More precisely, there was a total of 562 million [pounds sterling] of 3 percent debt outstanding on February 1, 1817, in the month preceding which Consols' average yield had been 4.72 percent, for a price of 63.6 percent (ignoring accrued interest), with holders having already enjoyed a 7 percentage point price appreciation since the recent low of August 1815.
Investors in August 1815 had put in only 57 percent for their 3 percent Consols and within a few years received a profit of 37 percentage points in capital gains plus interest at around 5 percent per annum on their initial investment.
The price of Consols dropped from an average of 90 in 1792 to below 51 in 1797 and 1798.
One can trace this Consols' wealth effect back further; Pitt's benign economic conditions and growth in the 1780s were largely caused by a rise in Consols' prices from 55 [pounds sterling] to 90 [pounds sterling] between 1784 and 1792.
Over the course of the 18th century, government securities ("the funds") and Consols in particular had become the principal non-landed form of wealth holding for merchants and the middle class, who tended to be more liquid than all but the richest aristocracy.
The most important form in which wealth was held was still land, though its importance was beginning to decline during this period as mercantile relative wealth increased and landowners diversified their wealth into Consols. Prices of land had enjoyed a massive boom during the Napoleonic Wars, as corn prices had soared from an average of 43 shillings per quarter in 1794 to 127 shillings per quarter in the dearth year of 1812 (Mitchell 2011: 756).
Their situation is well illustrated in an 1822 conversation between the diarist Harriet Arbuthnot, the young (28) wife of Charles Arbuthnot, a Treasury Secretary (junior minister) whose wealth was primarily in Consols, and her older (62) cousin the 10th Earl of Westmorland, Lord Privy Seal (a cabinet minister) and a large landowner:
These investments were a substantial absorber of British capital, especially during the 1822-25 period as declining yields on Consols caused investors to seek higher returns elsewhere.
Information on the owners of Consols can first be gained by examining the estates of the very wealthiest.
Although Robinson could think of no explanation for this increase, the jump's coincidence with the recovery in Consols' prices suggests that Consols formed a high proportion of the wealth covered by these statistics, which derive from probate valuations that do not include real property and therefore relate primarily to mercantile rather than aristocratic fortunes.
It can safely be assumed that the great majority of these fortunes would have been held in Consols. Of the other nine, the three in textiles, the one in publishing, and the two in public administration and defense will also have held a high percentage of their nonland wealth in Consols, since none of those occupations is capital intensive.
Since these people had little need for plant and equipment, the majority of their nonland wealth would have been held in Consols. (14)