Page images
[ocr errors]

Whether the bimetallist's view is correct or not, it is entertained by too many and too eminent political economists to be cavalierly discarded as the product of folly or ignorance. What the author of the article “ Money” in the Encyclopædia Britannica says respecting the English monometallists migbt be said with even greater force respecting the American monometallists in this campaign : * Not even yet does the question appear to have received that careful examination by monometallists which would be desirable.” It is said on good authority that all the professors of political economy in England, with perhaps one exception, are bimetal. lists. That is not true in this country, but some of the most eminent economic authorities, including Dr. Francis A. Walker and President E. Benjamin Andrews, are and for many years have been bimetallists. Some of the most eminent financiers of Europe belong to the same school. So little is it true that the great bankers of the world universally repudiate it that the greatest of them all. Baron de Rothschild, protested against the demonetization of silver by France, saying: “ Had I to choose a system with the experience we have, I should not hesitate to accept that of a double standard."* Bimetallism, however, it will be observed, rests, in the theory of its advocates, upon the supposition that a worldwide demand for two metals for currency purposes will keep them at a parity. It does not at all follow that such a demand by one nation will have the same effect.


gether, we are answered by the rhetorical affirmation of “the right of the American people to govern themselves, and without let or hindrance from without decide on every question presented for their consideration. "* This is doubtless true. So the commander of an American steamship has a right to de. termine on its course without interference from England. But if he attempts to take a short course to Liverpool without going around through the Irish Channel, he will certainly come to wreck on the western coast of Ireland. No one questions our right to determine for ourselves whether we will have gold, silver, paper, or wampum for our cur. rency ; but in determining that question we must take into account the experience of the past, the conditions of the present and the probabilities of the future. The bimetallist believes that the experience of the past and the conditions of the present unerringly indicate that free silver coinage, without the co-operation of other nations, would join the United States to the silver monometallic nations of the world, of which India, China and Mexico are the most conspicuous examples.

NATIONAL BIMETALLISM IMPRACTICABLE. The notion that America can establish and main. tain a parity between gold and silver at a fixed ratio without the concurrence of other nations is supported neither by economic philosophy nor by economic history. The cominon objection to bimetal. lism, that whatever metal was undervalued would be exported, is a conclusive objection to the attempt to establish national bimetallism, since the only answer to it is that if the same ratio existed over the greater part of the commercial world there would be no temptation to export either metal, and neither would be sold except in the improbable event of a demand for it for manufacturing purposes exceeding the de. mand for coinage purposes. +

Speaking for myself, I am opposed to the free coinage of silver because I am a bimetallist. If I were a monometallist. I should think that much might be said in favor of silver rather than of gold as the standard of values. But it seems clear to me that the free coinage of silver by the United States alone would postpone indefinitely the establishment of bimetallism, as the coinage of four hundred millions of silver by the United States alone has operated to postpone it for more than a decade. It has taken off the strain upon gold, it has lessened the evils of a too narrow coin currency, it has caused the expor.

It will be clear to the thoughtful reader from these definitions that the free coinage of silver is not itself bimetallism. It may lead to bimetallism, it may delay or wholly prevent bimetallism, but it is not identical with bimetallism. The free coinage of silver as proposed by the regular Democratic party is simply this : That any man possessing 41212 grains of silver, which at present he can buy in the market for 53 cents of gold, may take it to the mint and have it converted into a coin having the value of one dollar in currency, and being full legal tender for that amount in the payment of all debts, public and private. To call this bimetallism is a misuse of terms. The essence of bimetallism is that gold and silver should be kept at a parity, and that the coinage should be so managed as to keep them at a parity. The free coinage of silver abandons all attempt to keep them at a parity, and the free coinage advocate concedes that the immediate effect would be a very considerable disparity between the two. It is hardly too much to say that he trusts to luck for the eventual re-establishment of the parity which would at first be destroyed by the act of free coinage. To the question, how it can be expected that the United States can alone create such a demand for silver as will bring gold and silver to

* Mr. Bryan, in his Madison Square Garden Speech, August 12, 1896.

+ Modern bimetallists freely admit that two different bi. metallic systems, that is, having different ratios, could not exist, for each would drain the other of one metal" Ency. clopædia Britannica, article " Money," page 763, note.

