This uniformity does not exist in England. The system of London banking is different from that in the country. And the banking of one district differs from that of another district. It would be difficult to produce any general union in England, even among the joint-stock banks. There is a difference in the character of their localities. Their head offices are too wide apart to admit of frequent personal communication. And it may be feared that among the joint-stock banks of England there is not enough of that esprit du corps which is essential to the existence of a general confederation.
There is, however, considerable competition among the banks of Scotland. This rivalry, however, does not lead to transacting business on lower terms.1 Indeed, these terms are always very moderate. The difference between the rate of interest allowed and charged is rarely more than one per cent. No commission is charged on current accounts; and it is only recently, we believe, that commission has been charged on the amount (not the operations) of cash credits. Sometimes the banks at Glasgow, when there is a great demand for capital, have been disposed to grant a higher rate of interest than the banks of Edinburgh; but this difference has soon been arranged. The provincial banks, too, have carried on a strong opposition against the branches of the Edinburgh banks. The late Thomas Kinnear, Esq., when asked what had led to the discontinuing of some branches of the Bank of Scotland, replied:-
"With respect to those that are beyond my memory, I cannot say what was the cause; but those that have been given up within my recollection, in point of fact were given up in consequence of the town in which that branch had originally been established having accumulated wealth to such a degree that it could afford a banking capital of its own, and that it had in point of fact established a local bank; then the connection of that local bank went so strongly against us by fair competition, that we found we could employ our capital to better purpose elsewhere, and gave up the branch." 1
1 The banks have entered upon an agreement to maintain a uniform scale of charges for commission, exchange, etc, and meet from time to time to settle the rates of discount and interest-these being regulated by the rise and fall in the Bank of England rates.
4. The system of numerous branches enables the banks of Scotland to transfer the surplus capital of the agricultural districts to the manufacturing and commercial districts, without going through the process of rediscount-ing their bills.
Some Scotch writers have considered it a reproach to the English banks that they rediscount their bills, and have boasted that the practice of rediscount is unknown in Scotland. The accusation is made without due consideration. The system of branches makes a difference in all banking arrangements. A bank in an agricultural district, say at Norwich, has a superabundance of money. A manufacturing town, say Manchester, has a demand for money. The bank at Norwich will send its money to a bill-broker in London. The bank at Manchester will send its bills to the same broker. A rediscount takes place. But let us suppose that the bill-brokering establishment should become the head office of a large bank, having one branch at Norwich and another at Manchester. Then no rediscount will occur. The bills discounted at Manchester will never pass out of the possession of the bank. Nevertheless, the surplus funds at Norwich will be transferred to meet the wants of Manchester as effectually as before. This is an illustration of
1 Commons, 132, Kinnear.
P the branch system in Scotland. A bank at Edinburgh will have branches in both the agricultural and the manufacturing districts. Or a bank whose head office is in a manufacturing town, will have branches in the agricultural districts. Thus the surplus funds of Perth, Ayr, and Dumfries are speedily transferred to be employed at Glasgow, Paisley, and Dundee. "Were a bank to be established at Glasgow without branches, it would probably have occasion for discount at certain times, as well as the banks at Manchester or Leeds.
At the same time, we think this transfer of capital by means of branches is better than by means of rediscount. There is no occasion for the intermediate party, the bill-broker. The bills do not go out of the bank, so that men's transactions do not become known. The abuses connected with rediscount by fictitious bills are effectually prevented, and the bank can more readily regulate its advances in accordance with its means. To recur to our illustration:-The bank at Norwich may lose a large amount of its deposits; the bank at Manchester, knowing nothing of this, may continue its advances in dependence upon receiving its usual rediscount. The check may at length come so suddenly that the Manchester bank may be placed in difficulty. Under the branch system, should any large amount of deposits be withdrawn from one branch, the bank would immediately limit its advances at the others. The advantage of this system on the approach of a pressure is obvious.
5. The system of numerous branches leads to more regularity and uniformity in the mode of making their exchanges.
The Scotch bankers are loud in their praises of the system of exchanges. And justly so. We have shown that the English country banks make their exchanges with each other, and pay the difference by a draft on London. These operations have the same effect as the exchanges in Scotland of withdrawing from circulation all the superfluous notes; that is to say, all the notes that come into the hands of the bankers. If it be true that notes remain out longer in circulation in England than in Scotland, it arises not from any difference in the system of exchanges, but from a difference in the habits of the people with regard to "keeping a banker." If a Scotch banker issue .£1,000 of notes in the morning, he feels assured that these notes will be paid into some other bank in the course of the day. An English banker is not so sure. The party may not "keep a banker," and he may then lock up the notes in a strong box for a week or ten days, until he have occasion to make a payment. We think it desirable that every man who has money should lodge it in a bank, not merely for interest, but for security, and therefore we approve of the Scotch practice. But it is this universal practice of having a banker, and not merely the system of exchanges, that withdraws notes so rapidly from circulation.