"The high-handed career of this institution imposes upon the constitutional functionaries of this government, duties of the gravest and most imperative character - duties which they can not avoid, and from which I trust there will be no inclination on the part of any of them to shrink."- Andrew Jackson.
The success of the national banking money power in securing control of Congress, and, through that body, an oppressive monopoly of the currency of the country, met the most sanguine expectations of the men who hoped to rule the industries of the people with an iron hand.
The outlines of that great scheme of the national banks, which aimed to throw the entire business of the country on a credit basis, were now plainly apparent, and it became patent that the plan was to be consummated by placing the entire volume of currency in the hands of the bankers.
Under the workings of the national, bank system, all circulating bank notes, before they would reach the hands of the mass of the people and thus bc thrown into the channels of trade, must first pass through the to11 gates erected over the counters of the bankers, making them at once the lenders of money, and the great majority of our citizens, borrowers of that currency, gratuitously bestowed by the government upon the wealthiest moneyed corporations of the United States.
All the industries were compelled to pay usury to the most traitorous class of our citizens. The banks were enabled to lay the foundations of that colossal structure of credit, which has plunged the people into an abyss of indebtedness from whence they will not emerge for generations.
Up to the time of the passage of the Resumption Act,the banking monopoly saw no difficulty standing in its way to keep it from being the master of all the property and industry, While corrupt congresses, notorious for the infamous scandals which smirched the reputations of some of the foremost men of the Republican party, bartered away the most precious rights of the people, nature came to the rescue by affording a great supply of that most precious metal - silver.
The bank monopoly at once caught the alarm, and the plan was matured in London and Wall street to assassinate the silver dollar.
Under the free coinagc of gold and silver, the national banks could not control the volume of money, and, therefore, the position taken by this monopoly wasan essential part of that gigantic conspiracy to demonetize silver, and thus maintain its grasp on the property of the people; furthermore, a fight must bc waged against the standard silver dollar as a part of the scheme to sustain the supremacy of New York City as the great money center of the country.
Moreover, an adequate supply of silver meant the freedom of the agricultural districts of the West and South from the Financial domination of the cent per cent. men of the East.
The national bank autocrats saw, in the rich deposits of silver in the Western States, the danger that men-
aced their power, and they made haste to strike down the silver dollar, which, in their fears, would become the regenerator of the financial condition of the people. Silver dollars meant cash, national bank notes meant credit, and therefore the bond-holders and bankers of London and New York City decreed that silver must die.
As a preliminary statement of the reason for the opposition of national banks to the coinage of silver, it must be born in mind, that prior to the adoption of the Federal Constitution, the United colonies, under the Articles of Confederation, had no popover to establish mints, and, therefore, they had no national system of money.
This want of uniform coinage and currency laws was one of the urgent reasons which lcd to the assembling of the constitutional convention that eventually framed the national charter.
This body of able and learned men, justly celebrated for their wisdom and knowlcdge, provided for a uniform system of money for the people. They knew that without a, national system of coinage and currency, no people could become great in commerce and industry. The power of determining what should constitute money, was lodged in the general government by that part of section eight, of article one, of the constitution, which is as follows: "Congress shall have power to coin money, regulate the value thereof and of foreign coin."
The convention which framed this great instrument contained some of the ablest political economists and financiers of that day, among whom werc Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, the eminent banker, James
Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Goveneur Morris These distinguished men knew that the essential nature of money was its function as a medium of exchange, and they knew that this function was impressed by the sovereign power of the nation.
Hence, the power to coin money and to regulate its value, was decreed to fall within the sphere of the lawmaker, rather than left to the ability of those who corner gold and silver to enhance their profits.
The absurd theory of our modern statesmen that commerce, and not law, fixes the value of money has never been recognized as sound doctrine until the national banking monopoly demanded the power of issuing currency as a vested right.
Upon the adoption of the Constitution, and after the election and inauguration of General Washington to the presidency of the United States, Congress, on the 2d of April, 1792, enacted the first coinage law under the new order of things. The system of coinage adopted by Congress, was based on the decimal plan which sprung from the imperial intellect of Jefferson, to whom belongs the honor of inventing and establishing that great reform.
