ENGLAND IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY in .NET

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ENGLAND IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
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LONG-TERM INTEREST RATES The history of the trends of long-term government bond yields in eighteenthcentury England may be divided into two parts: (a) From 1700 to midcentury, the yields declined most of the time; starting at 6 8% they finally broke through 3% (Chart 5). This first, easy money period culminated in the flotation of the famous British 3% consols in 1751. (b) From 1754 on, consols fell in price, and yields rose in a highly erratic pattern. During the Napoleonic Wars at the end of the century, consols sold briefly below 50, and the government on one occasion paid over 61 2% for a new loan. When a new war with France began in 1702, it met with early success at Blenheim and Gibraltar. It was financed relatively smoothly by loans at the Bank of England for short-term requirements and by the sale to the public of annuities for long-term requirements. These annuities were negotiated at a wide variety of terms and at rates between 6 and 8.7% or higher (see Table 12). They were sometimes for one, two, or three lives, or ran to 96 99 years, or were perpetual. They were often accompanied by prizes and lotteries. Therefore, their nominal rates cannot always be translated accurately into a rate of interest. During Queen Anne s reign, 1702 1714, the legal limit of 6% became the usual rate for public loans, although the government was not subject to the limit. (365) At this time the Bank of England first managed the subscriptions to a government loan, and after 1715 the bank generally managed the funded debt of the government as well as its floating debt. Government loans became enormously popular. In 1710, during a lottery loan at 8.3%, 500,000 was reserved for such as brought their silver plate into the mint. Interest rates fell in the second decade. England was on the verge of its first easy-money period. In 1714 the usury laws were amended, reducing the maximum rate from 6 to 5%. In 1715 the government sold a 5% perpetual annuity, and in 1717 it sold a 4% funding loan. This was a period of moderate debt reduction and close cooperation between the Bank and the Exchequer. Dealings with the state were eased and sweetened . . . by a pretty habit the Bank had of making a New Year s gift to the officers of the Exchequer . . . three hundred and forty guineas. (366) As early as 1722 the government created some perpetual annuities with a nominal rate as low as 3% in a funding operation. In 1726 a loan was floated at 3% with lottery privileges attached. (365) The market value of these issues was probably well below par. Secondary market prices on an issue of 3% perpetual annuities are reported from 1727 in Table 13 (page 157). (367) Market yields of 31 4 31 2% in the 1720 s show that rates had indeed fallen far from the 6 8% level of two decades earlier. This was the century s only extended period of peace. There were funding and debt redemption, but there was little new financing.
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MODERN EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA TO 1900
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Table 12 Yields on New British Government Long-Term Issues: Eighteenth Century
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MODERN EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA TO 1900
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Table 12
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In the late 1730 s, with interest rates low and 3% perpetual annuities selling at times at a premium, a movement developed to reduce all public interest rates to 3%. It was pointed out that in Holland 3% was a maximum rate; often money there yielded only 2%. (368) Low rates of interest were considered to be to the advantage of commerce and the government. But in the 1740 s war began again, and the 3s declined far below par; new government debt was floated at 4%. In 1745, during the last Jacobite rebellion, the first black Friday occurred, and the 3s were quoted below 75 to yield over 4%. (369) With peace in 1749, the 3s rose again to par. Henry Pelham, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then sought to take advantage of this period of peace and low interest rates to reduce the burden of debt. He began to convert a number of funds, comprising the greater part of the national debt, into an issue of 3% consolidated annuities, the original consols. These funds are still outstanding, although they now bear a rate of 21 2%.
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