"The silver standard was preferred by Ricardo, who fully accepted the argument against the double standard as conclusive. His view was that silver was steadier in valge than gold and was the standard money in other countries, while the objection to it on account of its greater bulk was. he thought, obviated by the use of paper money for circulation." Article " Money," Ency. Brit., page 763.

International Bimetallism," by Dr. F. A. Walker, page


tation of our gold to foreign countries, and made it twenty years (1870-1890), has wrought a great in. easier for them to establish a gold standard, and it crease in the value of money and accordingly has has confused the public mind respecting what is in robbed debtors. He proposes to remonetize silver, its essential character a simple issue. The free coin believing that this will give the country back an age of silver by the United States would send the honest dollar. Either he does not believe, or he does rest of our gold to Europe, if it did not draw Euro not realize, that this will work an immediate depean silver to our shores; would make us a silver crease in the value of money and so rob creditors. monometallic nation, would require us in all our He who is able to escape from the heat of a partisan dealings with foreign nations to buy their medium campaign and look at this question judicially should of exchange from them, and would give us in the be able to see that injustice has been done to the United States itself two prices—one a higher price debtor class, but he should also be able to see that in for all imported articles, the other a lower price for rectifying that injustice the utmost caution should all domestic articles. And the farmer and the wage be exercised and the utmost care taken not to work earner would be the chiefest sufferers.

injustice to the creditor class. Two wrongs do not

make a right ; and if it be conceded that the deAN HONEST DOLLAR,

monetization of silver has, however little intended The free silver coinage argument is not, in the

by those who accomplished it, wrought injustice to intent of those who constitute the great body of the

debtors, it should also be perceived that the remonesilver constituency, a movement in favor of repudia

tization of silver, unless very carefully guarded, will tion of debts, either public or private. Its motive

work injustice to creditors. Thus the moral quespower is not a dishonest desire. It cannot be coun

tion is not so simple as either the silver partisan or teracted by sermons on the text “ Thou shalt not

the gold partisan seems to think. Indeed, how to steal.” Its errors and weaknesses are rather those secure an honest dollar-that is, one which shall of a religious enthusiasm than of a fever of covetous.

remain steady in its values--is one of the most perness, The current, not to say cant, phrases “ honest

plexing problems of political economy, as it is one of dollar" and " sound money” feed the passion which the most important. those who use them desire to allay. It is because

This moral question is still further complicated by the free coinage advocate believes that the gold dol

the incongruous legislation of the United States. lar is a dishonest dollar, and that the gold currency

On the one hand, Congress has affirmed explicitly is unsound money, that he is impatient of all checks,

that all debts, public and private, including all cautions and restraints in his eager desire to change it. bonds of the national government, are payable in An honest dollar is one which retains the same

silver, and this declaration still remains upon the purchasing power from year to year and from epoch

statute book ; * and, on the other hand, it has to epoch. It must be so steady in its value that the

equally emphatically declared that it is the settled farmer who has promised to pay $1.000 loaned to

policy of the United States government to maintain hiin upon a mortgage shall not have to render at the

a parity between gold and silver. Now the simple end of five years more brain and muscular toil for

truth is that the United States government cannot the $1.000 than he would have had to render when

carry out both of these pledges. If it begins to pay he borrowed the money. And, on the other hand,

its public debts in silver gold will at once go to a so steady that he who has loaned the money shall be

premium, and it will no longer fulfill its pledged able to get with it at the end of the ten years as

purpose to keep gold and silver at a parity. if, on much in those productions which alone give to

the other hand, it fulfills its pledged purpose and money their value as he would have received when

keeps gold and silver at a parity, unless it does so by he loaned the money. If the currency system is. so

securing the co-operation of other nations, sooner or constructed that the dollars rise in their value, or so later silver will almost certainly cease to be a legal constructed that they fall in their value, they will

tender for all debts, public and private, and will do injustice. Says President Andrews :* “ Increase become only a token"-that is to say, a poor sort in the value of money robs debtors. It forces every

of substitute for a paper promise to pay gold. The one of them to pay more than he covenanted -not

United States government has brought itself into more dollars, but more value, the given number of

exactly that condition into which a careless or easy. dollars embodying at date of payment greater value

going man finds himself when he has made two than at date of contract. Decrease in the value of

pledges, quite inconsistent with each other, to two money robs creditors, necessitating each to put up,

different persons, and both simultaneously demand in payment of what is due to him, with a smaller

performance. “You have only promised,” says the modicum of value than was agreed upon.”

