Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter III.: FAMILY ARRANGEMENTS - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2)
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Chapter III.: FAMILY ARRANGEMENTS - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2) 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 6.
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All circumstances seemed to favour Heins's wish of trying what he could do to surpass his father in the matter of commercial success. His partner—the most irksome check upon his enterprises,—was this year chosen one of the four reigning burgomasters; and it was impossible that Vanderput should gives much attention as usual to his private business, while engaged by his public office. From the presence of his mother, Heins was also to be soon released; a presence which imposed some degree of restraint on his projects, though Mrs. Snoek thought no more than the other women of Amsterdam of interfering in those commercial affairs of which they were supposed incompetent to judge.
This prudent lady found her worldly circumstances so much altered by the death of her husband, that she thought a considerable difference in her way of life desirable; though it was impossible to affirm such a change to be necessary. It was not enough to satisfy her that she and her younger children had an abundant capital, (partly invested in country estates, and partly deposited in the Bank of Amsterdam,) besides that which remained in the hands of the, firm. There was no longer a revenue from the exertions of the head of the family; and it appeared to her that there ought, therefore, to be a corresponding reduction in the family expenditure, and a more careful superintendence than ever of the means of revenue which remained. She decided on going, with her younger children, to reside on an estate which she possessed in a cheap part of the country, to the north, where she might herself manage the dairies, which had proved very productive while in the hands of her boors, and might be made still more profitable under her own management. Heins smiled to himself at this prudence in a rich widow, who could have afforded to gratify any ambition in which she might have been disposed to indulge; but he was too well pleased to be left to his own devices to offer any objection to the removal of the rest of the family to the neighbourhood of Winkel. He described the attractions of the green meadows to Roselyn, and of the shores of the Zee to Luc; and was very obliging in expediting matters for the letting of the house, and the despatch of the necessary furniture by the treckschuit. The house-tax being 2½ per cent. of the value of the house, whether it was tenanted or empty, the leaving it empty was not to be thought of, if such an extremity could by any means be avoided; but the tax on servants was also high; and this expense must go on till the family departed for Winkel, unless, as Heins dreaded, his mother should dismiss a part of her establishment while the eyes of her Amsterdam acquaintance were yet upon her. The object of the mother being to dismiss all her town servants but Kaatje, and her son's, to prevent their acquaintance witnessing this measure of economy, both were eager to let the house, and thereby expedite the final arrangements. It was perfectly satisfactory to all parties that Vanderput felt himself called upon, on the reception of his new dignity, to exhibit a little more outward state than formerly; to quit his humble abode, bring his sister to keep his house at Amsterdam, and make the cottage at Saardam his country abode. He agreed with his partner that the Keiser's Graft was a very proper situation for the residence of a reigning burgomaster; and presently concluded a bargain for Mrs. Snoek's house, to the satisfaction of both parties. Nothing then remained to impede the execution of the family plans; and Hems, after seating his mother in the boat, carefully placing Christian on his cushions by her side, and bidding farewell, with a solemn countenance, to the joyous Luc and Koselyn, betook himself homewards with a full head, a light heart, and a most satisfactory sense of his own importance as the sole representative in Amsterdam of the opulent family of Snoek.
Heins possessed in perfection the happy art of deriving importance to himself from whatever conferred it on his connexions. No one looked more ostentatiously grave than he on the day when his partner was proceeding in state to take the oaths, and examine the treasure at the Bank, in virtue of his high office. Heins pushed his way through the crowd which surrounded the Stadt-house, and exhibited himself by turns at all the seven porticoes which answered to the seven provinces, glancing around him at each, in hopes of meeting the eye of some provincial connexion whom he might either pass over with a slight notice, or from whom he might admit congratulations on the honour with which his firm was now invested for ever. The greetings were as respectful as he could desire. They could not be exceeded, unless by such as he might receive when he should himself be a reigning burgomaster. Smoke roiled away in volumes from around his dignified person, while a dozen pipes at a time were dislodged at his approach; a hum of voices arose wherever he turned, and made itself heard above the bell-music ringing from the upper air. Many who had before insisted on room for their breeches, as the English ladies of the same period for their hoops, now squeezed themselves into small compass to let the junior partner of Vanderput pursue his majestic way. It seemed that Heins was to play the first part on the scene till the rare and thrilling sound of horses' feet should be heard, betokening the approach of the magistrates: but a mortifying circumstance occurred, which disturbed the tranquillity of the little great man.
