Remarks on a Bill.
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois was recognized.
Mr. TRACEY. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. TAYLOR] has kindly yielded to me for a few seconds in order to permit me to have the opportunity of announcing to his colleagues and our colleagues that Hon. ROGER Q. MILLS has been unanimously elected by the Legislature of Texas a Senator of the United States. [Great applause on both sides of the House and in the galleries.]
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I desire to offer an amendment to the bill, and to have it pending.
The SPEAKER. The Chair is informed that there is now one amendment pending, offered by the committee. The gentleman can offer an amendment to that amendment.
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. I supposed the only thing pending was the substitute.
Mr. DINGLEY. I think it is in the nature of a substitute.
The SPEAKER. There is also an amendment. The gentleman can not offer an amendment to the text of the bill. He must offer his amendment to the pending amendment.
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. I do not know what the pending amendment is.
The SPEAKER. It is reported by the committee. The gentleman will find it in the printed bill, if he will look at it.
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. I will offer it as an amendment to that. I will ask the Clerk to read it.
The Clerk read as follows:
After the word "private," in line 9, add "except pensions which have been or may hereafter be granted by the Government, which shall be paid in gold."
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. I thank the Speaker for at last being able to obtain the floor to speak for the only party that is opposed to this measure. I admire the Democratic party for one thing, and that is the facility they seem to have for getting on both sides of the question, of which facility we have seen an exhibition this morning, each side having an hour awarded to them before the great party that is opposed to it could be heard. I deny the right of the gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. WILLIAMS] to speak for the Republican party. I deny the right of the gentleman to speak for the minority of this committee. When this bill reaches the other end of the Capitol and is up for a vote, their candidate, whom they will probably nominate at Chicago, will conveniently be in the cloakroom or out on an excursion somewhere. [Laughter on the Republican side.] And then their platform will straddle this question, and my friend from Missouri [Mr. BLAND] will tell his people that he is for free coinage, and my Mugwump friend from Massachusetts [Mr. WILLIAMS] will tell his people that he is against free coinage. Such is the facility with which this party gets on both sides of the question.
Mr. LIND. Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. RICHARDSON in the chair). The gentleman will state it.
Mr. LIND. The gentleman from Illinois referred to a member of this House as a Mugwump, and I suggest that that is out of order, according to the report presented yesterday by the present occupant of the chair.
Mr. BOUTELLE. I think the speaker pro tempore must have failed to observe the utterance or he would have called the gentleman to order. [Laughter.]
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair sustains the point of order. Gentlemen must refer to each other by a phrase which is parliamentary.
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. My understanding is that the gentleman from Massachusetts confessed it in his speech the other day.
Mr. HENDERSON of Iowa. Yes; and gloried in it.
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. But I am willing that the point of order shall be sustained.
Mr. Speaker, no gentleman who was a member of the last house will ever forget the turbulent and riotous scenes which were enacted by the members of the Democratic party on this floor during the sessions in consequence of the rulings of ex-Speaker REED. They were the most disgraceful and reprehensible scenes that were ever witnessed in this Hall, and in them Mr. REED was bitterly denounced as a tyrant, a despot, and an autocrat. His rulings were stigmatized as unconstitutional, arbitrary, and revolutionary. The Democratic press of the country teemed with scathing denunciations of his rulings, and they formed at least one-half of the capital stock of the Democratic party in the last campaign.
The constitutionality of Mr. REED'S rulings has been passed upon by the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest tribunal in the land, composed of Democrats and Republicans. What was the decision of that court? It unanimously decided, not one voice dissenting, that the rulings of Mr. REED were made within the law and the Constitution.
What, however, has been the character of the rulings of the present Speaker of this House, a gentleman who professed so high a regard for the inviolability of the Constitution and remonstrated so loudly against what he termed a usurpation of the rights and privileges of the members of this House during the last Congress? I need only quote from the speech of the gentleman from New York [Mr. TRACEY], a member of the Democratic party, in opposition to his decision. They were characterized by him as "the most extraordinary that were ever heard in a legislative body."
Every parliamentary body in the world corrects its own journal before it proceeds with the work of another day, and during the last Congress, when Mr. REED was Speaker, the right of every member to demand the reading of the Journal was recognized, and the privilege was always accorded, and not until the advent of this Democratic House and Democratic Speaker has this undoubted privilege been denied or withheld. In order to enforce the consideration of this measure upon the House, however, the present Speaker has not only overruled the precedents of a century, but he has overruled a careful opinion delivered on the same question by your idol Speaker, Mr. CARLISLE.
Such, Mr. Speaker, are the methods by which this House has been coerced into the consideration of this bill; methods which have been justly condemned by Republicans and Democrats alike as unprecedented, and in violation of the most sacred rights of the members. What was the object of this unjust and outrageous proceeding? It was to force this House to consider a bill, the most vicious that was ever presented to this body; a bill which is designed to make 70 cents worth of silver a legal tender for a dollar, so as to assist the debtors to defraud their creditors and the wealthy class to pay their laborers 70 cents in silver for a dollar's worth of labor; a bill that has made the nomination of your idol candidate for the Presidency impossible, and forced every other Democratic candidate astride of the fences; a bill to assist Democratic members in their election to the next House, when there is not a gentleman upon this floor who does not know there is not a possibility of it ever becoming a law during this session.
Mr. Speaker, no bill will come before this House of more importance to the people of this country than the one now under consideration. If it should ever be enacted into a law it will have a greater effect upon the finances of the country, favorable or unfavorable, than any bill that has ever passed Congress.
The Fifty-first Congress passed the present law, under which we are purchasing 4,500,000 ounces of silver per month, at its market value. This was passed by a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and signed by a Republican President. The Republican party believes that this is as far as it is safe to go in legislating upon the silver question without an agreement by other nations to join us in the use of silver, and on this law the
2341Republican party takes its stand, and is ready to go before the people of the country and defend it.
I congratulate this House and I congratulate the country that we have at last uncovered the intention of the advocates of this bill. The majority report shows conclusively that their purpose is to place this country upon a silver basis, and to have it stand side by side with India, Mexico, and China; so that any member who supports this measure is no longer left in doubt as to the object of its promoters.
There seems to be two parties who are advocating the passage of this measure and their interests are directly opposite. First, there are the silver-mine owners, whose object is to raise the price of silver to a parity with gold; and, second, the debtor class, who want cheap money in order that they may repudiate a portion of their just debts.
I often wondered during the discussion of this question in the last Congress which of these parties was to be deceived, but the majority report upon this bill leaves no question as to which they expect will be.
Mr. Speaker, I shall attempt in the discussion of this question to consider it impartially, and to ascertain, so far as I may be able, its probable effect upon the future welfare and prosperity of the people of this country from the experiences of the past. There are many things which have taken place in relation to silver which should safely guide and assist us in any future legislation what may be attempted in this direction, and in a matter of so vital importance no step should be taken without previously considering every fact and carefully weighing every circumstance that may throw light upon the subject and enable us to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
If this measure were properly presented to the people of this country they would readily perceive its evil consequences and pernicious effects; the devastation and ruin that would follow in its wake, the complete subversion and overthrow of credit and trade which would result therefrom, and their verdict would be final and conclusive.