Now the free silver coinage advocate believes that * The Matthews Concurrent Resolution (1878) declared that the demonetization of silver, dating from about the all bonds are payable in silver dollars containing 41244 grains

each "at the option of the government, thus officially deyear 1870, and successively enacted in different fining what Congress meant by the word "coin" as used in

these bonds; the Bland-Allison act of the same year enacts European countries and in the United States during

that silver dollars of 41242 grains each are legal tender " for

all debts and dues, public and private, except where other. * An Honest Dollar," by E. Benjamin Andrews, Am. wise expressly stipulated in the contract.' Econ., page 8.

+ Sherman act of 1890.

free silver coinage man, “ to pay silver to the bond. Republican party promises thoroughly and honestly holder. You have no right to borrow gold and tax me to enforce, and wherever practicable to extend, the for the interest, in order to give the bondholder gold Civil Service law. The Democratic party, in someinstead of silver.” “ You have promised,” says the what more vague language, declares its opposition to bondholder, to keep gold and silver at a parity ; life tenure in the public service,” and favors and you are bound to do this, even if you do have to “such an administration of the Civil Service laws tax yourself to borrow gold in order to maintain that as will afford equal opportunities to all citizens of parity." There is color of justice on both sides. ascertained fitness." Interpreted by the frank decThe wrong was perpetrated by the careless poli larations of its chief candidate, there is no mistakticians who passed a concurrent resolution to sat ing the meaning of this plank. There is not now isfy one faction, and put a parenthetic declaration and never has been life tenure in the public service. of the policy of the government into another act for and no one proposes it. There is only a provision the purpose of satisfying another faction.

for ascertaining the fitness of candidates for office But although there is color of justice in both and appointing only those whose fitness has been claims, it must not be forgotten that the nation ascertained by competitive examinations or by prehas a personality of its own, and that Congress and vious fidelity. This system, inaugurated under Genthe President are the chosen representatives of that eral Grant, incorporated in the public law in 1883, personality. In strictness of speech the nation has and steadily pursued from that time to this, has not made two pledges. It has made one pledge and now become the dominant system in the federal reserved to itself one liberty. It has promised to administration. Against the 85.000 administrative maintain the parity between gold and silver. It offices which are now thus filled, there are only a has promised this not only in words, but in nearly few thousand left so open that they may be given or quite a quarter of a century of practice. Dur as a reward of party service to party hacks. Either ing all that time it has maintained that parity by the Democratic platform is to be interpreted as an paying its debts in gold. If it can maintain that appeal to a great horde of office seekers, but an apparity and fulfill that pledge only by sacrificing peal so couched that its vague promise need not be the liberty which it has reserved to pay in silver, fulfilled, in wbich case it is flagrantly dishonest, the highest canons of honor require that it should or it must be interpreted as the indication of a purmake the sacrifice, that the people of the land should pose to restore the method of appointment introsubmit to the tax in which the incompetence of duced into our government by Jackson, and carried their political leaders and their own carelessness to such dangerous excess in the English government have involved them, and should learn by experience by Walpole, a method which debauches the public to require in future of their legislators a self-con service, and by putting up every four years 75,000 sistent and harmonious policy.

offices to be fought over, corrupts the national conOTHER ISSUES INVOLVED,

science and embitters and inflames party animosi.

ties. It is hardly too much to say that the overSo much space has been taken in the considera

throw of the civil service system, could it be action of the financial question, both because it is the

complished, though it would entail no such immemost prominent and the most perplexing of the cam

diate disaster as the free coinage of silver, woald paign, that little room is left for the consideration of the other issues involved. Little space, however,

involve a greater national peril. is required by them. At least they appear to me to be

FEDERAL AUTHORITY. as clear as they are simple. It is true that in theory the tariff question is involved, and the tariff ques