The Coinage Act of April 2, 1792, is as follows: -
"That the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars or units, dimes or tenths, cents or hundredths, mills or thousandths, a dime being the tenth part of a dollar, a cent the hundredth part of a dollar, a mill the thousandth part of a dollar and that all accounts in the public offices and all proceedings in the courts of the United States shall be kept and had in conformity to this regulation.
"That a mint for the purpose of a national coinage be and the same is established, to bc situated and car-
ried on at the sent of the government of the United States for the time being.
"There shall bc, from time to time, struck and coincd at said mint, coins of gold, silver, and copper, of the following denominations, values and descriptions; viz., Eagles, each to be of the value of ten dollars, or units, and to contain 247 1/2grains of pure, or 270 grains of standard gold. Half eagles, each to be of
the value of five dollars, or units, and to contain 123 3/4 grains of pure, or 135 grains of standard gold. Quarter eagles, each to bc of the value of two and one-half dollars, and to contain 61 7/8 grains of pure, or 671/2grains of standard gold. Dollars or units, each to be of the value of a Spanish milled dollar, as the same is now current, and to contain 371 1/4 grains of pure, or 416 grains of standard silver. Half dollars, each to be of half the value of the dollar or unit, and to contain 18 55/8 grains of pure, or 208 grains of standard silver.
Quarter dollars, each to be of one-fourth the value of the dollar or unit, and to contain 92 13/16rains of pure, or 104 grains of standard silver. Dimes, each to be one-tenth of the value of a dollar or unit, and to contain371/8grains of pure, or 413/4 grains of standard silver. Half dimes, each to be of the value of one-twentieth of a dollar or unit, and to contain 18 9/10 grains of pure, or201/6grains of standard silver. Cents, each to be of the value of one hundredth part of a dollar, and to contain 11 pennyweights of copper. Half cents, each to be of the value of half a cent, and to contain 5 1/2 pennyweights of copper."
The ratio of the value of gold to silver in all coins provided for by the act of April 2, 1792, was fixed at fifteen to one, that is to say, the statute made fifteen pounds weight of pure silver equal in value in all payments to one pound weight of pure gold.
Section Fourteen of this act provided for the free coinage of gold and silver in the following language:
"That it shall be lawful for any person or persons to
bring to the said mint gold and si1ver bullion, in order to their being coined; and that the bullion so brought shall be there assayed and coined as speedily as may after the receipt thereof, and that free of expense to the person or persons by whom the same shall have been brought."
The free coinage thus provided for by the act of April 2, 1792, placed gold and silver coinage directly in the hands of the people. The money thus coined would not be compelled to go through the banks as intermediaries before it reached the channels of trade.
This coinage law was the joint product of the study and research of Hamilton and Jefferson, and it made the silver do1lar containing 371 1/4 grains of pure silver, the unit of account in the exchange of commodities and for the payment of debts.
It may be inquired why the Spanish milled dollar was taken as the basis of the American unit of account.
At that time, Spain was the great dominating power in the western hemisphere, and she exercised jurisdiction over what is now Texas, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Mexico proper, the Central American States, the greater portion of South America and the West Indies.
It was the mines of the Spanish colonies, from 1500 to 18oo, that poured hundreds of millions of the precious metals into the lap of European commerce.
A single mine of South America produced silver to the amount of $6oo,ooo,ooo.
During the period that the Spanish colonies poured forth their streams of wealth, and saved the dying industries of Europe from total extinction, the chivalry of Christian England went forth in their piratical craft
in a time of peace, and plundered the Spanish treasure ships of their rich cargoes. British historians yet gloat over the naval prowess that robbed an unoffending power in time of profound quiet.
The reasons why this young republic appropriated the Spanish milled dollar as the model upon which to base its coinage laws were these; First, a large number of Spanish coins were in circulation in this country, and these coins were of a very high standard of purity; second, the people were familiar with the Spanish milled dollar, and its adoption as money saved the expense of re-coinage; third, the United States maintained an extensive commerce with the Spanish West Indies, and the adoption of a coin similar to the Spanish dollar facilitated trade wonderfully, and gave the enterprise of this country the advantage over that of foreign nations, whose system of coinage did not correspond with that of Spain and her colonies.
To give the reader a correct understanding of the coinage laws of the United States from 1790 to 1873, the following summary of the various enactments of congress providing for the mintage of gold and silver coins will be necessary.
