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Part V of our series on the origins of the Bank of England – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Bank of England

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The Bank of England – Part V

It will readily be perceived that the principal business of the Bank of England is as the agent of government in the management of the public debt; and, in addition, to the allowance it has for transacting this business, considerable profit is derived from the balances which it holds belonging to the government, which have sometimes amounted to six millions. Although there can be no doubt that the profits of the Bank, for transacting the business of the government, are great, yet it is but justice to this body, the first in wealth and character that ever existed, to say that the directors, on all occasions, manifest a corresponding liberality; that their treasury has always been open when the necessities of the government required a loan, and that when, in [1798], voluntary contributions were solicited for carrying on the war, the Bank commenced the subscription by a donation of £200,000.

In nothing is the resumption of cash payments by the Bank of England more gratifying, than the service it has done to the cause of humanity, by putting a stop to that system of forgery which every year sent numerous victims to an untimely death. The forgeries were generally in notes of the lowest value, and these being entirely withdrawn, the crime has almost ceased. A singular fraud, though not fatal to the individual, yet of such an extent as would have seriously injured many establishments, was committed on the Bank, in [1803], by Mr. Robert Astlett, a principal cashier, who, by re-issuing exchequer bills, defrauded the company of £320,000. a sum nearly equal to the entire dividends of the half-year. Astlett was tried on two several indictments, and capitally convicted, but judgement was deferred; and after remaining many years in Newgate, he was pardoned by his present Majesty, on condition of quitting the country.

The Bank of England has, on several occasions, issued a silver currency to a considerable extent, sometimes in dollars, and tokens of eighteen-pence and three-shillings, at an advanced price on the value of silver. The Spanish dollars, which were successively raised from four-and-sixpence to five shillings, were, in [1811], re-issued at five-and-sixpence, having been previously re-stamped by one of Mr. Bolton’s powerful machines, which entirely effaced the Spanish insignia, and replaced it by the head of his Majesty, and a figure of Britannia.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery


Further reading and external links

The Bank of England on Wikipedia 

The Bank of England Archives

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