« PreviousContinue »
silver, and especially if he had made that attempt at such a critical period as we have had in the last two years, my judgment is, it would have been very disastrous. There is a vast difference between establishing a policy at the beginning, and reversing a policy after it has been long established, and, especially, after the situation has been changed.
This is sufficient proof that the Secretary of the Treasury has the legal right to redeem greenbacks and Treasury notes in silver, but is restrained by the fear that, a different precedent having been established, an exercise of the legal right at this time would be "very disastrous."
Senator Sherman in March, 1878, in testimony given before a Senate committee, also recognized the right of the Government to redeem greenbacks with silver. I quote from his testimony:
Senator Bayard. You speak of resumption upon a bimetallic basis being easier. Do you make that proposition irrespective of the readjustment of the relative values of the two metals as we have declared them?
Secretary Sherman. I think so. Our mere right to pay in silver would deter a great many people from presenting notes for redemption who would readily do so if they could get the lighter and more portable coin in exchange. Besides gold coin can be exported, while silver coin could not be exported, because its market value is less than its coin value.
Senator Bayard. By the 1st of July next or the 1st of January next you have eighteen or twenty millions of silver dollars which are in circulation and payable for duties, and how long do you suppose this short supply of silver and your control of it by your coinage will keep it equivalent to gold-when one is worth 10 cents less than the other.
Secretary Sherman. Just so long as it can be used for anything that gold is used for. It will be worth in this country the par of gold until it becomes so abundant and bulky that people will become tired of carrying it about; but in our country that can be avoided by depositing it for coin certificates.
No law has ever been passed surrendering the Government's right to redeem in silver; and it is as valuable now as it was just after the passage of the Bland law of 1878, which restored silver as a part of our standard money. The testimony above quoted was given by Senator Sherman, then Secretary of the Treasury, soon after the passage of the Bland act and before the resumption of specie payment.
Now, notwithstanding the fact that the Government has a legal right to redeem in silver and thus protect the people from the gold hoarders and gold exporters, the President continues to pay in gold even when gold must be purchased by an issue of bonds, and we can not authorize the issue of any bonds for the purpose of buying gold, without indorsing the policy which permits the drain of gold and thus gives an excuse for a bond issue. So far, the surrender to the note holder of the right to designate the coin of payment is purely an act of the Executive and has never received legislative approval. If it is said that the President will issue bonds anyhow and that we ought therefore, to authorize a bond drawing a lower rate of interest, I reply that until we can restrain the President from further increasing our bonded indebtedness and compel him to protect the Government by redeeming in silver when that is more convenient, we can better afford to allow him to bear the responsibility alone than, by approving his course, pledge the Government to a continuation of his policy. If the Secretary thinks that it would now be disastrous to depart from a precedent established by a former Secretary of the Treasury, how much more difficult it would be to change the policy after once indorsing it by an act of Congress.
So long as the note holder has the option, bonds may be issued over and over again without avail. Gold will be withdrawn either directly or indirectly for the purpose of buying bonds, and an issue of bonds compelled again, whenever bond buyers have a surplus of money awaiting investment. This experiment has been tried, but, instead of convincing the President of the futility of bond issues, it has simply led him to try a new experiment. By purchasing gold in Europe he may enlarge the circle around which the gold must pass, but he will not change the operation or protect the Government. The only remedy is the restoration of the bimetallic principle and the exercise of the option to redeem greenbacks and Treasury notes in silver whenever silver is more convenient, or whenever such a course is necessary to prevent a run upon the Treasury. To delay the remedy is to prolong our embarrassment; to authorize bonds of any kind is to rivet upon the country the policy which has brought our present troubles upon us; to authorize bonds payable specifically in gold is to invite new difficulties and to establish a still more dangerous precedent.
I am glad to hear some of our Republican friends denounce this gold-bond proposition, but are they not in effect condemning a Republican policy? The gold bond is the legitimate result of the policy inaugurated and continued by Republican administrations. It was a Republican administration which first surrendered to the note holder the option to demand gold in redemption of greenbacks and Treasury notes, and it was rumored that President Harrison was preparing to issue bonds to buy gold just before his term expired. The substitute for the Springer bill, that is, the substitute offered by the gentleman from Maine (Mr. Reed), authorized the issue of coin bonds to buy gold, and yet the Republicans, almost without exception, voted for that substitute.
