Memorandum of Instructions for the British Delegates appointed by Her Majesty’s Government to attend the International Monetary Conference at Brussels

 

The Government of the United States, having taken measures to promote a Conference of the European Powers in order to take into consideration the present condition of silver, expressed a wish to Her Majesty’s Government that a ratio might be established by the leading nations for the coinage of silver at their several Mints.

It was intimated in reply that Her Majesty’s Government would not be able to accept an invitation couched in such terms.

The Government of the United States have now proposed a Conference of the Powers for the purpose of considering what measures, if any, can be taken to increase the use of silver in the currency systems of nations.

Her Majesty’s Government have accepted the invitation conveyed in these terms, taking note of the statement of the Government of the United States that it does not interpose any conditions which will embarrass any Government willing to confer generally upon the subject of the proper and most advantageous relation of silver to the coinage of the world.

The Honourable Sir Charles W.  Fremantle, K.C.B., the Deputy Master of the Mint

Sir William Houldsworth, Bart., M.P.

Sir Charles Rivers Wilson, K.C.M.G., Comptroller of the National Debt

Bertram Currie, Esq., and

Alfred de Rothschild, Esq., have been appointed Delegates to represent the United Kingdom at the Conference.

Mr. Babington Smith, of Her Majesty’s Treasury, will accompany the Delegates as their Secretary.

The Government of India has appointed two Delegates who will represent India, as distinct from the United Kingdom, and who will act under separate instructions issued to them by the Secretary of State in Council of India.

The Conference will meet at Brussels on the 22nd day of the current month of November.

The invitation to the Conference contemplates the study of any measure for the extended use of silver which may be proposed.

Under it a Delegate may suggest a scheme for a double standard, but it admits also the discussion of any scheme for promoting the use of silver as currency.

Her Majesty’s Government do not limit the powers of the British Delegates in the first instance by any prohibition to enter on such field of inquiry as the members of the Conference may desire to cover.  The British Delegates are therefore permitted to agree, if the Delegates of other nations should also agree, to the following mode of proceeding, viz. : that each Delegate should speak and vote on any defined plan proposed for the extended use of silver, on the understanding that he does not thereby in any sense commit the Government which has delegated him to the Conference, but, that in the event of the adoption of such a plan or plans by the Conference, the Conference is to adjourn in order to enable the respective Governments to study the plans so adopted, and that, after such examination, the Delegates will be instructed by their respective Governments as to the adoption, rejection or modification of the plans.  It is of the essence of the question that the ideas of the Delegates should be reduced to working plans, and should thus be subjected to practical criticism.  For that purpose it is neither necessary nor desirable to exclude any particular idea from discussion, provided always that it is put forward in practical form.

The British Delegates are authorised to declare that Her Majesty’s Government are prepared to adopt now the measures which their predecessors offered in 1881 as regards action in the United Kingdom in order to promote the use of silver, but under the conditions which were then laid down as the basis of the offer; and it should be clearly stated that this declaration is made on behalf of the United Kingdom only, and not on that of the Government of India.

Above all things the Delegates should study with the greatest care every measure suggested to insure a wider use of silver in currency, before they come to the conclusion that matters must be left as they are.

The Government of India will give its own instructions to its Delegates, but the British Delegates may, if invited by the Government of India, join the Delegates of India in warning the Conference that India cannot and must not be expected to keep her Mint open for the free coinage of silver if no other leading nation does the same.

The British Delegates will report, as they may think it necessary, the Proceedings the Conference to the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Treasury.

 

Report to the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Treasury

May it please your Lordships,

We have the honour to report that, in accordance with the instructions which your Lordships were pleased to give us, we attended the meetings of the International Monetary Conference at Brussels.

A full report of the proceedings is contained in the official Procès-verbaux, which we have the honour to forward herewith, in the original French and in an English translation.

The Conference assembled at the invitation of the Government of the United States, and was convened, as your Lordships stated in the instructions which you were pleased to give us, «for the purpose of considering what measures, if any, could be taken to increase the use of silver in the currency systems of nations.»

The circumstances under which this invitation was given are set out in the Statement and Programme submitted to the Conference by the Delegation of the United States, and in the speech which Senator Allison made in presenting it.

