Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/303

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JULY, 1887.



THE existence of a most curious and, in many respects, unprecedented disturbance and depression of trade, commerce, and industry, which, first manifesting itself in a marked degree in 1873, has prevailed with fluctuations of intensity up to the present date of writing (1887), is an economic and social phenomenon that has been everywhere recognized. Its most noteworthy peculiarity has been its universality; affecting nations that have been involved in war as well as those which have maintained peace; those which have a stable currency, based on gold, and those which have an unstable currency, based on promises which have not been kept; those which live under a system of free exchange of commodities, and those whose exchanges are more or less restricted. It has been grievous in old communities like England and Germany, and equally so in Australia, South Africa, and California, which represent the new; it has been a calamity exceeding heavy to be borne, alike by the inhabitants of sterile Newfoundland and Labrador, and of the sunny, fruitful sugar-islands of the West Indies; and it has not enriched those at the centers of the world's exchanges, whose gains are ordinarily the greatest when business is most fluctuating and uncertain.[1]

  1. The poverty in Australia, in 1885, was reported to be more extreme than at any former period in the history of the colonies; multitudes at Adelaide, South Australia, surrounding the Government House and clamoring for food—the causes of distress assigned being failure of the harvest, drought, and general commercial depression.

    "The close of the year 1884 brought with it little, if any, improvement, in the material condition of South Africa. Commercial disasters may not have been so frequent as during the previous year, but this may be explained by the fact that trade has reached so low a level that very little room existed for further failures. No new enterprises have