« PreviousContinue »
general prosperity of our people. Already we begin to hear from abroad and from our custom-houses that the prohibitory effect upon importations imputed to the act is not justified. . . . And so far from being an act to limit exports, I confidently believe that under it we shall secure a larger and more profitable participation in foreign trade than we have ever enjoyed, and that we shall recover a proportionate participation in the ocean carrying trade of the world. . . .
There is no disposition among any of our people to promote prohibitory or retaliatory legislation. Our policies are adopted not to the hurt of others, but to secure for ourselves those advantages that fairly grow out of our favored position as a nation. Our form of government, with its incident of universal suffrage, makes it imperative that we shall save our working people from the agitations and distresses which scant work and wages that have no margin for comfort always beget. But after all this is done it will be found that our markets are open to friendly commercial exchanges of enormous value to the other great powers.
From the time of my induction into office the duty of using every power and influence given by law to the Executive Department for the development of larger markets for our products, especially our farm products, has been kept constantly in mind, and no effort has been or will be spared to promote that end. We are under no disadvantage in any foreign market, except that we pay our workmen and workwomen better wages than are paid elsewhere — better abstractly, better relatively to the cost of the necessaries of life. I do not doubt that a very largely increased foreign trade is accessible to us without bartering for it either our home market for such products of the farm and shop as our own people can supply or the wages of our working people.
In many of the products of wood and iron, and in meats and breadstuffs, we have advantages that only need better facilities of intercourse and transportation to secure for them large foreign markets. The reciprocity clause of the tariff act wisely and effectively opens the way to secure a large reciprocal trade in exchange for the free admission to our ports of certain products. The right of independent nations to make special reciprocal trade concessions is well established, and does not impair either the comity due to other powers or what is known as the "favored-nation clause," so generally found in commercial treaties. What is given to one for an adequate agreed consideration can not be claimed by another freely. The state of the revenues was such that we could dispense with any import duties upon coffee, tea, hides, and the
lower grades of sugar and molasses. That the large advantage resulting to the countries producing and exporting these articles by placing them on the free list entitled us to expect a fair return in the way of customs concessions upon articles exported by us to them was so obvious that to have gratuitously abandoned this opportunity to enlarge our trade would have been an unpardonable error.
There were but two methods of maintaining control of this question open to Congress to place all of these articles upon the dutiable list, subject to such treaty agreements as could be secured, or to place them all presently upon the free list, but subject to the reimposition of specified duties if the countries from which we received them should refuse to give to us suitable reciprocal benefits. This latter method, I think, possesses great advantages. It expresses in advance the consent of Congress to reciprocity arrangements affecting these products, which must otherwise have been delayed and unascertained until each treaty was ratified by the Senate and the necessary legislation enacted by Congress. Experience has shown that some treaties looking to reciprocal trade have failed to secure a two-thirds vote in the Senate for ratification, and others having passed that stage have for years awaited the concurrence of the House and Senate in such modifications of our revenue laws as were necessary to give effect to their provisions. We now have the concurrence of both Houses in advance in a distinct and definite offer of free entry to our ports of specific articles. The Executive is not required to deal in conjecture as to what Congress will accept. Indeed, this reciprocity provision is more than an offer. Our part of the bargain is complete; delivery has been made; and when the countries from which we receive sugar, coffee, tea, and hides have placed on their free lists such of our products as shall be agreed upon, as an equivalent for our concession, a proclamation of that fact completes the transaction; and in the mean time our own people have free sugar, tea, coffee, and hides.
The indications thus far given are very hopeful of early and favorable action by the countries from which we receive our large imports of coffee and sugar, and it is confidently believed that if steam communication with these countries can be promptly improved and enlarged the next year will show a most gratifying increase in our exports of breadstuffs and provisions, as well as of some important lines of manufactured goods.
Senate Journal, 51 Cong., 2 sess. (Washington, 1890), 8 passim.
167. The Clearing-House System (1890-1893)
BY COMPTROLLERS EDWARD SAMUEL LACEY AND JAMES H. ECKELS Lacey was comptroller of the currency during the major portion of Harrison's administration, and Eckels held the position during Cleveland's second administration. The comptroller has charge of all matters relating to national banks; his annual report includes also the condition of state and savings-banks, and is, in consequence, a résumé of the banking interests of the nation during the year. The issuance of clearing-house certificates during the financial stringency of 1893, contemporary with the agitation for the repeal of the Sherman Law, was denounced by the advocates of free silver. This extract is from the official reports. Bibliography: Brookings and Kingwalt, Briefs for Debate, No. xxxvi; Bowker and Iles, Reader's Guide in Economic, Social, and Political Science, 35-44; Horace White, Money and Banking, 469-477.