«It is generally admitted,» the statement begins, «that the very large depreciation of silver as compared with gold during the last twenty years, and the frequent and violent fluctuations in the gold price of silver incident thereto, have been injurious to the commercial and other economic interests of all civilised countries, and have caused, and are causing, serious evils and inconveniences to trade, the full extent of which cannot be measured.»

It will be remembered that the last International Monetary Conference, convened the same purpose, namely, to remedy the evils thus described, met eleven years ago in Paris at the joint invitation of France and the United States, and that it was adjourned without having arrived at any result.  Since that period the United States, through various acts of legislation, have acquired a very large amount of both coined and uncoined silver.  Notwithstanding these specific measures the price of silver has not improved, but on the contrary has experienced a gradual and considerable depreciation.  The United States, however, believing in a general desire for a larger use of silver as money throughout the world, thought the time had arrived for holding another International Conference for the consideration of the same subject.  It was recognised by the Government of the United States that some European countries might not be willing to adopt the remedy which the United States would prefer, namely the establishment of some fixity of value between gold and silver, and the full use of silver as a coin metal upon a ratio to gold to be fixed by an agreement between the great commercial peoples of the world.  In order therefore that no nation might be deterred from joining in the Conference by unwillingness to entertain that particular proposal, the invitation was conveyed in the general terms above quoted, and it was expressly stated that the Government of the United States did not wish to impose any conditions which would embarrass any Government that might be willing to confer upon the most advantageous relation of silver to the coinage of the world.

The invitation thus given was accepted by all the most important States, and at the First Meeting of the Conference, on November 22nd, 1892, the Delegates of twenty Governments were present, representing Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, British India, Greece, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States of America.  The proceedings were opened by Mr. Beernaert, President of the Council and Finance Minister of Belgium.  Mr. Montefiore Levi, Senator and Delegate of Belgium, was chosen as President, and his Excellency Mr. Edwin H. Terrell, Minister of the United States at Brussels and one of the Delegates of the United States, was chosen Vice-President.

It was naturally to the Delegates of the United States that the Conference looked for the presentation of proposals for carrying out the object set forth in their invitation, and for an indication of the course which it was desired that the deliberations of the Conference should follow.

Accordingly at the Second Meeting the statement to which we have already referred was presented by the Delegates of the United States.  They frankly stated that the plan which they themselves favoured, and which was supported by public opinion in the United States with singular unanimity, was a plan for international bi-metallism.  It was formulated in the following terms :

1.   That the re-establishment and maintenance of a fixed parity between gold and silver, and the continued use of both as coined money of full debt-payment power, would be productive of important benefits to the world.

2.   That these ends can be accomplished by removing the legal restrictions which now exist on the coinage of silver into full legal tender money, and restoring by international agreement the parity of value between the metals which existed prior to 1873 at such ratio as may be decided upon by this Conference.

3.   That the essential provisions of such an international agreement should be :

a)  Unrestricted coinage of both gold and silver into money of full debt-paying power.

b) Fixing the ratio in coinage between the two metals.

c)  Establishing a uniform charge (if any) to the public for the manufacture of gold and silver coins.

But at the same time the United States Delegates desired that other plans for the enlarged use of silver should be considered.  They expressed a hope that the Powers represented at the Conference, or some of their Delegates, would submit proposals directed to this end, and suggested for discussion two such proposals, viz., (1) the plan of Mr. Moritz Levy, proposed at the Conference of 1881, and (2) the plan proposed by the late Dr. A. Soetbeer, the distinguished German statistician.  We shall refer later to these proposals, and it will be sufficient here to indicate that both of them contemplate an increase in the use of silver by substituting silver coin or notes based on silver for such small gold coins and small notes based on gold as are at present in circulation.

As to the order of the proceedings, the Delegation of the United States desired that the discussion of their own bi-metallic proposal should be postponed till after such subsidiary proposals, as might be brought forward had been considered.

Senator Allison concluded the speech in which he introduced this programme by moving a general resolution, «that in the opinion of this Conference it is desirable that some measures should be found for increasing the use of silver in the currency systems of the nations».

It appeared to us that this resolution was merely a recapitulation of the terms of the invitation which had been accepted by Her Majesty’s Government, and accordingly Sir Rivers Wilson, on behalf of the British Delegation, at once declared that we accepted the resolution in that sense, reserving at the same time full liberty of opinion upon the particular schemes which might be brought forward to give effect to it.

