1740: A Defense of the Land Bank

27 FEBRUARY 1740

I take the Freedom to send you and them the following Remarks on that Author’s Performance, whereby it will appear . . . how industrious some among us . . . is to represent the said Manufactory Scheme, in odious Colours, and thereby excite to Resentment against it, which they could never do, if they treated it with Truth, and related the Facts as they really are….

Next he comes to the Manufactory Scheme, the main Subject of his Letter, as he says. And here, I doubt not, Sir, but the hard Names, scurrilous Epithets, extravagant Glosses, and Ungentlemanly Language, with many plain and obvious Contradictions (Things never needed in a good Cause), which this Author in his unconnected Ramble over this Scheme, and its Undertakers, has used, will induce you to give little Credit to his Performance; yet give me Leave Sir, for the more full discovery of this Hard-Mouthed Author, and for clearing the Scheme, and its Promoters, from his scandalous Reflections (tho’ I confess one can hardly come so near him without Defilement), to examine his Assertion in Point of Fact, and his Conclusions with respect the Event of this Affair.

And first he begins with the Subjects of this Undertaking; which he calls a vast Multitude of Necessitous, Idle, and Extravagant People, combining to have Money at an easy Rate, of no determinate Value, which the possessor cannot oblige them to accept, until after twenty Years, and with this to pay their Debts, which will depreciate the other Currencies, prejudice private Property, and damage the Merchants of Great Britain trading to New England.

To which I Answer, that as to the Numbers being Great that are actually concerned in it, it is true, but not the tenth Part of those that are in Heart in favour of the Scheme, and think it the best calculated Method for the Province’s Good, that has yet been thought of, but that said Partners are a Combination of such as he represents, is as far from Truth as his Epithets are from the Rules of Decency and good Manners, or which is all one, as the

East from the West. Can it be supposed, Sir, that the great Number of Officers Civil and Military selected out of the People by a wise Governour and Council, and performing so well, as that no Complaints were ever brought against one of them for Male-Administration, besides numbers of Gospel Ministers now concerned in this Scheme, could deserve such a Character? Would such Numbers of Officers (not Partners) as of late have resigned their Commissions (that they might be free to give those Bills a Credit) have done so to take Part with a Combination of such despicable Mortals in a Design to cheat Mankind, and in which they must share equally with others? But this (instead of Reason), has been their Treatment all along.

As to the easy Rate by which the Partners have their Money, there’s no Argument in that, nor Truth in Assertion, that they are not obliged to receive it till twenty Years, or that the Bill is of no determinate Value, that it bears no Interest; all this is notoriously false….

As to these Bills depreciating others, not on a Silver Foundation, there will be none of them to suffer at the End of one Year, for that compleats the Term of their Redemption; his Consequence therefore that they will hurt private Property and the British Merchants, fails and comes to nothing.

And here I would propose to them, Which will hurt them most, whether to have Money circulating to pay for their Goods in Ships built, and Cargoes bought, in about six Months, as has been the Case when the Manufactory Bills are taken? Or whether to wait twice that Time, as some Refusers, I am informed, have done, and the Keel not yet laid, or Cargoes bought, for want of Money, and perhaps will not till their Debtor breaks, or by some other Accident they are defeated of their Debt? But then, our Author lays Stress on the length of the Period, and the largeness of the Sum. As to that of the Period, the Partners Obligation to take the Bills at any Time, as before related, is an Answer. And as to the largeness of the Sum, had there been the same Provision in the Province Bills, the Rise of Silver had never affected them as it did. To clear this, pray observe, that when A gave B an advance Price for Silver, that sunk the Province Bills so much, as A advanced in his

Purchase. B, who thought he had got by the Bargain, soon found his Mistake; for none alive was obliged to receive the Bills of him in Trade, at a higher Value than he received them of A, and so the Bills sunk in Value in Trade, just as they did in their Purchase of Silver….

But our cavilling Author will say, What’s all this without sufficient Security for the Performance, and accordingly tells you, that the Bills are very Ill, or not at all secured. For Answer to which, I shall inform you, Sir, what the Security is, and leave you to judge for your self, what Reason there is for this Objection. Every Partner Mortgages a Real Estate (saving a very few who gave Personal Security in Boston) exclusive of Buildings, Timber, Wood, and wooden Fences, which are prized at nothing, to the Value of one and a half of the Money he takes out, done by five Men on Oath: The Deeds Conditioned for the yearly Payment of a twentieth Part of the Principal, and three per cent Interest. To inforce these Payments, each Partner gives a Covenant, obliging himself to make them, according to the Tenor of his Mortgage; as also to pay his Rateable Proportion of all manner of Losses that may any Ways happen; besides many other Things contained therein for the better Security of the Possessor; to which Purpose all the Instruments are made. Now Sir, if he pays not, Action of Covenant broken may be brought, and on Judgment obtained, Execution may be Levied on his other Estate from Year to Year, and Payment to Payment, and his whole Mortgage lies to secure the last Payment only: Hence if all they are worth will make good their Engagements, it is liable. The Directors Security as such, besides Instruments executed to each other, obliging to the faithful Discharge of their Trusts, is a Covenant they give to each of the Partners, expressing the Particulars of their Duty; on failure of which each Partner has his Action against each Director, by Vertue of said Covenant, which secures against all Suggestions of Corruption in the Directors.

