Page images
PDF
EPUB

four were ladies, took on themselves the chief management and responsibility. No depositor could lodge more than 501.; and the maximum of the collective sums was limited to 20001. A record of character has since that time been regularly kept; and it is stated by the anonymous author of a small volume published at Bath, in 1815, and entitled* · Collections relative to the Systematic Relief of the Poor,' that, ' during the seven years that had elapsed from the commencement of the Fund, there were in this register 212 names of persons who had uniformly conducted themselves with fidelity and propriety as domestic servants.' A more extensively useful society was founded at Bath, in January last year, bearing the name of · The Provident Institution.' The Marquis of Lansdown is patron. A respectable board of trustees, one of whom is Mr. Rose, presides over it, and the name of Dr. Haygarth, well known for his private worth and public spirit, stands second in the list of managers. It was, we understand, by the suggestion of this gentleman that the capital was vested in the public funds. Each depositor of one pound or upwards is entered in the books of the Institution as proprietor of such a proportion of five per cent. stock as that sum would purchase at the time. It is very satisfactory to find from the first Report, that within a year from the opening, sums amounting to four thousand pounds and upwards, had been received and invested.

From this induction of facts, it is plain that though attempts have been made at different times, in the course of the last thirty years, to introduce schemes of a nature similar to what are now called Saving Banks, &c., yet till the year 1810, there had been no plan devised for general use, and no public interest excited in behalf of such institutions. Indeed, it is a belief, founded on no slight investigation, that but for the Scottish clergyman whose Essay stands at the head of our list, there would at this time have been found only a few insulated establishments for the savings of industry, of which the intelligent and wealthy would have had little knowledge, and from which the lower classes in general would have derived no advantage. We shall state as concisely as we can the grounds of this opinion.

Mr. Henry Duncan,t whose Essay is written with great ability,

and

* It is not easy to comprehend what the author had in view by this publication. It is a collection of facts without order, attention to particulars, or any accuracy in dates. The papers are strung together by loose and indefinite remarks that lead to no conclusion. There is no index por table of contents. We feel gomewhat sore on this subject; having procured the book with much difficulty, and read it with little profit.

† This gentleman, delighting in humble usefulness, edited anonymously in 1809 and 1811, a number of tracts for the instruction and moral improvement of the lower orders. The greater part of the work appears to have been the production of his own pen. One series of these tracts, entitied the “Cottage Fireside, or Parish Schoolmaster,'

was

and complete knowledge of the subject, informs us, that early in 1810, while he was engaged in some inquiries relative to the condition of the poor, he read a pamphlet proposing a scheme for the gradual abolition of poor-rates in England. To this plan the author, Mr. Bone, gave the whimsical title of “Tranquillity. Mr. Duncan, though he considered the scheme too complicated for general use, conceived that one of its subordinate provisions, which proposed the establishment of an economical bank for the savings of the industrious, might be so modified, as to be carried separately into effect with great advantage. He accordingly published a paper giving an account of it, and proposing that the gentlemen of Dumfriesshire should establish banks for savings in the different parishes of the county. His zeal was applauded, but his recommendation was neglected. Steady, however, in the pursuit of his ebject, and rejoicing in the prospect of the benefit which he anticipated from it, he resolved to bring his plan to the test of experiment, by such an Establishment in his own parish. To this be gave the name of · The Parish Bank Friendly Society of Ruthwell. Its capital amounted, at the time of publishing the second edition of his Essay, to a sum exceeding 1,4001.!

