Full text of The National Bank of Belgium
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61ST CONGRESS ) 2d Session j SENATE j DOCUMENT \ No. 400 NATIONAL MONETARY COMMISSION The National Bank of Belgium By CHARLES A. CONANT Author of "A History of Modern Banks of Issue" Washington : Government Printing Office : 1910 NATIONAL MONETARY COMMISSION. NELSON W. ALDRICH, Rhode Island, Chairman. EDWARD B. VREELAND, New York, Vice-Chairman. J U L I U S C. BURROWS, Michigan. E U G E N E H A L E , Maine. PHILANDER C. K N O X , Pennsylvania. THEODORE E . BURTON, Ohio. J O H N W . DANIEL, Virginia. H E N R Y M. TELLER, Colorado. HERNANDO D. MONEY, Mississippi. JOSEPH W . BAILEY, Texas. J E S S E OVERSTREET, Indiana. J O H N W . W E E K S , Massachusetts. ROBERT W . BONYNGE, Colorado. SYLVESTER C. SMITH, California. LEMUEL P . PADGETT, Tennessee. GEORGE F . BURGESS, Texas. A R S E N E P . P U J O , Louisiana. ARTHUR B . SHELTON, Secretary. A. PIATT ANDREW, Special Assistant to Commission. TABLE OF CONTENTS. Page. General summary Origin and history of the Bank The question of a state-owned bank Character of business permitted and forbidden Volume and character of discounts Advances on public funds Losses and rejected paper Discount policy of the National Bank The gratuitous issue of drafts Movements of the circulation Regulation of the note circulation Foreign bills in the reserve The question of monopoly of note issue Methods of collecting paper Current accounts The custody of securities Management of the Bank Internal organization and personnel Branches and discount offices Changes in capital and surplus Earnings and dividends Share of the State in the profits of the Bank Services performed by the Bank for the State Investments on behalf of the treasury Services performed for the General Savings Bank The monetary experience of Belgium The metallic reserve and the premium on exchange General statistics of banking operations * _ 5 11 28 37 44 54 58 60 65 68 73 79 85 89 92 98 102 108 115 120 127 131 142 156 157 163 179 192 APPENDICES. Appendix A.—The Exchange Problem in Belgium___._ .. B.—The Fundamental Laws Creating and Extending the Charter of the Bank C.—Law Regulating the Functions of Cashier for the State D.—Statutes of the Bank 3 201 203 213 216 THE NATIONAL BANK OF BELGIUM. GENERAL SUMMARY. The history of the National Bank of Belgium is of special interest to the student of banking systems because of the lateness of its foundation and the ability of its founders to garner up the results of the experience of Belgium and of other countries in what they conceived to be the best attainable form of organization. Founded under these conditions in 1850, twenty years after Belgium became an independent State, the charter of the National Bank is free from many of those temporary and local features which influenced the foundation and development of some of the other great banks of Europe. It bears the stamp of the two or three characteristics which are regarded by many economic students as belonging to the ideal bank of issue. The business of the Bank is limited substantially to the discount of commercial paper and excludes, except to a limited extent, advances upon securities or any other noncommercial asset. Even such securities as are admitted as investments for the reserve fund or as the cover for a restricted amount of loans are securities issued by the Government of Belgium or under its guaranty. In dealing with commercial paper, the function of the Bank 5 National Monetary Commission is essentially that of rediscounting for the joint-stock banks and for local discount committees paper which has been originally discounted with them. This affords to the Bank the guaranty of third parties for the ultimate payment of paper discounted and adds to the liquid character of the assets by reducing to the neighborhood of forty days the period for which paper has to run after reaching the Bank. Upon this basis of quickly convertible commercial paper is based the system of note issue of the Bank. This issue is unlimited in amount and is not restricted by the charter even as to the proportion of cash reserve required to be held. The proportion of reserve was deliberately left to be fixed by the statutes of the Bank, which are a subject of mutual agreement between the Minister of Finance and the administration of the Bank. By this authority the proportion of cash to notes has been fixed at 33^3 per cent, but the Minister of Finance has power to suspend this requirement in an emergency. Foreign bills of exchange have long been counted as the equivalent of gold in the reserve and have proved useful on critical occasions in maintaining control of the exchanges. Interest is not paid upon deposits in the National Bank, in order that such deposits as are attracted shall be those growing out of commercial operations and not those partaking of the nature of investments made for the sake of the interest earned. The outstanding issues of notes, which reached in 1908 an amount in excess of 800,000,000 francs ($160,000,000) for a population of less than 7,500,000, constitute the chief liability of the Bank. Current deposit accounts constitute only about one-tenth of the 6 National Bank of Belgium assets of about i ,000,000,000 francs ($200,000,000), which represent the banking and issuing functions of the Bank. 0 Regulation of the money market is attained in part, as in other European countries dowered with a central bank of issue, by changing the discount rate. The problem of money and exchange in Belgium has been complicated by the large amount of silver coins which were issued before the suspension of free coinage by the Latin Union in 1873, and by the fact that this silver has degenerated into the position of a token coin, kept at gold par largely through the control exercised by the National Bank over exchange. Gold has practically disappeared from circulation, partly by reason of the issue of notes in large amounts down to the denomination of 20 francs ($3.86), and partly as the result of some hesitation on the part of the Bank to raise the discount rate sharply to offset the adverse current of exchange. The Bank has preferred to a large extent the policy of the Bank of France, of replenishing its gold reserve at its own expense rather than by the elevation of the discount rate. The organization of the National Bank of Belgium is not unlike that of the Banks of France and Germany. The governor of the Bank is appointed by the King; but the Government has no share in the ownership, and the administrative boards are chosen by the shareholders. The State has kept its hands clean from dipping into the resources of the Bank by loans, but it has from time to time, with the renewal of the charter, added to the burdens a While the franc is taken in these generalizations a t 20 cents, definite sums are reduced in this treatise more nearly to the exact equivalent at 19.3 cents to the franc, without, however, carrying out the calculations to the last decimals. 7 National Monetary Commission imposed upon the Bank by way of gratuitous services and taxation. The Bank was organized with the view of performing the fiscal functions of the treasury, and its 39 agencies have been distributed in the chief places of Belgium as much to facilitate this end as for the convenience of the commercial community. So considerable is the work performed for the State that payments in and out of the bank for the public treasury have come to exceed 5,000,000,000 francs ($1,000,000,000) annually, exclusive of the many other operations in the payment of coupons and conversion of the debt which have been imposed without compensation upon the Bank. In addition to these direct fiscal services, the National Bank undertook at the time of its foundation to carry on a large part of the business of the savings bank, if one should be created. Such an institution was created in 1865 and has grown until the total amount of deposits is not far below the assets of the National Bank. While the detail of the small deposits is not handled by the National Bank, investments for the savings bank itself and for its clients, the maintenance of its cash balance, and the remittance of its funds are all performed, practically without compensation, by the National Bank. When the National Bank was created in 1850, it was to meet a dire need on the part of the Government for a fiscal agent. The burdens of taxation at first imposed were, therefore, comparatively light; but with the renewals of the charter in 1872 and in 1900, the grip of the State upon the pocket of the bank was tightened. A tax has been imposed since 1872 amounting to one-half of 1 per cent annually on the excess of the circulation above 8 National Bank of Belgium 275,000,000 francs. The policy of covering into t h e public treasury a large share of t h e profits took t h e form of two requirements in 1872, which were made much more exacting in 1900. One of these was the provision t h a t a percentage of t h e net profits should be paid into t h e public treasury. Under t h e law of 1872 this division of profits did not begin until t h e shareholders had received dividends of 6 per cent, after which one-fourth of t h e net excess went to t h e State. By the law of 1900, t h e point at which division with t h e State should begin was reduced to a dividend rate of 4 per cent. Under the earlier law t h e excess of receipts from discount above a rate of 5 per cent went into t h e public treasury. By the later law t h e Bank can not profit from a discount rate above 3% per cent. To t h e latter provision is attributed b y some t h e disposition of t h e Bank in recent years to prefer t o derive a profit from its note circulation, at t h e expense of unfavorable foreign exchanges, rather t h a n to raise the discount rate radically in order t o protect its gold reserve and t h e monetary stock of Belgium. This in outline is t h e history of the development of the National Bank of Belgium, which is set forth more in detail in the following pages. The subjects of banking theory and practice have been more thoroughly discussed in Belgium t h a n in some other countries, because each renewal of t h e charter of the National Bank has been for nearly thirty years, the last renewal continuing t h e life of t h e bank to J a n u a r y 1, 1929. This has led perhaps to a more thorough examination of the questions involved t h a n where charters run for shorter terms and proposals for renewal fall more within the channels of routine. At 9 National Monetary Commission the time of the renewal of the charter of the National Bank in 1900 the reports alone of the various committees filled a folio volume of 619 pages and the debates in the Chambers a still greater space. Interest was given to the debate by the presence in the Belgian Chamber of Deputies of some of the most scholarly and advanced advocates of state socialism, who made a determined onslaught upon the organization of the Bank. Hardly a voice was raised, however, against the theory of a central bank organized to regulate the exchanges or against the system of note issue under which the Bank had operated for forty years. The criticisms of the Socialist deputies were directed rather to the questions of the terms of the charter, ownership of the Bank by private individuals rather than by the State, and the proportion of profits earned which should be covered into the public treasury. The principal sources of authority are the records of the Bank itself, in its carefully prepared annual reports, and the documents and proceedings relating to the renewal of the charter in 1872 and in 1900. The reports submitted on these occasions and the complete debates in the Chambers are printed in separate volumes and afford a mine of information as to the operations of the Bank and its relation to Belgian enterprise. The list of authorities cited in various parts of this document appears below. The parliamentary records are cited throughout the text simply under the designations "Documents Parlementaires" or "Discussions Parlementaires," with the date, without specifying the fact that they are the documents relating exclusively to the National Bank, since parlia10 National Bank of Belgium mentary documents or discussions on other subjects are not cited in this report. The documents used are as follows: Banque Nationale de Belgique; Documents Officiels, Relatifs a la Prorogation de cette Institution, d^cretee par la loi du 20 Mai 1872; Brussels, 1872. Banque Nationale de Belgique: Loi du 26 Mars 1900, Documents Parlementaires; Brussels, 1901. Banque Nationale de Belgique: Loi du 26 Mars 1900, Discussions Parlementaires; Brussels, 1901. Banque Nationale de Belgique, Assembled Generate des Actionnaires, Annual Reports, 1892-1908. Banque Nationale de Belgique, Lois Organiques, Statuts, Regiement d'Ordre Int6rieur; Brussels, 1907. Annuaire Statistique de la Belgique, 1907; Brussels, 1908. Moniteur des Int£r£ts Materiels (tri-weekly), Brussels. Les Banqiies d'Emission en Europe: Octave Noel, Paris, 1888. Les Banques d'Emission: Etude Historique et de Legislation Compared: Robert Ulens, Brussels, 1908. Bank R a t e and the Money Market in England, France, Germany, Holland, and Belgium: R. H. Inglis Palgrave, F . R. S., New York, 1903. A History of Banking in all the Leading Nations; edited by the editor of the Journal of Commerce, New York, 1896. A History of the Latin Monetary Union: Henry Parker Willis, Chicago, 1901 A History of Modern Banks of Issue: With an Account of the Economic Crises of the Nineteenth Century and the Crisis of 1907: Charles A. Conant, New York, 1909. ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF T H E BANK. The creation of the National Bank of Belgium was one of the consequences of the separation of Belgium from Holland in 1830, and of the unsatisfactory condition of banking which followed the separation. It was onlyafter experiments for twenty years with existing institu11 National Monetary Commission tions, which did not operate satisfactorily as banks of ssue nor as agents of the treasury, that the National Bank was created in 1850. The charter adopted followed simple lines for keeping the Bank free from entanglements by restricting its field of operations to the discounting of commercial paper based upon actual transactions.'1 So directly and effectively was it aimed at these results that it became the model of at least two foreign countries in the reconstruction of their banking systems. When the Government of Holland remodeled the charter of the Bank of the Netherlands in 1864, the new law was based upon that of Belgium. It was declared by M. Betz, the Netherlands Minister of Finance: b " If one wished to qualify definitely by a foreign name the system adopted by the Government, one would be near the truth in saying that while the French, Scotch, and American systems have been rejected, the Belgian system has been chosen." In the reform of the currency system of Japan, also in 1882, Count Matsukata, the eminent Minister of Finance, set forth in his report on the subject: c " In point of the perfectness of organization and the wellregulated condition of business management, the National Bank of Belgium stands highest. This fact is due doubtless to the lateness of its founding, which enabled it to « I t was declared in the report of M. Descamps to the Senate in 1900, t h a t while the Belgian system had nothing to fear but everything to gain from an analysis of its principles, it was proper to recall " t h a t it had not been presented to the country as the work of a social reformer, as a system formulated a priori under the Empire of preconceived economic doctrines, 'sprung full armed from the head of Jupiter,' but had been derived from the simple lessons of experience."—Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 352 & Documents Officiels: 1872, p. 46. c Report on the Adoption of the Gold Standard in Japan, p. 64. 12 National Bank of Belgium consider fully the mistakes as well as the successes of older banks. Its regulations are for this reason more perfect t h a n those of any others, winning highest praises from t h e financiers of the world, and leading the Bank of Amsterdam, at the time of its organization, to closely follow its pattern. I n the case of a Japanese central bank, therefore, no better p a t t e r n can be found t h a n the National Bank of Belgium; and if the regulations thus copied are modified to suit our peculiar conditions and circumstances, I have little doubt t h a t the system t h u s adopted will perfectly meet our present need, and t h a t also in point of practical organization it will prove to be a success." There were, at the time of the creation of the National Bank in 1850 four banking institutions in Belgium—the Societe Generate, the Bank of Belgium, the Bank of Flanders, and the Bank of Liege. a The Societe Generate with a capital of 50,000,000 florins (about $20,000,000), dated from early in the nineteenth century, and under t h e Dutch sovereignty performed most of the financial operations of the Government. The control of the institution was chiefly in the hands of the Dutch element, who felt little s y m p a t h y with the new political regime in Belgium. The newT Government was compelled, however, to employ the Bank in the same manner as its predecessor. The Societe Generate, feeling itself indispensable, refused to permit the supervision of t h e court of accounts over its management as treasurer for the State. a This narrative of the beginnings of the National Bank is based mainly on Banques d'Emission en Europe, Octave Noel, Paris, 1888, pp. 477-488. 13 National Monetary Commission The Belgian Government sought to remedy this condition of things by the creation of a rival institution. It lent its favor to the organization of the Bank of Belgium, which was created in 1835. The Government plainly indicated its preference by taking away from the Societe Generate its functions as cashier of the treasury and transferring them to the Bank of Belgium. But the new institution fell upon troublous times. A crisis loomed on the horizon in 1837, which became acute in 1838, when trouble with Holland was threatened over the boundaries of Limbourg and Luxembourg. The Societe Generate seized the occasion to cripple its younger rival by gathering up its notes and presenting them for redemption. On December 4, 1838, the sum of 1,000,000 francs ($193,000) was thus presented. On December 10 another sum of 1,200,000 francs was presented, and on December 15 300,000 francs. The Bank of Belgium was forced to suspend and to seek the assistance of the Government. By a law of January 1, 1839, a credit of 2,600,000 francs ($501,800) was granted to the Bank for the redemption of its notes and for other purposes, and 1,400,000 francs ($270,200) for the repayment of the savings deposits, which were under its charge. This temporary relief did not remove the fundamental causes of weakness. Both the Bank of Belgium and the Societe Generate had locked up considerable amounts of capital in industrial ventures from which it could not be readily converted into cash. The crises which affected Belgium in 1837 and in 1838 were much more serious in their effects because the two banks had to meet at once the demand for the redemption of their notes and the 14 National Bank of Belgium needs of the industrial enterprises which they were supporting. From these two sides—the demands of the public and of their industrial clients—the Bank of Belgium was exposed to the disappearance of its metallic reserve and the suspension of payments in specie. Notwithstanding the aid of the Government in 1839, the same embarrassments recurred in 1842. The Bank of Belgium confessed its inability to fulfill its financial mission for the Government and resigned its functions as cashier of the treasury. The Society Generale had encountered the same difficulties as the Bank of Belgium. On its part also it had supported numerous industrial enterprises and had suffered severely in the financial crises through which the country had passed. It was even compelled in 1842 to suppress the branches which it maintained in the provinces, of which the larger number had shown bad results, and to continue only the branch at Antwerp. But the Societe Generale was more firmly established than its rival and was the only institution which was in position to resume the service of the treasury without danger to the public finances. A new convention restored to the Societe Generale the functions of cashier of the State. The arrangement was, on the part of the Government, only a makeshift. The time had come when those responsible for the conduct of public affairs were considering seriously the creation of an institution which should be restricted in the scope of its operations to commercial banking and should not be exposed, like the existing institutions, to the results of unsound financiering. When, therefore, the Soci£t£ Generate in 1843 demanded the extension of its charter, which 15 National Monetary Commission was asked b y the shareholders for a period of twenty-five years, t h e Government declared t h a t it would reserve t o itself t h e right to indicate before t h e end of the year 1849 the conditions under which the Bank might continue to exist and the modifications which it would be required to insert in its statutes. T h e crisis of 1848 obliged b o t h t h e Societe Generate a n d t h e Bank of Belgium again to suspend payments. This furnished t h e Government an opportune occasion for p u t ting its plans in execution. The existing institutions were protected for the moment by making their notes legal tender, while restricting their issues; b u t the year 1849 h a d hardly begun before the president of t h e council of ministers, M. Frere-Orban, formulated a series of reforms which he submitted to the Societe Generate as the basis of t h e establishment of a national bank. The conditions were such as almost to compel a refusal. They constit u t e d a demand upon an institution long in operation, generally prosperous and honorably known, and engaged from t h e beginning in affairs requiring time for their development, t h a t it should suddenly restrict its operations a t a n almost certain loss and with grave prejudice to its credit. The Government anticipated t h e refusal of t h e B a n k t o a d o p t this policy, and was fully prepared in t h a t case t o propose t h e creation of a new institution based upon t h e principle of issuing notes only upon commercial paper. F r o m these conditions sprang t h e National Bank, which was established b y a law of May 5, 1850. The new institution was given a duration of twenty-five years, which might be extended b y law upon t h e demand of a majority 16 National Bank of Belgium of the shareholders. The capital was fixed at 25,000,000 francs ($4,825,000), divided into 25,000 shares of 1,000 francs each. The significance of the difference between the character of the new institution as representative of the State and those which it superseded in this capacity is indicated by the provisions of the charter in regard to the forms of business in which it might engage. These privileges, as laid down by the law and by the statutes of the bank, were to discount or buy bills of exchange and other obligations relating to commercial operations; to buy Treasury bonds within the limits to be prescribed; to conduct the purchase and sale of gold and silver; to grant advances upon those metals; to assume the collection of paper which might be remitted to it by individuals or firms; to receive money on current account; and to receive on deposit securities, precious metals, and gold and silver money, and, finally, to make advances in current account or for short terms on deposits of national securities or other securities guaranteed by the State, within limits and conditions to be fixed periodically by the administration of the Bank with the approval of the Minister of Finance. The beginnings of the Bank were not brilliant. Commercial transactions in Belgium were limited in scope and were the subject of competition between the new bank, the Soci£te Generate, the Bank of Belgium, and several other institutions. To perform the service of the treasury compelled the new institution to establish offices in the chief places of the country and wherever the government considered it necessary. It was con85519—10 2 17 National Monetary Commission tended, moreover, by the authors of the law that the benefits which the Bank offered to commerce should be extended into all parts of the country, in order that no merchant or manufacturer should be excluded from its advantages. The Bank was prudently managed, however, and weathered the serious crises which shook Europe from 1855 to 1858 and from 1863 to 1866, without embarrassment to its credit. A more serious test of the prudence and resources of the Bank came with the war between France and Germany in 1870. Belgium was close to the route followed by the contending armies. For this reason her banks were the channel through which flowed much of the money for the expenses incurred in the maintenance of both the French and German troops. Many private financial transactions also were transferred, from motives of prudence as well as convenience, from Paris and Berlin to the National Bank at Brussels. As the result of the demand for discounts Belgian commercial paper in the Bank, which stood on July 10, 1870, at 177,500,000 francs, rose by July 20 to 203,923,100 francs; on July 31 to 223,231,744 francs; and maintained itself until August 20 in the neighborhood of 204,000,000 francs ($39,372,000). While other financial institutions and merchants thus sought discounts from the Bank much larger in volume than in normal times, the public was seized with panic and presented notes in large amounts for redemption. During the entire year 1869, with an average circulation of 177,000,000 francs, the amount in notes presented for redemption had reached only 216,507,760 francs, or a daily average of about 600,000 francs ($115,000). Dur18 National Bank of Belgium ing the eighty-two days from July i to September 20, 1870, notes presented for redemption reached the sum of 85,022,000 francs, or over 1,000,000 francs ($193,000) per day. The pressure was felt most severely during the latter half of July, when the daily average attained about 2,094,000 francs ($404,142), and redemptions on the single day of July 20 were 6,286,000 francs, and on July 21 7,025,000 francs. The intensity of the panic was much increased by the shortsighted measures taken by the government in casting distrust upon the soundness of the Bank, instead of giving it moral support. From the early days of July, the Royal Government, fearing that the declaration of war between France and Germany would lead to the violation of the neutrality of Belgium, warned the National Bank to take measures to transfer to Antwerp that portion of the metallic reserve representing the balance of the treasury. On July 13, 1870, without further previous notice, the Bank was informed that this operation must be effected without delay. The Bank had declared that the operation could be accomplished within three hours, and the sudden demand for its execution was a signal of alarm which did not fail to arouse great uneasiness. The order was revoked for the moment, only to be renewed on the 15th by an oral demand from a subordinate of the Ministry of Finance, with the condition that the transfer should be made under the superintendence of two agents of the department. The transfer of the metallic reserve of the treasury outside of Brussels deprived the Bank of valuable resources at a moment when anxiety was spreading throughout the country. Inevitably, the effort 19 National Monetary Commission to keep the measure secret was unsuccessful and provoked violent excitement, which led to many demands by the public for the redemption of notes at the counters of the Bank. The Ministry of Finance added to the difficulties of the situation by directing its agents in the provinces to keep very small reserves in cash and not to modify their character—that is, not to exchange coin for bank notes. The Minister of War at the same time addressed to all the heads of army corps a circular warning them that he had taken measures in concert with the Minister of Finance that all agencies of the Bank, especially the most important, should be provided with gold, silver, and notes in sufficient quantities to provide for the exchange of bank notes which might be found in the military chests. These measures threw such discredit upon the notes of the National Bank and so seriously impaired confidence in the circulation, at a moment when the difficulty of obtaining precious metals was becoming constantly greater on the foreign exchanges, that it soon became imperative to make a change of policy. The Minister of War on July 31—five days after his first circular—addressed a new order to the heads of army corps, informing them that he had been requested by his associate in the finance department " t o recommend particularly to governing boards and to other paymasters of the army to demand as little gold as possible of the agencies of the National Bank and to pay in bank notes everything susceptible of being thus paid, as well as to exchange notes of 500 francs and 1,000 francs which might be on hand for denominations of 20 and 50 francs in order to facilitate payments/' 20 National Bank of Belgium It was too late to counteract fully the effects of the earlier measures. The Bank was compelled to raise the rate of discount and then to take restrictive measures by limiting the amount of paper accepted from the same indorser and maturing at the same date. Advantage had already been taken, from the date of the transfer of the treasury reserves to Antwerp, of the option given the Bank by the law to redeem its notes only at Brussels, except that it continued redemptions at Antwerp. The Bank was struggling bravely in the meantime to meet legitimate demands. The cash reserve stood on July 15, soon after the trouble broke out, at 15,000,000 francs ($2,895,000), which was above 25 per cent of demand liabilities. The bank hastened to seek additional cash resources to the amount- of 25,000,000 francs in the markets of London, Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Paris. In spite of the enormous amounts of coin called for by the crisis, the metallic reserve of the Bank was not permitted to fall below the limits assigned to it by the management. The discount rate was promptly advanced in order to check unnecessary demands for accommodation. The rate remained from July 1 to July 15 at 2 % per cent for accepted bills and at 3 per cent for those which had not been accepted. These rates were promptly advanced on the 15th to 5 and $% per cent, where they remained until August 5, when they were again advanced to 6 and 6% per cent. A rate of 7 per cent was then charged for drafts drawn from abroad upon Belgium. At the outbreak of the crisis the Bank possessed foreign paper to an amount of 64,144,561.25 francs ($12,370,000). 21 National Monetary Commission Such prompt disposition was made of these securities to obtain coin that on July 31 the amount of such paper was reduced to 7,227,333.20 francs and on August 20 to 3,531,907.38 francs. The proceeds of this paper was employed in the purchase of gold and silver, principally silver bullion, which the mint converted into 5-franc pieces, with which the bank filled the void in its reserves caused by the redemption of notes. Thanks to these energetic measures, which imposed a loss of 705,340.42 francs ($136,100), the Bank weathered the storm and was able by August 27, 1870, to reduce discount rates to 5 ^ per cent for accepted bills and 6 per cent for those not accepted, following this by reductions on September 20 to 4.% and 5 per cent, and on October 8 to 2>% and 4 per cent. Calm was reestablished by the middle of August and the Bank returned to normal conditions. The special commission which had been appointed by the Government to study the best means of allaying the disturbance found nothing to do, and the approach of the date of the expiration of the charter gave emphasis to the success with which the management of the Bank had piloted it through the storm and through the difficulties invoked by ministerial blundering. So successfully had the Bank met the stress of the war between France and Prussia that there was little opposition to the renewal of the charter when the proposal was submitted in 1872. There were indeed protests from one or two deputies against bringing in the project of renewal on February 27, 1872, nearly three years before the expiration of the old charter, and there was a proposal to reserve to the chambers the right of revision at 22 National Bank of Belgium either of the two sessions prior to January i, 1883, which failed only by a vote of 38 in the affirmative to 53 in the negative, and 1 not voting.® The final vote in the chambers, however, taken on May 10, 1872, showed 87 votes in favor of the project of renewal, with only 6 in the negative, and 3 not voting. The debate in the Senate was short. The bill passed at the sitting of May 17 by the unanimous vote of the 37 members voting, with 1 abstaining because he was one of the censors of the Bank. The feeling indicated by the majority in the debates was in accord with a passage from the report made in the name of the central section of the Chamber of Deputies by M. Eudore Pirmez: 6 " I t might be asked if a profound examination of the principles on which the National Bank rests is still necessary. The discussion seems uncalled for. The National Bank is not attacked in any of its fundamental principles. Your sections, in devoting themselves to the examination of the subject, have brought none of these principles into question. They have limited themselves to considerations of detail. Beyond this, complete unanimity seems to reign. There is general accord with the position of the Government, that there can be no question of destroying in order to reconstruct, but only of preserving and improving. Parties, however lively their differences, have had the wisdom, to-day as in 1850, to silence their divisions in a matter which does not concern them, and we shall see without doubt an institution, created upon the proposition of one of the chiefs of one o Documents Officiels, 1872, p. 409. b Documents Officiels, 1872, p. 20. 23 National Monetary Commission of the great political schools, receive a new existence upon the proposal of one of the chiefs of the other—an agreement which honors equally him who had the initiative in the work and him who seeks only to render it better/' The extension of the charter became law on May 20, 1872. The capital of the bank was increased from 25,000,000 francs to 50,000,000 francs. The provision was then first introduced that the circulation in excess of 275,000,000 francs should pay a tax of a quarter of 1 per cent semiannually, or at the rate of one-half of 1 per cent a yeds. It was at this time also that the requirement was first imposed that the profits arising from a discount rate above 5 per cent should go into the public treasury. The life of the Bank was extended until January 1, 1903, and it was not for more than a quarter of a century that the question of the relations of the Bank to the State and the public again came under general discussion. So firmly was the credit of the Bank established after the trial of the war between France and Germany that it was specially stipulated in the treaty of peace between the belligerent countries that among the forms of payment accepted by Germany from France should be notes of the National Bank of Belgium. The effect of this stipulation upon the operations of the Bank was thus set forth in the annual report for 1874: a " I t has not been forgotten that the treaty of Frankfort, concluded between Germany and France, stipulated for the admission of Belgian bills as one of the means of a Quoted by Noel, I, p. 511. 24 National Bank of Belgium liquidation of the war indemnity. This striking proof of the confidence inspired by our establishment abroad, however honorable it may have been, was not without certain inconveniences for Belgium. It provoked naturally an unsought extension and considerable fluctuations in our credit circulation. The redemption and reinstatement in our vaults of more than 115,000,000 francs of these bills, effected within a space of five months, will permit the appreciation of the importance of these movements. One of the oldest and most powerful financial institutions of Berlin (the Maritime Commerce Company) was charged by the German Treasury with the negotiation of our bills. This institution made overtures to the National Bank with a view of effecting the exchange under the most advantageous conditions. We did not hesitate to extend a cooperation entirely disinterested, having no other concern than to guard the commerce and industry of the country from the inconvenience of sharp variations in the bank reserve, which would inevitably have produced considerable exportations of the precious metals. It was especially by means of the purchase of foreign paper, of which the influence can be found in the assets of the Bank, that the repayment of so considerable a sum was effected, without shock and without prejudice to the country." The increase in the discounts of the Bank during the two years 1872 and 1873 showed the influence of these operations. Total discounts, which had been only 1,522,000,000 francs in 1871, advanced to 1,853,200,000 francs in 1872, and to 2,019,300,000 francs ($389,000,000) in 1873. The increase was striking in the number of bills 25 National Monetary Commission drawn upon Belgium, but was more notable in the proportion of foreign bills discounted, which increased in amount from 2,400,000 francs in 1871 to 125,800,000 francs in 1872, and 67,300,000 francs in 1873. The amount of this foreign paper discounted fell off in 1874 to 38,000,000 francs, only to increase materially a few years later, when the policy of carrying foreign bills in the reserve was permanently adopted. In anticipation of the expiration of the charter in 1903, a measure was prepared by M. P. de Smet de Naeyer, Minister of Finance, which was the basis of the law finally enacted; but a vigorous and prolonged opposition developed from the benches of the Socialist party, which was represented in the chambers by some of the most eminent and learned professors of political economy in Belgium. The project of the Government, making moderate changes in the charter, was presented to the chambers on December 22, 1898. It will be seen in the sequel that while the government's project became law without modification and did not change the essential character of the Bank, yet the influence of the critical attitude assumed toward corporate property was shown in the government project itself in the heavy burdens imposed upon the Bank and the large share in its profits attributed to the State. Upon several important questions a considerable vote was cast for the amendment of the government measure. A proposal by M. Theodor, in the Chamber of Deputies, that the Government should have the right to terminate the charter on January 1, 1914, if a preliminary notice were given of two years, received 25 votes, with 73 votes in the negative. 0 Upon two amendments, compelling a Discussions Parlementaires, 1900 (sitting of January 31, 1900), p. 526, 26 National Bank of Belgium the Bank to advance funds to the Government to promote small agricultural and urban credits, the vote was much closer. The amendment of M. Theodor, setting aside 20,000,000 francs for such purposes, failed only by a vote of 39 against 47; while that of M. Delvaux, authorizing the Government to borrow for such purposes on treasury bonds to an amount not exceeding 3,000,000 francs a year, failed by 38 votes against 43. a When the vote was taken on February 15, 1900, in the Chamber of Deputies, 66 members voted for the government project, 29 voting in the negative, and 7 abstaining from voting. In the upper chamber, as in 1872, the debate was much shorter and the supporters of the Government were relatively stronger. The bill passed at the sitting of March 23, 1900, by a vote of 55 in the affirmative, 2 in the negative, and 5 abstaining from voting—4 upon the ground of participation in the ownership or management of the Bank and 1 upon the ground that the bill did not embody two provisions which he considered of vital importance. b The new law, which was proclaimed by King Leopold on March 26, 1900, continued the life of the Bank until January 1, 1929, and made no change in the amount of the capital. The most important changes made were in granting a larger share in the profits of the Bank to the Government. The limit of untaxed notes was left unchanged at 275,000,000 francs, in spite of the increase in the circulation, from about 200,000,000 francs in 1870 to 600,000,000 francs in 1900. « Discussions Parlementaires, 1900, pp. 684-686. & Ibid., pp. 896-897. 27 National Monetary Commission T H E QUESTION OF A STATE-OWNED BANK. The National Bank of Belgium, as already set forth, is a joint-stock company, so far as concerns ownership, but is under the direct supervision of the State. It was declared by Article XXIV of the law of 1850, which is still in force: "ARTICLE XXIV. "The Government has the right to control all operations. It shall have the power to prevent the execution of any measure which shall be contrary to the law, to the statutes, or to the interests of the State." The governor is appointed by the King for five years, and may be reappointed. The six directors, who constitute with the governor the active administrative council, are chosen in general meeting of the shareholders, and serve for six years. The Government exercises its supervision through a special commissioner, whose compensation is fixed by the Government by agreement with the Bank, but which is paid by the Bank. There is also a council of censors, consisting of seven members, elected by the shareholders, and performing the functions of auditors and supervisors. Thus, while a firm guiding hand is kept by the Government upon the National Bank, it is governed in its commercial operations by officers chosen from the business community and in accordance with the demands of commercial conditions. The subject was discussed at considerable length in 1899 whether this form of organization, similar in general character to that of the Banks of France and Germany, should not be superseded by that 28 National Bank of Belgium of a bank owned entirely by the State. On the very day following the presentation in the chambers of the government measure for the renewal of the charter, Prof. Hector Denis, one of the leading professors of political economy in Belgium and a pronounced advocate of state socialism, submitted a proposal that there should be a general inquiry into the operations of the Bank and other banking institutions in Belgium. He proposed that the inquiry should be made by the Superior Council of Industry and Commerce and should deal with the following subjects :a "On the actual conditions and degree of development which has been attained in Belgium by credit, and especially commercial credit in all its forms. "On the part in this which has been taken by the National Bank. "On the independent institutions which are interested therein and their relations with the National Bank. "On the reforms which experience and science will permit to be introduced into Belgium, in the interest of the general body of merchants and producers of the country and in the interest of the State, in the organization and development of credit and of circulation, and in the operations of a bank of issue. "On the extension of perfected modes of collection, payment, transfer, and clearing, which will save or render unnecessary in the future the employment of metallic money. " On the means of preventing or ameliorating monetary crises. a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, pp. 97-98. 29 National Monetary Commission "On the maintenance of the privilege accorded to the National Bank or on the reforms which should, in the interest of commerce, of the public, and of the State, be introduced into the legal constitution, the organization, the services, and the operation of said Bank and its branches, and its relations with other Belgian institutions, with the Government, or with foreign banks." This inquiry was vigorously opposed by the representatives of the Government in the chamber as involving unnecessary delay and as entirely uncalled for by conditions prevailing in Belgium. The memorandum submitted by M. Denis quoted Professor Nasse, of the University of Bonn, as declaring that "for a long time the issue of bank notes was a private banking operation in the same manner as the creation of bills of exchange, and that it was only little by little that the bank note assumed the character of money which it now possessed. At the present time, since the public character of the issue of bank notes is recognized, one is guilty of an inconsistency in confiding this public service to a private corporation." After quoting these words, Professor Denis summed up his memorandum with this declaration: 0 "And if he speaks truly, the nation which has succeeded in creating the Union of Credit and which has solved the problem of the savings bank more threatened, perhaps, in the past with abuses by the State than banking itself, is that nation powerless to realize scientifically, and to eliminate all abuses from it, the system of a state bank? Even if, while recognized as sound and attainable, it may not perhaps be the work of a single day, the a Documents Parlementaires: 1900 p. 89. 30 National Bank of Belgium influence of an inquiry will yet inoculate t h e public mind with t h e necessity of preparing for it by a normal and organic evolution and of giving it t h e imprint of our national genius." Against this demand for a state-owned bank, which was supported by arguments going t o show t h e profits m a d e by t h e National Bank, t h e central section of t h e Chamber of Deputies made a report through M. Delbeke on J u n e 29, 1899, which took up most of these points. I t opposed the inquiry demanded by M. Denis upon t h e ground t h a t no complaint h a d been made against t h e organization of t h e Bank or its operation, neither on the p a r t of commerce, of industry, of finance, of borrowers, by organized bodies, nor in t h e press. The National Bank, it was declared, is alone, perhaps, in presenting this phenomenon; in a country where everybody complains no one complains of it. On t h e contrary, t h e Union of Credit and t h e popular banks have inscribed in their reports t h e expression of their satisfaction and of their gratitude. a I t was declared b y M. Delbeke t h a t t h e expression " a b a n k of s t a t e , " did n o t convey t h e idea of a clearly defined type. In certain respects t h e National Bank of Belgium might be called a state bank, since t h e S t a t e named and removed its chief officers, controlled its m a n a g e m e n t by a commissioner, and was required to approve t h e most important of its acts. The real question was reduced, therefore, to t h e abolition of the capital furnished by individuals. The majority of t h e section for which M. Delbeke was reporting declared themselves opponents of t h e theory of complete state control, because they considered t h a t the a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 103. 