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By the Act, as originally passed, national banks were required to pay their own notes
upon demand at their counter, and also to redeem them through the agency of a national banking association situated in one of eighteen designated cities called Redemption-cities. These were, Albany, Baltimore, Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Louisville, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond, St. Louis, San Francisco and Washington.* National banks doing business in any of these cities were required to appoint redemption agents in New York. By Act of 20th June, 1874, all national banks were required to redeem their notes at the Treasury of the United States, and the above-named cities are now termed Reserve-cities, for reasons that will presently appear, Every national bank is now required to keep always on deposit in (20 June, 1874.
Sec. 3.) Although Charleston and Richmond are included in the cities named by Section 5192 of the Revised Statutes, Section 31 of the National Currency Act of 1864 only provides for their admission " whenever in the opinion of the Comptroller of the Currency the condition of the Southern States will warrant it"; and up to the present time they do not appear in his annual reports under the head of Reserve Cities.
the Treasury of the United States, in gold coin or United States notes, a sum equal to 5 per cent. of its circulation; and whenever national bank notes, in parcels of one thousand dollars or any multiple of the same; are presented at the Treasury, they are redeemed in United States notes. They are then assorted and charged to the accounts of the banks by whom they were issued, which banks, on being advised of the amount paid, must at once remit an equal sum of lawful money. Wherever the latter term is used it means coin, United States notes, or Treasury certificates of deposit of such notes. After the Treasury has been reimbursed for the amount redeemed, the notes are returned to the issuing banks, if still fit for use; but if much worn or defaced they are forwarded to the Comptroller, who destroys them (by maceration) and forwards new blanks of a similar amount to the banks by whom they were issued. All costs of redemption, such as transporting the notes and assorting them, are to be reimbursed to the Treasury by the association issuing them. Since 1874, all notes are printed with the charter number of the association issuing them, and this has been found to effect considerable economy in the expenses of the Redemption Bureau.
The Acts of 25th February, 1863, and 3rd June, 1864, authorised the issue of national bank notes to the extent of three hundred million of dollars, which amount was directed to be apportioned among the various states and territories of the Union ; and in three years from the foundation of the first bank, by October, 1866, the amount in circulation had reached $280,253,818, being very nearly the full amount authorised. Even the small margin unissued was probably caused by the difficulties arising from the territorial allotments, as some banks were unable to obtain all the circulation they required, and were entitled to by their capital, because the amount apportioned to their district was already taken up.
By the Act of 12th July, 1870, the total amount issuable was increased to $354,000,000, and the circulation steadily increased till, on 1st December, 1874, the amount outstanding was $352,394, 346, the highest amount yet reached,
The Act of 14th Jan., 1875, removed ail limit to the total of the national bank currency, and also all restrictions as to its geographical distribution, but was not followed by any increase in the circulation. On the contrary, for some years it gradually decreased, till, on 22nd June, 1877, the amountoutstanding wasonly $290,002,057. This must be attributed in part to the great depression which followed the financial panic of 1873, but perhaps still more to the Act of 20th June, 1874, authorising the banks to deposit with the Treasurer lawful money for the redemption of their circulation, and to withdraw from deposit a proportionate amount of their bonds. The considerable premiums to which the bonds had then attained, and the low rate of profit to be made on the circulation induced many banks to adopt that course, and since the passing of the Act referred to, £25,600,000 has been deposited to retire circulation,
By special provisions, the establishment of national gold-banks was authorised in 1870. This was for the accommodation of the State of California, where notes have not been much in favour These notes are issued against deposit of United States bonds and to the extent of eighty per cent of such deposits. They are payable in gold at the office of issue, and are legal tender in payment of debts to any other national gold bank, if the association by which they were issued, is still redeeming its notes. Every national goldbank must keep on hand, in gold or silver coin 25 per cent., of the amount of its outstanding circulation. Ten of these banks have been established in all; four of them have changed into other organisations under the Act of February, 1880, and three are still in operation, having an aggregate capital of £400,000, and a circulation of £168,000. The largest amount of circulation of these banks outstanding at one time, was in August, 1875, when it amounted to £528,000, on a capital of £926,000.
