This section is from the "Practical Banking" book, by Albert S. Bolles.
Recently, while examining a discount bank, I found twelve pass books from several different banks, and in four different names, but all belonging to the same individual, calling for sums aggregatfng $ 28,000, put up as collaterals for a loan. While this shows that any law is liable to evasion, it emphasizes the necessity for specific regulations as to the reception of deposits —Extract fronm address of A. B. Hepburn, Bank Superintendent of New York, at the American Bankers' Association in 1882.
By and by the spend thrift has run his life, and comes in poverty and need to his brother and asks for support. Misfortune may follow the prudent and bring them, by unexpected reverses, to want. In the artificial conditions which our civilization creates, the demands of the needy are greater than they were in primitive conditions of living. Such demands as these meet the intensely practical mind today, just as they do that of the philanthropic. So they did a hundred years ago. When a great want is felt in the world a host of men begin to try to solve the problem to satisfy the want. Great inventions then seem to be contemporaneously made by different men. This very question of dealing with simple men and women, of taking care of the humble who had no estates, of taking care of the poor who come to want by improvidence or by misfortune, appears to have received the studious notice of the economist and philanthropist at the same time. While Jeremy Bentham and Malthus enforced the benefits of providence and savings in the interests of the great body of the people as well as of those who saved, about the opening of this century an English clergyman and a Scotch minister, each in his own parish, set in operation a plan for his parishioners to save money, which embodies in substance the fundamental principle of the savings institution. Contemporaneously, a woman, Mrs. Priscilla Wakefield, established such an organization in England. Similar ideas also were advanced at the same period by a London magistrate, Patrick Colquhoun, who wrote upon the question of popular indigence and measures for its relief as early as 1806.
In America, in 1816 and 1817, the needs and the claims of the poor awakened attention at Boston and New York, and thought was immediately directed towards the savings institution, because it was deemed most helpful. At Boston, in 1816, it was proposed "to form an institution for the security and improvement of the savings of persons in humble life until required by their wants and desires."
The first Savings bank in the State of New York seems to be the direct result of a meeting of citizens at the New York Hospital on December 16, 1817, to take into consideration the subject of pauperism. A society was there formed for the prevention of pauperism. A committee was then appointed to report on the prevailing causes of poverty. The report recites, among other causes, that "Prodigality is comparative among the poor; it prevails to a great extent in inattention to those small but frequent savings when labor is plentiful which may go to meet privation in unfavorable seasons." When the constitution of this society was drafted it declared that one prime purpose of the organization should be "to hold out inducements to those people to economy and saving from the fruits of their own industry in seasons of great abundance." The earnestness of the men who were members of this organization is proved in the passage of an act, upon their petitition, by the Legislature of 1819, for the incorporation of the Bank for Savings. In each of the two years thereafter a Savings bank was incorporated in this State.
Second.—The savings institution is not organized to make money.
Right here it is wholly different from the discount bank in motive and aim. The Savings bank receives money chiefly to keep it securely for the benefit of the depositors. The ordinary bank performs some service for such as need it in business, and justly is paid for such service. The aim of the bank is profit—gain upon the capital which is employed in the work. The savings institution seeks to serve those who are not fitted by knowledge and habit for safely keeping and investing their money when saved. The discount bank is equipped with money, with skill in business, with acquaintance with monetary affairs, and offers to the busy managers of commerce and trade its aid in making exchanges and in all their operations which require its assistance. The savings bank opens its doors to savers; it receives and permanently invests money. The bank opens its doors to borrowers and users of money, for pay. One serves by receiving and keeping, the other serves by lending. One aims at profit, the other never makes profit an end; the Savings institution is a receiving reservoir from little springs; the bank is a distributing reservoir of accumulated capital.
There ought to be, therefore, no antagonism between the Savings bank and the bank. If the Savings bank is kept to its original idea, as it should be, it will not encroach on the domain of the bank, and the last will by no means come in conflict with the Savings bank. The time has been when men had the idea that the best way to get on in the world was to rob each other. Juster ideas than that now prevail. The Savings institution is a conception which demonstrates this truth. It is the reverse of the communistic notion recently prevalent. The communist proposes the division of capital, the drone to share with the worker in the accumulation of his production. The Savings institution aims at making all men producers and savers too, It offers the aid of the strong, who can manage well, to the weak, to receive their small gains and hold them securely against that time when need or desire may require the store for prudent use. The Savings institution enlarges the number of capitalists; it reduces the army of possible prodigals, paupers and tramps. The communist is the enemy of capital, for he proposes to rob the man who has money. The Savings-bank depositor is himself an owner of money. He belongs to the conservatives by the logical tendency of his position. In this land, where there is such room for growth, such demand for money, such room for men of the right stamp, the Savings institution is an educator, is the friend of capital, of order and stability, both political and social. Whoever earns and saves, lengthens continuously his arms for service. Whoever earns and spends as he goes does not lengthen his arms, but shortens his legs for running his race in life. While the Savings bank is not organized to make money it is most profitable in several ways. It accumulates money; it inspires and trains men to get money and to the wise use of it; it spares those who have capital from charges upon it for the support of those who might otherwise become poor; it makes better men and families and better citizens; it adds to the sum of National resources in money, and adds to the means for advancement in material improvement. It is thus a many-sided benefaction —to those out of it, as well as to those in it.