Page images

the weight of the gold dollar one-third. This would give to the holders of gold an advantage of some $200,000,000, but the creditors would lose several billions of dollars in the actual value of their debts. A debt contracted before 1873 would not be scaled, because the new gold dollar would purchase as much as the old gold dollar would in 1873. Creditors, however, whose loans have been made since that time would suffer, and the most recent loans would show the greatest loss. The value of silver bullion has only fallen in relation to gold. But the purchasing power of one ounce of silver has varied less since 1873 than has the purchasing power of one ounce of gold, which would indicate that gold had risen.

If, on the other hand, the ratio is changed by increasing the size of the silver dollar, it would be necessary to recoin our silver dollars into dollars a half larger, or we would have in circulation two legal tender silver dollars of different sizes. Of the two plans it would be better, in my judgment, to keep both dollars in circulation together, though unequal in weight, rather than to recoin the lighter dollars. The recoinage of more than 500,000,000 of silver dollars, or the bullion representing them, would cause a shrinkage of about $170,000,000, or one-third of our silver money; it would cause shrinkage of nearly one-sixth of our metallic money and of more than one-tenth of our total circulation. This contraction would increase our debts more than a billion dollars and decrease the nominal value of our property more than five billions.

A change in the ratio made by increasing the size of the silver dollar as above suggested would also decrease by one-third the number of dollars which could be coined from the annual product of silver. If, as Mr. Carlisle has said, the supply of metal, both gold and silver, is none too large to keep pace with population, the increase in the weight of each dollar would make the supply to that extent deficient. A change in ratio, whether secured by decreasing the gold dollar or by increasing the silver dollar, would probably make an international agreement more difficult, because nearly all of the silver coin now in existence circulates at a ratio less than ours.

If the change should be made in this country by increasing the size of the silver dollar and an international agreement secured upon the new ratio, to be effected by other nations in the same way, the amount of money in the world, that is metallic money, would suffer a contraction of more than $1,000,000,000, to the enormous injury of the debtor class and to the enormous advantage of the creditor class. If we believe that the value of gold has risen because its supply has not increased as fast as the demand caused by favorable legislation, then it would be unfair to continue this appreciation by other legislation favorable to gold. It would be a special injustice to the mine owner and to the farmer, whose products have fallen with silver, to make perpetual the injunction against their prosperity.

We often hear our opponents complain of the "cupidity of the mine owner." Let us admit that the mine owner is selfish, and that he will profit by the increased price of silver bullion. Let us, for the sake of argument, go further, and accuse him of favoring the free coinage of silver solely for the purpose of increasing the price of his product. Does that make him worse than other men? Is not the farmer selfish enough to desire a higher price for wheat? Is not the cotton-grower selfish enough to desire a higher price for his cotton? Is not

the laboring man selfish enough to desire higher wages? And, if I may be pardoned for the boldness, are not bankers and business men selfish enough to ask for legislation at our hands which will give them prosperity? Was not this extraordinary session called in order to bring back prosperity to our business men?

Is it any more important that you should keep a mercantile house from failing than that you should keep a mine from suspending? Are those who desire free coinage of silver in order that the barren wastes should be made to "blossom like the rose" any worse than those who want the Sherman law repealed in order to borrow foreign gold and retire clearing house certificates? There is a class of people whose interest in financial legislation is too often overlooked. The money-loaner has just as much interest in the rise in the value of his product-money-as farmers and miners have in the increased price of their products.

The man who has $10,000 in money becomes worth $20,000 in reality when prices fall one-half. Shall we assume that the money-lenders of this and other countries ignore the advantage which an appreciated currency gives to them and desire it simply for the benefit of the poor man and the laborer? What refining influence is there in their business which purges away the dross of selfishness and makes pure and patriotic only their motives? Has some new dispensation reversed the parable and left Lazarus in torment while Dives is borne aloft in Abraham's bosom?

But is the silver miner after all so selfish as to be worthy of censure? Does he ask for some new legislation or for some innovation inaugurated in his behalf? No. He pleads only for the restoration of the money of the fathers. He asks to have given back to him a right which he enjoyed from 1792 to 1873. During all those years he could deposit his silver bullion at the mints and receive full legal tender coins at the rate of $1.29 for each ounce of silver, and during a part of the time his product could be converted into money at even a higher price. Free coinage can only give back to him what demonetization took away. He does not ask for a silver dollar redeemable in a gold dollar, but for a silver dollar which redeems itself.