With respect to the Surmise he pretends you make of the Merchants jesuitically promoting the Scheme in order to get all Paper Currencies suppressed, whether this is Genuine or not, I can’t tell. But this is certain, that the Term is well adapted; for at that Game, it’s notorious, he is never exceeded, and but seldom equalled. Then again (as tho’ hurried by some Evil Spirit) he repeats his Abuses of the Contrivers, says the Scheme was contrived for their Use, and in the same Breath says, it is only contrived for the Directors Use, who to be sure were mostly other Persons; for the first Projector of the Scheme is no Officer. . . .

Then he wrangles and finds Fault with their Trade, and calls them Ludicrous, because they Import that which others won’t sell us, and that which we can’t do without; whereas the Bank of England, and all other Banks well constituted (he must mean established by Law) are prohibited Trade. And these desire the same Thing, when alike circumstanced (their Trade not being a chosen Circumstance) but are loath to starve in the mean Time. But then they don’t understand Trade. This ought to move his Compassion, rather than his Anger. That he and his Brethren force them to Business of which they are not capable. His diminitive Appellation of the Gentlemen of the Bay, is very ungenerous and ungrateful, they having contributed vastly to the Assistance of our Trade, and to the Wealth of this very Author in particular.

His next Freak is about the Alteration of the Scheme, which he thinks none have a Right to do but himself, he having altered as before mentioned; and what then, if it be for the better (which he don’t deny) and compleated before any Obligation was made, why should he be angry? . . .

In his Answer to your Desire to know the Nature of our landed Interest, he ought to have told you, “that it is almost ruined by our Trade; as our Merchants manage it. It’s true, Sir, Our Fore-Fathers spent their Blood and Treasure, many of them, in subduing this Wilderness, and its savage Inhabitants; and the Land being cultivated is generally exceeding Good, for so cold a Climate; the People orderly, vertuous, and industrious, but the want of Money and Hands to labour (too great a Proportion going to Sea) has brought them to the Pass our Author speaks of. Tho’ he has his own Ends in casting his Veil over their Nakedness; otherwise he might have discovered the Means which made them so, which would be little to his Credit.

The Truth is this, that the Import too much encouraged, or Export too much neglected and discouraged, has built up a few on the ruins of many; the natural Effect of such a State….

That of the Assortment and Value of the Goods in which the Bills are to be paid, I answer thus; All the Goods in the Treasury are the Property of the Possessor (so far as his Bills will reach) and consequently he will take which he pleases. And the Case vastly differs from a Bond, where two Species are mentioned, as discharging Conditions; there the Creditor is intitled to but one, but here to all, therefore has his Choice. As to the Value, it being at the Market Price, the Debtor has no more Right to decide that than the Creditor; but of this also before.

His third, that the Bills will supply the Treasury, and no Manufactures paid: I Answer, that’s impossible, because the Sum to be paid in is bigger than what is emitted, and consequently Manufactures must supply the Deficiency. And as to what Bills are paid in, they must be procured of the Possessor, and by them who must receive the Bills at the declared Value, and then who is hurt? Tho’ all possible Means will be used, that Manufactures be produced for a Reason herein mentioned.

His fourth, viz., That the Directors (the Company not being a Body Politick) may emit what Bills they please, so none must be had, least too much be emitted. However, a Law easily prevents this. But if the Argument proves any Thing, it proves too much, as by the Consequence aforesaid, and so must be rejected.

The same answers his fifth.

His sixth describing who may set up a Bank, as well suits the Land Bank Partners, after all his Scurrility and foul Language, as it does the Silver Schemers. And I dare (were it convenient) put the Issue of the Case upon it. As to others following the Example, it is vertually answered in his fourth.

His seventh, that the Security being among themselves. may be shifted at Pleasure. I Answer, Can they blot out the Face of the Bill in the Possessor’s Hand? If so, there may be Danger, otherwise it’s irrational to suppose the Directors will suffer, much less agree to cancel or stifle the Securitys, while the Bill stands out against them, and must prove their Ruine. What can be more invidious?

