Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
The comment is by Nix, copied from the 29 Jan 1659/60 entry: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1660/01/29/#c988 ]
Some observations on money and credit:
In reading Pepys’ discussions of money, credit, “notes”, debts, wealth, etc., it is clear that the financial system under which he lives is drasticallly different from what we have now.
The important thing to remember is that financial transactions were not institutionalized: “Banks” were not large, impersonal institutions — they were individuals who made their living handling money for others.
Because there was no paper money, the only currency was metal coinage. This was highly inconvenient for transactions of any size, so a person purchasing something for, say, 20 l. would give a promissory note. The note could say “I will pay you this whenever you ask” — a demand note. The maker of the note was, at least theoretically, obliged to pay over in cash whenever the payee showed up at his home or place of business (they were quite often the same, particularly in the case of tradesmen). Or it could say “I will pay you this in 30 days” or 60 or six months or whatever.
The person to whom the note was offered as payment had to make the same sorts of judgments creditors make today: How confident am I that I can collect this debt? They didn’t have credit reports in those days, so the basis for the decision would include the reputation of the payor (if he was known), the appearance of the payor (that is one reason why clothing was viewed as so important), the address for payment (both as evidence of substance and to evaluate how far you’d have to go — how much trouble it would be to collect it), etc.
Having the paper, what was the creditor to do with it? He could retain it and try to collect it when it came due. But (a) collection was likely outside his “core competency”, as they say in business today, and (b) his capital was tied up until he could collect it. So the practice arose of “discounting” — essentially, selling the note to a third party for something less than face value. That passed the risk of non-collectability as well as the time delay on to the third party — the greater the perceived risk, the greater the discount from the face value. Offering cash for notes was one of the earliest functions of bankers, and you can still see its remnants: Your checks don’t say “Pay to Smith”, they say “Pay to the Order of Smith” — that is, Mr. Banker, please give the cash to whoever buys this note from Smith. And the indorsement on the back of the check is the way Jones shows the bank (and ultimately the court) that he did in fact buy the note from Smith.
Sorry to go on and on, but I hope this provides some clarification on these murky financial doings.
P.S. — A while back, people were asking about Pepys’ possible misuse of government funds. My impression is that, in those days, one of the perks of public office was that you had the use of funds from the time they were given to you until they had to be paid out. You were responsible for being sure they were there when they were needed, but in the meantime you could lend them out and earn some interest. That is, after all, what banks do even today.
A source of gold prior to the inter regnum was Spain and Barbery coast [ a suprise] long session in of Commons on how money makes the world flow or as said once " Nervi belli pecunia" or Pecunia non olet."...they had their Bullion from the Refiner. -That he imported, out of Barbary and Spayne, 5,000l. in Bullion, of Gold and Silver. That they buy by the Troy Weight, and sell by the Venice Weight; wherein a third Part Difference. -..."
From: British History OnlineSource: House of Commons Journal Volume 1: 06 March 1621. House of Commons Journal Volume 1, (1802).URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?com...Date: 16/06/2004
"Nervi belli pecunia” or Pecunia non olet." sources: Endless money forms the sinews of war.[Lat., Nervi belli pecunia infinita.]- Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero), Philippics (V, 2, 5) http://www.cultureandfamily.org/articledisplay....“Pecunia non olet” (“Money does not smell”) http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=115316&...
Cost of running a ship; The Lamport: 3 rate, 210 men and 50 guns was owed 8,854l. 1s. 9d on may 1st 1660money owed for 40 ships and 3,695 men cost wages l.129,981 14s. 0d.
A List of such of his Majesty's Ships of the Navy Royal, now in Pay, not of the Summer's Guard, with an Account of the Wages due to them to the First of May 1660, and the Charge they are at, was read; and is as followeth: Viz.
From: British History OnlineSource: House of Commons Journal Volume 8: 16 May 1660. Journal of the House of Commons: volume 8, (1802).URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?com...Date: 05/03/2005
interest rates to be set at 10 percent:10 per Cent Interest.A Bill for such Persons as shall supply his Majesty with Money for his present Occasions, to take Interest at Ten Pounds per Centum, was this Day read the Second time.Resolved, That the said Bill be committed to the Committee of the whole House, that is appointed for the King's Revenue: And that the House will resolve into a Committee To-morrow Morning, to take this Bill in the first Place, and afterwards the King's Revenue, into Consideration: And they are to limit a Time in the Bill, for the taking up and retaining Money at Interest, by his Majesty, at the Rate of Ten Pounds per Centum.
From: British History OnlineSource: House of Commons Journal Volume 8: 14 February 1662. Journal of the House of Commons: volume 8, (1802).URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?com...Date: 07/03/2005
"The rate of 6% was a standard one in England by the mid-17th century."
"Goldsmith-Banking: Mutual Acceptance and Interbanker. Clearing in Restoration London". Stephen Quinn. Department of Economics, Texas Christian University.http://www.econ.tcu.edu/quinn/finhist/readings/...
Transactions by Pepys with leading goldsmith-bankers that illustrate what the Quinn paper JWB posted a link to argues:
Thursday 1 February 1665/66: "I to Alderman Backewell’s to set all my reckonings straight there, which I did, and took up all my notes. So evened to this day, and thence to Sir Robert Viner’s, where I did the like, leaving clear in his hands just 2000l. of my owne money, to be called for when I pleased." http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1666/02/01/
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