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considers as doomed, their owners being most sadly in want of the necessary capital. To surviving economists of a former generation who were often rather exclusive admirers of large properties, he objects that under a system of well-understood co-operation, middling freeholds are quite equal to the task of competing with the former, and points out the co-operative dairies which afford the same advantages of reducing the expenses of production and of using improved machinery. Moreover, the masters of such freeholds, living on the produce of their land, are thus made independent of the fluctuations of prices. The experience derived from the agricultural inquiries made from 1826 to 1892 is here relevant, as it demonstrates that the number of these self-supporting freeholders has steadily increased, whilst, for instance, during the period 1882–1892, the number of small wageearning proprietors has fallen from 1,374,646 to 1,188,025. Nevertheless a question arises : are peasant freelolds not oppressed by the burden of a mass of debt existing under the form of mortgages ? The reply based on figures is : (1) that compared with the state of things in Germany and the United States, the total amount of indebtedness of French land is moderate, and (2) that, as regards especially middling peasant freeholds, it does not exceed about fifteen per cent. of their global value, a proportion which is rather satisfactory than otherwise.
Various private bills, more or less inspired by foreign legislations, such as the German Anerbenrecht and the American statutes on Homestead, have during recent years been submitted to the French Parliament. Professor Souchon is of opinion that their aim is in contradiction with the ingrained public feeling of France, and sees but few chances of their being promulgated as actual laws. The same objection he opposes to schemes putting aside the legal provisoes restricting the testamentary freedom of the head of a family. But he rightly states that a great improvement, highly favourable to the preservation and development of peasant proprietorship, would be realised by the remodelling of the perverse jurisprudence which rules the division among children of an estate comprising both real and personal property, and enacts that each portion must comprise the same proportion of each kind of goods.
NOTES AND MEMORANDA
THE PROBLEM OF OUR NATIONAL SAVINGS
At the present time the English nation is suffering from a plethora of gold, and that to such an extent that it is becoming acquainted with the multi-millionaire's difficulty, how to dispose of his ever-accumulating savings. In the disposal of that portion of wealth which comes into the coffers of the State through the usual channels of taxation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in no such dilemma. His difficulty is just the reverse. The First Lord of the Admiralty is ever ready to add more ships to our mighty fleets, the Commander-in-Chief is equally willing to add more battalions to our small army, for like the two daughters of the horse-leech these two great spending departments ever cry, give, give! Nor does the Education Department come far behind as an absorbent of surplus.
But the disposal of the millions of money, which, partly owing to prosperity and still more largely to other causes to be afterwards enumerated, are pouring in through the medium of the Post Office Savings Bank and the various Trustee Savings Banks-trust-money, not to be spent, but for which investment must be found—is rapidly becoming a problem whose solution is imperative and urgent. The question is being forced upon public notice by the fact that each year the attempt to find the solution is deferred entails an additional loss to the Exchequer, and the ever-increasing vastness of the accumulation, a greater national danger. That this danger is fully realised by Government was exemplified in the reply given by Sir Michael Hicks-Beach to the deputation representing the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Council with regard to the unlimited deposit of the funds of trade unions in the Post Office Savings Bank. "Speaking as Chancellor of the Exchequer and therefore as a banker," he said, “I am bound to tell you that it would not be to the advantage of the country that the privilege of depositing large sums in the Post Office Savings Bank should be largely extended. The anount deposited is now enormous that in the event of any serious crisis which caused depositors to withdraw largely at the
1 Written in July, 1899. The Transvaal war has quite altered the position. No. 36. – VOL. IX.
same time there might be a considerable danger. Therefore I regard any extension of the privilege of depositing unlimited amounts in the Post Office Savings Bank with great hesitation.” Had the Chancellor used the word would instead of " might be a considerable danger” he could not have been accused of exaggeration, for it must be remembered that the State has arranged for no safeguard in connection with the Post Office Savings Bank deposits, the whole of the 1231 million pounds being absolutely at the call of the depositors. In the Trustee Savings Bank of which the writer has been a Manager for many years, and presumably in most of these institutions the rules provide for due notice of from seven days upwards for the withdrawal of all sums in excess of ten pounds. The rule is not necessarily strictly enforced, but is a safeguard rendered almost obligatory by the Savings Bank law which does not permit the trustees of any Savings Bank to withdraw more than £10,000 from the National Debt Commissioners in one day. To the trustees, who have nothing to lose, such restrictions may matter little, but to the Commissioners and the nation at large these checks on the power of the depositors to suddenly cause a run upon the Savings Bank Fund are of the most vital importance. The existence of such restrictions is infinitely better than panic legislation which is too apt only to accentuate the fears of the public.