He felt himself grasped on the shoulder by a heavy hand; and, turning round, was astonished to see that one in a common sailor's dress had thus dared to accost him. He superciliously released his shoulder, and would have passed on; but Master Peter would not let him escape thus easily. He wanted to inquire after his little friend Christian, and to complain of Gertrude for fixing her abode where it was impossible for her gentle face any more to look down upon the spot where Master Peter and his companions worked. He seemed amused instead of offended at Heins's endeavours to shake him off, and, by some inexplicable means, interested the bystanders, so that it might have been unwise to treat him with downright contempt.
“I have come from Saardam this morning,
Mr. Snoek, to assist at this honourable ceremony.”
“One might thereby know you for a foreigner,” replied Heins. “Our workmen of Holland do not leave their occupation to look on shows,—even so important as this. You may not find your master very ready to ask you to work again, if you must thus run away for a frolic.”
Master Peter smiled as if he was not very uneasy on this point, and observed that a true Hollander should be gratified by the interest of foreigners in the display of civic honours. Heins replied that this depended much on the quality of the foreign observers; to which Master Peter agreed, going on to say,
“I cannot see what I wish, after all. Your people are ready enough to show parts of this magnificent building.”
“It appears magnificent to foreigners, no doubt,” replied Heins, with dry complacency; “but we must have something better than this hereafter.”
“Something better than this noble Stadt-house!” exclaimed Master Peter. “Where will you find a better architect than Van Campen? And when will Holland be more prosperous than in Van Campen's time? Holland is not what she was; and she will yet look back with a melancholy pride on the century when the Stadt-house was built at Amsterdam.”
“You think so much of this place because you have seen nothing like it, I suppose. You have seen Moscow, perhaps?”
Peter had happened to be there once; far inland as it was for a common sailor to go.
“Well; you had better get such a building as this erected there, if you can persuade your emperor to undertake so grand an enterprise; and then we will show you what better things we can do.”
“Perhaps our emperor will take you at your word, Mr. Snoek, while he is about building his new city. We have the Kremlin already at Moscow; but our new city would be graced by such an erection as this. Shall I put your idea into the Keiser's head?”
Heins nodded a compassionate assent. Master Peter continued,
“But I must carry my story complete. I must get within those iron doors on the ground floor, which look as if they were meant to shut in a legion of devils. There is not a dyke on all your coast that could not be forced more easily than those doors, if they are as strong as they appear.”
“ They are thus strong. What defence can be too strong for the forty millions of guilders that are stored in the Bank of Amsterdam?”
Master Peter observed to himself that he must have a view of this treasure-chamber before he left Holland; an observation which Heins overheard, and treated with fitting ridicule, informing the stranger that no foot ever crossed the threshold of the treasure-chambers but those of the reigning burgomasters, who were the administrators of the Bank.
“You say there are forty millions of guilders in”those chambers,” observed Master Peter. “I should have thought there had been more, considering how extensively your Bank deals with all merchants who tread your quays.” for, Heins was far from meaning to say that the Bank dealt only to the extent of these forty millions. It was not necessary that precious metal should be kept to meet the presentation of bank receipts which had expired. It was enough that receipts in actual circulation should be convertible; and forty millions of guilders seemed to him a rather striking amount of convertible currency, to be issued by one bank.
