The Fund: A Boston Land Bank of 1681

One sheet survives of this pamphlet, attributed to Rev. John Woodbridge. It describes an early mutual bank scheme known as The Fund at Boston in N. E. It is quite likely that this sheet was issued as a prospectus, and that the rest of the pamphlet was never published. The Severals is of particular interest because it confirms that path of between William Potter’s Key of Wealth (England, 1650) and the New England land bank experiments. Andrew Mcfarland Davis published an account of the Fund which we hope to have online sometime soon.

Severals relating to the


Printed for divers Reasons, as may appear.

THat the way of man is not in himself is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh, to direct his steps, Is a Truth that all (who are not strangers to themselves) must acknowledge; & in special the Author of this Subject: If it be considered,

1 That he had as little skill in, as inclination to, or need of concerning himself in merchantile Affairs: Nor came he into New England with a thought to meddle therewith: as is well known to many. 2 That he should concern himself to promote Trade for others, and that in this Land, a place not designed by the first Planters, for Commerce; being better acquainted with cœlestial Dealings, than the polities of mundane affairs

3 That he should amongst such a People essay to promote a Designe not known in the day thereof (if yet) to l[ ] in any part of the world (although since in agitation [ ] and then surely strange here, where the name of [ ] benefit thereby, was hardly heard of. 4 That h[ ] notwithstanding the reproaches cast upon him, & untruths raised & reported of this Thing, still appear to justifie & promote the same, and encourage those who are satisfied thereof, and join with him in this his undertaking. The rise of which was as followeth.

About the latter end of the year 1649. an intimate Friend of the Author’s in London, Mr. William Potter, who was likewise no Trader, Imparted to him a Designe for the accomodation of Commerce, in the nature of a Bank of money; but to be founded upon personal Credit by a considerable number of able Men Ingaging, as the Found thereof, to pass forth Credit; as a medium to enlarge the Measure of money, that was known to be too little for the Dealings of that Land: Or by depositing of Goods, in the nature of a Lumber of Merchandise, to pass out Credit thereon, untill sold. As for a Fund to have Land (the onely secure Deposit) the dubious & intricat Titles thereof, put a stop to any discourse thereabout. And as for a Bank of money, there was in that no certain Security; wofull experience proving them subject to a rupture.

The Author so resented the Notion of his Friend, (the thing being rational, & tending much to the benefit of all men where set on foot) that it became oft times when they met, the common subject of their discourse, in a rotation of Proposals, Objections, and Solutions: Leaving no stone unturn’d, that might fit the designe to comport with that Place. Mr. Potter likewise had about that time printed a Book in folio, relating to his designe; one whereof he bestowed on the Author, who (upon the report that was given him of the Labyrinth New-England was in, for want of a Conveniency to mete their Trade with) gave it with good acceptance, to a Kinsman of his that was a Merchant of this Place; the prosperity wheref he was [ ]er to, when not likely to ever to see It. Whether by [ ] Book, or other accident, any motion thereabout [ ]s unknown. But before any thing was brought to [ ]t seems there was; (an accompt of which shall in its place be given) the Author was called to Ireland; where he had more endeavoured the promotion of this thing, than barely to hint it; had not his transient Employ prevented.

In anno 1664. His lot being here cast, he soon saw that with his eye, that did affect his heart i.e. The Straits many were in; the Time they consumed, and the Disadvantages they were under, by higling to suit ends: And thereupon imparted to a publick-spirited Merchant, with what ease, & safety their Measure might be inlarged: Who likewise being sensible of the need thereof, desired to have in Writing somewhat about the same. Which being done, It was, it seems, imparted to divers, with approbation, and Return made, That somewhat might be done about it in due season: which the author rested satisfied with; in that there lay not now at his dore, a Thing concealed, that might tend to the welfare of the Country.

About three years after this (that foregoing being wholly buried) the author accidentally started this Expedient, among divers Country Gentlemen, Yeomen & others; persons not likely to lend an ear to a thing of this nature. Yet so it happened, that to some one, or more of them, the Notion was of estimation: and spread abroad, to the occasioning of several Debates among those who were Considerable, both in Parts & Purse: And stopped not, untill the honoured Council heard thereof. But before they took notice of It, One of the Magistrates Imparted the Designe to an experienced Merchant, well Read in the nature of Banks, To have his judgement concerning this. Who Returned, that this Bank was so Stated, as left not room for a rational Objection to be made against it In that those Founded on Money, had only their defect, of a possibility to break; which this Fixed on Land, was not capable of. Soon after this, the Author had notice given, that the Council would send speedily for him, about this Concern; & was advised to write somewhat about it, for them. Whereupon, he set upon drawing a second Draught, in the dress of a Proposal. The which, before quite write out, a Messenger was sent to call him to them. To whom he presented his (then crude) conceptions, as follows. To which some clauses, and explanations are added: but is the same for substance, with that on File in the Records of the General Court.