31 National Monetary Commission State, already a bad manufacturer and a bad merchant, would prove a still worse financier. It was not a question whether a state bank was possible, but whether its management would be better than one under private initiative, guided by self-interest and controlled by the public powers. Upon this point M. Delbeke continued: a "The answer can not be doubtful when one considers the grave inconveniences in the management of general credit which would be presented by the constant intrusion of political considerations. The discounts, the credit to be granted to this or that person, to this or that class, the collateral to be waived or required for such a group of citizens, the advances in mass to be made to this or that element of the population—all these would become the clubs of election day. It would be discussed in the campaign and would form the object of pledges taken by candidates elected and even of imperative restrictions. Is it necessary to add that these questions would be determined under the single impulse of appetite and in absolute contempt of economic laws and of the necessities of credit and of the circulation? One would thus find created and steadily growing an electoral scourge till now unknown. " An example is furnished even this year in Germany by the debates on the renewal of the monopoly of the Bank of the Empire which gives visible form, even to the least clear-sighted, to this great danger. The suppression of the private capital has been demanded there with ardor by the agrarians and not by the socialists, who, contrary to the policy of the socialists of Belgium, have energetically demanded its continuance. The agrarians wish to render a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 121. National Bank of Belgium the State master of the Bank, because they are to-day masters of the State. If the State becomes master of the Bank of the Empire, the agrarians hope that nothing can longer prevent them from compelling the State to employ the funds of the Bank in the execution of their programme. I t is important to place the central organism of credit aloof from such assaults, under which it would not fail to succumb, dragging down with it public prosperity. 1 ' I t is a common error to believe that the State alone gives solidity to a bank of issue, that the credit of the State is the sole origin of the credit of the Bank and of its notes, and that, in consequence, it can not be dispensed with. History proves that governments have been saved by the credit of the chartered bank and that the credit circulation has remained intact, thanks to its private origin, in the midst of the crash of the credit of the State. 'The Bank of France saved us,' said M. Thiers, ' because it was not a bank of state/ During the war of 1870, says a leading unsigned article in the ' Journal des Debats' of July 2, 1895, the securities of the State had fallen from 72 per cent to 50 per cent, while the note of the Bank of France, bearing the signature of a private establishment, had lost almost none of its value. " I s it necessary to point out, among so many other dangers, the danger in the liberty given to governments to draw upon the resources of the bank of issue—the irresistible temptation to inflate the credit circulation and to transform the bank note into paper money and ultimately into the assignat? It is vain to pretend that this temptation is not irresistible. The facts show it to be such. In vain is it answered, that even private banks, like those of 85519—10 3 33 National Monetary Commission Spain and Portugal, have not had the virtue to resist the solicitations of the treasury in extremity. The real point is whether the credit of these nations would not have fallen even lower with banks of state. In vain is it said that private interest in its turn will drive the banks into complacency toward the State. In private banks of issue this private interest finds in itself an insurmountable limit to its complacencies." Turning to the point that all the profits now going to private owners could be converted into reductions of the rate of discount to borrowers, so as to realize the optimistic dream of an interest rate of one-tenth of i per cent, M. Delbeke inquired how it would be possible with such a rate to prevent the commercial paper of the world pouring into the Bank and exhausting its resources. The state bank, moreover, however ably managed, would not be able to act with the promptness of a private bank in great emergencies. Referring to the suspension of a banking house at Brussels a few years before, it was recounted how several millions had been obtained within an hour from the National Bank. " If I had had to deal with a bank of state," said the narrator, " I would not have dared to make the application, because it would have involved sums belonging to the treasury. Moreover, I would not have been able to do it without the intervention of the legislature; and before the chambers had acted the catastrophe would have taken place." In view of these considerations and others which were invoked, the central section declared that the system already in operation afforded the advantages and assurances of private initiative at the same time as the guaran34 National Bank of Belgium tees of intervention and control by the State, and was thus in accord, not only with the suggestions of wise and practical policy, but with the latest conclusions of financial science.0 Their attitude was sustained in the Chamber of Deputies by a large majority. Professor Denis crystallized the movement for a state-owned bank by a proposed amendment to the government measure, which gave to the bank an independent legal personality, but proposed that the capital should be provided by the State in the form of 3 per cent rentes, which should not bear interest while in possession of the bank. The liabilities of the bank, in case of liquidation with impaired assets, were to be met by the State. The council of administration was to be named by the King, the college of censors by the chambers, half to be chosen from lists submitted by the Superior Council of Commerce and Industry. This proposal was rejected, 23 to 72, with one member abstaining. 6 In the Senate report also the project of a state-owned bank was severely criticised. Among the reasons set forth for opposing such a new departure were these: 0 " There is first, the confusion of public and private credit, to the great damage of each; for they ought to remain distinct, for their respective good and for the mutual assistance which they are at times called upon to lend to each other. Further, there is the acceptance by the State of a task—the task of discounting—which is not within its competence and of which, even with the best of will, it will acquit itself badly. It is neither wise o Documents Parlementaires: 1900, pp. 121-126. & Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, p. 464. c Documents Parlementaires: 1900, pp. 341-344. 35 National Monetary Commission nor practicable to suppress the legitimate stimulus of private interest in such affairs as discount. It must not be believed that in such a matter disinterestedness alone suffices or can afford a better guide than the foresight of those wiio run the risks and reap the benefits of such operations. * * * "The bank of state has been represented as a means of furnishing credit to a greater number of persons, as a means of popularizing credit (democratiser le credit). It is possible to imagine a bank of Providence, distributing capital to every applicant without adequate guaranties; but such an organism is the negation of the conditions upon which the problem of credit rests and ought to be solved. It would involve within a brief interval filling the assets with impaired securities, the ruin of the bank, and the demoralization of credit itself. " Others see in a bank of state a means of procuring discount at the lowest possible price for all, at ' the price of return,' as has been said—indicating by that the cost of administration and a premium against risks. But this is a misunderstanding of the factors by which the market for money is governed, independent of the institution which grants discount, whether that be a bank of state or a private bank. The first is no more capable of reducing the rate of discount than the second. One does not find, indeed, that banks of state acquit themselves of this function better than others—witness the Imperial Bank of Russia, which in the month of December last recorded a rate of 7 per cent—unless one wishes to fix rates artificially low, surrendering the resources of the bank to the assaults of bad paper within and pillage from without! 36 National Bank of Belgium But this again means ruin and demoralization by another road." In the Senate the debate on the articles of the new law was brief and no amendment was offered to change the fundamental character of the Bank. CHARACTER OF BUSINESS PERMITTED AND FORBIDDEN. The fundamental principles upon which a bank of issue should be based, as set forth by M. Frere-Orban in proposing the charter of the National Bank in 1850, were as follows: ° "A bank ought to devote itself only to operations which are certain. It should be able always to meet its engagements. It should be in a degree infallible. Every enterprise or form of commerce of a nature to impair its credit ought to be carefully avoided. It ought not to lock up its capital. It ought not to borrow, but should operate with its own resources. It should not carry on industry, but it ought to be impartial and to discount paper which embodies the required conditions. It ought to stand as intermediary between the capitalist and the producer, to distribute capital with justice and liberality through all parts of the body corporate.'' Significant of the determination to adhere to these principles are the restrictions imposed upon the character of investments allowed to the National Bank. It is in these restrictions that the charter shows the influence of the difficulties which were encountered by the Bank of Belgium and the Societe Generate in attempting to maintain a note issue on the basis of general financial operaa Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 400. 37 National Monetary Commission tions. Article VIII of the law of May 5, 1850, confined the Bank to strictly commercial operations—that is, to investments in commercial paper and bills of exchange. The Bank was indeed, by this article, authorized to make advances in current account or for short terms on deposits of national securities or other securities guaranteed by the State, but even this moderate privilege of tying up assets in securities representing fixed capital was to be confined " within limits and conditions to be fixed periodically by the administration of the Bank, jointly with the council of censors and the approval of the Minister of Finance." Apart from this restricted power to invest in securities and the broader power to invest in commercial paper, the Bank was authorized by Article VIII to engage only in those operations which are a usual prerogative of commercial banks and do not involve the risk of locking up assets— transactions in gold and silver; the collection of commercial paper for clients; the acceptance of deposits; and the holding of securities, precious metals, and money on deposit and trust. All other classes of operations were prohibited to the Bank. These prohibitions were specially enumerated in Article IX of the law of 1850. The Bank could neither borrow nor make loans on mortgages nor on the deposit of industrial shares. It could not lend on its own shares nor buy them. It was not permitted to take part, directly or indirectly, in industrial enterprises, to engage in any form of commerce except that in gold and silver, or to acquire any real property except such as might be strictly required for its offices and necessary business. To these restrictions the Bank has been strictly held. Indeed, so rigid was the interpretation put upon its powers 38 National Bank of Belgium that at the time of the revision of the charter in 1872 the central committee of the Chamber of Deputies inquired of the Government whether it was true that the Bank was refusing to discount paper based upon purchases of material. In replying to this inquiry, the Government submitted a circular issued by the Bank under date of January 21, 1862, which recommended to the discount offices to refuse paper coming under the following heads : a " I. Bills arising from payment for real estate or which have their origin in real estate transactions. " I I . Promissory notes or bills to order signed by individuals who are not merchants nor manufacturers, even when such bills are presented by bankers or brokers. " I I I . Bills evidently having their origin in the construction or enlargement of mills or their equipment, the execution of public works, or any other investment in fixed capital (immobilisation de capital). "IV. Bills signed for investing the proceeds in industrial corporations or for the purchase of shares in such corporations. " V. Finally, bills signed for the renewal of others which have matured or are about to mature.'' In explaining the application of this circular, the central committee which was reporting on the renewal of the charter said: " The somewhat too general terms of the third provision have led to some misapprehension upon the extent of the restriction. The Bank has never applied this requirement in the sense that the manufacturer of machinery, for instance, who deals with a manufacturer for the materials < Documents Officiels: 1872, p. 81. * 39 National Monetary Commission which are furnished to him, can not discount his draft. This constitutes a commercial sale which falls within the operations of the Bank; but it would be otherwise if, instead of having recourse to the Bank to discount paper which represented a transaction already made, it was sought to obtain the credit necessary for the building or enlargement of factories. This would constitute an operation of partnership which would fall outside the scope of the affairs of a bank of issue. Thus understood, the decision of the Bank appears to be beyond criticism." The only change made in these practices by the law of March 26, 1900, was the addition of a provision bringing certain agricultural transactions within the definition of acts of commerce. It was provided by Article XI of the new law as follows: " There shall be considered as operations of commerce under the terms of Article VIII, section 1, of the law of May 5, 1850, purchases and sales made by farmers and to them of cattle, agricultural implements, fertilizers> seed, crops, and generally merchandise and supplies relating to the exercise of their industry/' The usual provisions are made, however, in regard to real estate or mortgages taken as security for loans which are found to be unsound. Article X X X I X of the statutes of 1900 is as follows: . "The Bank may accept by way of a pledge, mortgage, or security real estate and other property to protect obligations which are doubtful or overdue. Such real estate and property must be alienated within a period of two years, unless the Minister of Finance grants a longer term." 40 National Bank of Belgium The statutes of the Bank defined more particularly the character of the paper to be discounted and the terms of discount. The language of the law, " securities easily convertible," is supplemented by the following provisions of Article XXVI of the statutes: " There shall be discounted only commercial paper to order, stamped, based upon an actual operation (ayant une cause reelle) maturing in not more than one hundred days and guaranteed by three solvent signatures.'' Two exceptions are made to the rule of three signatures. The first declares that commercial paper with two signatures may be admitted in such manner and under such conditions as may be determined by rules framed by the general council aiid approved by the Minister of Finance. The second provides that a pledge in the form of a warrant or merchandise, sufficient to meet the whole of the credit, may take the place of two of the signatures. The three articles approved by the Minister of Finance concerning admission of paper with two signatures are as follows: " I . The Bank does not accept paper with two signatures coming from agencies; but the signatures of the comptoir (or discount office) may constitute the third signature. " I I . In the case of signatures coming from a branch, the Bank accepts only those of persons borne on the list prepared each year by the council of administration of the Bank upon the proposal of the administration of the branch, including the discount committee. "The administrators of a branch do not accept paper with two signatures, when there is opposition on the part 41 National Monetary Commission of one of them, without referring it to the council of administration of the Bank. " I I I . Paper with two signatures presented at Brussels shall be accepted only if the directors are unanimous or if the opposition does not represent a third of those voting, and, in the absence of unanimity, upon the condition that the discount committee has not been unfavorable to the acceptance of the paper." The system pursued in discounting paper approved by a discount office at the same rate of discount as that having three signatures differs in some respects from the system at other European banks, where merchants often obtain the three signatures required by the payment of a commission to a banker. A significant indication of the tendency to persuade banks of issue to accept securities other than those growing out of actual commercial operations was afforded by the debate in the Chamber of Deputies on the renewal of the charter in 1900. The contest made by M. de Somz£e turned nominally upon the question of three signatures, but much of this argument was directed to the contention that paper which was discounted might be based upon the deposit of securities. M. de Somzee declared that under the existing policy the third signature was usually that of a banker who was in effect only an intermediary between the maker of the paper and the National Bank. The bankers who lent their aid with the National Bank considered two signatures sufficient to protect them against loss. Hence they gathered the profits of their intervention in some measure without risk, and thus absorbed uselessly a part of the profits of the manu42 National Bank of Belgium facturer, the merchant, and the laborer. The figure of 18,000,000 francs had been cited as the amount of profits made annually by bankers simply by giving their signatures, but this calculation did not apparently include the exactions arising from emergencies and caprice, by which the bankers maintained their domination over at least a part of their clientele, often the least favored by fortune and the most numerous. It was charged by M. de Somzee that the requirement of three signatures was only too often exercised in favor of certain merchants and manufacturers favored by the private banks, who considered only their own interest and preferences. It was declared that nothing was easier than to abandon the requirement of the third signature. The National Bank, through its numerous branches, was able to be as well informed as the private banks. If the principle of two signatures was admitted, it would involve, evidently, not the acceptance exclusively of public funds, but also mortgage obligations and deposits of industrial securities, which should be accepted according to a method to be prescribed in the regulations reorganizing the operations of the Bourse. Such securities should have been quoted during a period of at least two or three years, and should be admitted at a rate which should not be less than 50 per cent, for instance, of the quotation corresponding to an average taken during this entire period. It was suggested by M. de Somzee that if the third signature was no longer required, the bank might collect a small commission supplementary to the regular discount rate, and from the amount thus collected create an insurance fund to cover possible losses. At the end of several years, if this fund 43 National Monetary Commission attained an amount considered by the Government to be sufficient, the excess might be covered into the funds for old-age pensions or laborers' insurance." The proposals of M. de Somzee were not acceptable to the Government. It was pointed out, in the elaborate report made to the Senate by the committee on finance and public works by the Chevalier Descamps, that the real point of the amendment was to make discount with two signatures under certain conditions obligatory. Otherwise it would have no point, because the government of the Bank already had the authority to discount paper with only two signatures when it was acceptable. M. de Somzee also ran the risk of injuring those whom he wished to serve by exposing them to the rejection of paper which, if it bore a third signature, might be accepted. Finally the standard of security proposed for the admission of paper of two signatures was far from being irreproachable in itself from the point of view of the requirements imposed upon a bank of issue.6 VOLUME AND CHARACTER OF DISCOUNTS. The volume of domestic discounts has tended to increase at the National Bank of Belgium in spite of the competition of the joint-stock banks. The foreign bills discounted have increased in proportion to the domestic bills, as is set forth under the discussion in regard to the employment of foreign bills in the reserve. The limitation of the business of the Bank to commercial discounts, with only slight exceptions for loans on treasury bonds and a Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, pp. 333-337. & Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 405. 44 National Bank of Belgium advances on public funds, makes the classification of the loans comparatively simple. The following table shows the total number of pieces of paper discounted and the total amount, for representative years, with the domestic discounts separately stated: Volume of discounts Total discounts. Year. Domestic discounts. Pieces discounted. Pieces discounted, Francs. Francs. 18511855i86o_ 18651870. 18711872. 18731875188018851890. 18951900. 19011902. 19031904190S1906. 19071908. I70.39S 382,831 805,*09 1,064,281 1. 153.032 1,311,569 1,444, 178 1, 6 2 8 , 9 7 9 2, 2 0 6 , 6 5 1 2, 7 3 6 , 1 7 4 3»09S.36o 3, 206,579 3,797,627 3,892,835 3,974.78s 4 , 0 0 7 , 183 4 , 0 9 4 , 115 4,224,278 4,410,492 4,5oo,939 4,450,433 186,200,000 484,600,000 757, 6 0 0 , 000 898,100,000 r > 3 3 7 . o o o , 000 1,522,000,000 1,853,200,000 2, 019, 3 0 0 , 000 x,916,900,000 1,994,600,000 2,088,600,000 2,355,514.327 2,894,249,929 3 , 4 4 2 , 8 8 9 , 721 3,370,838,904 3,428,962,667 3 . 6 3 5 . 3 3 0 , 287 3 , 6 0 3 , 1 1 5 , 198 3,86i,905,820 4, 2 5 5 , 5 1 6 , 8 0 9 4,449, 748,475 4,362,485,297 i57.57» 380, 237 804,037 1 , 0 5 2 , 792 1, 1 5 2 , 8 9 4 1,304,969 1,442,340 * 1, 6 2 5 , 8 2 0 2, 1 8 5 , 9 1 4 2,716,208 3,o79,937 3.182,551 3,776,123 3,869,987 3,95i,190 3,984,794 4,071,016 4,200,269 4,388,858 4,481,032 4,426,649 81,400, 358,000, 729,500, 816,400, 1,205,100, 1,519,600, 1,727,400, 1,952,000, 1,832,100, 000 OOO OOO OOO OOO OOO OOO OOO OOO 1 , 6 4 7 , 0 0 0 , OOO 1 , 6 6 6 , 2 0 0 , OOO 1 , 9 5 8 , 6 2 0 , 883 2 , 1 6 8 , 0 8 5 , 897 2 . 7 4 9 , 7 0 8 , 627 2, 5 5 1 , 4 2 6 , 453 2,616,742, 522 2,882,497, 681 2,855,435. 893 3 , 0 8 2 , 8 2 3 , i6r 3,405,998, 3,525,125, 3,055.895. The Belgian paper discounted by the National Bank consists chiefly of two classes—accepted paper and nonaccepted paper and promissory notes. In addition to these two principal classes, however, there are some operations in purchase and sale, loans upon warrants, and loans upon treasury bonds, The accepted paper plays 45 National Monetary Commission usually the largest part in the amount of discounts, but as it represents much larger transactions than the unaccepted the number of such transactions is less. As acceptances are in vogue to only a limited extent in the United States, it may throw light on their character to quote here the definition of acceptance given in a French dictionary of commerce and based upon the French commercial code. This definition is as follows: a "Acceptance.—This is the act by which the person drawn upon engages to pay the amount of a letter of exchange to the person who may be at maturity the regular holder of such letter. It is accomplished by the indorsement on the letter of exchange made by the drawee of his signature, preceded or not with the word * accepted' (art. 122). Acceptance, besides the general conditions relative to consent, must be the work of a person capable of obligating himself by a letter of exchange. It may be partial, but not conditional (art. 124). Its effect is to create an obligation on the part of the drawee toward the holder at maturity, with all the consequences attached by law to obligations arising from a letter of exchange."— Commercial Code, arts. 118-125. The employment of accepted paper is a common feature of European banking, because the fact of acceptance gives it a better standing and more ready convertibility. Hence, as stated, accepted paper has usually exceeded the nonaccepted paper in the transactions of the National Bank of Belgium, although the unaccepted has represented a much larger number of pieces. The ratio of accepted « Dictionnaire du Commerce, de F Industrie et de la Banque: Yves Guyot et A. Raffalovich, I., p. 22. 46 National Bank of Belgium and nonaccepted paper drawn upon Belgium for representative years appears in the following table: Character of paper discounted. Accepted paper. Number. 1892. 1897 1900 1904 1905. 1906. 1907 1908 494,793 504.198 532,419 S38.I4S 55i,o77 583,815 592,371 576,805 Amount. Francs. <>26, 542, 297 .145.970,512 ,441,732,237 ,238,316,365 ,335,946,2i6 ,517.385.827 ,595.977,459 ,259,104,156 Nonaccepted paper and promissory notes. Number. 2,499,844 2,913,567 3,242,271 3,530,028 3,646,804 3,801,144 3,885,186 3,846,641 Amount. Francs. 762, 8 9 1 , 500 887,720,956 ,120,008,311 ,092,763,036 , 136, 1 7 0 , 4 5 5 ,246,208,350 ,302,572,748 , 2 4 5 , 1 4 6 , 069 The average value of accepted paper per piece differs widely from that of nonaccepted, because the former comes largely from responsible houses engaged in foreign trade and the latter includes many small discounts granted to retail tradesmen. Thus the average for the accepted paper, largely consisting of foreign bills, ranges between $400 and $500, while for the nonaccepted paper the average value is nearer $60. The variations from year to year in the average value have not been of special significance in recent years. They have not brought down the average, which is already nearly as low as that of the Bank of France. Statistics are not given regularly in the annual reports of the number of small bills, but as early as 1887 more than three-quarters of the whole number of discounts were for amounts under 500 francs ($96.50). In 1899 this proportion had risen to 81 per cent. Upon the facilities afforded in this regard the 47 National Monetary Commission report of the Chevalier Descamps to the Senate made these observations: a 1 'It should be first remarked that in all the banks of issue of Europe small commercial bills are taxed with a minimum interest charge or are subject to a minimum limit. The National Bank has established a minimum neither for the amount of such paper nor for the interest to be collected. This is an advantage always more and more beneficial for small transactions. In effect, the creation of popular banks and unions of credit, as well as the facilities which certain retail houses grant to their clients for weekly or monthly payments, have quintupled within a few years the number of small bills. Statistics based upon a sufficiently long period demonstrate that such small bills fill the assets of the bank in the following proportions: 1 'Of the number of commercial bills admitted to discount, 14 per cent are for less than 50 francs; 32 per cent are for less than 100 francs; 58 per cent are for less than 200 francs; 70 per cent are for less than 300 francs; 76 per cent are for less than 400 francs; 81 per cent are for less than 500 francs. "Being given the proportion of paper of less than 100 francs admitted to discount, with a minimum of ten days' interest, on the 15th and 30th of each month, it is easy to comprehend the discount facilities accorded to small paper, for which the interest collected is far from compensating the cost which is imposed by its collection. " I n no other bank does the small commerce enjoy a like privilege. The Bank of France levies a minimum a Documents Parlementaires: 1900. p. 415. 48 National Bank of Belgium of 10 centimes per bill. The Imperial Bank of Germany levies 10 pfennigs per ioo marks. The Bank of the Netherlands levies a minimum interest of fifteen days. The Bank of Italy charges i franc per bill and five or ten days' interest according to locality. The Bank of Switzerland levies 50 centimes per bill and fifteen days' interest/' The average maturity of paper discounted at the Bank of Belgium illustrates the rule which prevails at other central banks of Europe—that the maturities are much within the legal limit, chiefly by reason of rediscounts. The maximum limit of paper which can be discounted at the National Bank is one hundred days, but the highest average for accepted paper during the past dozen years has been forty-six days and for nonaccepted paper forty-three days. The range of variation for accepted paper has been from thirty-nine to forty-six days and for nonaccepted paper from thirty-seven to forty-three days. These variations are all so far within the limit of convertibility that they are not of great significance. There was a tendency to the shortening of the period of maturity during the early history of the Bank, but as the term in 1866 was only fifty-four days, the margin of possible reduction was small and was practically attained in 1880, when the average term was forty-five days. If any deduction is to be drawn from the increase of the period during which bills discounted have to run in such a year as 1908, it is probably that persons having paper were desirous of converting it into currency or banking credit more promptly than under easier money market conditions. The figures which appear below represent 85519—10 4 49 National Monetary Commission only an average, based upon the amount of paper running for different periods. This leaves room for some paper of much longer maturities and for some of much shorter maturities. The following table shows the averages for recent years: Average -values and maturities of discounts. Accepted paper. Year. Nonaccepted paper. Average maturity. Average value per piece. Average maturity. Francs 1892 1896 1897 1898 1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 Average value per piece. Days. Francs. Days. 1,872.59 2,117.47 2,272.86 2, 231. 79 2 , 4 4 9 . 27 2, 707. 89 2, 3 1 0 . 76 2, 3 2 0 . 26 2, 3 9 0 . 51 2, 3 0 1 . 08 2, 2 7 6 . 5 9 2,599.08 2, 694. 22 2, 1 8 2 . 8 8 39J/2 43 42 43 41 39 42 42 43 44 44 45 45 46 305.18 296.68 304.69 308.46 332.63 345-44 332.8i 314-94 308. 00 309-57 300.40 327.85 335-26 323.69 42H 39 38 39 37 37 40 40 41 41 41 43 42 42 It was contended, in the debates over the charter of 1900, that the Bank should pursue on a larger scale the policy of direct discounts and as a means to this end should abandon in the case of good commercial paper the requirement of three signatures. The benefits to the merchant arising from this change, according to M. Bertrand, one of the most vigorous critics of the Bank, were that he would obtain the benefit of the minimum discount rate, instead of paying always 1 per cent above this rate to the bankers. The Bank, it was declared, would benefit on its side by 50 National Bank of Belgium deriving an income during the whole period for which the paper ran, instead of during the short period for which it was discounted. The larger banks, M. Bertrand declared, which have considerable resources, remit paper to the National Bank only ten days before maturity. The saving in discount to the mercantile community by direct discount at 3 per cent in lieu of 6 per cent usually paid to bankers was estimated at 18,000,000 francs ($3,474,000).° The three classes of obligations discounted, apart from commercial paper, represent a minor part in the total volume of business, but an amount not entirely insignificant. The operations of "purchase and sale" represent banking securities on foreign countries which can not be collected by the bank itself and are therefore discounted on condition of being purchased back by the discounters before they become due. 6 Only bills which have been accepted are admitted to this class of operations. These operations were larger fifteen years ago than the other two classes of operations combined, but the admission of warrants to discount in 1886 has been followed by considerable development in loans of this character. Operations in purchase and sale in 1892 numbered 168 and amounted to 123,502,708 francs ($23,840,000). The number of such operations had risen in 1900 to 616, but the amount had fallen to 111,061,399 francs. Operations of this character were more extensive in 1905, when the number was 778 and the amount was 430,063,247 francs ($83,000,000); but there was a decline in 1906 to 890 0 Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, pp. 5-8. & London Bankers' Magazine, September, 1908, LXXXVI, p. 369. 5i National Monetary Commission operations, representing a total of 412,022,772 francs; in 1907 to 667 operations, representing an amount of 327,686,893 francs; and in 1908 to 502 operations, representing an amount of 177,501,217 francs ($34,250,000). It was not until 1886 that the National Bank admitted warrants to discount. The principle of such operations was combated very energetically at the time of the discussion of the law of 1872 by M. Frfere-Orban, former president of the council, as incompatible with the conditions of a well-conducted bank of issue. He declared at the sitting of May 1, 1872 :a "The bank ought not to discount warrants, because they are not securities immediately realizable. It is an operation which can and ought to be carried on, but by other institutions than the National Bank. Such operations would be of a nature to compromise, at a given moment, the circulation and the convertibility of notes, for warrants are not securities w^hich are immediately and easily realizable." Notwithstanding this reasoning, warrants were admitted to discount in 1886, and reached in 1887 6,034,705 francs. The total number of warrants discounted during the year 1908 was 2,687 and the amount was 289,143,846 francs ($55,800,000). This represented, however, less than 10 per cent of the total discounts in Belgium, which were 3,055,895,288 francs ($589,770,000). The progress of operations in warrants is shown in the following table: a Noel, I., p. 519. 52 National Bank of Belgium Operations in -warrants. Amount. 18971900190519061907- Warrants admitted to discount must be guaranteed by two solvent signatures and accompanied by evidence that the goods involved are deposited in warehouses possessing every condition of security. They must be insured and authority must be given the bank to take samples. The rate of advance is fixed provisionally at 75 per cent of the amount of the warrant. The articles on which warrants are regularly admitted to discount are: a Steel, in bars. Building timber. Coffee. Hemp. Raw cotton. Raw hair. Hides, salted. Copper. Tin. Tow. Flour. Iron ore and pig iron. Castings. Madder. Gums. Grains. Indigo. Ivory. Jute. Wool, raw and washed Flax. Indian corn. Nitrate of soda. Lead. Rice. Stearin. Sugar. F a t s and oils. Leaf tobacco. Tea. Zinc. The discount of warrants involving other merchandise must be the subject of special arrangement. a Resume" des Operations Effectives par la Banque, pp. 30, 31. 53 National Monetary Commission ADVANCES ON PUBLIC FUNDS. Loans upon public funds by the National Bank are carefully restricted in amount and duration. It is provided by Article VIII of the existing charter that among the operations of the Bank may be " making advances on current account or for short terms upon the deposit of national public securities or other securities guaranteed by the State, within limits and conditions to be determined periodically by the administration of the Bank, jointly with the council of censors, with the approval of the Minister of Finance." Such loans can be made to solvent persons only and for a term not less than ten days nor exceeding four months. Securities will not be accepted for more than four-fifths of their market value and may be sold on the Bourse if the loans are not repaid at maturity. No more than one renewal is permitted, unless by special authority given by the council of administration. Loans for more than ten days may be paid before maturity, with remission of interest for all but two days of the time for which they have yet to run. The amount and the rate of loans to be made upon the deposit of public funds is required to be fixed each week.0 It is to be noted that not only are these loans treated as payable at short maturities, like commercial paper, but they are strictly limited to public funds or securities guaranteed by the State. The bonds and stocks of private railway corporations not guaranteed and of manufacturing and industrial corporations are thus rigidly excluded from « Statuts, art. 25 54 National Bank of Belgium the list of securities accepted at the Bank. Holders of such securities must seek accommodation from the Societe Generate or other private and joint-stock banks. Thg classes of securities upon which the Bank lends are the Belgian public debt, bonds of the treasury, securities of the annuity bank issued by the State and countersigned by the treasury, and bonds of the National Company of Local Railways. The preferred shares and the bonds of the Antwerp and Ghent Railway Company and the bonds of several other roads, when bearing the indorsement of the treasury, are also included in the list. There has been some discussion in regard to the inclusion of securities of the Company of Communal Credit. These securities have been excluded, however, upon the ground that the intervention of the State in regard to them did not constitute a guarantee in the strict sense of the word, although it might be considered as a quasi guaranty. 0 Acting under the authority to make loans of this character, the Bank usually has outstanding an amount which, while considerable in itself, has rarely exceeded the combined amount of the capital and reserves and has constituted a very small percentage of total assets. As far back as 1866 the average amount of such loans was 21,131,325 francs ($4,080,000). The amount was somewhat less during the next few years, but the average rose during the troubled year 1873 to 28,768,293 francs, to fall again during the next three years, but after that to remain at a generally higher figure. The highest average attained in the early history of the Bank was in 1883, when the average loans of the year were 96,175,980 francs a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 430. 55 National Monetary Commission ($18,562,000), of which 80,139,200 francs was lent through the head oflfice at Brussels. The occasion of such large advances was the collapse of the copper corner and the failure of the Union Generate in Paris in 1882. The average of advances declined in 1884 to 53,158,800 francs. The totals of advances upon securities, net balances at the end of the year, and the net earnings of the Bank from this source appear for representative years in the recent history of the Bank in the following table: Advances upon public Year. securities. Total advances. Francs. 1892 1897 1898 1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 4i,53i.4So 74,824,100 113,628,600 236,573,348 2 4 6 , 3 1 1 , 031 189,342,551 1 6 6 , 9 5 6 , 635 159, 166, 637 171,651,920 i99.575.3i6 2 5 1 , 132, 467 348, 754,247 328,511,148 Outstanding Dec. 31. Francs. 8,599,4oo 2if 784,200 34,150,000 60,072,804 58,373,083 55,270,662 42, 200, 825 34,015,830 32,208,486 38,011,413 48, 766,437 6 1 , 7 1 6 , 731 5 1 , 4 1 9 , 120 Net earnings. Francs. 233.895 469,816 6 4 7 . 55& 1,513.204 1.836,571 1,666,171 1,470, i 3 r 9 2 7 . 234 962,975 908,727 1,214,098 1, 9 7 2 , 206 1.771.385 It is only from the year 1900 that a separation has been made in the published reports between direct loans on the pledge of public funds and advances on current account secured by the deposit of such securities. It is only within a few years that loans of the latter class were made at the provincial agencies.a The proportion of this class of advances has risen considerably since this « Ulens, Les Banqucs d'Emission, p. 394. 56 National Bank of Belgium change and was especially heavy during the pressure of 1907. Indeed, under both classifications the figures seem to indicate a disposition on the part of the financial community to avail itself to the utmost, in periods of monetary pressure, of the facilities granted by the National Bank for obtaining credit upon fixed forms of capital, restricted as those facilities are by the statutes and the policy of the Bank. The amount and the balances of the two classes of loans is shown for representative years in the following table: Character of advances on securities. Direct loans Advances in current account. Year. Total during year. 1900 1902 1904 190s 1906 1907 1908 Francs. 206,123, 100 116,828,250 82,874, 200 79,022,600 97,854,400 166,626,400 152,416,900 Balance, Dec. 31. Total during year. Francs. 40,196,100 26,995,100 17,280,000 21,532,300 27,981,700 35,7i9,9oo 23,264,400 Francs. 40,187,931 50,128,385 88,777,720 120,552,716 153,278,067 182,127, 847 176,094,248 Balance Dec. 31. Francs. 18,176,983 15,205,725 14,928,486 16,479, 113 20, 784.737 25,996,831 28, 154, 72a Loans on securities to borrowers who are not merchants are required to be registered at the cost of the borrower at the rate of three-tenths of 1 per cent of the amount lent. The distinction between those who are merchants and those who are not is based upon the terms of a law of May 5, 1872, which provides that "the pledge given as security for a commercial engagement confers on the creditor the right of securing payment from the thing pledged in preference to other creditors, when such right 57 National Monetary Commission is established in conformity with the methods admissible in commercial matters for the sale of articles of the same nature and when the object of the pledge has been placed and remains in the possession of the creditor or of a third person agreed upon between the parties." By the terms of article 2074 °f the Civil Code, which affects those who are not merchants, the privilege of payment from the proceeds of a pledge exists only where there is a public act or an act under private seal duly registered, setting forth the sum due and the character and the nature of the articles given in pledge, or a statement annexed of their quality, weight, and measure. ° ROSSES AND REJECTED PAPER. In response to a question submitted to the Government at the time of the renewal of the charter in 1900 it was admitted that " the National Bank, like every other financial establishment, is exposed to losses." The amount of these losses, however, as set forth in detail from 1873 to 1898, were small in comparison with the entire volume of discounts. Tables were submitted for each half year, showing the commercial paper which was then in default and also property which had been taken as security for loans which had not been paid at maturity. Figures quoted by Professor Denis from the documents of 1872 showed that for the twenty years ending with 1871 the total amount of paper in default was 1,188,518 francs ($230,000), and of this amount 361,768 francs had ultimately been paid. 6 a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 432. 58 t> Ibid., p. 84. National Bank of Belgium Taking up the twenty-six years from 1872 to 1897 Professor Denis stated that the total amount of paper unpaid was 5,758,659 francs ($1,111,000), upon which 896,601 francs ($173,000) had ultimately been paid. The net loss, therefore, was 4,862,058 francs ($938,000), or an average of about $36,100 per year. Comparing this with the enormous volume of paper discounted during the period, which was 56,944,804,715 francs ($10,990,000,000), the proportion of loss worked out at nine one-thousandths of a centime to 100 francs (0.009 P e r cent). Similar figures for the Bank of France during the period from 1870 to 1890, which comprised a period of war, showed a total loss of 34,730,000 francs in total transactions of 175,000,000,000, making the loss 1.9 centimes per 100 francs. 0 In response to another question as to what securities composed the item in the accounts, " Securities guaranteed or to be realized," a full explanation was given of the acquisition of certain amounts of landed property under foreclosure. The first year in which this item appeared in the balance sheet was in 1881, as the result of the default of a loan in Brussels, where some property was taken on the Boulevard Leopold II. It was felt to be improper under the law to carry the value of this property in ordinary assets. The administrative council decided, therefore, to open a new item in the balance sheet entitled "Securities guaranteed or to be realized.'' To this account was transferred all real property acquired to secure the bank against loss. All forms of slow assets were eventually carried to this account. b & Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 82. 59 &Ibid., p. 185. National Monetary Commission The annual reports of the Bank set forth regularly the commercial paper rejected when submitted for discount. The policy of the Bank in regard to loans is so well understood that the amounts rejected are not usually large. The following table gives the number and amount of such cases for representative years: Commercial paper rejected. Total amount. Francs. 