Pictures and Illustrations.
The Chicago Tribune. Discussion of The Financial Issue of the Campaign of 1896.
Compiled by HENRY L. BEACH, Chicago.
THE TRIBUNE wants it to be understood as having full confidence in Gov. McKinley's financial record. It is generally the same as that of this paper. For the last twenty years it has stood about where McKinley has stood. He voted to pass the Allison bill over President Hayes' veto and THE TRIBUNE stood with him. No man could have predicted then that silver would continue to fall in spite of the efforts to hold it up. So who can justly find fault with that part of McKinley's record?
It was generally believed that the more extensive use of silver contemplated would increase the demand and check the tendency to fall in price, especially if an international agreement could be secured for the general remonetization of silver.
Twenty years have elapsed since then. Extensive silver purchases by this country have not had, the expected effect, and the hope of an international agreement has become weak and remote. Consequently men who were strong advocates of free silver two decades go have become convinced that it is hopeless at present to expect that any legislation on the part of this country can make sixteen ounces of silver worth one of gold.
What they said or did in 1878 is a matter of no consequence. They do not believe now that unlimited silver dollars containing 371 1/4 grains of silver, being only 50 cents' worth of that metal, can be kept at par by the legislative fiat. There is no school like that of experience, and both THE TRIBUNE and Gov. McKinley have attended it.
The position of the Republican party on the money question is set forth clearly in the platform after long and earnest deliberation.
The money plank, as adopted by the great convention, is as follows:
The Republican party is unreservedly for sound money. It caused the enactment of the law providing for the resumption of specie payments in 1879; since then every dollar has been as good as gold.
We are unalterably opposed to every measure calculated to debase our currency, or impair the credit of our country. We are, therefore, opposed to the free coinage of silver except by international agreement with the leading commercial nations of the world, which we pledge ourselves to promote, and until such, agreement can be obtained, the existing gold standard must be preserved. All our silver and paper currency must be maintained at a parity with gold, and we favor all measures designed to maintain inviolably the obligations of the United States and all our money, whether coin or paper at the present standard, the standard of the most enlightened nations of the earth.
This is a terse and distinct statement on the money question, of what the party will do and of what it will not do if it is entrusted with power by the voters.
Not one of its declarations is susceptible of more than one meaning or can be interpreted one way in the East or South or Mississippi Valley, and another on the Pacific coast or among the Rocky Mountain States.
The Minneapolis money plank of duplicity, policy, and evasion did not carry the day at St. Louis. Teller said he wanted no more straddle planks. Both sides agreed that whatever plank was adopted must be clear and specific, and it is. So was his, which was rejected by
2the convention by over 700 majority of the delegates.
The Republican party declares that "the existing gold standard of money must be preserved." The party, is not afraid of the word "gold," and wants no money of less value. As it believes the existing standard, which we have had for eighteen years, should be maintained, and as that standard is the gold one, it does not hesitate to call things by their right names and to speak of the "gold" standard.
There is in circulation over a billion dollars of paper and silver money. The Republicans do not propose to withdraw a dollar of that from circulation. They do not mean to melt down any of the silver and drive it out of circulation or cancel any of the greenbacks. They do not intend to attack that silver and paper currency, but to stand by it and uphold it to the level of the gold standard. They are not working for cheap money, but for good money and plenty of it.
They do that by resolving that all the currency must be maintained at a parity with gold. It is at a parity now, and has been for eighteen years, because the existing standard is gold. If that were not the case, the silver dollars would be worth, only half what they are now, and the paper dollars would be worth no more than the silver ones.
As the Republican party pledges itself to the adoption of all measures necessary to maintain the existing gold standard, it must be, as it says it is, opposed to every measure calculated to debase the currency. Chief among those is the free coinage of silver by the United States alone.
For such free coinage would mean the abandonment of the existing gold standard and its replacement by a silver standard, which would be inferior to it in the degree that the coinage ratio differed from the market ratio, and that is about one-half.
The Republican party will not consent to free coinage at any ratio, unless an agreement can be had with "the leading commercial nations of the world." Those nations are not Mexico, China and Japan, but Great Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Scandinavia, Austria, Russia, Italy and Spain.
An attempt will be made to secure such an agreement, providing for free coinage at some ratio that can be maintained, but in the meanwhile the existing gold standard of value must be maintained, so that the credit of the country and the honesty of the currency may not be impaired.
These are the promises of the Republican party. That it will keep them, no one can doubt. Every dollar has been a
3good as gold since the Republican resumption law went into effect, and every dollar will continue to be as good as gold if the Republican candidates are elected in November.
