The Condition of the American Farmer.
I. The Farmer's Income.
THE mind cannot grasp the true condition of the American agriculturist until his income is properly analyzed. Though much has been written on this subject, yet few writers have gone to the bottom and presented the facts in their true significance.
The statistics of the Tenth and Eleventh Census, as well as the Agricultural Reports, contain many startling facts and figures in regard to the average income from the average farm in the United States.
The report of 1880, vol. 1, pages 684 and 685, gives the following figures:
|Number of farms in the United States....................||4,008,907|
|Number of acres in farms........||536,081,835|
|Number of acres in average farm.||134|
|Number of persons engaged in agriculture................||7,670,439|
|Representing a population of.....||23,011,317|
|Average number of persons depending on each farm for a living....................||5.74|
|Value of farm products sold, consumed on the farm, and on hand, for the census year 1879......................||$2,213,462,564.|
|Value of farm products per average farm..................||552|
|Per capita income of agricultural population....||96.16|
Census Bulletin No. 378, issued March 19, 1894, and the report of the statistician of the Department of Agriculture for December, 1894, pages 742 to 751, inclusive, contain the agricultural statistics for 1890, of which the following is a synopsis:
|Number of farms in the United States in 1890............||4,564,641|
|Number of acres in farms.......||623,218,619|
|Number of acres in average farm.||137|
|Total value of farms and stock...||$15,982,267,689|
|Value of farm products sold, consumed on the farm, and on hand....................||2,460,107,454|
|Value of farm products per average farm..............||538.94|
These figures, say the bulletin, "are subject to modification for the final report."
Carroll D. Wright, in reply to a letter asking if the value of farm products quoted above included all that was produced on the farms, said:
"I desire to inform you that the figures relative to the value of farm products were furnished by the farmers themselves to the enumerators in answer to the following query: ‘Estimated value of all farm productions (sold, consumed, or on hand) for 1889.’ These statistics, therefore, include all farm productions."
No-one will be so rash as to claim that this estimate is scientifically correct, yet all must admit that it is the best evidence obtainable. It is an official document of the highest authority.
According to this estimate the annual income from the average farm, containing 137 acres, was $538.94. If we allow 5.74 persons to each farm for l890, as reported by the census for 1880, and divide this $538.94 among them equally, we receive for our agricultural population an average annual per capita income of $93.89. If we again divide this amount by the number of days in the year (365), we receive for
8those who have to depend on the farm for a living an average per capita income of 25.8 cents per day.
It must be remembered that this $538.94 per farm, or 25.8 cents per day per capita, is not the profit made from the average farm or day's labor, but constitutes the value of the entire crops. It includes that portion consumed on the farm as well as that portion sold. Out of this amount the farmer must pay his taxes, insurance, interest, the cost of seed, hired help, wear and tear of farm implements, repairing of fences and buildings, and feed for his teams for one year while cultivating the crops. All these items must be paid out of the $538.94 before the farmer can have anything for himself and family. The question then is, how much will the average farmer and his family have for their own support after paying all these items? Will they have 15 cents per day per capita? No. Will they have ten? Possibly yes, but I doubt it. For argument's sake, however, we will admit that our agricultural population received a per capita income of ten cents per day, with which to buy food and clothing, educate tie children and pay incidental expenses.
The Board of Supervisors of Clark County, Illinois, as stated by the County Clerk, W. S. Lowery, pays
9two dollars per week for keeping each pauper, the keeper providing board, clothing, medical attendance and funeral expenses. If we accept this as the average amount paid by other counties and in other States, it amounts to 28.5 cents per day, almost three times as much as the net per capita income of those who have to depend on the farm for a living.
According to the report of the Commissioner of the Illinois Southern Penitentiary for 1890, the State for years received an average of $36,000 per annum for 250 convicts leased, which amounts to $144 per year, or 39.4 cents per day, for each convict. Thus we are confronted with the cold fact that our agricultural population is compelled to live on an income below that provided for paupers, and receive less for their labor than paid for convicts.
The statistical report of the Illinois State Board of Agriculture, issued August 1, 1895 (circular No. 170, page 4), contains a table giving the area, yield, value and cost of raising wheat in that State for thirty-six years — from 1860 to 1895, inclusive.
For the twenty-three years beginning with 1873 and ending with 1895, the farmers of Illinois produced 711,201,270 bushels of wheat. The total cost of raising the wheat was $513,796,560, or an average
10of 72 cents per bushel. The total value of the wheat crops for the twenty-three years was $570,196,855, or an average of 80 cents per bushel; leaving the wheat-growers an average net profit of 8 cents per bushel.
For the fifteen years beginning with 1881 and ending with 1895, the wheat-growers of Illinois produced 433,622,246 bushels of wheat. It cost them $317,938,450, or an average of 75.6 cents per bushel, to raise the wheat, and they received for it $314,901,674, or an average of 74.9 cents per bushel, leaving a net average loss to the wheat-growers of Illinois, for fifteen years, of seven-tenths of one cent per bushel.
For the three years from 1893 to 1895, inclusive, the wheat-growers of Illinois produced 78,324,916 bushels of wheat. It cost them $54,398,410, or 69.4 cents per bushel, to raise the wheat, and they received for it $37,705,974, or 48.1 cents per bushel, leaving a net loss of 21.3 cents for every bushel produced since the demonetization of silver by the present Administration.
The same circular, on page 5, contains a similar table in regard to the statistics of the oat crops.
For the same twenty-three years, the farmers of Illinois produced 2,032,054,015 bushels of oats. It cost them $579,402,111, or an average of 28.3 cents
11per bushel, to raise the oats, and they received $532,953,288, or 26.2 cents per bushel, leaving a net loss to the oat-growers of Illinois of 2.1 cents per bushel.
For the three years from 1893 to 1895, inclusive since the demonetization of silver, the oat-growers of Illinois, raised 326,012,952 bushels of oats. It cost them $94,105,341, or 28.6 cents per bushel, to raise the oats, and they received $77,116,027, or 23.6 cents per bushel, leaving a net loss to the oat-growers of Illinois, for the three years named, of 5 cents for every bushel produced.
Circular No. 163, issued December 1, 1893, contains a similar table giving the statistics for the corn crops.
For twenty-two years, from 1872 to 1893, inclusive, the farmers of Illinois produced 4,579,699,946 bushels of corn. It cost them $1,609,625,941, or an average of 35.1 cents per bushel, to raise the corn, and they receded for it $1,518,676,296, or an average of 33.1 cents per bushel, leaving a net loss of 2 cents per bushel for every bushel produced since 1871.
In 1893 the farmers of Illinois produced 167,687,971 bushels of corn. It cost them $57,422,269, or an average of 34.2 cents per bushel, to raise the corn, and they received for it $51,099,698, or an average of
1230 cents per bushel, leaving a net loss of 4.2 cents per bushel for every bushel produced.
The total profit since 1872 on raising wheat was $54,400,295, and the loss on oats $46,448,823, and on corn $90,949,645, which leaves a net loss to the farmers of Illinois on the three staple products of $82,998,173. These are cold facts gathered from the statistics of official documents. Illinois is one of the best agricultural States in the Union. Her soil is as fertile, her climate as genial and her farmers as enterprising as those of any other State. Whatever is true of the condition of the Illinois farmer is also true of the farmers of all other States.