3.040 3 . 260 3.412 1.893 2, 132 2.653 2,578 1892 1897 1900 1904 3905 1906 1907 1908 DISCOUNT POUCY OF THE Amount a t Brussels. Francs. 3.809.45s 3,060,179 3.753.554 2,395.329 2 , 6 4 1 , 577 2,640,480 2,603,541 2, 014, 044 NATIONAL Francs. 1,874,443 1, 8 0 2 , 663; 2,723,521 1,358,522 1,571.851: 1 , 4 0 7 , 5921.567.397 1,085,604 BANK. The National Bank of Belgium has followed a policy in fixing the rate of discount which has conformed in a measure to the English policy of changing the rate with changes of condition, but has leaned in some degree toward the French policy of keeping the rate uniform, except under the pressure of great necessity. In other words, the policy pursued has been midway between that of the two great institutions named. This is apparent from the table given by Mr. Palgrave, showing the variations in the rate of discount at five principal European banks from 1844 to 1900, the figures for Belgium cover- 60 National Bank of Belgium ing only the period since the creation of the National Bank in 1850. The table is as follows: a Number of variations in rate of discount. Bank of— England Germany. France 55 9 Holland. 36 23 116 173 Belgium. Total variations from 1844 in 400 173 The average rate which has prevailed at the National Bank of Belgium has not been high. It was calculated as having averaged from 1873 to 1899 3.33 per cent. The average since that date has ranged somewhat higher, as the result of the more stringent conditions in the money market which followed the war in South Africa. The highest annual rate attained in the history of the Bank was during the panic of 1873, when the average was 5.06 per cent. The next highest rate, prior to the crisis of 1907, was 4.42 per cent, in 1882, when the crash of the Union Generate in Paris caused disturbances throughout Europe. An average rate of 2.80 per cent was touched in 1886 and of 2.70 per cent in 1892, after the prevalence of higher rates in the intervening years. Low rates were again touched during the years just preceding the discussion over the renewal of the charter in 1899, the average of 1893 having been 2.83 per cent; of 1894, 3 per cent; of 1895, 2.60 per cent; of 1896, 2.84 per cent; of 1897, 3 per cent; and of 1898, 3.04 per cent. 6 a Palgrave, Bank R a t e and the Money Market, p. 210. & Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 414. 61 National Monetary Commission The record of changes in the discount rate during the past ten years is shown in the table below. It indicates that a rate of great steadiness was maintained from 1901 to 1905, but that Belgium, like other countries, felt the influence of the monetary pressure which became acute in 1906. The year 1907 opened with a discount rate at the National Bank of 4 per cent, which was advanced on March 18 to 5 percent; on November 2 to 5 % per cent; and within six days, on November 8, to 6 per cent. Even under this pressure the censors were able to affirm that "the resolutions of the council of administration have been as moderate as possible and the rates of discount in Belgium have remained below those in force in England and Germany." 0 The year 1908 witnessed the reflex influence of the panic. The rate of discount was from 6 per cent progressively reduced on January 14, to 5 per cent; February 17, to 4 K per cent; March 30, to $% per cent; and on July 13, to 3 per cent, where it stood during the remainder of the year and far into the year 1909. The average rate of discount, as given in the official reports and in the table below, is based upon the term for which each rate runs, and not necessarily upon the amount of paper discounted. The rate used is a minimum rate upon the ordinary discounts, as in the case of other European banks of issue. The table showing the changes during the last eleven years is as follows: a Rapport: 1908, p. 30. 62 National Bank of Changes in discount rate, B e Ig i u m i8gg-ioo8. Rate. Maximum. Minimum. Closing. Per cent. Per cent Per cent. Changes. Average rate. Per cent. 4 1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 3 4 3-04 5 5 4 3 . 92 5 3z 4 4 3 3 3 3 3 j 4 3 3 3 4 3 3 3 4 Ah 6 3* 4 4 6 6 3 3 4.09 3.28 3- 00 3- 17 3-00 3-17 3-8 4 4-95 3.56 An indication of the moderation of the rates charged by the National Bank is afforded by the fact that between 1851 and 1900, inclusive, the rate of discount was at 3 per cent or less during 10,623 days out of the 18,262 days which elapsed. This represents 58 per cent of the time involved, while rates equally low prevailed at the Bank of England only in 55 per cent of the whole number of days; at the Bank of France in 49 per cent; at the Imperial Bank of Germany in 12 per cent; and at the Bank of the Netherlands in 61 per cent. For the whole period of 18,262 days dealt with up to the close of 1900, the rate was at 3 per cent or less for 10,623 days; from 3% to 5 per cent for 6,767 days; and from 5% up to 7 per cent for 872 days, or 5 per cent of the entire period. a The relative stability of the discount rate at the National Bank of Belgium is attributed in the Senate report in a certain measure to the farsighted and wise management a Palgrave, p . 186. 63 National Monetary Commission of the bank, whose administration has sought to avoid as much as possible injurious shocks, but which could not escape the preponderating influence of the market for capital and the course of business between nations.® A more critical attitude, however, was taken in 1900 by Professor Denis, the leader of the Socialist minority in the chambers. He pointed out that, from 1852 to 1872, average rates of discount at the National Bank of Belgium ranged considerably lower than the official rates in France, England, and the Netherlands, but that this advantage disappeared in the period 1873-1898, and especially during the latter portion of this period. A summary of his figures is as follows: b Rates of discount at various banks. Bank of France. Bank of Bank of NetherEngland. thelands, National Bank of Belgium. Per cent, Period. Per cent, Per cent. 4- 17 3.30 2. 07 4.09 3- 19 2. 61 1852-1872 1873-1898 1895-1898 Per cent. 3.81 3- 12 3-49 3-31 The figures for the latter period, Professor Denis declared, represented a nearly complete revolution as compared wTith the earlier, which he attributed in a measure to the substitution of foreign bills for gold in the reserves. We shall see, however, in discussing the subject of the premium on exchange and the drain of coin from Belgium, that the discount rates of recent years have been subjected to serious criticism from a very different point of view from that of Professor Denis, as being too low, instead of too a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 411. 64 b Ibid., p. 283. National Bank of Belgium high. The comparative rates for later years have been as follows :a Average rates of discount since 1898. Bank of France. Bank of England. Bank of Germany. Bank of the Netherlands. National Bank of Belgium. Per cent- Per cent. 3-75 3-96 3- 72 3-33 3-75 3.30 Per cent. 4.98 5-33 Per cent. 3.8s 3- 60 3-23 Per cent. 3.9i 4.09 3.28 3.00 4.27 3-47 4-93 3.04 Yea:. 3-00 3-06 1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 3 2 3 3-00 3-00 3-00 3.00 3.00 3 00 4. 10 3-32 3 0 0 3- 00 3-84 3-17 3.00 3.81 3-40 3.24 2.68 5-00 4.00 6.03 4.76 3.38 4. 22 5-10 3.17 3.84 4-95 3.56 T H E GRATUITOUS ISSUE) OF DRAFTS. One of the methods which was early adopted by the National Bank to facilitate the transfer of credit was the issue of drafts upon its branches. Such a draft is known as an accr£ditif and is in the nature of an order issued at any given office of the Bank upon another designated office. Drafts payable within the city where issued are sold only in Brussels. At that point they are payable on the first business day following the date of their issue, and the same rule prevails as to such drafts delivered in the provinces upon Brussels. Those delivered in the provinces upon an agency or upon a branch were until 1908 payable one day later, but in that year were made payable the day after issue.6 In case of the loss of such a draft a duplicate may be issued fifteen days after the a Bulletin de Statistique, January, 1909, LXV, p 6 Rapport: 1908, p. 25. 85519—10 5 65 no. National Monetary Commission date of its issue under special authorization from the governor of the bank. These drafts were originally issued only for sums not less than ioo francs ($19.30), but a motion was made during the discussion on the renewal of the charter in 1900 to reduce the denomination to 20 francs ($3.86). This motion was opposed by the government, but the promise was made, and subsequently fulfilled, to reduce the minimum to 50 francs ($9.65). Prior to the law of June 23, 1873, these drafts were required to be made in favor of a designated person and could not conveniently be transferred by indorsement because of the stamp tax, which assimilated them in such cases to commercial paper. The law of 1873 exempted them from the stamp tax and broadened the scope of their employment. It required a demand for payment within three days of the date of issue if drawn on the same place and within six days when drawn upon another place. The holder who did not demand payment within the legal limit lost his recourse against indorsers. Even prior to the law of 1873, o n J u ty 1> l 8 7 i , the bank abolished the charge of 25 centimes per 1,000 francs (5 cents per $193) and has since furnished these drafts without charge where they are made payable at an agency. The bank made this concession in the belief that it would be compensated in a measure by saving the charges on the transportation of bank notes by mail and that the latter would remain longer in circulation The accr^ditif is paid only to the person in whose favor it is drawn or by indorsement, and this indorsement can not be replaced by a letter of advice. a a Noel, I. pp. 530-53I66 National Bank of Belgium While it is declared by M. Pierre des Essars that " t h e Bank is thus called upon to perform gratuitously all transfers of money for the whole country," 0 the number of such drafts dealt in has not approached the volume of redemptions of bank notes. The growth in their use was slow prior to the abolition of the stamp tax in 1873, but was more rapid after that date. The following table gives for representative years the tendency in this regard: AccrSditifs sold. Number. Amount. Francs. 1863 1870 1872 1873 187S 1880 1885 1890 189s 1900 1905 1906 1907 1908 4.894 16,988 63,179 92,300 129,991 199,113 249,45o 286,119 324,346 413,735 508,034 535,451 552,345 567,201 13.227,354 54,335,io6 314,358,816 498,100,000 562, 107,138 705,021,527 742,403,592 921,300,000 1,022,608,588 1,450,250,10a 1,488,588,697 1,634,527,879 1,675,832,751 1,645,063, 717 It was suggested by M. des Essars that the facility given by these drafts for the transfer of money without cost tends to encourage the transfer of coin out of Belgium. How this tendency works is thus set forth: 6 "When a Belgian debt is due in France the debtor draws an order at some agency payable at Tournay or Courtrai (frontier places in Belgium). There coin is asked for and forwarded to the branch of the Bank of « A History of Banking in all the Leading Nations, I I I , p. 276 & Ibid., p. 277. 67 National Monetary Commission France at Roubaix or Tourcoing. The transfer charge is very light, so that money leaves Belgium when the exchange is but 2 per 1,000, under the circumstances explained. The rate would have to reach 4 to 5 per 1,000 to make it a matter of advantage to transfer actual coin instead of using orders. Belgium is thus more exposed than any other country to a drainage of coin." This subject of the exchange between Belgium and other countries is an intricate one, however, into which many other factors enter than the movement of drafts, and is discussed elsewhere in this report. MOVEMENTS OF THE CIRCULATION. The circulation of the National Bank of Belgium has proved very flexible, in spite of the absence of any special restrictions upon note issues. The net circulation of currency has tended to expand in Belgium, as in other countries, by reason of the expansion of business and by reason of the rise in prices, demanding a larger volume of the medium of exchange. There has been a tendency also toward the substitution of notes for coin in the hands of the public, because notes are less cumbersome and more convenient than the heavy silver coins. The issue of notes of the denomination of 20 francs ($3.86) has naturally tended to substitute paper for coin down to that denomination. The progression in the total circulation has been much more rapid than in the population. The latter increased from 4,827,833 souls in 1866 to 6,693,548 in 1900, and in 1907 was estimated at about 7,200,000. On the part of the circulation, from 1870, when the average was 187,392,000 francs ($36,173,000), there was an increase in 68 National Bank of Belgium 1873 t ° 332,480,410 francs ($64,170,000). The increase was less rapid from this date to 1888, when the average was 361,030,000 francs. The period of commercial expansion which followed led to the movement of the average upward in 1900 to 576,485,510 francs, and there was a further advance during the next eight years which carried the average for 1908 to 753,079,970 francs ($145,350,000). The degree of elasticity in the circulation is indicated partly by the variations at different periods of the year and partly by the amount of notes canceled and retired during the year. The range of variation is not so great as in some other countries, because of the essentially manufacturing character of the industries of Belgium and the comparatively minor part played, therefore, by agricultural operations. The difference between the circulation on December 31, however, when it is near its maximum, and the average for the year is in itself considerable, without taking account of the wider variations indicated by the difference between the minimum and the maximum points of the year. Thus, in 1908, notes in circulation on December 31 were 806,878,060 francs, while the average for the year was 753,079,970 francs. The difference in 1906 was greater, the circulation at the close of the year having been 770,423,340 francs and the average for the year 702,363,760 francs. Comparison of the minimum and maximum circulation for different years shows variations usually ranging about 10 per cent. The period of maximum circulation is almost invariably at the turn of the year, sometimes occurring late in December and sometimes continuing into the first weeks of January before the reflex movement is felt. There is a general tendency downward from January to 69 National Monetary Commission midsummer, which is halted from time to time by the demand for currency at the end of each quarter and on other special occasions. The latter part of March and the early days of April mark the logical period of minimum circulation, but the state of comparative equilibrium, which extends from these dates to midsummer, is occasionally marked by a decline slightly below the average of the spring. The table which appears below, showing the variations between maximum and minimum circulation during the past ten years, illustrates the character of these movements. The figures presented are for complete weeks, ending in some cases a few days before December 31, which explains the apparent discrepancy in one or two cases with the later table, where the circulation of December 31 reached above the maximum shown for the official banking year. In some cases the demand for circulation has risen higher during the autumn than at the close of the year, but upon the whole, as the table indicates, the maximum is attained near the end of the year and the minimum during the spring and summer. Variations in the circulation. Maximum. Minimum. Average. Year. Date, Amount. Date. O O O O O O O O O * © Francs. Nov. Oct. Jan. Dec. Jan. Dec. Nov. Oct. Oct. Dec. 30 31 31 30 15 29 2 31 21 30 568,500,000 597.900,000 623,500,000 672,600,000 650,500,000 668,700,000 693.300,000 736, 5 0 0 , 000 770,600,000 800,200,000 Amount. Francs. Mar. June Sept. June June June Mar. Apr. Apr. June 70 9 21 5 19 18 23 23 19 4 18 511,700,000 553.8oo.ooo 567, 200, 000 596,300,000 605,000,000 615,100,000 643,700,000 670,900,000 706,600,000 711,700,000 Amount. Francs. 538,076,400 576,433.5io 599. 265,950 621,568,640 636, 760, 360 645,989,100 676,841,990 702,363,760 743,404.700 753.079.970 National Bank of Belgium The denominations of the notes issued by the National Bank were fixed in the beginning and have not since been altered. They are five in number—for 20 francs, 50 francs, 100 francs, 500 francs, and 1,000 francs. Neither the law nor the regulations of the Government specify the proportion of any one denomination to be issued or kept in circulation. Figures of the»different denominations are available only from 1870, when the total circulation of notes was 187,392,000 francs. The changes from year to year after the use of the different denominations was fairly established, about 1877, show the largest increase in notes for 20 francs ($3.86) and notes for 100 francs ($19.30). The demand for notes of 1,000 francs, while varying somewhat from year to year, has upon the whole shown no great increase, even with growth in the volume of business. The following table shows the average value for each denomination outstanding for representative years: Average of note issues by denomination. [In thousands of francs.] Year. 1870 ^873 1875 1880 1885 1890 J895 1900 1905 1906 1907 -1908 1,000 francs. 80,367 150,030 123,034 T28,285 rr4,887. 121,788 123,749 168,446 184,871 196,167 197,987 160,267 500 francs 18,501.o 23. 523-0 18,486.0 23,254.5 16,822. 5 21, 906. o 25.898.5 32,599-5 37,398.5 40.95I-5 40,845.0 72,146.o 100 francs. 65, 782.0 120,766.9 137,438.7 124,271.2 160,109.9 171,487.3 201, 301. 8 240, 253.6 275,903.9 260,826.7 289,324.3 297, 698. o 50 francs. 7,298.o 3.189.7 1,498. 1 22,953. 1 27,438.6 29,337.2 34,384.7 47,649.2 61, 242. 2 7L359.9 71, 621. 7 73,608. 6 20 francs. 15.444.0 34. 97o. a 43.109.4 14.860.7 27.120.8 37.791.2 52,079. 1 87.535.1 117.426.3 133.058.6 143,626.7 149,360.3 Notes retired during the year have varied in amount according to business conditions. The maximum pro71 National Monetary Commission portion of such retirements was in 1886, when they amounted to 306,790,000 francs in an average circulation of 355,893,600 francs, or about 85 per cent. The average cancellations, however, are much below this amount, having been in 1907 366,120,500 francs, or 49 per cent of the average circulation. The cancellations of 1908 were 508,491,400 francs, or 67 per cent of the average circulation. One of the most striking features of the circulation during recent years has been the increase in the proportion of notes for 20 francs. Such notes formed in 1873 b u t little more than 10 per cent of the average circulation. The amount had not increased materially up to the year 1893, when the proportion to the total circulation had declined to about 9 per cent. From that date, however, the increase was rapid and resulted in doubling the amount of these small notes within less than six years and again nearly doubling the amount in the eight years ending with 1907. A view of the movement of circulation, the proportion of notes of 20 francs, and the notes retired for representative years is afforded by the following table: Movement of the circulation. Year. 1873 1880 1885 1890 1895 1907 Circulation Dec. 3 1 . Francs. 320,586,070 339,969,510 367,423,810 404,721,600 476,502,020 6 3 1 , 6 3 1 , 800 724,082,140 770,423,340 798,167,760 806,878,060 Average circulation during year. Francs. 332,480,410 313,624,520 346,378,860 382,309,680 450,413,100 576,483.510 676,841,990 7 0 2 , 3 6 3 , 760 743.404.700 753.o79.97o 72 Average notes of 20 f r a n c s . Francs. 3 4 , 9 7 0 , 260 14,860,720 27,120,860 3 7 , 7 9 1 , 180 5 2 , 0 7 9 , 100 87,535,160 117,426,340 133,058,660 143,626,700 149,360,320 N o t e s retired during year. Francs 109,659,750 205,700,000 3 0 1 , 250, 0 0 a 221,540,000 145.320,000 330,320, 00a 405,500, 000 643,250,000 366,120, 500 5 0 8 , 4 9 1 , 400' -National Bank of Belgium REGULATION OF THE NOTE CIRCULATION. The circumstances under which the National Bank of Belgium was created gave a distinctive character to the provisions regarding the security for the issue of notes. The original charter of 1850 contained these provisions in regard to the notes themselves: "ARTICLE XII. "The bank may issue notes payable to bearer. The amount in circulation shall be represented by securities which can be easily converted into cash. " The proportion between the cash reserve and the notes in circulation shall be fixed by the statutes. "ARTICLE XIII. "The Government, by agreement with the Bank, shall determine the form of the notes, the method of their issue, and the amount of each denomination." No changes were made in these provisions by subsequent amendments of the charter, except that in 1900 the notes were required in future to be printed in both the languages of the country (French and Flemish), and provision was made for paying into the public Treasury the amount of old issues of notes prior to 1869 which had not been presented for redemption. The original charter of the Bank made the redemption of notes obligatory only at the head 6ffice at Brussels; but in 1872 this obligation was extended to the agencies, with the proviso that payment might be deferred until there had been time to receive the necessary funds from the head office. The notes were made receivable for 73 National Monetary Commission public dues from the beginning, but it was not until 1873 that they were declared legal tender between individuals so long as they continued to be redeemed in legal coin. This privilege was accorded by a special law of June 20, 1873, which also provided, however, that the legal-tender quality should cease whenever the Government should cease to receive the notes at public offices.* The Belgian law imposes no limit upon the amount of notes which may be issued by the National Bank. It was declared by M. Malou in 1872 that "the credit circulation is not extended or restricted arbitrarily at the will of institutions of credit; its necessary limits are the requirements for transactions and the movement of business/' b The law required that there should be a relationship established between the metallic stock and the circulation, but left to the statutes of the Bank, as determined upon by the Government, the decision of what this relationship should be. The proportion is fixed by Article XXXIV of the present statutes at one-third of the amount of notes and other obligations payable at sight, but it is provided that the cash reserve may be allowed to go below this minimum under circumstances and limits to be authorized by the Minister of Finance. It was declared when the law was framed in 1850 that the exact proportion of the reserve held against notes could not be determined according to any fixed rule, but must depend upon time, circumstances, and perhaps also the state of public feeling. For this reason the matter was left to the Government and the Bank. Experience, it was declared in the report of M. Delbeke in 1899, had proved the wisdom of this solua Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 480. 6 Ibid., p. 471. 74 National Bank of Belgium tion. It was more and more agreed by modern experience that any such limit should be conceived in such a manner as to leave the bank with hands sufficiently free to meet successfully a period of crisis. Upon this question of a fixed proportion of reserve the report of M. Delbeke quoted from an article by Professor Helfferich in the " Revue Politique et Parlementaire " of January 10, 1899, the following:0 " Requirements of this sort should not establish a rule for the government of the Bank in periods of calm. If the government of the Bank does not do in normal times considerably more than is required by the provisions of the law, it willnot be able in difficult times, when the tiller escapes from its hands, to keep within the limits of legal requirements, and even for a competent management there is danger of being compelled to exceed the legal limits because of a violent and sudden crisis. It is at such moments that a central bank becomes indispensable to safeguard the economic interests of the country and that it becomes obligatory to suspend the banking law. "Of this the suspension, authorized on three occasions, of the restrictive clause contained in the English bank act affords a classic example. But suspensions of this sort, imposed by necessity, never take place without provoking in a certain measure a movement having the character of a panic. If a bank approaches the limit at which it ought to suspend its issue of bills, the fact produces, as has been seen in England, a run upon the Bank—not to obtain the redemption of bills, but to obtain the discount of paper—for everyone fears the arrival of the moment a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 151. 75 National Monetary Commission when the Bank will no longer be able to issue bills nor in consequence to grant discounts. The imposition by law of a maximum figure for the issue of bills not covered by the metallic reserve, and of a minimum of metallic reserve for covering the bills, represents then a limit imposed upon the elasticity of the Bank and a limit which, instead of preventing a crisis, is rather of a nature to provoke and aggravate it." The regulations imposed at the National Bank of Belgium to sebure the safety of the notes and to prevent thefts and fraudulent overissues are similar to those in other large banks. The special paper required for the notes is carefully recorded and is guarded in a safe with two keys. The comptroller delivers to the chief of the printing office the paper necessary for the time being, where also it is kept under double keys. After printing, the notes which have been spoiled as well as those properly printed are remitted to the comptroller of notes. Those spoiled are marked before delivery with the word "faute" (spoiled) and are perforated. These spoiled notes are carefully verified and destroyed at the end of every six months. The comptroller of notes is charged with numbering and affixing the seal upon the notes. Every issue under a given letter of the alphabet is inscribed in a register containing the following information: The number in the order of the alphabet. The date of manufacture. The date of issue. The names of the signers. The letter of the series. 76 National Bank of Belgium The number in this series. The date of destruction. Verifications are made in the case of the special paper every six months, or oftener if judged necessary by the administration of the Bank. The verification is made by the governor or a director delegated by the council, with the assistance of the director charged with the supervision of the note service. Notes at the printing office and at the sealing office are verified at least once a month by the director of the note service, assisted by the comptroller. The notes to be issued are verified at least once every six months by the director of the service and the treasurer. A report is made at the end of each month, showing the status of the special paper, notes in course of printing, and those actually printed. Notes which have become unsuitable for circulation are withdrawn by the central reserve agency. They are punched with the word "annule" (cancelled), with the date of their retirement. These notes are also remitted to the office of note issue, which records the number, verifies them, classifies them, and proceeds to their cancellation in the records already described. When the council orders the destruction of canceled notes, the operation is effected under the supervision of two directors designated by it, in the presence of three delegates of the grade of at least chief of bureau. The council determines at the same time the method of destruction.^ One of the new provisions of the law of 1900 directed the bank to pay into the public treasury within one month the-face value of notes belonging to issues prior to the year < Lois Organiques: Statuts, 1907, pp. 95-100 * 77 National Monetary Commission 1869 which were still outstanding. It was also provided that whenever a given type of note was replaced or suppressed, the bank should make a similar payment into the treasury at the expiration of a date to be fixed in each case by agreement, and that this provision should be immediately applicable to notes for 20 francs of types previous to that authorized in 1897. The amount of these old notes was to be deducted from the reported amount of the circulation, and when any of them were redeemed the amount thus disbursed was to be charged to the account of the treasury. The report of the Minister of Finance upon this subject is interesting, because it presents figures of the amount of old notes of issues prior to 1869, which were outstanding on December. 31, 1897.° These issues dated back as far as 1851 and included notes issued in 1851, 1852, 1853, 1856, 1862, 1863, and 1865. I*1 every case, except the original issues of 1851, the notes still outstanding were of only one denomination. The total face value of all such issues was only 1,025,500 francs ($198,000) and, curiously enough, was made up in part of 353 notes for 1,000 francs (353,000 francs) of the issue of 1853, which would appear to represent the loss of a considerable amount in these notes at one time. The loss of such large notes may be considered more exceptional than that of notes of 20 francs, of which 8,259 notes, representing a value of 165,180 francs ($32,000) of the issue of 1851, were still outstanding. If this amount is divided by the period of forty-seven years which elapsed between 1851 and the close of 1897, the average annual loss on the issue would a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 23. 78 National Bank of Belgium stand at about 3,500 francs ($700) per year, and would indicate how small is t h e ultimate loss even on notes of small denominations. FOREIGN BIIXS IN THE RESERVE. The National Bank of Belgium was allowed, from an early date, t o count as p a r t of its reserve first-class foreign bills which were guaranteed b y banking houses in Belgium. The proportion of t h e reserve made u p of such bills tended t o increase until they came to constitute, just before t h e renewal of the charter in 1900, about 25 per cent of t h e total computed reserve. This fact was made a subject of some criticism b y Professor Denis in his report in favor of a special inquiry into the management of t h e Bank. H e declared t h a t the foreign portfolio, at first rare and variable, had become constant and increasing; t h a t from 6 per cent of t h e total discounts from 1872 t o 1876, it had increased t o 25 per cent from 1893 to 1897. I n concluding his discussion of this subject, he declared: 0 " T h e fluid equilibrium of our reserve seems t o be a problem more and more complex, in which t h e anticipation of t h e extent of t h e ultimate demand for specie and t h e certainty of realizing t h e securities held are bound u p with t h e aggregate of t h e conditions of t h e international market, with t h e distribution of t h e paper between different places, with causes which m a y affect foreign cash reserves, and even with t h e question of t h e standards. Does this constitute a financial system without peril? On t h e other hand, what are t h e measures which would a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 66. 79 National Monetary Commission permit escape from this instability, from this international lack of unity? " In meeting this criticism M. Delbeke examined the subject from the three points of view, whether the holding of foreign bills was equivalent in fact to a metallic reserve; if they could constitute a danger to the Bank; and if there was occasion to exclude them from the calculation of the proportion between the reserve and the circulation of notes. M. Delbeke declared that the facts submitted by the Government established the genuine benefits, not to say the absolute necessity, of the practice which the Bank had long pursued on the subject of these foreign bills. He emphasized the solidity of the limited number of firms whose signatures were accepted, such firms being limited to indorsing over to the Bank the paper of third parties. He then quoted from the agreement between these firms and the Bank, to the effect that the firms bound themselves to rediscount at any time paper clothed with their indorsement, at a rate which should not be higher than the official rate of the central bank of the country from which the paper emanated, and should protect the National Bank, according to its instructions, either in bills of exchange at market quotations or in gold coin or bullion, except in case of superior force. The National Bank engaged itself not to abuse this option of rediscount and not to demand securities for a sum exceeding 6,000,000 to 8,000,000 francs per week. The utility of the holdings of foreign bills in emergency has been several times demonstrated in a striking manner. At the outbreak of the crisis which followed the declaration of war between France and Germany, the 80 National Bank of Belgium National Bank had on July 21 foreign paper to the amount of 64,144,255 francs ($12,370,000). This paper was employed so generously to obtain gold that the amount on hand was reduced by the end of July to 7,227,300 francs and on August 20 to 3,531,900 francs. The product of the sale or payment of the bills had been converted into bars of gold and silver. On another occasion, at the time when the subject of the renewal of the charter was pending in November, 1898, the National Bank was able to maintain a discount rate of 3 per cent, when the official rate stood in Berlin at 6 per cent, in Vienna at 5 per cent, and in London at 4 per cent. The position of the Bank of Belgium was maintained by realizing a part of its holdings of foreign paper, which reduced the amount from 122,800,000 francs to 98,400,000 francs. The position taken by the supporters of the Bank in this matter is taken also by Mr. Inglis Palgrave in the following language: a "The Bank has been enabled to carry on its operations with this comparatively small bullion reserve through its skill in discounting, and through the power of regulating the foreign exchanges which it possesses by means of the quantity of foreign paper which it holds. In the balance sheet of December 31, 1901 (p. 207), the bills discounted stood at £19,100,000; of this sum the foreign bills held amounted to £6,500,000. Through holding these drafts on other countries the council of the Bank has the means of operating in any direction when the exchanges are unfavorable to Belgium. The moderate rates of discount a Bank Rate and the Money Market, p. 184. 85519—10 6 81 National Monetary Commission charged and the comparatively small range of fluctuation show how carefully, especially of late years, the Bank of Belgium has maintained this power. Roughly speaking, one-fifth part of the bills it has dealt with during the last twenty years have been on foreign countries." Mr. Palgrave presents the following comparison for representative years of the relation of foreign bills to total operations in discount: Domestic and foreign discounts. On Belgium. On foreign countries. Francs. 81,200,000 729,400,000 1,205,000,000 1,647,000,000 i , 958, 600, 000 Francs. 104,800,000 28,000,000 131,800,000 Francs. 186,000 0 0 0 757,4oo 0 0 0 1 336,800 0 0 0 347, 600, 000 396,900,000 693,200,000 819,400,000 994.600 0 0 0 355.5oo 0 0 0 3 442,900 0 0 0 3 370,825 0 0 a 2,749,700,000 2,551,425,000 Total. 1 2 Referring to the experience of various critical occasions, the report to the Senate by the Chevalier Descamps declared that a skillful division of foreign bill holdings between a certain number of countries wisely chosen was of a nature to provide against circumstances which might offset in a manner the realization of such holdings or paralyze its effects. Summing up the benefits of the system, M. Descamps said: a "The moderate and skillful use of the foreign bill holdings as a sort of supplement to the metallic stock does not seem to be compromising, and from a multiplicity of viewpoints is even an advantage. I t may tend to give to the < D o c u m e n t s P a r l e m e n t a i r e s : 1900, p . 475. * 82 National Bank of Belgium reserve an elasticity superior to mere rigidity of proportions, which is neither scientifically justified nor practically protective in an absolute manner. But naturally the question involved here is to guard against being drawn too far, which might produce a famine of money. It must always be recalled that a general equivalence is not an absolute identity, and that in the long run, to use an old comparison, it is always preferable to keep one's self in a large measure on the firm ground of gold and silver rather than to fly upon the wings of foreign paper." One of the points raised against a reserve kept in foreign bills was the possible suspension of the metallic standard in case of war by one of the countries on which such paper might be drawn. It was declared by M. Delbeke, however, in his report to the Chambers, that there was no reason for such apprehensions, in view of the precautions which were taken by the Bank in regard to its foreign debtors and which found expression in the clause which has been already quoted, compelling the indorser to rediscount or cover the paper on the first demand. In fact, it was added, the paper in circulation at any given time was based upon the monetary standard of that time and could not be affected by measures which might be taken at a later date in the debtor country. 0 The practical operation of the reserve of foreign bills was discussed by the Government in replying to a series of questions submitted by the central committee of the lower house, pending the revision of the charter in 1900. The questions asked on this head were as to the paper of this sort which was actually included in the assets of < Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 149 * 83 National Monetary Commission the bank, as to the average rate of return and as to the average maturity. The reply to these questions was as follows:a "The drafts which are included in the foreign portfolio are securities of the first order, protected, moreover, by the indorsement of banking houses chosen among the most important of Paris, London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfort, and Vienna. "At no time has the bank suffered the slightest loss upon these securities. The average rate of operations in foreign bills was during the year 1898, 2.79 per cent, with an average maturity of forty-nine days; in 1897, 2.53 per cent, with an average maturity of forty-seven days; in 1906, 2.51 per cent, with an average maturity of fortyeight days. " It is important to note that the rates earned by operations with the foreign portfolio are not collected in a permanent manner. Thus, in the course of the year 1898 the Bank on different occasions suspended the credits extended to foreign correspondents, with the object of having in its own hands for the moment coin to replenish its reserve, which was vigorously attacked during the period when discount had mounted to 6 per cent at Berlin and to 4 per cent in London and when exchange on Paris had risen to 3 % in the 1,000 (0.35 per cent). "During several weeks correspondents at Paris with whom the bank had conducted transfer operations upon London, Berlin, and Hamburg made shipments of specie. The Bank thus received 38,000,000 francs in 5-franc pieces. This combination of measures permitted the Bank to a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 187. 84 National Bank of Belgium maintain during almost the entire year rates of discount which were very moderate and to avoid the necessity of raising them, except during a very short period." T H E QUESTION OF MONOPOLY OF NOTE I S S U E . The question whether the National Bank possesses a monopoly of the power of issuing notes is to a large extent an academic one. It is admitted on all sides that monopoly practically exists, but there is sufficient vagueness in the law to leave open the possibility of competition, if approved by the chambers. It was frankly declared in the report in favor of the government measure submitted to the Chamber of Deputies on March 16, 1872, by M. Pirmez, that "in fact we have in Belgium the system of a single bank of issue." " I n law, however," he went on to declare, "the liberty of creating banks of issue exists for individuals, for societies with a collective name, and for societies with silent partners (en commandite simple); it does not exist for joint-stock companies and stock companies with silent partners. " a Whether a company organized by shares had rights under the general law to issue notes was briefly discussed, but it was pointed out that a regular corporation with limited liability could be created only by law, and that, in consequence, the right of creating banks of issue could be refused without infringing any existing rights. The a Documents Officiels: 1872, p. 47. It is hardly necessary to go here into the different forms of partnership and corporate liability recognized by the law of Belgium and other continental countries. I t may be proper to set forth, however, t h a t companies organized en commandite are partnerships where the active partners are liable without restriction for the liabilities of the firm, but the partners en commandite are liable only to the amount of capital which they have invested. 85 National Monetary Commission contention that the banking system of Scotland represented the successful operation of a system of note issues by corporations, without restriction as to the number of such corporations, was met by the contention that the Scotch banks were not limited liability companies, but that all their shareholders were subject to unlimited liability and that nothing prevented the creation in Belgium of banks of issue under these conditions.^ Departing from merely academic interpretation of the power to issue notes under general law, which had not been utilized except by one or two banks existing at the time of the law of 1850, M. Pirmez took up the principles of the banking systems differing from that of a single bank of issue which might possibly be adopted, limiting them to (1) plurality of authorized banks, (2) regulated authority to create banks, (3) unrestricted liberty. He declared that none of these systems would increase the credit circulation, which the National Bank was interested in carrying to the highest possible figure indicated by the presentation of notes for redemption. New currents entering the circulation could not fill the reservoir any higher, but could only vary its contents with a variety of bank bills instead of those of a uniform type. The right of the State to intervene to protect the interests of the public in respect to uniformity, safety, and convenience was set forth as follows:6 a This unlimited liability of Scotch shareholders was modified as the result of the bank failures of 1879, which imposed heavy losses upon small holders of stock; b u t the restrictions imposed upon note issues by the act of 1845 might have afforded to M. Pirmez another ground of distinction between the Scotch system and t h a t existing under Belgian law. & Documents Officiels: 1872, p. 52. 86 National Bank of Belgium "If one adhered to this principle of absolute nonintervention, the State should refrain from controlling the weight and fineness of precious metals; it should suppress lawful money and leave to everyone to satisfy himself of the quality of the gold and silver presented to him; it should cease to concern itself with the system of weights and measures and refrain from regulating those which are used in business. No one will pretend that it ought to act thus, because no compensating advantage could be found in the inextricable complications which would arise from this revolution in the usage of all civilized peoples. There are necessary exceptions to this principle of liberty, and the exceptions should be extended to those matters which by their nature have to be accepted by all—by those who are competent to judge and those who are not— without examination, without hesitation, without even a doubt to delay the conclusion of a transaction. It is thus with the circulation of money; and it should be thus for the same reason with the circulation of credit paper. The Government would fail in its duty if it did not take the necessary precautions that money should be correct in weight and fineness; it would fail equally in its duty if it did not take similar measures that the notes which replace cash should be of indisputable value. It would be absurd to condemn individuals, and especially the least enlightened, to perpetual operations in assaying; it would not be less absurd to demand that the unlettered should take account of the soundness of banks. In this respect it is unity which best attains the object sought. It gives by means of the most efficient control a more absolute safety; 87 National Monetary Commission it alone gives to bank notes the stamp of a value which suffers neither comparison nor discussion, but exactly represents the monetary system." The loophole through which opposition to the existing National Bank might find an opening for a competitive system of note issue is the provision of the law of 1850, creating the National Bank, that " n o bank of issue shall be constituted by shares except under the form of a joint-stock company and by virtue of a law." This provision nominally leaves to the Government the right to authorize a new bank in case competition with the National Bank should become advisable. Even in the preliminary reports on the creation of the Bank, however, in 1850, it was declared by M. Frere-Orban, that "the end which it was sought to attain above all was to separate discount and issue from industrial affairs; it was, hence, to establish unity in the circulation of bank bills and to arrive as soon as possible at the convertibility of these bills." In summing up the tendency of discussion and legislation in Belgium, even Professor Denis declared himself a partisan of unity of issues in the following passage from his report, submitted to the chamber: ° " I t follows from this historical review that, in spite of the persistence of texts, the spirit of the legislature and of the Government tends more and more energetically towards unity of issue, having as a necessary corollary a single bank, and to condemn more decidedly the ultimate corrective influence of limited plurality, as tending itself •jtOMgngender incalculable evils. All this builds up historical obstacles, which go on accumulating, against the idea of a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 53. 