THE RECENT HISTORY AND PRESENT PROSPECTS OF MONETARY REFORM.
Being an Address Delivered at O'encral Meeting \ of the Bimetallic. League, Dunedin, on 27th September, 1597. ]
( Centimetl.} . AS T0 THE silver countries, there is no need to go into much detail as to their still increasing prosperity, for this subject has been treated at some length at previous meetings. The reports from the various British Consuls continue to emphasise the great injuiy done to British trade by the “silver bounty."' the speech of Mr Jamieson, Consul at hhanghai, at the annual meeting of the English Bimetallic .League in June last, is well worth reading ; for his remarks on developments m China. As to Japan, I notice that her foreign trade lias crown from 86,000,000d0l in 1886 to 289,000,000d0l in whuc her experts of textiles alone increased from 511,990d0l m 1885 to 22 t l77 1 626d0l in 1895. Japan is also now among the large coal exporters of the world. In 1894 she exported 1,680,000 tons out of a production of 4.211,000 tons, and was then .sixth among the coal-exporting nations of tae world. Since then"she has still further, improved her position, but the exact figures are not available. A cargo ,of coal has also been sent from Tonkin and delivered on the Pacific coast of America at a less cost than either the. anthracite of Pennsylvania or Welsh coal. It is worthy of note that the large supplies of money and the general prosperity in the sUrer countries are at last having their natural effect of causing a rise in prices. Prices have remamed wonderfully steady in the silver countries all through the trying times of tha last quaiter of a century-a marked contrast to, the disastrous fall in gold prices. There is now however, a slight but decided rise in silver prices, and wages in Japan have risen as much as 10 to 15 per cent, all round. It may at first sight appear strange, in the face of these facts, that Japan should, within the last year. Lave decided on a radical change in her standard, which is henceforth to be bimetallic, at a ratio of about o2 to 1. Her idea appears to be that sho will thus be able to fix and maintain tho advantage she has gained by the appreciation of gold.
THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT, according tothe Tokio correspondent of ‘The Times, consider ** that silver has reached virtu* ally its lowest point; that its rehabilitation may be expected before long; and that its sterling price will rise largely within the next few years. Haying been made rich by silver that cheapened in terms of gold, they now hope totake advantage of the reverse process in order to benefit by the prospective appreciation of silver. It is possible that .this new departure on tho part of Japan assisted to bring about tne recent further fall in the gold price of silver. What results it might have later on need hardly be discussed, as they could not be of great importance, and, moreover, are almost certain to be annulled by some agreement among the Western nations as to the opening of their mini* and the fixing a par for the world. Turning now to the colonies, it is amazing to note the patience with which they continue to struggle on under their loads of c-ver-moreasing debt, without so much as a remonstrance to the Imperial Government on their folly in refusing to assist the rest of the world to return to the status quo ante. The recent visit of the colonial Premiers to England was an excellent opportunity thrown away. If they had, at one of their conferences, impressed on Mr Chamberlain the unfair burden which the anti-silver legislalion and the consequent appreciation ot gold have cast upon the colonies, there can be no doubt their joint remonstrance would have had considerable effect. Unfortunately, there was probably not one of them (with the possible exception of the South Australian representative) who knew anything about the subject. In is now some ten years since a member of the House of Commons said, in the course of a debate, that it was nonsense to say the colonies were suffering severely from the appreciation of gold, because if that were the case they would have sent in complaints to the Home Government on the matter. That hon. gentleman had unfortunately not fathomed the depths of ignorance of colonial politicians. Jhe Jubilee celebrations were conducive to thought m many ways. The grandest Empire the world has ever seen is certainly unique in one respect. No other Empire ever possessed three distinct aud incompatible standards of (§°ld, silver, and the “ scarcity rupee within its own borders at the tame time, but t saw no allusion to the fact in any of the Jubilee speeches. Allusions to the GLORIES OF THE VICTORIAN AGE were plentiful, and naturally called to mind the two other most splendid epochs in historv —the Augustan age and the Elizabethan, The glories and triumphs of these three eras were a.,1 brought about by the same cause tho sudden and vast increase of the supplies of tho precious metals sending (to use an old simile) new blood and life coursing through the veins of the body politic. It is a thousand pities that m the Victorian age-and in that onlymen should have been foolish enough to annul the bounty of Nature by legislation. The quarter of a century from 1850 to 1875 will always be looked on as the hfimht of the splendor of the Victorian era. This time it was not the niggardliness’ of Nature but the folly of man which prevented the bounteous age being continued indefinitely. The supplies of the precious metals are now £ a * aQ y previous period in the history of the world, and yet we see business—whether agricultural or manufacturing—in the richest country in the world in a deplorable state, while strikes and rumors of strikes and all the social unrest and disaffection that mark periods of depression are more prominent than for nearly half a century. It 5s time However, to turn to the present position and *