I offered an amendment to the Reed substitute, an amendment which reaffirmed the Matthews resolution declaring all coin bonds payable in gold or silver, and yet less than twenty (I think only thirteen) Republicans voted for my amendment. The great majority of the Republicans thus declared that coin bonds are gold bonds in fact. If coin bonds are really gold bonds, there is less reason for agitation about the use of the word gold in the bond. We, who believe that greenbacks and Treasury notes are redeemable in either gold or silver at the option of the Government-we, who believe in the right of the Government to redeem its coin bonds in either gold or silver—we, I say, can object to gold bonds as a violent change in our monetary policy, but those who insist that greenbacks, Treasury notes, and coin bonds are all payable in gold on demand have far less reason to criticise the President.
I repeat, the President is simply carrying a Republican policy to its logical conclusion. If the Republicans are in earnest in their opposition to gold bonds let them come with us and help to make all bonds unnecessary by restoring the bimetallic principle and exercising the option vested in the Government. to redeem coin obligations in either gold or silver. The Government is helpless so long as it refuses to exercise this option.
Mr. Dunn. Don't you want to make it more helpless?
Mr. Bryan. No, sir; I do not propose to make it more helpless. I propose the only policy which will help the Government. I propose the only policy which will stop the leak in the Treasury. I only ask that the Treasury Department shall be administered in behalf of the American people, and not in behalf of the Rothschilds and other foreign bankers.
But, Mr. Speaker, I desire, in conclusion, to call the attention of our Eastern brethren to the fact that this controversy can be no longer delayed. The issue has come and it must be met. On these financial questions we find that the Democrats of the East and the Republicans of the East lock arms and proceed to carry out their policies, regardless of the interests and the wishes of the rest of the country. If they form this union, offensive and defensive, they must expect that the rest of the people of the country will drop party lines, if necessary, and unite to preserve their homes and their welfare.
If this is sectionalism, the East has set the example. The demand of our Eastern brethren, both Republicans and Democrats, is for a steadily appreciating monetary standard. They are creditors; they hold our bonds and cur mortgages, and, as the dollars increase in purchasing power, our debts increase and the holders of our bonds and mortgages gather in an unearned increment. They are seeking to reap where they did not sow; they are seeking to collect that to which they are not entitled; they favor spoliation under the forms of law. The necessary result of their policy is the building up of a plutocracy which will make servants of the rest of the people.
This effort has gone on steadily, and, for the most part, stealthily, during the past twenty years, and this gold bond proposition is but another step in the direction of financial bondage. But I warn them that no slavery was ever perpetual. It has often been attempted, it has even been successfully attempted for a time, but the shackles are always broken at last. Bondage is ephemeral, freedom is eternal. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
The time will come when the unjust demands and the oppressive exactions of our Eastern brethren will compel the South and West to unite in the restoration of an honest dollar-a dollar which will defraud neither debtor nor creditor, a dollar based upon two metals, "the gold and silver coinage of the Constitution." "Thomas Jefferson still survives" and his principles will yet triumph. He taught equality before the law; he taught that all citizens are equally entitled to the consideration of government; he taught that it is the highest duty of government to protect each citizen from injury at the hands of any other citizen. We seek to apply his principles today to this great question; we seek to protect the debtor from the greed of the creditor; we seek to protect society from the avarice of the capitalist. We believe that in the restoration of bimetallism we shall secure the re-establishment of equity and restore prosperity to our country.
There was great rejoicing among the opponents of the measure when the vote disclosed its defeat.
Just before the close of the session the Speaker appointed Hon. David Culberson, of Texas, and Hon. Robert E. Hitt, of Illinois, as the House members of a commission to attend an international monetary conference which then seemed about to be called. The House by unanimous vote made Speaker Crisp a member of the commission. The appointment of this commission aroused some discussion in regard to international bimetallism and on the last day of the session, a little
before adjournment, I made my last speech in the House of Representatives. I said:
While we are in favor of sending delegates to this conference, we have no great hope that such a conference will accomplish anything, nor do we believe that an international agreement is necessary; but at this time the United States is not coining silver, and it is obviously impossible to secure any action. favorable to silver before March 4, 1897. If, while the United States refuses to coin silver, we refuse to send representatives to an international conference our refusal will be taken as a declaration against silver rather than in its favor.
My reason for believing that an international monetary conference is not likely to accomplish anything is that other nations do not stand in the same attitude that we do. It has been said by the gold advocates in England, and well said, that England is a creditor nation, and that, as she draws her income from all other nations, she profits by the appreciation of the dollar. Those who are in authority there realize that and openly admit it, and I do not believe that we can expect those who are profiting by the appreciation of the dollar to join heartily in the restoration of bimetallism.
Mr. Harcourt said in the English Parliament the other day, that, while the Government would not object to the proposition then made, he had no hope of the conference resulting in any good. He denounced to the advocates of bimetallism that England is opposed to any change in her financial system. I do not believe that this monetary conference is even likely to be convened at the instance of a foreign nation; and, if it is convened, I do not believe that it will result in any agreement. And yet, sir, we who believe in free coinage, we who think that this nation can and should undertake free coinage alone-we, I say, are not willing to place ourselves in the attitude of refusing to lend a helping hand if any other nation desires a conference.
The Reichstag of Germany has, it is true, declared in favor of reconvening the monetary conference. But, as I understand it, that is the popular branch of the legislature and may not result in any action on the part of the Government. In the action taken by the Reichstag, however, we find strong proof that in Germany, which more than twenty years ago adopted the gold standard, it has been demonstrated that the gold standard is a failure for the masses of the people and only beneficial to the capitalistic classes. And it is a significant fact that just after the Reichstag resolved in favor of international bimetallism the Chamber of Commerce of Berlin passed resolutions condemning the action of the Reichstag and approving of the gold standard. They have the same contest over there that we have here.
They have a contest between the money power and the common people, but the money power has a greater advantage there than here. If, in this country, where we have universal suffrage and a more equal distribution of wealth than is found in Germany, we have labored in vain for twenty years to restore bimetallism after it was stricken down in the dark and without public discussion, what hope is there in Germany or in England where great national debts held by the capitalistic classes make the Governments the slaves of the money lenders?
Mr. Speaker, I am in favor of doing anything which looks toward the restoration of silver, but I want it understood that while we are willing to send delegates to an international conference and are anxious to send real advocates of silver who will vote and work for the restoration of bimetallism, yet we are not in favor of waiting upon that conference for one day or one hour. Whether the conference is held or not we are in favor of continuing the agitation, and shall endeavor at the very first moment to secure the passage of a bill providing for "the immediate restoration of the free and unlimited coinage of gold and silver at the present legal ratio of 16 to 1, as such coinage existed prior to 1873, without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation, such gold and silver coin to be a full legal tender for all debts, public and private."
If this conference results in good, all right; we shall accept the good and be thankful. If it results in nothing, as the three previous conferences have, we need not feel disappointed nor cast down. I believe that independent action on our part at once would force other nations to restore bimetallism much sooner than such a result can be secured by words of persuasion. In other words, I believe that we shall wait for bimetallism by an international agreement; I believe that this nation alone is able to maintain the parity between gold and silver at the ratio of 16 to 1, and I further believe that the worst results which can possibly follow from independent action on the part of the United States will be better for our people than the best results which can follow from our present financial policy.
Mr. Dingley. I understand the gentleman to say that he is in favor of the free coinage of silver by this country at a ratio of 16 to 1?
Mr. Bryan. Yes, sir.
Mr. Dingley. Does the gentleman believe that it will result in bimetallism? Mr. Bryan. Yes, sir; I do.
Mr. Dingley. How?
Mr. Bryan. Because I believe that this country is great enough to maintain the parity between the two metals at the ratio of 16 to 1.
Mr. Dingley. By buying silver at $1.29 an ounce, when it is only worth 63 cents in the market?
Mr. Bryan. If the gentleman understands the meaning of free coinage, he understands that it does not mean the buying of an ounce of silver. We do not want to buy silver. We want to open the mints to silver as the mints are now open to gold.