In by far the majority of cases, these unions, or "merges" were advantageous to both parties. The private bankers obtained the value of the business they had surrendered, and an interest in the future prosperity of the bank they had joined. On the other hand, the new joint-stock bank acquired a business already formed, and also obtained the advantage of the practical knowledge and superintendence of experienced bankers.
But in some instances the bargain was a disastrous one for the joint-stock bank. The bad and overdrawn accounts were taken without due examination, and soon afterwards occasioned considerable loss. The loss of the purchase-money was generally by far the smaller loss of the two. A joint-stock bank in the west of England purchased a private bank in a country town for a large sum, and took the overdrawn accounts without a guarantee. These accounts were considered good at the time, but a few years afterwards the parties failed, and the joint-stock bank lost considerably. A joint-stock bank gave to the Northern and. Central Bank the sum of £6,500 for their business at Leeds, after they had stopped. The accounts they took over were afterwards the occasion of great loss. The Isle of Wight Joint-stock Bank was formed upon a private bank, but a few months only had elapsed when they found they were insolvent from the losses that would arise from the bad accounts they had accepted. They immediately determined to wind up, and transfer their business to the National Provincial Bank of England. Other instances might be adduced of joint-stock banks having been founded on private banks which are now supposed to have been, at the time, in a state of insolvency.
II. Some banks have sustained losses by making advances on dead security.
Instead of the word "some," we think we might use the word "all." For among the banks that have failed we doubt if we could find one that had not sinned in this respect. But the greatest sinners were those banks that were established in places of the greatest trade. All the banks at Newcastle advanced money on collieries, and also on other public works. The banks of Manchester made advances on mills and manufactories, as did also some of the banks at Leeds. These advances were attended with several evil effects. In the first place, there was a lock-up of capital, which restrained the operations of the bank. To relieve themselves from this restriction, they took bills for their loans, and rediscounted them in the London money market. The facilities thus obtained induced them to extend this system of advance. Bills were perpetually renewed, and perpetually rediscounted. At last a pressure came, and the renewed bills could not be rediscounted. The bank could not take up the old bills that were returned, and consequently stopped payment. Sometimes, too, the bank tried to relieve itself from this pressure by increasing its drafts on its London agent. It was for a long time the practice in Lancashire to pay for cotton with a three months' banker's bill. Banks in difficulties availed themselves of this practice to make all their advances by drafts on London, instead of cash. The Bank of Manchester had at one time an enormous circulation of this kind.
Another effect was that, however good the security might be at the lime the advance was made, when a change took place in the state of trade, its value fell much below the amount of the advance, and in some cases it could not be sold at any price. But the evil did not stop here. As the property given as security would have been worth nothing if Dot worked, the bank was induced to make farther advances, to carry on the works on their own account. A colliery, if not kept in operation, soon gets out of order; and it will then require a considerable sum to set it at work again. Hence some of the collieries at Newcastle were worked by the banks; and mills in the neighbour-
E E hood of Manchester were carried on in the same way. The plan, however, does not often succeed. It is generally throwing good money after bad. The ultimate loss is usually increased. We may just observe in passing, that the banks in the East Indies get involved in the same way, through making advances on indigo works. These works are of no value except when kept in operation; and hence it has occurred that a bank which has made an advance, is compelled to carry on the works to keep up the value of its security. To show that a bank governed by the strictest rules may sometimes be drawn into transactions of this kind, it may be observed that an iron concern in Wales was said to have been carried on by the Bank of England. It belonged to the Governor and Company of the Mines Royal. The bank made an advance on mortgage to this corporation during the pressure of 1847, and took the profits of the works. Some joint-stock banks have made advances upon buildings. This has occurred chiefly in places where there has been an increasing population. A few years ago a joint-stock bank in a town of fashionable resort advanced large sums to builders upon the security of the houses they were erecting. The houses did not let - they could not be sold for anything like the cost price - the builders were ruined - and the loss fell upon the bank. The bank had recourse to the expedient of rediscounting the builder's bills; but after a while it was compelled to stop payment. In agricultural districts banks have sometimes made considerable advances to farmers and graziers. Indeed, it is almost a universal practice to do so at some seasons of the year. These advances are not individually of large amount, and are not usually attended with much loss - not with anything like the losses incurred by advances on collieries, mills, and houses. But it is a lock-up of capital until the year comes round.
III. Some banks have lost large amounts through advances made by way of loan or discounts to men engaged in speculative undertakings.
Two of the banks that stopped at Newcastle-upon-Tyne sustained great losses through advances to corn-merchants. Speculations in corn are usually carried on more by bills than by loan. A merchant buys a quantity of corn, and places it in the hands of a factor, and draws bills for something under the market value, leaving the factor a margin to guard against loss. He gets these bills discounted, buys more corn, which he also places in the hands of his factor, and then draws fresh bills. This second batch of bills he also gets discounted, and buys more corn; and thus he goes on in the same course. Now if he thinks the market will rise (as all speculators do), he will not allow his factor to sell the corn; but when the first bills fall due he will renew them, and with the produce of the new bills, when discounted, he will pay the old ones. It is thus that a large speculation may be carried on with a small amount of capital (and that may be borrowed from the bank), and all the speculation is kept afloat by bills. These bills are always for large amounts, and when the parties fail the losses are usually heavy. The failures in the corn trade in 1847 fell heavily on the banking and monied interests. It was the stoppage of Messrs. Lesley, Alexander, and Co., the corn-factors, that caused the stoppage of Messrs. Sanderson and Co., the bill-brokers.