Senator Peffer, in his report on "Agricultural Depression," published a table giving the value and cost of raising wheat, oats and corn in the State of Michigan for the year 1889, as follows:
The farmers of Michigan received $9,226,510 less for these crops in 1889 than it cost to raise them.
13The report of the Secretary of Agriculture for 1893, pages 515 to 518, inclusive, give the estimated cost of the principal items and the total cost of the production principal of wheat and corn per acre for 1893, as consolidated from the returns of nearly 30,000 leading farmers scattered throughout the United States.
The items and the total cost of raising an acre of wheat were as follows: Rent of land, $2.75 ; fertilizing, $2.34; preparing ground, $1.85; seed, 87 cents; sowing, 35 cents; harvesting, $1.17; thrashing, $1.13; housing, 33 cents; marketing, 69 cents. Total, $11.48.
The same report, on page 481, contains a table giving the value of the wheat crops for fourteen years from 1880 to 1893, inclusive. The value of an acre of wheat in 1893 was $6.16, and the cost of raising it, as stated above, $11.48, which leaves a net loss to the wheat-growers of the United States of $5.32 for every acre produced in that year.
The report also says that the average annual value of an acre of wheat for the fourteen years (from 1880 to 1893) was only $9.73. If the cost of raising an acre was no greater for each of the thirteen years preceding 1893 than for that year ($11.48), then we
14are confronted with the stubborn fact that the wheat-growers of the United States have lost $1.75 for every acre produced since 1879.
The items and the total cost of raising an acre of corn for 1893 were as follows: Rent of land, $2.90; fertilizing, $2.10; preparing ground, $1.60; seed, $0.14; planting, $0.38; cultivating, $1.72; gathering, $1.37; housing, $0.42; marketing, $1.08. Total, $11.71.
The same report, on page 478, contains a table giving the value of the corn crops from 1880 to 1893, inclusive. The value of an acre of corn for 1893 was $8.21, and the cost of raising it, as stated above, $11.71, which leaves a net loss to the corn-growers of the United States of $3.50 for every acre produced in that year.
The report further says that the average annual value of an acre of corn for the fourteen years (from 1880 to 1893) was only $9.61. If the cost of raising an acre was no greater for each of the thirteen years preceding 1893 than for that year ($11.71), then the corn-growers of the United States received $2.10 less per acre since 1879 than it cost to produce the corn.
Thus the investigation made by the United States Department of Agriculture corroborates the statistics
15of the Illinois and Michigan Agricultural Reports. Since1880 the farmers of the United States have been producing products below the cost of production. Whatever is true of corn, oats and wheat, is also true of every other staple product produced by the farmers of the United States.
These are facts and figures take from official documents, the best evidence we can get. They tell us in language as plain and forcible as words can make it why there is distress, unrest and discontent among our agricultural population; why there is a mortgage on the farm, and why the farmer who once owned the soil he cultivates is now a tenant. It is because for years he has been compelled to raise products below the cost of production.
Our Secretary of Agriculture, J. Sterling Morton, has never let an opportunity go by to advise the farmer to let politics and economics alone and strictly attend to his business of cultivating the soil. We wonder whether he did not feel humiliated when he was compelled by the facts to make a report stating that in 1893, the first year he had charge of the department, the farmers of the United States received $5.32 less per acre for wheat and $3.50 less per acre for corn than it cost to produce these cereals.
II. Depreciation of Farm Property.
SENATOR PEFFER, on page 13 of his report on "Agricultural Depression," in speaking of the depreciation of farm property, says:
"In Illinois improved lands fell from $20.81 in 1873 to $11.18 in 1892; wheat fell in the same time from $1.10 to 69 cents a bushel; corn fluctuated, but about maintained its normal price; oats was three cents higher in 1892 than it was in 1873; cattle dropped nearly 60 per cent; horses and mules went below that; hogs fell 50 per cent, and sheep 33 per cent.
"In Iowa all classes except sheep declined from 1870 to 1892.
"In Nebraska, improved lands fell from $4.60 to $3.72, more than 20 per cent., since 1885, and live stock dropped on an average about 40 per cent.
"In Kansas, land was about 15 per cent, lower in 1892 than it was in 1874 and 1884.
"In New York, according to the report of the State Comptroller submitted January, 1891, farm lands in that State had depreciated at least 33 (1/3) per cent, within a few years.
"In Pennsylvania, while correspondents differ, it may be stated that, on the whole, farm lands in that State have fallen 25 to 30 per cent, in less than twenty years.
"In the New England States, lands used for agricultural
17purposes are not valued as high now as they were in 1875 by 30 per cent."
Joel Benton, in an article published in the Popular Science Monthly for November, 1889, on "The Decadence of Farming in New York and the New England States," says:
"It is now twenty years at least that farming has been going rapidly downward. Farms bought in the war era have been selling almost everywhere in the East at from one-half to one-third of their cost. Farms in New England, and some in the Middle States, are frequently sold for less than the buildings cost which are upon them. This is really no exaggeration. Sales of this sort, where the depreciation in value has wiped out the owners' equity in them, have been for years a matter of notorious knowledge in almost every Eastern community. Within a year, in a healthy and fertile county not sixty miles from New York City, a farm having on it two mortgages, a first mortgage of $3,000 and a second mortgage of $2,000, was sold, under foreclosure, for the sum represented by the first mortgage only. The holder of the second one did not think it worth while to be present, or to have a representative present at the sale, to bid the single dollar which would have saved or made a show of saving his investment.
"Very recently the New York State assessors have issued a report containing some results of what they have discovered, so far as they have gone, in respect to the assessed valuation of farm lands in the
18various counties. And this is their story: ‘In fourteen counties visited they found that farming lands had depreciated in value, while city property had increased in value.’ State Assessor Wood is of the opinion that ‘in a few decades there will be few none but tenant farmers in this State. Year by year the value of farm lands depreciates.’ There is not the slightest reason to believe that there is a county in this State of which a better report can be made. The fourteen examined may well stand for all."
III. Increase of Tenant Farmers.
FRED. PERRY POWERS, in an article published in Lifipincott's Magazine for February, 1895, gives some important statistics, compiled from the Census Report, in regard to the rapid increase of "tenant farmers" in the United States:
"Between 1880 and 1890 the number of owning farmers decreased in every New England State, and the number of tenant farmers increased. In each of these States there was a marked increase in the percentage of farmers who ploughed the fields of another man, and in the sweat of whose brow somebody in Boston ate cake. In the six States, in the ten years, the owning farmers diminished 24,117, and the tenant farmers increased 7,246. The percentage of tenant farmers in Massachusetts, though
019not large in 1890, was nearly double what it was in 1880; over seventeen per cent. of farmers in Vermont and Connecticut and twenty-five per cent. of the farmers in Rhode Island were tenants in 1890.