88 National Bank of Belgium exciting ultimate competition to the existing bank and renders the practical application of it more and more illusory. From this it follows that if the texts are always opposed to the absolute consecration of a monopoly, the monopoly of fact is none the less more solidly and more definitely established.'' METHODS OF COLLECTING PAPER. The collection of commercial bills for very small amounts is accomplished at the National Bank of Belgium through an elaborate organization, as at the Bank of France. It is necessary to employ a considerable force of collectors to make the rounds of the small shops and collect paper which is due by the proprietors. By the terms of Article VIII of the charter, one of the declared objects of the Bank is " t o charge itself with the recovery of paper which may be remitted to it by individuals or establishments.'' In carrying out this function the Bank acts as a sort of central collection agency for other institutions. It was declared in the report of the Chevalier Descamps to the Senate at the time of the renewal of the charter in 1900: a "The presentation to the Bank of a great number of obligations which have matured in the assets of other institutions, tends to transform a part of the business of discount into a simple means of profiting by the machinery of the central bank to make collections. It is remarkable that securities find their domicile in the assets of the Bank only for an average of thirty-nine days. This is an important and inevitable cause of reduction of profits for ' the bank of bankers' and one of the reasons which should lead a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 421. 89 National Monetary Commission our great establishment of credit to seek profitable means of development, without departing from its proper sphere." The by-laws governing the internal management of the Bank provided in 1907 for a maximum of 16 chief collectors and similar employees, 36 collectors of the first class, 50 of the second class, and an unlimited number of the third class. The chief among these officials receive salaries ranging from 2,200 to 2,800 francs per year; those of the first class, from 1,800 to 2,200 francs ($350 to $420); those of the second class, from 1,600 to 1,800 francs; and those of the third class, from 1,400 to 1,600 francs. After five years'service, advances may be made of 200 francs to the chiefs, and 100 francs to other employees.0 The necessity of a force of this kind to make regular collections and to assert the legal rights of the Bank is indicated by the facts published in the annual reports in regard to defaulted paper. The defaults do not usually cause losses to the National Bank, because the paper represents rediscounts, and that which is not paid to the collectors is returned by the Bank to the indorser for payment. The ratio of delinquencies naturally becomes a little greater in a year of business depression, like 1908, than in a year of greater business activity. The annual report of the Bank for 1901 shows that the total number of pieces of commercial paper subject to collection during the year 1900 coming from the assets of the National Bank and of the National Savings Bank was 3,808,195, representing an amount of 3,471,781,776 francs ($670,000,000). On this sum the amount due at Brussels consisted of 730,497 pieces for a capital of 769,305,979 < Lois Organiques: Statuts, 1907, pp. 68-69. * 90 National Bank of Belgium francs ($148,500,000). Of this total there were 92,141 pieces (or 12.61 per cent of the whole) which were not paid at maturity; but from this amount 54,215 pieces, representing a capital of 23,556,072 francs, were paid to the collectors or to the cashier after protest. There thus remained 37,926 pieces of paper unpaid, representing 11,677,482 francs ($2,254,000), which was returned to the indorsers for payment. In the provinces there were 129,734 pieces of paper which were not paid at maturity, but 71,982 pieces, representing a capital of 31,227,166 francs, were paid to the collectors. There thus remained 57,752 pieces, representing a capital of 15,265,098 francs, which were returned to the indorsers for payment. It by no means follows that this paper was ultimately defaulted, but it was left for the bank first discounting it to attend to the detail of securing its payment after making prompt reimbursement to the National Bank. The percentages of paper thus returned were, in the case of the office at Brussels, 5.19 per cent of the number of pieces of paper, but only 1.51 per cent of the total amount of discounts. In the provinces the showing was even better, representing 3.87 per cent of the number of pieces discounted and 0.93 of the amount of discounts. 3 The effect of the depression of 1908 is shown by a considerable increase in the percentage of paper returned to the indorsers for payment. The total discounts at Brussels represented 796,449 pieces of paper for an amount of 454,249,660 francs ($88,100,000). Of this number 107,212 pieces were not paid at maturity, but 60,354 pieces, reprea Rapport: 1901, p. 10. 91 National Monetary Commission senting a capital of 28,474,994 francs, was paid to the collectors or at the Bank after protest. There remained 46,858 pieces, representing a capital of 15,557,296 francs, which were returned to the indorsers for payment. In the provinces, out of total discounts to the number of 1,676,651, representing a capital of 2,015,582,898 francs, there were 161,635 pieces, or 9.64 per cent of the whole, which were not paid at maturity. The amount paid, however, to collectors was 89,992 pieces for an amount of 42,770,692 francs. This left 71,643 pieces, representing a capital of 19,973,986 francs ($3,860,000) to be reimbursed by the indorsers. The percentage of the amount of total discounts thus returned to the indorsers for payment was 3.42 per cent at Brussels and 0.99 per cent in the provinces. a CURRENT ACCOUNTS. The National Bank of Belgium does not seek to attract deposits, except those which pertain to commercial operations. As at most European banks, a distinction is made between credits opened in favor of those doing business with the Bank, and consisting essentially of loans by the Bank, and voluntary deposits by persons not seeking accommodation from the Bank. The term used for credits in favor of borrowers and others having accounts with the Bank is not " deposits," but " current accounts " (comptes courants). The National Bank has a large department for the safe-keeping of securities, and the operations of this department appear under the head of deposits, while credits in favor of clients of the Bank are stated as current accounts. a Rapport: 1909, p. 11. 92 National Bank of Belgium The National Bank pays no interest on deposits or current accounts. The provision that interest shall not be paid is embodied in the regulations of the Bank (art. 27), but not in the organic law. This subject was carefully considered at the time of the creation of the Bank, when an amendment authorizing the payment of interest was rejected. Upon the motion of M. Frere-Orban it was decided, by 33 votes against 30, to leave this question for the statutes. The subject again came under debate at the renewal of the charter in 1872, when a luminous argument was made by M. Pirmez upon the fundamental differences between current accounts drawing no interest and deposits drawing interests Capital, declared M. Pirmez, may be brought to a bank in connection with the movement of business; or it may be brought there as a matter of investment. If the bank does not pay interest, the first type of capital alone will come; if it allows interest, it makes appeal to the second type. No one has ever disputed that the National Bank should, like all establishments of the same sort, receive the capital destined to play a part in the current movement of commercial operations. By transfers, checks, and drafts the funds thus deposited serve for numerous payments, which are accomplished in the simplest manner. The result is substantially the same as that derived from the issue of notes. The latter replace money and are in their turn replaced by simple written forms. They belong to the functions of the bank, which is the great organism of the circulation, and lend themselves to these operations, realizing to the profit of the country an economy in the employment of metallic money. a Documents Officiels: 1872, pp. 54-56. 93 National Monetary Commission The danger of such deposits, M. Pirmez declared, is essentially limited and may be easily avoided. The amounts deposited do not receive a pecuniary remuneration, but they receive a remuneration in services rendered. Such deposits are made only when one expects to obtain in the movements of business the advantages which the bank assures, and as the movements of business are for each tradesman a continuing series, it follows that after the exhaustion of a deposit it will almost always be renewed. That which stimulated the first deposit stimulated the later ones. Thus, even the funds which commercial houses leave at the National Bank, rather than keep in their vaults for their daily needs, disappear only to return at once, because they constitute the available reserve of which they have need. From this perspective it is apparent that the funds thus deposited are necessarily limited by the absence of interest allowances and that the effect of this limit is to constitute the liabilities of the bank in this respect of deposits which have in the aggregate a certain fixity. This situation, M. Pirmez went on to argue, is completely modified if by the allotment of interest deposits become a method of investment. Their advantage disappears, to give place to danger. The funds thus drawn into the bank, no longer contributing to the movement of business, have no influence on the circulation. They would realize none of the progress which is the organic end of the National Bank. There were other establishments in the country which received funds and paid interest upon them. Such funds, through the intermediary of these establishments, went where they were called by the needs of in94 National Bank of Belgium dustry and commerce. What profit would there be in withdrawing them from one place to send them to another? While the advantages of such an operation were only apparent, the dangers would be real. No limit would be fixed by conditions to these investments. To what figure might they not rise, to what fluctuations might they not be subjected, in periods of crisis? As the result of adherence to this policy the debtor current accounts form but a small proportion of the obligations of the National Bank, but being commercial accounts, their movement is extremely rapid. While the current accounts of other Belgian banks have increased enormously with the expansion of the business of the country, the balance of such accounts at the National Bank has remained comparatively stationary. Thus, the Society Generate, which still does a large business in Belgium, showed an increase of its obligations to outsiders from 121,900,000 francs ($23,530,000) at the close of 1890 to 426,200,000 francs ($82,260,000) at the close of 1908.® The movement of accounts at the National Bank has increased somewhat within the generation since the renewal of the charter in 1872, but even at the close of business on December 31, 1908, the balance of current accounts was only 100,716,555 francs ($19,450,000) out of total liabilities of 1,019,461,475 francs ($196,800,000), not including deposits of securities and other special funds in the custody of the Bank. The rapidity of the movement of these balances is indicated, however, by the fact that the total amount, which includes the deposit of the General Bank of Savings and Retirement, was 29,920,581,000 a Moniteur des Int6rets Materiels: February 28, 1909, p. 705. 95 National Monetary Commission francs, or more than four hundred times the amount of the average annual balance. The following table shows the magnitude of these transfers of funds for representative years: Movement of current accounts. Total receipts and payments. 1892 1897 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 Francs. 8,061,899, 170 10,811, 595,273 IS.296,563, 969 14,746,108, 566 14,686,513, 704 371 16, 292, 981, 17,382,097. 077 333 20, 522, 122, 24.343.S63, 429 29,290,671, 685 752 29, 920, 581, Average balance during year. Francs. 30,813,814 42,941,738 53.3i6.779 60,644, 173 58, 764, 239 54, 496,884 61,043,893 63,189,681 68,817,481 63.405,963 63,262,728 Balance, Dec. 31, Francs. 69.340,318 93.892,514 81,754,197 89,513.811 78,854,638 86,971,009 93,374-199 98,615,552 95,128,921 87,573.812 100,7i6,555 Application for the opening of a current account is made by addressing a letter to the governor of the Bank or, at the branches, to the local agent. If a corporation is concerned, the request must set forth the character of the corporation and the signatures of the members, managers, or persons who have authority to sign. These applications are passed upon by the council of administration. When granted they are recorded in the proceedings and the interested parties are advised. Owners of current accounts are advised every six months of the balance to their credit, and are required to acknowledge such advices and state if the balance given is in accord with their books. The Bank assumes for persons having current accounts collections and payments in each locality where it has an 96 National Bank of Belgium office. P a y m e n t s m a y be made into any branch of the Bank for any holder of a current account at Brussels or in t h e provinces. Deposits of paper for collection m u s t not be m a d e more t h a n eight days before m a t u r i t y . For paper payable in the locality where it is deposited a charge is collected of 10 centimes (2 cents) and one-eighth per 1,000 upon the a m o u n t of t h e document. For paper payable in another locality t h a n t h a t w^here it is deposited t h e charge is 20 centimes per piece and one-eighth per 1,000 upon t h e amount of the document. Paper for collection in t h e same place m u s t be deposited at least three days before m a t u r i t y b y noon. Paper to be collected elsewhere must be deposited at least five days before m a t u r i t y by 10 o'clock. Such paper should bear the receipt of the person having the account, preceded b y t h e words ' ' t o be collected through the intervention of the National Bank of Belgium." Such documents should be presented a t t h e wicket of current accounts in a closed envelope bearing the n a m e of the owner, the number of pieces and a m o u n t of the paper deposited, the d a t e of maturity, and the cost of collection. Separate envelopes should be provided for paper to be collected in t h e same place, paper without charges (sans frais) for collection in another place, and paper under protest for collection in another place. The Bank does not make itself responsible for t h e performance of any formality nor for protested paper payable in t h e locality where the owner is domiciled, nor does it assume any responsibility in case of t h e loss of documents which are remitted to it for collection. The Bank attends t o t h e protest of paper drawn on a different 85519—10 7 97 National Monetary Commission place remitted as protested paper. protest checks. The Bank will n o t These are to be included among t h e documents described as paper without charges. The Bank formerly advised beneficiaries of p a y m e n t s made t o their credit b y third parties, b u t did not carry out this formality in regard to payments made for t h e account of banking and exchange houses. During t h e year 1908 this rule was m a d e of general application. a Payments are required t o be of at least 1,000 francs, b u t various state enterprises are exempt from this requirement. While scrutinizing as far as possible the regularity of t h e drafts which it pays, t h e B a n k assumes no responsibility for t h e genuineness of the signatures. T h e owners of a current account have the option of making acceptances payable at t h e office of the b a n k where the account is kept. An acceptance is m a d e upon an advice signed b y t h e owner of the current account, which should reach t h e b a n k at least three days before m a t u r i t y a n d contain t h e names of t h e drawers and their domicile, with t h e amount and m a t u r i t y of t h e obligation. Paper which is paid is returned, upon t h e surrender of a receipt, at t h e wicket of current accounts. Current accounts may be canceled b y resolution of t h e council of administration. This measure is taken against holders who do not conform t o t h e requirements of the rules or who draw checks or orders without sufficient funds. b T H E CUSTODY OF SECURITIES. T h e National Bank of Belgium performs a function common t o most European banks, which is performed in < R a p p o r t : 1909, p. 25. * & Lois Organiques: S t a t u t s : Rkglement d'Ordre Interieur, arts. 26-34. 98 National Bank of Belgium America chiefly b y safe-deposit companies. This is t h e guardianship of securities, precious metals, and gold and silver money in deposit boxes. The manner of dealing with these deposits differs somewhat in Europe, however, from t h e method pursued in t h e United States. The principal differences consist in t h e fact t h a t deposits and withdrawals are m a d e under t h e eye of t h e bank, and t h e character and amount of t h e deposits are on record, instead of being known only t o t h e depositor. T h e B a n k does not accept deposits in a collective name, in t h e n a m e of a married woman without separation of property, or for minors or those incapacitated, except by virtue of special authority. All deposits are inclosed in metal boxes, closed with a key, and stamped with t h e seal of t h e depositor. The dimension of t h e boxes is not permitted to exceed a cubic half meter (about a half yard) and each such box constitutes for administrative purposes a separate deposit. At t h e time of t h e creation of t h e deposit t h e agents charged with this service m a y require the opening of t h e box which contains it in order t o verify its character. A record is made in duplicate in a copying book. One copy, indorsed first b y t h e agent who has received t h e deposit and then b y t h e chief accountant, is remitted t o t h e depositor, signed in the n a m e of t h e governor b y t h e director charged with supervision of this service. The other copy, indorsed with t h e signature of t h e depositor, and further protected a t t h e same time b y his seal, remains on file. Contrary to t h e policy of some E u r o pean banks, these acts or certificates of deposit are not transferable. T h e bank restores t h e deposit only on pres99 National Monetary Commission entation of the original record and written acknowledgment. It reserves, moreover, the right to make such, restoration at Brussels or at the branch at Antwerp, rather than at the agencies.a The charge for the custody of deposits is levied on an amount not less than 25,000 francs and is payable in advance for each six months. The amount is one-half franc per 1,000 francs, but can not be less than 25 francs. The number of small depositors is large, the number in 1899 having been 1,024 out of a total number of depositors of 2,995.b While the deposit vaults are at Brussels, the agents of the Bank in the provinces have since 1897 received securities for transmission to the head office of the Bank. Depositors in such cases are required to pay the costs of carriage and insurance. The Bank performs not merely the function of custodian, but of collector and administrator of securities in its custody, as do other European banks. A slight additional charge is made for such services, but they are performed with much saving of labor to the depositor. Among the services thus performed are the collection of interest and dividends upon the securities on deposit; the collection of premiums and the original capital in case of reimbursement; the ultimate reinvestment of sums thus collected; payments upon securities not fully paid; and the purchase of securities to be deposited and the sale of those already on deposit. The fact that deposits and withdrawals are recorded when made enables the Bank to present accurate statistics o Noel, I, p. 522. b Documents Parlementaires: 1 9 0 0 ^ . 4 2 7 . 100 National Bank of Belgium of the face value of such securities. The amount on account of individual depositors has increased rapidly in recent years. The following table shows the amount of such deposits by individuals, with the number of separate accounts, the number of depositors with a capital less than 5,000 francs, and the charges collected by the Bank for the service performed: Amount and character of safety deposits. December 3 1 — 1S97 1900 1902 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 Total n u m b e r of depositors. Declared value. Francs. 174, 920, o n 25S.7i5.488 390,762,246 523,790,188 615.088,837 674,085,374 763,713.745 790,884,741 831,031,894 6, 236 7, 124 8,405 9,632 10,649 N u m b e r of depositors b e l o w 5,000 francs. 2, 922 3,357 4.045 4,624 5. 152 Amount collected. Francs. i55,45o 203,759 242, 735 275,766 311,068 340,663 399,031 393.444 401,327 The deposits represent a great many varieties of securities. The number at the close of 1904, when the figures were first included in the annual report, was 2,403, which increased at the close of 1908 to 3,186. These voluntary deposits of individuals represent only a fraction of the amount of securities in the custody of the National Bank. By far the greater portion of such deposits comes from various public funds of which the Bank has been, under various laws, made the legal custodian. Reference to the rapid increase of these deposits and their origin is made in this report in connection with the services performed by the Bank for the State. IOI National Monetary Commis sio Some idea of t h e increase in the a m o u n t within the brief interval of ten years m a y be gathered from the following table: Deposits of securities by the Government. December 3 1 — Deposits in public funds. Francs. 1900 1902 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 998 6 2 5 , 4 3 3 995 3 3 0 , 2 2 9 1.784 4 4 9 , 0 5 9 1,859 H 3 , 4 7 i 2,075 088,082 2,083 175,768 1,845 2 0 6 , 8 2 9 1.752 2 9 8 , 0 2 8 MANAGEMENT OF T H E Securities of the savings bank. Francs. 152,934,897 198,579,470 219,195,095 235,545,265 247,026,600 268,903,352 241,356,868 234,322,680 Official bonds, etc. Francs. 13,120,803 13,504,687 13.265,465 11,767,128 12, 0 3 8 , 567 12,049,845 12,790,175 12,598,206 BANK. The management of t h e National Bank is in the h a n d s of a governor and six directors/' who make lip the administrative council. The governor is appointed, suspended, and dismissed by t h e King. The six directors are elected by the shareholders. The shareholders also elect t h e council of censors, a supervisory body which inspects t h e accounts and whose approval is required for i m p o r t a n t measures of policy. The governor represents t h e S t a t e in its control over t h e operations of t h e Bank. H e is appointed for five years and may be reappointed indefinitely. H e can not be a member of the legislative body or draw a state pension. a The word " d i r e c t o r " (directeur) as used on the Continent does not mean merely a member of a supervisory board, as in the United States, but rather an active officer, conforming more to the American term " officer" or "manager." 102 National Bank of Belgium He presides in all councils and meetings of the Bank, executes their decisions, and is charged with the enforcement of the laws and regulations. He has the right to suspend the taking effect of decisions made by the administrative council, in order to submit them to the general assembly of the shareholders, which he may call for urgent emergencies. It is his duty to suspend and report to the Government every act of the council which he deems contrary to the statutes of the Bank or adverse to the interests of the State. If the Government, having considered the conclusions reached by the governor, fails to come to a decision within a fortnight after his protest, the act can be carried out. The governor has the casting vote in meetings of the administrative council. He signs all documents making engagements for the Bank after they have received the signatures of the secretary and treasurer, or one director in lieu of either. He represents the administrative council in the courts, and also has authority over all the agents of the Bank, and can suspend them without reference to the administrative council. He must own 50 shares of the Bank's stock as security for the performance of his duty. The King selects a vice-governor from among the directors, who acts instead of the governor in case of the latter's absence, incapacity, or suspension. The six directors are chosen by the general assembly, and must be Belgian citizens (native-born or naturalized) and reside in Brussels. They are appointed for six years, and may be reelected. Each director must own at least 25 shares in the National Bank, and none of them can 103 National Monetary Commission belong to the administrative council of any other bank. Besides their general functions, each is intrusted with the control of one department or more of the Bank, and has authority over the employees under him. Every director receives a salary of 6,000 francs and has a share in the profits. The director filling the office of vice-governor has an extra allowance of 3,000 francs. The administrative council, consisting of the governor and directors, holds regular meetings three times a week, and special meetings whenever necessary. It considers all the concerns of the Bank, especially the rate on credits and advances, and discount affairs in general, and gives particular attention also to the purchase of securities and to legal issues in which the Bank may become involved. Finally, it appoints and discharges the employees and determines their salaries. In all matters it advises with the censors. The censors are named by the general assembly of the shareholders for terms of three years. They retire in different years—three going out the first year, two the second, and two the third. Each censor must have 10 shares of bank stock. They also receive a portion of the profits. The council of censors meets at the call of the governor whenever conditions make it desirable, but not less than once a month. It requires the presence of a majority of the seven censors to do business. They have supervision over all transactions, audit the books, and vote the budget of expenses prepared by the administrative council. They are responsible for modification of the discount rate and all important matters affecting discounts and advances. 104 National Bank of Belgium The governor, directors, and censors constitute the general council, which meets on the last Saturday of each month. The general council keeps under its cognizance the situation of the Bank, and acts on all questions submitted to it relating to the laws and regulations. It apportions the profits, and controls matters relating to the manufacture and issue of bank notes. It selects a discount committee from among merchants or old clients, which examines the paper presented for discount and determines what to accept and what to reject. The State designates a government commissioner (whose salary the bank pays), to exercise the functions of a comptroller, especially with regard to discounts and the note circulation. He has the right to look into the business condition of the Bank and to inspect its books. He has the right to attend meetings of the various boards of the Bank, including the general assembly, and to speak at such meetings, but not to vote. The compensation of the governor, fixed by the King, is 18,000 francs, but in addition he receives the use of a fine house, handsomely furnished and heated, with several employees furnished by the Bank, and a share, with the directors, in the annual profits. The share allotted to the governor and directors is 4 per cent of the excess of profits after the payment of the first dividend of 4 per cent to the shareholders. The proportion of the profits may however, by article 61 of the statutes, be limited by vote of the general assembly to 80,000 francs semiannually for the board of directors and 17,500 francs for the censors. The general assembly of the shareholders, which meets twice a year, or more often if required, consists of those 105 National Monetary Commission shareholders who are owners of at least 10 registered shares, which must be registered in their names for at least twenty days before the meeting or be deposited at the head office of the Bank or at agencies designated by the directors. As the shares of the Bank sell for about 4,500 francs, a person qualified to vote in the general assembly must have an investment of the present value of about 45,000 francs ($8,685). A shareholder can be represented by proxy only by another shareholder entitled to vote, but associations and corporations may be represented by a member designated for the purpose and minors and persons under guardianship by their guardians or trustees. No one is allowed more than 5 votes as a shareholder, whatever may be the number of his shares, nor more than 5 votes as attorney, whatever may be the number of his principals. The regular meetings of the general assembly take place on the last Monday of February and the last Monday of August. The assembly passes upon the balance sheet of the preceding half year, if necessary, and that of the February meeting receives the report of the directors on the operations of the previous year ending December 31. At the August meeting the directors and the censors are elected who are to take office at the beginning of the following year, and at either of these meetings vacancies may be filled which have been caused by death, resignation, or otherwise. An extraordinary meeting of the general assembly may be called whenever the administrative council considers it expedient. Such a special meeting must be called when it is demanded by the board of censors or by not less than 106 National Bank of Belgium 20 shareholders entitled to vote and also when the number of directors or the number of censors is reduced to 4. Such meetings are called by registered letters sent to shareholders of record having a right to vote at least fifteen days in advance of the meeting and by publication in the " Moniteur " and in two other principal daily papers of Brussels one month before the date of the meeting. The latter interval may, however, be reduced to fifteen days, if the general council consider it necessary. The general assembly may deliberate on subjects set forth in the notice of the meeting, and which are placed before them either by the directors or the board of censors, and also on propositions signed by 5 members which have been transmitted to the directors at least ten days before the meeting, to be placed on the order of the day. Elections and revocations are made by secret ballot. On other propositions and subjects the voting is done by yeas and nays. A majority of those voting is required to elect an officer. Directors or censors can be dismissed only by a vote of three-quarters of the votes cast, which must represent at least one-half of the capital stock of the bank. a The acts of the general assembly are valid only when the number of shares represented is at least 20,000 out of the 50,000 outstanding. At a meeting where the absence of a quorum is thus developed it is permissible for the owners of less than 10 shares to combine and place them in the charge of shareholders having the right to vote. Resolutions at such meetings must be carried by a vote of at least two-thirds and are effective only when approved by the governor. a Lois Organiques: Statuts, pp. 36-39. 107 National Monetary Commission In 1898 the number of registered shares was 26,200 and shares to bearer 23,800. At the close of 1908 the number registered was 24,221 and the number to bearer was 25,779. In 1898 the registered shares were divided between 999 owners, of which 673 possessed at least the 10 shares required to participate in the annual meetings. In 1908 the 24,221 registered shares were distributed between 889 owners, of which 584 possessed at least 10 shares. INTERNAL ORGANIZATION AND P E R S O N N E L . Employment in the clerical grades of the National Bank of Belgium is not remunerated with large salaries, but is likely to be permanent if the employee is faithful, and is followed by allowances for old age and retirement after a certain period of service. In order to enter the employment of the Bank it is necessary to be not less than 18 nor more than 28 years of age. The applicants must pass an examination and be in position to furnish the bond required for faithful service. The examination may be dispensed with in the case of graduates of commercial and consular schools. Preference is given to graduates knowing, in addition to French, the Flemish, English, and German languages, and in those positions involving contact with the Flemish element of the population, including Brussels, knowledge of Flemish is required. No one is promoted to a higher grade unless he has served two years in his present grade, and no one can attain an increase of salary until he has served two years at his current rate of pay when the latter is above 1,800 francs ($347.40); but these rules may be suspended if the interests of the Bank require or if exceptional services are to be recompensed. 108 National Bank of Belgium The council of administration is also authorized to confer special employments, either temporary or permanent, upon persons chosen from the ranks of the Bank or from outsider Employees who are incapable of fulfilling their functions by reason of temporary disability, those who have obtained a leave for a long term, those whose places have been suppressed and to whom a waiting allowance has been allotted, and those who have been suspended from their functions by way of discipline, are put in a class known as the "inactive." Inactivity is limited to two years, but may in special cases be prolonged to four years by decision of the council. Those who are on the inactive roll by reason of temporary disability enjoy a compensation of half their regular salary where they have seen ten years of service or less and three-quarters of their regular salary where they have seen more than ten years' service. It is left to the administrative council to fix the waiting salary of those who are on the inactive list as a measure of discipline. Employees are not allowed to hold a place outside the Bank unless by authority of the council of administration. Absolute secrecy is enjoined upon employees in regard to all the operations of the establishment. The penalties provided for violation of the rules of the Bank are the reprimand, deprivation of salary, suspension of functions, transfer to the inactive list, reduction by one or several grades, and dismissal. These penalties can be inflicted only after the employee has had an opportunity for explanation. b a Lois Organiques: Statuts, pp. 62-66. & Ibid., pp. 67-68 109 National Monetary Commission The hours during which the Bank is open to the public are from 9.30 to 3. The working hours are from 9.30 to 4, but employees are bound to work longer if the needs of the service require. Leaves of absence are not ordinarily allowed to exceed two weeks. The salaries paid to subordinates at the Bank, as already stated, are small, in accordance with the modest cost of living in Belgium. The adequacy of these salaries was the subject of a lively discussion in the Chamber of Deputies pending the renewal of the charter in 1900. An amendment was offered by M. Bertrand, proposing that the Bank should establish a scale of salaries which should be submitted for approval to the Minister of Finance and Public Works and that no salary should be less than 1,200 francs ($231.60) per year. It was further provided that active collectors should draw from 1,800 to 2,100 francs and that the minimum for employees in the bureaus should be 1,500 francs.^ This amendment was ultimately rejected by a vote of 19 in the affirmative and 61 in the negative, but the discussion threw some interesting light on the position and compensation of various classes of employees. The Socialist members made themselves champions of the minor employees of the Bank and pointed out the difficulty of living on the modest allowances which they received. M. Defnet declared that the National Bank recruited a certain number of its collectors from former subaltern officers of the army, who gave up their posts after an experience of eight years without any trade or position and became applicants for places on the police or at the Bank. These young men, he declared, who had practically been o Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, sitting of February 9, p . 727. no National Bank of Belgium employed for sixteen years in the army, knew nothing of civil life. They are thoroughly disciplined by long service in the regiment and the Bank seeks them out and offers them the place of a collector at an average of 70 francs per month, the minimum which is guaranteed. M. Defnet read a letter from one of these employees, declaring that their situation was far from being brilliant or enviable. Entering the service as supernumeraries at 4 francs per day with a minimum pay assured of 70 francs ($13.51) per month, they obtained after two years an increase of 50 centimes per day and a minimum of 80 francs ($15.46) per month. After five years they are accorded 5 francs per day, with a minimum of 90 francs per month. At the end of five years' apprenticeship of this sort they became collectors of the second class at 1,400 francs ($270.20) per year, where they remained for six years before obtaining 1,600 francs, and another six years before being promoted to the first class with 1,800 francs. M. Defnet continued by referring to the brigadiers, who superintend the collectors, who might at the end of twenty-five years of service draw 2,400 francs ($463.20). These employees, he declared, were daily in contact with the public, which subjected them to expenses greater than those of other employees or laborers, including being well clothed and wearing clean linen. Continuing, M. Defnet exclaimed : "Do you believe, gentlemen, that it is easy to live a t Brussels, where the cost of living is so high, where rents are at unapproachable figures, on 70 francs per month? Do you believe that it is possible, with such a salary, to honestly support a family? And even this monthly salary in National Monetary Commission of 70 to 80 francs they do not always receive, for here is what I find in the rules regarding the collectors of the Bank:<* " ' Errors of calculation, the acceptance of money which is not legal tender, bills torn or valueless, shall be charged to them/ "The fund for these collectors is not available for errors below 25 francs, and it is these errors which are most numerous." It developed during the debate that the limitation authorized by article 61 of the statutes, by which the share of the profits allotted to the directors might be limited to 80,000 francs for each six months, had not been put in operation. It was stated that the governor at that time received 50,000 francs as his share of the annual profits, making with his salary of 18,000 francs a total compensation of 68,000 francs ($13,124) in addition to his handsome habitation—furnished, heated, and lighted. The vice-governor received 47,000 francs, each of the directors 44,000 francs, and the censors 7,500 francs. It was suggested by the representatives of the Government that the adequacy of the salaries paid was demonstrated by the ability of the Bank to obtain all the help it needed in competition with the joint-stock and private banks and other employments. It was declared also by M. Liebaert, Minister of Railways, Posts, and Telegraph, that there was a fund of 73,000 francs for making up losses on the part of the collectors to the amount of 50 per cent where such losses were above 20 francs. It would not do, said M. Delbeke, to hold the employees entirely free from a Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, p. 737. 112 National Bank of Belgium responsibility for losses, because it would impair their vigilance. M. Delbeke declared also that he did not claim perfection for the entire mechanism of the Bank and that a project for the improvement of the position of the employees was in course of preparation. This declaration was greeted with derision from the Socialist benches, and it was said by M. Bertrand that it recalled the old sign of the barber, "Free shaves to-morrow." a The promise of M. Delbeke was not carried out on a large scale at that time, but in recent years better care has been taken' of the employees and the Bank has extended the insurance fund for retirement and old age. For several years small amounts were set aside for this purpose, reaching during the first six months of 1906, 31,246 francs ($6,000). At the close of 1906, however, it was recommended that out of the abundant earnings of the Bank a sum should be set aside of 250,000 francs for the extension of institutions of insurance and old age. It was stated in the annual report for 1906 that the organization of such a fund among the personnel of the Bank extended back to 1880, but so numerous, varied, and unforseen had been the necessities, which the Bank could not afford to disregard in a personnel of 695 employees, that the fund previously provided was incapable of taking charge of the widows, orphans, and employees. The administration had never failed to meet such emergencies, but had met them chiefly from general resources. It was recommended that a permanent fund be established and for this purpose the sum of 250,000 francs was allotted for the second half of the year 1906. « Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, p. 745. 85519—10 8 113 N a ti o n a I Monetary Commission The report for 1907 declared that the council of administration had been pursuing the study of the reorganization and extension of the insurance institutions and had reached a rational solution of the question. From January 1, 188oy to December 31, 1907, it was announced that the force of the central administration of the branch at Antwerp had been affiliated with a tontine insurance institution, main* tained by the deduction of 4 per cent from salaries and by an equal grant on the part of the Bank. This organization settled only imperfectly the question of retirement, because the fund conferred on its participants only the prospects of an indeterminate allotment, which it was inconvenient to reduce to definiteness. It was better, evidently, to substitute for this condition the certainty of a retirement pension bearing some relation to the position which the employee had occupied at the Bank. The same uncertainty existed in the case of death of an employee in relation to his widow and children. The new organization, however, permitted the employees to depend in advance on the allotments which would fall to them at the time of retirement and gave them the assurance that, if they died before or after retirement, their widows and children should be beyond the reach of want. The fundamental character of the new institution, embracing not only the entire personnel of the central administration and of the branch at Antwerp, but also the agents in the provinces and their employees, was as follows: " 1. Every functionary or employee has the right, at the age of retirement, to a life pension equal to two-thirds of his final salary. 114 National Bank of Belgium li 2. The death of an agent confers on his widow t h e right to the immediate enjoyment of a life pension, representing an important percentage of the pension of t h e husband. " 3 . Every orphan of t h e father or mother less t h a n 18 years of age, receives a temporary allowance u p t o 18 years, equal to 300 or 500 francs." I n order to assure the regular working of the new institution, t h e general council of the Bank did not hesitate t o vote a subvention, to be included in general expenses, which might reach 10 per cent of t h e total a m o u n t of wages and salaries. In order to anticipate demands upon the fund after J a n u a r y 1, 1908, extraordinary grants were made, rising to a total of 1,000,000 francs. a This sum wras m a d e up of the allotment for the second half of 1906 of 250,000 francs; the first half of 1907, 400,000 francs; and the second half of 1907, 350,000 francs. The regular allotments for the two half years of 1907 h a d risen respectively t o 33,933 francs and t o 34,645 francs. Under the working of the new plan, however, these allotments were increased for the first half of 1908 to 123,421 francs and the second half of 1908 to 130,836 francs, making a total for the year of 254,257 francs ($49,000). b BRANCHES AND DISCOUNT OFFICES. The system of branches of the National Bank of Belgium is of a distinctive character. There is, strictly speaking, b u t one actual branch of the central institution a Rapport, sur les operations de Tannee, 1907, pp. 25-27. & Rapport, 1908, Resume du compte de Profits et Pertes. "5 National Monetary Commission a t Brussels. This branch is located at Antwerp, t h e chief commercial city of Belgium. The scope of the activities of the Bank, however, is far from being limited to these two establishments. There are 39 agencies, with which are associated, to the number of thirty, w h a t are known as discount offices (comptoirs d'escompte). These discount offices act as guarantors for much of the paper discounted by t h e Bank. They are usually private partnerships (societes en nom collectif), b u t they m a y be constit u t e d under several other forms, as joint-stock companies or even as cooperative companies. I t was declared, in t h e replies of t h e Government to certain questions of t h e central committee of t h e chambers, in 1899, t h a t there existed no definite requirement as to form in the organization of t h e comptoirs, b u t t h a t t h e administration of t h e Bank was bound to determine if t h e form proposed would afford t h e necessary guaranties. In one case at least a corporation—the Bank of Flanders—had performed t h e functions of a discount office at Ghent, during a considerable p e r i o d s The character of business done b}^ these offices is thus defined b y M. des Essars: 6 " U n d e r t h e n a m e of comptoirs d'escompte (discount bureaus), associations of persons are permitted b y t h e general council to discount such paper as is specified b y the regulations of the Bank a t rates and under conditions prescribed by t h e general council. T h e paper admitted b y t h e comptoirs is indorsed t o t h e Bank direct. Each comptoir is held responsible; so t h a t bad paper is returned t o t h e bureau from which it emanated, and which has to a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 194. & A History of Banking in all the Leading Nations, I I I , p. 272. 