No wonder the Government rejected the Scheme in 1714, as he next relates, when the Signers of the Bills, the only Persons the Possessors could come at, were to have no Security given to them, as appears, to enable them to redeem the Bills. But no doubt this Author when it suits his Design, will conclude that whatever once were the Sentiments of the Government, must always be right (let Circumstances alter as they will ) and ’tis a wonder we are not charged with Rebellion, for our proceeding contrary to what was their Mind twenty six Years ago. But tho’ we escape here, he now draws up a heavy Charge indeed, viz., of debauching People’s Minds, instilling Principles into them destructive of the Government, and so he goes on with a long Detail of Particulars, equally ridiculous, and equally false, calculated purely to influence the Power at Home against this People, to procure a Dissolution of our Constitution, doubting of his half Vote for the future. When in Fact (saving some Opposition made to the Merchants [by Abuse extorted] and that in a very small Degree, to what they have given) there is not the least Foundation in Truth for all these Assertions. But this Instrument of Cruelty, with just the same Reason, takes the same Methods which his Predecessors the old Pharisees did, when they wanted Argument to hunt down the Christian Religion and its Promoters, they thought to Effect it by representing them as Seditious and Disturbers of Government; and what was the Effect of their own Opposition, as now, was unjustly charged on them that peaceably suffered under it.

I shall select and Answer his most material Points, as that in his first, That for the People strenuously to assert the emitting and passing any Thing as a Currency, in defiance of the King’s Prerogative is a high Crime, is answered before. Middletown he says, have Voted to receive those Bills as Cash for Town Rates; intimating that by the Words (as Cash) they invaded the King’s Prerogative: But this is a false Recital of their Words, and (I fear) wilful, and discovers a consciousness in this Author that a bare offering or receiving of the said Bills in lieu of

Money or any thing else, which was their Case, was no Invasion on the Prerogative; therefore he perverts the Words on Purpose to serve his Design, at which he has an excellent Faculty. The Words are, “that they would receive the Bills in Town Rates,” which no more infringes the Prerogative, than to have said, they would pay in Corn, or any other Commodity, which some Towns have done before them, and were never taxed with invading the Prerogative.

As to his second, why Landed Men have not a Right to make Money as well as they that have none, or why they will relinquish their Country, sooner to an Invader, or why they must necessarily be supposed to be in Debt, or why their making Money (he means Bills) is from a destructive and wicked Principle, as he asserts, being beyond me to discover, I pass it by.

His Glosses in his third, are intirely groundless. No Sir, we value our Selves on a just and honest Trade, equal to our Ability. ‘Tis the Excess only we are against: should be glad to enlarge our Ability, and hope by this Scheme to effect it (our Produce being thereby improved) in an honest and thrifty way, and not by a Bankrupt Trade as at present, make our selves a Bankrupt People, the necessary and natural Effects of such a Trade.

The Substance of his fourth is this, that the People in the Charter Governments, being greatly in Favour of this Undertaking, will, it’s like, exercise their Charter Liberty in chusing such to Rule them, as they think will promote it; and so, says he, our Dependance on Great Britain would vanish, Neglects of Resolves of Parliament, and King’s Instructions will ensue (he seems to have changed his Mind since Governour Burnet’s Day); he had better have spoken plain, and said, it is best to take away the Charters, least the People by Vertue of them, should make Choice of such as would promote, what they judged for the publick Good, instead of others who may deserve the contrary Character, which is the grand Reason of a Charter: or in other Words, least the People by their Charter Priviledge, should give check to any arbitrary Proceedings that have or may happen, and so he is for absolute Monarchy, and destroying the Constitution, not only here but of the Nation also.

As to his fifth, that the People are by the Managers of the Scheme excited to Mutiny, etc., that they tell them, that the Lords at Whitehall, nor Acts of Parliament can stop their Proceedings; that if the Merchants won’t take the Bills they must blame themselves for any Outrages that may happen; that we had as good perish by the Sword as by Famine; that on a French Invasion, if we submit, it can’t be worse, as appears, he says, by the printed Papers sent home, I Answer: It is hard to determine what Property of the Devil discovers itself most in this Relation, Malice or Falshood both being carried to the Height. But I leave it to the Papers he refers to (abating some Strokes on the Merchant by their hard and cruel Usage extorted) and let them be searched for the Test of this Author’s Veracity in this Affair; and will be answerable for it, that scarce one in five Thousand of the Landed Men of these Provinces would quit their Allegiance to his present Majesty, and His Royal House, while the Blood in their Veins would keep them in Life; and none later than the Managers he refers to, and so monstrously abuses….

Thus Sir, have I given you some Remarks on his Work, passing over much of his Fallacy, which Pity to him would not allow me to expose. I have also given you a summary Account of the Manufactory Undertaking, with the Manner of Proceeding, and the Necessity thereof. I should have been more particular had Leisure admitted. I hope, Sir, by what is said, you will be convinced that it is another Thing, than it has been represented to be, by those that are it’s Enemies.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2650 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.