A Proposal for erecting a FUND of Land; by Authority, or private Persons, in the nature of a Money-Bank; or Merchandise-Lumber, to pass Credit upon, by Book-Entries; or Bils of Exchange, for great Payments: and Change-bills for running Cash. Wherein is demonstrated, First, the necessity of having a Bank, to inlarge the Measure of Dealings in this Land, by shewing the benefit of Money, if enough to mete Trade with; & the disadvantages, when it is otherwise.

Money is that One thing, which, as the medium of Trade, (for so Solomon’s Assertion must necessarily, be understood) answereth All things. For where it is in plenty, no Buyer will be bound to one Person, or Market; nor purchase Credit at the Grantor’s price; nor be necessitated to become Servant to the Lender, if he have Money to answer his occasions; nor will run the hazard of Trusting. Hereby also, the frequent complaints that are made, for want of present pay, are silenced & persons freed from a multitude of carking cares. It likewise multiplies Trading; increaseth Manufacture, and Provisions; for domestic use, and foreign Returns; abateth Interest; inciteth to the purchasing of Land, and heighteneth its value; forwards the Improvement both of real, and personal Estates; promoteth the Settleing of new Plantations, and maritim Affairs; incourageth heartless Idlers, to Work; redeemeth Time Labour, and Expence, greatly consumed in higling up and down, to suit Pay to content, abrogateth the mystery of Trucking, by sinking Barter, and reducing all bought, and sold, to the English Standard; hindreth wrangling and vexatious Suits upon Debts contracted for want thereof, to the Scandal of a religious people, as well as the impoverishing of them, and the consuming the time of their Magistrates, that might be better spent about studying the necessary advantages of Trade, and forwarding of Manufacture, to the inriching of them. To which end most civilized Nations set some apart to manage, and is the Loadstone that draweth commodities to the Market, that great conveniecy of a people.

On the contrary where Coin is scarce,* all things are, dear, & little answereth to content, or free from trouble, and loss. Debts are contracted; dilatory, and shuffeling payments made; dexterous Traders retire or (which is worse) deal in Money, the medium of Trade; young beginners are checked; good men laid open to temptations, and opportunities given to bad ones, that exact from those who must crave Credit, or cannot make suitable pay.

Trade is stinted at home, and forestalled abroad; Stocks lye dead; Intrigue accompts, and perplexing Suits made; Merchants, and Shopkeepers, undersell one another; and pitifully help themselves, by beating down Craftsmen: who again, through necessity, underwork others of their occupation; or slight over tbeir work; adulterate Manufacture, and hasten poverty on all. Nor can ever Trade be ballanced, or the advantage of Fairs be enjoyed, where Money is wanting. Which the Cobler of Agawam, before he Canonized Pumpion, was not so Simple but understood full well.Secondly, That Credit pass’d in Fund, by Book & Bills (as afore) will fully supply the defect of Money. Wherein is related, of how little value Coin, as the Measure of Trade, need be, in itself; what Inconveniences subject to. The worth a Fund-Bill, or Payment therein, is of: & not of that Hazard.Although Cash be so usefull; yet it is but a ready conveniency. Which hath, through mistake, its esteem, not from the use, (which it ought) but Intrinsic value: which is not essential to a thing, meerly good for Exchange; and serving barely to procure what One wants, that another abounds with: and again, to fetch for the last, what he standeth in need of, where to be spared. And this (except here were Mines, to transport bullion, for foreign Trade) Bank-Bills, or payments therein, will effect, to all Intents, as well as plenty of Coin; which, as money, doth neither Feed, nor Cloath. Moreover, Treasure, not onely allures an Enemy, and is covetously hoarded up; & so, like dung in a heap, unprofitable: but is also subject to wear, adulterating, fire, robberies, mistakes, & the like contingencies; which, payments in this Bank, or bills issued thence, are free from: having a Fund, or Deposit in Land; real, dureable, & of secure value. And for the Change-bills, they may be so contrived, as to be passed with facility; and without counterfeiting. However, so as to prevent; or find out, any Cheat: if the Rules of them be observed.

