The New York Times/Mr. Gage Replies to Carl Schurz's Letter
MR. GAGE REPLIES TO CARL SCHURZ'S LETTER
Repeats that Mr. Bryan Could
Nullify the Gold Standard.
LEGISLATION IS UNCERTAIN
Free Silver Minority Could Use
Obstructive Tactics to Prevent
the Tying of Bryan's Hands.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 5. — Secretary Gage has made the following reply to the open letter of Carl Schurz of New York, in which Mr. Schurz denies that Mr. Bryan's candidacy menaces sound money:
Washington, Sept. 4.
Dear Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of yours of the 3d inst., in which you utter some words of criticism upon the statements made by me in a newspaper interview published Aug. 26, in which I expressed the opinion that Mr. Bryan, if elected President, could by the exercise of considerable “perverse ingenuity,” put the Government on a silver basis, ruin its credit, and bring incalculable disaster upon the business interests of the country.
You deny that the dangers set forth by me in that interview really exist, and that any President will be able to do what I declared might be done, “unless the Republican Party in control of the Government in both the legislative and Executive branches, proves itself utterly dishonest in its professed purpose to maintain the gold standard.” You say your denial “is not based on the reasoning of those of your critics who seek to show by figures that a President desiring ever so much to put the country on a silver basis would lack the means of doing so.” On the contrary, you admit, “for argument's sake,” all I say on that point. It would not seem, therefore, that there is any particular difference between us as to what Mr. Bryan as President could do under the law or in spite of the law as it now is.
It ought to have been apparent to you, as it no doubt was, that I was speaking of the possibilities of the case under circumstances and conditions as they now exist, but you proceed to point out how, at the next session of Congress, which will meet in December, legislation could be had which would completely forestall unfriendly action toward the gold standard, even if Mr. Bryan were elected and should still cherish the firm-set purpose declared by him on Sept. 16, 1896, at Knoxville, Tenn., where he said: “If there is any one who believes that the gold standard is a good thing, or that it must be maintained, I warn him now to cast his vote for me, because I promise him it will not be maintained in this country longer than I am able to get rid of it.”
You rebuke me in polite terms for sounding a false note of alarm, disquieting to the business community, and especially when uttered by one in authority.
I am not at all skilled in controversy, and have had no practice in dialectics, but I will indulge in a few words in the way of rejoinder to your criticism.
In the first place, then, no more serious disaster could overtake this country (in this I think you will agree with me) than the breaking down of the gold standard and the adoption of that principle of money for which Mr. Bryan contends. In 1896 you yourself are quoted as having said:
“The mere apprehension of a possibility of Mr. Bryan's election and of the consequent placing of our country upon the silver basis has already caused untold millions of our securities to be thrown upon the market. Scores of business orders are already recalled, a large number of manufacturing establishments have already stopped or restricted their operations, enterprise is already discouraged, and nearly paralyzed. * * * And if these are the effects of a mere apprehension of a possibility, what would be the effect of the event itself? There is scarcely an imaginable limit to the destruction certain to be wrought by the business disturbance that Mr. Bryan's mere election would cause.”
I myself am unable to perceive why the same consequences, in a minor degree perhaps, would not ensue now, which you so forcibly foreshadowed then.
Now, when consequences so great as these are involved, the forces operating to inaugurate them should be resisted as every point. Even the possibility of danger should be avoided. It is a familiar fact and one altogether too much in evidence, that an administrative officer filled with hatred and contempt of a particular law can, by perverse ingenuity, practically nullify its operations. You point out in your letter that, if the course indicated by me in the interview referred to should be contemplated by Mr. Bryan the Republican Congress which meets in December next could in advance restrain him by new and more effective mandatory provisions. The proposition that in case of Mr. Bryan's election the present Congress can tie his hands so that he cannot give effect to his expressed intention appears to me to be fallacious. It would require new legislation by a party whose policy would have been rejected by the people through their last expression at the polls. Further than this, the next session will expire by operation of law on the 4th of March, 1901. The free silver minority would be justified by their constituents in using all the resources of dilatory procedure to prevent such legislation, and against such tactics affirmative legislation such as you suggest would be probably impossible. Can any one doubt that Mr. Bryan would urge action by his friends in Congress to prevent the further strengthening of the policy which he denounces as criminal?
Your remarks upon this point seem to indicate that you rely upon the exercise of the power already conferred upon the Republican Party to prevent the country from experiencing disasters which Mr. Bryan will, if he can, bring upon us. May I not suggest that the way to secure safety is not to take power from those upon whom you rely for protection and confer it upon those whose action you may have good cause to dread?
Since you have raised the question of further legislation, let us look a little further forward. If Mr. Bryan is elected President, it is of all things the most probable that the next House will have a Democratic majority, but even admitting that that Congress, dating from March 4, 1901, will not be able to effect any change in our present financial legislation, what, we may fairly ask, will be the effect of the continued agitation of the question upon business and industry, set in motion by a President bent upon the restoration of free silver at the ratio of 16 to 1, and elected upon that platform?
You end your letter by suggesting that I retract what I have said in fairness to the business community, which should not be necessarily disquieted, especially not by those in authority. Thinking as I do that the election of Mr. Bryan would be a real menace to the commercial and industrial interests of our people because of the purpose he cherishes and the power he would possess, I do not feel at liberty to act upon your suggestion; I feel it my duty to at least wait until after Mr. Bryan himself has retracted his statement of 1896 that “It (the gold standard) will not be maintained in this country longer than I am able to get rid of it.”
Very truly yours,
LYMAN J. GAGE
The Hon. Carl Schurz, Bolton Landing,
Lake George, N. Y.
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