“You should remember, Mr. Snoek, that this Bank is not like other banks, where merchants may deal or not, as it pleases them. Your law that every bill drawn upon Amsterdam, or negotiated here, of the value of 600 guilders, must be paid in bank money, obliges all merchants trading in your country to have an account with your Bank; so that the amount of money in these treasure-chambers is a pretty fair guide to the extent of your commerce.”
Heins observed that the law in question was necessary, as, before it was made, the varying quality of the metal currency at Amsterdam rendered the value of bills of exchange so uncertain as materially to injure the operations of commerce. In a place to which money flowed from all parts of the world, there must necessarily be much clipt and worn coin in circulation. While such coin was present, all that was issued, new and good, from the Mint, immediately disappeared; and to whatever extent the issue might proceed, the merchants could scarcely obtain enough good money to pay their bills. Under these circumstances, the institution of bank-money was most serviceable to the credit and commerce of the country; and the law which compelled the payment of all bills of 600 guilders and upwards, in such money, was only a new evidence, in Heins's opinion, of the depth of Dutch wisdom, and the fertility of Dutch genius. How well the experiment had answered was proved by the willingness of all respectable merchants to pay a premium for this bank money. Though the difference between good coin and the light money which was poured into Holland at the time of the establishment of the Bank was no more than nine per cent., the merchants had been willing, from the very beginning, to allow the bank money to bear a more considerable agio.
They might well be thus willing, Master Peter thought, since their bank deposits were safe from robbery, Fire and other accidents; the whole city of Amsterdam being bound for it.
“The city, though not the depositing merchants, was very near losing much of its bank wealth by fire,” replied Heins, pointing to a part of the Stadt-house which appeared newer than the rest. “See how near the treasure-chamber the flames must have approached! Some say that smoked guilders blacked the hands of the receivers, so lately as twenty years back, when the Bank was called upon to make large issues of coin, from the French having reached Utrecht.”
“This proves either extraordinary confidence in the Bank, or that it keeps an ample stock of precious metal,” observed Peter. “Money cannot he much wanted which remains smoked for sixty years after a fire. However, your merchants are wise to let money remain where it is safe.”
“Our bank-credits serve our objects as well as cash,” replied Heins; “and if we called out our funds in the shape of coin, every good ducat would be worth no more than the base money which foreigners set afloat in the market. It answers our purpose better to sell our claim for this money at a premium than to use the actual money; and thus the Bank preserves its resources within itself.”
“And more than preserves them. Your city must derive a fine revenue from this Bank. There are fees on deposit; fees on transfer; fines for neglecting to balance accounts twice a-year; and no little profit by selling foreign coin for more, than is given for it, and by disposing of bank-money at a higher agio than that at which it is received. All this together must amount to much more than the expenses of the establishment.”
Heins began to feel an increase of respect for the foreign sailor, who seemed to know as much of commercial concerns as if he had been a Dutchman. He was also impressed by the tone of confidence with which the stranger spoke of what improvements would be adopted from abroad into his own country. It was strange to hear him now pronouncing upon a national bank as one of the necessary institutions of the Keiser's new city. No commerce, he declared, could proceed on equal terms between a country that had stable banks and one that had not. The advantages of a bank as a medium for the transaction of business, as a rendezvous for the balancing of bills of exchange, and, above all, as a security, by the practice of discounting, against all dangerous inequalities in the distribution of money, were too great to be compared with any other plan of mutual accommodation. The Stadt-house might be rivalled as a building; but unless its noble banking institution was adopted, no imitation could command such respect as the original. The Keiser must establish a bank, or the great city of the Neva would never rival that of the Amstel, to whatever pitch of grandeur its contemplated navy might attain.
