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The first exposition of Mr. Norman's views on financial questions was a pamphlet published by him in 1833, under thə title of “Remarks upon Some Prevalent Errors with Respect to Currency and Banking, and Suggestions to the Legislature as to the Ronewal of the Bank Charters ;” and as these views were subsequently not only recognised as sound, but have guided the most important changes in our currency legislation since the resumption of specie payments in 1819, it may be interesting to notice the growth of a sound public judgment, brought about by discussions such as those Mr. Norman engaged in, so that principles which are now incontestable came gradually to be removed from the region of uncertainty and doubt. In consequence of the criticisms of Col. Torrens, Lord Overstone, and Mr. J. H. Palmer, the pamphlet was republished in 1838, with additions, but with no material modifications of the views put forth in 1833.
After pointing out that the amount of the currency in each particular country is in a perpetual state of oscillation, owing to good and bad harvests, the invention of machinery, the imposition or removal of taxes, the enactment or repeal of restrictive laws, the introduction of machinery, &c., he shows that no change in the value of a currency, either purely metallic or of convertible paper, arising merely from a change in its amount, and leaving the standard untouched, can take place in any given country without affecting in an almost equal degree the currencies of all other countries, leading up to a general equality in the value of the precious metals all over the world, and the rate of exchange with foreign countries affords the only rule by which we can judge whether the currency is superabundant, deficient, or of the proper amount.
Mr. Norman then discusses various prevailing opinions which he considered erroneous, and argues that neither the variation in the prices of merchandise, the rate of interest, the relative amount of currency or of deposits at different periods, afford any fixed or certain rules as to the sufficiency of the currency at any particular time, but that this must be determined by the state of the exchanges ·alone ; and he asks what was to be thought of the the existing system, wherein the country bankers look-d exclusively in regulating their issues to the above-mentioned fallacious criteria ? Allud. ing to the faults of the then existing system of issue, he points out (what may now be recognised as a truisin) that the business of issue was not only distinct from, but under certain circumsances hardly reconcileable with, the other transactions which form the real and legitimate employments of a banker; and that although it could not be truly said that all great commercial convulsions were to be traced to a faulty system of currency there could be no doubt that the country had suffered greatly of late years from the nature of its paper circulation, which viewed as a whole, presented
the following exceptional points, namely—1, a tendency to vary both as to excess and deficiency in an unusual degree and at unsuitable periods ; 2, a liability to discredit, both mercantile and political, in a large portion of it; 3, insolvency on the part of many of the issuers.
After considering and rejecting various schemes which had been proposed as remedies for the existing evils, such as the lowering of the standard by an increased issue of paper, the proposal to arrive at what was called an “equitable adjustment," by sending commissioners through the country to re-adjust every contract, and the suggestion that the right of issue, as well as that of banking, should be allowed to be exercised on principles of absolute free trade, that the existing difficulties should be met by the issue of inconvertible paper, recurring to the issue of £l and £2 notes, or by adopting a double standard, he proceeds to state his own view as follows:
1. The notes of all minor banks of issue to be made payable in Bank of England notes, which would thus become a legal tender; those of the Bank of England itself to be alone payable in gold. The notes issued at the branches of the Bank of England to be payable only in London, or, at least, only at the place of issue, and not at both.
2. The usury laws to be abolished,
3. No new bank of issue to be allowed, nor any new branch of an existing bank of issue.
4. All banking business, except the issue of notes, to be perfectly free.
5. Monthly returns to be published in the Gazette of the amount of all bank notes circulated, distinguishing the several issuers, and the increase or decrease from the preceding month. 6. The Bank of England to be rechartered on condition
(a.) That the accounts should be periodically published.
on approved security to any joint-stock or country bank, to
of interest no more than sufficient to cover expenses. (c.) Some reduction to be made in the charge for managing
the Public Debt. 7. All joint-stock and private banks to give security within two years for the amount of their notes in circulation to a board of commissioners, to be nominated by Parliament, unless they preferred to adopt the circulation of the Bank of England.
8. Joint-stock banks of issue to publish their accounts ; private banks to publish their circulation, and reserve in coin and Bank of England notes.
Mr. Norman was examined at great length before the select committee on banks of issue, of which the present Lord Halifax was chairman, and he subsequently, in 1861, published liis views on this subject, in a letter addressed to Lord Halifax, “On Money and the Means of Economising the Use of it.” In this letter, after discussing with great clearness the nature of money and its proper functions, he states it as his opinion, inter alin
1. That the issuing of money is the proper province of the sovereign, and the regulation of the expedients for economising its use (such as bills of exchange, and the arrangements of the clearing-house, &c.) the business of individuals ; that these functions are distinct, and that no clear views or useful legislation can exist where they are confounded.
2. That the best form of paper money would be one in which it should be issued by a single body under the supervision of the Legislature, that body having nothing to do with ordinary banking business. That of the notes issued a certain fixed portion should be invested in securities to secure their redemption, and the remainder in gold and silver, and that the notes and coin should be exchanged for one another at the will of the public, the result being that the notes would conform to all the variations of a metallic currency, and would only differ from it in being less costly and more convenient.