The act of congress of March 2, 1799, fixed the value of foreign coins, and made them legal tender.
On April 10, 18o6, the gold coins of Great Britain and Portugal, as well as those of France and Spain, were made legal tender for the payment of all debts and demands within the United States. The same act of congress made the Spanish milled dollar and the crown of France, which were silver coins, legal tender and current in this country.
During the year 1805 President Jefferson suspended
the coinage of the silver dollar at the United States mint.
The reasons adduced by him in ordering the cessation of the coinage of the dollar were stated in a report made by Mr. Ingham, Secretary of the Treasury under President Jackson.
Secretary Ingham said that President Jefferson ascertained that the newly coined silver dollars, being of full weight, bright, and clean, were shipped out of the country by speculators; second, it was a useless expense to coin these dollars, when the law made the foreign silver coins full legal tender for the payment of all debts, public and private; third, it was more desirable to coin silver bullion into half dollars, quarter dollars, dimes and half dimes to serve as change.
By act of Congress, March 5, 1823, the gold coins of Great Britain, Portuga1, France and Spain were received in payment by the United States on account of sales of public lands.
By act of June 25, 1834, the following silver coins were made of legal value, and passed current as money within the United States for the payment of all debts and demands at the rate of one hundred cents to the dollar; via., The dollars of Mexico, Peru, Chili, and Central America; this act fixed the value of the Brazilian dollar, and the silver five-franc piece of France and it passed current.
By the same act, the gold coins of Great Britain, Portugal, Brazil, & France, Spain, Mexico, and Columbia werc made legal tender for the payment of all debts and demands within the United States.
On the 28th of June, 1834, the quantity of gold in the eagle, or ten dollar piece, was reduced from 247 1/2
grains of pure gold to 232 grains, the amount of standard gold in that coin was reduced from 270 grains to 258 grains.
Under the act of April 5, 1792, the legal ratio of silver to gold was fifteen to one, which ratio undervalued gold.
Since 1803, France and the Latin countries adopted a legal ratio of fifteen and one half of silver to one of gold, and as a consequence, gold, being undervalued in the United States, was withdrawn from circulation here, and sold abroad at a profit by the bullion brokers who were ever on the alert for gain.
The change made the act of June, 1834, undervalued silver, the ratio of that metal to gold being fixed at fifteen and ninety-eight one-hundredths to one, but the principal reason assigned for the overvaluation of gold by the act of June 28, 1834, was to provide coins of large denominations to take the place of the notes and bills issued by the United States Bank. In other words, President Jackson fought the United States Bank with a gold coinage as a legitimate weapon to conquer that money power.
It has become the settled policy of those financiers who so urgently advocate a single standard of gold, to point to the act of June 28, 1834, as the establishment of that system. This has been the gist of the numberless arguments of the gold standard advocates, constantly reiterated in the halls of congress and elsewhere, with a brazen disregard of truth that approaches desperation.
The congressional legislation by which a very large volume of gold coin was brought into circulation after 1834, Was directly opposed to that policy which secured he demonetization of silver in 1873.
It is an absolute falsehood to assert that the single standard of gold was adopted by this nation in 1834, for the plain reason that the mints of the United States remained open to the free and unlimited coinage of both gold and silver, and the law made these coins full legal tender for the payment of all debts and demands, both public and private.
The silver dollar still remained the unit of account.
By the act of January 18, 1837, a slight change was made in the alloy in the gold and silver coins. The standard of purity was fixed at nine tenths of pure metal to one tenth of alloy.
By this alteration in the purity of the coin, the standard was raised, and, therefore, the weight of the silver dollar and fractional silver coins was slightly reduced.
The material part of that act is as follows: -
"The standard for both gold and silver coins of the United States shall hereafter be such that of one thousand parts by weight, nine hundrcd shall bc of purc metal and one hundred of alloy, and the alloy of silver coins shall be of copper, and the alloy of the gold coins shall be of copper and silver, provided that the silver does not exceed one half of the alloy.
"Of the silver coins the dollar sha11 be of the weight of 4121/2grains, the half dollar of the weight of 206 1/4 grains, the quarter dollar of the weight of 103 1/8 grains, the dime or tenth part of a dollar of the weight of 41 1/4 grains, and the half clime or twentieth part of a dollar of the weight of 20 5/8 grains.
