15. “William Pitt, the Bank of England, and the 1797 Suspension of Specie Payments: Central Bank War Finance During the Napoleonic Wars”


Abstract: Modern military engagements are made possible by a state’s ability to easily acquire revenue. By either taking the money from its citizens via taxation, borrowing funds through bonds or loans from private financiers or other governments, or inflating the currency by issuing bank notes without the backing of specie or another commodity, Western governments wield enough power over money and banking to fund any venture. British involvement in the Napoleonic Wars was no exception to the rule. This paper examines the role of the British government, including William Pitt and Parliament, and the Bank of England in manipulating the currency, by borrowing, taxing, and issuing Bank notes to fund the war with Napoleonic France in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.