One of the most intelligent advocates of free coinage on this floor said to me in conversation a few days ago that he was beginning to have grave doubts as to the advisability of the passage of this measure. He said, however, that his constituents were in favor of free coinage, and, while he had diligently studied the question in all its phases, he entertained grave apprehensions as to its wisdom; yet he felt compelled to record his vote in favor of its adoption. To educate his constituents to the opinion that he had arrived at was a doubtful and uncertain task, and there was no recourse for him save only to bow to the will of his people and vote for the passage of the bill.
From what I have learned I have no doubt but that there are at least one hundred gentlemen on the other side of this House who are endeavoring to satisfy their constituents by supporting this bill. Many of them know well that they are jeopardizing what little chance there may exist of the election of a Democratic President; but if they do not vote for this measure they will jeopardize their own election, and in choosing, as the gentleman from New York [Mr. PAYNE] very aptly said, they prefer to save their own skins. I very heartily sympathize with any member who has a constituency that he is compelled to feed on such trash in order to retain his seat, and I most heartily sympathize with a constituency that has such a member.
As I have said before, it is absolutely necessary to consider the effect of the legislation upon this subject in the past to be able to form an intelligent opinion as to whether or not we can maintain the coinage of silver and gold at the ratio of 16 to 1 without the cooperation of other countries.
The first act passed for the coinage of gold and silver, and fixing the ratio at which they should be coined, was in 1792, and it was placed at 1 grain of gold to 15 grains of silver. This was maintained until 1834. In the mean time, about all the gold went out of circulation in this country, for at that ratio gold was worth a premium over silver. It commenced to disappear in 1811 or 1812, and the amount delivered at the mints for coinage decreased until 1816, when it ceased altogether. As rapidly as the gold was issued from the mints it was shipped abroad and sold, and after 1816, the owners of this metal did not incur the delay and expense of presenting it for coinage, but sent it abroad in bars. The reason of this is readily apparent, for gold was at a premium of 2 per cent over silver, and, with that difference, it would not circulate with silver.
In 1834 another act was passed decreasing the amount of metal to be coined into a gold dollar and increasing the ratio to 16 to 1. The United States had coined at large expense $11,825,890 of gold and none of these coins could be seen; all were exported. By the coinage act of 1834 the silver dollar was more valuable than the gold dollar, and in a few years the latter went out of circulation. It would not circulate with a dollar that had less bullion value. This continued until 1873, when the premium on a silver dollar was about 3 per cent, and there was not one dollar in circulation; all had gone abroad. If gold would not circulate in this country, as is shown by past experience, when it was only 2 per cent above silver, and silver would not circulate when it was 3 per cent above gold, but both went out of circulation and were shipped to Europe with this small premium, how can we expect silver to circulate when gold is about 30 per cent premium, as under this bill? It is not possible that any gentleman who studies the past and is capable of comprehending any elementary financial problem, can arrive at any other conclusion than if this bill remonetizing silver should become a law it would at the same time demonetize gold.
The majority report tells us that gold will not go out of circulation if this bill should become a law, but that both gold and silver will circulate side by side. They do not have to go to Europe to learn the fallacy of this statement. We can learn it simply by crossing the line into Mexico, where they have free coinage of gold and silver, but as the price of silver depreciated in the markets of the world the gold disappeared and not one gold dollar is seen now in circulation in Mexico, but all have been sold abroad, and if the gold should go out of circulation in this country it would mean the withdrawal of between six hundred and seven hundred millions of money now in circulation.
Gold would go abroad, not to buy silver to take its place in this country, but, as it went abroad with the Baring Brothers, of London, failed, to pay for out bonds that are held in Europe. The ink would not be dry upon the President's signature to this bill before our bonds would start from the other side by the millions of dollars, and in that way they would take from this country every dollar of gold that is in it, as the people on the other side of the water would lose confidence in our financiering, and would want to realize on the indebtedness they held as early as possible. This bill, therefore, instead of adding to the circulation and giving us more money would decrease it to the extent of the gold now held in this country, and we would have that much less money.
The stagnation and depression that would follow from this will be readily appreciated when it is remembered that the withdrawal of seventy-five millions last year nearly resulted in a panic. Let six or seven hundred millions be withdrawn from circulation, how can we replace it? We could not replace it with silver; for if we were on a silver basis and paying silver dollars for silver bullion, none would come here from abroad any more than it goes to Mexico. No silver is imported into Mexico, for the reason that the silver owners can obtain nothing but silver for it. We would be in exactly the same condition.
It will be seen, then, that the statement made by the majority in their report that a silver dollar can not fall below the value which the Government gives it at the mint is not borne out by the facts. It is true that it would not fall below that if the value of the silver dollar was maintained by the Government redeeming it in gold when presented. This, however, the free-coinage advocates do not ask or expect, as they say in their report that the silver brought to the mint would be coined into standard dollars and these dollars returned to the people who bought the silver or if they took Treasury notes and presented them instead, they would be redeemed in silver dollars. It will, therefore, be seen that the stamp of the Government upon the bullion would give it no increased value. Of course, under this bill it would be a legal tender and the debtor could use it to repudiate a portion of his debts. The very moment it crosses the borders of the United States the stamp upon it gives it no value. It becomes bullion, and has to take its place with other bullion in the markets of the world, and no law that we can pass will increase its bullion value.
The total amount of silver in the world, as estimated by the Director of the Mint, is $3,939,578,000, and the amount held in this country is $542,078,000. Not one dollar of this entire amount of the silver of the world is worth over 91 cents an ounce, or will sell in any market of the world for over that amount, so, in order to bring silver to a parity with gold, we will not only be compelled to raise the price of silver in this country about 30 per cent, but we would be compelled to raise the price of the $3,397,500,000 of silver held by the remainder of the world. I know this country is great. There is no gentleman upon this floor who has more confidence in it than I have. This undertaking, however, is too great; it would fail.
During the discussion upon the law that was passed by the Fifty-first Congress, some of the free-coinage advocates admitted that it would have a tendency to advance the price of silver; others predicted that it would rise in value to 129 Åº. Still, their great objection was that silver was left as a mere commodity. The act of 1891 provided that there should be coined $24,000,000 worth of silver, which has been done. The bill under consideration does
2342not make it compulsory to coin one dollar, and, if it were enacted into a law, not one dollar would ever be coined under it. The present bill is not so much a free-coinage scheme as it is a silver-purchasing one, and the great difference between it and the act of 1891 is that under the latter the Government is compelled to purchase the bullion at the market value, which is about 91 cents an ounce, while under this bill the Government must purchase it at the fixed price of 129 Åº cents, and thus pay nearly 40 cents more per ounce to the silver-miner than its actual market value.
Mr. Speaker, when the bill to place the American merchant marine engaged in the foreign trade upon an equality with other nations was under consideration in the last Congress, it was bitterly denounced by the Democrats as a job, a robbery, and a steal; as a scheme which favored the rich and oppressed the poor. This important industry was rapidly declining, and the American flag was fast being driven from the ocean, and would soon bid farewell to the ports of the world. The bill was advocated and finally enacted into law by the Republican party, in order to revive and foster this branch of trade, and to place those engaged in it upon an equality with other nations.
Let us contrast, however, the methods adopted by the Republican party, as above exemplified in the merchant marine subsidy bill, for the distribution of the bounty of the Government, and those proposed by the Democratic party in the bill now under consideration. It will be found on an examination of the measure presented by the majority of the committee, which is so earnestly advocated and supported by the Democratic party, that it too provides for a bounty. If it should be enacted into a law and operate in the manner which the majority in their report say it would, and we should receive no more silver than we are now receiving, and for which we are paying $48,000,000 a year, under this bill we would be compelled to pay $70,000,000 (that is, when we pay $1.29 per ounce for the silver which is only commanding 91 cents per ounce in the markets of the world); thus making a subsidy to the rich mine-owner of $22,000,000 annually, for which we receive nothing. It gives your and my note, which we will be compelled to pay some day, and receives nothing in return.