A Sioux City dispatch states that the attorneys of that place are crowded with business sent them by eastern investors who want to realize on their investments in that section before the free silver mania has gone any further. According to the dispatch:
Hundreds of mortgages, which the holders have hitherto been only too glad to renew from time to time, are being foreclosed as fast as they fall due. The mortgagees almost uniformly express regret at being driven to such extremities. They fear the passage, of free silver legislation, however, and the consequent loss of a large part, of their investments, and consider that their only safety lies in the immediate termination of all financial transactions until some settlement of the financial question is reached. The borrowers, unable in the majority of cases to raise money to meet these sudden calls upon them, are losing property worth frequently three or four times the amount of the incumbrance upon it. The losers, a few of whom are ardent free silver men, have been somewhat shaken in their views by this unexpected action on the part of eastern investors, and are beginning to think that their favorite remedy for the financial ills of the country may be attended with evils which more than counterbalance its possible good effects.
It is said also that urgent letters are being received by local managers of eastern investment companies telling them to get in everything which is due as soon as possible.
All this means that the capital which has been so useful in the development of Northwestern Iowa, Northeastern Nebraska, and the southern part of South Dakota is to be withdrawn as far as possible. Those to whom it belongs are thoroughly alarmed and do not propose to take any chances.
The owners of that capital would be glad to renew mortgages or to make new loans, but the law of self-preservation calls on them to abstain from doing so. This withdrawal of capital will cause much suffering, but those who are responsible for it are the ones who are
4demanding a change of the money standard, and the payment of 100-cent debts in 50-cent dollars.
If farmers in Northeastern Nebraska find it impossible to renew their mortgages they must blame Bryan and men like him. They are the ones who have ruined the credit of those farmers.
Further evidence of the deadly lack of confidence is afforded by dispatches relative to the difficulty municipalities in states like Pennsylvania and Indiana find in sealing bonds. Under ordinary circumstances those securities would sell easily, no matter how worded. No capitalist will touch them now unless they are made payable in gold. Even when that is done it is not always easy to sell them.
It is becoming more and more difficult for a business man to borrow. There is an abundance of money, but those who have it are dubious about lending it when they are threatened with a change of the money standard and a contraction of the currency which will bring on a panic that will sweep away so many who do business on borrowed capital.
And yet the men, to whom this wretched condition of affairs is due, go on with their infamous work. The bankruptcies and the foreclosures they are causing do not distress them.
The United States League of Local Building-Associations is holding its annual meeting at Philadelphia. The delegates represent over 6,000 building associations, which have assets valued at about 750 millions, and which pay out yearly 75 millions for matured shares and withdrawals.
In welcoming the league the mayor of Philadelphia, a city where building and loan associations have done so much good work, said:
If there is anything that benefits, the masses and the wage-earners who have savings it is the maintenance of a sound currency. Every man who owns his home has an interest in upholding the credit of the nation. He wants 100 cents for every dollar he has invested, and does not want that investment depreciated in value by a debased currency. I don't want to talk politics, but this is not a question of politics. It is a question of the credit of the country and of the toilers and savers, who would suffer the worst effects from a cheap money system.
The president of the league, who is a Chicagoan, concurred with the mayor. He remarked that "every dollar of the savings in the associations throughout the country represented 100 cents of value and should be maintained at such."
The 750 millions of assets represent the saved-up labor of workingmen and
5workingwomen, which was paid for in gold-value dollars. The free and unlimited coinage of cheap silver, dollars would cut down those assets one-half and rob the owners of 875 millions of savings. Half of all that had been accumulated during years of toil would be taken from the shareholders in these associations. Millions would be taken from them, though the Constitution declares that "no person shall be deprived of property without due process of law."
It is stated that every delegate is "enthusiastically in favor of a sound money standard." That is to be expected if those, delegates have any regard for their own interests. So should all the shareholders be in favor of the sound money standard, and should vote to maintain it against the attacks of Bryan, Altgeld and Tillman.
Chicago is one of the great building associations cities of the country. There are tens of thousands of voters within its limits who have put into building associations every dollar they have saved up. In the event of the free coinage of silver they will get back only half as much as they put in. They will get as many dollars, but every dollar will buy only half as much as it does now.
The representatives at Philadelphia of the Chicago members of the building associatians are for sound money, but some of those whom they represent are proposing to cut their own throats by voting for Bryan and Altgeld. When the Chicago delegates get back home they ought to go to work among their people and preach to them the necessity for voting for sound money in order to protect themselves against robbery.