A. LACEY'S REPORT, 1891
HE effect of a general monetary stringency is felt first and most seriously by banks located in the larger of the reserve cities. Whenever financial affairs are in a normal condition the surplus funds of the local banks find their way to the vaults of their correspondent banks located in the great centers of business activity. This is undoubtedly due in part to the fact that these deposits may be made available for lawful money reserve and that a small rate of interest is, as a rule, paid upon bank balances by associations in the larger cities, and to the further fact that the maintenance of a good balance with their city correspondents strengthens the claim of the interior banks upon the former for rediscounts when the temporary condition of redundancy passes away and the increased demand for money is greater than the interior banks from their resources can conveniently supply.
Thus it results that the wants of a continent in case of general depression are at last brought through various channels of business activity, by way of withdrawals or loans, to the bankers of the great metropolitan cities for relief, and they are presented in such a form, in many cases, as to preclude the possibility of refusal, if general bankruptcy is to be avoided.
During the period of the stringency  . . . the cities of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston were subjected to the most pressing demands, and after very careful consideration it was decided by the associated banks that the exigency made necessary a resort to the issuing of clearing-house loan certificates, for the purpose of settling clearing-house balances. This expedient had been successfully resorted to during the panics of 1873 and 1884.
At a meeting of the New York Clearing-House Association, on the 11th day of November, 1890, the following resolution was unanimously adopted:
Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed by the chair, of which the chairman shall be one, to receive from banks members of the association bills receivable and other securities, to be approved by said committee, who shall be authorized to issue therefor, to such depositing banks, loan certificates bearing interest at 6 per cent per annum, and in addition thereto a commission of one-quarter of I cent for every thirty days such certificates shall remain unpaid, and such loan certificates shall not be in excess of 75 per cent of the market value of the securities of bills receivable so deposited, and such certificates shall be received and paid in settlement of balances at the clearing house.
These certificates were, by unanimous agreement upon the part of the clearing-house banks, accepted in lieu of money in the settlement of clearing-house balances.
In order to provide for the retirement of these securities in case the collaterals pledged were found insufficient, the several boards of directors of the associated banks were requested to, and did, pass a resolution in the following form:
Resolved, That any loss resulting from the issue of loan certificates shall be borne by the banks comprising the Clearing-House Association pro rata of capital and surplus, and this resolution shall be ratified by the boards of the respective banks, members of the association, and a certified copy of such consent delivered to the chairman of the loan committee.
B. ECKELS'S REPORT, 1893
HE unprecedented condition of the money market from June to September called for extraordinary remedies, not only to avert general disaster to the banks but to prevent commercial ruin. This remedy was the issuing of clearing-house loan certificates, which were brought into use as in 1873, 1884, 1890-'91, by the associated banks of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other cities where needed. The service rendered by them was invaluable, and to their timely issuance by the associated banks of the cities named is due the fact that the year's record of suspensions and failures is not greatly augmented.
. . . The subject . . . constitutes a very important part of the year's banking history, and for the additional reason that here and there are to be found those who entertain an entirely erroneous idea of the purpose for which these certificates were issued and what was accomplished by their issuance. Briefly stated, they were temporary loans made by the banks associated together as a clearing-house association, to the mem
bers of such association, and were available to such banks only for the purpose of settling balances due from and to each other, these balances under normal conditions of business being always settled in coin or currency.
At a time when vast sums of coin and currency were being withdrawn from the banks, to be hoarded, these loan certificates, by performing the functions of the currency or coin customarily required for settling daily balances at the clearing house, released so much currency or coin to the legitimate and current demands of business and unquestionably placed it within the power of the banks in the cities named to extend to outside banks the aid needed on the one hand and liberally granted on the other. In no instance were these certificates designed to nor did they circulate as money. They were but due-bills and their sole function consisted in discharging the single obligation at the clearing house. An attempt on the part of a bank in any of the associations issuing these certificates to use them otherwise would have incurred a fine and other penalties provided in the rules governing such associations. Their issuance at so early a date in the financial derangement of the country was most opportune in not only preventing an acute panic, but in tending to restore public confidence, such action demonstrating that by mutual agreement of all, the weak banks of the association would be, so far as depositors and other creditors were concerned, as strong as the strongest.
The following figures, showing the movement and amount of the issue of loan certificates in 1893 in the cities named, will indicate the measure of relief afforded by them:
House Executive Documents, 52 Cong., I sess. (Washington, 1892), XXIV, No. 3, pt. 1, pp. 12-13 passim; 53 Cong., 2 sess. (Washington, 1895), XXIII, pt. i, No. 3, pt. 1, pp. 15-16 passim.