116 National Bank of Belgium make good the amount. The individuals associated in the comptoir receive a commission on paper that they discount to remunerate them for their trouble and reward them for the risk they take. The commissions are determined by special arrangements. In general, the discount bureaus are located at the agencies of the Bank, the agents lending them half of their offices for their discount business and their bookkeeping." A form of bond (cautionnement) is required in most cases from the discount office. This bond is fixed, not by any rigid rule, but according to circumstances. The Bank, in fixing the bond, takes into consideration the importance of the business of the discount offices, the nature of the security, and the solvency of the parties. The form of contract between the comptoir and the Bank sets forth in considerable detail the obligations imposed on both sides. The National Bank submits to the examination of the comptoir all the paper which may be presented for discount at the agency with which the comptoir is connected. The comptoir undertakes to examine and appraise such paper and to guarantee that the Bank shall be subjected to no loss on paper discounted through its intervention. The comptoir is required to restrict the paper dealt with to the requirements of the statutes of the Bank. Discounts are granted provisionally by the agents of the Bank, subject to admission by the comptoir. The discount of a given piece of paper becomes definitive only if it is not returned within one day by the Bank. The Bank has the right to suspend or limit the operations of a comptoir. The comptoir admits foreign drafts only upon the authority of the Bank. It admits paper of which one of the required signatures comes from 117 N a t tonal Monetary Commission a member of the comptoir only after authorization by the Bank. There is allotted to the comptoir as remuneration for its management and guarantee a commission on the product of discount, which is fixed at one-quarter up to the rate of 4 per cent; one-eighth upon the excess of the rate above 4 per cent up to 5 per cent. Nothing is allowed beyond 5 per cent. To relieve the Bank of clerical expenses and rent which it assumes for the comptoir, the Bank retains 20 per cent of the commission. The comptoir is required to admit the agent of the Bank to all its meetings, and to consider his observations, which he may require to be entered in the records. The Bank places its documents at the disposition of the comptoir, but does not assume responsibility for them. Paper admitted by the comptoir which is not paid at maturity, or which is sent back by the Bank, shall be immediately reimbursed to the agency of the Bank. The 39 agencies of the Bank are presided over by agents, who are appointed by the King because they are recognized as responsible for the administration of the public funds as well as those of the Bank. The Government has required the establishment of agencies where it has judged suitable with reference to the movement of public funds, and in some cases where the Bank has not found it advisable to establish a discount office. These agents are required to reside in the locality where the agency is established. They look only to the governor of the Bank for their orders/' They are forbidden to carry on any business foreign to the management of their a Lois Organiques: Statuts, p. 103. 118 National Bank of Belgium agency and can not accept any function without the express authority of the council of administration of the Bank. They are divided into three classes, those of the first class receiving salaries ranging from 12,000 to 15,000 francs ($2,895), those of the second class from 9,000 to 12,000 francs ($2,316), and those of the third class from 6,000 to 9,000 francs ($1,737). An allotment for expenses is made by the council of administration of the Bank. Every agent is required to submit all his books, accounts, and cash and to give all desired information to any delegate of the central administration who may appear with proper credentials to make an inspection. The business done by the comptoirs represents a considerable proportion, but not the major part, of the business of the Bank. The 30 comptoirs are located at the principal towns of Belgium and practically extend the facilities of the Bank throughout the Kingdom. The places at which agencies of the Bank were established at the close of 1908 were the following, those where there was no comptoir being in italics: Agencies of the National Bank of Belgium. [Italics denote absence of a comptoir.] Alost. Arlon. Ath. Audenarde. Boom. Bruges. Charier oi. Courtrai. Dinant. Kecloo. Fumes. Gand. Grammont Hasselt. Huy. La Louviere. Liege. Lou vain. M alines. Marche. Mons. Namur. Neuf chateau. Nivelles. Ostende. Peruwelz. 119 Philippeville. Renaix. Routers. Saint-Nicolas. Soignies. Termonde. Tirlemont. Tongres. Tournai. Turnhout. Venders. Wavre. Ypres. National Monetary Commission T h e proportion of business done through t h e comptoirs has not changed radically in recent years, b u t t h e discounts granted at Brussels have declined in importance in comparison with those granted at t h e branch a t Antwerp. The changes in t h e ratio of business done at t h e branch a t Antwerp and a t other offices of t h e Bank is indicated in t h e table below: Discount at the branches and discount offices, iooo, 1904, and 1008. 1900. Source of discounts. Number of bills. Amount. Percentage. Francs. At comptoirs At the branch At Brussels 1,958,478 240,824 1,576,821 1, 1 6 5 , 6 8 4 , 3 3 8 442,607,931 1, 1 4 1 , 4 1 6 , 3 5 8 42. 4 16. 1 1,106,975,150 38.8 33-7 37.5 41.5 1904. 2, 1 0 1 , 0 1 9 At the branch At Brussels 312,462 i.657,535 6 7 7 , 4 2 3 , 204 1,071,037,539 1908. At comptoirs __ At the branch _ At Brussels 2,335,878 382,500 1,708,271 ,340,486,433 957,258,367 758,150,488 43-9 31.3 24.8 CHANGES IN CAPITAL AND SURPLUS. T h e original capital of t h e National Bank of Belgium, as fixed in t h e law of 1850, was 25,000,000 francs ($4,825,000), divided into 25,000 shares of 1,000 francs each. This was increased in 1872 t o 50,000,000 francs. I t was declared b y t h e Minister of Finance, in submitting his project for t h e renewal of t h e charter in December, 1898, National Bank of Belgium t h a t it did not seem necessary to authorize a further increase of capital. The a m o u n t of real capital available, if t h e reserve fund were included, was already more t h a n 76,000,000 francs and was subject to annual increments of increase. To increase t h e legal capital would be to divert from employment which might be more useful funds upon which, if they were thus employed, t h e Bank would be obliged to earn a dividend. 0 I t was pointed out in t h e report of M. Delbeke t h a t a b a n k of circulation does not require so large a capital in proportion to liabilities as is required in banks of discount. I n early b a n k s of deposit t h e capital played t h e role of a guaranty. I n b a n k s of discount also t h e capital served for advances and was t h e basis for banking operations. If they were large, it was necessary t h a t t h e capital should also be large. Industrial b a n k s relied upon their capital to sustain their varied enterprises. B u t it was otherwise with a b a n k of issue. Such a b a n k does not discount with its capital, b u t offsets its discounts b y notes payable on demand. T h e capital is not, it was contended, t h e basis of t h e operations of t h e National B a n k ; it serves only as an insurance fund against miscalculations in t h e acceptance of paper for discount. T h e argument of t h e government on this subject was set forth more fully in t h e report m a d e t o t h e Senate b y t h e Chevalier Descamps. This report declared: b " T h e share capital of a b a n k of issue m a y properly be modest without harming its credit, because its role is secondary, subsidiary, and so to speak contingent. On a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 9. 6 Ibid., pp. 381-383. 121 National Monetary Commission t h e one hand, t h e wise limits imposed upon t h e policy of a b a n k of issue exclude from t h e scope of its operations t h e more compromising of banking operations. On t h e other hand, t h e activities of a b a n k of issue do not have t h e share capital as t h e basis of operations. I t concerns itself especially with t h e exchange of notes at sight against securities of equal value, quickly convertible, which fill t h e assets of t h e b a n k to just t h e extent t h a t notes are issued and which are regularly called upon, b y their graduated maturities, to provide a succession of repayments. " The discount-issuing machine being in motion, t h e capital is called upon only to provide eventually for advances from the assets, rare and generally unimportant, for short anticipations of maturities and m o m e n t a r y congestions of circulation, which do not ordinarily occur in a sudden manner, which m a y be conjured or modified b y m a n y measures, which constitute a serious and constant care, rather t h a n an accident compromising to the life of t h e institution. " T h e soundness of a b a n k of issue reposes then essentially not upon its capital, b u t upon t h e quality of t h e securities which have found a place in its assets as a count e r p a r t of the notes. Its credit arises from t h e n a t u r e of its operations and t h e prudence of its administrators in conforming their management t o these requirements." This argument was carried further t h a n t h e Governm e n t wished in t h e discussions in t h e chambers, b y t h e proposal of Professor Denis, t h a t t h e capital should be reduced t o 25,000,000 francs, where it stood in 1872, and t h a t t h e reserve fund (or surplus) should be distributed at 122 National Bank of Belgium once to the shareholders. Future losses, Professor Denis proposed, should be met from an insurance fund, to be constituted by a levy upon the annual profits of an amount not exceeding three times the ascertained losses upon the average of the years 1872 to 1898, which he computed at about one-thirtieth of 1 per cent (0.034) annually. a M. Denis denied that anything in the risks involved justified the doubling of the capital in 1872. The impairments of the portfolio of discounts figured, for the entire period which had elapsed, at a little more than 5,000,000 francs, or something like 9 to 10 centimes per 100 francs of securities discounted. The profits had in no case suffered; whence it followed that the doubling of the capital was not justified according to the laws of 1850 or 1872 as interpreted by M. Frere-Orban himself, who assigned to capital simply the role of guaranteeing the Bank against the impairment of discounts, The consequences of doubling the capital had been to double the amount of dividends. From an average of 3,075,000 francs ($593,500) prior to 1872 they had become about 6,000,000 francs ($1,158,000).b It was frankly admitted by M. Delbeke, the reporter for the Government, that a capital of 75,000,000 francs (including reserve funds) was not indispensable, but he did not consider prudent the reduction of the amount, because the Bank was charged with the service of the public treasury and of the savings banks, and in these relations was the custodian of several hundreds of millions. He opposed, however, the increase of the capital, which a Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, p. 459, &Ibid., p. 466. 123 N a tio nal Monetary Commission some were urging in order to make the Bank a more impressive figure midst the private institutions of large resources which had grown up around it. He declared that the object of the capital was to separate private from public credit. It was necessary that it be sufficient to give to private interest the power to resist the injurious interference of the State and large enough to fulfill the guaranties, both principal and accessory, which a bank of issue took upon itself in every country; but any increase beyond these requirements would lock up needlessly capital which, if left at liberty, would find a more useful employment in the industrial and commercial activity of the country. 0 It was provided by the law of May 5, 1850, that at least one-third of the annual profits in excess of 6 per cent of capital should be employed in building up a reserve. This proportion to be set aside from profits was reduced by the law of May 20, 1872, to 15 per cent of the profits in excess of 6 per cent. A still further change was made by the law of March 26, 1900, reducing to 10 per cent of excess profits the amount required to be covered annually into the reserve, but providing that such distribution should begin after the payment of a dividend of 4 per cent.6 These reductions in the proportion of profits required to be set aside to the reserve fund were justified, in the opinion of the Belgian lawmakers, by the rapid accumulation of the reserve and the experience of the small demands which were made upon it. The reserve had risen at the close of 1871 to 14,491,547.20 francs, which was then — 4 a Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, pp. 271-272. & Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 583. 124 . National Bank of Belgium required to be invested exclusively in public funds. These funds were carried at first at the purchase price. A change was made during the year 1872 by which the appreciation of these securities was recognized by calculating them at the actual quotations on the Bourse. At the end of 1872, with this change of valuation and the accretions of the year, the value of the reserve fund stood at 20,269,075 francs ($3,811,400). It was accordingly decided that the increase of capital authorized by the new charter of 1872 should be obtained to the amount of 12,500,000 francs by transferring this amount from the reserve fund to capital. This reduced the reserve by a corresponding amount, but left it at the end of 1873, with the profits of that year, at 7,671,842 francs. Further increases carried the amount upward by an average of about 700,000 francs annually until it stood at the close of 1887 at 20,199,422 francs.0 The decision made in the enactment of the new charter in 1900, not to provide for any increase of capital, prevented any radical change in the status of the reserve. The additional share given to the Government in the net earnings in 1900 was, however, made retroactive for the year 1899. It was declared, in the concluding article of the law of March 26, 1900, that the Bank should pay into the treasury from its reserve fund the amount necessary to bring up its payments for 1899 to the requirements of the new law and that the amount thus paid from the reserve should be restored in installments levied upon subsequent earnings. In pursuance of these requirements the Bank paid over to the treasury a sum of 1,487,258 francs ($287,000), but a Noel, Les Banques d'Emission en Europe, I, pp. 544-545. 125 N a tional Monetary Commission t h e regular addition made by the Bank to its reserve at t h e close of the year 1900 was 846,092 francs, and a special addition was made by way of restitution to the a m o u n t of 350,000 francs, leaving the reserve at the close of 1900 at 27,629,794 francs ($5,332,000), or less t h a n 300,000 francs below the amount at which it originally stood at the close of 1899.^ The Bank keeps invested in securities an a m o u n t which is practically equal to the whole of the capital and reserve, b u t t h e entire a m o u n t — a b o u t 85,000,000 francs ($16,400,000)—is a small proportion of t h e total assets of t h e banking department, which stood on December 31, 1908, a t 1,019,461,475 francs ($196,760,000). The amount held in public funds which is not set aside for the reserve is treated as p a r t of the general assets of the Bank and is not charged distinctively against the capital. The annual reports give in detail the public funds held outside the reserve, b u t not in all cases t h e composition of the reserve itself. The funds t h u s held in both accounts at t h e close of 1900 were classified, a t par value, as follows: Investments in public funds. General investments. Class of funds. Reserve fund. Francs. 6, 656,300 Francs. 7,347.5oo 8,800,200 34,100,600 6 , 3 1 1 , 500 Belgian 214 percents Belgian 3 percents: First series Second series Third series Annuity Bank 3 percents Annuity Bank 4 percents Society of Communal Credit 3 percents. Local railway guaranteed 3 percents 1,735.700 r,801,800 122,IOO 641,500 256,460 17,000,000 1 , 0 9 5 . 400 o Rapport: 1900, p. 22. 126 National Bank of Belgium T h e general investment fund kept in securities has not been changed in character or a m o u n t for a series of years. While t h e reserve fund has grown, its composition is dismissed in t h e report for 1908 with t h e statement t h a t it consists of "Belgian and foreign securities representing a capital of 35,545,165 francs ($6,860,000)/ J The reserve fund, in spite of deductions for losses from time t o time advanced from 20,199,422 francs at the close of 1887 to 27,920,960 francs a t t h e close of 1899; 31,150,684 francs a t t h e close of 1904; 32,203,509 francs at t h e close of 1905; 33,261,375 francs a t t h e close of 1906; 34,389,700 francs a t t h e close of 1907; and 35,545,165 francs a t t h e close of 1908. EARNINGS AND DIVIDENDS. The National Bank has earned a fair rate of profit upon its capital since its foundation. The net profits above cost of operation have been applied in p a r t to t h e increase of t h e reserve, in p a r t to the p a y m e n t of taxes and charges t o the State, and in p a r t to t h e p a y m e n t of dividends t o shareholders. The cost of administration has steadily grown, largely as the result of the services performed gratuitously for the treasury and the National Savings Bank, which have greatly expanded in recent years. The details of these financial obligations to the S t a t e will be discussed under a separate head. How rapid has been t h e increase in total operations, in cost of administration, and how heavily t h e payments to t h e State have borne upon t h e net earnings remaining for distribution, is indicated by t h e table following. 127 National Monetary Earnings Year. and cost of operation. Movement of operations. Francs. 1892 1897 1902 1907 Commission 18,864,409.343 23,880,970,766 31,490,349,019 3 2 , 179, 502, 121 36,085,207,044 40,424,814,815 45.034,519.641 51,162,602,291 50,804,771,498 Cost of administration. Gross product. Francs. Francs. 10,789,230 12,665,355 17.585.180 16,662,898 i8,395,748 18,498,899 19, 7 0 4 . 4 0 9 21,122,923 20,639,024 2,235,583 2 , 4 3 1 , 279 3,010,323 3, 230,098 3,399.153 3,651,852 3 , 9 4 i , 717 3,887,953 4,026,968 Net earnings, after deducting taxes, depreciation, etc. Francs. 6,454,679 7. 5 4 5 . 7 2 0 10,458,703 1 1 , 0 4 1 , 731 n.375.075 1 1 , 5 4 1 , 778 11,792,181 1 2 , 5 4 1 , 791 12,541,964 The net profits and dividends during the earlier history of the Bank, and the percentage of dividends paid to the actual prices of issue of the stock, appear in the following tabled Annual profits and dividends, 1852-1887. N e t profits. 1852 1855 i860 1865 1870 1871 1874 1875 1880 1881 1882 1883 1884 1885 1886 1887 A m o u n t of dividend. Francs. 2,193.566 2,915,927 3,765,467 3,979,456 4, 1 1 7 . 9 8 5 6,066,552 9,416,652 8,213,647 7,182,134 8,551,104 10, 0 4 7 , 239 8, 7 2 7 , 3 8 7 7,820,368 7,455,26r 7 , 0 9 1 , 232 7, 728, i n Francs. 1,675,000 2, 0 3 1 , 250 2.743,75o 2 , 9 9 3 , 75o 3,262,500 3,956,250 6,583,750 5,980,000 5,250,000 6,000,000 6,825,000 6,100,000 5,600,000 5,400,000 5,200,000 5, 5 5 0 , 0 0 0 a Noel, L e s B a n q u e s d'Amission en B u r o p e , I, p . 542. P e r c e n t a g e of dividend to issue p r i c e of s t o c k . 6. 70 8.125 10.975 H-975 13.050 15-825 13-1675 1 1 . 96 10. 50 12. 00 13-65 12. 20 1 1 . 20 10. 80 10. 40 1 1 . 10 National Bank of Belgium Up to the renewal of the charter in 1900, the distribution of dividends had rarely exceeded 6,000,000 francs ($1,158,000). Even this allotment to shareholders was the subject of severe criticism from the Socialist benches in the Chamber of Deputies and a merit was made by the Government of its proposals, by which a larger share of earnings was to go into the public treasury and the proportion of earnings going to shareholders was to be reduced. There were protests from some of the Socialist members against giving the Bank more than a fixed interest upon its capital. It was contended by Professor Denis that the risk involved was small and that the return upon the investment was excessively larger M. Bertrand offered an amendment guaranteeing an interest of 5 per cent during the thirty years of the proposed new charter, and declared that it was a very handsome minimum compensation to an idle capital which was exposed to not the slightest risk. The surplus of profits, which had already risen above 4,000,000 francs for the year 1908, he proposed should be paid every year into an old age pension fund for laborers. 6 In response to these contentions, M. Liebaert, Minister of Industry and Labor, maintained that the real dividend under the new charter would not exceed 6.55 per cent upon the value of capital and surplus. He disclaimed computations based upon the market value of the shares, which would have afforded a still lower rate of return, but took the value of the property in case of liquidation by adding the surplus to the paid-up capital. He a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, pp. 76-81. b Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, p . 535. 85519—10 9 129 National Monetary Commission justified the continuance of an elastic dividend rate in the following terms: a " I repeat what I said last week—is there any hope, seeking all around us, of finding a private corporation which would agree to establish a bank of issue under the conditions stipulated by the pending bill, with the expectation of a return of 6.55 per cent? For my part, I believe that it would be an absolutely useless effort, and this simple observation answers everything which has been said in favor of amendments proposing other systems of division of profits." While the growth in the business of the Bank resulted in higher profits in later years than were generally calculated upon in the discussion of 1900, the share of the State, including both special taxes and division of profits, exceeded the amount allotted to shareholders in dividends by more than 50 per cent even in 1907. The large amount paid into the treasury at that time was derived from the excess of the discount rate above 2>% P e r cent, all of which went to the State. The dividends paid to shareholders in 1907, which were the largest ever paid up to that date, were 8,300,000 francs ($1,602,000); the amount paid into the public treasury was 12,721,111 francs ($2,455,000). How these dividends have increased in recent years, in spite of the large proportion of earnings taken by the State, appears in the following table: o Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, p. 544. 130 National Bank of Dividends distributed, Belgium 1892-1908. Amount of dividend. Francs. 1892 1897 1898 1899 Rate per share. Per cent. 4,850,000 9- 70 5,450,000 10. 9 0 5, 5 0 0 , 0 0 0 11. 0 0 6,050,000 12. 10 1900 7, 0 5 0 , 0 0 0 14. 10 1901 7, 3 0 0 , 0 0 0 14. 6 0 1902 7,400,000 14. 8 0 1903 7,500,000 15.00 1904 7,600,000 15- 2 0 1905 7, 700, 0 0 0 15.40 1906 7,650,000 15.70 1907 8, 3 0 0 , 0 0 0 16. 6 0 1908 8,300,000 16. 6 0 SHARE OF THE STATE IN THE PROFITS OF THE BANK. The proportion of the earnings of the National Bank of Belgium taken by the Government is large, but not larger than at some other European banks under the latest revisions of their charters. As the provisions of the charter on this subject are somewhat intricate it may afford a view of their general scope, before taking them up in detail, to give the summary made by the present writer elsewhere:a " Under the extension of the charter in 1872 the Bank was required to pay a patent tax on the gross volume of business, a stamp tax on its notes, and a tax of one-quarter of 1 per cent semiannually on the excess of the circulation above 275,000,000 francs. These provisions were continued by the law of March 26, 1900. The other principal taxes levied by the law7 of 1872 were one-quarter of the net profits of the bank above 6 per cent and on discounts a History of Modern Banks of Issue: 1909, p . 284. 131 National Monetary Commission the entire excess of receipts above a rate of 5 per cent.'* These two limits were radically changed in 1900. Henceforth one-quarter of the profits was to go to the State after 4 per cent had been distributed to the shareholders and all profits obtained from a discount rate above 3 X P e r c e n t were to find their way into the public treasury." 6 These taxes were the subject of careful discussion by the Government in presenting the project for the renewal of the charter in 1898, because it was anticipated that they would be attacked by the Socialist members of the chambers. In the statement of reasons for the government project submitted by the Minister of Finance the right of the State to impose a special tax upon the earnings of the Bank was based upon the argument that "the profits of the bank are derived solely from the privilege granted to it of issuing notes which are received in the offices of the Treasury." Discussing the best means of levying the share of the State, the minister continued as follows:c "To levy directly upon the profits resulting from issue would appear at first to be the most rational system. It is the principle by virtue of which the State, after a preliminary allotment to the share capital, assumes for itself a portion of the net profit of the Bank. Would it not be suitable either to increase this proportion or to collect a share in the gross profits on productive operations, saving the right to abandon the benefits of half of 1 per cent on the credit circulation exceeding 275,000,000 francs? " A profound examination led the Government to recognize that if, on the one hand, the reform should result in the a Noel, I, p . 563. 6 Bulletin de Statistique, April, 1900, X L V I I , p . 422. c Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 16. 132 National Bank of Belgium abolition of a combination whose conception is more or less tainted with empiricism, it would result, on the other hand, according to every probability, in a considerable reduction of the receipts of the State in the future. It is sufficient to cast a glance over the following table to note that the profits of the Bank, far from following the regular ascending course of the circulation and of the tax of one-half of i per cent, scarcely maintain themselves: "Proceeds of tax on circulation. Net profits. Francs. 7, 455,018 1890 1891 1892 1893 1894 189s 1896 1897 8, 183,073 8, 090,981 7. 363, 962 6,454,697 6,454,695 6,454,688 6, 182, 132 7,000,418 7,545,720 Average amount of circulation. Francs. 361,030,000 363, 258,910 382,509,680 391, 080, 660 405,862,150 411, 887, 150 429,358,450 450,413,100 451,708,950 476,654,470 Increase over previous year. Francs. 2, 228, 910 19,050, 770 8,770,980 14, 781,490 6,025,000 17,471,300 21,054, 650 1, 295,850 24,945,520 Amount of tax on excess circulation. Francs. 413,000 418,961 518,138 555,977 633, n o 660,664 748,739 851, 173 858,354 977,967 A further table, submitted by the minister upon the estimated increase in circulation of the ten years ending with 1908, showed a steady increase in the amount of the circulation with a corresponding increase in the tax collected. The estimated increase was from an average of 486,000,000 francs in 1898 to 611,000,000 francs in 1908. This estimate has been exceeded by the actual movement of the circulation. Commenting upon these estimates, the Minister of Finance declared that the maintenance of the clause imposing a duty upon the circulation was eminently favorable to the State, because it guaranteed to the treas133 National Mo net ar y Commission u r y a sure return, whatever might be t h e net profits realized b y t h e Bank. " H o w e v e r reduced those profits m a y b e , " he declared, " i t none t h e less remains t r u e t h a t t h e privilege of issue constitutes a source of profit t o t h e Bank." Turning to t h e i m p o r t a n t provision allotting a share in t h e net profits of t h e Bank to t h e Government, the minister declared t h a t if it was just t h a t in r e t u r n for t h e privilege of note issue the S t a t e should obtain a share in t h e profits, it was also equitable to leave t o t h e shareholders a revenue in proper proportion to the employment of their money and to t h e services which t h e Bank was called upon to render. By t h e law of 1850 t h e allotment of dividends to the shareholders, before t h e participation of t h e S t a t e in t h e profits, was 6 per cent, and t h e a m o u n t of t h e participation of t h e S t a t e above this dividend was one-sixth. As pointed out in t h e Senate report of t h e Chevalier Descamps, the lightness of t h e t a x was based upon t h e fact t h a t the future of t h e institution was n o t yet firmly established. By the law of 1872 t h e limit of t h e dividend allotted to the shareholders before t h e participation of t h e S t a t e was left a t 6 per cent. The share of t h e S t a t e above t h a t amount, however, was increased from one-sixth to one-quarter. This increase was considered in a measure as a compensation to the treasury for t h e fact t h a t the increase of t h e capital from 25,000,000 francs t o 50,000,000 francs would require a larger a m o u n t for dividends to the shareholders and would therefore reduce t h e amount from which t h e share of t h e S t a t e would be derived. W i t h a capital of 25,000,000 francs, t h e sum of 1,500,000 francs would be required for a divi134 National Bank of Belgium dend of 6 per cent, while with the enlarged capital the dividend would require 3,000,000 francs. A much more radical proposal was brought forward by the Government in 1898. This was in effect that the dividend allotted to the shareholders before division with the State should be reduced from 6 per cent to 4 per cent. The essential reason assigned by the Minister of Finance for this change, was the decline which had occurred since 1872 in the rate for the loan of capital. It was declared in the Senate report that the grant made to the State of an increased share in the profits was the more remarkable, as the general dividends of the shareholders of the Bank were inferior to the average of dividends declared in similar industries in the country. " I t is not without interest to recall,'' declared the report, " t h a t the actual quotations of the shares of the Bank are very near the level of those of 1872, while from 1850 to 1872 there was a considerable advance." The total allotments to the State under this clause, from the beginning of 1873 to the close of 1899, were 31,104,864 francs, which afforded an annual average of 1,152,032 francs ($223,000).° The third important burden imposed upon the profits of the Bank is the requirement that the entire excess of profits derived from a discount rate above a fixed figure shall be paid into the public treasury. In this respect, as in the distribution of net profits, the law of 1900 was more exacting than prior laws. A law of May 5, 1865, had provided that there should be paid into the public treasury the amount of the difference between the discount rate collected by the Bank and the legal rate, which was a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 390. 135 National Monetary Commission then fixed at 6 per cent. The general law of December 20, 1890, changed this legal rate to 4 X per cent in civil matters and 5 X P e r c e n t in commercial matters. a The law of 1872, renewing the charter, reduced the rate of discount beyond which all profits should be covered into the public treasury to 5 per cent. It was not without resistance that the Government prevented at that time the anticipation of the later reduction of 1900 to 3 X per cent. An amendment was offered by M. Balisaux, proposing that profits resulting from an excess of the rate of discount above \]/2 per cent should be paid into the public treasury and that the Government should be left free to reduce the limit still further by authority of law, at the rate of half of 1 per cent at the expiration of five-year periods, until the minimum of 2>% per cent was reached. 6 If such a law had become immediately effective, the limit would have fallen to 4 per cent in 1878 and to 3 ^ per cent in 1883. The proposal of M. Balisaux was rejected with a vote of only 10 in the affirmative to 62 in the negative, leaving the minimum rate which he advocated to be considered again at the renewal of the charter in 1900.° The rates for circulating capital in Europe were so low, except at periods of special stress, that there were only six years from 1873 to 1897 in which the discount rate of the National Bank was at any time above 5 per cent. The largest amount collected under this tax was in the year immediately following the renewal of the charter, when the crisis of 1873 caused pressure in the international a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 393. & Documents Officiels* 1 8 7 2 ^ . 1 7 1 c Ibid., p. 434. 136 National Bank of Belgium money market. The a m o u n t then paid into t h e public treasury under this clause was 1,336,338.80 francs, which was more t h a n the entire a m o u n t collected in each of the other five years before t h e rate a t which t h e treasury became a participant was changed. The a m o u n t t h u s paid into t h e treasury in 1874 w a s 340,834.62 francs; in 1881, 268,302.77 francs; in 1882, 164,017.16 francs; in 1888, 83,218.72 francs; in 1889, 18,484.13 francs; a n d in 1899, 118,986.72 francs. T h e total of these p a y m e n t s for all the years under t h e operation of t h e charter of 1872 was 2,330,182.92 francs ($450,000). a The change proposed b y the minister and adopted in 1900 was based in a considerable measure on t h e low rates for the use of money which prevailed during t h e closing decade of t h e nineteenth century. I t was declared in t h e report of t h e Minister of Finance t h a t " t h i s measure is imposed b y t h e reduction in t h e rate for money if t h e intentions of t h e legislators of 1872 are to continue to be realized/' T h e motives of t h e change were set forth somew h a t more fully b y Senator Descamps, who declared t h a t when t h e discount rate was raised to an abnormal figure it was i m p o r t a n t t h a t t h e action of the Bank should be free from suspicion. H e added t h a t " t h e significance of the provision could not escape anyone a n d would be received, especially b y commerce, with marked satisfaction, as a pledge of t h e firm determination of t h e Bank to do all which lay in its power to maintain discount a t favorable rates while it was practicable, even a t t h e price of considerable sacrifices." 6 a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 534. &Ibid., p 393. 137 National Monetary Commission Changes in the condition of the international money market made collections on account of the excess discount rate much larger than was anticipated. For the nine years prior to 1899, just before the new charter was voted, the discount rate had never risen above 4 per cent and had been, except for a total of eighty-six days, continuously at 3 per cent or less. The growing stringency in the money markets resulted, however, in a rate of 4 per cent or higher during the entire year 1900, and the collection of excess discount taxes to the amount of 2,254,663 francs ($435,000). The Government received nothing from this source during the years 1902 and 1904, and only 388,115 francs in 1901, and 264,505 francs in 1903. The year 1905, however, witnessed such pressure in the money market that the proceeds of the excess discount rate paid into the public treasury were 471,269 francs; which rose in 1906 to 2,025,989 francs, and in 1907 to 7,002,541 francs, which was supplemented during the early part of 1908 by collections of 1,258,706 francs. The total collections during the nine years ending with 1908 were 13,665,788 francs ($2,635,000). While the measures of the Government as set forth above were adopted in the renewal of the charter in 1900, they were not acceptable in principle or in detail to the Socialist minority of the chambers. M. Denis declared, in opening the discussion of the subject in his report, that the profits of the National Bank had not obeyed the historical law by which interest and profits tend to fall—a law which was evidenced by the course of public funds and the investments of the savings bank. a a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 76. 138 National Bank of Belgium He sought to demonstrate this by a table showing that the dividends paid per ioo francs by the Bank, while they had not been constant, were above 10 per cent in 1897, and had been lower than this as far back as 1876 and only occasionally higher, while the rate of return on the investments of the savings bank had shown an almost uninterrupted tendency to fall. His figures for representative years are as follows: Interest rates and dividends of the Bank. Rate on savingsbank investments Bank dividend Per cent Year Francs 4. 20 1874. 187518771880. 1882. 1885- 4. 27 p e r 100 francs. 14- 25 11.38 4.07 8.55 4. 17 4. 00 10. 00 3-90 13-00 10.28 10.95 9.23 1895- 3.48 3.47 3.29 1897- 3- 29 10.38 1890. 1892. 8.95 M. Denis pointed out that if the Bank suffered some reduction of profits from the decline of discount rates in Belgium, it was compensated in a large measure by the increase in the proportion of foreign bills which had taken the place of coin in the reserve. He submitted figures showing that, while the metallic reserve had remained substantially constant over a period of twenty years, from the close of 1877 to the close of 1897, the holdings of foreign bills had almost uniformly increased, except on a few occasions when they were being put to use to strengthen the position of the Bank. The profit 139 National Monetary Commission derived from the discount of Belgian paper had not increased in amount materially, in spite of increase in volume, but there had been a marked increase in the profit derived from the holding of foreign bills. Figures for representative years from his table are as follows: Earnings from December 3 1 — discounts. Metallic reserve. Foreign bills held. Francs. 1877 1880 1885 1890 1895 1896 1897 Francs. 50,400,000 55,700,000 100,300,000 97.Soo,000 104,300,000 101,600,000 99,900,000 100,700,000 103,000,000 74,800,000 74,500,000 107,400,000 1 0 1 , 7 0 0 , 000 120,400,000 Earnings on Belgian bills. Earnings on foreign bills. Francs. Francs. 5,387, 194 1 , 3 6 3 , 100 873,713 878,830 743.534 158,199 884,419 884,816 1,240,262 1. 4 3 1 • 0 3 2 2 , 3 2 1 , 727 1,656,651 2, 116, 807 2,510,092 Professor Denis rejected entirely the basis of calculation adopted by the Government in the division of profits between the Bank and the State. He declared that a conception of the subject based upon principle was entirely lacking in the government plan, and that the tax on circulation and the division of profits were two proposals of an entirely different character, having no organic relation with each other. He inquired if there was not a danger in interesting the State in an issue of bank bills without limit, in the situation and with the tendencies which actually prevailed? He suggested that the true basis of a division of profits was the relation which was borne by the part contributed by the Government and the public on the one hand to the actual capital and reserve belonging to the shareholders on the other. Starting from this premise, he computed the current accounts and the excess 140 National Bank of Belgium of circulation above the reserve at 487,000,000 francs. This amount bore to the 80,000,000 francs of capital, reserve, and dividends of the Bank a relation of 86 to 14. He proposed to allot a minimum interest of 4 per cent to capital and reserve and to add 200,000 francs as a premium against losses on commercial paper. Upon this basis the total profits during 1897 of 8,421,401 francs would, after the dividend allotment to shareholders of 4 per cent and the premium against risks, amounting to 3,200,000 francs, leave a surplus of 5,221,401 francs. Under his proposed system of division the allotment of 14 per cent to the shareholders would give them 730,996 francs, or a total (with the dividend) of 3,930,996 francs ($759,000), while the 86 per cent of the surplus profits assigned to the State would carry its proportion to 4,490,405 francs ($867,000), instead of the allotment of 2,289,397 francs ($442,000) given by the proposed law.a The stamp tax paid upon notes was originally collected under a general law which required each note before being issued to pay a tax of 5 centimes per 100 francs (about 1 cent for $20). This provision, proving cumbersome in practice, was superseded by the law of September 10, 1862, which took effect on October 1 of that year. This law provided for the payment of the tax at the end of each year at the same rate (50 centimes per 1,000 francs) upon the average of the notes actually in circulation during the year. This made the tax an annual one upon the entire issue, instead of a specific tax upon each note, without regard to the term of its circulation. To offset the increase in the burden thus imposed upon the < Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 81. * 141 National Mo net any Commission bank, it was provided that for the first five years under the new regime there should be deducted from the tax one-fifth of the amount collected during the five previous years. The average paid under this provision down to the discussion over the renewal of the charter in 1872, was 83,888.20 francs ($16,200). In view of these figures, it was proposed at that time by M. Malou, the Minister of Finance, to compound with the Bank for an annual payment of 84,000 francs a year for ten years from January 1, 1873. The proposal of this fixed limit, over a period likely to be marked by an upward movement in the circulation, was considered as a partial compensation to the Bank for the abandonment of the proceeds of discount above 5 per cent. It was declared that in enjoying by degrees the diminution of the tax on notes, the Bank was morally obligated to incur the expense necessary to renew the notes more frequently when they came in somewhat worn, if even it should not be able at some time, like the Bank of England, to replace every bill received by an entirely new one. The committee, however, decided in favor of continuing the system of a tax of 50 centimes per 1,000 francs on the average of the actual circulation, and this provision ultimately prevailed.<* The amount entered in the profit and loss account for 1907 on account of the stamp tax was 371,702.37 francs ($71,750). SERVICES PERFORMED BY THE BANK FOR THE STATE. One of the chief purposes of the creation of the National Bank of Belgium was to afford a safe and sympathetic a Noel, I., p. 528-529. 142 National Bank of Belgium organ to the Government for carrying on the fiscal operations of the Treasury. The original charter contained the following simple provisions on this subject: "ARTICLE X. "The Bank shall act as cashier for the State under conditions to be determined by law. "ARTICLE XI. " If a savings bank shall be established, the Government reserves the right to have it managed by the Bank. This service shall be distinct and independent from the business of the Bank and its organization shall be the subject of a law." The act passed in conformity with the first of these provisions became law only five days after the adoption of the charter of the new bank. It was brief and general in character, containing only nine articles and leaving details to be incorporated in the statutes of the Bank by agreement between the Bank and the Government. The first article simply confided to the Bank the service of cashier for the State and subjected the Bank to the supervision of the court of accounts, which the Societe Generale had resisted. It was provided that the Bank should establish an agency in the chief town of every judicial district and in additional localities where the Government should consider it necessary in the interest of the treasury and of the public. The agents of the Bank are named by the King from a double list of candidates presented by the administrative council of the Bank. They are required to furnish bonds in the form of real estate or 143 National Monetary Commission public funds, but are paid entirely by the Bank.