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History of Montrose
Chapter IX. - Banks, &c.

BANKS promote industry, activity, and skill; in fact, in a commercial country like this they are a necessity: the millionaire must have his bank, because he cannot command his funds at all times if they are invested in landed or other securities.

None are, or ought to be more sharp-sighted than bankers, and it is their interest to encourage industry. The Bank of Scotland had the first agency in Montrose, about 100 years ago, under John Brand, who afterwards was agent for the Dundee Union; but first of all he was a bill collector, and ended by being laird of Laurieston, an estate now worth 70,000. His was a prosperous career, for he had very little opposition for a long time. After the Bank of Scotland came the British Linen Company, whose agent was Provost Christie, and the safe is still in existence in Mr. Marshall’s shop. This Company, as its name implies, was at first started to promote the linen trade in Scotland, and was established by Royal Charter in 1746, after the suppression of the rebellion, and had its rise in Edinburgh, having for subscribers the most eminent men in that city and country around, who were actuated by the most patriotic motives. It began with a capital of 150,000, which has now reached a million, and yields 11 per cent, interest. One of its chief objects, says Mr. Warden in his excellent work on the linen trade, was to supply the British merchants, trading to Africa and the British Plantations, with such kinds of linen cloth as they had previously been purchasing from foreign nations. But this was not their only aim ; they also intended to prosecute the trade in its several departments. They assisted manufacturers, both by buying their cloth and advancing money, till at last they found it better to let the trade be free, and to set up a banking establishment, which enabled them to carry out their original intention in a more extensive manner. So much for banks promoting industry; activity and skill follow. The house in Montrose occupied by the bank was built in 1815, in the place where stood a small shop for the sale of tobacco and snuff, the roof of which you might almost have reached with your hand. Many of the present inhabitants will call to mind the building of the bank ; the foundation was of pure sand, and piles of wood had to be driven in to strengthen it. Dr. Bate was standing by when the rotten snuffy wood of the old house was taken down, and he made the remark, in solemn and impressive language, that our bones would moulder in the grave in the same manner.

Even the smallest trader, if he wishes to extend his business, ought to cultivate the good opinion of a bank, and obtain a cash credit. At first setting out in business, let him trade upon his own capital, as far as it will go, paying and receiving cash, which will help him to form the best connections, and when once it is known that he can pay ready money, the best bargains will be offered without solicitation. In a short time he draws the attention of his neighbours and the eyes of the banker. Let him now secure a bank credit, and extend his business by supplying those who pay quarterly or half-yearly, but whom he would lose if he presented his accounts sooner. The common error is, with those who have no bank credit, not to keep their goods ; for many wish to make an appearance as if they were doing more business than their neighbours, whether safely or not—in fact, they must push trade to keep moving, if there be but the shadow of getting the money-sometime. Many more failures take place in this way than with those who study to keep up their credit with a bank. The one party gets reckless, and is in a sea of troubles and often in deep water, while the other exercises more caution and possesses more equanimity, feeling persuaded that it is better to do a little well, than to hurry heedlessly on and endanger his credit. Take as an instance what used to be the custom in Sunderland. No grocer there needed to expect pitmen and carpenters to be customers without letting them fall back a fortnight’s goods, and then after that you might expect them to pay regularly till some reverse can\e over them. One tradesman, more worldy-wise than his neighbours, and a better counter than his customer, would sometimes smuggle in a shilling of the old with the new, and so get out. A strike among the carpenters took place in 1824 or 5, when they forcibly took out of ships going to sea those who had not joined the union, till things came to such a height that the military had to be sent for to Newcastle to quell the riot. Many innocent persons were shot dead when the crowd would not disperse after the riot act was read. The writer was out at tea that afternoon in one of the retired streets of the town, and coming home by the High Street, it was like a Sabbath after the military had fired. The small shopkeepers, I suppose, # had never got above that strike—many of them at least. Now, if the stupid bodies had dealt on the ready money system, had accounts with a bank, they would have introduced a better state of things, and learned the pitmen to practise more economy; for they live upon the fat of the land, and families with three pounds coming in to them in the week would have got their clothing by joining a menage, to which they paid Is. in the week. It is better to take an example from a distance than to come nearer home.

In the panic of 1825 there was a great run upon the banks, but the local bank, Jonathan Backhouse k Co., stood it out manfully. This is a Quaker bank, and it is astonishing what stay and support adherence to the principle that guides them in money matters gave them. It is a rule among the Friends to uphold one another in trade. Well, there was a grocer there, of the name of Caleb Wilson, who readily took all their notes in the way of business; and, you may be sure, had a pretty good run. This inspired trust, and the principal merchants signed a letter of confidence in the bank, and by this means they were able to tide it over. There were many local banks in England at that time, and since then, as the Birmingham Bank, which went down with a crash lately. But the chartered banks in Scotland are on a different footing altogether, holding, as they are obliged to do, Government Stock. They may be compared to the sturdy oak, the monarch of the wood, having their roots (the shareholders) widely spread, and striking deep into the soil, as may be seen in the long lists of shareholders, of every class and degree, throughout the country. This gives them strength and additional security, and brings them trade, since so many are interested in their prosperity ; and it is nothing against the oak that it spreads its umbrageous branches around on every side, this only makes its roots take firmer hold of the soil, as it is said of trees that their branches correspond in number to their roots. It was wise, therefore, in Sir R. Peel not to grant licenses to new banks, but to let the old and firmly-established extend themselves, as they have since done in every town in Scotland, and in some villages. It was, to me at least, astonishing what knowledge Sir R Peel displayed in conducting the last currency bill; but in reading the account of the life of the late Mr M‘Culloch, author of the Commercial Dictionary,

I see that he must have been indebted to him a good deal, and Sir Robert was one who always prepared his lessons well at school and college. He settled an annuity of 300 upon Mr. M'Culloch. We have no less than eight branch banks in Montrose now, viz. :—the Bank of Scotland, first established, although it withdrew^its branch from Montrose some years, Charles Bumess, Esq., agent; the British Linen Co., John Walker, Esq., agent; the National, George C. Chalmers, Esq., agent; the Royal, Messrs Thomson & Savege, agents; the North of Scotland, Messrs Lindsay& Walker, agents; the Union Bank of Scotland, Messrs Findlay & Greig, agents; the Clydesdale, George C. Myers, Esq., agent; and the Aberdeen Town and County Bank, last established, of which Alex. Mackie, Esq., is agent. There was once a local bank, called the Montrose Bank, which ended in failure, and almost ruined the shareholders.

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