"In each of the four Middle States the number of owning farmers decreased, and the number of tenant farmers increased. In the group the owners decreased 42,304, and the tenants increased 24,075. In New Jersey the tenants increased from nearly a fourth to nearly a third of the whole. In New York the loss of owning farmers was 26,534, and the gain of tenant farmers was 12,108. For Pennsylvania these figures were 11,292 and 9,222 respectively. * * * Of twelve Southern States six show a decrease in the number of owning farmers. In the group there was an increase of 13,915 owning farmers and 275,785 tenant farmers. In three Southwestern States, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas, there was a gain of 47,882 owning farmers and 114,510 tenant farmers. * * * Each of the three States of the Middle West, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, gives evidence of the same change, and the group lost 31,259 owning farmers and gained 48,864 tenant fanners. In Illinois the tenants increased from 31.37 to 36.72 per cent, of the whole. In eight States of the Northwest, in several of which public lands have been obtainable till quite recently, the number of owning farmers increased 129,322 and the number of tenant farmers increased 108,507. In Iowa the number of owning farmers increased 3,521, while the number of tenant farmers increased 16,563.
20In Kansas the owning farmers increased 2,121 and the tenant farmers increased 30,463. In the Pacific and Mountain States and the Territories, the number of owning farmers increased 65,512, and the number of tenant farmers increased 20,350.
"In forty-seven States and Territories the number of owning farmers increased 158,951, and the number of tenant farmers increased 599,337. In 1880 25.62 per cent, of the farms were cultivated by tenants; in 1890, 34.13 per cent, of the farm families hired."
In commenting on these figures, Mr. Powers has this to say:
"The American farmer is following the English yeoman into extinction, and the creation of landlord and tenant classes has already made considerable progress here. Specialization is one of the incidents of evolution, and evolution in agriculture is giving us, instead of one class of farmers, who were simultaneously landlord, tenant and laborer, farmers of the three classes permanently distinct.
"The economic change is already producing political changes. The Populist movement of the day is the beginning of the dying struggle for political power of a race of farmers who supplied most of the Fathers of the Republic, who were for many years the controlling power within it, but who are now losing their land, and with it their political weight.
* * * The American farmer is being detached from the earth; he is losing his farmland is therefore imagining vain things. He is taking up with the
21most foolish and obviously senseless notions regarding currency and credit and capital and labor and property that were ever harbored by the minds of intelligent human beings. * * * The agricultural population of this country will in fifty years be poor and illiterate, made up of hired laborers on great estates, of tenants and of proprietors of small patches of ground, which they will cultivate with the spade, and of whose produce they will eat only what cannot be sold. * * * We shall probably find, when all the returns are in, that our farms are dividing themselves into two classes, small farms usually cultivated by tenants, a peasant class, and large farms cultivated under the owner's superintendence by hired men, the farm-laborer class of England. But the man who owns a farm of three or four sections will find town life within his reach, and much more to his taste, and especially to the taste of his wife and children, than life in the country, and this means the three agricultural classes of England : the owner, who lives in the city or in Europe, and enjoys the revenues formally distributed among a considerable number of owning farmers; the tenant farmer, who has increasing difficulty in paying his rent; and the farm laborer, who gets not quite enough food to keep him thoroughly nourished, and who is attached to the soil", not by any law of serfage, but by the iron law of poverty, ignorance and lack of spirit."
I hope that every farmer in the land will read these quotations from a plutocratic pen, and ponder
22well the future condition of his class therein predicted — serfdom as degrading and ignominious as that of the feudal ages.
IV. Decadence of Home-Ownership.
"Mr. J. A. COLLINS, in an able article in The American Magazine of Civics for January, 1895, on "The Decadence of Home-ownership in the United States," says:
"No patriotic citizen can read the sad record without a sigh of regret and a chill of fear, without a heart-pang at the realization of the sad truth that the home-life of the people is in its decadence, and that if present conditions are continued and their results steadily developed, the American home will in a short time come to be but a memory; a lovely feature in the legend of an ideal people. * * * A few decades ago the great bulk of the population was made up of home-owners, and their homes were practically free from incumbrance 5 to-day the vast bulk of the population are tenants. * * *
"The census of 1890 shows that on June 1st of that year the total population was about 63,450,760, or 12,690,152 families of five members each, or an aggregate of that many homes, both owned and rented. Out of this 12,690,152 families, the number
23owning and occupying mortgaged homes and farms was 2,250,000, leaving 10,440,152 families occupying hired homes and farms or those they own free of incumbrance. About 8,250,000 occupy hired homes or farms — that is, they are tenants, leaving 2,190,152 who occupy their homes free of incumbrance. This is only about 16 per cent, of the total number of families, leaving 84 per cent, of the total number as occupants of hired and mortgaged homes. As about 18 per cent, of the whole number occupy mortgaged homes, the percentage of actual tenants is about 66 per cent. But the occupant of a mortgaged home is virtually but a tenant of the mortgagee, and we find 84 per cent, of the families of the nation are virtually tenants.
"All of this, and money constantly appreciating in value, while wages and the products of labor are steadily decreasing. What has this nation to offer the great industrial class to secure its devotion, to develop its patriotism? What is there in the future for this class. * * *
"On June 1, 1890, in the State of Kansas, the number of mortgages in force was 298,880, amounting to the vast sum of $243,146,826, covering 26,590,795 acres, showing a per capita debt of $170, or $850 to each family. As the population of the State only includes 286,055 families, this represents more than one mortgage to every family in the State; but of course this number of mortgages covers all classes of property, and does not relate to homes alone. * * * In Iowa the total number of mortgages was 252,539,
24aggregating a debt of $199,774,171, incumbering 16,312,176 acres, making a per capita debt of $104, or $520 to each family. As the State contains 384,181 families, this represents a mortgage to about even family in the State. In Illinois there were 297,247 mortgages, amounting to $384,299,180, representing a per capita of $100, or $500 per family, or not quite one mortgage to every two families. These are representative States of the best agricultural sections in the West, with every advantage of soil and climate, and every facility for transportation to convenient and extensive markets. These figures are a fair index for all of the Western States.
"It may be stated as an undeniable fact that fifty years ago the United States was a nation of homeowners; a mortgaged home was an unusual condition; to-day almost 70 per cent, of our population are actually tenants, and a mortgage stands on record against every seven individuals of the entire population — almost one to every family in the nation.
* * * Already above 70 per cent, of our population are reduced to the condition of tenants; the free home-owner is becoming the exception; a landlord system is being rapidly established, and the great mass of the population, under our boasted free institutions, are dependent upon a class for the very roofs which shelter them. The American people, from a nation of free home-owners, are becoming the dependents of a favored class, not only for the employment which gives them food, but for the roof which shelters their helpless families.
"The United States to-day shows a greater proportion of dependents or tenant families than any nation of the civilized world, with the exception of Great Britain, and is not far behind that.
Country. Percentage of Tenants. Australia...................... 10.17 Belgium...................... 33.02 Denmark.................... 66.09 France........................ 28.94 Holland....................... 39.60 Portugal...................... 28.17 Sweden....................... I7.32
"United States, over 70 per cent. In the United Kingdom the great bulk of the population is of the tenant class. In the other countries the percentage is given of the average, which probably is not far from the percentage of population.
|Country.||Percentage of Tenants.|
"Is it not startling that in the greatest republic on earth, whose free institutions and free homes have been its boast for a hundred years, the percentage of its dependent population should be greater than even in the monarchies of Europe?"
V. Depreciation of Farm Products.
Gen. A. J. WARNER, in an able article on "The Depreciation in the Value of Farm Products," published in the New York Sun, January 12, 1894, says:
"Take first the leading staples, wheat, cotton, corn, oats and hay. The average value of an acre's product of these crops in 1873 was $15.65; in 1893, for the same quantity of products, $8.15, a fall of nearly 48 per cent.
