Among The Poor

Among The Poor.

The Thames, And Tower Of London

The Thames, And Tower Of London.

The Victoria Embankment

The Victoria Embankment.

The Thames, Below London Bridge

The Thames, Below London Bridge.

O silent, stately, and historic river, what suffering and sin hast thou not witnessed in thy ceaseless flow from Caesar's century to our own! Would that thy waves had power either to cleanse the lives and consciences of men, or else, like fabled Lethe, to lift the awful load of London's misery and crime and bear it to an ocean of forgiveness and forgetfulness!

Conspicuous among the edifices of the "City" is a lowbrowed, massive structure, without a single window in its outer walls. It is the Bank of England. The absence of windows in its dark exterior is supposed to give greater security to its contents, the light within being obtained from interior courts and skylights. The building looks, therefore, like a gigantic strong box of granite, covering an area of four acres. Standing thus in the very heart of one of the busiest and most valuable localities in the world, this bank is suggestive of an electric power-house, - the central dynamo of the financial world. The sovereign here enthroned possesses a prerogative that no Plantagenet ever dreamed of wielding, and has more territory subject to his sway than ever felt the yoke of Caesar. The slightest flutter of his heart is felt at the Antipodes. He holds his finger on the pulse of Commerce, and when his skillful hand tightens or loosens its grasp, the nerves of marketable values thrill responsive quiver to the remotest edge of civilization, where even savagery recognizes now the influence of the magician, - money. To be practical, the capital of this bank is more than seventy-five millions of dollars, its private deposits aggregate double that amount, and its bullion is supposed to be worth at least one hundred and twenty-five millions. It determines the money-standard for every individual, and every transaction in an empire wider and more powerful than that of Rome at her zenith; and, do what other countries may in rivalry, the Bank of England is the court of last appeal in all the world's financial differences. Yet this colossal institution is but two centuries old, born in the brain of a prophetic Scotchman, in 1694. Amsterdam, Venice, and a half dozen other European cities had banks before; but it remained for this child of William Patterson's invention to demonstrate the imperial dominion of which such an establishment is capable. I know of few things more suggestive than this enormous reservoir of monetary power. Great fortunes were accumulated under the older civilizations, but they were largely incidental, and never rose to be a dominating force. Riches were gained and wasted, then, without materially determining the rise and fall of nations. Our civilization, on the contrary, is guided and controlled by brain-force, wielding that mightiest of the brain's tools, wealth. The great American authority on naval matters has demonstrated how necessary to supremacy is the mastery of the sea; but just as clearly does the history of the Bank of England prove that the possession of money predetermines that of naval power. It is now capital that gains control: first, of the highway of the world; and, secondly, of its commerce; and, hereafter, the ultimate victory in any war will depend upon the combatant's capacity to procure its "sinews." Hence, although grimy with soot and unimposing in architecture, the Bank of England is only less impressive to the thoughtful tourist than the Tower. One represents the power of the Present; the other illustrates the power of the Past. Before the coronation of Finance as King, there was no standard of political action save the caprice of individuals who governed "by divine right," and could make war at will; but with the rise of monetary power, and the enormous expense of modern ordnance (the firing of one shell costing thirteen hundred dollars), the undisputed sway of individual despots has forever passed away. The new regime is not without its possibilities of peril; yet it, at all events, has struck a death-blow to the former "one-man-power," and given to mankind another opportunity to help on the evolving freedom of the race.