« AnteriorContinuar »
Central Africa, and even the millions of our fellow-sufferers in India, they will be indifferent ; these are far away. On Imperial policy as affecting relations with great foreign Powers there will too often be a strong Jingo tendency, for national antipathies are very easily aroused. It is on home policy in hard times that we need to revive the old brave spirit of endurance manifested by our Lancashire cotton weavers nearly thirty years ago. The contrasts of great wealth and of acute misery are presented more abruptly in our overgrown Metropolis, despite the fact that there is actually less poverty compared with population than there was half a century since. The big cities and large towns present similar contrasts, though not on the same scale.
Another letter has been published from Cardinal Manning, in which he writes :
“Hitherto, we have been strangled by an exaggerated Individualism, and the coming century will show that human society is something greater and nobler than anything that is purely individual.
“The politicians and political economists of the modern school have had their day, and the twentieth century will be altogether for the people, and for the laws of common prosperity under a Christian régime.”
It is courteous to hope that Cardinal Manning understands his own meaning. Who does he suggest has been strangled, and how, and when, and where ? and why has his Church kept silence during the process of strangulation ? If the two sentences have any connection it might be that the politicians and political economists of modern times are to be charged with being the stranglers, and that it is the people who have been strangled. But, surely, whatever crimes may be put at the door of English politicians and political economists, the people in this country as a whole are better off than they were seventy years since.
[The reply to the Socialist Ideal in Literature is held over till next month.-EDITCR.]
THE DEMAS INVITATION TO ABANDON GOLD FOR SILVER IN THE UNITED
UNYAN tells us, in the Pilgrim's Progress, that when
Christian and Hopeful were nearing the Golden City, the streets of which were paved with gold, they met a person called Demas. The dialogue is as follows :
“ Demas (gentleman-like) called : Ho! Turn aside from the Golden City, and I will show you a thing.' “ Christian: 'What thing is so deserving as to turn us out of the way?
Is not the place dangerous ?' “ Demas: 'Not very dangerous except to those that are careless ;' but withal he blushed as he said it."
Now Demas belonged, as he tells us, to a "silver fraternity,'' which he wished Christian and Hopeful to join, but they, seeing that the silver mine was surrounded with precipices, would not leave the way to the Golden City. They saw "By-ends and his companions” coming along, and looking with greed to the “Hill of Filthy Lucre," so it was clear that Demas would entice them out of the straight path. It came about that, at the first hail, they passed over to Demas, who led them to the silver mine. “But whether they fell into the pit, or whether they went down to dig, or whether they were smothered at the bottom, I am not certain, but this I observed, they were never seen again in the way to the Golden City.”
So Christian trounces Demas for his devilish prank, and tells him “that his father was hanged as a traitor, and that he deserves no better reward.”
I leave the allegory to the consideration of my bimetallic friends who would like to reside in the City of Gold, but who also wish to sojourn among "the silver fraternity"; and now proceed to describe the extraordinary proposals which Demas has made to the intelligent inhabitants of the United States.
The proposals, now under consideration, may be divided into those which are fairly debatable and those which are entirely irrational. To the first class I will give sair consideration during the course of this article. The second class requires only to be stated to bring their own refutation.
The debatable proposals are the Bland Act of 1878, and its extension by the Silver Act of last year. The Bland Bill was originally a free coinage measure, but it was changed by Senator Allison into the obligation to coin 24,000,000 silver dollars yearly, with the permission to extend it to 48,000,00odol. The Treasury never went beyond the minimum. The new Silver Act extended the obligation to 4,500,000oz. of silver monthly, equivalent to above 60,000,000dol. annually. I postpone consideration of the working of these Acts, and of the proposal to establish free coinage of silver.
The irrational proposals come chiefly from some of the many " Farmers' Alliances." They feel the pinch of high protective tariffs, without quite recognising them as the main cause of the state of agricultural depression. Their objects are diverse, though all are united in desiring free coinagc for silver, while most of them demand "soft money” in addition. The Southern Farmers' Alliance seem to have joined with the “Knights of Labour” to form a National Union, of which Colonel Polk is president. This is how he describes their prospects : “We have become thinkers. We have scratched away all the rubbish of the negro question, of the bloody shirt, of the tariff, of the Federal control of elections, and have at last got down to hard pan”!