The other two Sections of the Proposal, must be pass’d to the 2d Sheet, pag. 9. It being needful to make a Digression, to give an account of the publishing this undertaking sooner, than intended. In the year 74. divers well-wishers to the Fund, did think it fit, to have a Narrative of it Printed. In order whereunto, something was done, in the Method before; i. e. the occasion of the Subject; and then, the proceedings thereon, to that time: but particular business did interpose. In the year 78. the author was importuned to the same thing: which had been done, but that after-thoughts brought him to consider, that so much having been agitated in Publique, about it; and the probation it had by the Referrees, and honoured Council, as to the Theory thereof; the Press would hardly print it into the practic part: and that the onely way was to set it on foot. For, as Good Wine needs no bush; so it was presumed, that if this were but in use, the Flavour thereof would invite enou’ to, and continue them at it. Which to accomplish, (having by accident, some respit time this year 1681. and accomodated with Spirit, Purse, & Hand; the ingredients that must center, as in one, for any considerable undertaking) He did in September, begin to pass forth Bills, to make an Experiment of that which had passed the Scrutiny of above 30. years, with approbation, and had rational Grounds to conclude, that it would work it self up into Credit, with discreet men: because Int’rest will not Lie. In 6 moneths, a considerable number espoused the Designe; besides those that were concerned, in the years, Seventy one, &. Seventy two. Whereupon, it became as a Galley floating upon the stream of opinion, into which He, & He would thrust an oar. And some that favoured not the Designe, did talk to the discountenance of it: and wanting weighty objections, let fly broad-sides of Pot-gun-pellets, chained with Fallacies & buffoonry, to impede this undertaking. Upon this, several, now engaged, think it not fit to be longer silent: but urge the hastening an account of the Designe; that the Reality, Safety, and Benefit thereof, may appear to all prudent, and unprejudic’d men. And this shall be endeavoured, as time will permit; though not in the mode first intended: Which was, to place all the Rules relating to the Fund, at the end of the Narrative; and then the Debates that are carried on, concerning Commerce. Which will now fall in mixt and this Sheet be closed with some Rules, most needful to be first known, for the directing those in Company, ~n their motion. The manner of erecting the Fund, which was March 30. 70. and the carrying it on in private, for many moneths; and the reason of putting a stop to it, when bills were just to be issued forth, together with the Preamble of the Rules, &c;. They may come in, in due place

Payments on Change-bills.

That the acceptor, who gives Credit to any Change-bill, First, be assured that the Producer thereof, be the Person named in said bill, or sent by his Order. Secondly; That he Enter on said bill, 1. the Time. 2 his own Name. 3. the Value he payes. Which, if it be the first Charge, then also to write the Sum, in words, above the columne: If not, then to cast up the Total: which is to be done at every additional Article, & the bill to be delivered back again. Thirdly, If he pay the complement of any bill, to take it in.

Entries in the Creditors Leger.

First, the Acceptor must erect an Accompt in his Leger, thus, The Fund at Boston in N. E. Debtor. Contra, Creditor.

Secondly, Enter, I. the Time, as in the former Rule. 2 thus, To Change-bill of J. E. adding thereto, the number of the bill, & the Sum delivered. And if it be in full of the bill, Then to write underneath the Entry, N. B. This bill taken in. Thirdly, when he hath an account in the Office, he is to write thus, N. My Accompt in the Fund Leger, fol.—

Entries in the Fund-bookes.

When the Acceptor hath given Credit to the value of five pounds, or more: He may pass the Fund Debit into the Office, & have Credit in his Account there, as an Acceptor: giving in an Account, as Entr’d in his Leger, with the Change-bills taken up by him, & underwritten thus, Place to my Credit in Fund fol.—the Sum of—being for the foregoing Payments.
To H. S. Per J. N. with the Date.

Pass-bill Forms.

If one Fundor passeth Credit to another, it ought to be by a Pass-bill, thus, Place of my Credit in Fund, fol.—to Account of D. J. the Sum of—Directed, & Signed, as above express’d.

If the Drawer desire a Change-bill, for Pocket-Expence, Then thus, Charge my accompt, fol.—Debtor, five pounds or 2 Change-bill. now received, Number,—Fund-credit, not, to be strained; nor passed, but among Fundors.

That no Acceptor give, nor Depositor take more Fund-credit, than they see their way how to Receive, or Pay the same again, among those in Company with them: nor Deal in said Credit with any, but those Ented in the Fund-Rowl; which all concerned may take a copie of. N. This Rule to be of force but until persons see it to be their Interest, to accept Fund-pay: and the Credit thereof pass, without hazard of any prejudicing the same; through willfulness, or ignorance.

To return, at length, to the preposal, left off pag. 6. [ ]

* This Clause, with some other Objections & Queries, very lately made; shall reciev a full Reply in the next Sheet: if possible.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.