If this is good financiering, I am learning new lessons in finance. If this is not a subsidy in its broadest sense will some person tell me what it is? In the case of the subsidy to the merchant marine, the Postmaster-General reports that it will cost about eight millions annually; and for this we expect to build up a merchant marine that will carry our own merchandise in our ships, and will open up a line of trade to the American merchant that he has been debarred from.
The most reliable statistics, showing the cost of production of silver, estimate it at about 50 cents per ounce; so it will be seen that the price at which silver is now sold the mine-owner will make a greater profit on his article than any other producer in the United States.
An additional advantage that the silver miner would derive from the passage of this bill is this, that he would be able to pay his labor with this cheap money, and as about 80 per cent of the cost of mining is labor, it would be a great saving to him. The laborer, to whom he is paying $3 a day now, would be paid $2.10 after the passage of this bill, which would bring the cost of mining the silver down from about 50 cents to about 35 cents an ounce.
No gentleman ever makes a speech in favor of the free coinage of silver without denouncing violently the theft that was committed in 1873 when silver was demonetized. Some of those who participated in that discussion and who voted for the bill have risen in their places and told the country that they did not understand what they were voting for.
Every rational person is presumed to comprehend the natural and probable consequences of his own acts. It appears, however, that they did not, or at least profess not. If I should support a measure in this House and should discover afterwards that my constituents were so universally opposed to it that it became necessary for me to plead the baby act or to resign my seat, I would not be long in reaching a determination what to do. There would be a vacancy in the First Illinois district.
Let us see what are the facts in relation to this so-called theft, about which there have been so loud complaint and so earnest remonstrance. The first bill was presented to the Senate April 25, 1870, and it omitted the coinage of the silver dollar. Copies of this bill were distributed throughout the length and breadth of the United States and the opinions and comments of the leading financiers were invited. Some of these experts in their answers stated to the Senate that it would demonetize the silver dollar.
When the bill was under consideration here the House called for these answers, and they were considered by it. The bill first passed the Senate in 1871, and from that time until it was finally enacted into law, in 1873, it was before both Houses in five different sessions, and commented upon in the leading journals of the country and by the leading financiers. It was printed thirteen times, and the debate upon it occupies 150 pages of the Congressional Globe, and yet gentlemen who participated in that discussion and who voted for its passage rise in their places and tell us they did not know what it contained or what was its purport. I leave the truth of these assertions to be passed upon by the great jury of the American people.
The facts are that in 1873 a silver dollar was at a premium of about 3 per cent over gold, yet not a dollar was being coined. It had demonetized itself, as gold would if this measure should become a law. For about thirty years preceding that time the silver in the markets of the world had never been lower than $1.30 Ë, and the silver-producing States were entirely indifferent to the passage of that law, as the coinage of silver gave it no value whatever, as the value was the market value of the world, as it still will be if this bill should ever become a law. With the discovery of large deposits of silver, however, it commenced to fall, and in 1877 it was down to $1.12 an ounce. Then comes the cry of the silver theft of 1873. Prior to 1873 only a little over eight millions of silver had been coined. From that time to the present there have been coined $411,543,740, and of this latter amount three hundred and fifty millions are still in the Treasury, together with over fifty millions of bullion. This is the reason of the decrease in the price of silver.
Mr. SIMPSON. I would like to ask the gentleman if he thinks the passage of a law for the free coinage of silver will increase the value of the silver-mine owners' dollar?
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. In answer to the gentleman I will say that after we had been on this crazy basis for a year or two, we would have to go through resumption again. Consequently the rich mine owner would get his pay in gold, if he held on to his currency.
Mr. SIMPSON. The gentleman did not understand my question, I think.
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. I think I did.
Mr. SIMPSON. I asked if the free coinage of silver would make the 50-cent dollar of the silver-mine owner worth a dollar?
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. No, sir, it would not.
Mr. SIMPSON. How much would it make it worth?
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. Just what it is now and no more.
Mr. JOHNSON of Indiana (to Mr. SIMPSON). You did not expect that kind of an answer, did you?
Mr. SIMPSON. I am not clear what it is worth now, from the gentleman's standpoint. That is why I asked the question as to what it would be worth.
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. An ounce of silver, if the gentleman will listen, is worth about 50 cents.
Mr. SIMPSON. And you think free coinage would not increase its value?
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. Not a cent.
Mr. SIMPSON. Why do you oppose free coinage then?
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. Because you want a scheme to swindle the creditors.
Mr. SIMPSON. If it does not increase the value, it does not swindle anybody.
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. Why did we oppose your greenback policy? Simply because you wanted to swindle the creditors, that is all.
Mr. SIMPSON. Then that must be what the Republican party wanted to do when they passed the greenback act.
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. It is claimed by the majority of the committee that but little silver would come to this country under this act. I agree with them in this, if, as they contemplate, this country is to be put on a silver basis; and I agree with them that there would be no other course for the Government to pursue, if this bill should become a law, than put this country on a silver basis, as it would not be possible for us to buy all the silver that would be presented if we paid for it in gold. Therefore we would take our place by the side of the silver countries of the world. Is the prosperity of the people of China, India, and Mexico so great that we should desire to place ourselves with them? I think the universal answer would be no. India and China are the most destitute countries in the world. There is no country where the inhabitants are poorer and more degraded, and Mexico is not far behind. How can a party advocate the enactment of such a law, the ultimate effect of which will be to retard the rapid growth and progress of the nation, to produce depression and discontent, and to reduce the country from the high and lofty plane of unequaled credit and prosperity to the chaotic and bankrupt condition of the degraded silver countries of the globe.
As an illustration of the manner in which the silver standard affects India, I will quote the answers made by Mr. Francis G. Newlands, the head of the silver lobby here, the gentleman who represents the interests of the silver-miners before Congress, and who has been in attendance upon its sessions and advocating free coinage of silver for several years, in reply to certain questions
2343propounded by Mr. WILLIAMS of Massachusetts during a hearing before the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and measures:
Mr. WILLIAMS. This is true, is it not — and is universally claimed by gentlemen who are interested in the free coinage of silver — that that which India owes the rest of the world costs them more to pay to-day than it ever did before?
Mr. NEWLANDS. When she makes the exchange in gold.
Mr. WILLIAMS. She has to pay her debts in gold practically, does she not?
Mr. NEWLANDS. Yes, sir.
Mr. WILLIAMS. So that to the extent you certainly will admit that the silver standard has injured her?
Mr. NEWLANDS. In the relations existing between the Indian Government and the British Government, the Indian Government has a right to complain of the demonetization of silver, because when she pays England in gold she has to turn her silver into bullion and sell it at the gold price, and thereby loses in the transaction. I do not think she has any reason to complain of the silver standard. What she has a right to complain of is the demonetization of silver, which has injured its bullion value.
Mr. WILLIAMS. But she has to turn her rupees into bullion in order to pay England, and to sell that bullion at a gold price?
Mr. NEWLANDS. Yes, sir; sell that bullion at a gold price.
Mr. WILLIAMS. I will ask you this question. When India pays England you say she turns her rupees into bullion?