"If we take wheat alone, the fall has been from $13.16 to $6 per acre, or over 54 per cent.; and if we take cotton, the fall has been greater still, or from $28.01 to $10.65, or a decline in value of an acre's product, the quantity being the same as for 1873, of 62 per cent. The average acre's value of the crops of 1873 was 85 per cent, greater than in 1893. * * * If the farm products of this year (1893) could be sold at the price prevailing in 1873, they would bring the farmers nearly $1,500,000,000 more than the price prevailing this year. This would make a big difference in the debt-paying power of the farmers."
Again, in "Facts about Silver," pages 34 and 35, he continues:
"In 1872 milch cows were worth $33 each. In 1893 not over $20 each. The number of cows in
271872 was one to a little less than four of population. In 1893 the number was one to a little more than four of population, so that, relatively to population, the number of cows had decreased, and their value at the same time had fallen 40 per cent. * * * At the price of wheat in 1873 the value to the farmers of the crop of 1893 would have been $455,000,000, instead of $178,000,000 — a difference of $277,000,000. This would have gone a long way towards paying off mortgages. The corn crop of 1893, at the price of 1873, would have yielded $660,000,000 instead of $412,000,000.
"The cotton crop of 1893, at the price of cotton in 1873, would have been worth to the South $496,000,000, instead of $184,000,000, its actual value in 1893."
George H. Merrick, of Colorado, in an able article published in the June number, 1894, of the American Journal of Politics, makes the following comparison between the prices in 1873 and 1894:
"Fifty bushels of American wheat in 1873 paid as much interest in gold as 117 (1/2) pay to-day. Fifty bushels paid as much interest in gold in 1883 as 105 bushels do now. In 1873 1,000 pounds of cotton would exchange for $188; in 1883, for $108; in 1893, $70. But this is not alone a wheat and cotton and silver question; the inquiry, if carried to other matters, land values, the price of lumber, wool and other products, gives like results, showing a continuous decline in all else but gold."
The New York Sun, in an able editorial of September 10, 1893, among other things has this to say in regard to the decreased purchasing power of the farmer's products:
"The extent of the reductions made in revenue from each acre under staple crops is best shown by saying that the acre revenue from 1866 to 1870 was $7.59. or 93 per cent, greater than in 1893; from 1871 to 1875 it was $7.04, or 86 per cent, greater than in 1893; from 1876 to 1880 it was $3.73, or 46 per cent, greater than in 1893; from 1881 to 1885 it was $3.13, or 38 per cent, greater than in 1893; from 1886 to 1890 it was $1.74, or 21 per cent, greater than in 1893. The great diminution in the purchasing power of the farmer, implied by these progressive reductions in acreage revenue, without compensating reduction in the cost of cultivation, is thus clearly shown, but the enormous yearly aggregate of lost purchasing power is comprehensible only when we multiply the acres now employed in growing staples by the decline shown in the acreage value of products since 1870.
"As 206,000,000 acres are now employed in growing staple crops, it follows that the power of the farmer to purchase is this year (1893) $1,563,000,000 less than it would be if he was receiving the price of 1866-70 for his great staples. If the prices now realized in the farm markets equaled those received from 1871 to 1875, the farmer would this year be able to spend $1,450,000,000 more for manufactures and other commodities than he will be able to spend with
29prices at the present level. Were prices now equal to the average of those obtained from 1876 to 1880, the purchasing power of the farmers would this year be augmented by $768,000,000. Should the crops of 1893 give average yields and prices equal those current from 1881 to 1885, the farmers' spending power would be $645,000,000 greater than with present prices. Even with prices as low as those prevailing from 1886 to 1890, the farmers of the United States would have $358,000,000 added to their debt-paying and purchasing power in 1893, and like advances on the other products of the farm would create an ample fund for building and general improvement, thus employing more labor."
VI. Views of Practical Farmers.
JOHN SIETZ, of Tiffin, Ohio, in a letter dated January 21, 1894, reviewing the condition of the farmer in that State, says:
"By the most rigid economy he manages to hold to what he accumulated years ago. * * * It has become a grave question whether to change the style of living to conform to the ‘peasant’ standard of Europe, or consume the accumulation of a life-time, and leave nothing to the children. * * *
"Wheat, corn, wool and horses have been the staple farm products in Ohio. The market value of
30these is such to-day that no margin of profit is realized. The hired man, at $18 or $20 per month and board, will have more at the end of the year than his employer. Never before in my life of forty-five years of responsible activity have I seen a time when, in spite of the hardest labor, strictest temperance, plainest frugality and closest economy, the ‘average farmer’ has grown poorer from year to year. * * *
"The report of the Ohio State Board of Charities gives the number of dependents and the amount paid them as follows:
|From 1890 to 1891...||97,910||$3,166,778|
|From 1891 to 1892...||115,614||3,254,301|
|From 1892 to 1893..||154,426||3,959,704|
"In 1890 one in 37(1/4) of the population was fed on charities. In 1891 one in 31 11-14 of the population was fed on charities. In 1892 one in 23 1-7 of the population was fed on charities.
"Thus you see the rapid increase of pauperism and consequent increase of taxation to the farmer, who not only pays his own tax, but the bondholders' and trading classes' generally."
John P. Stelle, of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, in a letter dated January 24, 1894, writes:
"Without going into figures, the general claim among farmers is that they cannot produce wheat at a profit for less than $1 per bushel, nor corn for less than 50 cents. For wheat they received this year from 48 to 50 cents, and for corn from 30 to 35 cents
31per bushel. I myself harvested last year a very good crop of wheat — wheat that weighed about sixty-three pounds to the measured bushel, and averaged about twenty bushels per acre. After the wheat was thrashed and still at the machine, I made a public offer that if any one would pay me the actual cost I had paid out in producing and thrashing the crop, he could take the wheat, without saying anything of land-rent and work that had not cost me money, and the offer found no taker."
Is it any wonder that under such conditions unrest and discontent exist in the land. Can people be happy and contented when they receive less for their products than it costs to raise them? How long would the merchant remain in business if he was compelled to sell good for less than what they cost him? How long would the banker, manufacturer, lawyer and physician continue to follow their vocation under such conditions? Yet the farmer is chained to the soil, with nothing but long and weary hours of labor before him, and looked upon by every trust and combination as legitimate prey.
VII. The Overproduction Fallacy.
The next question is, why is it that the farmer is compelled to raise products below the cost of production? Why is that his income is less than
32that provided for paupers, and his wages he, paid for convicts? There is a cause for all this, and it is the duty of every patriot to find this cause, and then to apply a remedy.
Our Republican and Democratic friend that it is overproduction. They say that prices are low because farmers produce more than can be consumed. This is a serious question, and deserves careful consideration. If the farmer has reduced the price of his products below the cost of production by raising too much and working to hard, then the only remedy required is for him to work less and produce less.
If they can prove that the farmers of the United States produce more wheat, corn, cotton and other products per capita to-day than they did five, ten or fifteen years ago, or that the increase in food products has been greater than the increase in population, then I will admit that overproduction has something to do with it; but, upon the other hand, if we can prove that the United States and the world produce less agricultural products per capita at the present time than they did five, ten or fifteen years ago, or that the increase in population has been greater than the increase in food products, then overproduction is a myth and has nothing to do with these abnormal conditions.