Heins was So far propitiated by this speech that he would have allowed the sailor to stand immediately behind him when the procession passed, if it had so pleased Master Peter; but his curiosity was too active to allow him to stand stock still, as he was desired, when the unaccustomed train of horsemen appeared in sight. He laughed very unceremoniously at the portly figures of the burgomasters, who appeared packed into their seats in much fear of falling. The saddles were very safely peaked before and behind, while the swelling garments of the riders formed a cushion of defence on each side; insomuch that the question seemed rather to be how they should contrive to dismount, than whether there was any danger in their present position. When their predecessors in office appeared in one of the porticoes to receive the new potentates, the work of dismounting began, amidst the solemn officious help of a train of inferior personages; and this was the time chosen by Master Peter to cross the open space from which the crowd had been driven back, and make his way straight into the interior of the building. A hundred hands were held out to stop him, and a hundred voices cried out upon his insolence. But these impediments only roused his passion. He appeared in a tremendous fury for a few moments; but, instead of doing any act of violence, he looked around him as if for some who would execute vengeance for him. Meeting no friendly faces, he dismissed his wrath, and made some mysterious brief appeal to a man in authority, who, with no further hesitation, opened a way for the stranger into the court where the ceremony was about to take place; a privilege which none but the officials connected with the Bank had ever before been known to enjoy.
As soon as Heins had recovered a little from his amazement, it occurred to him that that which had been granted to a common sailor would scarcely be refused to the partner of one of the dignitaries; and forthwith he too crossed over; he too attempted to pass through the portico. The observing people seemed at a loss what to do this time. The hundred hands were only half raised; the thousand voices produced only a murmur. The officers, however, knew their duty. At a sign from the magistrate who had admitted Master Peter's appeal, they interposed their batons; and two of them, seizing the mortified merchant by each arm, conducted him back among the crowd, followed by a frown from Vanderput, and welcomed by grave jokes from his less enterprising neighbours. There he was left to murmur out his discontent, while the despised Master Peter was witnessing the remarkable ceremony of the delivery of the charge of the Bank of Amsterdam by one set of magistrates to their successors. It was mortifying to Heins to hear from him afterwards the details of how the four great wax lights were brought in grave procession, and put, together with the Bank books, into the hands of their new guardians; how the massive bolts of the treasure-chambers revolved amidst the silence, and were returned to their staples when the officials had entered; how the time seemed long while the examiners were comparing the treasure with the account of it in the Bank books; how eagerly listened to was their declaration, when they came out, that all was correct; and how solemn the oath then administered to them, that they would faithfully discharge their office, and guard the civic treasure. Of the aspect of the ponderous keys every one could judge for himself, as each of the new magistrates, when he re-appeared, wore a bunch of them at his girdle, and probably felt that they constituted the heaviest penance of the day.
Heins was pacing homewards, not altogether so happy in his self-importance as when he had traversed the same ground a few hours before, when he was crossed in his path by Slyk.
“Ha! I thought you had been fifty miles off,” said Heins. “I was told you had settled to the northward of us.”
“News which may or may not be true,” replied Slyk, mysteriously. “I have more to say to you thereupon. You must visit me;—after 'Change time. After 'Change time, remember. Fransje will entertain us well at table, if you will sup. You will sup with us, friend Snoek.”
Francesca bent forward eagerly to enforce the invitation, which Heins accepted, after having gazed at the sky with knit brows, and then round upon the walls, as if looking there for a record of his engagements.—Slyk believed he was adding another inducement when he hinted that his discourse of the evening might bear some relation to Heins's respected mother.
“How interesting Mr. Snoek is!” was Francesca's observation to her father, as she stole a glance after Heins. “How sad he looked before he saw us just now! He will never get over his father's death.”
“Poor youth! The cares of the world have come early upon him,” observed her father. “We must guide him in the disposal of his affairs, and cheer his spirits, Fransje.”
Francesca needed no prompting to do so gentle a service to the rich young merchant, who might rise to be a reigning burgomaster, if he could rally his spirits up to the point of ambition.—She would not have despaired of this, if she had seen the difference in the countenance of Heins before and after meeting her. He reached his own abode, consoled by the thought that if society at large was yet unaware of his merits, there was one personage of some consideration, with a fair and lively daughter, who thought him worth asking to supper.