Mr. NEWLANDS. Yes.
Mr. WILLIAMS. What is that for?
Mr. NEWLANDS. Because England demands gold.
Mr. WILLIAMS. Can she not buy gold with rupees, just as well as she can with bullion?
Mr. NEWLANDS. I suppose she can with rupees at their bullion value.
Mr. WILLIAMS. Does India send any silver to London with which to pay her debts?
Mr. NEWLANDS. Really I can not say; I presume she does. If she does, she sends it at its gold value. But I imagine she does, not send any rupees.
Mr. Newlands also said, when he was before the committee, that the result of the passage of a free-silver bill would be to scale down the debts of the country.
The only explanation that can be offered for this extraordinary attempt to wreck the finances of this country is that it emanates from a party whose highest flights soar not above stagnation and retrogression, and whose ideas keep neither abreast nor apace with the progress of the times; a party that pledged in the last campaign that when they obtained control of the Government they would repeal all the wise and salutary laws passed by the Fifty-first Congress, under the operation of which the country was never more prosperous. They promised the people that they would take them back to the good old Democratic days of the stage coach and ox cart.
I wish to notify the Democratic party that there has been great progress since they went out of power; there was no railroad west of Des Moines, Iowa. Chicago contained only about 100,000 people and now she has a million and a quarter. This country has about doubled its population, and great trunk lines of railroads travel every section of it. Everything has progressed except the Democratic party, which neither can nor does learn anything, but, like a crawfish, it seems always to be traveling backwards.
Of course we could maintain the free coinage of silver if the country were placed on a silver basis. The amount of the silver in the world is estimated at about $4,000,000,000. Mexico, by our side, lies ready with vast possessions of silver, which they would be very glad to exchange with us for gold at $1.29, and is exchanging some of it now at 91, although they have free coinage. France alone has seven hundred millions of silver, two hundred and fifty millions of which are lying in the Bank of France that can not be used, and if we should attempt to exchange gold for silver we would receive that amount at once.
The advocates of free coinage say that that would not come to this country even if we should pay for it with gold, for the simple reason that they would have to stand a loss of 2 or 3 per cent. Supposing France should open her mints for the free coinage of silver and advertise that they were ready to take all the bullion that was offered and pay for it in gold at the rate of 16 to 1, how long would it take to send all the silver in this country to France and exchange it for gold? The large amount of silver lying in the vaults of France can not now be sold at a higher rate than 91 cents an ounce; that is as much as they can obtain for it. It can not be possible that any gentleman would assume for a moment, under these circumstances, that if a market were opened in which they could obtain $1.29 for silver that it would not go upon the first ship. It is hardly necessary to discuss this phase of the question, as it is too self-evident, and as the advocates of this measure do not expect to raise the value of silver but they expect to cheapen money in circulation in this country.
The people of this country who would derive the most advantage from the passage of this bill are the debtors, and they will only be temporarily benefited. Under it they will be enabled to repudiate about 30 per cent of their just debts. What excuse can any party offer for its advocacy and support of so iniquitous a measure, which is designed to repudiate honest debts and de-fraud creditors.
It must not be forgotten that for every debtor there is a corresponding creditor, and in legislating for the benefit of one you are injuring the other. It must also be remembered that the creditors of this country are not the wealthy men, for nearly all wealthy men are borrowers of money. The lenders are the commercial and the savings banks, and the deposits contained therein belong to and are the savings of small dealers.
It is not the money of the banks, but they act merely as the agents of the depositors to receive their money and to loan it to some other person who may need it. These banks contain the money of the old, the widows, and the orphans, and the wage-earners, and should this bill be enacted into a law and enable the debtor to repudiate a portion of his just debt, they would be the greater sufferers and not the banks. There are also the pensioners of the country whose pensions would be reduced about 30 per cent.
Can the Democratic party or any other party afford to go before this country on such a measure? Do you dare engraft it into your platform? I say not and you will learn not.
The majority say that by arbitrarily fixing the price of silver at $1.29 per ounce, when the market value is only 91 cents per ounce, we will raise the price of farm products 12 or 15 per cent. Why stop here? Why not make an ounce of silver, valued at 91 cents, equal to an ounce of gold, the market value of which is $20.67 per ounce, and thus increase the price of the farmer's product 500 or 600 per cent; so that a bushel of wheat, which now commands $1, would be sold for $6. The principle is the same, and if we can do one we most certainly should do the other. The absurdity of this proposition is too obvious to bear comment; it is almost too ridiculous to be mentioned; yet this is only one of the very many wild statements that are made to the people of this country to delude and ensnare them into support of the free-coinage schemes.
The theory of the advocates of free coinage is that when money becomes cheaper men will become wealthier; that is, as money goes down everything else goes up. I do not doubt that there are gentlemen on the other side of the House who have paid $100 in Confederate money for a dinner. This was no evidence that dinners were going up, as any one could have bought that same dinner with a gold dollar. It was simply an evidence of the fact that money was going down.
It is claimed by the advocates of this measure that the Indian farmer, because his country is on a silver basis, obtains a great advantage over the farmer of this country. It has been said that a bushel of wheat from the United States sold in the London market brings $1.10, and the same bushel of wheat from India realizes $1.30. This is a pure fallacy, not borne out by the facts, nor is it possible to be true. The American is paid for his wheat in gold, but the Indian is paid for his wheat either in gold and then buys silver, as his country is on a silver basis, or is paid in silver.
The American can purchase equally as much silver for the gold that he receives for his bushel of wheat as the Indian can. It will therefore be readily seen that the Indian receives no more for his wheat in this country than the American receives for it here.
It is claimed by the advocates of this bill that wheat in this country goes down when silver goes down. There is no foundation whatever for such a statement. When there is an overproduction of wheat the price goes down; when there is a scarcity the price goes up. The price depends entirely upon the quantity produced and the demand that is made therefor. The improved facilities for growing wheat have decreased the cost of production in the last twenty years. Will any gentleman claim that the low price of cotton this year was caused by the low price of silver? Last year there were 1,500,000 more bales of cotton grown than ever before in this country. This broke the market, and not the low price of silver. The low price of cotton was the direct result of overproduction, and no other cause can be assigned for it.
One of the best speeches that I have heard made in this House against free coinage, and which should be most convincing, was made by the gentleman from Arizona [Mr. SMITH] on the 16th of this month, when he called up for consideration House bill No. 5499, which authorized the Territory of Arizona to fund their debt and issue a 5 per cent bond payable in gold. The gentleman from Kansas [Mr. OTIS] asked him to strike out "gold" and insert "legal-tender money of the United States." The gentleman from Arizona [Mr. SMITH] replied that that was exactly the reason which had prevented the Territory from selling these bonds. He said:
I have tried to float this debt at a reasonable rate of interest, and I am satisfied with that provision in the bill; it can not be done at less than 7 to 10 per cent. With this provision in the bill, the bonds can be floated at 5 per cent.
This instance shows the injurious consequences that will follow if this bill should become a law. It will affect individuals in their private transactions the same as it affects Arizona in floating these bonds.
Mr. Speaker, This side of the House is very much gratified that we have at last forced the Democratic party on record on this free-coinage craze; on this deliberate attempt to wreck the finances of this country. The Republican party, in days gone by, stood between the Government and those who attempted to destroy it, and it now stands as the advocate of sound money and between the Government and those who are seeking to destroy its credit and ruin its financial system; and on this position we take our stand and will defend it against those who are seeking to ruin its finances.