^ The books relating to the treasury service are kept by methods prescribed by the Government and are subject to inspection by representatives of the Ministry of Finance. Two important provisions regarding the administration of the public funds by the Bank are set forth in the consolidation of various laws proclaimed by King Leopold on August 7, 1900,, embodying the changes made by the law of March 26, 1900, extending the charter. These provisions are as follows: "ARTICLE VII. "The National Bank shall perform gratuitously the service of cashier for the State. The Bank shall bear all expenses of management, of material, of transportation, and of transfer of funds, and shall share in the expenses of the treasury in the provinces to an amount of 230,000 francs annually. This amount shall not be increased at the revision of the convention provided for by Article IX of this act. "The available funds of the treasury in excess of the requirements of the service shall be invested by the Bank in commercial securities. The Bank shall be guarantor for the securities acquired or set aside for account of the treasury.'' The ninth and last article, above referred to, provides that the convention between the Government and the Bank shall be subject to revision every ten years. The first arrangement between the Bank and the Government allotted to the Bank for its services a compenoUlens, Les Banques d'Emission, p. 364 144 National Bank of Belgium sation which should not exceed 200,000 francs per year and from which it must meet all expenses of management, material, transportation, and transfer of funds. It was not until the eve of the renewal of the charter in 1872 that it was provided that this service should not only be performed gratuitously, but that the Bank should bear a share of the cost of the treasury service in the provinces to an annual amount of 175,000 francs ($33,775). Already, during the negotiations for the new charter, a new convention was concluded between the Minister of Finance and the Bank on November 30, 1870, which provided that from January 1, 1871, to December 31, 1875, the change above referred to should be made. The minister based his demand for this concession upon the advantages which the Bank had derived from the increase in the treasury balance. The Bank thought proper to submit to this new obligation "in order to maintain the harmonious relations which had always existed between itself and the Government.'' a The law of May 20, 1872, sanctioned this change and provided that the payment of 175,000 francs should not be increased so long as the Bank should be charged with the functions of cashier. A later law of July 17, 1872, required that in all localities where an agency of the Bank should be established there should also be an agency of the treasury, specially charged with the control of receipts and expenditures. A further increase was made at the renewal of the charter in 1900 in the amount contributed by the Bank toward the expenses of treasury administration, carrying the amount to 230,000 francs ($44,400). « Noel, Banques d'Emission en Europe, I, p. 551. 85519—10 10 145 National Monetary Commission Under the authority of these provisions the Bank receives payments and makes disbursements on account of the Government at all its agencies. It is charged with the custody of the public funds of the treasury, of the sinking fund, and of the deposit and consignation fund, and with the services which are connected therewith. It is also charged with the receipt of securities of the public debt destined to be registered or converted into securities to bearer. It collects the coupons of securities of which it has the custody for different state funds and carries the proceeds to the proper account. Payments are made by the representatives of the Treasury in the Bank only with the approval of a treasury agent, who countersigns the receipts of all collections effected by the agent of the Bank and who alone has the responsibility of all payments made by the Bank. The latter is not responsible for the standing of the claims. The indorsement, "noted, payment approved" (vu, bon k payer), affixed by the agent of the treasury, protects the Bank completely and transforms individual drafts into paper payable to bearer. a A ministerial order of October 20, 1868, modifying the order of December 5, 1850, directed the agents of the treasury to assign to the offices of the National Bank payments in the following cases: " 1. Expenses of the State, including fixed expenditures, expenditures submitted to preliminary liquidation, and expenditures based upon open credits; " 2. Special expenses of the State—that is, expenses relating to the special funds for pensions and saving (preoNoel, I, p. 553. 146 National Bank of Belgium vovance), disbursements from provincial and from local funds; " 3 . To note the payments made into the hands of the agents of the Bank in its capacity as cashier of the State." The agents of the treasury can make drafts upon the agents of the Bank only by virtue of authorizations emanating from the Department of Finance, except in the case of drafts (mandats) issued by the administrators of the savings bank of primary teachers. The Minister of Finance advises the Bank of the opening of credits on the public treasury and indicates the localities in which such payments may be effected. He informs the Bank of the issue of orders for the return of securities deposited in its custody. Such a notice is not required for securities which belong to the sinking fund or to the Bank of Deposits and Consignations. The coupons of public loans are payable at all agencies of the Bank without the opening of a credit. On the 10th and 25th of each month the administration of the Bank addresses to the Minister of Finance an account of receipts and disbursements up to the expiration of the previous half month and also an account of the obligations of the public debt and other securities received and delivered. In the month of January the Bank submits in triplicate to the court of accounts through the intermediary of the Minister of Finance the account of its operations on behalf of the treasury during the preceding year. This account is divided into two parts, of which one sets forth by agencies the operations in money and the other the operations in securities. The agents of the Bank meet the general expenses of the State and the provinces upon warrants signed by the agent 147 National Monetary Commission of the treasury in the proper district to the amount of the credits opened by the Minister of Finance or in his name, of which the Bank is previously advised. Payment is made without the intervention of the agent of the treasury, but only after previous advice either of the issue of drafts, the opening of credits, drafts to order delivered by the minister, drafts to bearer delivered by the treasury, credits which are opened by the service of the sinking fund and the Bank of Deposits and Consignations, and, finally, interest coupons of the public debt and other securities to bearer representing interest payments. The agents of the Bank keep a separate account of their operations for the service of the Government. They keep for this purpose a journal of receipts, a journal of disbursements, a ledger, and a record of funds held at the disposition of the agent of the treasury. Copies or extracts from these books are sent weekly or monthly to the agent of the treasury. There is also remitted to the agent of the treasury a list in duplicate of obligations paid upon his signature on the morrow on the day of payment. A copy of this list, indorsed with an acknowledgment of its reception, is sent back by the treasury agent to the agent of the Bank. Every fifteen days these lists are exchanged for a receipt detached by the agent of the treasury from a duplicate register. On the same dates the agents of the Bank are required to send also to the agent of the treasury the papers showing payments which have been made in matters which do not require his signature. In order to promote the convenience of both parties, the agents of the Bank and of the State are usually established in the same building or in close relations with each other. 148 National Bank of Belgium The criticism has been made in some quarters that the relationship is too close between the State and the Bank, and that the credit of the Bank would suffer if the credit of the State were attacked through violations of the neutrality of Belgium or from other causes. It was declared in the debates of 1872, by M. Couvreur, that the serious dangers to which the Bank had been exposed in 1870 had arisen solely from the close connection between the Bank and the State created by the law of 1850. Summing up the multiplicity of services performed by the Bank in its relations with the treasury, a historian of the bank declares: a "Such are the functions which the organic laws have imposed upon the National Bank of Belgium. In fine, this establishment is a true cashier of the State, while the agents of the treasury are only simple bookkeepers, having nothing to do with the handling of funds. Taxes and imposts of all sorts are collected by particular officers, receivers of direct taxes, customs, excises, taxes for registration, for successions, lands, right of navigation, guardians of mortgages, collectors for the post-office and the telegraph, and station masters of the State railways; but the proceeds, garnered up by the agents of the treasury, are paid immediately to the agent of the cashier of the State— that is, into the vaults of the National Bank. "The responsibility of the Bank is from this fact considerable, but it bears only on the substance of the cash belonging to the State. The latter reserves the responsibility of the bookkeeping, without which the Bank is neither able nor ought to pay, and it is represented in this a Noel I, p. 556. 149 National Monetary Commission respect by thirty principal agencies, determined by the judicial or administrative districts, and by auxiliary agencies.' * The manner in which direct disbursements and receipts by the Bank on behalf of the treasury have grown during the last forty years is indicated in the table below. The reduction in the balance after 1870 is due to the agreement made in 1872 by which the excess of the treasury balance above current needs should be invested by the Bank in foreign bills for the account of the treasury. Transactions for the Treasury. Receipts. 1868 1870. 1875 1880. 1890 1900 1905 1906 1907 1908 Francs. 27S.500, 000 262,200, 000 459,7oo, 0 0 0 801,100, 000 1,100,100, 000 1,895.554, 0 0 0 2,369,330, 0 0 0 2,655, 735, 0 0 0 2,790,284, 0 0 0 2, 767, 600, 0 0 0 Payments. Francs. 262,900,000 285,700,000 467,600,000 804,100,000 1,100,300,000 1,906,495,000 2, 3 7 0 , 1 8 1 , 000 2,655,998,000 2, 0 2 1 , 6 2 1 , 000 2,868,150,000 Balance, Dec. 3 1 . Francs. 89,400,000 57,100,000 33,600,000 27,000,000 28,200,000 13,469,522 21,171,279 12,935,285 19,429,990 12, 1 5 1 , 531 In addition to direct receipts and disbursements on the current account of the treasury the National Bank performs many other functions. It acts as registrar and transfer office of the national debt, and is custodian of bonds given by public officials and of various special funds established by the Government, like those of the Postal Savings Bank. These functions impose upon the Bank heavy burdens and large expenditures. I t was declared by M. Pirmez, in his report to the chambers in 1872, that the annual value of the benefits derived by the State from 150 National Bank of Belgium the operations of the Bank represented more than a half million of francs ($96,500) * If this was the case in 1872, when total disbursements and receipts footed up to 683,600,000 francs ($132,000,000), the benefit to the State and the consequent cost to the Bank have since been multiplied many times. Total receipts and disbursements in 1899, which represented the latest figures available at the time of the discussion over the charter in 1900, were 3,375,000,000 francs ($651,500,000), or about five times the amount when M. Pirmez made his report in 1872. This might not in itself indicate an increase of the charges by a corresponding ratio, but in other fields the increase in the burdens imposed upon the Bank showed a still larger proportion of increase. A special report on the services rendered by the Bank to the State was made by the governor to the general council on May 29, 1897, in which he declared that half of the great hall of the Bank was exclusively devoted to the public service, which required not less than a dozen wickets. Giving a graphic idea of the daily routine in the Bank, the governor continued : 6 "The other half of the hall is reserved to the operations of the Bank for its own account. There notes are exchanged for specie and specie for notes. There discounters come to return the receipts delivered in exchange for their documents; there also checks are settled, current accounts dealt with, and all drafts are paid. In spite of this multiplicity of varied services, the congestion is in general less than at the windows where operations are a Documents Officiels: 1872, p. 35. & Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 220. 151 National Monetary Commission carried on for account of the State. There, a t t h e periods of t h e m a t u r i t y of t h e coupons of the public debt, of t h e annuity b a n k (Caisse d'Annuites), of communal credit, and of t h e local railways, on t h e eve and t h e morrow of settlements for t h e Government, a t t h e m o m e n t of pension payments, t h e influx is such t h a t the guards established for supervision of the m a t t e r are compelled to insist t h a t everyone t a k e his place at t h e different wickets in t h e order of arrival. If, as often happens, there are added t o these numerous operations t h e payments on account of the public offices, the post-office, and t h e railways, or even the deposit of securities on account of t h e Bank of Deposits and Consignations, it requires all t h e coolness and intelligence of our force t o prevent difficulties, errors, and complaint." Undertaking t o sum u p some of t h e costs t o t h e B a n k of this service, it was pointed out t h a t those agencies in which there was no discount office imposed an expense without any compensating profit. I n addition there was a t Brussels a public cashier, having under his orders a group of functionaries and employees all paid b y t h e Bank, b u t occupied with nothing else t h a n this service. Moreover, this force would be absolutely inadequate if a t every m o m e n t the management did not detach from t h e forces of t h e Bank a certain number of employees and collectors, who lent their aid on the days when the need assumed unexpected proportions, like t h e days when it was necessary to classify securities, detach coupons, and receive p a y m e n t s of notes, silver, and nickel. Comparing conditions in 1896, t h e latest year t h e n available, with those of earlier years, it was declared t h a t t h e n u m b e r of coupons 152 National Bank of Belgium paid in 1870 amounted to only 349,314, while in 1896 the number was 1,242,257, for a total amount of 16,870,382 francs. The progression was hardly less rapid during the twelve years after 1896, the number of coupons paid in 1908 on all classes of obligations rising to 3,266,620. In addition to these coupons paid over the counter, there were detached from securities deposited in government funds in 1908 coupons to the number of 1,592,700. The special report of 1897 declared that the conversion of the 3K per cent debt and the 3 percents had occasioned a movement of more than 2,000,000,000 francs in securities of the Belgian debt and that the renewal of the coupons of the annuity bank had caused a movement of more than 50,000,000 francs. The law of September 11, 1895, authorizing pensions to be paid monthly, had resulted in the presentation of 10,000 additional orders at Brussels alone. The Bank had been compelled to construct new deposit boxes to guard the numerous securities confided by the State to its care. According to the balance sheet of December 31, 1896, deposits of public funds on Government account already amounted to 1,011,125,354 francs. This amount had increased on December 31,1908, to 1,752,298,028 francs. The increase in the service of the debt was a natural consequence of the increase in public obligations. Down to 1873 ^ e debt of Belgium consisted chiefly in about 500,000,000 francs in 4 X percents. By 1899 the total of the debt had risen to 2,369,000,000 francs, partly from the fact that the Government assumed the debt of the railway trunk lines which were taken over by the State. Special issues for local railways, the Congo, and various 153 National Monetary Commission public enterprises not only increased t h e a m o u n t of t h e debt, b u t greatly added to t h e complications of registration, transfer, and p a y m e n t of coupons.^ I n spite of t h e large p a r t played b y treasury operations in t h e business of t h e Bank, it remains t o be said t h a t t h e Government has never yet felt compelled to abuse its influence over t h e Bank t o extort large loans. One of t h e questions addressed t o t h e Government b y t h e central section of t h e chambers, pending t h e renewal of t h e charter in 1900, was whether t h e S t a t e was a borrower from the National Bank. The answer of t h e Government was simple and direct: 6 " T h e S t a t e does not borrow from t h e National Bank. The Government possesses no other authority to borrow t h a n t h a t inscribed in t h e regular budget or in special laws, i. e., by t h e issue of securities of t h e public debt or b y t h e negotiation of treasury bonds. The employment m a d e of these authorizations is set forth in t h e s t a t e m e n t of condition of t h e treasury and t h e accounts of t h e administration of finance, distributed annually t o t h e members of t h e legislative chamber. Under authority of its statutes t h e Bank m a y discount t o a m a x i m u m of 10,000,000 francs treasury bonds issued in virtue of t h e authority above set forth. Article 27 of t h e statutes of t h e Bank provides t h a t ' t h e conditions of discount for treasury bonds shall be, as t o r a t e and time, t h e same as for commercial paper.' The treasury bonds t h u s discounted by t h e Bank are included in t h e domestic assets." a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 450. &Ibid., p. 189. 154 National Bank of Belgium It was not admitted by the critics of the Bank, however, that these services to the State had been performed without both direct and indirect compensation. In an elaborate analysis of the subject in the debates in the chamber, M. Grimard declared that when the Bank dealt with the State it forgot that it owed to the latter everything; for when the State made a bank its cashier the Bank by that fact acquired a considerable moral force in the public eye. The treasury itself kept a balance on current account, which on December 31, 1898, stood at 47,000,000, francs ($9,071,000)^ Interest upon this sum, computed at 3.30 per cent, would afford a profit of 1,424,100 francs ($274,850). In the case of the savings bank, moreover, the Bank collected a twentieth part of the proceeds of loans on pledges. Such loans in 1897 were 94,400,000 francs, upon which interest at the rate of 4 per cent amounted to 3,776,000 francs, of which the Bank took 188,800 francs ($36,300). For the commission charged when loans by the savings bank were made through the discount offices also, M. Grimard computed earnings by the Bank of 110,506 francs ($21,330), making a total (with another small item) of 321,106 francs ($62,000). The Bank profited also from its alleged gratuitous services to the public in the sale of drafts by the balances of money always in its hands. 6 a This figure was rather exceptionally high. The average balance during 1898 was 29,053,979 francs. The balance on December 31, 1904, was 22,022,462 francs and the average for 1904 13,555,006 francs; the balance on December 31, 1908, was 12,151,531 francs and the average for 1908 18,985,039 francs. & Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, pp. 72-80. 155 National Monetary Commission INVESTMENTS ON BEHALF OF THE TREASURY. The Government of Belgium, not content with imposing upon the National Bank the gratuitous performance of all services required in treasury operations and the management of the public debt, requires the Bank to invest for the profit of the treasury any surplus in the government balance above actual current needs. The point at which such investments are taken up is when the treasury balance exceeds 5,000,000 francs. The investment is required to be made, not in long time obligations, but in commercial paper. The bank is authorized to make the selection of the paper in which the public funds are invested, but is required to guarantee its value to the treasury. An arrangement with the Government on July 17, 1872, prescribed that the investment was to be made in general in purchase of commercial securities drawn on foreign countries, payable in cash, but that it might be made under some circumstances in domestic paper. While the Bank guarantees the payment of the securities, the government permits losses as well as profits resulting from exchange to be charged to the account. It also permits the inclusion of cost of insurance, transfers of specie, commissions paid to foreign houses and commissions paid to discounters or other intermediaries to which the Bank may have recourse.6* This service in itself has become of considerable importance and has imposed serious labor upon the Bank. In the report of the Chevalier Descamps in 1900, the receipts for 1899 on account of transactions of this character for the treasury were stated at 379,652,858 francs and disa Documents Officiels: 1872, p. X X V I I . 156 National Bank of Belgium bursements at 378,053,332 francs ($73,000,000). The balance to the credit of the Government on December 31, 1899, w a s S 1 ^ 0 ^ 0 1 francs ($6,050,000), consisting of paper held at Brussels to the amount of 23,424,986 francs and balances with foreign correspondents to the amount of 7,915,415 francs.^ The investment of this considerable sum affords the treasury a respectable profit, in addition to the taxes and participation in the profits of the Bank which are based upon general law and the provisions of the charter. The profits realized from the operations of 1899 were 640,343 francs ($123,500). The balance of this investment fund and the profit to the treasury have been in recent years as follows: Profits from treasury investments. Balance, Dec. 31. Year. Francs. 34, 79L309 44,557,861 2,435,659 37,814,692 1905. 1906. 1907. 1908. Profit for year. Francs. 1,022,200 881,800 790,000 730,000 SERVICES PERFORMED FOR T H E GENERAL SAVINGS BANK It was provided by Article XI of the original charter of the National Bank that if a general savings bank should be established, the Government reserved the right to have its operations carried on through the National Bank. The proposal to establish a savings bank was realized by the law of March 16, 1865, which provided also for absorbing into the new institution the retirement fund established by a a Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 453. 157 National Mon et ary Commission law of May 8, 1850. The Government was authorized to make an advance of 50,000 francs for the initial expenses of the savings bank and later, by the laws of March 26, 1866, and December 28, 1867, opened new credits with the same object to the amount of 150,000 francs. The Belgian institution was framed upon different models from the savings banks established in France and England. It aimed not merely to implant the principle of economy, but sought to surround the withdrawal of deposits with such formalities and disadvantages as would deter depositors from making unwise use of their savings after they had been accumulated. As inducements to leave money with the Bank, the law admitted depositors to a share in the profits which might accumulate in excess of the interest regularly allotted. The Government was authorized after each five-year period to divide a part of the reserve fund among the accounts existing for at least a year and derived from the earnings of the previous five years.'* In order to realize satisfactory profits, moreover, investments were made not wholly in securities of the public debt, but in mortgages and commercial loans. In discussing the progress of the Bank in 1872, M. FrereOrban declared that it had even then a sum of 25,000,000 francs which was at the disposition of landowners, manufacturers, and merchants for operations which were outside the scope of the National Bank, because they were securities not distinctively commercial and had a longer term than that prescribed for the assets of the Bank. a Noel, I , p. 565. 158 National Bank of Belgium This exceptional character of the savings bank investments has imposed upon the National Bank a large amount of labor in seeking and scrutinizing proper investments, attending to collections and renewals, and otherwise performing banking functions for the savings bank. The savings bank funds have been used in the development of such economic works as the Credit Foncier (land bank) and the Society of Working Men's Homes. a Something has been accomplished also in the promotion of agricultural credit banks. By a decree of March 25, 1891, the governing board of the savings bank fixed the rate and general conditions of loans to be granted to individuals, associations, provinces, and communes for the construction and purchase of working men's houses. Under the influence of the savings bank a great number of societies of working men's houses have been founded and form an intermediary between the working men and the Bank. The latter advances funds at an interest rate of 2 ^ per cent for the credit societies which accept the supervision of the Bank and at 3 per cent for others. These credit societies are those which refrain from direct ownership of fixed property, but promote by way of loans the construction and purchase of houses. The savings bank provides also for insurance for the fulfillment of such contracts. On December 31, 1906, the savings bank had advanced to 128 societies of credit 91,190,037 francs ($17,600,000) and to 43 building societies 4,763,880 francs ($920,000).b aUlens, p. 370. & Annuaire Statistique de La Belgique, 1907, pp x x x i v - x x x v . 159 National Monetary Commission The National Bank has been the custodian of the securities owned by the savings bank or upon which loans have been made, and the work involved in handling the business has been considerable. The savings bank has had a cash balance at the National Bank which is merged in the balance sheet with other current accounts. The amount of this balance varies from time to time according to the excess of receipts or payments on savings bank account. The amount on December 31, 1899, when the extension of the charter was under discussion, was 4,458,633 francs. The amount on December 31, 1908, was 8,807,463 francs. The securities in the custody of the Bank, however, including mortgages, bonds, and foreign bills, have tended to increase with the growth of the deposit liabilities of the savings bank. The growth of the latter is indicated in a summary manner by the following table: Growth in deposits of the savings December 3 1 — bank. Accounts. Total deposits. Francs. 1880 1905 _ __ _ _ _ __ 200,565 731.057 1. 7 5 7 . 9 o 6 2,311,845 2, 4 1 9 , 7 1 0 125,098,287 325,415,412 661,507,886 785,704,576 812,092,923 Only a portion of this liability is represented by securities in the custody of the National Bank, because a considerable part has been converted into securities held by depositors. The value of securities of various sorts, including commercial paper and foreign bills, in the custody of the National Bank increased, however, from 152,934,897 160 National Bank of Belgium francs on December 31, 1898, to 234,322,680 francs ($45,220,000) on December 31, 1908. In a special report made by the governor of the National Bank to the general council of the Bank on May 29, 1897, it was pointed out that the securities held for the savings bank increased from 22,641,338 francs on December 31, 1872, to 143,202,268 francs on December 31, 1896, multiplying by six times the volume of labor imposed upon the Bank. In a report of an earlier date in the same year, it was declared that the receipts and disbursements in the provinces on savings bank deposit books represented in 1896, 340,250 operations, involving a movement of 127,452,000 francs. Including receipts and disbursements at Brussels, the total of operations on account of the savings bank amounted to 538,252,000 francs. Moreover, paper had been discounted at the National Bank for account of the savings bank to the number of 20,000 pieces, representing a value of 406,700,000 francs. It was necessary for the National Bank to verify the documents in such cases discounted at Brussels, those discounted by the comptoirs, and those remitted by foreign correspondents. The report continued:05 "The Bank is compelled to note if each piece of paper is regularly drawn, accepted, indorsed, and stamped. After all these verifications by the discount division, the securities are deposited in distinct compartments of the service. They are withdrawn at maturity to secure collection either at the head office, at the agencies abroad, or by the post, all being done according to papers prepared by the National Bank. Double operations, therefore, of a 85519—10 Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 230. 11 161 National Monetary Commission entry and outgo, have to be each time examined, verified, and audited, giving occasion for a movement of more than 800,000,000 francs. But of all the services of the savings bank, that which has increased in the most sensible proportion is that of loans on public funds. Ten years ago (1886) the Bank effected for the savings bank 900 loan operations for 21,600,000 francs. In 1896 the number of operations had risen to 5,650 and the amount of the loans to 103,500,000 francs ($20,000,000). Here again the National Bank is, without any aid, giving its efforts to the operations which are carried on. It is in our bureaus that contracts are framed which are sometimes very extended, in view of the long enumeration of securities pledged. It is the Bank which preserves the duplicates, verifies the securities deposited, and assumes the custody of them. Besides these recorded documents which the savings bank possesses, it has assets consisting of bonds of credit establishments, railways, industrial and other corporations, all payable to bearer, which form one of the elements of its definitive investments. These assets, v on December 31, 1896, amounted to 168,529,710 francs. It is the Bank which has the custody of them and the importance of these holdings is steadily increasing, and is one of the causes which have decided us to ask the necessary credit for the construction of a second vault. * * * The savings bank does not see a single paper, does not handle a single security. Absolutely everything is done through the intervention of the National Bank." In spite of these great services rendered by the National Bank to the savings bank, a determined effort was made at the time of the renewal of the charter in 1900 to impose 162 National Bank of Belgium further obligations upon the National Bank. An amendment was moved by M. Bertrand that the National Bank should allot to the savings bank interest at the rate of 2% per cent on the amounts which stood to the credit of the savings bank in current account at the National Bank. It was declared by M. Bertrand that the Bank, which already made enormous profits, could well afford to pay a modest interest upon the capital derived from the investment of funds made by the poor and humble. It was admitted that the settled policy of the National Bank was not to pay interest on current accounts, but as an exception had been made in favor of the current account of the administration of hospitals, it was argued that a similar exception should be made for the account of the savings bank. It was contended in reply, by M. Liebaert, Minister of Industry and Labor, that the current account of the savings bank was kept in the National Bank merely to make payments and remittances and could not be profitably converted to the use of the National Bank. a The amendment was rejected by a vote of 18 to 65. b T H E MONETARY E X P E R I E N C E OF BELGIUM. The management of the National Bank of Belgium has necessarily been influenced to a large degree by the monetary experience of the country. This experience has covered the period of marked variations in the ratio between gold and silver which began with the great gold discoveries in Australia and California and turned in the a Discussions Parlementaires: 1900, pp. 572-575. & Ibid., p. 594. 163 National Monetary Commission contrary direction about 1867. The difficulties of Belgium were increased by the fact that her monetary system was the same as that of France and was, therefore, subject to many of the vicissitudes which affected the French monetary system. Belgium adopted the French system of decimal coinage by the law of June 5, 1832. The monetary unit was declared to be the coin of 5 grams of silver, nine-tenths fine, called the franc. Provision was made for gold coins, and both French gold pieces and silver 5-franc pieces were made legal tender in Belgium. Under the conditions which then existed, by which silver was made the less valuable metal at the coinage ratio, the actual circulation of Belgium consisted of silver. Gold coins were rarely seen. It was not until 1847, three years before the creation of the National Bank, that the Belgian Chambers adopted a series of measures looking to the introduction of gold. The gold coinage was to be issued, however, only by the Government and was limited to 20,000,000 francs. By a law of March 4, 1848, the legal tender quality was given to the English sovereign at a nominal rate higher than its value as bullion. This resulted in the importation into Belgium of English sovereigns to the value of about 30,000,000 francs and the exportation of a corresponding amount of silver.a The time was approaching when the output of the Californian mines was to make gold the cheaper metal at the coinage ratio. The legal tender quality conferred upon English sovereigns was hastily repealed on September 28, 1849, and within less than a year jjune 14, 1850) the legal a Willis, A History of the Latin Monetary Union, p. 17. 164 National Bank of Belgium tender quality was withdrawn also from Dutch gold pieces of 10 florins. This was followed on December 28, 1850, by still a third law, which deprived of legal tender quality French gold in use in Belgium. This was largely a formality, as neither French nor Belgian gold was in circulation. Silver was recognized as the sole standard, the coinage of gold ceased, and a royal decree of August 11, 1854, demonetized the gold coins struck under the law of March 31, 1847, and provided for covering them into the treasury for taxes. Belgium was thus planted, with apparent firmness, upon the silver basis; but natural economic law was presently to overturn this policy and make her again a gold country. The change was the result of the depreciation of gold, following the output of the new mines. Gold was pouring into France and silver was being withdrawn for conversion into bullion, because silver coins had become worth more than their face value at the coinage ratio. New Belgian silver coins were withdrawn from circulation, like the new French coins. The abraded coins of France at first found their way into circulation in Belgium, but even they soon began to be withdrawn for the bullion market and a scarcity of silver, even of subsidiary coins, began to be felt. France having practically attained a gold standard because gold was the depreciated metal, it was difficult for Belgium to adhere to a different monetary system. Hence arose the law of June 4, 1861, by which Belgium again made French gold a legal tender and authorized the coinage of Belgian gold pieces according to the French system. The fluctuations between gold and silver now became less marked, but were sufficient to afford profit to the specu165 National Monetary Commission lators and to cause many difficulties to the National Bank. The geographical position of Belgium probably had an influence in exposing her to the vicfssitudes of such a situation. It is declared by Willis: a li Whenever a speculator found that the price of gold and silver was such that he could make a profit by shipping either metal to, or withdrawing it from, any of these countries of different standards, he made the Bank of Belgium the basis of operations, thus depleting its reserves or causing a plethora of coin as the case might be, as well as setting on foot a tendency to scarcity or redundancy of the circulating medium. In 1861 the gold reserve of the Banque Nationale sank suddenly from 22,000,000 to 7,000,000 and the silver reserve rose as sharply from 11,500,000 to 17,000,000, while the rate of discount fluctuated from 4.6 to 3 per cent. In December, 1862, the gold reserve was 17,000,000; in the following February it had sunk to 9,000,000, and in the April succeeding it was 5,000,000, while during the same time the reserve of silver 5-franc pieces had risen but 1,000,000. About the same time the Bank was forced temporarily to cease payment in silver 5-franc pieces, for a sudden contrary movement reduced the reserve of silver 5-franc pieces first to 5,000,000 and then to 2,000,000, and the rate of discount fluctuated between 3 and 6 per cent, which were the extreme limits. In 1865 the rate of discount'rose from 4 to 5.8 per cent, following a corresponding movement in the reserve. During all this period the normal rate was from 2.5 to 3 per cent, so that the inconveniences undergone by the business public may readily be appreciated. Thus the reserves a A History of the Latin Monetary Union, pp. 24-25. 166 National Bank of Belgium of the Bank were now depleted on the gold and now on the silver side, and sometimes on both. This was rendered even worse by the method of restoring the reserve. A delay was usually unavoidable, and this was protracted as long as possible, until the rate of exchange was reversed, when it was profitable to send back the coin just withdrawn." It was with a view to escape from such difficulties that Belgium was finally led to propose the formation of the Latin Union. She, in common with Italy and Switzerland, had adopted the decimal system of coinage, with the franc as the unit, but thus far there had been no cooperation among them as to the regulation of the circulation.** The disappearance of subsidiary coins, because of their high value in relation to gold, was met in Switzerland by a law of January 31, i860, reducing the fineness of subsidiary coins from nine-tenths to eight-tenths. The Government of Italy by the law of August 24, 1862, adopted the fineness of 0.835 for its subsidiary silver. The French Government for some time hesitated to act, but finally, by a law of May 25, 1864, adopted the fineness of 0.835 f ° r the small silver coins of 50 centimes and 20 centimes. b France had in the meantime, by a decree of April 14, 1864, refused a Switzerland adopted the French system by the law of May 7, 1850; Italy by the law of August 24, 1862. Greece adopted the French system August 10, 1867, and applied for admission to the monetary union November 18, 1868. The papal government by a decree of June 18, 1866, adopted the French system, b u t was not formally admitted to the union— A History of Banking in All the Leading Nations, I I I , 349-352). Spain adopted the French system by the law of October 19, 1868, b u t did not become a member of the union; and it was adopted by each of the Balkan States after their emancipation from Turkey in 1878, but without becoming members of the union. & Arnaune, La Monnaie, le Credit, et le Change, 3d ed., p. 227. 167 National Monetary Commission to receive the Swiss coins at public offices, in order to stop their substitution for the more valuable French coins. Belgium was left without an adequate subsidiary currency and she made proposals early in 1865 to France to hold a conference of those countries which had adopted the French monetary system. The proposal was welcomed Italy and Switzerland soon indicated their acceptance, and the first convention of the Latin Union met in Paris on November 20, 1865. The outcome of this conference (embodied in the convention of December 23, 1865) was the decision to adopt in all the countries of the union the ratio of 0.835 f° r the silver coins below 5 francs. It was decided to limit the output of subsidiary coins to 6 francs per capita of the population of each country. Direct action in regard to the metallic standard was avoided, although the adoption of gold was urged by the delegates of all the other countries upon France. In this discussion a Belgian delegate, M. Kreglinger, took the lead, declaring that the bimetallic regime subjected the various countries to an alternating standard which produced financial stringency by draining specie from the bank reserves and by thus forcing the banks to raise their rate of discount.* It was felt, however, to be largely an academic question, as gold had become in fact the standard and the principal medium, of circulation since it had fallen below silver in value at the coinage ratio. The provisions made by the convention in regard to the legal circulation of the coins in the countries other than those where they were issued are important, because a Willis, p. 45. 168 National Bank of Belgium they constituted to a large degree the essence of the agreement and it was the change in these provisions which nearly destroyed the union in 1885. Bach of the contracting governments agreed to receive freely at its public offices the money coined by the other three States—without limitation as to gold and as to silver pieces of 5 francs, and to amounts of 100 francs ($19.30) as to the subsidiary silver pieces. The latter were to be legal tender, even within the country of issue, only to the amount of 50 francs. The circulation of gold coins was unrestricted. The states which issued them were under no obligation to redeem them, but they were receivable at par at the public offices of all the states except when reduced below the limit of tolerance. These provisions also extended to the 5-franc pieces of silver, and it was the insistence of France upon modifying them which caused the threatened rupture of 1885. In regard to the subsidiary pieces, it was provided from the first that they should be taken back by the issuing Government and paid for in gold or in silver 5-franc pieces, this obligation to remain in force for two years after the expiration of the treaty. a The convention of 1865 thus left untouched the legaltender quality and the free coinage of the silver 5-franc pieces; but as silver was undervalued at the coinage ratio none was being brought to the mints and the 5-franc pieces had all but disappeared from circulation. These conditions changed so radically when gold appreciated and silver fell below its legal value at the coinage ratio that the monetary position of Belgium became seriously disturbing to farsighted Belgian economists. The mistake was o Arnaune, p. 228. 169 National Monetary Commission made of not suspending promptly enough the coinage of 5-franc pieces after it became clear that they had fallen below gold par. The minister of finance of the time, M. Jules Malou, hesitated to close the mint until the amount of silver coined had risen in 1873 to 111,704,795 francs ($21,560,000). The suspension of specie payments in Austria at about this time, and the exclusion of Austrian coin from Germany by the new German monetary laws, threatened to send nearly the entire mass of Austrian thalers to the Belgian mints for coinage. This fact finally decided M. Malou to take action; but even after the suspension of free coinage he allowed himself, during the next few years, to be seduced into the further coinage of 37,704,130 francs at the profit of the treasury, which later was converted into a heavy loss.a M. Frere-Orban, an advocate of the gold standard, had moved a resolution as early as July 22, 1873, that the convention of the Latin Union be convoked; but the project was not accepted by the ministry. 5 M. Malou first limited the coinage of 5-franc pieces and finally secured a law from the Chambers (December 18, 1873) authorizing the limitation or suspension of the silver coinage until January 1, 1875. In the course of the discussion preliminary to the passage of this act, it was contended in some quarters that the adoption of the system of forced legal tender paper in Italy and France since the convention of 1865 had created conditions which absolved Belgium from her allegiance to the Latin Union. c This view was not, however, o Ansiaux, Les Problemes Actuels de la Circulation Metallique et Fiduciaire en Belgique, p. 6. & Willis, p. 116. clbid., p. 124. 170 National Bank of Belgium adopted by the Government, nor was it urged at the convention of the Latin Union in 1874, at which suspension of the silver coinage was adopted as a general policy. It was obvious that for the great mass of silver coin which had been issued in 1873 commercial use could not be found in Belgium. The fact that Belgian coins were accepted freely in France afforded an outlet there for considerable amounts; but Belgium could not escape ultimately responsibility for her monetary offspring. When, in 1885, silver had fallen to 48T9F pence, or about 20 per cent below par, a determined effort was made at the conference of the Latin Union to compel the redemption of the excess of 5-franc pieces in circulation by the countries which had issued* them. The French Government, more powerful than all the other countries together, would not consent to the continuance of the Union, except upon the condition that, upon its dissolution, the other governments should pay back in gold the amount of the excess of 5-franc pieces found in the French circulation. This meant for Belgium so heavy an obligation that a rupture was threatened. The Belgian delegate protested strongly against the demands of France. The Belgian Ministry took an equally strong attitude and in the Chambers M. Frere-Orban proposed to abandon the Latin Union and to complete the liquidation demanded by France at once, rather than to postpone it until a time when new conditions might make it even more onerous. He already anticipated in 1885 that the fall of silver was far from having reached its end. Supported by these views at home, M. Pirmez, the Belgian delegate, and his associates, withdrew on July 30th 171 National Monetary Commission from the conference. A protocol was partially perfected by the remaining powers, which included a provision that Belgian coins should be no longer received in the other countries three months after the expiration of the last convention. a The situation thus created was so serious, however, that toward the end of the year M. Pirmez was sent back to Paris a second time and there finally secured a compromise arrangement. This compromise consisted in the division of the fund of Belgian 5-franc pieces into two parts. Half of the amount was to be liquidated in gold in the manner provided by the original proposal; the other half was to be left to the play of the laws of international exchange. In order to secure this concession, the Belgian Government agreed to these conditions: " She engages not to introduce into her monetary regime any change which might impair the repatriation of the other half by means of commerce and the exchanges. This engagement shall have a duration of five years from the date of the expiration of the Union. Belgium may bring it to an end by accepting the obligation to redeem this second half under the conditions provided by Article IV of the arrangement. In any case the Belgian Government reserves to itself the right to introduce into its monetary legislation the changes which may be introduced into the monetary legislation of France. "Th£ Belgian Government guarantees that the balance shall not exceed 200,000,000 francs. If there should be an excess, it will be redeemed under the conditions provided by Article IV of the arrangement.'' « A History of Banking in all the Leading Nations, I I I , p . 