There are in Illinois 68,000 army pensioners who receive every year nearly ten million dollars from the government. In many cases those who receive these pensions have nothing else to live on. Often the pension money supplements the scanty means of the recipients, so that they are able to get along comfortably. Not all these pensioners are old soldiers. Some are the widows of veterans and others their orphans and dependent children, who but for the money they get from the United States might be inmates of a poorhouse or cared for by private charity.
The Governor of the State of Illinois, who ought to take a lively interest in the welfare of all Illinoisans, especially the
6poor and helpless ones, has been busily engaged for some time making war on these pensions. He wants to rob them of halt of their incomes. He wants to cut down to $6 a month the widow who barely; manages now to get along on $12.
This is not a very respectable business to be in, and Altgeld, defiant of public sentiment as he usually is, does not venture to own up that he is aiming at the razing of all pensions. He says what he is after is merely the free and unlimited coinage of silver dollars at the ratio of 16 to 1.
Just let the pensioners see what that means. It means that every dollar they would receive after Altgeld had carried his point would have only half the buying power of the dollars the Pension Agent gives them quarterly. They can buy twenty pounds of sugar with a dollar now. That much sugar would cost two dollars under free coinage. The pensioner -- soldier, widow, or orphan --would get as many dollars as now, but the price of everything that dollars buy would be doubled.
When the pensioners saw the value of their money cut in half there would be a great outcry, and a demand would be made that the amount in dollars of their pensions be doubled, so they might get as much real value as before. But they would talk to deaf ears. To double the face of the pension roll and appropriate 280,000,000 at a time when the country was suffering as it would be under free coinage would horrify the taxpayers. The South, which would have a good deal to say under a Democratic free coinage administration, would chuckle over this cutting down of pensions and fight a restoration.
It is easier to pull down than it is to build up. Free coinage will takeover 4,000,000 dollars from the Illinois pensioners. They will have a hard time of it inducing the Congress of a distressed, bankrupt country to give back to them that which free coinage has taken away.
Since this is Altgeld's game are the old soldiers going to help him play it? Are their sons, or are relatives on whom these soldiers might be dependent but for their pensions, going to help him play it? The widows and the minors who are on the pension roll have no votes but they have kinsfolk who have. Are the latter going to vote to impoverish their own people? Each of these 68,000 pensioners represents at least one vote. Are those votes to be cast in favor of cutting down pensions one-half? A direct proposition to do that if submitted to the popular vote, would be defeated overwhelmingly. Shall not this Altgeld proposition to do it in directly by means of free coinage meet with in equally decisive defeat?
Maj. McKinley was in Alliance day before yesterday, and gave the workingmen of that town a brief lesson on the
7importance of having honest dollars, said he:
Whether our prices be high, or whether they be low, whether our wages be good, or whether they be bad, they are all the better by being paid in dollars worth 100 cents each.
If we have good wages they are better by being paid in good dollars. If we have poor wages they are made poorer by being paid in poor dollars.
The wages which the workingman gets now are not as good as they were three years ago. But the money they are paid in is just as good. The dollar earned to-day is inferior in no respect to the dollar earned in 1893.
It is the intention of Bryan and his Popocrats to force on the workingmen dollars which will be worth only half as much as those they are paid in now. Then the workingmen will be doubly cursed. They will not get higher wages than now and the wages they do get will be paid in poorer money. That is why Maj. McKinley told the Alliance workingmen:
What we want more than anything else is to keep our money equal to that, of the most enlightened nations of the earth, and maintain the credit and honor of the Government of the United States.
Unless the workingmen vote to retain the existing gold standard, which is that of "the most enlightened nations of the earth," they will find two 50-cent dollars shoved at them for a day's work where they get now two 100-cent dollars.
The times are dull now. Work is hard to find, and when found is not as well rewarded as it was. There would be more work and better wages were it not for the terrible lack of confidence due to the assaults of the free silverites on the soundness of the currency and the value of the dollar.
If the workingmen vote for Bryan and elect him they will labor under a double curse. Times will be harder than they are now and what money they do get will be worth only half its face and buy only half as much as at present.
The only salvation of the workingman has been the 100-cent dollar. Their poor wages are paid as yet in such dollars. But for that they would have been in a wretched condition. So through thick and thin they must stick to the 100-cent dollar. They must learn from Major McKinley that everything depends on the kind of dollar they are paid in, and that the true test of the value of wages is not the number of dollars but how much those dollars will buy.
The officers of the life insurance companies are beginning to appreciate the fact that it is their duty to let their policy-holders know what the free coinage of silver demanded by the Popocrats and Populists means, and to warn them to
8vote against it, if they have any regard for the welfare of their families.