A series of declarations followed from the representatives of various Powers.  From them it appeared that the Delegates of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia were instructed not to express an opinion or to vote upon any resolution, while the representatives of Romania, Portugal, Turkey and Greece, being without special instructions, felt themselves compelled to take up a similar attitude of reserve.  The Delegates of Spain, Denmark, Mexico and the Netherlands accepted the resolution from the same point of view as the British Delegation.

The attitude of the States forming the Latin Union was not so clear.  Mr. Tirard (Delegate of France) expressed a feeling of disappointment at the programme of the United States.  He said that he had expected that it would contain more formal proposals than it did, and that he considered it illogical to postpone the discussion of the bi-metallic proposal till after the subsidiary suggestions had been considered.  At the same time he stated that the French Delegates did not oppose the resolution.  The Delegates of Italy and Belgium said that they were unable to take up a different attitude from that of their colleagues in the Latin Union.  Although no definite opposition was offered to the resolution by the Delegates of these three countries, that general impression given was that the States of the Latin Union, and France in particular, were, at the outset at any rate, disposed to criticism rather than to cordial co-operation with the objects of the Conference.

It was evident after these declarations that it would be of little use to take a vote up the resolution, seeing that a large number of Delegates would be compelled to abstain, Senator Allison said that under these circumstances he would not press for an immediate vote, and the resolution was allowed to drop.

In the course of the meeting, Mr. de Rothschild, in response to the invitation contained in the programme of the United States, laid upon the table a proposal for the consideration of the Conference.

At the Third Meeting, then, the first business before the Delegates became the consideration of the two subsidiary schemes mentioned in the programme of the United States Delegation, and of Mr. de Rothschild’s proposal.  It was evident that so large a body as the full Conference could not effectively discuss proposals involving many technical details, and accordingly a Committee was appointed for the examination of these and other schemes which might be brought forward by members of the Conference.  It consisted of the following members :

Mr. Cannon
Don Joaquin D. Casasus
Mr. Cramer-Frey
Mr. de Foville
Mr. de Osma
Mr. Forssell
Sir C. Fremantle
Sir G. Molesworth
Mr. Raffalovich
Mr. Sainctelette
Mr. Simonelli
Mr. Tietgen
Mr. van den Berg
United States
Mexico
Switzerland
France
Spain
Sweden
Great Britain
British India
Russia
Belgium
Italy
Denmark
The Netherlands

and the President and Secretary of the Conference.

Mr. Alfred de Rothschild was also invited to attend the Committee during the discussion of his scheme.

The Report presented by this Committee at the Fourth Meeting of the Conference (December 2nd) is an important document.  It first records information furnished by members of the Committee upon certain preliminary points, viz. : (1) the possibility of restricting the production of silver by legislative means; (2) the probable future of silver production; (3) the policy of the United States as to silver purchases; and (4) the policy of British India as to silver coinage.

It then discusses in detail Mr. de Rothschild’s plan.  This plan had been indicated by its author in the following words, in the statement which he had submitted to the Conference :

«The American Government are purchasers of silver to the amount of 54 millions of ounces yearly, and I would suggest that, on condition these purchases were continued, the different European Powers should combine to make certain yearly purchases, say to the extent of about £ 5,000,000 annually; such purchases to be continued over a period of five years, at a price not exceeding 43 pence per ounce standard, but if silver should rise above that price, the purchases for the time being to be immediately suspended.»

The criticisms made in the Committee rendered it apparent that in order to meet objections raised in various quarters, some modifications were necessary; in particular, that provision would have to be made for the monetary use of the silver bought, and that there might be difficulties as to the exact limit of price suggested by Mr. de Rothschild, especially in view of existing silver legislation in America.  The proposal was therefore somewhat modified, with Mr. de Rothschild’s assent, and formulated by the Committee in the following shape :

1.   The European States, which agree upon the basis of this proposal, will buy in each year 30 million ounces of silver on condition that the United States agree to continue their present purchases and that unlimited free coinage be maintained in British India and Mexico.

