« ForrigeFortsæt »
jntermittent, less barmonious, coherent, and trustworthy than Webster's. And Webster, notwithstanding an occasional outbreak into Aristophanic license of momentary sarcasm through the sardonic lips of such a cynical ruffian as Ferdinand or Flamineo, is without exception the cleanliest, as Marston is beyond comparison the coarsest writer of bis time. In this as in other matters of possible comparison that vessel of deathless wrath,' the implacable and inconsolable poet of sympathy half maddened into rage and aspiration goaded backwards to despair,-it should be needless to add the name of Cyril Tourneur-stands midway between these two more conspicuous figures of their age. But neither the father and master of poetic pessimists, the splendid and sombre creator of Vindice and his victims, nor any other third whom our admiration may discern among all the greatest of their fellows, can be compared with Webster on terms more nearly equal than those on which Webster stands in relation to the sovereign of them all.
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE.
THE CRUSADE AGAINST SILVER.
Many and wide as are the differences among economists in regard to the wisdom and efficiency of problems of vital interest to nations, they are, none the less, in decided agreement as to the absolute necessity every State is under to aim at the possession of a sound system of currency. This, at first sight, may appear a truism, but it cannot be denied that, in the tumult of faction and the whirl of party polemics, this wholesome canon is constantly and culpably lost sight of. We see perpetrated momentous and fundamental alterations in currency laws, deeply fraught and bound up with the weal or woe of the toiling masses. We find social economic revolutions effected without one in a thousand having the remotest conception of the grave import of that which they regard in the passive attitude of complacent spectators. Lord Liverpool's Mono-metallist Bill and the action of Germany, coupled with the spasmodic treatment of silver by the Latin Union during the past decade, are notable instances in point. In what manner, and to what extent, this Crusade against Silver-considered in the light of the recent phase of it in America
-has conduced to the continuous and phenomenal depression of trade it is the aim of this paper to elucidate. When it is remembered that silver is a currency metal holding undisputed sway in countries counting their population by hundreds of millions, that it must continue, for ages to come, to hold this paramount position, and that it is the mainspring regulating the vast volume of our commerce with the East, the importance and interest of the subject will readily be conceded.
Gold and silver have from time immemorial been conjointly instrumental in supplying the currency requirements of the world. About the end of the last century, owing doubtless to the great multiplication of mercantile houses and banking institutions, longheaded financiers began to cast about them for the establishment, on a solid basis, of an international and sound system of financial law. Obviously a disturbance of the comparative position of the two metals was apprehended. To obviate this catastrophe, it was sought to obtain a ratio as between the exchangeable value of these, representing the average both of their normal production and their relative current values. By this it was hoped, and rightly so, to impart a fixity of legal exchange to the currency of the two metals. Such a stability was then considered eminently desirable. With the extension of the knowledge of political economy, and greater ramifications of commerce, new and hitherto unknown needs had been created. These needs had to be provided for, and safeguarded against any probable dislocation of metallic values. Larger and more multifarious became the demand on the monetary functions of the two metals. The floating of loans, which has since risen to the dignity of modern financial science, began to be contemplated and undertaken. Discoveries promising yields of untold wealth of mineral ore also threatened to throw seriously out of gear the harmonious and satisfactory working of currency laws having prescription and an unwritten charter, so to speak, for their guidance. It is therefore evident that a serious attempt had to be made to secure these, on which depended the delicate and complex fabric of domestic currency and international exchange. France boldly took the lead, and, as the result of her initiative, the various European nations unanimously decided that 15% of silver should be the exchangeable value of that metal for 1 of gold. This law received the necessary assent, and, though not considered immutable, was, nevertheless, loyally adhered to, and enjoyed an untroubled existence, snug under the sanction it derived from the force of international compact and reciprocal benefit. The virtual effect of this fiscal law of the year 1803 was that Great Britain became, by tacit agreement, a supporter of its provisions. In 1816 Lord Liverpool's Government, on the resumption of specie payments, elected the exclusive employment of gold for the discharge of this monetary function. Silver was therefore summarily repudiated, and a momentous social change effected, with the consequence that the interest of the creditor was directly favoured, to the detriment of the debtor class. This untoward contingency might have been foreseen, on consideration of the fact that the debtor class, having contracted their indebtedness while the country's currency standard was practically Bi-metallic, had imposed on them (by a stroke of the legislative pen) onerous obligations, in having to pay in a metal which this very legislation helped to make the rarer, costlier, and more likely to be appreciated of the two. The presumption of the contingent enhancement of gold has since been too well verified. It may here be incidentally remarked that, consequent on the discoveries of goldfields in California and Australia, a reversal of the present metallic conditions had depreciated gold ten per cent. Professor Jevons said in 1863: "The country may be said to be looking calmly on while every contract, including that of the National Debt, is being violated against the intention of the contracting parties.'