The language of the Democratic platform respecttion is neither clear ner simple. But though the

ing the Supreme Court of the United States is amtwo platforms antagonize one another upon this im

biguous : “ We declare that it is the duty of Conportant question, practically it has no place in the gress to use all the constitutional power which recampaign. Whatever our theories may be upon

mains after that decision (the income tax decision), that much vexed question, there is little reason to

or which may come from its reversal by the court doubt that the income of the national government

as it may hereafter be constituted, so that the burwill depend for the next four years largely upon

dens of taxation may be equally and impartially

laid, to the end that wealth may bear its due proits tariff, and that whether the tariff is levied ostensibly for revenue only, or ostensibly for protec

portion of the expenses of the government." It is tion also, it will be in effect a protective tariff. The

unquestionably within the constitutional power of only practical question is, shall such simplification

Congress and of the President acting in conjunction or modification of it as the revenues of the country

with Congress so to increase the number of judges

of the Supreme Court, and so to constitute the per. require be intrusted to the Democratic or the Re

sonnel of the increased court, as to reverse at once publican party?

its decision respecting the constitutional powers of CIVIL SERVICE REFORM.

Congress to impose an income tax. To this extent The civil service issue is sharply defined by the there is implied in this platform a threat to pack contrasted declarations of the two platforms. The the court for the purpose of securing such a re

versal. Let us hope that this implication was not ment the federal duty was interfered with and the in the minds of those who framed the platform and federal law violated, that moment the federal govis not in the purpose of those who stand upon it. It ernment had a right and a duty to intervene, if the is certain that any open threat to do what this chief executive believed that direct and immediate platform has been regarded as impliedly threaten intervention would prove the quickest, simplest and ing would array against both platform and party readiest method of preserving law and order. As the whole conservatism of the United States. The to the further clause in this plank, approving a Supreme Court was the one great notable addition special act of Congress limiting the powers of the which the founders of the United States made to federal courts in contempt cases, it must suffice to national life. It is the one supreme and necessary say here that a particular law, pending under a check upon the passions of a too mobile democracy. particular Congress, the details of which are unIts overthrow or corruption might easily prove known to the great body of the American people, fatal to the very life of the republic.

forms no proper subject for a national issue. But if the language of this plank is ambiguous,

CONCLUSION. the language of that on federal interference is not so : “We denounce arbitrary interference by fed At this writing political indications point to the eral authority in local affairs as a violation of the election of Mr. McKinley by a large popular maconstitution of the United States and a crime jority and a considerable majority in the Electoral against free institutions.” Read in the light of College. With this election the coinage issue may recent history, applied as this plank was intended perhaps disappear from American politics. On the to be applied, to the action of President Cleveland one hand, it is not impossible that international in quelling the Chicago mob in the summer of 1894, agreement may be secured with France and Ger. there is no mistaking its meaning. Giving to it many, if not with other European powers, for a the most temperate possible interpretation it means bimetallic currency ; on the other, it is not imposthis : That the President of the United States has sible that the discovery of the immense gold fields no right to intervene to put down mob violence in in South Africa may at once lessen the difficulty of any part of the United States, except at the request establishing bimetallism and lessen the evils of the of the governor or legislature of the state. This is gold standard. But it appears to me very clear a serious misinterpretation of the constitution. The that the party which has selected Mr. Bryan as its constitution does indeed provide that the United standard bearer will not disappear. Though the States government shall protect the several states issues formulated in 1896 will never again be simiagainst “ domestic violence” on the request of the larly formulated, the tendencies appearing in 1896 legislature or the Executive, but this is not the only will certainly reappear in two great national organprovision conferring authority upon the federal gov izations. Conservatism will be represented in the one ernment. It has authority among other things to party, radicalism in the other. A too staid and self regulate interstate commerce, to establish post satisfied content will be the fault of the one, and a offices and post roads, and to provide and maintain a too restless and eager demand for change the fault navy and an army, and therefore it has authority of the other. One will have too little, the other too to do whatever is necessary to fulfill these duties much faith in popular government ; the one will laid upon it. If a mob assaults one of its forts, in fear the excesses of liberty, the other will be impaterferes with the railroads which are carrying on tient of constitutional restraints ; the one will tend interstate commerce, obstructs or prevents the toward Toryism, the other toward radicalism, if not prompt transportation or delivery of the mails, or socialism. Let us hope that they may find as leaders in any other way assails the majesty of the federal worthy successors, the one to Alexander Hamilton, government, the federal government need not wait to the other to Thomas Jefferson, that the great midask permission of the state to maintain its majesty dle body of voters, alternately attracted by the and enforce its laws. Even were the state by its promises and repelled by the failures of the competexecutive and legislative action to approve, con ing parties, may wisely mediate between them, that firm and ratify the mob, as it did in South Caro the country may thus be preserved from falling lina, the duty of the federal government would either into the political stolidity and stagnation of remain unchanged. Whether Governor Altgeld Spain or the restlessness and untempered radicalism was asked or not asked to protect Chicago from the of France, and by the sometimes inspiring, somemob, whether he was ready or not ready to interfere, times restaining influence of the people may be whether he was able or not able to put down the kept in that path of real and rational progress mob and ensure the peaceable operation of the rail which has been the safety of Great Britain and roads, are questions wholly immaterial. The mo the glory of Anglo-Saxon history.


It would be impossible to understand the conduct 1892, and were likely to drift out again in 1896. It

1 of the campaign now drawing to a close with, was natural enough that in a state like Illinois (even out taking into account the conditions which con disregarding for the moment the dominating perfronted the party managers prior to and immedi sonal influence of Governor Altgeld) where Demoately after the great national conventions. These cratic ascendancy was of recent growth and doubtconditions, it is safe to say, were unprecedented in ful duration, the free-silver agitation should have American politics. On the first day of January, its allurements for those Democrats who were seek1896—six months before the “lining up”-neither of the two great parties in the country knew precisely where it stood on the issue which in the event has dominated all other issues and has made greater confusion in party lines than any other political question that has arisen since 1860. On the Demo. cratic side there was the demoralization which always overtakes the party in power during a season of national depression. The party, it was admitted on all sides, was illy prepared to go before the country on the question of national revenues, for it was now on the defensive, whereas four years ago it had been the eager champion of reform and had been led to triumph because of its promises to readjust the tariff system; but such readjustment as a Democratic Congress had attempted was under the ban of public disapproval as expressed at the polls in 1894. The last heritage of the Civil War—the force bill-was no longer a political issue, and it was evident that the Democratic hosts could not be rallied effectively under their old standards.

THE DEMOCRATS AND FREE SILVER. But a “ new Democracy” was asserting itself in the South and West. In more than one state the old party leadership was discredited and deposed. It was felt that the administration at Washington no longer represented the party. In some statesnotably in South Carolina and Illinois—the drift

HON. JOSEPH W. BABCOCK, was unmistakably toward Populism. Almost every.

Chairman of the Republican Congressional Committee. where the opposition to trusts and monopolies was growing more insistent and pronounced. In the ing to strengthen their party's claims to popular West and South the demand for the free and un- support. In other states like considerations pre. limited coinage of silver served to concentrate and vailed; the important fact to be noted is that not organize this opposition. This demand had been merely in the South, where Democracy was assured growing steadily for years. It was immensely ac- of its strength, did the free silver leaven do its celerated by the People's Party movement, though rapid work, but in the great states of the middle free silver was but one of a long catalogue of radical West, where Democracy faced great odds and had measures proposed in Populist platforms. The free to fight to win, this same appeal in silver's behalf coinage movement made headway in both parties. was made the rallying cry. In the East Democrats To Democrats the silver men appealed with special still stood out against the new dispensation, but they force, for their proposition was calculated to win were in Republican states. In the Chicago convenvotes in those sections and from those classes of the tion the silver men were not only a decisive majority population to which the recent party policy as exem- of the delegates, but they were in an overwhelming plified by President Cleveland had been especially majority of the delegates from the assuredly Demorepugnant. Something must be done, reasoned the cratic and the possibly Democratic states of the Democratic politicians, to hold in line the discon- Union. For better, for worse, the Democrats of tented voters who had drifted into the party fold in those states were now fully committed to a policy

« PreviousContinue »