Interview for New York World, Given June 26, 1896.
Question. Do you really wish to permanently alienate from the Democratic party New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland?
Answer. After New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut have been practically abandoned by the Democrats, and after New York has gone Republican by a hundred thousand, and even bourbon Maryland by upwards of thirty thousand, there is something sarcastic in the above question.
Q. What States hitherto not Democratic do you believe can be carried on the sixteen to one platform, to replace the certain loss of the sixty-two electoral votes in the Eastern States mentioned?
A. First, there is not a single Democratic electoral vote in sight in the Eastern States on a gold platform. Second, on a platform providing for the free and unlimited coinage of both gold and silver at the old ratio, we will carry all the States west of the Mississippi River, we will carry all of the Southern States — this alone would elect the President, but in addition we will carry several of what are called the great Middle States, and we will stand a better show of carrying New York and the Eastern States than we would on a gold platform, for the reason that we can offer them something to hope and something to
571fight for, while under a gold platform you can offer neither, for it means the ultimate destruction of republican institutions in this country, and it means the absolute annihilation of the Democratic party.
Q. Do you really think the United States able, if free coinage is adopted, to maintain our currency at par with gold, unaided by other nations.
A. There is no question about it. The internal business of the United States under normal conditions is greater than that of all Europe for while some European countries have large populations, they are so impoverished that they do but little business. The State of Illinois alone has almost as much railroad mileage and property as all Europe put together. Every one of the great European statesmen who has discussed this question has admitted that if the European countries would stand together in the use of silver, they could very easily go it alone. The United States being, from an internal business standpoint greater than all Europe, can easily go it alone. But we do not have to go it alone. France and the Latin Union have not demonetized silver, they only stopped coining. They are feeling the destructive effect of the present policy and would be glad to join us in opening their mints, and there is already a powerful movement in Germany in favor of re-establishing silver in that country.
Q. Would not the adoption of free coinage make all our silver and paper money worth only sixty cents on the dollar in gold?
A. That question is of American parentage. No European writer on finance ever asked such a question. According to Mulhall's statistics, which is the standard English authority, there is less available silver in the world now than there has been for a very long period. At present silver has to be sold as bullion, and can be used only in the arts. Now, if it is restored to its full functions as a money metal and placed in the same position that it held before, then instead of selling his silver to be used in the arts, the holder of silver would take it to the mint and exchange it for silver dollars or for silver certificates. With these he could pay taxes, he could pay import duties, he could pay interest on debts, he could pay debts themselves, he could buy property — in short, he could do just the same things with them that he could with so many gold dollars. This being so, it is apparent that silver would again be at par with gold, just as it was for the two hundred years prior to 1873. From 1792, when the financial system was founded in this country, to 1852, when the great gold discoveries were made, being a period of sixty years, there was just about on an average two dollars' worth of silver produced in the world to one of gold, rating both at coinage value. During all that time, however, the silver
572dollar was at par with gold, sometimes on account of cost of exchange, being at a premium. From 1852 to 1873 there was two and a half times as much gold produced as there was silver, rating them at coinage value, yet both metals circulated at par as before. From 1873 down to the present time there has been just about as much gold produced on the average as there has silver, but during the former periods silver was a part of the redemption money of the land, while during the last period it was not. During the last period it was only a commodity, and the moment it became only a commodity, and the work which formerly was done by it had to be done by gold alone, and as Mr. Goschen, the great London banker and financier, has on several occasions pointed out, when you double the work which gold has to do you double its importance, you doulble the demand for it, and you double its purchasing power, so that it will buy twice as much property on the average as it formerly did. This is exactly what has happened throughout Europe and in this country. Now, the restoration of silver will reduce the work which gold now has to do by one-half, it will reduce its importance, and it will reduce its purchasing power correspondingly. Silver has not fallen in value as compared with commodities or property. A pound of silver buys as much property as it ever did. It is gold which has gone up. Just take the heavy load off of gold, put half of the world's work again onto silver, so that each metal can be used for exactly the same purposes, and they will be at par.
Q. Would there not be a shrinkage in the value of the volume of money now in use, and would not that produce a panic?
A. A moment's reflection shows that it will not. Instead of a shrinkage in the value of silver, it will increase in value, as I have already shown. The holders of silver would not let it lie idle. They would first convert it either into silver dollars or silver certificates and then they would buy lands, build houses, build factories, built shops, build railroads, start business enterprises of all kinds and create an activity such as we have not seen in this country. Money then would be in demand for new enterprises. Instead of being used only by bond sharks and pawnbrokers, it would be used by the enterprising business men of this country in every line of activity, and we would immediately enter upon the greatest period of prosperity that our people ever saw.
Q. Do you think the international co-operation for free coinage is worth striving for?
A. Not as long as the English money lenders can keep us in dependent, subservient and tribute paying situation by the present
573system, nor can we get it as long as the English government can make enormous profits out of the Indian coinage system, which it derives by keeping silver in the position of a commodity. The English government has taken from the Princes of India the power to coin money. Silver is used there exclusively, and the rupee which has been in use there for a very long period of time is the legal tender for all debts and for all purposes. It is a legal tender there for nearly forty per cent. more than it costs the English government to buy the silver in the English market as bullion, so that by keeping silver in the position of a commodity and a position in which she can use the gold of other nations to buy silver cheap she can, by coining rupees and using these rupees for debt paying and other purposes in India, make a profit of about forty per cent. on her outlay. Of course, she will not give up this advantage, but if we re-establish bimetallism here and silver is taken out of the market as bullion and is used for debt paying and other purposes in this mighty republic, then silver, as I have already stated, will go to par, England would derive no more profit by buying silver as she now does, nor would her money lending classes any longer have the tremendous advantage over our people in this country which they now have. When these conditions have been brought about England will be ready to join a bimetallic agreement, but not until then. In other words, bimetallism must be established in spite of England, and not by her assistance.
Q. Do you think if the United States adopted the currency basis of Mexico and China it would make international bimetallism possible within a generation to come?
A. That question was framed by gold standard men without having taken the pains to ascertain the conditions in the countries named. For purposes of comparison you must take those countries in the condition in which they were prior to the time that silver was demonetized by our country in 1873 and compare their condition at that time with their condition as it is to-day. When this is done you will find that since 1873 those countries, and especially Mexico, have prospered as they never did before in their history. In August, 1895, Senor Romero, the Mexican minister at Washington, published an article in the "North American Review" upon the silver question so far as it affected Mexico, in which he demonstrated that that country was enjoying a prosperity now such as it never enjoyed before, was developing in manufacturing industries, in railroads, in agriculture, in building of cities, as it never had before, and that this was largely due to the fact that Mexico had not attempted to get onto a single standard gold basis. Both Mexico and China compare very
574much more favorably with the United States to-day than they did prior to 1873. The nations of Europe and this country have in late years been drifting toward the conditions that existed in China and Mexico, that is, we have been going down, and the cause which kept China and Mexico so far in the background was the same cause which has destroyed the prosperity of Europe and of this country. That is a constantly increasing population with a constantly contracting and decreasing circulating medium. In other words, an utterly inadequate volume of money to permit of progress and development. For example, the money in circulation in China amounts to only $2.08 per capita, and in Mexico it amounts to only $4.95 per capita of population, while the money in circulation in France amounts to $3577 per capita. The statistics show that the amount of annual production of gold which can be permanently used for money purposes is scarcely more than sufficient to replace that which is lost by abrasion and in other ways. The population of the world is constantly increasing at a very rapid rate. Unless there is a yearly increase in the volume of money in the world equal to the increase in population and to the increased area over which business must be done in the new countries, this process of contraction must go steadily on, and if it is continued long enough we will finally reach the point that the Chinese are at now, where we will have only two or three dollars of money in circulation, per capita.
Q. If the necessity for the free coinage of silver is so plain an its benefits so certain, why is it that a large portion of the country, particularly the East, is not in favor of it and its statesmen of all parties are opposed to it?
A. By the word statesmen I suppose you mean public men simply. Our history shows that as a rule they are ready to lend their services to those interests which are powerful in their States or their communities. You remember that Daniel Webster was opposed to a protective tariff because Massachusetts was opposed to it. John C. Calhoun at the same time favored a protective tariff because some powerful interests in South Carolina wanted it. Some years later the manufacturing interests of Massachusetts demanded a protective tariff and Webster then became the great champion of a protective tariff. At the same time the more powerful interests in South Carolina demanded free trade, and John C. Calhoun championed free trade. Illustrations of this kind can be cited without limit.