2.   The proportion of the purchase to be made by each country will be determined by agreement.

3.   The purchases will be made at the discretion of, and in the manner preferred by each Government.

4.   These amounts of silver will be devoted in each country to the monetary uses authorised by the legislation of that State; and the silver will be either coined or made the guarantee for an issue of ordinary or special notes as each Government may think fit.

5.   The arrangement will be made for five years.  The obligatory purchase of silver will be suspended should the metal reach, in the London market, a price determined by agreement between the Governments.  The purchases may be resumed if the Delegates of the different countries interested should agree upon the fixing of a new limit of price.  They should be resumed in any case if the price falls below the original limit.

As to the other plans before the Committee, the Soetbeer plan was abandoned as merely another version of the Levy plan, with added and undesirable complications; and the Levy plan was drawn up in the following form :

1.   The withdrawal from circulation, within a period of … of gold coins containing a weight of less than 5.806 grammes of fine gold (20-franc pieces).

2.   The withdrawal of notes of a less value than the coin of 20 francs or its equivalent, an exception being made of notes representing a deposit of silver.

The Committee was unanimous in thinking that both these plane, viz., the Levy plan, and also that of Mr. de Rothschild, should be brought before the Conference for discussion; but as to the merits of the plans there was considerable difference of opinion.  A large majority were in favour of the Levy plan, but it was felt that if it were adopted its effects, though beneficial, would not be of great importance.  Moreover, as it would entail considerable inconvenience for Great Britain, Sir C. Fremantle declared that he could only support it if it were joined with a scheme such as that of Mr. de Rothschild, or some other scheme tending in the same direction, by which other countries would make some effort to assist the common object.  On the other hand, to Mr. de Rothschild’s proposal there was considerable opposition.  Its opponents desired to express their objections, but at the same time in such a form as would not prevent the plan from being brought before the Conference.  With this view, the representatives of the Latin Union on the Committee, while accepting the above-mentioned recommendation that the plan should be discussed by the Conference, presented a motion declaring that if the plan were adopted by the Conference they would be unable to recommend it to their Governments.

This motion was opposed by Sir C. Fremantle on the ground that it was premature and illogical on the part of a Committee, appointed to report to the Conference, to declare what their action would be in the event of certain proposals being adopted by the Conference.  The motion was, however, carried by seven votes to six, Messrs. Forssell (Sweden), Raffalovich (Russia) and Tietgen (Denmark) joining with the four representatives of the Latin Union to support it, and the remaining members of the Committee, viz., Sir C. Fremantle (Great Britain), Sir G. Molesworth (British India), Mr. Cannon (United States), Mr. de Osma (Spain), Don Joaquin Casasus (Mexico), and Mr. van der Berg (The Netherlands) opposing it.

At the Fourth Meeting of the Conference this Report was presented and the discussion upon it began.  It was evident from the first that the inconveniences foreseen by Mr. Tirard as to the order of the discussion were not imaginary.  Mr. Boissevain (Delegate of the Netherlands), the first speaker, assumed that the hostile vote of the Committee upon Mr. de Rothschild’s scheme implied its rejection, and urged that the discussion upon bi-metallism should at once begin.  The Conference, however, decided to adhere to the order of proceeding which it had adopted, and the discussion upon the Report was continued.  It became evident that in such a discussion it was impossible to confine speakers strictly to the matter in hand, and that general arguments must necessarily be admitted; and at the end of the meeting it was decided that in continuing the discussion at the next meeting the liberty of speakers to treat the question from the general point of view should be fully recognised.

At the opening of the Fifth Sitting the position with regard to Mr. de Rothschild’s scheme was this : the Committee had recommended the Conference to consider it, but had, by a majority including all the representatives of the Latin Union, declared that, even if the Conference accepted it, they could not recommend its adoption.  At the Fourth Meeting Mr. Boissevain had declared that there were insurmountable obstacles to its adoption by the Government of the Netherlands; General Strachey had said that, unless it received more favour than was indicated by the Report he would be unable to support it; Mr. Allard, one of the Belgian Delegates, had declared that it was insufficient; and Mr. Bertram Currie had spoken in the strongest terms against any attempts artificially to raise the price of silver.  In these circumstances it appeared clear that the plan would not receive an effective measure of support; and Sir Rivers Wilson declared, on behalf of himself and Sir Charles Fremantle, that, recognising that this want of support would prevent them from recommending the plan to their Government, they would refrain from taking part in a detailed discussion of it, although they did not consider it inconsistent with the mono-metallist opinions which they held.  Mr. McCreary (Delegate of the United States) then stated that he did not consider Mr. de Rothschild’s proposal, as it stood, equitable to the United States, and therefore that he would be unable to support it.  In view of these various declarations Mr. de Rothschild stated that he considered it respectful to the Conference to withdraw his plan.