Mr. SCOTT. I desire to ask the gentleman what party was responsible for the legislation that has made the silver dollar worth only 70 cents?
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. No party.
Mr. SCOTT. How did it get on the statute books?
Mr. TAYLOR of Illinois. I do not think the law changed the value. I yield twenty minutes to my colleague from Illinois [Mr. HOPKINS].
Mr. HOPKINS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, the majority report of the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures, which accompanies the bill now under consideration, in some respects is a remarkable and interesting document — remarkable as much for what it does not say as for what is contained in the report; and interesting from the fact that the chairman of the committee who submitted the report in every page of the same appears to be conscious that he is seeking to secure legislation in this house which is opposed by a large number of intelligent and patriotic members in his own party, as well as by the great Republican party of this country, which stands to-day favoring an honest dollar.
No person who reads the report can gather any substantial arguments from it which demonstrate that the people of this country are to be in any manner benefited by the free and unlimited coinage of silver. The great effort of the chairman of the committee seems to have been in the preparation of the report to meet as far as he was able some of the strong and overpowering objections which exist to-day against the legislation favored in this bill.
The Constitution of the United States provides that Congress shall have the power to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures. This requirement has from the earliest days of our constitutional Government imposed a grave and responsible duty upon Congress. I shall not attempt to trace in detail the history of legislation upon this subject. Money is of no value or use excepting for three purposes — as a measure of value of all products, as a medium of exchange for the same, and as a standard of deferred payments in matters of commercial credit.
It is unnecessary for me, in the discussion of this bill, to refer to the primitive methods used by the people of the various nations of the earth in exchanging their products of the soil and property owned and controlled by them. That history, in a word, has demonstrated, in every instance, that as the people advanced in civilization they required and used some article as a measure of the value of all other articles, and as a medium of exchange in their commercial transactions. The higher the civilization, and the more complex the commercial relations became, the more necessary was it that this medium of exchange should not only possess the quality of a measure of values, but that it should also serve the purposes of a standard of deferred payments in matters of credit.
Barter is among the earliest and most primitive forms of commerce. Lead, iron, copper, and other metals have been used by the various nations at different stages of their civilization, commercially, but I think that all who pay me the honor of their attention will agree that what are known as the precious metals, viz., gold and silver, have come to be regarded by the nations of the earth as the metals least variable in their value, and the best calculated to subserve these important purposes in all commercial and business transactions.
The gold dollar is our unit of value, and since 1853 gold has been the money metal of this country, and all values have been determined by it, all matters of exchange have been controlled by it, and all questions of deferred payments in commercial credits have been settled by its standard.
What is now sought by the chairman of the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures, and by those who sympathize with him and who number the great majority of the Democratic party in and out of Congress, is to extend to silver the same power which is exercised by gold and the same privilege of free and unlimited coinage at a standard of 412 Ë grains for a dollar. Whenever this question is discussed by the friends of the bill, including the chairman of the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures, much stress is placed upon the fact that silver was formally demonetized in 1873, and the lamentations of the friends of silver have been loud and alone, and no epithet has been too severe and no denunciation too strong to be hurled at the heads of the members of the House and the Senators who permitted such legislation to be enacted into law.
It was not my fortune to be a member of this House or to hold any public or official position at that time, but for the purposes of this discussion it is not necessary for me to either affirm or deny the various charges which are made as to the motives which prompted the legislation that demonetized silver. If it were a crime, as the friends of free silver now contend, and if it did enhance the value of gold coin 50 per cent, as they all charge, I maintain, Mr. Speaker, that that is no reason why we should at this time remonetize that metal. The conditions of our country and our commerce are adjusted to the gold standard, and any change of that measure of value, medium of exchange, and standard of deferred payments will work untold hardships upon the farmers and laboring classes of this country, and will unsettle business to such an extent that trade will be practically paralyzed.
I know no greater calamity, Mr. Speaker, which could befall this country than that this bill in its present form should be enacted into a law; but before I discuss this branch of the subject I desire, Mr. Speaker, to take issue with some of the charges that are made by the friends of free silver as to its influence upon trade and legislation in this country prior to 1873. As I have stated already, gold and silver by constitutional enactment were made the money metals of this country, but it was left to Congress to regulate the value and fix the standard of weights and measures. The first legislation that we had upon the subject that it is important or necessary to consider in connection with this bill was had on the 2d of April, 1792, where the ratio between the pure metals in our coins were fixed at 1 to 15 (1 ounce of gold being the equivalent of 15 ounces of silver), and the free and unlimited coinage accorded to both metals with full legal-tender power.
This was the mint ratio, and when the metals were coined into money under that ratio 371 Åº grains of pure silver coined into a silver dollar was the equivalent for all commercial purposes of 24 Å¾ grains of pure gold coined into a gold dollar. Soon after this legislation, however, it was discovered that the two metals would not travel in company. Full legal tender was granted to both coins, but a few years showed to the commercial world that the market value of gold and silver bullion differed from its minted value. Fifteen ounces of silver under the legislation would purchase 1 ounce of gold at the mints, but in the market it required 16 ounces of silver to be the equivalent of 1 ounce of gold.
It thus early became apparent that the ratios fixed by legislation between the two metals had become erroneous, and that speculators in the metals could make a profit of 1 ounce of silver for every 16 ounces taken to the mint and exchanged for gold after the same were coined into money. The result was, as shown by the history of this period, that gold was practically driven out of the market, and that our metal of exchange and standard of payments in circulation was silver. In other words the business of that period was transacted on a silver basis. Indeed to such an extent did this go on that in 1805 President Jefferson, who was a believer in gold as a money metal, without any authority of law, and without any legislation on the subject whatever, by an arbitrary and peremptory order prohibited the further coinage of silver dollars at the mints of this country, and that order was observed at the mints during all the years up to the time of the readjustment of the ratios of the two metals under the leadership of Senator Benton of Missouri, in 1834.
During this same period France, Germany, and in fact all the leading nations of the earth excepting England, transacted their business on a silver basis, and the inconveniences and dangers of a silver standard under existing conditions were then unknown.
One of the most interesting debates that was ever carried on in the halls of Congress was held over this very question at the time of the change of the ratio of the two metals. When they were fixed at 16 ounces of silver to 1 ounce of gold, in 1834, the charge was openly made by Senator Benton, who was a great friend of gold, that the ratio of 15 parts of silver to 1 part of gold, fixed under the recommendations of Hamilton in 1792, was for the purpose of discrediting the yellow metal. He was as eloquent and as zealous for legislation which should restore the gold dollar to the people of this country — the dollar, as he claimed, of his daddies — as the distinguished gentleman from Missouri [Mr. BLAND] is in his efforts to remonetize the silver dollar of 1792, which he contends was demonetized in 1873.
The law which demonetized silver was but a legal recognition of what had been an admitted fact for more than a quarter of a century prior to 1873. The American silver dollar referred to in the report of the committee was practically an unknown quantity in all business transactions. Silver was used to a certain extent as a subsidiary coin, but only for such purposes, gold being the standard of value and the medium of exchange for all
2345business or commercial transactions. The discovery of gold in California, Australia, and Russia produced a most marked effect in the monetary history of all modern nations which had specie circulation. From 1851 to 1875, through the sources I have here indicated, $3,317,625,000 of gold was produced from the mines and put in circulation.