The following table gives the annual production and the farm price of wheat in the United States, as compiled by the Department of Agriculture. The bushels per capita is obtained by dividing the number of bushels produced by our population:
|Years.||Number of Bush'ls Prod'ed||Bushels Per Capita.||Price Per Bushel.|
Take a glance at this table, and then think of the overproduction theory. In 1880, when we produced almost ten bushels per capita, wheat sold, for 95.1 cents per bushel, and in 1889, ten years later, with two bushels less per capita, it sold for 69.8 cents.
Again, in 1893, with but 5.9 bushels per capita, it sold for 53.8 cents per bushel, 41.3 cents less than in 1880, when our per capita production was 9.9
34bushels. If overproduction was the cause of low prices, these figures would be reversed; the farmers would have received more for their wheat in 1893 and 1892 than they did in 1891 and 1880. In 1893 we produced four bushels less per capita than in 1880, and yet it sold for 41.3 cents less per bushel; and again in 1894, with 6.6 bushels per capita, the farmer received only 49.1 cents per bushel, while in 1888, with 6.8 bushels, wheat brought 92.6 cents. If overproduction was the cause, why should there be so much difference in the price when there is comparatively none in the quantity produced?
The following is a similar table, from the same source, in regard to the production of corn:
|Years.||Number of Bush'ls Produced.||Bushels Per Capita.||Price Per Bushel.|
This table is far more significant than the one for wheat, because it may be said that the price of wheat in this country is fixed by the Liverpool market, and the production of that cereal in India, Australia and South America has a tendency to depress prices here; but this cannot be said of corn, because we are the only great corn-producing nation on earth, and its price here is not fixed by foreign competition.
The average annual export of corn from 1870 to 1890 has been but 3.8 per cent. of the amount produced, which is too small to exert much influence on its price here. But what does this table teach? In 1880, with 34.2 bushels per capita, corn was worth 39.6 cents per bushel, and in 1889, ten years later, with 34.3 bushels per capita, it sold for 28.3 cents per bushel. Again, in 1890, with 23.7 bushels per capita, it sold for 50.6 cents per bushel, and in 1893, with 24.3 bushels per capita, it brought only 36.5 cents. Again in 1891, when we produced 32.2 bushels per capita, corn was worth 40.6 cents per bushel, and once year later, with but 24.9 bushels per capita, it sold for 39.4 cents per bushel. If overproduction was the cause, these figures would be reversed: we would have received more for our corn when we had but 24.9 bushels per capita than when we had 32.2 bushels.
The same is true of cotton. The following table gives the annual production from 1885 to 1894, inclusive. The figures for the first seven years are those compiled by the Department of Agriculture, in its miscellaneous series, Report No. 5, for 1893; those for 1892 are taken from the "Statistical Abstract" for 1893, page 218; those for 1893 are taken from General Warner's article published in the New York Sun January 12, 1894, where he estimates the crop of 1893 at 6,600,000 bales; and those for 1894 are taken from the report of the statistician of the Department of Agriculture for January and February, 1895, in which the crop is estimated at 9,088,000 bales. The price is also that given by Gen. Warner in "Facts about Silver," except for 1894, which is taken from the report of the Department of Agriculture. The number of pounds per capita is obtained by dividing the annual product by our population:
|Years.||Number of Pounds Produced.||Pounds Per Capita.||Price Per Pound.|
This table exhibits some startling facts. From 1886 to 1889, inclusive, the production of cotton gradually increased from 54.7 to 59.0 pounds per capita, and during these years the price remained almost stationary. In 1890 and 1891 the production increased about ten pounds per capita, and the price also increased one-tenth and two-tenths of a cent per pound. Again, in 1892 and 1893, with a great and sudden decrease in production, the price also declined, so that the small crop of 1893, which was 29.6 per cent, less per capita, sold for 30 per cent, less per pound than the large one produced in 1891. Again, in 1894, with a crop no larger than for 1890 and 1891, cotton sold for 4.6 cents per pound, while in the two former years it was worth ten.
This table controverts the theory of overproduction, and bids defiance to every argument advanced on that line. Here are the actual facts: Prices not only declined with a decrease in production, but they actually increased with an increase in production. No argument, however ingenious, can prove that these falling prices are due to overproduction.
Report No. 123 of the Department of Agriculture for January and February, 1895, page 5, contains a table giving the number and value of horses, mules milch cows, oxen and other cattle, sheep and swine in the United States from 1868 to 1895, inclusive. The aggregate number of farm animals, their total value, and average value per head, for the three years named, are as follows:
|Years.||Numbers.||Total Value.||Value Per Head.|
This table shows that from 1893 to 1895 there was a decrease of 5.3 per cent, in the number of farm animals, and a decline of 22.6 per cent, in their value. If overproduction was the cause, these figures would be reversed: the price of farm animals would be higher in 1895 than in previous years.
What is true of wheat, corn, cotton and farm animals is also true of other agricultural products. The best evidence obtainable proves that our population has increased faster than the increase in food products. This is especially true of corn and farm animals, as the foreign market has little or no influence on their price here.
No doubt our friends who believe in overproduction are willing to concede the fact that our population has increased faster than the increase in food products; but they reply that the price of those commodities which we export is fixed in the foreign market, where we are compelled to compete with the world, and that the increase in the production of agricultural products since India, South America and Australia opened their wheat and cotton fields exceeds the increase in the world's population. Although their arguments have often been refuted, yet many able writers still give this point some consideration.
It is to be regretted that accurate statistics for a series of years of the world's agricultural products are difficult to obtain; but facts and figures for the two staple articles, wheat and cotton, are at hand, which can be used as a basis for others, because they are in such general use, and enter into the industrial and commercial world more than any others.
In 1886 the population of the globe, according to Levasseur's table in Mulhall's "Dictionary of Statistics," was 1,479,445,230, with an annual increase of about 0.4746 per cent.
The table below, compiled by Morton Frewen, by
40striking a mean between the figures published by the Department of Agriculture, from Dornbusch and from the report of the Vienna Congress, with the London price, gives the world's production of wheat for the years named:
|Years.||Number of Bushels Produced.||Bushels Per Capita.||London Price.|
In 1891 wheat in the London market was worth $1.25 per bushel, and in 1893, with one-tenth of one bushel less per capita, it was worth but 76 cents. A decrease of 5.3 per cent, in the quantity produced, with a decline of 39.2 per cent, in its price, does not accord with the overproduction theory.