"And that dollars, half dollars, quarter dollars, dimes and half dimes shall be legal tender of payment according to their nominal value for any sums whatever.
"Of the gold coins, the weight of the eagle shall be 258 grains, that of the half eagle 229 grains, and of the quarter eagle 64 1/2grains.
"And that for all sums whatever, the eagle shall be a legal tender of payment for ten dollars, the half eagle for five dollars, and the quarter eagle for two and one-half dollars."
The alloy in the silver dollar was reduced in quantity, while the pure silver of 3711/4grains, as originally fixed by the act of April 2, 1792, was retained in the standard dollar, and it remained the unit of account and was of unlimited legal tender.
This fact is borne out by the act of March 3, 1849, which provided for the coinage of double eagles and one dollar gold pieces.
We will quote the exact language of this statute, which is as follows: -
"There shall be from time to time struck and coined at the mint of the United States and branches thereof - conformably in all respects to law, and conformably in all respects to the standard for gold coins now established bylaw - coins of gold of the following denominations and value; viz., double eagles, each to be of the value of twenty dollars or units, and gold dollars, each to be of the value of one dollar or unit.
"For all sums whatever the double eagle shall be a legal tender for twenty dollars, and the gold dollar shall be a legal tender for one dollar."
This statute explicitly recognizes a unit, and that unit of the exchange value of money was the silver dollar, the coinage of which was provided for by the act of April 2, 1792. The value of these gold pieces were respectively fixed by referring them to a unit, and up to this time the sole unit of account in the United States from which calculations werc made was the silver dollar.
By act of congress February 21, 1853, a change
was made by reducing the weight of the fractional silver coins.
The language of this statute is as follows: -
"That the weight of the half dollar or piece of fifty cents shall be 192 grains, and the quarter dollar, dime and half dime shall be respectively one-half, one-fifth and one-tenth of the weight of the half dollar.
"The silver coins issued in conformity with the above section shall be legal tenders in the payments of debts for all sums not exceeding five dollars.
"From time to time there shall bc struck and coined at the mint of the United States and the branches thereof conformably in all respects to the standard of gold coins now established by law, a coin of gold of the value of three dollars or units."
This act, which was the first legislation limiting the legal tender quality of silver coins, is pointed to by the single gold standard advocates as a demonetization of silver.
In order that we may ascertain the intention of Congress in enacting this law, it will be necessary to look at contemporaneous history, the evils sought to be corrected, and the remedy applied.
The highest courts of the land have adopted this principle as the cardinal rule in the interpretation and constrution of statutory law, and it is a safe one for the ordinary Individual.
At the time of the passage of this act of Congress, the bullion in the silver was more valuable as a commodity than the bullion in the gold dollar, consequently the silver dollars were withdrawn from circulation and sold as bullion in the European markets at a profit.
To remedy this, Congress reduced the weight of the
fractional silver coins, and limited their legal tender debt-paying power, but left the coinage of the silver dollar free and unlimited.
Congress correctly foresaw that the owners of silver bullion, from motives of self interest, would not coin their bullion into silver dollars, when they would be gainers by its coinage into light weight fractional coins.
It would require 4121/2grains of standard silver for a one dollar piece, or unit, but it would need only 384 grains for the coinage of two half dollar pieces.
The limitation of legal tender power of the fractional silver coins under the act of 1853, was embodied in that law for the express purpose of preventing their exportation to foreign countries.
Another reason for the enactment of this statute arose from the fact that the miners of California and Australia were pouring hundreds of millions of dollars of gold into the arteries of commerce, and a number of leading financial writers of France and Germany urged their respective countries to demonetize gold, for the express purpose of increasing the value of bonds and annuities.
Michel Chevalier, a member of the Council of State of Napoleon III. at this time, published a work entitled, "The Probable Fall in the Value of Gold."
In this volume he strongly urges the demonetization of gold, giving as his reason for this position that it was becoming too abundant, and that its purchasing power had greatly fallen.
Chevalier says: -
"If we would particularize the persons who would be more or less deeply affected by the fall in
gold, we have only to select those whose income will not find itself augmented naturally and by a self-adjusting process, in exact proportion to the fall, in gold. The national creditor is the characteristic type of this class of sufferers. All those persons whose incomes, expressed in monetary units, remain the same would be injured by the change to the extent of the half of their income, all other things being equal.