375. 172 National Bank of Belgium Under this agreement Belgium bound herself not to take steps to change her monetary system or to check the return of her silver coins for a period of five years after the dissolution of the Latin Union, unless she should be ready to redeem at gold par the entire mass of Belgian silver which M. Malou had permitted to be issued. The convention of 1885 expired on January 1, i 8 9 i , b u t has since been renewed from year to year by tacit agreement. In case the Union should be dissolved and Belgian 5-franc pieces should be returned from France and other countries, grave difficulties would confront the Government in maintaining the gold standard. The total amount of coinage of 5-franc pieces, from the first issues under the monetary law of 1832 down to the suspension of coinage in 1876, was 495,678,210 francs ($95,650,000), or an average of more than $13 per capita for the present population of Belgium. This total, however, is subject to considerable deductions, some of which can be definitely ascertained and others only estimated. The effect of these deductions is thus summed up by M. Ansiaux: a " If from this sum there is deducted the value of pieces officially demonetized and recoined, or 13,002,165 francs, there remains 482,676,045 francs. According to the unanimous opinion of competent persons, this figure is much above the stock still in existence. A considerable quantity of pieces bearing the effigy of Leopold I were recoined and exported in the form of bars to the extreme Orient between 1851 and 1866—that is, at the time when the metal sold in the market at a price superior to that a Les Problemes Actuels, etc , pp. 16-17. 173 National Monetary Commission fixed by the Latin Union, by which the value of the kilogram of silver was in the proportion'of one to fifteen and a half that of the kilogram of gold. It can not be determined with precision what is the quantity of pieces which have been eliminated in this way or what amount, from 1832 to 1907, have disappeared in some other manner. The commissioner of the mint of Belgium, M. Le Grelle, expresses the opinion that 'the quantity of Belgian 5-franc pieces still in existence may be considered to be below 375,000,000 francs.' a To arrive at this conclusion he relies upon various texts, from which he ingeniously deduces this 'characteristic fact of the disappearance of at least three-quarters of the Belgian pieces coined from 1832 to 1865/ b In a note addressed in 1907 to the colonial committee, relative to the monetary question, the Belgian Government expresses the opinion that ' the quantity of Belgian 5-franc pieces still existing may be estimated at about 350,000,000 francs.' " c Whatever the amount of Belgian 5-franc pieces still in existence in Europe, not more than half are now probably in circulation in Belgium, leaving the balance to be found chiefly in France and to a limited extent in other countries of the Latin Union. It was estimated by the National Bank, according to an inquiry made in 1881, that the circulation of 5-franc pieces in Belgium was 275,000,000 francs ($53,080,000). This estimate was reduced for 1898 to 200,000,000 francs, and for 1900 to a still smaller a Rapport du Commissaire des Monnaies, 1906, p. 22. & Ibid., 1901, p. 24. ^Moniteur des Int£r£ts Mat6riels du 9 juin, 1907, p . 1925. 174 National Bank of Belgium amounts The changes in these estimates were due to the steady current of metallic money out of Belgium into France. It was estimated by M. de Foville in 1897, as the result of an analysis of a count made of different forms of money received by the banks, that there were then in France 329,900,000 francs in 5-franc pieces of Belgian coinage, of which 266,300,000 francs were in the vaults of the Bank of France. h As the result of a similar inquiry in 1903, M. de Foville reduced the estimate of Belgian 5-franc pieces circulating in France to 270,000,000 francs, of which 168,000,000 francs were in the vaults of the Bank. c It is these conditions with which the Government would have to deal if the Latin Union were dissolved. It would be impossible to absorb into the circulation of Belgium the 300,000,000 francs circulating in France. It would be necessary, first, to find gold resources with which to liquidate this great obligation to the French Government, and, secondly, to find a means of disposing of the 1,500 tons of silver coins which would be surrendered to Belgium. In view of the small amount of coins now in circulation in Belgium, it might be found feasible, if the old standard were maintained, to employ perhaps 50,000,000 francs in replenishing the circulation. This would still leave, at the lowest estimate, from 175,000,000 a The latest estimate made by the Mint Bureau, in the annual report for 1908, declared t h a t by reason of the adverse exchange with France the actual circulation of 5-franc pieces did not appear to exceed 100,000,000 to 150,000,000 francs.—Bconomiste Europeen, May 22, 1909, X X X V , p. 644. & I/Economiste Francais, February 12, 1898, p. 202. c Ibid., April 23, 1904, p. 576. 175 National Monetary Commission to 200,000,000 francs to be thrown upon the silver market if other means could not be found for dealing with them. Obviously, however skilfully this operation were conducted, it would have a very depressing effect on the market for silver, which in recent years has shown signs of being easily glutted whenever the demand rrom any important source, like that of India, has become impaired. Even if the silver could, by extending sales over a reasonable period of time, be made to fetch 25d. per ounce, there would be a loss of more than one-half of the face value of the coins, which would have to be met by the Government of Belgium. If this sum were raised by means of a gold loan, it would require approximately 100,000,000 francs ($19,300,000). To cover this loss would not be the only problem involved in the dissolution of the Latin Union. The fact that the Belgian 5-franc pieces were no longer received in France would deprive them of the support given to the value of silver coins in France by the great gold reserve of the Bank of France. The limitation of the quantity kept in circulation in Belgium would tend in some degree to maintain the local value of the currency; but, it is contended by some students of the subject, it would be found absolutely necessary to take measures also to establish a gold reserve in Belgium. The amount required for this purpose would, in the opinion of M. Ansiaux, be at least 100,000,000 francs. The National Bank would, in his opinion, require the support of its reserve in order to be prepared to redeem its notes in gold, which would almost necessarily be the policy pursued during the liquidation and retirement of the 5-franc pieces if the security of the 176 National Bank of Belgium bank notes and the soundness of the monetary system were not to be put in jeopardy.^ As a result of this situation there would be a double liability to aid in maintaining the gold standard not unlike that imposed upon the Government of the United States when the silver circulation became excessive in 1893. On the one hand, the function would rest upon the Government of maintaining the parity of the silver coins by means of a visible gold reserve; on the other hand, the function would rest upon the Bank of maintaining the redemption of its notes in gold. Otherwise, the dissolution of the Latin Union would tend to produce a panic in Belgium by reason of the knowledge that the great mass of Belgian silver coins afloat in Europe could not be absorbed into the Belgian circulation and would have no guaranty of parity, except the limited gold reserve of the Bank, which would be far from sufficient to liquidate the quantity returning to the country when they ceased to be legal or customary tender in France, Italy, or Switzerland. If the counsel of M. Frere-Orban in 1885 had been followed, Belgium might have reorganized her monetary system upon a basis independent of that of France at a much smaller cost than a few years later. The average quotation of silver for 1885 was 48T9^d., London price, corresponding to $1.0651 per fine ounce in New York. It was the last time that silver showed an average annual price in the American market above $1, except in 1890 under the impulse of the purchases under the Sherman law. By 1895 the London quotation showed an average of 2 9 ^ d . and by 1905 27-^d. At the average price of < Les Problemes Actuels, etc., p. 20. * 85519—10 *2 *77 National Monetary Commission 1885 the loss would have been about 20 per cent of the face value of the coins. At the average price for the year ending June 30, 1908—27.33d.—the depreciation was nearly 60 per cent below legal parity. If the Belgian Government could have marketed its surplus silver as successfully after 1885 as the German Government did after 1873, a loss of 20 per cent upon 200,000,000 would have been only 40,000,000 francs ($7,720,000). To put in effect such a proposal under present conditions, however, even apart from the effect which it would have in the further demoralization of the silver market, would involve a loss of more than 100,000,000 francs ($19,300,000). The aggregate loans required, both to cover this loss and to provide an adequate gold reserve, would be, according to the estimates of M. Ansiaux, not less than 300,000,000 francs.a This amount, imposed upon the present population of Belgium, which is about 7,200,000, would amount to about $8.25 per capita and would be equivalent to a loan of $750,000,000 for the 90,000,000 people of the United States. Obviously the issue of a loan of this magnitude involves serious considerations, and it is not surprising that the Belgian Government has preferred to continue a member of the Latin Union, even in the face of continuing depreciation in the bullion value of its silver money and the prospect that liquidation would be still more difficult and costly if undertaken in time to come. A policy of waiting has several compensations. The growth in the population and in the economic resources of the country tends to increase the demand for currency, o Ives Problemes Actuels, etc., p. 20. 178 National Bank of Belgium while the lapse of time increases the extent of the slow disappearance and absorption of the excess coins. A special field where this absorption may become important exists in the Kongo, which it is fervently wished in Belgium may rival British India as " a sink of the precious metals/' Thus far this expectation has not been realized on a large scale, since a considerable proportion of the special coinage of 1,900,000 francs made for the Kongo had, as recently as 1907, not been absorbed. It was suggested, moreover, by M. Ansiaux that as the Kongo was not a part of the Latin Union, Belgium might derive considerable advantage from limiting the circulation there to Belgian coins and closing the hospitable door which is now kept open to the coins of the other countries of the Union.05 In monetary matters time is usually a cure for evils whose sources have been suppressed. The growth in population and economic power, the disappearance of old coins, and perhaps a recovery in the gold price of silver, may gradually improve the position of Belgium in the Latin Union without requiring the drastic and expensive course of liquidation of her silver money held abroad. T H E META1XIC R E S E R V E AND T H E PREMIUM ON EXCHANGE. The question whether the metallic reserve of the National Bank of Belgium is adequate in amount and is properly constituted has been much debated in recent years, as the result of the almost continuous premium on foreign exchange. The premium has usually kept within the limits of four-tenths of 1 per cent (or, as the French express it, 4 to the 1,000), but this has been above the a Les Problemes Actuels, etc., p. 23. 179 National Monetary Commission point which permitted exports of the silver 5-franc pieces from Belgium and would have denuded the country of everything but subsidiary coin but for the action of the Bank in purchasing 5-franc pieces abroad to replenish its reserve. The reserve was fixed prior to the revision of the charter in 1872 at 25 per cent of obligations payable on demand, which included bank notes and current accounts payable at sight. It was increased after that date to one-third, but with authority to the ministry to suspend the requirement when it might be advisable. From the beginning of the history of the Bank, however, it was allowed to count foreign bills as a part of the reserve. The effect has been that while the stated reserve has been usually above 35 per cent, the proportion held in coin has come to be less than half of this amount. A statement of the character of the demand liabilities and of the reserve was made in the replies of the Government to the questions of the central section of the Chamber of Deputies at the time of the revision of the charter in 1900, which is supplemented in the following table by the figures for 1908:a Proportion of reserve held. Dec. 31, 1897. Dec. 31, 1908. Circulation Current accounts 513,268,900 93.892,500 806,878,000 100,716,500 Total obligations on demand__ _ One-third equals 607,161,400 ;:o2, 387, 100 907,594,500 302,531,500 Actual metallic reserve Foreign bills 103,326, 100 ::2o, 078, 600 158,163,200 185,540,900 223,404,700 343,704,100 Total reserve » Documents Parlementaires: 1900, p. 205. l8o National Bank of Belgium These figures show a percentage of total reserve against demand obligations of about 36.8 per cent in 1897 and 37.8 per cent in 1908. They also show no radical change in the proportion of coin to foreign bills. It is noticeable, however, that the circulation has increased very rapidly within the eleven years since the report of 1897. Upon this subject more will be said hereafter. In one respect the movement of the reserve has, during the recent history of the Bank, been favorable. This is in the proportion of gold held as compared with silver. In 1875, immediately after the free coinage of silver .was suspended at the Belgian mint, the gold coin held was 62,508,000 francs, while holdings of silver 5-franc pieces reached 35,847,000 francs. Gradually the proportion of silver over gold was reduced, until since 1886 the following proportions have obtained: Composition of the metallic reserve. December 3 1 - 1887 1892 1897 1900 1902 1905 1906 1907 1908 Gold. Francs. 58, 768, 200 81,407,434 88,823,415 91, 904,050 8 9 , 5 8 9 , 225 100,746,035 103,871,160 106,707,910 1 1 2 , 4 3 6 , 850 Silver 5-franc pieces. Francs. 21,961,000 15.743.735 8, 903,640 12,003,000 14, 186,455 5,426,460 10, 596,675 19,565.495 37.032,500 Subsidiary and minor coins. Francs. 18,350,000 17,503,967 5,599,101 4,850,059 1 0 , 3 9 4 , 630 11,448,612 9,717,292 6,988,395 8,693,875 Total. Francs. 99,079,900 114,654,737 103,326,156 108,757,109 114, 170,310 117,621,107 124,185,127 133,261,800 158,163,225 The increase in 5-franc pieces during the year 1908 is not in itself an unfavorable symptom. Indeed, under the existing policy of the Bank in dealing with the problem of exchange, an adequate stock of silver 5-franc pieces is 181 National Monetary Commission nearly as important as an adequate stock of gold. As gold has practically disappeared from current use, and if paid out would be promptly seized upon by the exporters, the amount held by the Bank is to a certain extent immobilized and constitutes a guaranty fund for the solvency of the Bank's assets rather than a part of the active circulation. Notes are redeemed principally in silver 5-franc pieces, which are more expensive than gold to export. The Bank imports 5-franc pieces at its own expense when the demands upon it exceed receipts of the coin. The reflux of 5-franc pieces during 1908 may be attributed in part also to the stagnation in general business, which has accumulated coin and other forms of currency in most of the great banks of the world. One of the most difficult problems with which the Bank of Belgium has had to deal in recent years has been the unfavorable state of the exchanges. The rate of exchange, instead of fluctuating between the gold import and gold export points at different seasons, has remained, with only brief and occasional exceptions, adverse to Belgium. Gold practically disappeared from circulation many years ago and was soon followed by the 5-franc pieces in flitting across the border. The profit in exporting the coins has become so obvious, even to those who are not bankers, that it is practiced by a great number of persons, especially those living near the French frontier. The process by which the profit is realized is thus described by M. Ansiaux:^ " The tactics of the drainers are well known. They procure pieces of 5 francs either from the circulation or at the «I^es Problemes Actuels de la Circulation Metallique et Fiduciaire en Belgique, p. 25. 182 National Bank of Belgium counter of the National Bank or from its agencies nearest to the French frontier, in exchange for bank bills. They ship these pieces to one of the banking towns nearest to our territory—for example, to Iyille. There it is easy to exchange them for cheques or drafts payable in France or (what comes to the same thing) to deposit them in a banking establishment and against the deposit to draw a cheque of corresponding value. This paper is immediately negotiated in Belgium at a premium covering the cost of the operation and involving also a certain percentage of profit. As this speculation is repeated indefinitely, it affords in the aggregate serious profits to him who practices it." In Switzerland, where similar conditions prevailed prior to the creation of the National Swiss Bank in 1907, the trade of exporting the coins was shared even by women, who, while waiting in line to convert notes into coin at banking offices near the frontier, carried their knitting or weaving, combining with their profitable operations in finance their occupations as keepers of the home. An indication of the growth in the tendency to export coin is afforded by the figures of the presentation of notes to the bank to obtain specie in contrast with the specie presented to obtain notes. Within the short interval since 1891, the notes thus presented for exchange have increased by nearly 100 per cent, or in about the same proportion as the average circulation. This movement might be considered a healthy indication of the rapidity of note redemption, but for the fact that the demand for coin in exchange for notes converges principally upon those branches of the bank which are near the French frontier or in direct railway communication with France. It is significant 183 National Monetary Commission also that the total presentation of bills for notes is much larger at the country branches of the Bank than at Antwerp or Brussels. The little frontier town of Charleroi, with a population in 1906 of 27,362, showed in 1908 presentations of notes to the amount of 65,525,000 francs ($12,650,000), or twice the amount recorded at Antwerp and only 2,328,000 francs less than Brussels, with its population of more than 600,000. The following table shows the movement in presenting bills for coin at the agencies, at Antwerp and at Brussels, and the totals of this movement and of the presentation of coin to obtain notes: Exchanges of notes and coin. [In thousands of francs.] Notes presented for coin. Year. 1892 1897 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 At agencies. iS7,7i6 190,879 241.305 218,485 225,842 237,i45 229,268 232,116 266,672 298,260 282,417 At Antwerp. 15.889 22,356 27,764 28,543 29.302 24.548 25.366 24.523 30.981 35.554 3 2 , 829 At Brussels. 38,538 43.978 53.213 55,78i 49,934 50,263 5*,o9i 55,170 70,368 69,529 67.853 Total. 212,143 257.213 322,282 302,809 305,078 311.956 305,725 311,809 368,021 403,343 383.099 Total coin presented for notes. 44.525 57.288 63,892 64,803 68,813 69,116 68,537 72,350 72,793 77.947 79,337 A still more concrete demonstration of the character of this demand for coin is afforded in the table below. Nine agencies, most of them of relatively small importance in commercial transactions, represented in 1908 considerably more than half the total exchanges of notes, more than two-thirds of the exchanges outside of Antwerp and Brussels, and twice the combined exchanges of the latter 184 National Bank of Belgium two chief offices of the Bank, where 56 per cent of the discount business is done: Exchanges of notes at frontier agencies. 1892. Charleroi Courtrai Ghent La Louviere Liege 1900. Francs. 42,025,000 6,292,000 8,815,000 Agency. Francs. 69,89 ,000 7,562,000 19,665,000 7,144,000 26,145,000 ; Mons Namur Tournai 11,493,000 Verviers 7,979.000 4. 754.ooo 3,610,000 10,416,000 36,594.000 20,349,000 3,525,000 5,128,000 7,831,000 1908. Francs. 65.525.000 5,985.000 28,625,000 34,663,000 3 2 , 8 0 0 , 000 27,982,000 9,477,000 7, 6 4 7 , 000 8,665,000 The exchanges in a country having a sound currencyare affected by the ultimate balance in transfers of capital and credit. More obvious factors may be found in the state of the circulation, the proportion of metallic reserves held, and rates of discount. In the case of Belgium, it is admitted that the balance of the merchandise movement is adverse, but this is only one of the many factors in the movements of capital and credit. It is contended that Belgium exports a large amount of capital to countries less advanced than herself, like Egypt, China, and South America. These investments are accomplished usually by drafts upon Paris. As one of the chief centers of the international exchanges, Paris naturally serves as the intermediary for the transfer of Belgian funds. To Swiss investors also the Paris market stands in substantially the same relation, and when, after 1901, French capital began to go to Switzerland, the balance of the exchanges was for a time reversed 185 National Monetary Commission One of the most obvious reasons for the disappearance from Belgium of gold at least has been the increase in the employment of small notes. It is a well-established principle, illustrated by the monetary experience of many countries, that notes will drive coin out of circulation down to the lowest denomination for which they are issued. In other words, notes of 20 francs ($3.86), which is the minimum denomination in Belgium, if issued in sufficient amounts, would inevitably expel from circulation gold coins of 20 francs and of higher denominations. During the early history of the National Bank the issues of notes of the lower denominations were comparatively restricted. Since 1895, however, there have been striking changes in the character of the note issues, independently of their amount. The notes of the larger denominations—500 francs ($96.50) and 1,000 francs ($193)— have increased only by an amount of 83,000,000 francs ($16,000,000), while the total circulation has increased by 302,600,000 francs ($58,400,000). Notes of the minimum denomination of 20 francs have nearly trebled in amount, and those for 50 francs ($9.65) and 100 francs ($19.30) have increased by about 135,000,000 francs. Undoubtedly a proportion of this increased demand for small notes is due to the expansion of business and the more general use of currency by the poorer classes, but a large part of the increase may reasonably be connected with the disappearance of the 5-franc pieces. The following table puts in graphic form the changes in the denominations of notes in circulation for representative years: 186 National Bank of Belgium Increase in issues of small notes. [In thousands of francs.] Notes of Notes of 1,000 a n d 100 a n d 50 Total average circulation. 500 francs. 313,624.5 382,309. 6 450,413-1 576,483-5 676,841.9 7S3.079-9 151.539-5 143,694-0 149,647.5 201,045.5 222,269.5 232, 413.0 francs. 147, 224.3 200,824.5 235,686.5 287,902.8 337, 146. 1 371,306. 6 Notes of 20 francs. 14,860.7 37.791.3 52,079. 1 87.535.1 117,426.3 149,360.3 The influence of the great increase in circulation has obviously been to expel coin and to make it practically impossible to maintain the coins of full legal tender capacity in circulation. The issue of notes down to so low a denomination as 20 francs has practically imposed upon the Bank the obligation of maintaining the coin reserve of the country. In this respect it is perhaps subject to criticism for permitting so considerable a proportion of the reserve to consist in foreign bills—not that the bills are not a sound and efficient portion of the reserve, but that the proportion of metal has been allowed to fall too low. Upon this point emphasis is laid by the venerable Prof. Georges de Laveleye, in a recent discussion of the relative increase in the bank-note circulation of France and Belgium. In France as in Belgium, he declared, the circulation of bills goes on steadily increasing. If the years 1891-1892 are compared with 1906-1907, the circulation advanced from 425,000,000 to 750,000,000 francs in Belgium and from 3,000,000,000 to 4,800,000,000 francs in France. It increased 75 per cent in Belgium and 60 187 National Monetary Commission per cent in France. Commenting upon these figures, Professor de Laveleye declares: a li But in France it is the reserve which has profited by this extension of the paper circulation, while in Belgium it is the assets in Belgian and foreign paper which have increased from 300,000,000 to 625,000,000 francs—that is, in a proportion exactly parallel to the increase in the circulation. That has happened, then, which must inevitably happen—the bill of the National Bank of Belgium has only the strict minimum of legal metallic protection, even accepting the assets in foreign bills as the equivalent of specie in the vaults, while the bill of the Bank of France shows such an increase of protection that it might be truly said that it represents gold circulating in the form of paper." As influential, perhaps, as permanent transfers of capital, and perhaps one of their causes, is the comparatively low rate of discount maintained at the National Bank and in Belgium. On this point an indictment is drawn by M. Ansiaux, both against the policy of the Bank and against the law which covers into the public Treasury the proceeds of all discounts above 3% per cent. In seeking to reach the foundation of the problem, M. Ansiaux declares that it is an error to believe that the balance of international accounts redresses itself always automatically. " Without doubt," he says, "the rise of exchange constitutes a stimulus to exportation and a curb to importation. In short, exporters sell their drafts higher and importers pay more for their remittances. But the customs statistics have already demonstrated that this double a Moniteur des Inter£ts Materiels, December 8, 1907, p. 3974. 188 National Bank of Belgium influence does not translate itself in an obvious manner in the commercial movements of Belgium and Switzerland.^ Through its holdings of foreign bills the National Bank has been able to offset in some measure the adverse tendency of the exchanges. When the demand for the Paris cheque becomes pressing and threatens to raise the premium to a point which would attract attention and cause alarm, the Bank draws from its portfolio and throws upon the market drafts upon Paris, Iyondon, Berlin, and Amsterdam, and thus meets the demand for the transfer of funds abroad. This portfolio of foreign paper is reconstituted from time to time, at those periods when the demand for foreign exchange is less acute. It is contended by some of the critics of the Bank, however, that while its policy in dealing with foreign bills is sound so far as it goes, it should be combined with a more resolute policy in regard to the discount rate. It is pointed out that the Imperial Bank of Germany, which also employs foreign bills to maintain the balance of the exchanges, does not on this account consider itself released from the obligation of raising the discount rate boldly and in defiance of all criticisms. In other markets the elevation of the rate of discount is relied upon to correct the adverse balance of the exchanges and check the outflow of metallic money. It becomes a question then—which has been much discussed in Belgium—whether the National Bank has not erred in keeping its rate of discount too low, instead of too high. There have been those who have urged that it should be advanced sharply and kept high until a visible influence was exerted upon the movement « Ives Problemes Actuels, etc., p. 35. 189 National Monetary Commission of money. The failure of the National Bank to do this might be attributed to two influences—the fact that by law it is deprived of profit from a discount rate above 3 X per cent and the fact that it derives a very considerable profit from the expansion of its note issue, which has taken the place of the vanished coins. Obviously the profits upon the note issue more than compensate the premiums paid for maintaining the metallic reserve. The Bank perhaps regards this policy as more beneficial to commercial interests and less likely to impair its own popularity than the drastic elevation of the discount rate which protects the reserve of the Bank of England. In spite of the unfavorable situation of the Belgian exchange, which is emphasized by the dubious position of Belgium in the Latin Union, the argument is not without support by competent economists, that the existing system has advantages over the resolute raising of the discount rate which is advocated by M. Ansiaux. The argument is the same as that made in favor of a uniform rate at the Bank of France—that the burden of maintaining the reserve is properly assumed by the Bank, rather than imposed upon the commerce of the country. It appears that the periods when high discount rates have prevailed have been usually those when the bank found it necessary to make the largest importations of coin, but in most of these cases the discount rate was not raised so radically as at the Imperial Bank of Germany and other state banks outside of France. Thus, in 1898, with an average discount rate of 3.04 per cent, the amount of coin brought into the country by the Bank was 30,000,000 francs. In 1899, with an average rate of 3.91 per cent, the amount 190 National Bank of Belgium brought in was 60,000,000 francs. When the average rate fell in 1902 to 3 per cent, the importations of coin by the Bank were only 11,000,000 francs, but rose, under the influence of the tight money market of 1906 and an average discount rate of 3.84 per cent, to 81,500,000 francs; and in 1907, with an average discount rate of 4.95 per cent, importations of coin by the Bank were 98,500,000 francs.0 With an average rate of 3.56 per cent in 1908, importations by the Bank fell to 79,000,000 francs.6 It is maintained by the principal financial publication of Belgium that an attempt to raise the discount rate radically would impose much heavier charges upon the country than are imposed under the existing system. The increase of the rate from an average of 3.84 per cent, which prevailed in 1906, to an average of 5 per cent would add 5,166,000 francs to the discount charges of the National Bank alone, and if the entire quantity of bills discounted at the joint-stock banks were subjected to the same increase of rate the total additional charge imposed upon commerce would be multiplied about three times and would amount to more than 15,000,000 francs. The effect upon the security market would be to depress prices and to send the 3 per cent obligations of the Belgian Government below par. In other words, it was declared, the rental of capital would be brought up to the rate which is paid in undeveloped countries deficient in resources or unhealthy in their economic state. 0 Upon the whole, therefore, it is concluded by the Belgian journal that comparatively little injury results to the a Moniteur des Int£r£ts Mat£riels, June 21, 1908, p. 2035. &Economiste Europeen, May 22, 1909, X X X V , p. 644. c Moniteur des Int£r£ts Materiels, December 22, 1907, p . 4142. 191 National Monetary Commission financial organism of the country from the premium on exchange. The computed amount of the premium on exchange paid upon exportations to France, at the rate of three-tenths of i per cent, represents upon 400,000,000 francs of such exportations a sum of 1,200,000 francs ($231,600) .a It is obvious that this enhanced price of the Paris exchange affords to the merchant drawing upon Paris a premium upon exportation or imposes upon the importer an enhanced burden which is too slight in either case to affect seriously the balance of trade by stimulating exportation or checking the importation of French products. Trade would almost certainly be influenced more sharply by an elevation of the discount rate, but it would be necessary ultimately for the Bank to strengthen its reserve from the increased quantity of gold imported or to curtail the amount of small notes in circulation in order to make the increased rate of discount effective in keeping gold within the country. GENERAL STATISTICS OF BANKING OPERATIONS. Some of the principal statistics of the movement of important classes of business from the beginning of the life of the National Bank are brought together in the tables below. As statistics for representative years have been presented in most cases in discussing different features in the operation of the Bank, comment in detail upon the statistics here presented is not required. They are brought together for convenience and a greater degree of completeness than the shorter tables which have been given in dealing with particular subjects. The complete tables a Moniteur des Int£r£ts Materiels, December 15, 1907, p. 4058. 192 National Bank of Belgium show the rapid expansion in the business of the National Bank of Belgium, which has been characteristic of financial statistics in the case of advanced commercial countries during the past generation. The four principal items for the close of each year conform to the exhibit made by similar figures in other countries of Europe for the central banks of issue, in the fact that note circulation plays a much more important part than deposits in gross liabilities and that the growth in circulation is offset by a corresponding growth in discounts granted. These discounts, however, are made up largely of rediscounts extended to the joint-stock and private banks, which have absorbed the bulk of the growth in deposit business since the evolution of powerful banks without the power of note issue. A general table of the four principal items of the balance sheet at the end of the year appears below: Principal items of the balance sheet. Francs. 1851 29,264,880 1855 i860 1861 1862 1863 1864 1865 1866 59,o99» 781 63.023,535 69,048,286 68,299,840 45.119,295 [ 51,352,022 j I 55,074.197 55.453.86i 1867 1868 7 9 , 9 3 1 . 106 90, 9 1 1 , 3 0 1 90,097,697 95,614,523 1869 1870 1871 1872 - 123,271,268 115,670,473 105,493.284 1873 1874 Bank notes in circulation. Metallic reserve. December 3 1 - -- 118,246,897 122,662,123 1875 855I9—IO -13 Francs. 44,034.953 78,504,789 i5S.958,745 149.568,487 144,775.678 1 3 7 . 4 3 2 . 729 128, 9 0 1 , 020 i55.563.372 145,226,443 167,576,272 2 0 3 , 8 1 3 , 192 230,190,917 196,233,878 214,290,183 305.635.514 2 5 8 , 4 5 1 , 264 272,087,466 269,071,451 193 Creditor current accounts. Francs, Francs. 5 0 , 3 4 6 , 210 95,580,880 117,899,960 117, 847, 920 112,474,420 n 6 , 727, 840 112, 6 5 1 , 990 125,106,120 124,387,380 137,660,450 171,782,680 i99,219,390 202,528,520 228,690,490 2 9 7 , 6 7 2 , 650 320,586,070 328,873,430 340,254,420 25,980,830 42,666,838 81,825,144 79,173.174 67,852,803 42,635.776 44,207,126 64,101,720 55.798,121 9 4 , 2 7 0 , 253 113,271,152 102,116,233 81,319,921 106,106,831 118,052,607 61,822,909 7 1 , 4 6 5 , 293 65.704,557 National Monetary Principal items of the balance December 3 1 - Metallic reserve. Francs. 1876. 1877 1878. 1879 1880 1881. 1882 1883 1884 1885 1886 1887 1888 1889 1890 1891 1892 1893 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899 1900 igor 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906. 1907 1908. 116,675,643 99,249,880 99,169,614 105,415,039 98,787,206 99,477,283 99.445.996 98,096, 713 96,535.498 105,495.925 100,578, 722 99.079,959 93.646 434 103,636,140 103.413.340 102,751,759 114,654, 737 i n , 621, 199 130,756,515 101,061,507 101,978,446 103,326,156 117,087,292 107,901,447 108,757,109 116,153,170 114,170,310 117, 117.388 119,366,357 117,621,107 124,185,127 133,261,800 158,163,225 Commission sheet—Continued. Discounts. Francs, 306,821,721 276,556,761 247,872,605 271,512,573 283,992,826 280,695,884 256,854,173 271,250,176 280,026,058 278, 295,964 292,662,882 295.ii7.35i 283,875.995 302,384,547 312,670,661 323.986,582 309.391.705 336,201,077 346,590, 227 365,263,291 399.683,424 417,827,791 424.795.032 433,577.079 465,244,299 478, 293,671 5i3.75o,49o 533.069,957 557.74o.495 570,024,215 597.370,467 528,316, 117 493.458,291 B a n k notes in circulation. Creditor current accounts. Francs. 364.559,260 342,108,340 313,617,950 334.975.72o 339.969.510 354.753.67o 355,706,250 357,611,140 357,761,810 367,423. 810 378,966,160 389,094, 020 375.670,220 401,765,820 404,721,600 421,886,510 427,594.580 450,755.9IO 469,662,000 476,502,020 492, 636, 910 513,268,950 544, 652, 040 589,504.I70 631, 631, 800 649.330,330 676,140,330 671,006,560 694,429,290 724,082,140 770,423,340 798,167,760 806,878,060 The figures of the general movement of operations show immense totals, because they cover all payments into and out of the Bank. Figures of this movement are not usually kept by American banks, but they have a certain significance in the case of European banks of issue because the latter perform to some extent the function of the clear194 National Bank of Belgium ing houses in receiving and collecting checks and other documents upon other banks. General movement of operations and gross earnings. M o v e m e n t of operations. Year. Francs. Francs. 4 , 8 1 0 , 5 1 6 , 589.68 1869- 5,031,817 Gross earnings. S.995.3S3.30 891.19 7 , 0 4 6 , 7 2 9 . 48 1871. 11, 7 0 0 , 891, 702.01 8,798,931.35 1872. 13. 0 3 5 , 434. 8 7 2 . 4 4 10,210,076.49 1873- 1 4 , 4 2 6 , 4 5 0 , 646.88 16,542,873.03 1874- 13.574,856, 891.54 13,613,941.19 1875- 1 3 . 5 2 7 , 3 5 9 : 459-17 n.365,899.95 1876- 12,489,767, 081.18 10,315,566.65 1877- 1 1 , 4 4 4 , 0 6 3 , 172.91 10,476,216.88 1878. 11, 5 6 6 , 641, 6 7 3 - 9 7 n . 2 9 5 . 5 4 6 . 19 1870. in, 6 0 7 , 7 9 9 , 9 8 0 . 97 1 0 5 , 6 6 1 , 134. 51 879- 13,268,345, 510.98 9 , 8 1 7 , 7 7 2 . 17 880 _ 1 6 , 7 7 0 , 4 5 2 , 220.85 9,854,985-36 1 6 , 6 9 1 , 2 2 0 , 278.75 11,522,499.39 16,815,897, 966.40 13. 7 8 1 , 0 1 6 . 79 T o t a l for 10 y e a r s . 1 7 , 9 8 8 , 6 8 0 , 750.85 12,176,985.53 16,473,764, 3 3 9 2 9 11,072,438.50 885 _ 1 5 . 9 6 9 . 8 4 6 , 743.o8 11,114,498.49 886_ 1 6 , 4 1 0 , 293, 424.86 10,894,625.98 887- 19, 1 5 1 , 6 8 4 , 3 7 8 . 8 1 11,202,106.98 1 8 , 8 2 2 , 6 3 4 , 841.64 10,723,509.19 168,362,820,455.51 112,160,427.40 T o t a l for 1 o y e a r s _ 1889- 19,230,169, 638.25 1890. 19, 6 0 1 , 5 5 0 ,6 4 4 . 6 5 1 2 , 3 4 4 , 8 8 3 . 28 1891- 19,925,688, 020.47 11, 4 0 2 , 406. 9 8 i i , 9 4 7 , 140. 15 1892. 18,864,409, 343-24 10, 789, 2 3 0 . 8 5 1893- 19, 0 8 4 , 6 4 7 ,0 8 1 . 4 3 11,202,819.79 1894- 1 9 , 5 6 2 , 149, 3 5 8 . 0 5 1 1 , 4 7 0 , 3 0 5 . 74 1895- 2 5 . 5 2 1 , 0 3 9 , 223.47 11,203,777.50 1896. 23, 794, 145.7 1 3 - 9 9 11, 730, 218. 22 1897- 2 3 , 8 8 0 , 9 7 0 , 766.75 12,665,355.05 1898. 2 8 , 1 9 5 , 8 0 8 , 124.09 13,005,476.81 217,660,577,914.39 117,761,614.37 T o t a l for 10 y e a r s . 1899- 29.837.546,658.48 14,909.364-85 1900- 31,490,349,019.45 17,585,180.25 1901.. 3 1 , 7 4 5 . 5 2 7 . 179. 18 17,332,074.69 1902.. 3 2 , 1 7 9 , 5 0 2 , 121.05 16,662,898.82 195 National Monetary Commission General movement of operations and gross earnings—Continued. M o v e m e n t of operations. Gross earnings. Francs. Francs. 18, 298, 5 2 1 . 90 18,395.748.40 18.498,899.98 3 5 , 1 6 0 , 9 6 1 , 766. 78 190319041905igo6_ 19071908. 3 6 , 0 8 5 , 2 0 7 , 0 4 4 . 18 40,424,814,815.19 19, 704,409-03 2i,122,923.50 20,639,024. 59 45.034.519.641.00 51,162,602,291.58 50,804,771.498.54 T o t a l for 10 y e a r s . 383,925,802,035.43 183,149,046.01 The character and frequency of changes in the rate of discount have been discussed under appropriate heads, but a convenient summary of the average rate for each year since 1873, giving the volume of discounts and the amount earned from them, is afforded in the next table: Rate and amount of discounts. R a t t of disco u n t . 1873 1874 1875 1876 1877 1878 1879 1880 1881. 1882 1883 1884 1885 1886 1887 1888 1889 1890 Average maturity of p a p e r . Perc ~ent. 5 06 Francs. Gross proc e e d s of discount. 47 2, 0 1 9 , 3 0 0 , 0 0 0 Francs. 14.598,300 50 1,907,500,000 n , 105, 900 5oT70 1,916,900,000 9,189,600 50 1,822,200,000 7,859,600 5iX 1,894,200,000 8,206,900 21 5i 1,829,600,000 8,540,600 04 47 46 1.923,500,000 7,009,600 1,994,600,000 7,096,200 47 2, 0 3 4 , 2 0 0 , 0 0 0 8 , 5 7 7 . 7oo 45 2,059,100,000 44J-2 2 9 , 9 7 7 . 200 8,367,300 45 45 2,071,700,OOO 7,537.3oo 2,088,60O,OOO 7 , 5 0 3 . 700 6, 707, 700 4 37 3 85* 2 75 2 69 3 3 A m o u n t discounted. 3 35 4 08 4 42 X 3 60 3 32 3 28 2 80 012,400,000 47 47 2 2 , 1 6 7 , 3 0 0 , OOO 7,593.200 7, 5 6 6 , 000 2,228,TOO,OOO 8,573.5oo 22 45 45 44 2 , 3 5 5 . 5 0 0 , OOO 9,244,000 3 oo 39 2,512,800,OOO 8,344,500 3 3 10 32 3 58K 3 96 059,300,000 2,153,80O,OOO National Bank of Rate and amount of Year. Rate of discount. discounts—Continued. Average maturity of paper. Per cent. 1892 1893 1894 189S 1896 1897 1898 1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 Belgium 2. 70 41 40 40 39 41 40 41 39 38 2.83 3.00 2. 60 2.84 3.00 3-. 0 4 3-. 9 2 4 09 3.28 3- 00 3- 17 42 3- 00 43 3- 17 43 3.84 44 4-95 44 3-S6 44 I97 Amount discounted. Francs. 2,430,500, 000 2,463,600, 000 2, 546, 200, 000 2,894,300, 000 2,785,600, 000 2,922,200, 000 3,026,900, 000 3,242,200, 000 3,442,800, 000 3,370,800, 000 3,428, 900, 000 3,635,300, 000 3,603,100, 000 3,861,900, 000 4,255,500, 000 4,449,700, 000 4,362,400, 000 APPENDICES. IQQ APPENDIX A. THE EXCHANGE PROBLEM IN BELGIUM. [From the New York Bankers' Magazine for August, 1909.] The annual report of the director of the mint of Belgium, of which an abstract appears in 1/Economist e Europeen of May 22, throws considerable light on the problem of the adverse exchange with France, in addition to the facts presented in the annual report of the National Bank of Belgium. It appears that the purchases of 5-franc pieces, forced upon the Bank in order to maintain the redemption of its notes and the integrity of the circulation, were not as large in 1908 as in 1907, but were larger than in any other year except 1906. As recently as 1904, when the discount rate was low, the Bank was compelled to buy in Paris only 12,000,000 francs in silver pieces, which was a marked improvement over 1899 and 1900, when the money market was under severe pressure. The purchases made by the Bank in 1900 were 35,500,000 francs. The record of the past eight years, with the average rate of discount at the National Bank, appears below: Silver pur! chased by I the Bank. Average rate of discount. Francs. Per cent. 14,500,000 3.28 11,000,000 25,000,000 12,000,000 3- 00 1 24,000,000 81,500,000 3- 17 3.84 98,500,000 4-95 3.56 79,000,000 3- 17 3-00 National Monetary Commission The mint report is interesting in submitting a new estimate of the quantity of 5-franc pieces still in circulation in Belgium. It is estimated that more than threefourths of the pieces coined under Leopold I, prior to 1867, have disappeared and that of the entire coinage of 495,678,210 francs from 1832 to 1876 (when coinage was suspended) only about 375,000,000 francs are still in existence. The circulation of these pieces in Belgium, which was formerly calculated at 200,000,000 francs, is believed to have been so reduced by exportation to France that the amount remaining in circulation does not exceed 100,000,000 to 150,000,000 francs. It is declared that exchange on Paris has been unfavorable, as in preceding years. The premium, which fell below 1 per 1,000 in January and February, 1908, rose progressively to 4 per 1,000 in November, to return to 3 per 1,000 in December. The average for the year was 2}/%. The effect of the premium was to encourage the exportation not only of the 5-franc pieces, but even of subsidiary silver. The Government and the National Bank have both taken measures to hamper this flight of currency. The railway officials have taken steps to prevent important transfers of silver in the form of ordinary baggage, and ticket sellers and treasury officials have been forbidden to make exchanges of money except within normal limits. The Bank has endeavored to meet the legitimate demand for exchange by its offerings of foreign bills. APPENDIX B. THE FUNDAMENTAL LAWS CREATING AND EXTENDING THE CHARTER OF THE BANK. Laws of May 5, 1850; May 20,1872; and March 26,1900, combined according to a royal decree of May 7, 1900. (Moniteur of August 18, No. 230.) ARTICLE l.a A bank is hereby founded under the name of National Bank of Belgium, with head office in Brussels. ARTICLE II. 6 The Bank shall establish discount offices in capitals of provinces, and also in towns where the need of them shall be manifest. A discount committee shall be connected with each discount office in towns where deemed necessary by the Government, after having consulted the directors of the Bank. ARTICLE I I I . C The corporate existence of the Bank is extended to January 1, 1929. This term may be extended by law, upon the request of a majority of a meeting of shareholders. * Article I of the law of March 26, 1900. & From the law of May 5, 1850. c Article I I I of the law of May 5, 1850; Article I, part 1, of the law of May 20, 1872; Article I I , part 2, of the law of March 26, 1900. 203 National Monetary ARTICLE Commission IV." The capital of the Bank shall be 50,000,000 francs, divided into 50,000 shares, registered or to bearer, of 1,000 francs each. ARTICLE V. 6 The Bank shall begin business when three-fifths of each share shall have been paid in. The administration of the Bank shall cause the capital to be restored up to 15,000,000 francs, if it should be impared by losses. The administration is empowered to call up funds if business expansion should require it. The mode and conditions of payment shall be regulated by the statutes. The Bank shall collect interest at the rate of 3 per cent per annum on the amounts not paid in. ARTICLE VI.C A reserve fund shall be created for the following purposes: * 1. To meet losses in the Bank's capital. 