About the beginning of 1813, a most respectable and useful society was instituted in Edinburgh for the suppression of beggars. It happened that one of the landholders of Ruthvell, who was a member of the Parish Bank of that place, was also a member of the Edinburgh Society. This gentleman, though generally resident in Edinburghi, received occasional information respecting the institution at Ruthwell, which was now making rapid progress, and which he communicated to the Society, together with a printed copy of the Regulations. This, and some other encouraging circumstances, especially the account of the Servants’ Fund at Bath, induced the members of the Anti-mendicant Society to add a bank for savings to their plan. Meanwhile ihe founder of the Ruthwell Bank omitted no opportunity of calling the attention of the public to the institution, and, in order to give it éclat, was permitted to introduce the names of several gentlemen of rank and influence into the list of its honorary members. Their names, however, were all that he obtained; a circumstance which excited some ridicule, as the magnificence of the titles accorded ill with the limited influence of the Bank. But this did not deter him from proceeding. He laboured to excite the public attention by annual accounts of the utility and success of his plan in provincial newspapers.' He most readily answered the inquiries of gentlemen from various parts of the country, and established a correspondence with many friends of the poor in Great Britain and Ireland. Justice leads us to say that we have seldom heard of a private individual in a retired sphere, with numerous avocations and a narrow income, who has sacrificed so much ease, expense, and time, for an object purely disinterested, as Mr. Duncan has done. We feel it at once a satisfaction and a duty to pay this tribute to his merits, because, though, in the Second Report of the Edinburgh Society, they were not passed over in silence, yet the Ruthwell Bank was slightly mentioned, as a local and unkuown institution. Many of the individual members of that Society, however, have expressed their sense of its value as an example; and Dr. Baird, Principal of the University, one of the Directors, bas, in the most unequivocal manner, borne testimony to the ability and zeal of its founder.

was afterwards published separately, in a small volume, with Mr. Duncan's name; and we observe with satisfaction, that the third edition of this pleasing narrative is just announced. In point of genuine humour and pathos, we are inclined to think that it fairly merits a place by the side of the Cottagers of Glenburnie,' while the knowledge it displays of Scottish manners and character is more correct and more profound.

annual

G3

Mr. Duncan remarks in page 30 of his Essay, that before the existence of Saving Banks, some clergymen bad been in the habit of placing the little superfluous earnings of their parishioners in situations of security and profit; and states it as a remarkable coincidence, that in the year 1807, three years before the establishment of the Ruthwell Bank, a similar institution had been formed at West Calder, of which he was entirely ignorant, till near the time of the publication of his second edition. It was founded by Mr. Muckersey, minister of the parishı; its management is similar to that of Friendly Societies; and interest at the rate of four per cent. is allowed to depositors, with full liberty to withdraw their money at pleasure. As the rules had not been prioted, nor any attempt made to extend the knowledge of its benefits beyond the parish, the advantages derived from it were entirely local.

Mr. Duncan will find in the preceding part of this article some important facts on the subject, in relation to England, of which he cannot have been aware; otherwise from the minute fidelity which he has displayed in doing justice to the claims of others, and the modesty with which he brings forward his own, we are confident he would not have failed to inention them.

We are warranted on the whole to conclude, that though some institutions, similar both in their principles and details, had been formed before the Parish Bank of Ruthwell, yet it was the first of the kind which was regularly and minutely organized and brought before the public: and further, that as that Society gave the inpulse which is fast spreading through the kingdom, it is in all fairness entitled to the appellation of the Parent Society. If we spoke of the original society, we should, from our present knowledge, be disposed to confer that name on the Charitable Bank at Tottenham.

From

From the time of the publication of the first edition of the Essay on Parish Banks; the second Report of the Edinburgh Society; and the Report of the Provident Institution of Bath, Saving Banks have sprung up on every side, and have been increasing with such rapidity, that we can hardly doubt that the benefit of the system will soon be brought within the reach of every town and village ja Great Britain and Ireland. Kelso was the first place, in which, under the patronage of his Grace the Duke of Roxburgh, a Friendly Bank was introduced professedly on the plan of the Ruthwell institution. Liverpool, Exeter, Winchester, Hertford, Southampton, Bristol, Glasgow, Greenock, Paisley, Dumfries, Berwick, Dublin, Belfast, &c. are among the places already in possession of ihese establishments. The zeal of the able and public spirited conductors of the Edinburgh Bank has tended very materially to promote the plan both in Scotland and England, and has given to it a degree of éclat among strangers, which it would not have received through a less conspicuous medium. At the same time we cannot help regretting, that it was not made to stand upon its own basis, but was attached to the “ Society for the Suppression of Beggars.' This unfortunate association excited against it a natural and a very strong prejudice in the minds of the people, who could hardly fail to conclude that it proposed something both of a coercive and degrading nature. Accordingly, its progress at first was slow; but by the exertions of the managers, and particularly of Mr. John Forbes, (son of the late Sir William,) whose name is an hereditary pledge of active and intelligent zeal in the cause of humanity, the popular dislike has at length been overcome, and it is now rising into deserved eminence.