As the official statistics for the year 1898 do not appear to have been published yet,” the following table can be brought down only to 1897. The figures are taken from the Statistical Abstract for the United Kingdom issued by the Board of Trade, a Return to be obtained at almost every public library. It is unfortunate for statistical purposes that the financial years of the Post Office Savings Bank and of the Trustee Savings Banks do not end at the same date: indeed a similar want of uniformity is one of the most noticeable defects of the compilation, a fault which not only materially decreases its value as a book of reference, but also presents the most aggravating difficulties in dealing with official statistics derived either from the chaos of Blue Books themselves or from this quintessence of Blue Book. Such a want of uniformity ought to be as obsolete as our antiquated English system of weights and measures. In the present instance however it is not of vital importance as fortunately the termination of the respective years approximates so closely as the 20th November and 31st December, and therefore the difference is insufficient to invalidate the deductions drawn from the following table.
In the decennial period under examination it will be observed that the increase during the first four years was a little in excess of
i On March 7th, Mr. Bartley elicited from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the statement that the estimated amount due to depositors in the Post Office Savings Bank at December, 1898, was £123,155,000.
2 Statistics which have been published since the article was written have been added.
131 million pounds sterling. After deducting interest allowed to depositors at a uniform rate of 2} per cent. on the total of the previous year, from the average increase per cent. during the year, the average addition to the amount of deposits was only a trifle in excess of half per cent. per annum. In the last four years (18931897) on the other hand the increase was no less than 411 million pounds, or after making the same deduction, an average rate of increase in the annual amount of deposit of more than 5 per
cent. (It is probable that the rate of increase of deposit exclusive of interest was slightly greater than is stated in both cases, as, though the general nominal rate of interest is 2.5 per cent. per annum, the average rate allowed to depositors would not be so great seeing that a number of the smaller Trustee Savings Banks only allow interest at rates varying between 2 and 2 per cent. Further the fractional parts of a pound on all depositors' balances which might be roughly estimated at from two to three million pounds sterling earn no interest for the depositor. To counterbalance these, however, allowance must be made for interest on all moneys which are deposited in the course of any one year over and above the amount of interest calculated on the total balance at the end of the previous year.)
Were the gross amount of stock held for depositors taken into account, the percentage of increase during the last few years as shown in Table I would be slightly reduced as, not only did the amount of stock held not increase in anything like the same ratio, but during the years 1895 and 1896 actually diminished, partly owing to the high price of stock which offered sufficient inducement to depositors to sell out, and partly to the extra facilities given for cash deposits; for it is probable that a considerable portion of the stock investments in the past has been simply the excess of savings over the annual maximum
P P 2
allowed to be deposited in cash. The difficulty of assigning an equitable valuation has precluded the value of stock held for depositors being included with the cash deposits so as to show gross amount of savings, but the statistics of stock are given below in a separate table.
TABLE II.-AMOUNT OF GOVERNMENT STOCK HELD FOR DEPOSITORS.
Between 1888 and 1892, taking the same period as before, the average increase per cent. in depositors was 4.63, in the last five years 4.94, a difference equivalent only to 31 per 10,000 depositors, from which too a deduction must be made for the more rapid increase of population during the last few years. The abnormal augmentation of deposits cannot therefore be attributed to the numbers of additional depositors. The year 1893 has been specially omitted in dealing with the foregoing statistics as it cannot justly be included either with the first or second period. The Savings Bank Act of that year only came into operation in the month of November, and therefore its effects, although the Act told considerably upon the amount of