The discussion continued nominally upon the Levy plan; but it was evident that though this proposal was regarded with favour, it was not considered important enough to receive really vigorous support.

At the Sixth Session the discussion upon the general bi-metallic proposal of the United States was formally opened and lasted till the end of the Ninth Session.  This discussion was of wide range, and of great interest from the theoretical and, in some of aspects, from the practical point of view.  We do not consider it necessary to recapitulate it here, since it will be found in full in the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Conference which accompany our Report.  As a practical contribution to the solution of present difficulties, its interest mainly lay in the information which it gave to the opinions entertained in various countries on important monetary questions, and such information we propose to summarise in a later part of this Report.

In the course of the discussion a general desire was felt that some statement should be made on behalf of France.  The attitude of the French Delegates had been one of great reserve, and their precise views on the bi-metallic question were unknown.  Great interest, therefore, was felt in the speech which Mr. Tirard made at the Seventh Session, a speech which acquires additional importance from the fact that since that time he has become Minister of Finance.  He declared, with the greatest clearness, that he could not advise his Government to open the French mints to the free coinage of silver, unless there were a general agreement on the part of other countries to open their mints also.  He therefore considered that unless there should be a decided change of opinion on the part of Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Scandinavian countries, and other mono-metallic States, the question of returning to the free coinage of silver in France must be looked upon as settled.  With regard to the subsidiary plans which had been proposed, he anticipated objections from the French public to the withdrawal of the 10-franc piece, and did not expect any increased use of silver in consequence of such a measure; while, with reference to Mr. de Rothschild’s plan, he expressed strong objection to any measure which would add to the French stock of silver.

At the Ninth Session the discussion upon the bi-metallic proposal was brought to a close.  After the declarations which had been made in the course of the debates, it was felt that it was unnecessary to proceed to a division, and Senator Allison declared, on behalf of the United States Delegation, that in the circumstances they would not press for a vote upon it.

It was now generally felt that it would not be useful to prolong the discussions of the Conference.  At the same time some members of it were anxious not to give up hope of a more fruitful result at a later period.  It was thought possible that consideration of the proceedings by the various Governments concerned might incline them to view more favourably at any rate some of the subsidiary proposals which had been or might be put forward, and accordingly, on December 17th, the adjournment the Conference was moved in the following terms by Baron de Renzis (Delegate of Italy) :

«The International Monetary Conference, recognising the great value of the arguments which have been developed in the Reports presented, and in the discussions at the meetings, and reserving its final judgment upon the subjects proposed for its examination, expresses its gratitude to the Government of the United States for having furnished an opportunity for a fresh study of the present condition of silver.

The Conference suspends its labours, and decides, should the Governments approve, to meet again on the 30th May 1893.

It expresses the hope that, during the interval the careful study of the documents submitted to the Conference will have permitted the discovery of an equitable agreement, which shall not infringe in any way the fundamental principles of the monetary policy of the different countries.»

For ourselves we are unable to share these hopes.  It appeared to us that the discussions had shown such divergence of interests that there was little more prospect of an agreement after an interval of a few months.  We did not, however, think it politic to oppose a wish generally entertained by the Conference, and therefore contented ourselves with expressing doubts as to the advantages to be gained from further meetings, and urged that under no circumstances should the Conference be called together again except for the consideration of a definite proposal emanating from the Government of the United States or some other Government.

At the same time we thought it right to say that, pending any adjournment of the Conference, Her Majesty’s Government must retain its absolute liberty of action; and what is perhaps more important, in view of the present state of the silver question, as affecting India, a formal declaration to similar effect was made by General Strachey on behalf of the Government of India.