3. That with a system of unsecured competing issues occasional insolvency and discredit on the part of some issuers are almost unavoidable, and that under it it is almost impossible to attain a perfect conformity to the variation of a metallic currency.
4. That for the due regulation of a paper currency a self-acting test is indispensably requisite, and no other can be proposed so simple and efficacious as the free action of the public in the exchange of gold for notes and notes for gold under the influence of the foreign exchanges.
We will now point out how far the various recommendations made by Mr. Norman were adopted by the Legislature.
1. In 1833 bank notes were made a legal tender.
4. Banking business (properly so-called) is now perfectly free, though, as regards the issue of notes, Sir Robert Peel felt it necessary to protect vested interest by preserving to the issuers their then existing privileges.
5. The publication of the amount of notes issued is now compulsory.
6. As regards the Bank of England itself, the accounts are published periodically, and the charge for managing the Public Debt has been reduced, the notes and gold have been made interchangeable in the manner recommended.
The above forms the more solid part of the work done by Mr. Norman, and it will be seen from the foregoing statement that the most important changes which the Act of 1844 introduced into the management of the Bank of England and of the currency of the country were indicated in his recommendations and those of his fellow-labourers in the same field. It is probable that he will be longest remembered by the part he took in these important changes. He did not, however, limit his attention to matters relating only to currency and banking.
In the year 1860 he published a paper, which appears to have been written some fifteen years betore, “On the Incidence of Import Duties." This was a reply to the publications of Col. Torrens, called “The Budget,” and “Letters to Sir R. Peel,” the doctrinės inculcated into which Mr. Norman considered erroneous, his view being, that import duties on commodities not produced under a monopoly fall usually on the importing country.
The question is thoroughly sifted and fully discussed, and deserves attention now that “ Fair-trade" is again being made a cry.
Mr. Norman's last important work was "An Examination of Some Prevailing Opinions as to the Pressure of Taxation in This and Other Countries,” published about 1849, which was written to disprove a prevailing opinion that the taxation of Great Britain was much heavier than that of other large civilised countries, and seriously impeded the progress of the general prosperity, a pamphlet whose publication probably produced a greater effect on public opinion than any other of Mr. Norman's writings. In addition to the above, Mr. Norman wrote a great number of articles and short papers on a variety of subjects, political, social, and financial, and was at one time a frequent contributor to various journals. Some of those papers were reprinted in a single volume, for private circulation, in 1869,
The work above mentioned probably represents the most valuable results of Mr. Norman’s labours ; but it was work done so long ago that it really belongs to a past generation. The defects which he and others pointed out in our monetary system have long since been remedied, and the improvements which he recommended have long since been adopted, and the new system has been accepted as based upon sound principles. To those of the present generation who had the advantage of Mr. Norman's acquaintance, he will be remembered for other reasons. Having from his youth been a diligent reader, and possessing a singularly clear and retentive memory, he early acquired a mass of information not often equalled. History was the study he chiefly enjoyed, and his historical knowledge was most extensive ; but, besides this, he acquired a vast amount of information on general subjects, and was well acquainted with French, Italian, Latin, and Scandinavian literature. He had the happy faculty of being able to niake his knowledge readily available when required, and to those who asked for it information or advice was freely given, without affectation and without display. It is probably by these and by his social qualities, rather than as the political economist, or the sound exponent of financial principles, that he will be hest remembered by the numerous relatives and friends of more than one generation who enjoyed his society, and now mourn his loss.
WILLIAM DIGGES LA TOUCHE, Esq. On the 22nd September last this well-known Dublin banker died, after a few days' illness, in the seventieth year of his age. Descended from a distinguished Huguenot family who settled in Ireland on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, his family has for upwards of a century been identified with the monetary interests of Dublin. More than one ancestor held the office of governor or director of the Bank of Ireland. When the firm of La Touche and Co., of which the late Mr. La Touche had been principal, merged into the Munster Bank, he became managing director of that bank. Но was also a member of the Council and president of the Chambers of Commerce for upwards of forty years, and his name will always be associated with the charitable and other institutions of the city of Dublin.
WILLIAM STANLEY JEvoxs, F.R.S., LL.D. THE melancholy circumstances connected with the death of Professor Jevons, on the 13th August last, will no doubt be remembered. When staying with his family at Bexhill, near Hastings, he was accidentally drowned whilst bathing. How the accident occurred cannot be known. The coast in that part is reported to be dangerous for those who cannot swim, but he is said to have been a good swimmer.
Mr. Jevons was born in Liverpool on the 1st September, 1835, and had not therefore attained his 47th year. His father was a merchant in that town, and his mother, who was the daughter of William Roscoe, an author of some celebrity, was herself a lady possessing some literary attainments. Educated first in Liverpool, under Dr. Hodgson, at the High School of the Mechanics' Institution, he entered University College, London, at the age of 16, and, showing early in life his taste for scientific pursuits, he took honours in botany and chemistry. At the age of 18 (in 1853), on the recommendation of the Master of the Mint in London, he was appointed assayer to the Australian Royal Mint, at Sydney, and remained there some five years, when he returned to England, and.