"All commodities excepting gold and every kind of property excepting that of which the income is, from the present, fixed, as is the case with government funds, ought, from the moment that the monetary crisis is terminated, to have attained in a gold currency double the price which they are at present worth. It wi11 be the same eventually with wages (that is to say wages would double), and with all personal services, whether rendered in the factory or on the farm, or from the liberal professions."
In summing up his arguments in favor of the demonetization of gold, Chevalier states the following conclusions: -
"Thus as a definite analysis, the properties of lands, houses, and other real estate, manufacturers, merchants, and their auxiliaries of every kind; public functionaries of all ranks; and also those who follow the different learned professions, will all find themselves in the end compensated in the new state of things with advantages which they now enjoy, all other things being equal. It is another class of persons, the national creditor, whom we have previously defined in a general way who have to submit to n sacrifice in the proportion to the fall in the precious metal."
In his plea for the bond holders, Chevalier, unlike those American financiers who worship a single standard, displays one admirable trait. Hc truthfully states the reasons why he urges the destruction of gold as money. He says that the coinage of those large
amounts of gold from the mines of California and Australia will double the volume of money, and therefore diminish its purchasing power one-half, and that the bond holder would suffer loss.
Finally, Chevalier sums up the effect of a change from falling prices to rising prices, in which he said: -
"In time the change will profit those who live by present labor; it will injure those who live on the fruits of past labor, be it their own or that of their fathers. In this respect it will act in the direction with the greater part of those evolutions which are accomplished in virtue of the great law of civilization to which ordinarily we assign the noble name of Progress.
"It remains to add that in society as it is at present organized, the number is very small of those whom it can truly be said that they live on the fruits of past labor. Real property, rents, and the interest of investment depend in such a degree on the present labor of those who pay them, that in an important sense those who receive them live rather on the present labor of others than upon past labor."
Chevalier positively admits that a small volume of money benefits a very small number, and those are the most undeserving.
The American gold standard advocate is not so frank in his reasons for a single standard. Every national banker, and single gold standard financier is in favor of that system of finance, because the laboring man, the widow, and the orphan will be the sole beneficiaries of a contracted volume of money?
The arguments of that class of political economists teem with figures, showing that the workingmen, widows, and orphans are the chief stock holders in national banks, loan and trust companies, and that they constitute the largest class of depositors in savings
banks, hence, the fear of this phi1anthropic (?) class of disinterested patriots, that the poor toiler, the friendless widow and orphan must be protected by a single standard of gold!
Germany and some of the sma11er European states actually demonetized gold in 1857, and adopted a silver standard.
From the action of these states in thus attempting to cripple the Unite<1 States by demonetizing gold, and going on a silver basis, a great struggle arose in Germany and Austria to obtain silver.
Therefore, to prevent these countries from drawing their supp1ies of that metal from the United States, Congress reduced the weight and limited the legal tender power of the minor silver coins, and thus the volume of silver in circulation here was protected from exportation to the silver standard countries.
Furthermore, Congress now cndeavored to supply the people with a uniform system of gold and silver coinage, and, in the execution of that policy, enacted the law of March 3, 1853, which provided that the Secretary of the Treasury should establish an assay office in the city of New York, for the assaying and casting of gold and silver bullion and foreign coin into bars, ingots, or disks, and the assistant treasurer at New York was made the treasurer of such assay office; and he was authorized, upon the deposit of gold or silver bullion or foreign coin, and the ascertainment of its net value, "To issue his certificate of the net value thereof payable in coins of the same metal as that deposited."
The certificates so issued by the assistant treasurer were made receivable at any time within sixty days from the date thereof, in the payment of all debts due to
the United States at the port of New York for the full sum therein certified.
Thus the foreign importer, in the payment of the duties on goods, wares, and merchandise at the custom house, would take his foreign coin to the assay office, have its finencss determined, obtain a certificate for the amount of its value, and pay the duties imposed upon his goods with said certificate, Such foreign coins were cast into bars and transformed into coins of the United States.
By the act of February 21, 1859, Congress fixed the value of the fractional parts of the Spanish pillar dollar, and the Mexican dollar as follows; viz., "The fourth of a dollar, or piece of two reals at twenty cents, the eighth of a dollar, or piece of one real at ten cents, and the sixteenth of a dollar, or half-real, at five cents."