The oppressive and injurious features of this reliance on a single hard-worked metal were not felt at the time, owing, probably, to Great Britain being then a kind of close’ territory, and they were relieved by the fact that the white metal could be obtained in France at a fixed ratio. With the disappearance of Protection and retaliatory tariffs the old state of things gave way to a one-sided, yet healthy system of commerce, benefiting those of our population who most needed the advantages of Free Trade. A low basis of prices is an undoubted boon to the community at large, but an abnormal and incessantly fluctuating basis is quite another thing. It does not even possess the proverbial virtue of an 'ill wind.'
To resume: thanks to progressive improvements in the arts and sciences, and to the opening up of new markets--and in spite of monometallism-immense strides were made in our agricultural industries and manufacturing enterprises. Our commerce, aided by British pluck, endurance, and colonising aptitude, struck root all the world over. The nation, at the commencement of the decade of 1870, was on the verge of the unexampled prosperity which culminated in 1874. Bismarck, in the flush of the colossal indemnity from France, beheld with covetous eyes this marvellous exhibition of our national development. The Iron Chancellor, with characteristic impulsiveness, persuaded himself that he could start a fierce rivalry against us, so as to establish Germany's prowess by sea as well as by land. •Beati possidentes' was not then in fashion. The order went forth that Great Britain was to be aped in every way. Colonies were to be founded, coaling stations and places of arms to be maintained and garrisoned, destructive ironclads were to be commenced, and finally, a gold standard was henceforward to be considered the only fitting one for such proud victors. The ideas' of national aggrandisement were to be as thorough in execution as they were high and mighty in conception.
Alas for the frailty of human calculations, and the infirmity of human will! The portion of these ideas that admitted of being carried out, failed to produce the brilliant results anticipated. Huge armaments and halycon times do not usually consort together, and the adoption of a costly policy, with the object of pacifying and conciliating Socialism, proved a dismal and unmitigated failure. Into the question of the Colonies and the extension of the Navy it is not our province to enter, but a bold move is certainly to be recorded in the effort to discard the white metal for the yellow. Silver, which had stood at 607d. per oz. with infinitesimal variations for fifty years or more until 1873, rapidly dwindled under the baneful influence of German sales to the unprecedented price of 461d. per oz. three years later. At rates between these prices Germany succeeded in disposing of one moiety of her silver thalers. The loss resulting from this transaction-always in furtherance of the same Imperial policy, be it remembered—is computed, according to all reliable sources, at no less than 5,000,0001. Patriotism for the Fatherland is a good ticket
on which to go to the electorate, but when it was found that in the pursuit of even an insignificant part of this patriotic scheme such heavy lossess were being incurred, a suspension of these ruinous sales was summarily decreed. Left with 25,000,0001. worth of silver thalers, which pass current as legal tender at the nominal gold equivalent, Germany thus, by sheer force of circumstances and probably by the change of opinion of her Chancellor, once more became a full-blown Bi-metallic State. In the Reichstag an influential representative of the Conservative party expressed the belief of his friends, as well as that of the Clerical party (associated together to agitate for a real-in place of a hybrid-Bi-metallism) that the adoption of mono-metallism has been, and is, “the ruin of Germany. Of course, we are aware that the other side stoutly deny this assertion, but it is nevertheless an open secret that Prince Bismarck's belief tends in the same direction. A powerful league has been started there to agitate for a free coinage, and the establishment of a double standard.
Germany's sales of silver regardless of the sacrifice involved naturally awakened the fears of France and the rest of the Latin Union. They were imbued with natural alarm at the threatening prospect of being inundated with a disused and discredited metal. A general stampede was anticipated, and a universal sauve qui peut ensued. France and her associates resolved out of hand to bar their mints from any further coinage of silver. Gratuitous and unlimited coinage was relegated to the planets. In 1876 matters reached a crisis, the metal became a drug, and there were 'none so poor to do it reverence. From that time silver has oscillated between 53d. and 464d. per oz. with incessant and disturbing fuctuations rendering its prospective exchangeable value in relation to gold—and in fact, to all commodities—a matter of as great uncertainty as the future prices of copper or pig-iron.
The history of metallic standards in the United States, America, briefly summarised, is this. Ever since the foundation and consolidation of the United States, down to 1873, gold and silver were freely coined, and as freely used, in their recognised ratio on the strength of the then existing European custom and monetary law-expressed or implied— that of 15 to 1 until 1834, and thence down to 1873 at the ratio of 16 to 1. Mr. Ales. Delmar—a United States officialgraphically described, at the Institute of Bankers, the accidental circumstance out of which arose the necessity for the passing of the Bland Bill. The official who was charged with the duty of codifying the various currency regulations surreptitiously omitted the word • dollar' from the list of coins that the mint was authorised to produce. This strange suppression of the blessed word' was detected by Mr. Delmar two years after, and Mr. Bland's attention being drawn to it, the famous Bill bearing his name was formulated and passed by the United States Legislature, after a sharp wrangle between the partisans