Entrepreneurship, knowledge and employment

The Land Bank United, a failed project in 1696

Ito Seiichiro, Otsuki City College

During a few years after the Bank of England launched its business with the initial 1,200,000 pounds in 1694, land-bank projectors, such as John Briscoe, Hugh Chamberlen, Nicholas Barbon and John Asgill, forged schemes and struggled to realise them. Those projects were presented mostly in contrast with the Bank of England. While we know the Bank was the winner in the history of modern banking, it was a result of a harsh competition with all other types of financial projects for the most beneficial contribution to the public revenue. Some historians illustrate the rivalry of the Bank of England and land-bank projects with the political map, that is, Whig versus Tory or moneyed interest versus landed interest. However, as I showed elsewhere, what all those bank projectors were obsessed about were the safety of the fund of their proposed banks and their ability to restrain credit under a certain limit. They claimed that they excelled others in terms of these points. The project of the union of Briscoe’s bank and Barbon and Asgill’s in 1696 was an example. This seems to have been set about as a supplementary means which was expected to fill the gap of the governmental need for money. However, the issues remained the safety and reliability of the fund as well as in the previous discussions. The modern historians tend to presume that the victory of the fund consisting of metal money, which was exemplified by the Bank of England, was the theoretically legitimate result. But, the examination of the projectors’ discourses proves that it was not the case. In addition, while these dialogues appeared in the almost final stage of the controversy over land-bank projects, the investigation of the language and issues in those discussions will be helpful for understanding the context of the well-known definition of credit by Charles Davenant in his manuscript of 1696 and his magnum opus of 1698 as an imaginary but powerful engine of trade, the definition which has been favoured not only by following economic thinkers, such as Sir James Steuart, but also our contemporary historians.

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Keywords: 17th century, land-bank, England

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