The terms of Baron de Renzis’ motion expressed the general feeling that in order that any proposal might have a chance of acceptance it must be of such a nature as not to infringe the fundamental principles of the monetary policy of the countries concerned.  Several proposals claiming to have such a character were brought before the Conference, besides those of Mr. de Rothschild and Mr. Moritz Levy, to which we have already referred, and formed the subject of a Second Report by the Examining Committee.  They did not meet with any serious support in the Committee, and the Report expressed no definite opinion upon their merits.  It states that the proposals were too closely allied to the general debate before the Conference to enable the Committee to pronounce an opinion upon the opportuneness of their discussion in full Conference.  At the same time, the Committee suggested that they should form the subject of later study by the Delegates and their Governments; and it may therefore be useful to indicate briefly their nature.

Mr. Tietgen (Delegate of Denmark) submitted to the Committee a plan for the creation of an international silver currency.  The weight of the coins was to be fixed by the market price of silver, with a deduction of 10 % for seignorage; and if the market price should vary considerably, re-coinage might be decided upon by agreement.

The coins would be unlimited legal tender in the country which had coined them, and every bank of issue would be allowed to hold the coins without distinction of country as part of its metallic reserve, and would have the right of demanding from any country repayment in gold for the coins of that country which it held.

The Committee recorded two objections to this scheme : one, that it would necessarily follow that every country would be able to pay in gold when the demand came; the other, that re-coinage, and the consequent simultaneous circulation of coin of the same denomination and different weights, would be very inconvenient; but did not attempt to remodel the scheme so as to meet these objections, which indeed appear to be fundamental.

Sir William Houldsworth’s proposal, which was originally suggested by Mr. Huskisson in the year 1826, was intended to provide a means by which those countries where there was strong objection to an increased use of silver coin, or to changes in the monetary habits of the people, would be able to join, to some extent, in a bi-metallic union.  Such countries would issue receipts or certificates for amounts above a certain minimum limit against deposits of silver, to circulate as full legal tender at a fixed ratio to gold.  Given that a bi-metallic regime were established in some other countries.  Sir William Houldsworth expected that such certificates as these would pass into circulation at par, and would be used as bank reserves.

The Committee did not discuss this plan beyond pointing out that if these certificates were to be full legal tender, the general objections entertained by some countries to bi-metallism would apply equally to this modified form of bi-metallism.

Finally, there was the proposal of Mr. Allard (Delegate of Belgium).  It was of a complicated character, but it may be briefly described as providing for the creation of international silver notes representing the silver value for the time being of a certain sum expressed in gold.  Any profit on these notes from a rise in the price of silver should go to the issuing State, while any loss would be divided among the States joining in the scheme

There were other suggestions also, one of them by Mr. de Foville, one of the French Delegates, for the creation in one form or another of silver warrants for commercial purposes in order to facilitate dealings in silver.  Some members of the Committee held – and in this we agree with them – that the consideration of such measures did not fall strictly within the province of a Conference which had been assembled to consider means for extending the monetary use of silver.

The Conference did not succeed in finding any definite and practical scheme upon which a large number of the Delegates could agree; but it must not therefore be considered that it did not produce any results of importance.  Valuable information upon the monetary question generally has been obtained and recorded; and, in particular, the declarations made of the views of various countries have given some indication of the limits within which a remedy must be sought, if it is to be sought anywhere, for such evils as there may be in the present situation.

Certain countries declared themselves frankly as adherents of the mono-metallic faith.  The representatives of Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway were clear in their declarations that no change would be made in the gold basis of the currency of those countries.  Switzerland, though a member of the Latin Union, declared explicitly that she was an unshaken adherent of the mono-metallic principle, and the Delegate of Austria-Hungary was equally explicit in his statement that his Governments had every intention of abiding by the gold standard which they are in course of adopting.  On the bi-metallic side the lead was taken by the Untied States.  The Netherlands were prepared to join a bi-metallic union, provided that Great Britain formed a part of it; and Spain and Mexico were ready to adopt bi-metallism or other measures which would have the effect of raising the price of silver.  No declaration of policy was made on behalf of Russia, though one of her Delegates, speaking personally, was an active supporter of the gold standard.  The Romanian Government did not consider bi-metallism a practical possibility, and Turkey and Portugal expressed no opinion.

