A Short Essay on Savings Banks.

[Text from 1818 London ed.]

[Mary Hays]



         Some allusions to these very useful Institutions were made in the preceding narrative in order to make the passages more intelligible; but, as these were too brief to give a complete view of the subject, we propose to enter into it again more at large in this place. The advantages arising from these establishments are so numerous, and so very extensive in their operation upon society, particularly such classes of it as peculiarly require assistance, that it would be truly reprehensible to pass them over, not merely in silence, but even with a brief notice.

         Their name almost sufficiently expresses their purpose and nature. They are [91] intended as Depositories for the Savings, of which an industrious Labourer, or Servant, or other person, whose income may be very small and uncertain, can make out of his daily or weekly wages. Banks established upon a large scale will not receive small sums, their business is so extensive and their emoluments so great, that they think it not worth their while, and therefore will not take the trouble of receiving the mite, which a poor man might be able to leave with them, from week to week.

         But, even if Banks upon a great scale should receive a deposit of what appears to them a trifling sum, they will by no means pay interest upon it. This, then, in addition to the former, gives the reader a full view of the advantage which he may take of a Savings Bank.

         These Institutions, though so beneficial, are but very lately established: yet benevolent persons for many years had been endeavouring to do something, in the same way, for the industrious and prudent poor persons in [92] their neighbourhood. They had formed associations under various names, and with different regulations, but there was always found some material defect, until the Savings Banks were thought of.

         It is, perhaps, unnecessary to say, where the first one was set on foot, but the time was in the year 1811, or shortly afterwards. The example was soon followed; in Edinburgh, a Savings Bank being established, succeeded in a short time to an astonishing degree. But, without going very minutely into the history of the time or place of the respective establishment, it is in the first place requisite to describe the manner in which they are conducted. For this purpose, we shall select one Bank, (established in England), of which a particular account has been given, and whose example is generally followed.

         This Bank receives any sum not less than ten pence, and all such sums, it puts to the credit of the person depositing them, until they amount to twelve shillings and six pence at least. [93] The reason of requiring this sum is, that the interest of it for one year is six pence, (at the rate of four pounds in the hundred,) or one halfpenny in the month. When the Depositor has given in twelve shillings and six pence, or twenty-five shillings, or thirty-seven shillings and six pence, he begins to receive monthly interest. This interest he may either add to what he had given before, and receive interest upon it again, or take it, as he pleases. If a sum of this kind, whose interest is easily known, were not chosen, it would be impossible to manage the business, (as it consists of so many different accounts,) without great trouble and consequently great expence.

         In those Banks which have been established in Ireland, the Interest allowed is four pounds in the hundred: at which rate, the interest of twelve shillings and six pence, in the year is six pence, or one halfpenny in the month. In the Irish Savings Banks, all sums above ten pence are received, until they amount to twelve and six pence, when the person who deposits them begins to receive [94] interest; and this interest, as before, he may either add to the Capital already deposited, and receive interest upon it, or take it out to answer any purpose he may have in view.

         Let every poor man think seriously of the advantages which this plan proposes to him. If his wages enable him to lay up but two shillings and six pence in the week, he is certain of a place where it may be received, and where, at the end of the fifth week, it begins to pay interest. In this place, it may remain, for any length of time, free from all danger; though his cabin may be robbed, or any other accident occur, what he deposits in the Bank is safe; but, should he keep it with himself, free form every chance, eh will do so at a loss. In twenty years, two shillings in the week will amount, without interest, to one hundred and four pounds, twelve shillings; but, with only the Interest of four in the hundred, it will amount to one hundred and fifty-seven pounds and upwards, in the same time; so that not less than fifty-eight pounds will be gained by means of the Bank. [95] Where the Interest is five pounds in the hundred, the gain will be still greater.

         Such are some of the many advantages which a man may acquire from placing his money in a Savings Bank; not only does he receive money upon every small sum that he deposits, but he lodges it in safe hands. The character and property of gentlemen of the highest respectability, are engaged to him for its safety; he may be more assured of its being safe than if it were in his own hand, and at the same time, it is continually producing fruit. Let him think how liable he is to be pilfered, not only by thieves, but, what is worse, by himself. – When he gets a little matter of money together, he says, “it will make but little difference though I spend a small portion of it.” Thus what he has scraped together with care and labour, is thrown away in the public-house. If his little savings had been laid up in a Savings Bank, all this would have been avoided; the money could not be withdrawn just at the moment he wanted to drink, and, [96] when he became cool, he would not wish to have it. 

         Let the poor man also think of the comfort that he lays up even for himself; no one has so small wages for his labour as not to be able to save something; the Savings Banks will take into safe keeping every sum he can keep together above ten pence. – What satisfaction must it be to him to think, that, as his health and strength enable him to lay by little sums, he may be certain of getting them; in the day of sickness, or in a severe season, when the price of provisions increases, he may require them, and get them too increased?

