We have stated that in the merchant's Ledger every entry is made twice-one account being debited, and another credited-and these two accounts are indicated in the Journal. This is what is called bookkeeping by double entry. If it be asked, whether bankers keep their books by double entry?-the answer is, that those bankers who have no General-Ledger (and this is the case with not a few of the private bankers) do not keep their books by double entry. The Current-Account-Ledger is Dot kept by double entry. It contains none but personal accounts, and its accuracy is tested only by the periodical balancings. The banker's Ledger, which corresponds in this respect with the merchant's Ledger, is not the Current-Account-Ledger, but the General-Ledger. This is kept by double entry. In a ledger kept by double entry, the sum of all the debit balances will be equal to the sum of all the credit balances; and the sum of all the debit amounts will be equal to the sum of all the credit amounts. When this is not the case there is an error in some of the accounts. This is the case with the banker's General-Ledger. But, as the transactions are not posted individually, but only in totals, the double entry does not appear on the face of the accounts. Thus, if a bill be discounted for a customer, and the amount placed to the credit of his current account, the Journal entry, on the principle of mercantile book-keeping, would stand thus :-
Bills Discounted Dr. to Current Accounts.
But the bill discounted is placed to the debit of the account of "Bills Discounted," in a total of all the bills discounted on that day. And the amount is placed to the credit of Current Accounts, in the total of all the sums received to the credit of Current Accounts on that day. Thus, the "double entry," though equally real, is not so apparent as though the transactions were posted individually.
So, again, if a country banker should discount a bill, and the customer ask for a draft on his agent in London, the Journal entry, on the commercial system, would stand thus:-
Bills Discounted Dr. to Drafts on London.
It would go to the debit of "Bills Discounted," in the total of all the bills discounted that day, and it would go to the credit of "Drafts on London," in the total of all the drafts on London issued on that day.
The accounts in a merchant's Ledger are usually classified into Personal Accounts, Real Accounts, and Profit and Loss Accounts. The Personal Accounts are the accounts of persons who may owe the merchant money, or to whom he may owe money. The Real Accounts are accounts denoting property, such as cash, bills receivable, bills payable, merchandise, ship adventure, etc. The Profit and Loss accounts are rent, commissions, expenses, and all other accounts which are ultimately transferred to the debit or the credit of the Profit and Loss Account.
The banker's General-Ledger has no Personal Accounts, as these are all kept in the Current-Account-Ledger. The usual accounts are those I have enumerated in page 69, and are all either Real Accounts or Profit and Loss Accounts.
It would be possible (but not desirable) to introduce all the Personal Accounts into the banker's General-Ledger, and thus to form the Current-Account-Ledger and the General-Ledger into one, and keep the whole by double entry. In this case we should omit the totals of Current Accounts, now introduced into the General-Ledger, and insert every transaction individually. If John Brown drew a cheque on the bank, the Journal entry would stand thus:-
John Brown Br. to Cash.
And if he paid in money to his credit, the Journal entry would stand thus :-
Cash Br. to John Brown. All the entries passed to the Dr. and Cr. of these Personal
Accounts would of course pass to the Cr. and Dr. of Cash. Indeed, all the entries to the Dr. and Cr. of Cash would be the same as are now made in the Check-Ledger, except that the debtor column would be called creditor, and the creditor column would be called debtor. By the use of such a Check-Ledger as we have described, page 89 (for there are various kinds of Check-Ledgers), the Current Accounts are virtually kept by double entry; and we have the additional advantage that, when there are more than one Ledger, we are enabled to check each Ledger separately.
To accountants in banks where a General-Ledger is not kept, it appears strange that "Cash" should be credited for money which is paid away and debited for money which is received. But this strangeness will vanish, if for the word "Cash" they would fix in their mind the word "Cashier." If they had an account with a cashier, they would of course debit him, as they do their banker, for all moneys they paid into his hands, and credit him for all moneys they drew out. And the difference between the amounts of these debits and credits would be the balance either in their favour or against them.
In thus comparing the commercial and the banking systems of book-keeping, I have hitherto supposed that all merchants keep their books by double entry. But this is not always the case with the smaller houses. And then their system more nearly resembles the system of those bankers who do not keep a General-Ledger.
"In keeping books by single entry, the Daily-Books are kept in the same manner as in double entry, with the exception of a column of reference to the Ledger in each book, which takes the place of a column of reference in the Journal-this book being dispensed with. The entries are posted directly from the Daily-Books into the Ledger. In the Ledger, by single entry, strictly speaking, there ought to be only one kind of accounts; namely, Personal Accounts, including all persons to whom a merchant becomes indebted, and all persons who become indebted to him." 1
It will be seen from this account, that, in mercantile book-keeping by single entry, the merchant's Ledger resembles the Current-Account-Ledger of the banker. In single entry the merchant dispenses altogether with his Journal; but the banker usually retains his Day-Book, even when he does not keep a General-Ledger. But, in this case, the Day-Book contains only the debits and credits, individually, of the Current Accounts, which are posted afterwards into the Current-Account-Ledger. In the horizontal system, as we have stated, the debits and credits of the current accounts are not entered individually in the Day-Book, but the total amounts are taken from the Paid and Received-Waste-Books.
" Wallace's Pocket Guide to Commercial Book-Keeping."