Read INTRODUCTION of An Example of Communal Currency‚ The facts about the Guernsey Market House, free online book, by J. Theodore Harris, on

There are many persons who have heard from one source or another of the way in which the States of Guernsey built their Market House by means of non-interest-bearing notes. Some of these enthusiasts for the reform of the currency can dilate for hours on the wisdom of the financial policy of Daniel de Lisle Brock, can tell how, at the opening of the Market he “sprinkled the packages (of redeemed notes) with perfume, and while the band was playing a dirge he laid them on the fire, where they were quickly consumed,” and can even quote from his famous speech on that occasion.

A few years ago some members of the Co-operative Brotherhood Trust, which is a Society that has among its objects a desire to revive the principles of Robert Owen’s Labour Exchange, thought it worth while to make enquiries as to the Guernsey scheme. They realised that an ounce of fact was worth a ton of theory. But what were the facts? Were these notes circulated in the island as a medium of exchange? How were they redeemed? Could a citizen demand gold for them? When the above mentioned enthusiasts were tackled with these practical questions, there was suddenly noticed a certain hesitancy; and when asked point blank what was the year in which this famous Market House was built, no one could say.

Enquiries were then made from inhabitants of the island itself. The information gathered was vague and not much to the point. With a few notable exceptions, the average Guernseyman seems to know or care little of the financial policy of the island at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Even from those interested nothing very definite was to be learned. The enquirers at last came near to doubting whether the non-interest-bearing notes had ever existed except in the imagination of the enthusiasts. Only first-hand enquiry on the spot would suffice.

One Guernseyman, a teacher, kindly encouraged the writer to visit the island himself, promising him introductions and access to all the official documents and newspapers of the time. Through the courtesy of the Greffier and the Librarian of the Guille-Alles Library every facility was granted to the writer and his wife to carry out their research. The politeness and kindness of these officials and other inhabitants of Guernsey are hereby most cordially acknowledged.

In the following pages it is the writer’s desire to place the facts before the public as he has gleaned them from the official records of the States and the newspapers of the time. He feels tempted to discuss the pros and cons of the system adopted by the States of Guernsey for over twenty years; but this little treatise will probably be of most use if it is confined to a mere narration of facts. Incidentally, however, it will be seen that some of the queries which led to the research have been answered. From the nature of the case this narration will consist largely of quotations. It must inevitably fail to convey to the reader the thrilling interest aroused as the story, exceeding all the romance of the enthusiasts, led its slow but fascinating course through many volumes, and the quaint old French documents gave up their secrets in the modern well-equipped Record Office.