Of these establishments, one of the most extensive we have heard of, in the principle of its constitution, is that of Glendale Ward, in the northern divisiou of Northumberland, containing a considerable number of parishes, of which Wooler is the central place. Local secretaries are appointed to receive monthly the deposits at the different parishes, by whom they are transferred to the general secretary.

Our readers will wonder perhaps that London has not yet been mentioned in our list, and probably impute the omission to inaccuracy or negligence. But it is a curious fact, that a place which should be, and generally is, among the first to lead in all matters of public interest, has, in the present instance, been among the last to follow, and that no institution of this kind, of any note, was opened in the metropolis till the end of January in the present year, when the · London Savings Bank' commenced its operation.* We hope to see a general extension of it. For this purpose, handbills expressed in simple and popular language should be distributed ; and an office opened in every parish in the city and suburbs, all of them connected with a central Bank, and placed under strict inspection and controul. We cannot compliment the treasurer, Mr. Taylor, on his “ Summary Account,' which is desultory, superficial, aud Aippant. But if he performs his trust withi ficielity, some other person better qualified may probably address the public bereafter on behalf of the institution. We should regret that the unexpected length to which this article has already extended, obliges us to shorten the remainder of it, did we not hope, from the increasing interest and progress of the plan, and from the development of its effects, to be called on to supply what may now be deficient at some future time. We must, however, endeavour to give a succinct view both of the internal economy of the Banks, and of the legislative measure by which it is proposed to foster them.

hope • After this article was ready for the press, an essay on Provident or Parish Banks

fell

For the sake of accurate distinction we shall point out the leading features of Mr. Duncan's plan, as embodied in the Dumfries Regulations, which were drawn up by him, and are published in the second edition of his essay; and, as we proceed, we shall take notice of the chief differences that exist between this scheme, and that of the Edinburgh Savings Bank,' and others formed on its model. First, with regard to the name of these societies, Savings

Banks, introduced by the Edinburgh institution, we think it a barbarous innovation. Mr. Duncan feels a predilection for the title Parish Banks, and he has established so good a right to choose, that we feel some reluctance in demurring to this preference, and some doubt of the accuracy of our judgment on this point. The name Parish Bank seems to convey a false idea; for even in the Ruthwell Bank itself neither the office-bearers nor the depositors are confined to the parish, nor do we see any good purpose that could be promoted by such a restriction. It is true that the circumstance of a bank being established in a particular parish, and chiefly for the benefit of its inhabitants, may be thought to suggest this name as the most appropriate. But is not the name of the place presell into our hands, written by Barber Beaumont, Esq. which contains a detailed account of a Provident Bank, recently instituted by himself in the parish of St. Paul's, Covent Garden. This is a work of some research, and we find in it many acule remarks on the Friendly Bank schemes of others; but it is easier to pull down than to build, and the provisions by which he proposes in his own establishment to obviate objections, seem themselves to be replete with danger. One part of his plan is, to deposit the funds of the Provident Bank in the hands of a number of treasurers, and to divide these funds in such a manner that not more than 3001. nor less than 1001. shall be in the possession of any one treasurer. We do not hesitate to say, that this is an Utopian scheme, complicated in the machinery, and impracticable in the execution.

« PreviousContinue »