More gold was mined and used for money purposes in that short period than the world had produced for 350 years prior to that time. This gold supplanted silver as a money metal in all the leading nations. Germany transacted her business on a silver basis up to 1871, when she then demonetized silver and made gold her money standard. England long prior to this time had become a gold standard country, and in fact, following 1871, one nation after another adopted the gold standard, until to-day there is no leading country in Europe that authorizes the free and unlimited coinage of silver. All of our foreign exchanges are settled upon the gold basis. The silver dollar which is in circulation in this country and is received by our citizens as a full legal tender in transactions abroad is held only at its bullion value, which entails a loss in such transactions of from 25 to 30 per cent from the minted value.
Now, Mr. Speaker, why is it that we find certain members of this House and the men who compose the major part of the Democratic party so clamorous for the passage of this bill and the recognition of silver as a money metal with full legal-tender power? The discussion of this question should be carried on a plane above party politics. It is a great economic and financial question, and one which should receive the dispassionate discussion which belongs to such subjects. The interests of the people, regardless of party politics, will be materially affected by the passage or rejection of this bill. Its influence will be felt by the laborer in his cabin as well as the millionaire in his mansion. No man is too humble to escape the baneful effects which would follow the enactment of this proposed legislation into law. It will not do, therefore, for the friends of free and unlimited coinage of silver to obscure the practical question here before the American people by epithets hurled at those who oppose the passage of this bill or indulge in invectives and vituperation against all who participated in the legislation in 1873 and subsequent thereto, which resulted in the demonetization of this metal.
As I stated earlier in my remarks, the question of remonetizing silver in 1892 is a very different question than the one which faced the people of this country in 1873, when that metal was debased and deprived of its money character. No friend of silver legislation can demonstrate to the members of this House or prove to the intelligent public in this country that the remonetizing of silver will be of any benefit to the public or the people generally. There are two classes of people who will be benefited, and two only, as I contend, and those are the silver-mine owners and the bullion holders and speculators in silver. The agitation of this subject has been brought about by the manipulation of the silver-mine owners and silver speculators in this country. Talk has been indulged in that it is in the interest of the farmers of the West, but I defy the chairman of this committee, or any of his party associates to show by any tangible arguments or facts that the farmers or the laborers are to be in any manner benefited if this bill becomes a law.
Why, Mr. Speaker, during the last session of the Fifty-first Congress, when the committee which was appointed by the Speaker to investigate the question as to whether members of Congress had speculated in silver during the consideration of the silver act of 1890, it was shown that a literary bureau had been established here in Washington by some of the leading silver-mine owners of the West, and that they had prepared petitions and had them sent to the farmer organizations and the laborers in the Western country, to be signed by them and forwarded to Congress, praying for free and unlimited coinage of silver, and in order to induce this class of our citizens to forward such petitions, agents were hired and sent out to discuss the silver side of this question, and circulars and pamphlets were scattered broadcast over the land to create a sentiment in favor of the free and unlimited coinage of silver.
This was not so much, Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of benefiting the people of this country as to add to the wealth of those great silver-mine owners and the men who speculate in that commodity. The stock arguments that are used by them and their followers are familiar to the members of this House. The principal one is that we need more money in circulation, and that if we have the free and unlimited coinage of silver, we would add so much more to the moneystock in circulation in this country. The poor crops, which the farmers of the West and Northwest have had for three or four years prior to the present season, have entailed a degree of hardship and distress upon them that has made them ready listeners to any argument or plans which would relieve them from their then existing necessities, and these shrewd and adroit silver agents have played upon their passions and prejudices by their calamity talk until they have in some localities led them to believe that all of the evils of their present condition are traceable directly to the demonetization of silver, and that to remonetize that metal is all that is necessary to make them prosperous farmers and give them happy homes. A careful examination of the amount of money in circulation at the present time, as compared with other periods in history of our country, will demonstrate that we have more money in circulation per capita at the present day than we have had since the foundation of the Government.
I have taken some pains to examine the reports of the Secretary of the Treasury, and I have gleaned therefrom many interesting facts which will aid the proper consideration of this per capita question. In 1860 the population of the United States was 31,500,000. Our general money stock aggregated $442,000,000 and of that sum $435,000,000 were in circulation. This, you will see, gave us only $15.85 per capita of money that was in circulation. Eighteen hundred and sixty was, you will remember, a prosperous business year. There was no complaint at that time that there was not money enough in circulation to answer all business and commercial purposes. In October, 1870, the money, including gold, subsidiary silver, and fractional currency, gold and silver certificates, Treasury notes, and bank notes, aggregated $770,312,000. This amount gave a per capita circulation of $19.97 in 1870.
In 1880 the money in circulation in this country, including, as I have in my estimate of 1870, the gold coin, standard silver dollars, subsidiary silver, gold certificates, silver certificates, Treasury notes, United States notes, and national-bank notes, $1,022,033,685. This made a per capita circulation in 1880 of $20.37. I have with me a statement from the Treasury Department showing the amount of gold and silver coins and certificates, United States notes, and national-bank notes in circulation March 1, 1892 which aggregates $1,609,558,892. The population of the United States March 1, 1892, is estimated at 65,049,000. This makes a per capita circulation on the first day of the month of $24.74, the highest per capita circulation that we have had since the adoption of our constitutional Government.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, this is a higher per capita circulation than either England or Germany has. The per capita circulation in England is $18.60, and in Germany is only about $18. While England has more wealth per capita than we have in America, her money stock in circulation per capita is decidedly less, as these figures show. Whenever this question is discussed the friends of free and unlimited coinage of silver refer to France and claim that she has over $44 per capita of money in circulation, and point to the prosperity of her people as a result of this large amount of currency in circulation. Nothing could be more fallacious or misleading so far as applied to the conditions existing in this country. Every well-informed and intelligent American citizen understands that the banking system of France is entirely different from what we have in America, and that in the provinces, instead of using banks as we do in all the cities and villages throughout the Union to transact their business, the French peasants carry their money about their persons or hoard it away in their houses.
I remember of hearing a statement of a gentleman of wealth and refinement who had passed many years in France, saying that during his entire residence there, which extended over a period of eight or ten years, he never saw a check, draft, or bill of exchange. The money that was used by the French people in their business transactions was carried about by them, and the foreigners who became temporary residents there were compelled by necessity to adopt their primitive commercial methods. The business of this country is conducted largely upon the credit system. An estimate recently made by the Treasury Department from statistics gathered from the various banks of the country showed that nearly or quite 94 per cent of all of the business and commercial transactions of this country are conducted on the credit system by the use of checks, drafts, and bills of exchange, and that there is barely 6 per cent of the business that is done by the actual use and transfer of money from buyer to seller.
This system of checks, or credit system, has grown rapidly and enormously in this country, and has served a wonderfully beneficial purpose in the expansion of business and trade, and in the development of our Western Territories. The amount of money in circulation per capita does not necessarily or logically indicate the wealth of the country or the prosperity of the people. As an illustration of this statement I desire to call to the attention of the members of the House the condition of the Argentine Republic a little over a year ago. That Republic, for a number of years prior to its financial collapse, was controlled in its fiscal and financial affairs by a set of statesmen of the character and caliber of those democrats who advocate here the free and unlimited coinage of silver.