It is evident that in more recent years, the banks have not appreciated so highly the right of issuing currency. It is not impossible that as capital increases in the country, and as bank deposits also increase, they will come to depend more upon this branch of their business, and will find it the more profitable of the two. As we shall see, the dividends paid are by no means large, and there is not, at least among the national banks, any exaggerated idea of the share of them that is earned by their note issue, The Comptroller has, in several of his reports, drawn attention to this, when recommending the repeal of some of the taxation. In 1865, the national banks held on deposit against their circulation about 40 millions sterling of six per cent. bonds, and 15 millions of five per cents. ; thus receiving about 51 per cent. upon the whole amount. In November, 1881, they had as follows:4} per cent. bonds
49,250,000 Pacific railroad bonds::
6 per cent. bonds having ceased to bear interest
As the 4 per cent. bonds have latterly commanded a premium of about 16 per cent., and even the 31 per cents, a premium of one or two per cent., it is evident that the average interest received in their investments to secure circulation, does not exceed 3} per cent. On ten per cent. of their bonds deposited, they receive no circulating notes, and they have to keep five per cent. of the amount of their issues always on deposit in the Treasury without interest.
Upon the margin that is kept thus unremuneratively employed, they might otherwise be obtaining the usual commercial rate of interest, which even in New York City, averaged, during 1881, five per cent., and in various parts of the Union ranged much higher, even up to ten or fifteen per cent.
They have further to pay a tax of one per cent. upon the amount of their circulation, and to reimburse the Treasury for the expenses attending the redemption of their notes.
The actual net profit upon circulation, based upon 4 and 3 per cent, bonds, and with rates of interest on bank loans varying from five to ten per cent., is estimated to be as shown in the following table. It will be observed that the rate of profit is least where the rate of interest is highest, owing to the margin kept unemployed :
In consideration of the privileges of issue granted to the banks, they are laid under very minute restrictions as to the conduct of their business. These have indeed been felt so irksome, that it is probable that, as the inducements to maintain their circulation decrease by the decrease in interest on government bonds, a growing disinclination to organise under the Acts may become apparent.
No national bank may have branches; but by Section 5155, provision is made for the case of any State bank reorganising under these Acts, and having branches. Such banks may retain their branches upon assigning a definite amount of the capital to each branch, and taking out circulation for each one separately. As a matter of fact, although very many State banks have reorganised as national banks, none of them have retained their branches, and therefore, all the two thousand one hundred and thirty-two offices in operation at the date of the last report, are separate banks. This may be advantageous to their business in one respect, as it enlists auch local influence and in rest in favour of the ank; but to
maintain the whole machinery of a joint stock company for every small bank must swallow up a considerable proportion of the profits. It will be remembered that something similar was attempted at the foundation of the National Bank of Ireland, but was abandoned after a few years experienco.
No national bank may purchase or hold any real estate except (R.S. 5137.) such as is required for its own business accommodation, or as shall be mortgaged or conveyed to it in satisfaction of debts previously contracted. And in these latter cases no bank may hold such estate longer than five years. It would appear from the wording of this clause, and from Section 5136, that no bank may lend money on mortgage, or with real estate as original security, and this must place these banks at a disadvantage in country districts. Possibly this may in part account for the fact, that, in the southern and western States, private and State bankers are very much more numerous than national banks.
No bank may make any loan or discount on the security of its (R.S. 5201.) own stock; and any such stock as may be acquired in satisfaction of debts previously contracted must be disposed of within six months.
The total liabilities to any bank of any one customer may at no (R.S. 5200.) time exceed one-tenth of the paid-up capital, except by the discount of bills drawn against actually existing values.
This section has been found to affect very injuriously banks situated in the great centres of commerce. In those ities where large quantities of produce are received and stored it has been found to prevent national banks from taking a fair position in regard to that class of business. A curious distinction has been held to exist in these cases, as the limitation is said not to apply to loans upon produce in transit, but if it is stored it comes within the law. This must render such transactions very difficult, and it is highly probable that the law is constantly evaded. As there is no penalty attached to the section, the only mode of enforcing the law is for the Comptroller to bring a suit for forfeiture of charter; therefore, as in all cases of excessive penalties, the law is rarely vindicated.
No bank may at any time be indebted, or in any way liable, to (R.S. 5202.) au amount exceeding that of its paid up capital at such time, except on account of
Notes of Circulation;
on deposit to the credit of the bank, or due thereto;
Liabilities to shareholders for dividends and reserve profits. This provision directly prevents the banks from incurring un.