So far as it is intelligible the programme seeks to establish the free coinage of dollars, or the issue of paper dollars, without delay, to the extent of sodol. per head of the population-the present currency of all kinds being about 24dol. per head. This modest proposal means the issue of 620,000,000 sterling of ordinary currency. Banks are to be replaced by Government sub-treasuries, which are to build storehouses for produce and lend money at 2 per cent. on land and produce. At the Convention constituting the Union, laboursaving machinery was denounced, and especially electricity—" which has cornered God's wrath to do the bidding of capitalists in their greed for wealth."
These views, though crude and foolish, cannot be treated with contempt, for the Farmers' Alliances throughout the country have enrolled about 4,000,000 members. As the last Presidential election had only 11,000,000 votes, it is obvious that these alliances will be a powerful political factor in the next election, and that both the Republican and Democratic parties will bid for their votes.
Another irrational proposal comes from the Alliance at Kansas, and is sent as a Bill to the Senate. Congress is denounced for having monetised gold, and we are told that money is based on force, but that the only true money is “a thought of legal tender power stamped on any material by a nation.”
The “ thought” must not be stamped on precious metals, but upon “full legal tender silk-threaded greenbacks, which must be engraved in the highest style of art and used until interest falls into silent disuse." The Kansas Bill kindly allows the imprinted "thought" on the greenback to be changed into gold or silver for two years, but after that date any Secretary of the Treasury is to be imprisoned for life if he issue any more coin. A Californian Senator desires 100,000,000 of these greenbacks to be issued at 2 per cent., in sums of 500dol. and upwards, on the security of onehalf the assessed value of the land, but he forgets that interest is to fall “ into silent disuse."
The political education of the masses must be at a low ebb when such wild-cat projects are even conceivable, and it is a serious duty of intelligent Americans to undertake an educational campaign upon currency questions. They have lately done this with excellent effect in regard to the tariff.
One idea runs through both the silver currency advocates and the fiat money inflators, that industrial prosperity, meaning high prices and high wages, depends on the volume of currency in circulation. There is no evidence in favour of this view in any country, and certainly not in the United States. In the ten years from 1879 to 1889 the population increased about 30 per cent., while the coin and paper in active use among the people augmented 87 per cent. During most of this period there was a large and general decline in prices, though the increased money in circulation was nearly thrice the growth of the people. During that time the price of silver fell like that of other commodities, but it remained at the legal ratio with gold in domestic use, because there was abundance of the nobler metal to back it. If we go further back, to 1860, and examine the thirty years which have since elapsed, we find that in the first year the money in circulation was only 14dol. per head, while its maximum of 33dol. occurred in 1865, the period of war; since then it has varied from 22dol. to 27dol., the amount in 1890 being 24dol. No relation of the currency to prices or to wages can be discovered during this long period ; that is, no quantitative connection is apparent. The same amount of money per head is found in years of high and of low prices. There is nothing whatever to indicate that the plethora of the circulating medium produces high prices, or that deficiency produces low prices. We might compare England and the United States in this respect. The industry of this country has increased largely between 1879 and 1889. The foreign trade augmented 21 per cent, and that indicated by the Clearing House by 57 per cent. But the money circulation, as shown by the net export of gold and the lessened note issue, had decreased 13,000,000 sterling. In the United States, during the same period, the money circulation, which was only 800,000,00odol. in 1879, had become 1,498,000,000dol. in 1889, and yet there was less financial stability there than in England. What does affect prices, undoubtedly, is the low or high state of credit in a nation. The credit currency of banks is much influenced by the national and banking reserves of the precious metals. Bullion is both a purchasing and a paying power, while credit is a purchasing power, and a paying one when people have faith that cheques and bills are supported by gold in reserve. The more commercial and the more intelligent a nation is the less is there of actual money in circulation proportionally to the business transacted, and the greater is the reliance on banking credit. A good cheque for £5,000 is a much more convenient form of payment than icwt. of gold or 16cwt. of silver. The wild-cat currency proposed by the Farmers' Alliance