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Some of them say that the Standard Oil Company or Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan would control the situation, that they would dominate the country like a Colossus if we should set up a central institution. I have ventured to inquire who dominates the money situation now. Is it possible that they would be more completely in control than they are said to be at the present time?
Mr. Chairman, if the American people have not ingenuity enough, if we have not brains enough to put upon the statute books a law creating an institution in such a way that we will shut out either its acquisition by any great financial interests or political control, then we do not want it. We are ready to agree to this now: Unless we can demonstrate that it is absolutely impossible for either political or financial control to obtain, then certainly I know of no advocate of centralization that would not as lief endure the evils that we have
What I say, Mr. Chairman, is that you have got centralization to-day. Those who fear that the Standard Oil Company or Mr. Morgan would control are the first to charge that they are already in control. You have got centralization; you are bound to have centralization. The only thing for us to determine, for the American people to determine, is whether we shall have centralization under the regulation of law, under conditions which shall make them responsible to all the people, which shall create an institution clothed with this great power, which shall operate for the benefit of all the people of the United States, or whether we shall have centralization in private hands, used for the benefits of those who own it or control it.
"The country too large." Of course that merely means that we must adapt the institution which we create to the size of our country. We cannot cut the size of the country down very well. Hence, we do not want to bring over the Bank of Germany or the Bank of England, because they would not be adapted to a country of our size; but what we want to do is to make a bank that is adapted to a country of our size.
Political control is the other great argument that is used, and properly used. I am not making light of it, but in my judgment an institution could be set up which shall be absolutely free from political control. I want to say, Mr. Chairman, that politics in relation to banks has changed greatly since Andrew Jackson's time. In Andrew Jackson's time every bank came into political existence as matter of political control and political favor. In my own State, New York, no set of men could go to the Legislature and obtain a charter for a bank unless they were in accord with the political party in control there. It was party patronage, used the same as political offices were used. Charters were granted by legislative bodies and none other. All of that is changed. I stand here to say, gentlemen, that to-day the banks of the United States are not in politics. That is because of the free banking system we have adopted, both in the State and nation.
Mr. Chairman, if you were going to start a new bank in Philadelphia, or elsewhere, how would you go about it? You would go to men who had influence, men who had capital, men who could assist in the starting and the growth of such an institution. Would you care what their political views were? Not in the least. You would not care whether they were Republicans or Democrats, Prohibitionists or Insurgents. All you would want to know would be the character of the men that you were inviting to take stock in that institution. I doubt if there is a bank in the United States where every stockholder of it belongs to one political party. That, gentlemen, in itself has taken banks out of politics.
I see here my friend, Mr. Ridgeley, late Comptroller of the Currency, and a good one. Did any of you ever stop to think that the Comptroller of the Currency, virtually by law, is clothed with greater power politically, if it should be used, than any institution that we could set up along these lines? The Comptroller of the Currency to-day has only to point the finger of suspicion at almost any National bank in the United States to start a run upon it from its depositors.
Wonderful power should it be used. Yet, even in the heat of a Presidential election, did any one ever hear that the Comptroller had used the vast powers of his office for political purposes? Did any one ever hear that the Superintendent of the banks of a State, also clothed with great power, had used that power for political purposes?
Mr. Chairman, we have advanced a long ways since Andrew Jackson's time. Any bank official or Federal official who was found guilty of such practices would be hurled from power by an indignant people at the first election. [Applause.]
Mr. Chairman, I apologize for the time I have already taken and will bring my remarks to a close. I only want to leave this thought with the gentlemen present: and that is that the reform of our banking and currency system, surrounded as it is with difficulties, with our State and National control, with the obligation to build the house over our head while business is carried on beneath, is a task of tremendous difficulty. It is something that cannot be done by the Monetary Commission, it cannot be done by Congress. It can be done only by a consensus of opinion of the bankers and business men and people of the United States. [Applause.]
I am very thankful that this great body, meeting here as I understand for its forty-first annual meeting, has taken the lead among the business men of the United States in asking their members in all parts of the country to take up and study this subject. And let us hope, Mr. Chairman, that the result of this effort, by the Monetary Commission and by the business men and by the bankers generally, will be that in the near future we may succeed in the adoption of a banking system which will be commensurate with the power and greatness of this great country of ours. [Applause.]
The PRESIDING OFFICER.-In behalf of this convention I thank the Vice-Chairman of the Monetary Commission for his luminous and convincing address. [Applause.]
Gentlemen, the next order of business is an address by Mr. IRVING T. BUSH, of New York, and I have great pleasure in presenting Mr. BUSH to you if he is in the house.
Professor JOSEPH FRENCH JOHNSON.-I am not Mr. BUSH, but in his absence I have been asked to read his speech. Mr. BUSH was suddenly called to Europe and could not be here.
Address, "The Simple Functions of a Central Bank," by IRVING T. BUSH, Chairman of the Currency Committee of the Merchants' Association of New York. Read by Professor JOSEPH F. JOHNSON:
When I first became interested in the currency problem, I was attracted by the school which held that our entire banking and currency system was wrong, and that everything which had been done should be torn to pieces and abandoned and an entirely new system created.
This school believed that all State banks and trust companies should be forced to become National banks, and advocated an elaborate and ingenious system of reorganizing all the banking machinery of the country to meet their especial views.
The gentlemen who advanced these ideas were intelligent men and absolutely conscientious in their desire to do something for the betterment of the machinery by which our currency and financial operations are controlled. They were not, however, either bankers or business men.
It is inevitable that when a man takes up the consideration of a new problem he is controlled by his past experience, and I had not studied the currency problem very long before my point of view was adjusted by my training as a business man. Since then, I have endeavored to approach the problem, not from the standpoint of how radical a revision of our laws I can suggest, and how many ideals can be achieved, but rather in an endeavor to determine how much of our present system is satisfactory, and how little change need be made, for change always means disturbance.
I have endeavored to approach it as a business man would approach any other problem of reorganization. If, for instance, an industrial enterprise were found to be unsuccessful in its operation, and a business man were called in to diagnose the trouble, he would not begin by tearing to pieces the entire organization, but would endeavor to ascertain its weak parts and strengthen them. He might find that all departments needed a readjustment and speeding up, or perhaps that an energetic producing department was handicapped by an ineffective and extravagant selling force, or vice versa. In any event, he would endeavor to locate the particular trouble which needed attention and correct it.
IMPPROVEMENT, BUT NOT REVOLUTION.
In approaching our financial and currency problem from this standpoint, I am impressed with the thought that there in much in our present system which is better than any other system in the world, that the defects, while radical and important, can be readily overcome, and that the difficulties are not nearly so serious as some believe. The important thing is to approach the problem with an unprejudiced mind and endeavor to satisfy the people of this country that a simple solution can be found, instead of confusing them with a complicated reorganization, which is perhaps unnecessary.
To begin with, the strongest feature of our present system is its great number of independent banks, each serving a separate community, with an intimate knowledge of the business conditions which surround them. The President and Directors of each bank have their fingers on the financial pulse of the community which they serve. They are in intimate daily touch with every merchant and industry.
A central bank, operating through branches and dealing directly with the business interests of the country cannot take the place of the independent banks which have been built up under the laws which we have enacted. I do not say that these laws are perfect. They have been changed many times in the past, and experience will suggest many