If the bullion value of silver has not been reduced by hostile legislation, the free coinage of silver at the present ratio can bring to the mine owner no benefit, except by enabling him to pay a debt already contracted with less ounces of silver. If the price of his product has been reduced by hostile legislation, is he asking any more than we would ask under the same circumstances in seeking to remove the oppressive hand of the law? Let me suggest, too, that those who favor an international agreement are estopped from objecting to the profits of the silver mine owner, because an international agreement could only be effected at some ratio near to ours, probably 15%1⁄2 to I, and this would just as surely inure to the benefit of the owner of silver as would free coinage established by the independent action of this country.

If our opponents were correct in asserting that the price of silver bullion could be maintained at 129 cents an ounce by international agreement, but not by our separate action, then international bimetallism would bring a larger profit to the mine owner than the free coinage of silver by this country could. Let the international bimetallist, then, find some better objection to free coinage than that based on the mine owner's profit.

But what is the mine owner's profit? Has anyone told you the average cost of mining an ounce of silver? You have heard of some particular mine where silver can be produced at a low cost, but no one has attempted to give you any reliable data as to the average cost of production. I had a letter from Mr. Leech when he was Director of the Mint, saying that the Government is in possession of no data in regard to the cost of gold production and none of any value in regard to silver. No calculation can be made as to the profits of mining which does not include money spent in prospecting and in mines which have ceased to pay, as well as those which are profitably worked.

When we see a wheel of fortune with twenty-four paddles, see those paddles sold for 10 cents apiece, and see the holder of the winning paddle draw $2, we do not conclude that money can be profitably invested in a wheel of fortune. We know that those who bought expended altogether $2.40 on the turn of the wheel, and that the man who won only received $2; but our opponents insist upon estimating the profits of silver mining by the cost of the winning paddle. It is safe to say that taking the gold and silver of the world—and it is more true of silver than of gold-every dollar's worth of metal has cost a dollar. It is strange that those who watch so carefully lest the silver miner shall receive more for his product than the bare cost of production ignore the more fortunate gold miner.

Did you ever hear a monometallist complain because a man could produce 25.8 grains of gold, 9 fine, at any price whatever, and yet take it to our mint and have it stamped into a dollar with full legal tender qualities? I saw at the World's Fair a few days ago a nugget of gold, just as it was found, worth over $3,000. What an outrage that the finder should be allowed to convert that into money at such an enormous profit! And yet no advocate of honest money raises his hand to stop that crime.

The fact is that the price of gold and silver does not depend upon the cost of production, but upon the law of supply and demand. It is true that production will stop when either metal cannot be produced at a profit; but so long as the demand continues equal to the supply the value of an ounce of either metal may be far above the cost of production. With most kinds of property a rise in price will cause increased production; for instance, if the price of wheat rises faster than the price of other things, there will be a tendency to increased production until the price falls; but this tendency cannot be carried out in the case of the precious metals, because the metals must be found before it can be produced, and finding is uncertain.

Between 1800 and 1849 an ounce of gold or silver would exchange for more of other things than it would from 1849 to 1873, yet during the latter period the production of both gold and silver greatly increased. It will be said that the purchasing power of an ounce of metal fell because of the increased supply; but that fall did not check production, nor has the rise in the purchasing power of an ounce of gold since 1873 increased the production. The production of both gold and silver is controlled so largely by chance as to make some of the laws applicable to other property inapplicable to the precious metals. If the supply of gold decreases without any diminution of the demand the exchangeable value of each ounce of gold is bound to increase, although the cost of producing the gold may continue to fall.

Why do not the advocates of gold monometallism recognize and complain of the advantage given to gold by laws which increase the demand for it and, therefore, the value of each ounce? Instead of that they confine themselves to the denunciation of the silver-mine owner. I have never advocated the use of either gold or silver as the means of giving employment to miners, nor has the defence of bimetallism been conducted by those interested in the production of silver. We favor the use of gold and silver as money because money is a necessity and because these metals, owing to special fitness, have been used from time immemorial. The entire annual supply of both metals, coined at the present ratio, does not afford too large a sum of money.

If, as is estimated, two-thirds of the $130,000,000 of gold produced annually are consumed in the arts, only $46,000,000-or less than we need for this country alone are left to coinage. If one-sixth of the $185,000,000 of silver produced annually is used in the arts, $155,000,000 are left for coinage. India has been in the habit of taking about one-third of that sum. Thus the total amount of gold and silver annually available for all the people of all the world is only about $200,000,000, or about four times what we need in this country to keep pace with increasing population. And as population increases the annual addition to the money must also increase.