These coins at the valuations thus fixed by law were receivable at the Treasury of the United States, the post offices, and land office, as legal tender for the payment of debts and demands.
The former acts of Congress, authorizing the circulation of foreign gold and silver coins, and declaring the same a legal tender for the payment of debts, were repealed.
The reason for the repeal of former laws declaring foreign gold and silver coins legal tender was based on the following facts: first, the United States had become, with the discovery of the rich gold mines of California, the greatest producer of gold in the world, 'and it endeavored to supply the people with a volume of coins stamped in American mints; second, nearly sixty years had elapsed since the passage of the first
coinage law, and the capacity of the United States mints being greatly increased, Congress, by said repeal, aimed at a re-coinage of the foreign gold and silver coins into American coins, and by this means supply a homogeneous circulation of gold and silver.
Six years had elapsed since the passage of the law of March 3, 1853, authorizing the issuing of certificates for deposits of foreign coin, and the act of February 21, 1859, was merely an accumulative statute to that act for the transformation of foreign coin into that of the United States.
The latter act did not take away the privilege of the holder of foreign coin to receive certificates of deposit at the assay office in New York City, and the issuance of these certificates was of great convenience to the owner of bullion and such coin. From the act of March 3, 1853, dates the origin of gold and silver certificates.
From 1859 to 1873 but few changes were made in the coinage laws, and these were comparatively unimportant in their nature.
Prior to 1861, the annual production of silver in the United States never exceeded the value of $1oo,ooo, on the other hand, the amount of gold produced in the mines of California, from 1848to the outbreak of the war, amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars. The greatest amount of gold produced from American mines in any one year was in 1853, when it reached the enormous sum of $65,ooo,ooo. The total product of gold from the mines of the United States, from 1848 to 1861 inclusive, reached the grand total of $7oo,ooo,ooo.
In the year 1859, that great deposit of silver, the
Comstock Lode, was discovered in Nevada, and from this period the United States is reckoned among the greatest producers of silver in the world.
In 1860 the production of silver had risen to $150,000, which, up to this period, was the greatest amount produced in the United States in any one year. In the same year the production of gold in California alone was $45,000,000 in value.
In 1863, the value of the product of silver had risen to $8,500,000.
In 1867, silver to the amount of $I3,500,000 was produced from the mines of the west - chiefly in Nevada.
The production of gold for the same year was $51,725,000.
At this period, the national debt had reached the enormous sum of $2,7oo,ooo,ooo, the interest of which was payable in coin.
The whole annual product of the gold mines in the United States would scarcely sufficient to pay one-half of the annual interest charge upon the national debt held by the national banking money power.
Therefore, the control of the gold supply of the country was in the firm grasp of the national banks and bond holders.
It is much easier for the money power to manipulate the volume of gold than that of silver, in as much as gold contains a much greater value in a proportionately smaller bulk than silver.
Again, gold bullion is converted into coins of large denominations, chiefly ten and twenty dollar gold pieces; while silver is coined into dollars and fractional parts thereof.
From the foregoing facts, gold is the money of the wealthy, while silver is the money of the laborer.
It is the small coins that most actively circulate in the channels of trade; it is gold that is hoarded by the miser and the capitalist.
The small coins that are in active circulation have always eluded every effort to hoard them in large quantities.
The rapid increase in the production of silver in the United States meant the financial liberation of the people from the money power of the East. Thc prospects for an enormous supply of silver from the western mines threatened the supremacy of New York City and London as the money markets of the world.
The owner of silver could take his bullion to the mint, have it coined into standard silver dollars of full legal tender debt, paying power, receive them after their mintage, and transact business by their means; he was not under the necessity, when in need of money, to make application to a national bank for a loan of its circulating notes, whose sole credit rested on the solvency of the United States. He was not compelled to pay toll to the national banks for the use of their debts as money.
The national banking money power could not control the silver dollar, as long as the law authorized its free coinage, and consequently, a gigantic conspiracy was formed in London and New York City to demonetize silver.
This great money power whose almost absolute control of the currency was surely driving all business to a credit basis, deliberately planned the destruction of that precious metal whose value has been far more stable than that of gold.