The following table gives the world's production of cotton, the number of pounds per capita, and the Liverpool price for the years named. The figures of production from 1890 to 1891, 1891 to 1892, and 1892 to 1893, are taken from the report of the statistician of the Department of Agriculture for 1893, page 547, and those for 1893 to 1894, and 1894 to 1895, from the World's Almanac, as furnished by Ellison & Co. The price for the first four years is that given by Latham, Alexander & Co., in their report for 1894,
41page 120, and for the last year from the London market quotations:
|Years.||Number of Pounds Pro'ced.||Pounds Per Capita.||Price Per Pound.|
|1890 to 1891||5,063,200,000||3.3||9.88 cents|
|1891 to 1892||5,276,000,000||3.4||8.36 "|
|1892 to 1893||4,257,600,000||2.8||9.14 "|
|1893 to 1894||4,847,076,000||57.1||9.8 "|
|1894 to 1895||4,932,000,000||3.2||6.70 "|
This decline in the price of cotton, like that for wheat, cannot be attributed to overproduction. Another important factor against this theory is that the percentage of the world's population using wheat and cotton is constantly increasing. As new countries, like the interior of Africa, China and others, are opened to commerce, cotton more than any other product enters into their trade. No argument, however ingenious, can prove that low prices for agricultural products, either in this country or the world at large, are due to overproduction. We must look for the cause in some other direction.
VIII. The Cause.
If overproduction, as we have proven, is not the cause for the decline in the price of agricultural products, what, then, is it? Is the decline in prices
42due to exorbitant transportation rates? No. They are lower at present than ever before. Is it due to the land question? No. Land values have depreciated with the price of farm products. Is it due to the tariff or the wage question? No. What, then, is it? The real and fundamental cause is due to our financial system — the contraction of our paper currency and the demonetization of silver. At least ninety per cent, of the depreciation in the price of farm products is due to the increased purchasing power of the dollar caused by a change in our financial system.
All the money in circulation is always pitted against all the property, and prices spring out of the relation money and property bear towards each other. So long as this relation is undisturbed the general level of prices is maintained; but the moment we increase or decrease the amount of property on the one hand, or the volume of money on the other, we also disturb this relation.
To illustrate, suppose that the value of all the property in the United States is 165,000,000,000, and the volume of money in circulation, as stated by the Secretary of the Treasury January 1, 1894, is $1,729,018,266. We then have $37.59 worth of property for every dollar in money; that is, the relation or ratio of money to property is 1 to 37.59. Every time we
43add one dollar to our money volume, or destroy one dollar, we also add or destroy $37.59 of value in the property in order to maintain the proper ratio between the two.
An act of Congress which would destroy one-half our money would squeeze $37.59 worth of property into $18.79 of money, and an act which would double the volume of money would expand prices so that $37.59 worth of property would then be worth $75.18 in money.
The supply and demand of that one article, money, is as potent in determining the price of products and property as the supply and demand of all other articles combined. An increase or decrease in the supply of any one commodity, say corn or cotton, affects the price of that particular commodity only, but an increase or decrease in the volume of money effects the price of all commodities alike.
Suppose the supply of every article which enters the channels of commerce should be cornered by a few speculators — that is, suppose there should be a special corner for each article produced. Think of the power these combined corners would have in fixing prices which the people would have to pay.
Again, suppose that over on the opposite side of all these corners we should have one more — a corner on money. Then the power of this one corner in fixing
44the price of products and property would be as great as that of all other corners combined. Why? Because the demand for money equals the demand for all other articles.
In 1866 the population of the United States was 35,819,281, and our volume of money $1,863,409,216, which gave us a per capita circulation of $52.01On March 1, 1895, according to the statement of the Secretary of the Treasury, we had $1,574,534,577 outside of the Treasury vaults, and a population of about 69,000,000, making our per capita circulation at the present time $22.82. Admitting that every dollar reported to be outside the Treasury vaults is in circulation (but everybody knows that it is not), we still have $288,874,659 less money among the people to-day, with a population of 69,000,000, than we had thirty years ago with a population of only 35,819,281.
Since 1866 our population has increased 92 per cent., commerce and trade have doubled, but our volume of money has actually decreased 15 per cent.
For thirty years our demand for money has advanced in one direction, while its supply has receded in another.
PRICES in gold standard countries, like the United States and the principal nations of Europe, have fallen 45 to 50 per cent, since 1873. Prices in silver standard countries, like Mexico, India, China and Japan, have remained stationary since 1873. These are cold facts which no theory can controvert. From this it logically follows, if a silver standard country like Mexico should demonetize silver, and establish the gold standard, the general range of prices in that country would gradually fall until they reached a level with those of other gold standard countries. Again, if a gold standard country like the United States should remonetize silver, the general range of prices would gradually rise until they reached a level with those of silver standard countries.
The great benefit to the American farmer from the free coinage of silver is that it will increase the price of agricultural products to the extent of the difference between the gold or commercial price of silver and its mint or coinage price.
To illustrate the point: The price of a bushel of wheat is the Liverpool market for more than a generation has been an ounce of silver. The value of the
46two has remained in touch for more than an a quarter of a century. As the price of silver has gone up or down wheat has followed. If we single out any one year, say 1892, we can estimate what the demonetization of silver has cost the wheat-growers since 1873. The average London price for silver in 1892 was 87.1 cents per ounce. In that year an India farmer could ship a bushel of wheat to Liverpool, receive an ounce of silver for it, and have the silver coined into rupees, at a ratio of 15 to 1, worth $1.37 in legal tender money in India. An American farmer could also take a bushel of wheat to Liverpool, receive an ounce of silver for it, bring this silver home to the United States and sell it for whatever he could get, which was about 86 cents per ounce. Thus the India farmer realized $1.37 per bushel for his wheat delivered to Liverpool, while the American farmer received but 86 cents for his — a difference, to the disadvantage of the American farmer, of 51 cents per bushel.
But suppose we had had free coinage of silver in this country in 1892 at the ratio of 16 to 1, what then would have been the price of wheat in that year? Then an American wheat-grower could have shipped a bushel of wheat to Liverpool, received his ounce of silver for it, brought this silver home, taken it to the mint and had it coined into full legal-tender standard
47silver dollars, thus receiving $1.29 instead of 86 cents for his bushel of wheat — a difference of 43 cents per bushel. This is also true of cotton and other products which we export, and which come in competition with the products of free-coinage nations. Morton Frewen, an eminent English economist, in his remarks before the silver convention held in Washington, D. C. in 1892, said:
"The price of wheat in this country is its price in London or Liverpool, less the cost of carriage from here there, and the London price of wheat is, under ordinary conditions, one ounce of silver per bushel of wheat. Your farmers will always have to sell a bushel of wheat, say at Chicago, for an ounce of silver, less freight charges to London. If, then, silver is worth $1.29 per ounce, the London price of American wheat is $1.29, while, if silver is worth go cents, then your wheat will realize only 90 cents. This is a statement that will bear close examination, and it is the sum of the importance of the silver question to your nation. * * * Admitting, then, what all students of prices do admit, namely, that the purchasing power of the rupee in India is well maintained, the fact that the price of wheat and cotton falls with the price of the silver exchange between Europe and Asia is not a moment open to doubt."
Since the gold price of silver has fallen below its mint or coin price, and a portion of the mints of the
48world have remained open to silver, a new phase has entered into the discussion of the money question which has never existed before, a phase which, if not correctly understood and properly remedied, will not only put our farmers at the mercy of their competitors in silver standard countries, but our commerce and manufacturing industries at the mercy of the Mongolian.
The decline in the gold price of silver has the effect of giving the wheat and cotton growers in silver standard countries an export bounty to the extent of the difference between the mint price and the bullion price of silver. The contest between the yellow metal and the white metal involves the question of putting the farmers of this country on equal footing, in the markets of the world, with those of silver standard countries.