2. To add a sufficient amount to the yearly profits to allow the payment of a dividend of 4 per cent on the amount paid in. The amount set aside to constitute the reserve fund shall be 10 per cent of the annual profits in excess of 4 per cent of the capital. a Article IV of the law of May 5, 1850, reads as follows: " T h e corporate capital is 25,000,000 francs, divided into 25,000 shares, registered or to bearer, of 1,000 francs each." And Article I, part 2, of the law of May 20, 1872, states: " T h e Bank's capital shall be increased to 50,000,000 francs." b From the law of May 5, 1850, which has since become inoperative. c Article I I I of the law of March 26, 1900. 204 National Bank ARTICLE of Belgium VII. a One-quarter of the profits in excess of 4 per cent is assigned to the Government. The Government shall, moreover, receive an allowance of one-quarter of 1 per cent semiannually on the average circulation of notes in excess of 275,000,000 francs. ARTICLE VII (2).* The profit accruing to the Bank from the difference between an interest rate of 3 ^ per cent and the rate of interest actually collected shall be assigned to the State. ARTICLE VIII. c The operations of the Bank shall be as follows: 1. To discount or purchase bills of exchange and other documents resulting from commercial transactions, and treasury bonds within the limits to be determined by the statutes. The following are deemed commercial transactions for the purposes of this provision: Purchases and sales by farmers, and to them, of cattle, agricultural implements, fertilizers, seed, crops, and generally of merchandise and produce relating to the practice of their industry. 2. To deal in gold and silver bullion. 3. To make loans on gold and silver bars and coin. 4. To undertake the collection of bills which may be remitted to it by private individuals or corporations. 5. To receive sums of money on deposit in current account, and securities, precious metals, and gold and silver coin for safe-keeping. a Article I I , third paragraph, of the law of March 26, 1900. & Article I I , fourth paragraph, of the law of March 26, 1900. c Article V I I I of the law of May 5, 1850 and Article X I of the law of March 26, 1900. 205 National Monetary Commission 6. Finally, to make advances on current account or for short terms upon the deposit of national public securities or other securities guaranteed by the State, within limits and conditions to be determined periodically by the administration of the Bank, jointly with the council of censors, with the approval of the Minister of Finance. ARTICLE IX. a The Bank is expressly prohibited from undertaking operations other than those set forth in Article VIII. The Bank shall not be permitted to borrow, nor to make loans, either on bonds and mortgages or upon the deposit of industrial shares. It shall not make loans on its own shares, nor buy them. It shall not take any part, either directly or indirectly, in industrial enterprises, or undertake any kind of business other than that set forth in paragraph 2 of the preceding article. It shall not acquire real estate other than the premises which are absolutely necessary for carrying on its business. ARTICLE X. a The Bank shall act as cashier for the State under conditions to be determined by law. ARTICLE XI. If a savings bank shall be established,6 the Government reserves the right to have it managed by the Bank. This a From the law of May 5, 1850. b The law of March 16, 1865, created a general savings and pension office under the guaranty of the State. Article 39 of said law reads as follows: " The relations between the savings bank and the National Bank shall be regulated by the Government, in accordance with Article X I of the law of May 5, 1850." 206 National Bank of Belgium service shall be distinct and independent from the business of the Bank, and its organization shall be the subject of a law. ARTICLE XII. The Bank may issue notes payable to bearer. The amount in circulation shall be represented by securities which can be easily converted into cash. The proportion between the cash reserve and the notes in circulation shall be fixed by the statutes. ARTICLE XIII/' The Government, by agreement with the Bank, shall determine the form of the notes, the method of their issue, and the amount of each denomination. The text of those which shall be issued in the future 6 shall be expressed in the two official languages. ARTICLE XIII (2).° Within one month following the promulgation of the present law,d the Bank shall pay into the public treasury the value of the bank notes belonging to the issues prior to the year 1869, which have not yet been presented for redemption. Whenever a type of bank note shall be replaced or abolished, the Bank, at the expiration of a period fixed in each case by special agreement, shall pay into the treasury the value of the notes of that type which shall not have been presented for redemption. a Article X I I I of the law of May 5, 1850, and Article V of the law of March 26, 1900. b Beginning March 26, 1900. c Article VI of the law of March 26, 1900. d Law of March 26, 1900. 207 National Monetary Commission This provision shall be applicable to the notes of 20 francs of the type prior to that created in 1897. The notes of which the equivalent shall have been paid into the treasury shall be deducted from the amount of the outstanding circulation, and the redemption of such notes as shall be subsequently presented at the counters of the Bank shall be made on account of the treasury. ARTICLE XIV." The notes shall be payable at sight at the offices of the Bank in Brussels. The notes shall be payable at sight at the country agencies of the bank, but such payments may be deferred until there has been time to receive the necessary funds. The Government is authorized to receive the notes at state offices.6 ARTICLE XV. C To facilitate transfers of funds, the Bank is authorized to issue drafts payable several days after sight. ARTICLE XVI. d The Bank may be authorized by the Government to purchase public securities, but shall not hold an amount exceeding the amount of its paid-up capital. « Article X I V of the law of May 5, 1850, and Article I, paragraph 5, of the law of May 20, 1872. & Law of June 20, 1873, Article VI: "Notes of the National Bank are legal tender so long as they are redeemable at sight in legal coin." This privilege would immediately cease should the notes of the National Bank be refused a t the state offices. c From the law of May 5, 1850. d Article XVI of the law of May 5, 1850, and Article I, paragraph 6, of the law of May 20, 1872. 208 National Bank of Belgium No purchase shall be made except by virtue of authority given by the Minister of Finance, on application of t h e administration of the Bank, approved by the council of censors. The investment of the reserve in public funds shall be discretionary. ARTICLE XVII. The management of the Bank shall be in the hands of a governor and six directors. ARTICLE XVIII. There shall be also a council of censors and a. committee of discount. ARTICLE XIX. The governor shall be appointed by the King for five years. While holding t h a t office he can not be a member of either branch of the Legislature nor receive any pension from t h e State. A member of either House, when appointed governor, terminates immediately his legislative functions upon his acceptance of the office. The governor, if elected a member of either House, shall not be permitted to take the oath as such until he has formally declared his preference for the latter office. ARTICLE XX. The directors and t h e censors shall be elected by the general assembly of the shareholders. The duration of office for directors and censors, and t h e order of rotation, shall be regulated by t h e statutes. 85519—ro 14 209 National Monetary ARTICLE Commission XXI. a A commissioner shall be appointed by the Government to supervise operations, and especially discount and the issue of notes. His salary shall be fixed by the Government by agreement with the management of the Bank, and shall be paid by the Bank. ARTICLE XXII. The management of the Bank shall present to the Government monthly a statement showing the condition of the institution and of its discount offices. This statement shall be published monthly in the Moniteur.6 The result of operations and the declaration of dividends shall be published every six months in the same way. ARTICLE XXIII. C Changes made in the statutes of the Bank must be in accordance with the principles set forth in the present law.<* Changes may be made on other points not regulated by law. They shall be submitted to the King for his approval. ARTICLE XXIV. The Government has the right to control all operations. It shall have the power to prevent the execution of any a From the law of May 5, 1850. & I n pursuance of Article 47 of the new by-laws, the publication takes place weekly. c Article V I I I of the law of March 26, 1900. <*The first statutes of the Bank were promulgated in pursuance of Article. X X I I I of the law of May 5, 1850, and modified in accordance with the law of May 20, 1872, Article I I I . 210 National Bank of Belgium measure which shall be contrary to the law, to the statutes, or to the interests of the State. ARTICLE XXV. No bank of issue shall be constituted by shares, except under the form of a joint stock company and by virtue of a law. a ARTICLE XXVI. The National Bank and its branches, discount offices, and agencies shall conform to the provisions of the law of May 22, 1878, concerning the use of the Flemish language in official matters; and this provision shall apply to all blank forms and to signs on the exterior and interior of buildings. An adequate knowledge of both languages shall be required of all employees to be chosen in future for service in Flemish districts, including that of Brussels, who come in contact with the public. TEMPORARY PROVISION. 6 The present law shall take effect from the 1st of January, 1900. However, the benefits prescribed in favor of the State are to take effect from the 1st of January preceding. The Bank is authorized to pay out of its reserve funds the difference between the amount due the State in pursuance of the preceding paragraph, and the amount already paid into the treasury in accordance with the provisions in force on December 31, 1899. The amount a Article VII of the law of March 26, 1900. 6 Article X of the law of March 26, 1900. 211 National Monetary Commission of such difference shall be restored to the reserve by means of assessments on the profits in future years. Noted and approved, to be added to our decree of August 7, 1900. LEOPOLD. By the King: P. DE SMET DE NAEYER, Minister of Finance and Public Works, 212 APPENDIX C. LAW REGULATING THE FUNCTIONS OF CASHIER FOR THE STATE. Laws of May 10, 1850, May 20, 1872, and March 26, 1900, consolidated in pursuance of royal decree of August 7, 1900. (Moniteur of August 18, No. 230.) ARTICLE I.° The Government is authorized to intrust to the National Bank of Belgium the functions of cashier for the State. ARTICLE II. a As such, the Bank is deemed to be accountant for State, and subject to all regulations prescribed by regarding accounting and by the fundamental law of court of accounts, which are not inconsistent with principles governing stock companies. ARTICLE the law the the III.° The Bank shall establish an agency in the capital of each judicial district, and also in such towns as the Government shall deem advisable in the interest of the treasury or of the public. ARTICLE IV.° The Bank is accountable for its administration and that of its agents. Exception shall be made only in cases of a From the law of May 10, 1850. 213 National Monetary Commission superior force, the existence of which and the use of funds collected for account of the State shall have been clearly established. ARTICLE V. a Agents of the Bank shall be appointed by the King from a list of candidates presented by the council of administration of the Bank containing twice as many names as there are agents to be appointed. They shall not be entitled to claim a pension from the treasury. They shall furnish a bond to the cashier for the faithful performance of their duties, consisting of either real estate or national bonds. ARTICLE VI.° The journals and other registers relating to operations for the treasury shall be kept in accordance with a method to be determined by the Government. The journals shall be numbered and initialed by a member of the court of accounts. The agents of the Bank shall permit the vaults, registers, and journals to be examined by the officials appointed for that purpose by the Minister of Finance. ARTICLE VII. 6 The National Bank shall perform gratuitously the service of cashier for the State. The Bank shall bear all expenses of management, of material, of transportation, and of transfer of funds, and shall share in the expenses of the treasury in the Prova F r o m the law of May 10, 1850. b Article IV of the law of May 20, 1872, and Article I I , paragraph 5 of the law of March 26, 1900. 214 National Bank of Belgium inces to an amount of 230,000 francs annually. This amount shall not be increased at the revision of the convention provided for by Article IX of this act. The available funds of the treasury in excess of requirements shall be invested by the Bank in commercial paper. The Bank shall be guarantor for the securities acquired or set aside for account of the treasury. ARTICLE Ylll.a The provisions of the law of September 5-15, 1807, regulating the privilege and legal lien of the public treasury on the estates of accountants, shall apply to the cashier for the State. ARTICLE IX. 6 The agreement entered into between the Government and the Bank is subject to revision every ten years. Noted and approved, to be added to our decree of August 7, 1900. LEOPOLD. By the King: P. DE SMET DE NAEYER, Minister of Finance and Public Works. a From the law of May 10, 1850. & Article IV of the law of March 26, 1900. 215 APPENDIX D. STATUTES OF THE BANK. Adopted at the general assembly of shareholders of May 5, 1900, and approved by royal decree of May 16, 1900. (Moniteur of May 24, 1900, No. 144.) CHAPTER I.—Organization. The National Bank of Belgium, founded as a joint stock company, in pursuance of the law of May 5, 1850, and the laws of May 20, 1872, and March 26, 1900, shall have its head office in Brussels. ART. 2. It shall have branches or discount offices in the provincial capitals and in other towns, where the need of such establishments is recognized. ART. 3. The Bank shall open an agency in the capital of each judicial district, and also in such towns as the Government shall deem advisable in the interest of the treasury or of the public. ART. 4. The corporate existence of the Bank is extended to January 1, 1929, in pursuance of the law of March 26, ARTICLE I . 1900. This term may be extended by law, upon the request of a majority of the general assembly of shareholders. ART. 5. The Bank shall be legally liquidated should losses shown by the balance sheet exceed one-half the corporate capital. In any other case, the liquidation can not take place before the time fixed by law, except with the consent of 216 National Bank of Belgium the Government and in pursuance of a resolution carried by a majority of three-quarters of the shareholders in general assembly and owning at least one-half the stock of the Bank. In case of dissolution, either at the end of the term or before the term, the assembly shall elect the liquidators and regulate their powers, as well as the mode of procedure, according to common law. CHAPTER II.—Capital and reserve. ART. 6. The joint capital consists of 50,000,000 francs, divided into 50,000 shares of 1,000 francs each. ART. 7. Each share shall give the-right to a proportionate and* equal part in the joint assets and in the division of profits. ART. 8. The rights and obligations pertaining to each share follow the title to same, to whomsoever it may pass. Shares can not be divided as far as concerns the Bank; it recognizes but one owner for each share. ART. 9. The ownership of a share involves compliance with the statutes of the Bank and with decisions regularly taken at a general assembly. ART. 10. The heirs or creditors of a shareholder can neither cause official seals to be affixed on the chattels and securities of the Bank, nor ask distribution or sale at auction, nor meddle with its management. For the assertion of their rights, they must abide by the published reports of the Bank and the deliberations of the general assembly. ART. 11. Fully paid shares are either registered or to bearer, and may be converted, free of charge, at the pleasure of the owner. 217 National Monetary Commission ART. 12. The ownership of a registered share is established by the entry on the records of the Bank. Registers to that effect are kept in duplicate at the head office. The beneficiary receives a certificate which is not transferable. ART. 13. The transfer of registered shares is effected by means of a declaration of transfer entered on the books of the Bank, dated and signed by the assignor and the assignee, or their attorneys in fact, as well as by a director and a clerk of the Bank. ART. 14. The transfer of shares to bearer is effected by the delivery of the certificate. ART. 15. Shareholders are not liable beyond the loss of the amount of their shares in the Bank. ART. 16. A reserve fund shall be created, for the following purposes: 1. To meet losses in the capital. 2. To add to the yearly profits a sufficient amount to insure a dividend of 4 per cent on the nominal capital. ART. 17. The amount set aside for the formation of the reserve shall be 10 per cent of the net profits in excess of 4 per cent per annum. ART. 18. The mode of investing the reserve shall be discretionary. The income shall form part of the general earnings of the Bank. CHAPTER III.—Operations. ART. 19. The operations of the Bank shall be as follows: 1. To discount or purchase bills of exchange and other documents resulting from commercial transactions, as well as treasury bonds. 218 National Bank of Belgium The following are deemed commercial transactions for the purposes of this provision: Purchases and sales by farmers, and to them, of cattle, agricultural implements, fertilizers, seed, crops, and generally of merchandise and produce relating to the practice of their industry. 2. To deal in gold and silver bullion. 3. To make loans on gold and silver bars and coin. 4. To undertake the collection of bills which may be remitted to it by private individuals or corporations. 5. To receive sums of money on deposit in current account, and securities, precious metals, and gold and silver coin for safe-keeping. 6. Finally, to make advances on current account or for short terms upon the deposit of national public securities or other securities guaranteed by the State, within limits and conditions to be determined periodically by the council of administration, jointly with tfre council of censors, with the approval of the Minister of Finance. ART. 20. The Bank is expressly prohibited from undertaking operations other than those set forth in the preceding article. The Bank shall not borrow nor make loans, either on bonds and mortgages or against the deposit of industrial shares and bonds. It shall not make loans on its own shares nor buy them. It shall not take any part, either directly or indirectly, in industrial or commercial enterprises or undertake any other form of commerce than dealing in gold and silver bullion. It shall not acquire real estate other than the premises which are absolutely necessary for carrying on its business. 219 National Monetary Commission ART. 21. Only such commercial bills shall be discounted as are made payable to order, stamped, resulting from a genuine business transaction, having not more than one hundred days to run and guaranteed by three solvent signatures. However, commercial bills with two signatures may be admitted in such cases, manner, and conditions as may be determined by regulations adopted by the general council and approved by the Minister of Finance. A pledge of warehouse receipts, merchandise, or public funds of sufficient value to guarantee the total of the claim may take the place of one signature. ART. 22. The maturity of treasury bonds admitted for discount shall not exceed one hundred days. The rate of discount shall be fixed by mutual agreement with the Minister of Finance. ART. 23. The Bank shall not carry in its assets discounted treasury bonds for more than 20,000,000 francs. ART. 24. The rate of discount for Brussels, as well as for the discount offices, and the amount of treasury bonds to be admitted to discount shall be fixed weekty. The rate may be changed in the meantime. ART. 25. The amount and the rate for loans to be made upon deposits of national bonds, treasury bonds, and other securities guaranteed by the State shall be determined every week. Such loans can be made only to solvent parties and for a period not exceeding four months. Securities shall not be accepted as collateral for more than four-fifths of their value at the market rate. The securities pledged shall be sold at the Bourse, if the loans are not repaid at maturity. Not more than 22® National Bank of Belgium one renewal shall be permitted, except by special permission granted by the council of administration. ART. 26. The Bank may be authorized by the Government to purchase public securities, including treasury bonds, but not for an amount exceeding the paid-up capital of the Bank. No purchase shall be made except with the permission of the Minister of Finance, upon application of the management, approved by the council of censors. Such permission shall be applicable specifically to each transaction and shall be considered void if not used within the month. ART. 27. The Bank m ^ issue notes to bearer. The amount of notes in circulation must be represented by securities which can be easily converted into cash. ART. 28. The Government, by agreement with the Bank, determines the form of the notes and the method of their issue. It fixes the quantity of notes of denominations below 50 francs, and determines, by agreement with the Bank, the quantity of notes of the denomination of 50 francs and above. ART. 29. The text of the notes to be issued in future shall be expressed in the two official languages. The Bank shall conform to the provisions of Article VII of the law of March 26, 1900, concerning the use of the Flemish language. ART. 30. The notes shall be payable at sight at the offices of the Bank in Brussels and at its agencies in the country. Payment at the agencies may, however, be deferred until there has been time to receive the necessary funds. 221 National Monetary Commission ART. 31. These notes shall continue to be received in payments at state offices. The authority given by virtue of Article XIV of the law of May 5, 1850, is subject to repeal. ART. 32. Whenever a type of bank note shall be replaced or abolished, the Bank, at the expiration of a period fixed in each case by special agreement, shall pay into the treasury the value of the notes of that type which shall not have been presented for redemption. This provision shall be applicable to notes of 20 francs of the type prior to that created in 1897. ART. 33. The notes of which the equivalent shall have been paid into the treasury shall be deducted from the amount of the outstanding circulation, and the redemption of such notes as shall be subsequently presented at the counters of the Bank shall be made on account of the treasury. The amount thereof shall be collected from the treasury at the end of each half year. ART. 34. The Bank is required to have a metallic reserve equal to one-third of the amount of its notes and other liabilities payable at sight. The reserve shall be permitted, however, to fall below one-third under circumstances and within limits which shall be sanctioned by the Minister of Finance. ART. 35. To facilitate transfers of funds, the Bank may issue transfer orders or drafts payable at sight or at not exceeding seven days' sight, bank notes to order, or checks accepted and certified payable by the Bank. It may cooperate in creating and managing clearing houses. 222 National Bank of Belgium The obligations issued in pursuance of the present article shall be recorded on a separate account in the statement of condition. ART. 36. The Bank has the privilege of issuing certificates for the amounts entered to its credit on the ledger of the public debt. ART. 37. The Bank shall perform gratuitously the service of cashier for the State. It shall bear all expenses of management, of material, of transportation, and of insurance and transfers of funds and securities, and shall share in the expenses of the treasury in the provinces to an amount of 230,000 francs annually. This amount shall not be increased at the revision of the convention provided by Article IX of the law of May 10, 1850, as modified by Article IV of the law of March 26, 1900. Available treasury funds in excess of current requirements shall be invested by the Bank in commercial paper; it shall be responsible for the paper purchased or set aside for the account of the treasury. ART. 38. The Bank attends to the operation of the general savings bank and pension fund founded under the guaranty of the State by the law of March 16, 1865. The temporary investment of the assets of that fund, as well as the conversion of the same into cash, is made by the Bank, which, for these operations, keeps accounts and records separate from its own. Deposits for account of this fund are received and reimbursed at all the agencies of the Bank. ART. 39. The Bank may accept in the character of collateral, mortgage, or transfer real estate or other 223 National Monetary Commission chattels as security for credits which are doubtful or in suspense. Such real estate or chattels shall be disposed of within two years, unless the Minister of Finance grants a longer term. A R T . 40. The Bank undertakes to furnish safe-deposit vaults free of charge for sealed deposits made by recognized m u t u a l benefit societies, the cost of transportation of securities to Brussels being alone charged to t h e depositors. Ordinary deposits made by the same organizations shall be kept b y t h e Bank at the usual scale of prices, t h e expenses of t h e first shipment of securities for account of a m u t u a l benefit society being borne b y t h e Bank. CHAPTER IV.—Balance sheet and distribution of profits. A R T . 41. On J u n e 30 and on December 31 of each year t h e council of administration shall draw a balance sheet. Within t h e t w e n t y days following each semiannual balance is submitted to t h e council of censors, who have t w e n t y days t o examine it. The approval of t h e balance sheet by the council of censors, by a majority of at least five votes, is equivalent t o a release of responsibility for t h e directors. In case of refusal to approve, the general assembly decides. ART. 42. The expenses of management, corporate outlays of all kinds, and sinking-fund p a y m e n t s are all deducted from t h e gross profits in order to draw t h e balance. There must also be deducted, if there be occasion, t h e allowances to be made to the State, to wit: 1. The profit resulting from the difference between interest at 3 ^ per cent and t h e rate of interest collected through operations of discount and loans. 224 National Bank of Belgium 2. One-quarter of i per cent each half year on the excess of the average circulation of notes above 275,000,000 francs. ART. 43. The net profit shown in the balance sheet is apportioned as follows: 1. To the shareholders, a first dividend of 2 per cent. 2. To the public treasury, one-quarter of the excess. 3. To the reserve fund, 10 per cent of the same excess. 4. To the council of administration, 4 per cent, and to the censors 1 per cent of the same excess. 5. To the shareholders, the remainder as a second dividend. However, there shall be levied on this second dividend a sum not exceeding 25 centimes per share in each half year, which shall be applied by the council of administration to charitable purposes. ART. 44. The profit accrued to the shareholders for the first half year is distributed in one payment on the 1st of September of the current year, and the profit for the second half year on the 1st of March of the ensuing year. ART. 45. Should the half-yearly profit to be distributed to the shareholders be less than 2 per cent, the amount shall be made up by drawing on the reserve fund. This deduction shall be restored to the reserve in the ensuing half year if it can be done without reducing the profits to be distributed to an amount less than 2 per cent. ART. 46. The balance sheet and profit and loss account of the half year shall be published at the end of each period in the Moniteur Beige. The balance sheets and the profit and loss accounts for both half years, as well as the reports of the administra85519—01 15 225 National Monetary Commission tion and of the censors on the operations for the year, are printed and forwarded to the shareholders at least five days before the ordinary meeting of the general assembly in the month of February. ART. 47. The management forwards every week to the Minister of Finance a statement showing the condition of the institution and of its agencies on the preceding Thursday. These statements are published in the Moniteur. CHAPTER V.—Management. SECTION I .—Fundamental provisions. ART. 48. The management of the Bank is in the hands of a governor and six directors, forming together the council of administration. The Bank is supervised by a board of censors composed of seven members. There shall also be a board of discount. ART. 49. The governor is appointed, and may be dismissed or suspended by the King. The appointment is made for five years; it may be renewed without limit for the same term. Suspension can not exceed three months. ART. 50. The governor is required to reside in Brussels. His salary is fixed by the King and paid by the Bank, which, moreover, makes provision for a residence and the furnishing of the same. ART. 51. The governor shall not, during the continuance of his functions, be a member of either branch of the Legislature, or receive a pension paid by the State. 226 National Bank of Belgium A member of either House, when appointed governor, ceases at once, in case of his acceptance, to be a member of the Legislature. When a governor is elected a member of either Chamber, he is not permitted to take the oath as such until he has declared that he chooses the latter office. ART. 52. Directors are elected by the general assembly for six years. They are always reeligible. They must be Belgians, native or naturalized. They are bound to reside within the Brussels district. Their salary is fixed at 6,000 francs. ART. 53. One of the directors retires from office on January 1 in each year. A director elected to take the place of a director who is deceased or has resigned completes the term of the one he replaces. ART. 54. The King appoints the director who is called upon to fill the place of the governor in case of absence, disability, or suspension. This director takes the title of vice-governor and receives an annual allowance of 3,000 francs. ART. 55. The governor, or the director who fills his place, may give power of attorney for current business to one or more of the directors. The conditions of such delegation of authority are determined by the regulations for internal government. ART. 56. The governor and the directors can not be on the board of any other bank. ART. 57. The board of censors elects from its own number its president and secretary. ART. 58. Censors are elected by the general assembly for a term of three years and may be reelected. 227 National Monetary Commission Their functions cease after the general assembly in February. They retire from office by series, one of three members, the other two of two members. The second paragraph of article 53 applies to the censors. ART. 59. Before entering office the governor must qualify as owner of 50 registered shares, each of the directors as owner of 25 shares, and each censor as owner of 10 shares. These shares, pledged as a guaranty for their administration, can not be transferred, and can only be released to their owners after approval of the balance sheets for the year in which their administration ceases. The fact that these shares are applied as surety bonds is mentioned on the records and on the certificates. ART. 60. The governor, the directors, and the censors do not incur any personal liability by reason of the Bank's engagements; they are responsible only for the performance of their duties. ART. 61. If the share in the half-yearly profits, allowed in pursuance of article 43, exceeds 80,000 francs for the directors and 17,500 francs for the censors, the general assembly shall have the power to decide that such share be reduced to said figures. ART. 62. The secretary and the treasurer are appointed by the general council, which shall have power to dismiss them. The regulations for internal government determine the duties pertaining to their offices. 228 National Bank of Belgium SECTION 2.—The governor. ART. 63. The governor presides over the council of administration, the general council, and the general assembly. He attends to the execution of their decisions. He presents to the general assembly the statements prepared by the council of administration. He watches over the observance of the fundamental laws of the Bank, the statutes, and the regulations. He releases recorded mortgages, after being authorized thereto by the board of directors, without having to justify the payment. Actions at law are brought by him in the name of the management. In conformity with the decisions of the directors, he signs agreements, transactions, and documents of all kinds. Documents binding the Bank, other than routine papers, should be countersigned by the secretary. ART. 64. The governor may suspend the carrying out of decisions of the council of administration, in order to submit them to the general council, which for this purpose shall be summoned immediately. He suspends and reports to the Government every decision which would be contrary to the law, to the statutes, or to the interests of the State. If the Government does not take action within fifteen days from the time of such report, the decision may then be carried out. 229 National Monetary SECTION 3.—The council of Commission administration. ART. 65.—The council of administration passes upon all transactions, excepting those regulated by the laws, the statutes, and the regulations for internal management,. It determines the rate and conditions of discount and the amount to be applied to the discount of treasury bonds, to loans on state bonds, and to purchases thereof, all subject to the approval of the council of censors. It appoints and dismisses employees, determines their salaries, and, if necessary, the amount of their surety bond. It designates those who may receipt for payments or deposits or settle bills receivable. It may give power of attorney for acts or documents to be signed outside of Brussels. It proposes names for the appointment of agents of the cashier for the State, and determines their salaries and the amount of their surety bond. It has the right to compromise and arbitrate, after consultation with the council of censors. It makes reports to the general assembly on the transactions of the Bank. ART. 66. The board can not deliberate unless a majority of its members is present. Resolutions are passed by a majority of votes. In case of even division, the vote of the president prevails. ART. 67. Minutes are kept of the deliberations. Mention is made therein of the nature of transactions, of their object, and summarily of the reasons for the decisions reached. The minutes are signed by all the members present and by the secretary. 230 National Bank of Belgium SECTION 4.—The council of censors. ART. 68. The censors have the right to supervise all operations and to have all records exhibited to them. They examine and, if there is occasion, approve the balance sheets and vote on the amount of expenditures on the proposals made by the council of administration. The following matters are submitted to the board of censors: Decisions of the council of administration changing the rate and conditions of discount; the amount of treasury bonds to be admitted for discount; and the terms for loans on state bonds and other securities guaranteed by the State, as well as decisions determining exchange charges and the investments to be made in public funds. Nevertheless, in case of necessity, the council of administration may change the rate of discount, its decisions to be submitted within five days to the censors for their approval. ART. 69. The council of censors meets at least once a month. It can not deliberate unless at least four of its members are present. Resolutions are carried by a majority of votes. If evenly divided, the matter in question is referred to the general council for decision. If a quorum of the censors is not present, the general council may take action in case of emergency. ART. 70. One-half of the share in the profits assigned to the censors, in pursuance of paragraph 4 of article 43, is distributed in fees for attendance. 231 National Monetary Commission SECTION 5.—The general council. ART. 71. The governor, the directors, and the censors form the general council. ART. 72. The general council meets at least once a month for the purpose of considering the condition of the Bank. It passes upon all matters submitted to it in accordance with either the statutes or the regulations for internal management. It determines definitively concerning the distribution of profits. It determines the conditions on which deposits are received; but these conditions are submitted to the Minister of Finance for approval. On proposals made by the council of administration, it decides upon the regulations for internal management, as well as upon the general regulations concerning the organization of branches, discount offices, and agencies. All these regulations are submitted to the Minister of Finance for approval. It considers proposals for opening branches, discount offices, and agencies in the country, on their form of organization, and on all matters relating to the issue of bank notes. It fixes salaries and, if necessary, the amount of surety bonds of the secretary and of the treasurer. ART. 73. Except in the case provided for in the last paragraph of article 69, no deliberation can take place in the general council unless a majority of the members of the council of administration and of the council of censors are present. 232 National Bank of Belgium Decisions are carried by a majority of the votes cast. In case of even division, the president has the deciding vote. SECTION 6.—Discount committee. ART. 74. The discount committee at the head office of the Bank is composed of two sections of at least three members each, appointed by the general council, which determines upon their fees for attendance. They may be chosen among the censors. One-half the committee is renewed every year, but the members whose terms have expired are reeligible. ART. 75. The days and hours of meeting of each section are fixed by a special regulation. Each section is presided over by a director. It examines the paper submitted and presents to the directors the bills which fulfill the required conditions. CHAPTER VI.—Government commissioner. ART. 76. The commissioner of the Government watches over the operations of the Bank and especially discounts, the issue of notes, and the investment of the available funds of the treasury. His salary, fixed by the King, by agreement with the directors of the Bank, is paid by the latter. ART. 77. The commissioner of the Government has the right at all times to examine into the condition of affairs, and to verify the books and the cash. The directors are bound to furnish him, whenever required by him, a report on the Bank's condition, certified to be correct. 233 National Monetary Commis s ion ART. 78. The commissioner, whenever he deems it proper, may be present at the meetings of the general assembly, of the councils, and of the committees. He has the right of discussion, without the right of voting. CHAPTER VII.—General assemblies. ART. 79. The general assembly represents the aggregate of the shareholders. Its decisions, when regularly reached, are obligatory even upon the absent or dissenting members. ART. 80. The general assembly is composed of shareholders, owners of ten registered shares, which have stood in their name for at least twenty days, or of ten shares to bearer deposited either in the head office or in the agencies designated by the board of directors. A shareholder can not appoint anyone to represent him, except a party who is himself entitled to vote. Societies, companies, and corporations may, however, be represented by a member chosen for that purpose; and minors or persons under guardianship are legally represented by their guardians or trustees. Powers of attorney and other documents proving the right to be present at the general assembly, in accordance with the two preceding paragraphs, must be remitted to the Bank at least three days before the meeting. They must be signed by the parties presenting them. ART. 81. Before the meeting opens, the shareholders sign their names to the presence list. ART. 82. Ten shares give the right to one vote. No one can have more than five votes as shareholder and five votes as attorney for others, whatever may be the number of his principals. 234 National Bank of Belgium ART. 83. The ordinary meetings of the general assembly take place on the last Monday of February and the last Monday in August. It passes, if necessary, upon the balance sheet of the preceding half year, in the case provided for by article 41 of the present statutes. At the February meeting the administration reports on the operations for the year ending December 31 preceding. At the August meeting it elects the director and the censors to take the place of those whose terms expire at the end of the year. At either of these meetings it may fill vacancies caused by death, resignation, or otherwise. ART. 84. The general assembly may be convoked for an extraordinary meeting whenever the council of administration considers it expedient. It must be called— 1. When the meeting is required either by the board of censors, or by not less than 20 shareholders having the right to vote. 2. When the number of directors or the number of censors is reduced to four. ART. 85. The meetings, either ordinary or extraordinary, are called at least fifteen days in advance, by registered letters sent to the registered shareholders having the right to vote and, further, by publication in the Moniteur and in two of the principal daily papers of Brussels, one month before the day of the meeting. If the general council decides that there is urgency, this latter delay may be reduced to fifteen days. In any case these notices must mention the time when shares to bearer can be deposited. 235 National Monetary Commission ART. 86. All notices of meetings must state the subjects on which the assembly shall or may be called to deliberate. ART. 87. The two largest shareholders present, who are not members of the administration and are willing to act, shall be tellers of election. They sign the minutes with the president and the members of the council of administration. ART. 88. The general assembly deliberates— 1. On the matters mentioned in the notices, and which are placed before them either by the council of administration or the council of censors. 2. On propositions, signed by five members, which shall have been transmitted to the council of administration at least ten days before the meeting, to be placed on the order of the day. If the assembly recognizes the importance of other propositions made by the council of administration, they may be taken under consideration. ART. 89. Each resolution must be decided by a majority vote. In case of even division, the proposition is rejected. ART. 90. Elections or revocations are made by secret ballot. On all other propositions and subjects the voting is done by yeas and nays. ART. 91. If, on a first ballot, the candidates have not all obtained an absolute majority, a list is made of those who have obtained the most votes. Such list shall contain twice as many names as there remain members to be elected. Votes can then be given only to one of these candidates. In all cases where there is a tie the older man is elected. 236 National Bank of Belgium ART. 92. The dismissal of directors or censors can be effected only by three-quarters of the votes of shareholders present, owning at least one-half of the stock. CHAPTER VIII.—General and temporary provisions. ART. 93. No change in the statutes can be made except in a general assembly specially convened for that purpose. The object of the proposed modifications must be stated in the letters and notices of meeting. The assembly can not legally act if the number of shares represented is not at least 20,000. The owners of less than 10 shares may, in such cases, combine them, in order to be represented by shareholders having the right to vote. Resolutions, in order to be carried, must be supported by at least two-thirds of the votes. They shall not be operative unless approved by the Government. ART. 94. Independently of the rights granted to the Government in the present statutes, it may resist any measure which it considers either contrary to the laws, to the statutes, or to the interests of the State. ART. 95. The present governor, the directors, and the censors continue to hold their offices. These statutes in no way interfere with the limit of the governor's tenure of office, nor with existing arrangements for the tenure of directors and censors. ART. 96. The balance sheet, as well as the profit and loss account for the first half year 1900, shall be prepared in accordance with the present statutes. These statutes, as regards other provisions, shall take effect June 1, 1900. 237 National Monetary Commission ADDITIONAL ARTICLE. The difference for the year 1899 between the sum due the State, according to the law of March 26, 1900, and that to which it was entitled, according to previous agreements, shall be paid out of the reserve fund. The sum thus withdrawn from the reserve shall be restored to it by means of levies on subsequent years. The general council shall determine the time and the amount of each restitutions. •& 238