Charles Bosanquet

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Charles Bosanquet (23 July 1769 – 20 June 1850) was an English official and writer.

Life[edit]

He was born at Forest House, Essex, the second son of Samuel Bosanquet and Eleanor Hunter. He was educated at Newcome's School and then in Switzerland.[1] He married Charlotte Anne Holford on 1 June 1796 and fathered seven children, three of whom survived him.

He served as sub-governor of the South Sea Company from 1808–38, and governor from 1838–50. From 1823–36 he was chairman of the exchequer bill office. He served as Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant for the county of Northumberland, and was High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1828. In 1819 he was lieutenant-colonel of light horse volunteers, later rising to colonel. He maintained a London residence at the Firs, Hampstead, and spent his later years at his estate of Rock Hall near Alnwick in Northumberland. He died there on 20 June 1850, and is buried in its church.

Economic works[edit]

Between 1806 and 1807 Bosanquet produced three short works on commercial themes:

  1. Letter on the Proposition submitted to the Government for taking the Duty on Muscavado Sugar ad valorem (1806?).
  2. A Letter to W. Manning, Esq., M.P., on the Depreciation of the West India Property (1807?). In this work Bosanquet blamed the depreciation on ill-considered taxes and other restrictions placed on the colony. He proposed that British breweries should use colonial sugar and that the British navy should use colonial rum.
  3. Thoughts on the Value to Great Britain of Commerce in general, and of the Colonial Trade in particular (1807?), in which he pointed out the benefits yielded by the West India trade.

In 1810 Bosanquet published his most important work, Practical Observations on the Report of the Bullion-Committee. In it he criticised the Report as being “altogether at variance with (the opinions) of the persons selected for examination,” of relying on propositions that “are not generally true, and do not therefore form a solid foundation for the abstract reasoning of the Report,” and of relying upon facts that “are erroneously stated; and, when corrected, lead to opposite conclusions.”

Inflationary pressure in early 1809 had prompted David Ricardo to write three letters to the Morning Chronicle, the first of which appeared on 29 August (Ricardo’s first published work on economics). The public attention aroused by these letters and subsequent pamphlets led Parliament to appoint a select Committee to “Inquire into the cause of the high price of bullion, and to take into consideration the state of the circulating medium, and of the exchanges between Great Britain and foreign parts.”

The Committee, along with Ricardo, took the ‘Bullionist’ position. It stated that inflation had resulted from over-issue of currency, primarily by the Bank of England but also by country banks; and that as a means of preventing over-issue, the Bank of England should resume convertibility of the pound into gold.

Bosanquet held to the ‘Anti-Bullionist’ (or ‘real bills’) position, which was that over-issue would be avoided if banks issued paper money only in exchange for “solid paper, given, as far as we can judge, for real transactions.” Any over-issue of paper money, in the words of the Bank directors, “would revert to us by a diminished application for discounts and advances on government securities.” This latter principle became known as the ‘Law of the Reflux’. David Ricardo had likened the issues of the Bank of England to a gold mine, insofar as an increased issue of paper money would have the same effect on prices as increased production of gold. Bosanquet countered that the Bank of England issued paper money only on loan, and that since loans must ultimately be repaid, the newly issued paper money would not cause inflation. Newly mined gold, in contrast, did not have to be repaid, and therefore would cause inflation. On these grounds Bosanquet denied the analogy between gold and paper money.

Ricardo’s Reply to Mr. Bosanquet (1811) has been described by McCulloch (1845) as “perhaps the best controversial essay that has ever appeared on any disputed question of Political Economy.” In response to Bosanquet’s statement that the supply of currency was adequately limited by the Bank’s policy of making loans only for ‘solid paper’, Ricardo answered that as long as the Bank is willing to lend, borrowers will always exist, so that there is no practical limit to the over-issue of money, unless the Bank either maintains convertibility, or otherwise acts to maintain the quantity of money within reasonable bounds. Ricardo argued that the simple fact of the pound’s depreciation was proof of its over-issue—a circular argument that nevertheless carried the day.

Bosanquet never published a reply to Ricardo, and he has consequently been much abused by historians of economic thought. J.K. Horsefield (1941) wrote of “the lamentable decline from the counsels of Samuel Bosanquet in 1783 to the apologia of Charles Bosanquet in 1810,” while R.S. Sayers (1952) observed that “poor Bosanquet is left cutting a very sorry figure.” Ricardo’s victory over Bosanquet was in fact far from complete. His arguments concerning money issued on loan were resurrected intact during the Currency School/Banking School debates of the 1840s. The issue has remained unsettled ever since, and featured prominently in the Monetarist/Keynesian debates of the 1960s and 1970s. Beginning in the 1980s, the real-bills viewpoint has seen a small revival of interest (e.g., Sargent (1982), Sproul (1998)). It appears that Bosanquet’s writings, like the man himself, are entitled to more respect than they have received.

Bibliography[edit]

  • A Letter to W. Manning, Esq. M.P. on the Causes of the Rapid and Progressive Depreciation of the West India Property (1807?).
  • A Letter to W. Manning, Esq. M.P. on the Proposition Submitted to the Consideration of Government, for Taking the Duties on Muscavado Sugar ad valorem (1807?).
  • Thoughts on the Value, to Great Britain, of Commerce in General and on the Importance of the Colonial Trade in Particular (1808?)
  • Practical Observations on the Report of the Bullion-Committee. London: Printed for J.M. Richardson, 1810.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Oliver Bradbury and Nicholas Penny, The Picture Collecting of Lord Northwick: Part I, The Burlington Magazine Vol. 144, No. 1193 (Aug. 2002), pp. 485–496, at p. 486. Published by: The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/889635

Further reading[edit]

  • Horsefield J. K.; (1941) "The Duties of a Banker." I, Reprinted in Ashton and Sayers, Papers in English monetary History, London: Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1953.
  • McCulloch, John R. (1845) The Literature of Political Economy, London: Printed for Longman, Green, and Longmans.
  • Samuelson, Paul. A. (1971) "Reflections on the Merits and Demerits of Monetarism", Issues in Fiscal and Monetary Policy: The Eclectic Economist Views the Controversy, edited by James J. Diamond (Depaul University).
  • Sargent, Thomas J. (1982) "The Real Bills Doctrine versus the Quantity Theory: A Reconsideration", The Journal of Political Economy, volume 90, number 6, pp. 1212–36.
  • Sayers *R.S.; (1953) "Ricardo’s Views on Monetary Questions", Reprinted in Ashton and Sayers, Papers in English monetary History, London: Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1953.
  • Sproul, Michael F. (1998) ‘Backed Money, Fiat Money, and the Real Bills Doctrine’, UCLA Working Paper #774B, https://web.archive.org/web/20041112131942/http://econpapers.hhs.se:80/paper/clauclawp/774b.htm
  • Tobin, James (1963) ‘Commercial Banks as Creators of Money’, Banking and Monetary Studies, edited by Deane Carson. Homewood: Richard D. Irwin.