In the city of Buenos Ayres an inflation of the currency was
2346tried and temporarily resulted in the enhancement of prices and a rapid exchange of properties. This example, it was believed by the Democratic statesmen of that country, could be extended through the entire Republic, and that great good would result therefrom. The result was that the country was inflated to the extent that the circulating medium aggregated $100 per capita, and when it reached that point the collapse came and took with it Baring Bros., of England, and nearly precipitated a financial crisis throughout the entire financial world. No man can say just how many dollars per capita should be in circulation in the country, or, in fact, in any other, to produce and maintain a healthy condition of affairs commercially and financially. It can only be reached by approximation, and the best thinkers and ablest writers upon this subject believe that the United States has already reached the point where the circulating medium per capita is as great as the necessity of the country demands.
The figures that I have given show that the circulating medium has increased in volume much more rapidly than the increase in population. It is also a well-known fact in business and commercial circles that the multiplication of State and national banks throughout the country has largely increased the credit system of the country and minimized the use of money in trade and business. For a period of nearly twenty years, commencing with 1860, the difference between our total money stock and the money in circulation rarely exceeded 10 per cent. During the last twelve years this difference has been widening, until it is now between 35 per cent and 40 per cent. For example, to bring this more clearly to the minds of the members of the House: In my illustration some time ago as to the general money stock of this country on the 1st of March, 1892, as I have shown, the money in circulation was $1,609,558,892. The general stock of money coined or issued at that date aggregated $2,236,494,518, leaving, as you will see, a balance of money unused out of the general money stock of $626,935,626. By close students of finance, these figures indicate that the general money stock in this country is greater now than the trade or commerce of the country demands, and that an increase of the money metal would simply pile it up in the Treasury to be unused by the people. The rate of interest paid by debtor classes on money borrowed has been decreasing year by year for the last quarter of a century.
In Illinois, for example, money that fifteen or twenty years ago would command 10 per cent can be readily borrowed to-day on good security for 6 per cent; the same financial conditions exist in other sections of the country. If a high rate of interest has been demanded, it has been because the conditions were such as to make the loan less safe than in the more settled and conservative sections the country. The farmers of Kansas, Nebraska, and other Western States have complained, or at least some of the calamity representatives from those States have complained, about the hardships imposed upon them by the capitalists who furnished them money. The cry that has been raised against capital by these very men has done more to injure the debtor classes of those States than all other conditions combined.
The men or corporations who have money to loan are more desirous of securing a safe loan than they are to receive a high rate of interest, and just so soon as it is established in the localities where these complaints have been made that debts will be honestly paid with honest money, with a purchasing power equal to the money that they obtained, without expense or litigation, the rate of interest will be reduced there as it is in the money centers of the Middle and New England States. But, Mr. Speaker, the claim that the free and unlimited coinage of silver would bring many beneficial results to the farming and laboring classes of this country or would increase our circulating medium is utterly without foundation. To the careful student of finance it seems utterly absurd to say that the Government of the United States, standing along among all the great nations of the earth, can, by a simple edict of its legislative body, transform 69 cents, the present market value of a silver dollar, into 100 cents.
The moment that this bill should become a law gold would immediately go to a premium of from 28 to 30 per cent, and instead of increasing the circulating medium, as these gentlemen contend, the result would be that every dollar of gold that is in circulation to-day and gold certificates would be immediately hoarded for the profits which would be made upon the premium. We have, in round numbers of gold and gold certificates, nearly $600,000,000 in circulation. There would be a contraction of the currency to this amount for the reason, as I have already stated, that the owners and holders of that money would immediately withdraw it from circulation, and hold it for speculative purposes. This contraction would unquestionably bring on a financial crisis with its untold hardships, of broken fortunes, wasted energies, and wrecked lives.
If, Mr. Speaker, we would be guided by the light of experience we have historical illustrations in our country that will aid the people in arriving at correct conclusions upon this subject. The members of this House remember well when gold was at a premium, and a greenback dollar which to-day interchanges for a gold dollar was worth only 67 cents. Why was that? It was because of the fear of the public that the United States Government would be unable to make that promise good in coin or money that is recognized the world over, namely, gold. An ounce of silver, under the proposed legislation, is to be worth $1.29. In the market it is worth something like 90 cents. The friends of this bill have argued that if it is enacted into a law the market value and the minted value of silver will come together, and that the silver will permanently maintain itself, not only in the mints, but in the markets of the world, at $1.29 for every ounce.
A little reflection upon this subject, as it seems to me, will not only satisfy the conservative members of this House that such assumptions are not only unwarranted, but absolutely absurd. Remember, if you please, that not only the nations forming the Latin Union have limited the coinage of silver, but all the great commercial nations of the earth have demonetized it and are anxious to dispose of the silver that still remains with them for gold, which can be used for a circulating medium under their present laws. It is now proposed by the gentleman from Missouri and his followers in this House to have the United States enact a law by which that entire volume of silver can be coined into money, the equivalent in this country of gold, dollar for dollar. Have you reflected, my friends, what an undertaking that is?
We have, according to the statement made to me recently by the Director of the Mint, Mr. Leech, in the world about $3,939,578,000 worth of silver used as money, or held as a fund for the redemption of money. It is worth, according to the estimate made by the same authority, about 90 cents per ounce. Now, by this proposed legislation, the gentleman from Missouri, and those who maintain that this bill will bring the market value of silver and its minted value together, contend it will raise this nearly $4,000,000,000 of silver from 90 cents to $1.29. In other words, their position involves the astounding proposition that, by this simple legislation a thousand millions of dollars in value are to be added to the present stock of silver in the world.
This statement is an absolute refutation to all of their arguments. No man in his senses, who has any capacity for considering subjects of this kind, will believe that legislation can produce such marvelous results. I might with equal propriety insist that we could pass a bill here by which we could increase the stature of the gentleman from Missouri to 9 feet and make his normal weight a ton. The leading minds in this country and Europe on questions of finance all agree that this proposition is absolutely impossible, and that silver instead of appreciating in value, will, under the Gresham law, drive gold out of circulation and send it to a premium
Prof. Francis A. Walker, the leading bimetallist author in this country, stated before the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures of the House, in a hearing held in 1891, as follows:
I confess that I can not conceive how any man who has largely studied the question can believe, can even hope, that the United States can go it alone on this matter of silver coinage, can undertake to do so without coming to speedy grief and humiliation. I am very well aware that many gentlemen do honestly so hope and so believe, but the overwhelming preponderance of the educated financial opinion of the world inclines to the belief that the proposed measure would simply result in stripping us of our gold; in upsetting our exchanges with the great trading and producing nations of the world; in breaking us down to the level of second-rate financial powers only, such as China, India, and South America, and involving our trade and production in all the evils, the inexpressible evils, of a depreciated and fluctuating currency.
An eminent French author, in speaking of this subject, says:
In my opinion, no country can coin silver alone. Any country that coins only silver will remain alone and will not have the money for paying abroad.
I might multiply these opinions, Mr. Speaker, from the writings of every leading financier of this country and of Europe. There is no difference of opinion upon this subject by all the financial writers of the world. Our neighboring Republic of Mexico is an illustration of the correctness of opinions here expressed by these writers. The mints of Mexico have been opened to gold and silver alike, and the result is that silver has gone in there and driven out gold, and that while nominally Mexico has the free and unlimited coinage of both gold and silver she is now and for twenty years has been conducting her business on a silver basis. The misfortune which overtook her would certainly follow this Government if we enact this bill into law.