The total sum of metallic money is a little less than $8,000,000,000. The $200,000,000 per annum is about two-and-a-half per cent. on the total volume of metallic money, taking no account of lost coins and shrinkage by abrasion. To quote again the language of Mr. Carlisle.

Mankind will be fortunate indeed if the annual production of gold coin shall keep pace with the annual increase of population, commerce and industry.

An increase of the silver dollar one-third by an international agreement would reduce by 50,000,000 the number of dollars which could be coined from the annual product of silver, which would amount to a decrease of about onefourth of the entire increase of metallic money, while the abandonment of silver entirely would destroy three-quarters of the annual increase in metallic money, or possibly all of it, if we take into consideration the reduction of the gold supply by the closing of gold-producing silver mines.

Thus it is almost certain that without silver the sum of metallic money would remain stationary, if not actually decrease, from year to year, while population increases and new enterprises demand, from time to time, a larger sum of currency. Thus it will be seen that the money question is broader than the interest of a few mine owners. It touches every man, woman, and child in all the world, and affects those in every condition of life and society.

The interest of the mine owner is incidental. He profits by the use of silver as money just as the gold miner profits by the use of gold as money; just as the newspaper profits by the law compelling the advertising of foreclosures; just as the seaport profits by the deepening of its harbor; just as the horse seller would profit by a war which required the purchase of a large number of horses for cavalry service, or just as the undertaker would profit by the decent burial of a pauper at public expense.

All of these receive an incidental benefit from public acts. Shall we complain if the use of gold and silver as money gives employment to men, builds up cities and fills our mountains with life and industry? Shall we oppress all

debtors and derange all business agreements in order to prevent the producers of money metals from obtaining for them more than actual cost? We do not reason that way in other things; why suppress the reason in this matter because of cultivated prejudices against the white metal? But what interest has the farmer in this subject, you may ask. The same that every laboring man has in a currency sufficient to carry on the commerce and business of a country. The employer cannot give work to men unless he can carry on the business at a profit, and he is hampered and embarrassed by a currency which appreciates because of its insufficiency.

The farmer labors under a double disadvantage. He not only suffers as a producer from all those causes which reduce the price of property, but he is thrown into competition with the products of India. Without Indian competition his lot would be hard enough, for if he is a land owner he finds his capital decreasing with an appreciating standard, and if he owes on the land he finds his equity of redemption extinguished. The last census shows a real estate mortgage indebtedness in the five great agricultural States-Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska-of more than one billion of dollars. A rising standard means a great deal of distress to these mortgagors. But as I said, the producers of wheat and cotton have a special grievance, for the prices of those articles are governed largely by the prices in Liverpool, and as silver goes down our prices fall, while the rupee price remains the same. I quote from the agricultural report of 1890, page 8:

The recent legislation looking to the restoration of the bimetallic standard of our currency, and the consequent enhancement of the value of silver, has unquestionably had much to do with the recent advance in the price of cereals. The same cause has advanced the price of wheat in Russia and India, and in the same degree reduced their power of competition. English gold was formerly exchanged for cheap silver and wheat purchased with the cheaper metal was sold in Great Britain for gold. Much of this advantage is lost by the appreciation of silver in those countries. It is reasonable, therefore, to expect much higher prices for wheat than have been received in recent years.

Mr. Rusk's reasoning is correct. Shall we by changing the ratio fix the price of wheat and cotton at the present low price? If it is possible to do so it is no more than fair that we restore silver to its former place, and thus give back to the farmer some of his lost prosperity. Can silver be maintained on a parity with gold at the present ratio? It has been shown that if we should fail and our effort should result in a single silver standard it would be better for us than the adoption of the gold standard—that is, that the worst that could come from the attempt would be far better than the best that our opponents could offer us.

It has been shown that dangers and disadvantages attend a change of ratio. It may now be added that no change in the ratio can be made with fairness or intelligence without first putting gold and silver upon a perfect equality in order to tell what the natural ratio is. If a new ratio is necessary, who can tell just what that ratio ought to be? Who knows to what extent the divergence between gold and silver is due to natural laws and to what extent it is due to artificial laws? We know that the mere act of India in suspending free coinage, although she continues to buy and coin on government account, reduced the price of silver more than 10 cents per ounce. Can anyone doubt that the restoration of free coinage in that country would increase the bullion

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »