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Before the British Royal Commission of 1868 on International Coinage, Mr. Jacob Behren, an eminent British merchant and member of the Associated Chamber of Commerce, after answering special and technical questions, was asked, in conclusion, "if there was anything else he wished to state.” His reply was (p. 13):
“I would only state that, in my opinion, the general introduction of goli all over the world has been one of the greatest possible blessings to England. I believe that England would be now the very poorest country in the world if the silver standard abroad had been kept up and gold had not been generally introduced. Gold would otherwise have been very much reduced in value, and we should have had all the goid poured into England. All the debts owing to us would have been paid in the depreciated currency; and, therefore, I believe that England ought to have taken the lead in the introduction of a gold currency abroad. We ought to be very thankful that it has been introduced, and we ought to give every facility to its circulation.”
Sir Lyon Playfair, in a speech delivered in the English Parliament on April 18, 1890, according to the report in the London Times of the day following, said that,
"The true policy of England as the chief creditor nation of the world was to keep perfect independence and to refuse participation in any entangling conference on our monetary system.”
And, according to the same report, Sir Lyon Playfair, referring to the holding of the metals together by law, said that
“It was quite true that, if you yoked a cart-horse to a racer the strength of both would be increased, but the speed of the racer would be sacrificed.”
Gold is the "racer" whose “speed" must not be sacrificed, no matter how much injury may be effected by its tendency to greater and greater gain.
The weight of the enormous burden which is imposed on gold cannot be better illustrated than by a statement of this same Sir Lyon Playfair, made in the same speech. According to the London Times of April 19, he said that
“The liabilities of the banks of Great Britain to the public amounted to £621,000,000, or about the amount of the national debt of England; but the amount of coin or bullion to meet this liability was only £35,000,000; or, deducting from each side of the account £8,000,000 locked up in the Notes Department of the Bank of England, it was £27,000,000; or only 412 per cent. of liabilities.”
On the same occasion Mr. Goshen, Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered an able speech, in which he gave his facts, his eloquence, and his logic to the struggling 'masses of his countrymen by maintaining the wisdom of remonetization of silver, but gave his conclusions and his policy to the creditor classes by recommending no disturbance of present conditions.
“I have contended”said the Chancellor of the Exchequer“and am prepared still to contend that I should prefer the currency of the world to depend upon two metals rather than upon one metal. To those
Views I gave expression in 1878. * I have always looked upon silver and gold not as antagonistic to each other; not as being metals the price of one of which would necessarily fall when the other rose, but I have looked apou them as partners who together were doing the work of the currency of the world.”
The English creditor classes have not been without able coadjutors in this country. We have noticed for the last twelve or fourteen years that zealous advocates of the gold standard, the advantages of which are not confined to Great Britain, are to be found among the creditor classes of the United States.
If the toilers of this country, from the proceeds of whose labor these exactions have to be paid had as little influence on the legislation of the United States as the toilers of England have on the legislation of that country, the creditor classes and financiers of the United States might be as frank as those of Great Britain in admitting the object of maintaining the single goli standard.
How graphically, though unintentionally, does the English poet, Waller, in the following verse, express the advantage which the gold standard gives to creditors everywhere, and the self-satisfaction with which they contem. plate life:
The taste of hot Arabia's spice we know,
The Motive of Germany. When Germany, intoxicated by her victory over France, and in order to further cripple a fallen foe from whom she had exacted $1,000,000,000 in gold, demonetized silver, she inflicted on her people by the fall of prices consequent on the increase in the value of money more misery than all her armies of horse and foot had been able to inflict on France. France, on the contrary, notwithstanding this unprecedented war tribute, by keeping a suffcient volume of money in circulation to maintain, and even advance, her range of prices, emerged in a few years from the consequences of the greatest disaster in her history, conscious of a triumph more complete than Germany had achieved by all the military splendor of the war. The ransom exacted of France was received back by her almost as soon paid in exchange for products of her industry. It is not a sign of prosperity, Mr. President, when hundreds of thousands of people, the best bone and sinew of a nation, are found annually emigrating; and it is a coincidence which I merely mention, in passing, that as soon as the effects of demonetization of silver had had time to make themselves felt in Germany, a veritable hegira of its peopl? took place.
From 1873 to 1889 the emigration from Germany numbered 1,546,000 persons.
Demonetization in the United States. If we are surprised that the sordid selfishness of the privileged classes of Europe should have induced them to perpetrate so gross an act of injustice, we are reminded that the legislation of monarchical countries has usually been controlled in the interest of the privileged classes. But what shall be said in defense of the demonetization of silver by the United States? No such stupendous act of folly and injustice was ever before perpetrated by the representatives of a free people.
Our position differed materially from that of Great Britain. This was not a creditor nation. Our people did not, and do not, own thousands of millions of dollars of foreign bonds, on which to receive semi-annual interest, in a constantly appreciating money, which would have to be paid from the current earnings of foreign labor. Instead, therefore, of our demonetization, unjustly enriching our creditor classes at the expense of foreigners, it enables the creditors at home here to rob and despoil the debtors among their Own countrymen. Instead of despoiling the Canadian, the Australian, the East Indian, the Egyptian, or the Turk, the spoliation arranged for by our adoption of the gold standard was a spoliation of the debtors in our own communities. In so far, however, as our debt was held abroad, it provided for a spoliation of our citizens by the foreign bondholders also. And as nearly all our public debt was so beld, we had presented to us in 1873 the extraordinary spectacle of representatives, sent here to enact laws for the welfare and advancement of our own people, devoting all their energies, whether aware of it or not, to the upbuilding of the fortunes of the moneyed aristocracies of other countries at the expense of the producers of the United States.
('ondition of the Country at the Time, Consider for a moment the condition of this country at the time when this amazing piece of legislation was enacted.
The Republic was but just recovering from an exhausting war, which loaded it with a national debt approaching $3,000,000,000. There were also State, county, city, and town debts aggregating many more thousands of millions, with railroad and other corporate bonds and debts aggregating yet other thousands of millions, and private debts of indefinite and unascertainable amount, represented largely by mortgages on real estate. This constituted an aggregate whose burden might naturally be presumed to be suffcient to tax all the resources of the people. Although some portion of those debts has been liquidated and the national bonds have been refunded at lower rates of interest, yet we all know that in this age all municipal and corporate debts, if not national debts, are practically perpetual. No sooner is one form of bond liquidated than another takes its place; no sooner is one public improvement completed than another is begun.
At the time silver was demonetized it might well have been supposed that a sufficiently large unarned increment had already been realized by the foreign and domestic holders of United States bonds. The greater portion of the debt of the Government was, when incurred, made payable simply in "lawful money”—the interest alone being payable in coin. Yet, in March, 1869, the bondholders secured the passage of an act of Congress, entitled "An act to strengthen the public credit," containing a pledge to pay in coin, or its equivalent, not merely the interest, but the principal of all national obligations not specially provided to be paid otherwise.
1893... 1894.... 1895...
10 10 11
A glance at the above figures shows a fall of 74 cents per bushel in the price of wheat since 1872. At that rate the depreciation in the wheat crop for the single year 1895 is $345,656,180.
A fall of 14 cents per pound in the price of cotton since 1872 makes a depreciation of $646, 103,338 in the cotton crop of the single year 1894.
The total depreciation in values, in the United States, of products, lands, and other properties, mainly owing to the demonetization of silver and the appreciation of gold, is far in excess of the cost of the late civil war, which was, including original cost, pensions, and interest to date, over nine billion dollars ($9,000,000,000).
It is probably not an overestimate to say that the depreciation of real and personal property in the United States since 1890 has been 25 per cent. As the Census of 1890 estimated the true value of real and personal property at $65,037,091,197, a depreciation of 25 per cent. is $16,259,272,799.