pushed beyond its legitimate limits ' a system in the main wholesome and beneficial , and tending to collect together and turn to good account tho scattered resources of the country . ' It is well known that this system has been established for many years in Scotland , but the rate has been from ' 3 to 3- ?? per cent ,, and at this moment does not
exceed 4 poi * cent . ; and tho hanks there hold enormous suma permanently at this comparatively low rate . It is quite intelligible how the system answers under such circumstances , especially as these banks issue thoir own notes , a privilege denied to joint-stock banks in London and within sixty-live miles of thq metropolis . Iii accordanco with tho practice prevailing
1234 TOB I . EABER , [ SoJj ^ PJMMfMg gfr . lSW ;
Leader (1850-1860), Dec. 26, 1857, page 1234, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse2.kdl.kcl.ac.uk/periodicals/l/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2223/page/10/