To illustrate the point: Suppose a wheat-grower of the United States and one from a silver standard country meet in Liverpool, each with one bushel of wheat. They sell their wheat for, say, 65 cents per bushel, and receive their pay in gold. The wheat-grower from the silver standard country takes his gold and buys silver bullion worth 65 cents per ounce. On his arrival home he takes it to the mint and has it coined into legal-tender money worth (16 to 1) $1.29. But the wheat-grower of the United
49States returns with his 65 cents in gold, because our government tells him: "You need not bring any silver home. We will not coin it." Thus our wheat-grower would realize 65 cents for his bushel of wheat, and the one from the silver standard country $1.29.
Suppose a cotton planter of the South and one from Mexico should meet in Liverpool, each with one bale of cotton? The transaction would result to the disadvantage of our planter, just as the wheat transaction resulted to the disadvantage of our wheat-grower.
Again, suppose that a wool-grower of the West and one from South America should meet in Boston or New York, each with 5,000 pounds of wool. Our wool-grower would have to return home with only half as much money, to pay debts and taxes, as his competitor from South America. Many other articles may be mentioned, but these are sufficient to illustrate the point.
Thus the farmers of the United States, especially the wheat and cotton growers, are only receiving the gold price of silver for their products, while those in silver standard countries are receiving its mint or coin price for theirs. The demonetization of silver in this country has the same effect as paying an export bounty to the farmers of silver standard countries.
Our farmers are compelled to cultivate two acres raise two bushels of wheat and two bales of cotton while their competitors in silver standard countries raise but one bushel of wheat, one bale of cotton and do only half as much work, and yet receive the same amount of money with which to pay debts and taxes as those who cultivate our soil. How long can our farmers exist under these conditions?
If Congress should pass an act declaring that all the wheat grown in this county in 1895 should be sold in the Liverpool market for 64 cents less per bushel than that grown in silver standard countries, does any one believe that such a law could be enforced? No. Such a law would be a dead letter from the very minute of its enactment. Yet Congress accomplished the same result by closing the mints of the United States to the white metal, while those of other countries remained open.
The silver question is of greater importance to the farmers and planters of this country than to any other class. Unless they can be placed upon equal footing with the planters and farmers of silver standard countries, it is but a question of time when we will have a system of peasantry like that of Europe.
Senator Jones, of Nevada, in his speech in the extra session of Congress of 1893, said:
"Every decline, therefore, in the price of silver bullion, so far as our farmers and cotton planters are concerned, is a decline in the price of wheat and cotton at Liverpool, though not a decline in the price of anything that the East Indian people need, or consume, or buy. * * * Every decline in the gold price of silver bullion is a premium — a bounty — given to the producer of wheat and cotton in India over the American farmer and cotton planter in the prices of those commodities in European markets."
Senator Jones also quotes from Mr. Bagehot; for many years the editor of the London Economist, who says:
"The necessary effect of a depreciation of silver as against gold is to give a bounty on exports from India and the other silver-using countries to England. An English merchant can now buy many more rupees than he formerly could with the same number of sovereigns, and, therefore, he can import from India, though prices at Calcutta are not at a level at which it would have paid him to operate if he had not had that novel facility in getting rupees."
Again he quotes from Sir Robert Fowler, a member of Parliament and ex-Mayor of London, who in 1886 said:
"The effect of the depreciation of silver must finally be the ruin of the wheat and cotton industries of America and be the development of India as the chief wheat and cotton exporter of the world."
The demonetization of silver in the United States made it possible for India to develop her wheat and cotton fields. With silver worth $1.29 per ounce or with our mints open to silver, India could not export her wheat and cotton at a profit. On this point Senator Jones quotes from the testimony of Prof. Nicholson before the British Royal Commission in 1887:
"Now, it seems to be probable, if the price of silver rose to its old level, wheat could not be profitably exported from India until prices rose in a corresponding degree; for, India being a silver country, the price of wheat there is independent of the relative value of gold and silver. An exporter to England at present will give the Indian price in silver, and he can buy his silver for less gold, and thus competition will lower the price. If the price of silver rose, the exporter from India must get more gold. Thus a rise of silver would, on this view, raise the price of wheat to a corresponding degree."
Mr. David McLean, manager of the Hong Kong and Shanghai banking corporation of London, in his testimony before the same commission, in answer to the following questions, stated:
"Q. Some witnesses have told us that the rate of exchange between India and England acts like an export bounty or bonus upon the wheat sent from India to England. Is that your opinion?
"A. I think the fall in exchange has encouraged the export of wheat from India very largely.
"Q. And every additional fall acts as a bonus?
"Q. And you think that the fall in exchange has stimulated the export of wheat from India?"
"A. Yes; there is no doubt about it.
"Q. Do you think that that will be an abiding stimulus?
"A. I think so; I think it will go on increasing."
To this interesting testimony Senator Jones adds:
"So long, therefore, as India exports wheat, and it has hardly more than commenced, the price of India wheat will fix the price of American wheat until such time as silver is remonetized in the United States.
* * * With reference to cotton, an ounce of silver will place ten pounds of that commodity in Liverpool. However low, therefore, the price of silver bullion may fall, the American planter must, for the price of an ounce of that metal, deliver ten pounds of raw cotton in Liverpool. Should silver fall to 50 cents an ounce, if he would sell his cotton he must deliver ten pounds of cotton in Liverpool, and pay transportation charges on it, all for 5 cents a pound.
"By bringing the price of silver bullion to a parity with gold on the relation established in this country since 1792, our farmers and cotton-planters will be relieved of the competition of the East Indian in the markets of Europe."
Let the reader for a moment reflect what the
54demonetization of silver has cost the American farmer since 1873. The loss sustained by the cotton-planter alone for the seventeen years from 1873 to 1889, as stated by Senator Jones of Nevada in his speech in the United States Senate, May 12 and 13, 1890, is as follows:
"At the price of cotton in 1873 the result of each year would be 2,500,000,000 pounds, at 16.4 cents, $410,000,000.
"According to the figures given by the Bureau of Statistics, the average price received each year of the seventeen was 13.1 cents per pound; 2,500,000,000 pounds, at 13.1 cents per pound, equals 1327,000,000, showing a difference of $83,000,000; that being the average for each separate year for seventeen years, or a total sum for the entire period of $1,411,000,000, which represents the loss in debt and tax-paying power suffered by the cotton-planters by reason of the demonetization of silver."
In regard to the loss sustained by the wheat-growers for the same number of years, he continues:
"A like computation with regard to wheat will show a loss in debt-paying and tax-paying power of- not less than $100,000,000 a year to the fanners of the Northwest by reason of the demonetization of silver — a total of $1,700,000,000, in the article of wheat alone, in seventeen years."
Again, in his speech during the extra session of
55Congress in 1893, he further stated that the loss sustained by the wheat and cotton-growers of this country, for the eight years preceding 1893, averaged for wheat $225,000,000, and for cotton $100,000,000 per year, making a total loss of $1,300,000,000 for the four years following 1889. If we add to this amount $700,000,000 for the loss sustained since 1893, and the $3,111,000,000 for the seventeen years previous to 1889, we have the enormous sum of over $5,000,000,000 which the demonetization of silver has cost the American farmer and planter on wheat and cotton.