The Presidents of the larger companies are beginning to send out circular letters to all their policy holders in which they denounce the "financial heresies" of the Chicago platform, and state unequivocally that if those heresies win the holders of policies, the premiums on which have been paid in gold or its equivalent, will have to accept payment in 52 or 53-cent dollars.
The President of one New York company which has 287,000 policy-holders has called their attention to the fact that during 1895 the different insurance associations and companies of this country doing business in the state of New York paid to policy-holders and their beneficiaries 165,000,000 dollars. During the last five years they have paid out 730,000,000.
It is reasonable to suppose that an equal sum will be paid out during the next five years. But in the event of the passage of a free coinage law and a change to the silver standard the last 730,000,000 will have only half the purchasing power of the first 730,000,000.
Every dollar paid out by the companies since 1878 has been worth 100 cents. That will cease to be the case when the free coinage silver dollar has been introduced, as it will be if Bryan's party is victorious. Each policy is an agreement to pay a given number of dollars in lawful money. After a slump to the silver basis the "lawful money" of the country will be dollars worth half what the present dollars are.
The President of the company asks:
With dollars worth only 58 cents what may be the effect on the widow and children for whom the policy-holder hoped to provide in the event of his death, or on his business, which he expects to straighten out on the proceeds of his policy? What may be the effect upon the competency of his old age, which he expected to derive from hottest dollars, and which may be payable in doubtful dollars if the free coinage of silver is adopted?
The premiums have been paid in gold or its equivalent, and to compel the policy-holder or his family to accept one-half the value that he has paid for at the maturity of the claim would be as iniquitous and indefensible as though he had been robbed on the highway.
The Popocrats propose to defraud the policy-holders out of about two and three-quarters billion dollars, or half the value of their policies. But if that is done the policy-holders themselves will be to blame. They have the votes with which to defeat the contemplated fraud, if they see fit to use them.
The total number of policy-holders in insurance companies and associations of
9all kinds -- fraternal, industrial, assessment, etc., -- is put down at ten and a half million, mostly men. There were only twelve million votes cast for presidential candidates in 1892. Therefore if the policy-holders think of their dependent families when they vote the number of ballots cast for Bryan will hardly be worth counting.
The officers of every company, large or small, should imitate the examples set them and post all their policy-holders at once. They cannot impress on them too strongly the disagreeable fact that in the event of free coinage widows and orphans will receive only one-half the amount their husbands and fathers expected they would.
The speech made by Bryan during the debate on the controversial money plank before the convention would have been called by the young ladies of half a century ago a "sweetly pretty" one. His enunciation is good. His voice is far-reaching and silvery in tone, as befits a silver orator. His words flow uninterruptedly, for he has a retentive verbal memory, and can deliver them as if they were impromptu. He can make a smooth speech which he has prepared in advance, and whose finer passages he has labored over for hours and make it seem spontaneous.
He had a happy knack of coining phrases which tickle the ear when senorously and emphatically uttered. He can blow verbal prismatic soap bubbles to perfection. It is doubtful whether there is among all the free silver declaimers one who can make a more fetching speech to a sympathetic crowd than "The Boy Orator of the Platte."
But when that Coliseum speech, which produced such an effect on his hearers, is read in cold type, -- not in quest of glittering rhetorical passages, but of sound, logical arguments -- the search is a fruitless one. The same is true of all the public addresses he ever delivered in behalf of Populistic ideas. They contain
10neither logic nor fact. They do not convince the reason, though they may enthuse the imagination.
Douglas fought for a doctrine. He defended it logically and so ably that he was made the Presidential candidate of one wing of his party. Lincoln fought the doctrine. He defended it with unsurpassed logic and argument and became President in consequence. Neither, of those great men dealt in gush or fireworks. Their speeches were hard arguments. Bryan's, when analyzed, are as effective and as pleasing as empty soap bubbles.
He commenced his magnetic speech with the declaration that this was a "contest of principle." He pointed out no principle, however, it must be looked for in the platform of the majority faction, which he has taken as his text. The vital principle of the platform is stated in the following language.
We demand the free and unlimited coinage of both silver and gold at the present legal ration of 16 to 1 without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation. We demand that the
These declarations are what Bryan should have discussed before the convention, but he did not. He did not show why the ration should be 16 to 1 nor the effect thereof. He did not touch on the value of the dollar it would produce. He talked of gold and silver being the money of the Constitution. But the Constitution does not specify the ration of weight between the gold and silver coins. It does not demand 16 to 1 or any other ration. Bryan should have explained why, "humanity" and the "toiling masses" are to be relieved by coinage at the ration of 16 to 1, and that any other ration will harm them. He should have given some decent reason for wanting 16 to 1 when the commercial ration is over 30 to 1.