10. By means of banking, people are able to preserve an authentic record of their annual expenditure.1 If a person pays in to his banker all the money he receives in the course of a year, and makes all his payments by cheques - then by looking over his bank-book at the end of the year he will readily see the total amount of his receipts, and the various items of his expenditure. This is very useful to persons who have not habits of business, and who may therefore be in danger of living beyond their means. It is useless to advise such persons to keep an account of their expenses - they will do no such thing; but when short of money at Christmas to pay their tradesmen's bills, they may take the trouble of looking over their bank-book, and noticing how many cheques were drawn for the purchase of unnecessary articles. A bank account is useful also in case of disputed payments. People do not always take receipts for money they pay to their tradesmen, and when they do the receipts may be lost or mislaid. In case of death, or of omission to enter the amount in the creditor's books, the money may be demanded again. Should the payment have been made in bank notes or sovereigns, the payer can offer no legal proof of having settled the account; but if the account was discharged by a cheque on a banker, the cheque can be produced, and the payment proved by the officers of the bank, who can be subpoenaed for that purpose.
1 In the year 1849 a committee of investigation into the affairs of a railway company reported that the company had kept no books for eighteen months, and knew their transactions only from their bankers' pass-book.
11. Another advantage resulting from keeping a banker in London, is, that the party has a secure place of deposit for any deeds, papers, or other property that may require peculiar care. Any customer who pleases may have a tin box, which he may leave with his banker in the evening, and call for it in the morning. In this box he might place his will, the lease of his house, policies of insurance, or any other documents he wished to preserve against fire. Stockbrokers and others who have offices in the city, and live out of town, have such boxes, which they leave overnight with their banker for the sake of security, in preference to leaving them in their own office. If a party were going to the country he might send his plate or jewellery to his banker, who will lock it up in his strong room, and thus it will be preserved from fire and thieves until his return. Solicitors and others, who have deeds or other writings of importance left in their custody, can send them to the bank during the night, and thus avoid the danger of fire.
12. By keeping a banker, people have a ready channel of obtaining much information that will be useful to them in the way of their business. They will know the way in which bankers keep their accounts; they will learn many of the laws and customs relating to bills of exchange. By asking the banker, or any of the clerks, they may know which is the readiest way of remitting any money they have to send to the country or to the Continent. If they have to buy or sell stock in the public funds, the banker can give them the name of a respectable broker who can manage the business; or should they be about to travel, and wish to know the best way of receiving money abroad; or be appointed executors to a will, and have to settle some money matters - the banker will in these, and many other cases, be able to give them the necessary information.
13. Banking also exercises a powerful influence upon the morals of society. It tends to produce honesty and punctuality in pecuniary engagements. Bankers, for their own interest, always have a regard to the moral character of the party with whom they deal; they inquire whether he be honest or tricky, industrious or idle, prudent or speculative, thrifty or prodigal, and they will more readily make advances to a man of moderate property and good morals, than to a man of large property but of inferior reputation. Thus the establishment of a bank in any place immediately advances the pecuniary value of a good moral character. There are numerous instances of persons having risen from obscurity to wealth only by means of their moral character, and the confidence which that character produced in the mind of their banker. It is not merely by way of loan or discount that a banker serves such a person. He also speaks well of him to those persons who may make inquiries respecting him, and the banker's good opinion will be the means of procuring him a higher degree of credit with the parties with whom he trades. These effects are easily perceivable in country towns; and even in London, if a house be known to have engaged in gambling or smuggling transactions, or in any other way to have acted discreditably, their bills will be taken by the bankers less readily than those of an honourable house of inferior property.
It is thus that bankers perform the functions of public conservators of the commercial virtues. From motives of private interest they encourage the industrious, the prudent, the punctual, and the honest - while they discountenance the spendthrift and the gambler, the liar and the knave.
They hold out inducements to uprightness, which are not disregarded by even the most abandoned. There is many a man who would be deterred from dishonesty by the frown of a banker, though he might care but little for the admonitions of a bishop.