Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/605

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587
THE DEBASEMENT OF COINAGES.

notes became depreciated, and is raging now that silver has undergone a similar decline. It is true that the situation is not precisely the same, but the principle involved is: the arguments against restoring a degraded coinage or degrading an established one are substantially the same.

The object of the Bland Bill and similar measures, though nominally a restoration of a former standard, is in fact a debasement of the present one. The value fixed for the United States dollar under the act of 1792 was by accident put below that of the dollars with which it then came into competition. The act provided that the dollar should be of the value of the Spanish milled dollar, and also provided that it should contain 37114 grains of pure silver, whereas the Spanish dollar contained 37714 grains. This discrepancy resulted from a blunder in assaying the Spanish coin, but was perpetuated until the old silver dollar was abolished. Owing to the unprecedented fall in the price of silver, the real value of 37114 grains is now only about ninety cents in the market, a decline which would be a very serious matter if this accidental dollar were still a legal tender and in use in trade; but fortunately the act of 1873 put it where it is incapable of doing mischief.

It is one of the compensations of the disordered state of our finances growing out of irredeemable war-issues, that, coin being virtually out of circulation, we could put our coinage on the footing aimed at by all great commercial nations, without incurring the loss and distress which such revolutions are apt to involve. And now it is proposed to undo all this, to restore this impaired dollar to its old position, and put upon the nation all the loss and inconvenience which would grow out of such a change. For states of transition are always states of suffering and, were there two or three hundred millions of silver in the hands of the people to-day, the statesman well might hesitate to raise the standard of the old dollar, making it equivalent to the gold one. The load of silver which France is carrying interferes seriously with her efforts to resume on her paper currency, and yet she very properly hesitates to enter upon an experience similar to that which Germany has recently had; but we, virtually starting anew with our coinage system, with the experience of all the past to light us, are asked to plunge into a quagmire from which we could only emerge after much floundering and defilement!

And who is to be benefited by the remonetization of silver? If remonetization will, as is claimed for it, enhance the price of silver, so that it will make the dollar of 1792 and the gold dollar equal, then the holders of silver and they only will reap the advantage. Is the disposable silver stock of the world held by the class of men into whose pockets the Western voters are anxious to legislate money? The American mine-owners hold a large amount in the shape of ore; the German Empire has ninety millions of surplus she would be glad