If, then, Mr. Speaker, the passage of this bill will not bring the market value of silver bullion to its minted value, what will be the result upon the people of this country if it becomes a law? I think I have shown, from the figures already presented, that gold will immediately go out of circulation, and that we will have a silver basis in this country. Now, I am not disposed to insist
2347that the granting of free and unlimited coinage of silver will not affect its market value; I think it will. I think that for a limited time at least, it will enhance its value, but certainly not to the extent of raising it to its minted value. The result will be a shock to our business that will be felt not only by every business man throughout the entire Union, but by every farmer and laboring man, and every minor or widow who has money in our savings banks and trust companies.
Language is inadequate to portray the hardships that would be imposed on the laboring classes of this country. Statistics show that the savings banks of the Union have on deposit $1,600,000,000. This great sum of money represents the earnings of the poor people, the widows, mechanics, and estates of minors. The moment that this bill becomes a law, that enormous sum of money will shrink from 20 to 25 per cent. The depositors, instead of receiving money which will have a purchasing power equal to that which they had deposited in the banks, will have a debased and depreciated coin which is worth, as I have said, from 20 to 25 per cent less than money is to-day. Another class of our citizens who would be seriously affected by this proposed legislation are the ex-soldiers and sailors of the Union.
It is unnecessary for me at this time to dwell upon the hardships and privations that they endured to maintain the integrity of the Union and to restore peace and tranquillity throughout our vast Republic. These brave, honest, and fearless men, during a portion of the time when they were in the service of our country, were paid in a depreciated currency, and is it now proposed by the Democratic party to insist upon the passage of this bill, which will reduce the pensions of every soldier and sailor who is now upon the pension rolls from 20 to 25 per cent of the amount that has been allowed him under the adjudication of the Pension Bureau? We are paying, in round numbers, $140,000,000 annually to this deserving class of citizens. Twenty per cent from this amount aggregates the enormous sum of $28,000,000 which, on the basis given, would annually be taken from the old soldiers and sailors on the pension rolls by the enactment of this bill into a law.
I am not surprised, Mr. Speaker, that these men are becoming alarmed at the position of the gentleman from Missouri and his party associates who favor this bill, and that petitions are being received from all the Grand Army posts of the country, protesting against a legislation which will pay them in a debased and depreciated currency. As every person knows who has given any thought or attention to the subject, there is a large class of American citizens who have invested their money in life insurance. Many a young man who started out in life without money or means, with a brave heart and firm will, has been induced, under the favorable business offers which have been made by life insurance companies to make his business investments in life insurance instead of in real estate or in the stock of corporations of any other business enterprises.
These investments have been made and the money paid, as I have shown, on the gold basis, which has been in existence in this country practically since 1834. The contracts were made with the companies on that basis, and with the understanding that when they were paid the amount of their policy it would be in a money coin equally as good as that which they paid. This legislation is directly in favor of those great, rich, and overpowering corporations, and by means of it millions upon millions of dollars will be saved to them, but taken from the pockets of the poor, misguided policy-holders, who never dreamed when they made their investments that the Government of the United States, through its Congress, would interfere and by legislation assist in robbing them and enhancing the already overgrown wealth of the life-insurance companies.
I have said, Mr. Speaker, that this legislation is detrimental to the laboring man. The laborer, I care not whether he works by the day, by the week, or by the month, belongs to the creditor class in this country. If he is a day laborer when night comes he receives his $1.50 or $2 for his services. It is a matter of prime importance to him whether that day's labor is paid in the coin currency of the country as it is to-day, or whether he receives his pay in debased and depreciated silver dollars. It is estimated by the best statistical authorities that the wage-workers of this country are paid annually over $5,000,000,000 for their services. This represents a sum of money that will be directly affected if this bill is enacted into a law.
It will depreciate the earnings of the wage-workers of this country nearly one-fifth, or, in round numbers, Mr. Speaker, it will rob these honest, hard-working men of one thousand million dollars annually. It will not do for the gentlemen who favor the bill to insist that the wages of the laboring classes can be readjusted to the new order of things so that they will not be injured in the general wreck of business which will follow such legislation. Every person knows that they are the last to receive the benefits of legislation which enhances prices and the first upon whom the blow falls in a depreciation in values of the metals in which they are paid.
I think I can not better illustrate this than by quoting from President Andrew Jackson, who said in one of his annual messages to Congress:
The depreciation of currency is always attended by a loss to the laboring classes. This portion of the community have neither time nor opportunity to watch the ebbs and flows of the money market. Engaged from day to day in their useful toils they do not perceive that, although their wages are nominally the same, or even somewhat higher, they are greatly reduced in fact by the rapid increase of currency, which, as it appears to make money abound, they are at first inclined to consider a blessing.
The more this question is considered, Mr. Speaker, the more apparent it must become to all classes that such legislation will not only be ruinous to the country, but that it will be almost a crime as affecting the interests of the various classes whom I have here but briefly named. If silver is to be restored to its money power under a free and unlimited coinage, it ought to be done under an agreement with the leading nations of Europe, which to-day, as I have already said, are conducting their business upon a gold basis.
It is impossible for this Government to grant to silver the powers and privileges that this bill carries, and maintain it at a parity with gold; and, if that can not be done, it is worse than folly — it is a crime — to give it such qualities as will change the standard of values of our money. As a great and commercial nation, it is important that our medium of exchange be the same as that of the other great commercial nations of the world. As Daniel Webster said, in discussing this very question:
The circulating medium of a commercial community must be that which is also the circulating medium of other commercial communities, capable of being converted into that medium without loss. It must be able not only to pass in payments and receipts among individuals of the same society and nations, but to adjust and discharge the balance of exchanges between different nations.
If we had no foreign trade, and our commercial relations were limited simply to American citizens living in different sections of the American Republic, this change of money standard would not affect so materially and seriously the commerce and business of the country, but no value that the Government places upon silver as a legal tender among our citizens can affect our trade and commerce with foreign nations. It is the intrinsic value of the metal in foreign commerce that settles these questions rather than the minted value given to it by any special country. In fact, the stamp of the Government does not five value to the metal outside of the payment of debts among citizens in America. It simply stands as a guaranty of the fineness and purity of the metal; it says that a silver dollar which ahs the stamp of the Government upon it contains 371 Åº grains of pure silver. For the payment of an obligation which was contracted, and is to be cancelled in America, this 371 Åº grains is the equivalent of a gold dollar, but if the obligation is contracted abroad, and is to be paid there the stamp of the government weighs as nothing, and 371 Åº grains in the dollar is estimated at the bullion value of 69 cents.
In view of the many serious objections which exist against this bill, I ask you in all earnestness, Mr. Speaker, is it not more wise and patriotic to suspend all action here in the way of any legislation which shall look towards the restoration of silver to full legal-tender qualities until the Government can confer with the foreign powers with whom we have large trading and commercial interests, and interest them in an international conference, which shall result in all of the countries thus engaged adopting the free and unlimited coinage of silver on a ratio which will be common to all countries. If this is done, there will be no disturbance in the business arrangements of the country, and there will be no scaling down of prices, no deterioration of the earnings of the wage-workers, and no disturbance of the rights of any class of our citizens. It is only by means of this international conference suggested that we can be placed upon the bimetallism system that is alleged to be so dear to the hearts of these friends of silver.
In the interests and in obedience to the wishes of the people whom I have the honor to specially represent on this floor, and in accordance, in my judgment, with the best interests of the people of this country generally, I oppose the passage of this bill, and if, with my party associates, I may be successful in defeating its passage, I shall esteem it one of the most beneficial and patriotic efforts of my Congressional existence. [Applause on the Republican side.]