Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

our country, where we have but recently begun to know that any such branch of literature exists; hence the present book, which otherwise might be deemed old, is sub. stantially new. Nothing is more encouraging to speculative investigation than the expansibility which every sub. ject seems capable of attaining. Astronomy and geometry are but fair examples of the vast volumes which can be intellectually elaborated from the most simple premises ; for nothing is more simple then the glimpses we can attain of the sun, moon, and stars, that are the foundation of astronomy, or the curves and angles that are the foundatjon of geometry.

Thought on any subject produces thought; hence a compound progression attends all our intellectual labors, and renders the exhaustion of any study impossible. Banking literature promises to constitute no exception to the general principle. Its cultivation in our country we owe primarily to the Magazine whose pages we are employing, and which, with a kindred publication in Boston, is benefitting American bankers by enabling them to learn speculatively the business processes that were formerly known only practically. Had a man to select whether bis knowledge of any business should be exclusively practical, or exclusively speculative, he might well select practical knowledge as more available for his maintenance; but a man's business practices are improved by pondering on them speculatively; and the means which exist for thus pondering may be. classed among the improvements of our remarkable era. Nearly every industrial pursuit is become the subject of speculative investigation in some periodical publication which is devoted to the given subject; and we find published in the City of New York, “The Turners' Companion,” “ The American Agriculturist," "American Artisan," "American Architect," "The

Tailors’ Eclectic Repository," and kindred magazines and journals on numerous other handicrafts. Franklin's old proverb, “ he who by the plow would thrive, must either hold the plow or drive," is improved by the addition : "he who by the plow would thrive, must toil in thought as well as drive.”

But while we would urge men of every occupation to work intellectually, we would caution them against the common error of itinerant lecturers, who, in recommend. ing intellectual culture to mechanics and merchants' clerks, estimate nothing as intellectual but literature. Literature is employed in academies and colleges as means for de.

loping the intellect of youth, hence probably proceeds the vulgar error that nothing is intellectual but literature. Without the application of his intellect, no man can become a good tailor, blacksmith, banker, or merchant, but he may become eminently intellectual in either of these employments with almost no literature. Indeed, the great difference which is discoverable in artisans of the same craft proceeds from the different degrees in which they apply their intellects to their several pursuits. Practice will make perfect, as the proverb asserts, but practice must be directed by the intellect, or the perfection which the proverb promises will apply only to facility of execution, not to excellence of quality. In every city the work of some one shoemaker is superior to the work of all competitors. The like may be said of hatters, tailors, shipbuilders. Self-love whispers to the indolent that such differences among men are organic; but in all organic physical differences, as the height of men, their muscular strength, &c., the differences are trivial. We shall, there. fore, accord best with the analogies of nature when we attribute to different degrees of intellectual application, rather than to organization, the differences which we discover in men's business productions. John Jacob Astor owed his great success in life to great intellectual efforts in all matters pertaining to his several employments, but he was so illiterate as to misspell very common monosyllables. Men of muscular toil are often informed of the literary attainments of some "learned blacksmith," and are arged to acquire similar accomplishments; but a literary blacksmith is as little likely to become a good blacksmith, as the literary pig, exhibited formerly in London, was likely to become good pork.

But Mr. Bell says, that a bank manager may, without disadvantage,“ be a man of great erudition, and of literary and scientific eminence.” Mr. Bell knows, being him. self distinguished in these attainments; yet we will venture to assert that, ordinarily, a man will be none the worse banker, perhaps some the better, for confining his intellec. tual studies to his business. The best writers on law, medicine, and surgery, have always been skillful practitioners in their professions, while persons who busy themselves in a literature disconnected from their active business, are rarely very prosperous in their business. English banking is not without its example, for the banker who attained cel. ebrity in Italian literature, was unsuccessful as a practical banker.

Mr. Bell's book proves, however, that his devotion to literature has not interfered with his banking usefulness; for though his main design, which he has ably accomplished, is to explain the business of banking to uninitiated readers, his book is full of detail that must be instructive to the most practiced banker. The general principle he has evolved, is, doubtless, true everywhere : that “the entire security and whole system of banking rest upon management." Nearly every other business requires only the application to it of some definite means to obtain some fixed end, wbile banking must constantly contend against every new artifice by which ingenuity may hope to elude vigilance ; consequently, nothing is sufficient for the security of a banker, but a vigilance as comprehensive and versatile as the possibility of attack.

To American readers, with their present enlightenment on the subject, Mr. Bell's book is principally valuable for the insight which it yields into the social customs and business operations of England, and their contrast with ours. A man, for instance, who controls a bank, is, with us, an autocrat, towards whom the community in which he is situated are wont to evince the gratitude which flows “from the expectation of future benefits.” Even his directors are often as dependent for perpetuity of station on his carefully accumulated proxies, as he is on their voices ; with one advantage on his side, that while they must act aggregately before they can displace him, he acts on them segregately, as they severally become applicants to the bank for loans, or need his proxies to continue them in office ; hence when the book deprecates for the bank manager, that he shall be treated “ with the respect and friendship of the directors, by whom he should be considered in every respect (as far as regards the bank) at least upon an equally elevated footing with themselves,” we involuntarily smile as we picture to ourselves the Magnus Apollo of some one of our Wall-street two-million banks, deprecating the respect of his Board; or more ludicrously still, we think of President Biddle, as he once arrived in New York from Philadelphia, laden with bank post-notes, and made a kind of triumphal progress through Wall-street, like “ Cæsar, with a Senate at his heels."

But the bank manager in England possesses an advantage over us, when he turns from his board to a portion of his dealers, as we find by the following: “How often has the fear of being seen by the watchful and reproving eye of his banker, deterred the young tradesman from joining the company of riotous and extravagant friends? How often has it kept him from the tavern, the club-room and places of public amusement and dissipation ? What has been his anxiety to stand well in the estimation of his banker ? Has it not been a subject of concern with him to be found regular in attendance on his business, keeping intercourse only with persons of respectability and good conduct ? Has not the frown of his banker been of more influence with him than the jeers and discouragement of his friends ? Has he not trembled to be supposed guilty of deceit, or the slightest misstatement, lest it should give rise to suspicion, and his accommodation be, in consequence, restricted or discontinued ? Has not the prudent advice and admonition of his banker opened his eyes to the reckless and ruinous course which he may have been unwittingly pursuing? And has not that friendly advice been of more value to him in a temporal and moral point of view than that of his relations—or, very possibly, of his priest ?"

We believe, also, nothing like the following is true of our bankers :-

" It is an unquestionable fact, that a large proportion of the customers of every bank are more or less under obligation to the bank for temporary or permanent advances ; and, as a matter of course, it is their individual inclination and interest, by all possible means, to stand well in the esti. mation of their banker. To do anything contrary to what may be supposed the wishes of that functionary, would ac

[ocr errors]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »