« PreviousContinue »
clear to the world. No room should be left for misconception as to the meaning of the language used in the bonds of the Government not yet matured. It should not be possible for any party or individual to raise a question as to the purpose of the country to pay all its obligations in the best form of money recognized by the commercial world. Any nation which is worthy of credit or confidence can afford to say explicitly, on a question so vital to every interest, what it means, when such meaning is challenged or doubted. It is desirable that we should make it known at once and authoritatively, that an "honest dollar" means any dollar equivalent to a gold dollar of the present standard of weight and fineness. The world should likewise be assured that the standard dollar of America is as inflexible a quantity as the French Napoleon, the British sovereign, or the German twenty mark piece.
The free coinage of silver at the ratio of 16 to 1 is a policy which no nation has ever before proposed, and it is not today permitted in any mint in the world-not even in Mexico. It is purposed to make the coinage unlimited, at an absolutely fictitious ratio, fixed with no reference to intrinsic value or pledge of ultimate redemption. With silver at its present price of less than seventy cents per ounce in the market, such a policy means an immediate profit to the seller of silver for which there is no return now or hereafter to the people or the Government. It means that, for each dollar's worth of silver bullion delivered at the mint, practically two dollars of stamped coin will be given in exchange. For one hundred dollars' worth of bullion nearly two hundred silver dollars will be delivered.
Let it also be remembered that such an act would probably be culminative in its effects. The crop of silver, unlike that of hay, or wheat, or corn-which being of yearly production can be regulated by the law of demand and supplyis fixed once for all. The silver which has not yet been gathered is all in the ground. Dearth or other accident of the elements cannot augment or diminish it. Is it not more than probable that with the enormous premium offered for its mining the cupidity of man would make an over-supply continuous, with the necessary result of a steady depreciation as long as the silver dollar could be kept in circulation at all? Under the laws of finance, which are as fixed as those of any other science, the inevitable result would finally be a currency all and absolutely fiat. There is no difference in principle between a dollar half fiat and one all fiat. The latter, as the cheapest, under the logic of "cheap money," would surely drive the other out.
Any attempt on the part of the Government to create, by its fiat, money of a fictitious value, would dishonor us in the eyes of other peoples, and bring infinite reproach upon the national character. The business and financial consequences of such an immoral act would be world wide, because our commercial relations are world wide. All our settlements with other lands must be made, not with the money which may be legally current in our own country, but in gold, the standard of all nations with which our relations are most cordial and extensive, and no legislative enactment can free us from that inevitable necessity. It is a known fact that more than eighty per cent. of the commerce of the world is settled in gold or on a gold basis.
Such free coinage legislation, if ever consummated, would discriminate
against every producer of wheat, cotton, corn or rye-who should in justice be equally entitled, with the silver owner, to sell his products to the United States Treasury, at a profit fixed by the Government-and against all producers of iron, steel, zinc or copper, who might properly claim to have their metals made into current coin. It would, as well, be a fraud upon all persons forced to accept a currency thus stimulated, and at the same time degraded.
In every aspect the proposed policy is partial and one sided, because it is only when a profit can be made by a mine owner or dealer that he takes his silver to the mint for coinage. The Government is always at the losing end. Stamp such fictitious value upon silver ore, and a dishonest and unjust diserimination will be made against every other form of industry. When silver bullion, worth a little more than fifty cents, is made into a legal tender dollar, driving out one having a purchasing and debt paying power of one hundred cents, it will clearly be done at the expense and injury of every class of the community.
Those who contend for the free and unlimited coinage of silver may believe in all honesty that while the present ratio of silver to gold is as thirty to one (not sixteen to one), silver will rise above the existing market value. If it does so rise the effect will be to make the loss to all the people so much less, but such an opinion is but a hazardous conjecture at best, and is not justified by experience. Within the last twenty years this Government has bought about 460 millions of ounces of silver, from which it has coined approximately 430 millions of silver dollars and issued 130 millions of dollars in silver certificates, and the price of the metal has steadily declined from $1.15 per ounce to 68 cents per ounce. What will be the decline when the supply is augmented by the offerings of all the world? The loss upon these silver purchases to the people of this country has now been nearly 150 millions of dollars.
The dollar of our fathers, about which so much is said, was an honest dollar, silver maintaining a full parity of intrinsic value with gold. The fathers would have spurned and ridiculed a proposition to make a silver dollar worth only fifty-three cents stand of equal value with a gold one worth a hundred cents. The experience of all nations proves that any depreciation, however slight, of another standard, from the parity with gold, has driven the more valuable one out of circulation, and such experience in a matter of this kind is worth much more than mere interested speculative opinion. The fact that few gold coins are seen in ordinary circulation for domestic uses is no proof at all that the metal is not performing a most important function in business affairs. The foundation of the house is not always in sight, but the house would not stand an hour if there was no foundation. The great enginery that moves the ocean steamship is not always in view of the passenger, but it is, all the same, the propelling force of the vessel, without which it would soon become a worthless derelict.
It may be instructive to consider a moment how the free and unlimited eoinage of silver would affect a few great interests, and I mention only enough to demonstrate what a calamity may lie before us if the platform formulated at Chicago is permitted to be carried out.
There are now on deposit in the savings banks of thirty-three States and Territories of this Union the vast sum of $2,000,000,000. These are the savings
of almost 5,000,000 depositors. In many cases they represent the labor and economies of years. Any depreciation in the value of the dollar would defraud every man, woman and child to whom these savings belong. Every dollar of their earnings when deposited was worth one hundred cents in gold of the present standard of weight and fineness. Are they not entitled to receive in full, with interest, all they have so deposited? Any legislation that would reduce it by the value of a single dime would be an intolerable wrong to each depositor. Every bank or banker who has accepted the earnings of these millions of dollars to the credit of our citizens must be required to pay them back in money not one whit less valuable than that which these banks and bankers received in trust.
There are, in this country, nearly six thousand building and loan associations, with shareholders to the number of 1,800,000, and with assets amounting to more than $500,000,000. Their average of holdings is nearly $300 per capita, and in many cases they represent the savings of men and women who have denied themselves the comforts of life in the hope of being able to accumulate enough to buy or build homes of their own. They have aided in the erection of over a million of houses, which are now affording comfort and shelter for five millions of our thrifty people.
Free coinage at the arbitrary rate of sixteen ounces of silver to one of gold would be equivalent to the confiscation of nearly half the savings that these people have invested. It would be tantamount to a war upon American home-makers. It would be an invasion of "the homes of the provident," and tend directly to "destroy the stimulus to endeavor and the compensation of honest toil." Every one of the shareholders of these associations is entitled to be repaid in money of the same value which he deposited by weekly payments or otherwise in these companies. No one of them should be made homeless because a political party demands a change in the money standard of our country, as an experiment, or as a concession to selfishness or greed.
The magnitude of the disaster which would overtake these and cognate interests becomes the more strikingly apparent when considered in the aggregate. Stated broadly, the savings banks, life insurance and assessment companies, and building loan associations of the country hold in trust $15,309,717,381. The debasement of the currency to a silver basis, as proposed by the Chicago platform, would wipe out at one blow, approximately $7,963,504,856 of this aggregate. According to the report of the Department of Agriculture, the total value of the main cereal crops in this country in 1894 was $995,438,107. So that the total sum belonging to the people, and held in trust in these institutions, which would be obliterated by the triumph of free and unlimited silver coinage, would be seven and one-half times the total value of the annual cereal crop of the United States. The total value of the manufactured products of the country for the census year of 1890 was $9,372,537,283. The establishment of a silver basis of value, as now proposed, would entail a loss to these three interests alone equal to eighty-five per cent. of this enormous output of all the manufacturing industries of the Union, and would affect directly nearly onethird of its whole population.
One hundred and forty millions of dollars per annum are due to pensioners
of the late war. That sum represents blood spilled and sufferings endured in order to preserve this nation from disintegration. In many cases, the sums so paid in pensions are exceedingly small; in few, if any, are they excessive. The spirit that would deplete these to the extent of a farthing is the same that would organize sedition, destroy the peace and security of the country, punish, rather than reward, our veteran soldiers, and is unworthy of the countenance, by thought or vote, of any patriotic citizen of whatever political faith. No party, until that which met in convention at Chicago, has ever ventured to insult the honored survivors of our struggle for the national life by proposing to scale their pensions horizontally, and to pay them hereafter in depreciated dollars worth only fifty-three cents each.
The amounts due, in addition to the interests already named, to depositors and trust companies in national, State and private banks, to holders of fire and accident insurance policies, to holders of industrial insurance, where the money deposited or the premiums have been paid in gold or its equivalent, are so enormous, together with the sums due, and to become due, for State, municipal, county, or other corporate debts, that if paid in depreciated silver or its equivalent, it would not only entail upon our fellow countrymen a loss in money which has not been equaled in a similar experience since the world began, but it would, at the same time, bring a disgrace to our country such as has never befallen any other nation which had the ability to pay its honest debts. In our condition and considering our magnificent capacity for raising revenue, such wholesale repudiation is without necessity or excuse. No political expediency or party exigency, however pressing, could justify so
monstrous an act.
All these deposits and debts must, under the platform of the Republican party, be met and adjusted in the best currency the world knows, and measured by the same standard in which the debts have been contracted or the deposits or payments have been made.
Still dealing sparingly with figures, of which there is an enormous mass to sustain the position of the advocates of the gold standard of value, I cite one more fact, which is officially established, premised by the truism that there is no better test of the growth of a country's prosperity than its increase in the per capita holdings of its population. In the decade between 1880 and 1890, during which we had our existing gold standard, and were under the conditions that supervened from the act of 1873, the per capita ownings of this country increased from $870 to $1,036. In those ten years the aggregate increase of the wealth of our country was $21,395,000,000, being fifty per cent. in excess of the increase for any previous ten years since 1850, and at the amazing rate of over two thousand millions of dollars a year. The framers of the Chicago platform in the face of this fact, and of the enormous increase over Great Britain, during this same gold standard decade, of our country's foreign trade and its production of iron, coal and other great symbols of national strength and progress, assert that our monetary standard is "not only unAmerican but anti-American," and that it has brought us "into financial servitude to London." It is impossible to imagine an assertion more reckless and indefensible.
The proposition for free and unlimited silver coinage, carried to its logical