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The contribution, he observed, ought never to exceed one-thirtieth of a man's weekly income. Supposing a person to earn ten shillings a week, four-pence taken from that sum would produce upon a general scale 4,800,0001. Taking something from the higher classes which, compared with their incomes, would be a mere trifle, the annual amount of the bank stock would be 8,800,0001. The advantage of such a fund for the relief of the lower classes would, he said, be incalculable. It would convey comfort to every poor man, without the degradation inflicted on him by the law as it now stands.
As we are ignorant of the details of this plan we can give no opinion of its merits. We fear that, like Mr. Acland's plan of 1786, it is intended to be compulsory on the poor, as well as the rich; and, if so, it has our unqualified disapprobation. Such a scheme would act as an oppressive and ruinous impost, and would be nothing less, than relieving the wealthy from the burden of the poor laws, by placing that burthen on the back of the indigent themselves. If the poor laws, as they now stand, be the chastisement of whips, this would be the chastisement of scorpions~But we cannot at present enter on a subject which, from its magnitude, and importance, demands the most patient and minute investigation. The chief purpose for which we have noticed Mr. Curwen's speech was to bring forward the remarkable fact of the long existence of a voluntary association which has been and continues to be supported by the contributions of the industrious poor, and which has actually a floating capital of 30,0001.
Although the project of encouraging industry and independence among the lower classes, by thus securing to them the fruits of their labours, appears so simple, when proposed, as to resemble a selfevident truth, with which we have always been familiar, yet, the first institution of the nature of a Saving Bank, which we have hitherto been able to discover in this kingdom, is one of which an account is given in No. 84 of the Reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor.' It appears from that Report that a Female Benefit Club was established on the 22d of October, 1798, at Totteuham, under the patronage of a number of ladies. Combined with the main design of this institution were two other objects, viz. a fund for loans, to prevent the use of pawn-brokers' shops, and a Bank for the earnings of poor Children.
• Children of either sex,' says Mrs. Wakefield, the writer of the aca' count, " or whatever age, whether belonging to a member or not, are permitted to bring any sum above one penny, to the monthly meeting of the stewardesses, to be laid up in the funds of the society; where their small earnings may accumulate in security, until wanted for an apprentice fee, clothing on going to service, or some other important purpose.' VOL. XVI, NO. XXXI.
- Though the children (it is added) receive no addition to the pittance they deposit in the fund, yet it answers several purposes; it stimulates them to earn and to save that which would probably be idly spent, as of too small importance for care ; it often encourages their parents to lay by a little store for them, which they would not have thought of doing, had they not been invited by this opportunity of placing it in safety. It habituates the children to industry, frugality, and foresight; and by introducing them to notice, it teaches them the value of character, and of the esteem of those who, by the dispensations of Providence, are placed above them; and in many instances it may supply a resource when it is essentially requisite. The success has already exceeded expectation; above sixty children bring their little treasure monthly.'
About the same time Mr. Malthus published his Essay on population. The following passage is quoted from the quarto edition of 1803, as we have not access to the first edition; but we are inclined to think that it will also be found in it.
• To facilitate the saving of small sums of money for this purpose,' (he is speaking of the purchase of a cow,) ' and encourage young labourers to economize their earnings with a view to a provision for marriage, it might be extremely useful to have County Banks, where the smallest sums would be received, and a fair interest granted for them. At present the few labourers who have a little money are often greatly at a loss to know what to do with it; and under such circumstances we cannot be surprized that it should sometimes be ill employed, and last but a short time. It would probably be essențial to the success of any plan of this kind, that the labourer should be able to draw out his money whenever he wanted it, and have the most perfect liberty of disposing of it in every respect as he pleased. Though we may lament that money hardly earned should sometimes be spent to little purpose ;
it seems to be a case in which we have no right to interfere, nor if we had, would it, in a general view, be advantageous, because the knowledge of possessing this liberty would be of more use in encouraging the practice of saving, than any restriction of it in preventing the misuse of money so saved.'
In No. 59, of “The Society's Reports,' we have an interesting account of a benevolent Institution formed by the Rev. Joseph Smith, Wendover, in 1799, and supported by him and two of his parishioners. In order to induce their industrious neighbours to save some part of their earnings, these worthy persons circulated proposals, offering to receive indiscriminately from the men, women, and children of the parish, any.sum from two-pence upwards, every Sunday evening during the summer months; to keep an exact account of the suis deposited; and to repay to each individual at Christmas the amount of his deposits, with the addition of one-third on the whole, as a bounty for his economy. It was expressly and wisely stipulated, that the depositors might receive back the silmis respectively due to them, at any time before
Christmas, on demand; and that the fruits of their economy should not preclude them from parish relief, in case of sickness, or want of employment. A comfortable addition at home to the family Christmas dinner was to finish the year's account. These curious proposals are ushered in by a text, which, though not applied to its original purpose, is, as a motto, sufficiently appropriate
Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.' The peasantry of the parish readily embraced the offer held out to them, and during the first seasoo sixty subscribers brought their weekly savings with great regularity; none deposited less than sixpence, and the greater number one shilling each. We regret much that our attempts to obtain further information respecting this liberal and simple, but rather expensive, institution, have not proved successful; but we are told that the founders design to establish it on a permanent footing and on an improved plan.
The next Institution of this kind, and one much more nearly “ resembling the present Saving Banks than any hitherto mentioned, was called the Charitable Bank, and was founded at Tottenham. It is worthy of remark, (as shewing how frequently one good design generates another,) that the success of the little bank for children, formed in the same place in 1798, gave rise to this more extensive plan in 1804. It was begun for the express purpose of providing a safe and profitable place of deposit for the savings of labourers, servants, &c.; and opened once a month for receipts and payments. The books were at first kept by a lady; six wealthy individuals were appointed to act as Trustees, each of whom agreed to receive an equal part of the sums deposited, and each to be responsible, to the amount of one hundred pounds, for the re-payment of the principal with interest. Any sum above one shilling was to be received, and, to encourage perseverance, interest at the rate of five per cent. was to be allowed for every twenty shillings, which should remain a year with the trustees. Though the number of trustees at first was limited, it was agreed that for every additional hundred pounds, a new trustee sbould be chosen ; 80 that the loss to the trustees in fulfilling their engagement must have been inconsiderable. The benefits of this Institution were to be confined exclusively to the labouring classes ; but there was no restriction as to the residence of the depositors. One great advantage of this plan is, that it holds out to the lower classes fixed advantages, and preserves their little property from that fluctuation of value to which the public funds are liable.
In 1808, a society was formed at Bath, for the purpose of receiving, and allowing interest at 4 per cent. for the savings of industrious and respectable servants. Eight individuals, of whom G 2
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 2000). 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,
* 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 nor table of contents. We feel somewhat 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 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, entitled ilie Cottage Fireside, or Parish Schoolmaster,'
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 object, 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 he 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 Ruthwell, 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 Edinburgh, 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 the 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
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 Scottisha manners and character is more correct and more profound.