THE IMMEDIATE PROSPECTS of the cause we have at heart. "We find Emr. hitherto, still blocking the wav Although the material interests of the British Empire m the rehabilitation of silver are pri> bably greater than those of all thereat of the world put together, still that square mile of Londo a—of which General Walker spoke-does fhJ a^; 11 *o.Wevent any satisfactory solution of the difficulty. Just now, however, the proapects of a speedy settlement are more promising than they have ever been since the fatal year of ifly- , - yo ? ,* T , e Probably aware, President M Kmlcy, in fulfilment of the obligations undertaken at the time of his election, sent a commission to Europe to interview the different Powers to see if some international agreement could be arranged. The commission—consisting of three men of well-known honor and abilitvSenator Wolcott, General Paine, and Mr Stevenson-has met with considerable success France, of all European countries, is the most whole-hearted in the cause. The Premier fM lm Freifrh hi3 |p eeC f h lf th T anDUal of the French Bimetallic League, referred m flattermg terms to Senator Wblcott. and eluded by saying: “I am sure that our support will not be wanting to compass the triumph^ Stler" > CaUSeWhICh We are rea dy to*defend
Germany wouU seem to be hanging back to see what England is disposed to do S At present the position appears to be this; P
PRAKCE AND AMERICA ABE PREPARED to open their mints to the unlimited coinage of rZI arat l° of IS * t0 Von condition That "L™* 1 l y “akes some concession (probably an agreement to com a fixed amount every year—• a so.rt of Eland Act) and that England reopens her mint in India, and also agrees to keep one-fifth of the Bank of England reserve in silver. The Government of India are to give an answer* through the Chancellor of the Exchequer next month as to whether they are willing the mint shall be reopened, and there cannot be much doubt as to what that answer will be. Although Sir James Westland is not so keen a bimetallist as his predecessor. Sir David Barbour, he is fully alive to the necessity for the re-establishment of a not between gold and silver, *This being the present ratio in France sho would not have to recoin her silver and the
THE BANK OP ENGLAND would appear to have agreed to the small concession required, though not-without much discussion. The governor of the Bank is a bimetallist, but the Board of Directors arc divided on the subject. Doubtless, however, the influence of some of the ex-governors—well-known bimetal-, lists such as Liddordale (who saved the City tt the time of the Baring crisis), Grenfell, anu Lord Aldenham—has been exerted in the right direction. In any case, it is rather difficult to see how holding one-fifth of its reserve in silver could be supposed to weaken the Bank, with the French mint open to silver. The Bank of France is stronger in every way than the Bank of England. It has lived through the most troublous times without having to appeal for help, while it had to come to the assistance of the Bank of England not many years ago. And yet the Bank of Franco has always held a large proportion of its reserve in silver. _At the end of last year it was some forty-nine millions sterling out of 125 millions. (The silver reserve alone was, in fact, more than the total gold coin and bullion of the Banks of England, Scotland, and Ireland taken together.) Of course ‘the times’ objects strongly to the contemplated “weakening of the reserve,’’ as it calls it; but, as John Bright used to say, the simplest way to arrive at a correct opinion on almost any subject is to read ‘TheTiraes’ and then take the opposite view. From the days of Catholic Emancipation to the Repeal ot the Com Laws, and 'on to the present time, it has consistently opposed every valuable reform proposed in England, and it never learns by experience. The present position is, then, a very cheering one, and I am not without hope that, before our next annual meeting, the victory will be won, and the world once more have one standard of value. At the worst the settlement cannot be delayed very much longer. The condition of India is becoming critical, and above all THE SITUATION IN THE UNITED STATES is entirely in our favor. The Republicans—even those of them who know little or nothing of the science of money—are straining every nerve to carry international bimetallism, tor they are well aware that if they fail in this Bryan’s return at the next Presidential election is a certainty, His party have been keeping up the crusade, and many who worked against him at the last election are now on his side. This is largely due to the failure of the prophecies so freely made as to the good times which would follow M'Kinley’s election. The stoppage of a large_ number of banks immediately after the election was also somewhat of a shock to many of M'Kinley’s supporters, because this was exactly what they had foretold would uecesprily follow the election of Bryan. It is, therefore, mainly to America that we have to look for a solution ot the problem. And when the great reform is un fait accompli, and we have something like a good honest money once more - that is to say, a stable and equitable measure of value —it will be amusing then to notice how rapidly all those who now scoff and scold at bimetallists will become bimetallists themselves; for, after all, your average man’s only criterion of merit is success. I cannot conclude without alluding to the great loss all English-speaking nations have recently suffered in the DEATH OP GENEUAL WALK EH, the foremost of economists and one of the bestknown and most enthusiastic of bimetallists. His advice and influence would have been invaluable at the present juncture. It is some consolation to know bow widely his writings are used as text books for the rising generation. It is well to remember that wherever young men are now studying political economy they are being taught sound principles on the all-impor-tant subject of money, for it is another proof that the future is necessarily ours. But this is not enough for me. For my own part, and X am sure you all feel the same, I am anxious that this future should not be deferred a day longer than is necessary. For the sake of all debtor countries, for the sake of all white men, more especially of all producers and bard workers, for the sake, too, of the young girls who have to work in competition with the young men (who would he glad enough to marry them if the hard work of one would ensure a competency for a family), for the sake of the army of the unemployed, and for the welfare of the moat civilised parts ot the earth this future cannot come a day too soon.
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THE RECENT HISTORY AND PRESENT PROSPECTS OF MONETARY REFORM., Evening Star, Issue 10435, 2 October 1897