There remained the four States which, with Switzerland, form the Latin Union, viz., France, Italy, Belgium and Greece.  Upon their attitude to a great extent the situation turned.  A partial bi-metallic agreement might have been within the range of possibility, had these States been willing to enter it.  But Mr. Tirard (Delegate of France), as we have stated above, declared himself opposed to any union for the adoption of bi-metallism, unless such union included among its members Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia.

Belgium, Italy and Greece having announced that they could not take up an attitude different from that of their colleagues of the Latin Union, the result clearly is that unless an event should take place, which, in our opinion, is highly improbable, unless, that is, there should be a radical change in the declared monetary policy of Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia, an international agreement for fixing a ratio between the values of gold and silver must be regarded as beyond the range of practical politics.  Without such radical change there is no prospect of the realisation of the conditions which, in the opinion of bi-metallists themselves, are necessary for the establishment of an efficient bi-metallic system by international agreement.

We have indicated in the course of this Report the various subsidiary proposals which were brought forward with a view to increasing the monetary use of silver.  We gave to all such proposals the careful examination which our instructions charged us to give; but in spite of the desire to arrive at some practical compromise which animated a large number of the Delegates present, it was found impossible to discover any ground of agreement.  One great difficulty which was experienced with regard to these proposals was that in each case they were thought to involve disproportionate sacrifices on the part of certain countries.  This is perhaps inevitable, but it is a most serious obstacle to the adoption of any compromise.  It was the recognition of this fact which led us to express the opinion that further meetings of the Conference would not be productive of practical results.

Your Lordships will now readily understand how great the difficulties were which had to be contended with, and how unlikely, if not impossible, it was that any practical result should have been arrived at.  The silence of both Germany and of Austria-Hungary was merely broken for the purpose of giving vague and general assurances.  The attitude of France was nearly as reserved, although Mr. Tirard made two very eloquent speeches, the principal point of which was that he expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the present monetary situation in France.  Italy and Belgium might have been disposed to take a more active part, but their adhesion to the Latin Union, from financial and other considerations into which it is unnecessary for us to enter, prevented them from taking up any independent attitude of their own, and led them to endorse in every respect, in pursuance of an arrangement previously entered into, the policy and views of France.  Holland and Spain gave frequent proofs of great good will, but found themselves in a minority.

As regards the Delegates of the United States themselves their position was very peculiar.  Since their appointment the Presidential Election had taken place, with the result of placing the Democratic party in power instead of the Republican, and great uncertainty necessarily prevailed as to the attitude and intentions of a new President and Congress.  In these circumstances it soon became evident that the Delegates were anxious for an adjournment of the question, to give the new Government the opportunity of expressing their views, and that the Conference would adjourn without any practical result; but, nevertheless, some very important statements and declarations were elicited in the course of the debates.  In the first place, in addition to the distinct declarations on the part of some of the most important European Powers that they would not entertain bi-metallism, to which we have already alluded, the Representatives of the United States announced, in very clear language, that at any moment their Government might be disinclined to continue their purchases of silver, and that they were determined to protect their stock of gold.

The Indian Delegates alluded to the possibility of their Government finding itself under the necessity of closing its mints to the free coinage of silver.  As regards the attitude of the British Delegates, we did our utmost to carry out the instructions laid down for us by Her Majesty’s Government; and it is with great satisfaction that we are able to record that the Delegates of the United States expressed their appreciation of the sympathy which they had met with from Great Britain, and that they declared that in that respect, if in no other, they were perfectly satisfied with the results of the Conference.

We desire, in conclusion, to place upon record our appreciation of the services rendered to the Delegation by our Secretary, Mr. H. Babington Smith, whose ability and industry, added to a thorough knowledge of the subject, have at all points essentially lightened our task.

We have the honour to be

Your Lordships’ most obedient servants

(Signed)

C. W. Fremantle

W. H. Houldsworth

C. Rivers Wilson

B. W. Currie

Alfred de Rothschild

H. Babington Smith, Secretary to the Delegates.

February 3rd, 1893.

 

In signing the foregoing Report I wish to say that I am more sanguine than my colleagues of an international agreement being ultimately arrived at, though I recognise the difficulties which at present stand in the way.

(Signed)

W. H. Houldsworth

 

 

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