For twenty years the silver taken out of the American mines has been used as a club to drive the American wheat and cotton out of the markets of the world. It almost seems incredible that the American farmer, intelligent and enterprising as he is, should for twenty years go to the polls and vote for men and parties who have annually legislated over $250,000,000 out of his pocket on wheat and cotton alone.
It is evident that the silver to be taken from the American mines will develop the wheat, cotton, wool, beef and hide industries of Mexico and South America in the future as it has developed India's industries in the past. Nothing but free and unlimited coinage of silver in this country will prevent South America, Mexico, China, Japan and other free-coinage
56coinage nations from developing their agricultural resources at the expense of the farmers of the United States.
This question has often been asked: "If the mints of Mexico, South America, China and Japan are open to the free and unlimited coinage of silver, and silver is worth $1.29 per ounce, why do the mine-owners of the United States sell their silver for 66 cents per ounce instead of shipping it to any of these countries and having it coined?"
Because foreign coins are not a legal tender in this country. Suppose a mine-owner should ship 1,000 ounces of silver, worth in the United States 66 cents per ounce, or $660, to Mexico, have it coined at the ratio of 16 to 1, worth $1.29 per ounce, or $1,290 in legal-tender money in that country? Again, suppose he brings this coined silver home to the United States, what will he do with it? He is compelled to sell the Mexican coins for the commercial or gold price of silver, which is 66 cents per ounce. Thus the mine-owner will receive as much less for his silver as it cost to ship it to and from Mexico. If Mexican coins were legal-tender money in the United States, then it would be profitable to the owner of silver bullion to ship his silver to Mexico and have it coined.
There is but one way by which the owner of silver
57bullion may receive a profit on his silver in shipping it to the mints of some silver standard country, and that is this: Suppose a mine-owner takes 1,000 ounces of silver to the mint of Mexico or Japan, has it coined, remains in that country and invests it.
Another question which is frequently asked is this:
"Would not an issue of greenbacks, legal-tender treasury notes, places our wheat and cotton growers on an equal footing with those of silver standard countries without opening our mints to silver?"
Yes; we could with an issue of greenbacks accomplish the desired result, but under one condition only. It is this: The gold price of greenbacks must be on a par with the gold price of silver — that is, a greenback dollar must be worth no more in gold than the bullion in a silver dollar. To illustrate the point: Suppose a wheat-grower from the Northwest and one from a silver standard country meet in Liverpool, each with one bushel of wheat, and sell it for 66 cents. The wheat-grower from the silver standard country buys an ounce of silver, takes it home to the mint, has it coined, worth $1.29 in legal-tender money. Now, if our wheat-grower from the Northwest could sell his 66 cents' worth of gold for $1.29 in greenbacks, then the two would be on a par, and otherwise they would not. It simply becomes a
58question which of the two is lower in relation to gold, greenbacks or silver bullion.
XI. The Remedy.
THE American farmer cannot continue much longer to sell his products below the cost of production, or to live on an income below that provided for paupers, or on earnings less than the wages paid for convicts in our State prisons. To seek a remedy for the conditions which are destroying the yeomanry of our Republic is the imperative duty of the hour. The remedy must not be a temporary expedient that will strike at the effect only, but a radical one that will remove the cause. Ninety per cent. of the depreciation in the price of farm products is due to the increased purchasing power of the dollar. To remedy this we must have free coinage of silver at the ratio of 16 to 1. This will place the American farmer on equal terms in the markets of the world with the farmers of free coinage nations, and will increase the price of farm products to the extent of the difference between the gold price and mint price of silver. But, much as free coinage would help, that alone will not give permanent relief.
First. Because there is not a sufficient amount of
59gold and silver on hand for monetary use, nor can the mines supply it.
Second. Because it would still leave the power of money in the hands of individuals and corporations, those who control the products of the mines and issue the paper currency; and our volume of money, at the mercy of the ebb and flow of coin, would produce an inflation every time it comes to our shores, and leave a panic whenever it departs.
At present our money is practically controlled by a gold trust. If we add free coinage of silver and let the banks issue the necessary paper money, our money volume will still be at the mercy of a few individuals and corporations. The money power will control our volume of money as effectively as it now does, with only this difference — that the two metals will be more difficult to control than the one. Much as free coinage of silver will do towards restoring prices of products and property, this alone will not destroy all the evil that surrounds our present financial system.
If free coinage of silver will not destroy the money trust, what, then, can we do that will? Suppose you undertake to destroy the coal trust, whisky trust or any other trust, what would be the first thing you would have to do? Think for a moment.
The first thing to do would be to take from the
60trust the power to control the supply, the power to limit or restrict production. Unless you could do this it would be impossible to destroy the trust. The one essential thing absolutely necessary to the existence of a trust is its ability to control the supply and limit the production of the article in which it deals.
So it is with the money trust. The only effective way to destroy its power is to take from it the authority to issue the paper money; because the right to issue the money also carries with it the ability to control its volume, and to fix the prices at which all products and property shall be sold. To accomplish this the government must issue the necessary paper money, and in sufficient volume to restore and maintain the general range of prices as they were previous to the demonetization of silver in 1873.
This paper money must be a full legal tender, and not redeemable in coin. Otherwise it would be exposed to the avarice of the same trust that dominates our present financial system. If the government should issue paper money redeemable in coin, a syndicate of foreign bankers could get possession of one hundred million dollars of paper currency, present it for redemption, and thereby contract the money volume four or five hundred million dollars, which would be followed by a panic, a fall in prices and general business stagnation.
As it is impossible to corner an article when its supply is unlimited and within the reach of all, so it is equally impossible for a trust to control the volume of money when the right to issue it is in the hands of the people and exercised by the government, and when the material out of which it is to be made exists in unlimited quantities.
Suppose we leave the money power in possession of all it now owns, but take from it the privilege of issuing the paper money, and delegate this power to some one else, say one single individual. Then the money power would be at the mercy of this one person as effectually as the people now are at the mercy of the gold trust. Why? Because this one person could inflate or contract the money volume, increase or decrease the purchasing "power of money at will, and thereby impair the value of all contracts and obligations for the future delivery of money.
Who shall issue the necessary paper money and control its volume? This is the pivot upon which the money question revolves. It is the pith, the marrow, the alpha and omega of this great subject. Shall the necessary paper money be issued by the banks and for the banks, or by the people and for the people who are to use it, with free coinage of silver? This is paramount to all other questions.
62No industrial reform on other lines is possible until this one is properly adjusted.
It is a well-established economic fact that "the demand for money equals the demand for all other things." Every time we have a demand for a certain article, we also have a demand for a sufficient amount of money to pay for it; that is, our demand for money during the year is as great as our demand for all other articles combined.
Suppose every mortgage, bond, note and other contract for the future delivery of money, the price of all products and property, as well as the adjustment of the wage, tariff, land and transportation questions demand attention; that is, suppose all these various questions, should be arrayed on one side and pressing for a solution at the same time? Think of the magnitude of all these questions.
Again, suppose that over on the opposite side of all these questions we had one more, the money question, which also required reformation? Then reform in this one (the money) question would be as great and accomplish as much as reform in all others combined. Why? Because the "demand for money equals the demand for all other things;" the money question involves all, and is one-half of every industrial question the mind can conceive.
From this it also logically follows that the demand