Now, the most powerful influences in the East are what are called the money influences, they absolutely dominate and control. They own or absolutely direct all of the great newspapers, daily and weekly,
575including the pictorial papers. They absolutely control every agency for the formation of public thought. They are in position to reach every big merchant, every manufacturer, every business man of every kind and character. They are in a position to control the places of trust and profit which pay high salaries in railroads, in banks, in insurance companies. They are in a position to crush almost any man when they make a determined effort to do so. You will find as you trace this influence back that it all leads to a comparatively few men, and these in many cases are the agents and representatives of the English and European money lenders. The great money lending classes of Europe have always taken the position that it is to their interest to make money dear. England is the great creditor nation of the world; we, for example, are a great debtor nation. Immediately after the war England got thousands of millions of our bonds, government bonds, State bonds, city bonds, railroad bonds, bonds of every kind and character. Most of them brought five or six per cent. interest. At that time a thousand bushels of wheat or ten horses, for example, would pay off a thousand dollar bond. One hundred bushels of wheat or one horse would pay the interest on a thousand dollar bond. These were the conditions existing at that time. Then the English bondholders sent one Ernest Seyd over here prior to 1873, who communicated with a number of our so-called statesmen. It is charged that he brought two and a half million dollars with him, and that he left it here. So thereafter a law was passed by Congress which ostensibly did nothing except revise the law governing the mints. It was a very long act and was signed by President Grant. Some time after it had been signed it was discovered that this law actually demonetized silver and reduced it practically to a commodity, stopped its coinage. Then during the several years which followed all of the European nations were induced to take the same step and to by law strike down silver. The result was that the amount of redemption money in the world was reduced by one-half. Immediately thereafter there set in a general fall in prices, or rather the purchasing power of gold went up until it bought, twice as much property of all kinds as it formerly did, and Mr. Goschen, formerly Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Robert Giffen, the statistician of the British Board of Trade, both men who favored a gold standard for England because it is a creditor nation, both showed conclusively that this rise in the purchasing power of gold was due to the fact that silver had been demonetized and the work to be done by gold has been doubled. At present it takes twice as many horses, twice as many bushels of wheat, or twice as much property of any kind or character as it formerly did
576to pay any of the fixed charges. It takes twice as much work to pay the debts that we then created, as would have been required at that time to pay them. The English money lenders, acting upon the theory that to make money dear and property cheap was to their interest, have resorted to every means on earth not only to fasten this policy upon us, but to perpetuate it, and English gold, when handled by cunning and unscrupulous American agents, has thus far been invincible. About a year ago a small crowd of New York speculators made over $10,000,000 in a few weeks out of the government in a small bond transaction carried out through a secret contract with the President and the Secretary of the Treasury. These men were representatives to a great extent of English bondholders. They do not want any change of policy in this country and are determined to perpetuate the present system.
Q. Will not their influence be felt in Chicago?
A. There is no doubt about it. Their influence has long been felt, and is feared to-day, by the American people. We have for years seen a slimy trail of corruption stretch from Wall street to Albany, to Washington, to the various State capitals and city halls all over this country. We have seen it buy legislation and dictate the appointment of judges. We have seen it crush the right and establish the wrong, and always by the same methods. I am told that the platform adopted at St. Louis was telegraphed to Mr. Morgan, the agent of the Rothschilds, in order to obtain his approval of it. The St. Louis platform was framed in the interest of the English money lenders and their agents in this country. Naturally the same men who were instrumental in securing that would like to secure a similar platform at Chicago. They are determined to prevent having this money question squarely submitted to the American people. They feel they have the advantage now, and they are determined to keep it.
Q. What will be the result at Chicago?
A. The people of this country have become thoroughly arouse on this question. They have noticed the peculiar tactics that have been adopted in some States to prevent an expression of sentiment upon this question. They are determined to have square dealing this time and no more efforts at hoodwinking or side-tracking, and at present I don't believe that there is gold enough in all Wall street to corrupt that convention which will meet in Chicago July 7th.
JOHN P. ALTGELD.