         The poor man may be thrown out of employment. If he has been prudent in laying up a little in the Savings Bank, he may call upon this until times become better; and that too with the advantage that every ten pence he has deposited has added to itself.

         Let him again consider the consequence of his being, as it were, the treasurer of his family. Every month adds to his means, and therefore every month [97] adds to his consequence and independence, and to the power of providing for his family. He feels that the support of his wife and children no longer depends upon hislife, but that, if he should be suddenly cut off, they are not left to want or beggary. He is thus free from all worldly cares upon that score, and is prepared to meet, with greater composure, the dispositions of Providence, and to submit with the fortitude and resignation that become a Christian mind. This example also will give habits of prudence to his children, and will excite feelings of gratitude, on their parts, towards a parent whom they see anxious to provide for their future happiness. It will also add one to the many other motives that naturally exist, to filial affection. Thus contributing to domestic happiness, which is most effectually obtained by union among all the members of the family, arising from obedience to its natural head.

         Some persons, recommend that a poor man ought to deposit his money [98] with an individual, who is very responsible for what is placed in his hands, and will give higher Interest than the Bank allows. This man, they will say, is a neighbor, and is well known to be a man of sufficient property; it is better then to lodge money with him, than with others who may be quite unknown to the person who has saved it, and who will not give so high an Interest. This Interest, though it may be higher, is very doubtful, as to payment; and, what is worse, the Capital is, while in his hands, by o means secure, while, in the Savings Bank, it is perfectly safe.

         A person fond of speculation, engages in some scheme, which requires a larger sum of money than is in this possession, and consequently endeavours to obtain it by extravagant offers of advantage to all who will furnish him with it. He induces all his neighbours to entrust to his hands all their little savings, promising to give them great interest, and assuring them, that every farthing they entrust to him [99] is quite as safe as if it were in the National Bank. Bye and bye, he meets with a misfortune, and all, principal and interest, goes together. It was thus a poor woman suffered, who placed all her savings, amounting to twelve pounds, in the hand of a respectable tradesman, and regularly for some years received interest. For some time, she was proud of her skill in putting out her money so well, but, in the end, the person on whom she placed so much confidence, failed, and then the capital, and all future interest, fell altogether.        

         People may be inclined to give their money into the keeping of private Banks, particularly in the country; but these are liable to the most unexpected accidents; a Bank in full credit to-day may be ruined to-morrow. This cannot be the case with a Savings Bank. It’s only object is to relieve the poor, by receiving their little savings; it engages in no speculations, and is consequently in no danger; it has no other business than to take care of, and to keep an accurate account of all [100] monies received, and of the Interest which may be due. – Let the poor man then lodge his money, whatever it may be, there; for there he may be certain that it is safe.

         One of the greatest blessings in this world is independence; not merely that independence of mind, which puts a man above the performance of a bad action, at the command of another; but that independence of property, by which he is placed above many of the little chances and temptations of this life. Let a man think with himself in what condition he should be, if, by being out of employment of some time, or by the sickness of nay part of his family, he should be put to such expense, as might render it impossible for him to say the rent of his little cabin. His wife, his children, and himself tuned out to the open air, perhaps in nakedness and hunger. – Let him think what must be his feelings then, while he is convinced that a little economy on his part, a little saving, the putting by every week, even of a sixpence, would have saved them and [101] him from such misfortune. The small sums, which were thrown away – or worse, were spent in the public-house, if they had been saved, would then be of great service to him; instead of having his heart torn at seeing the misery of his wretched family, and all of it occasioned by himself, he would have the comfort of seeing them sitting about him at his fire side, in his own cottage, from which no one has the power to turn him, because he has the means of meeting every demand which may be made upon him. Wretched indeed is the man who must crouch at the feet of another, must tremble at his very nod, when, by a little saving, he might have put himself above all such meanness!

         But above all, how shall he answer to God? By frightful negligence, perhaps assisted by the love of drink, he exposes his children to all the miseries and vices of the lowest poverty, he corrupts their minds by setting them a bad example, and renders it impossible for him to take care of their Education, which might render them useful and respectable members of Society. – Even [102] if he should be free from the cares of a family, is there no poor fellow-creature who may ask him for assistance? Should such a one apply to him, the application is useless, instead of saving something in time for the works of kindness and benevolence, he has squandered all, no matter to him in what misery his friend may be, all that he can give is his good wishes, and too soon will he cease to give them when he is unable to give more. On the other hand, by adopting this plan, he has money at command, that that, at a moment’s notice, when some favourable opportunity may offer of laying it out to advantage; or, for the day of adversity, when it may save himself and his family from ruin. This little store, which he has laid up may also be an equal gratification to him, by affording him the means of assisting a friend in distress, the satisfaction of relieving whom would be in itself ample compensation, though probably not the only one, as in better times, when prosperity returns, the sum may be all repaid with gratitude.