REPORT

 

UPON  THE  INTERNATIONAL  MONETARY  CONFERENCE  BY  THE  COMMISSION

WHICH  ATTENDED  IT  ON  BEHALF  OF  THE  UNITED  STATES

 

To the President of the United States :

The undersigned, Commissioners under the act of February 28, 1878, have the honor to report as follows :

After receiving in person at Washington, on the 28th of June, the instructions of the Department of State, your Commissioners proceeded severally to Europe, assembling at Paris on the 6th of August, in preparation for the opening of the Conference on the 10th of that month.  Mr. S. Dana Horton, designated by Congress as the secretary of the Commission, having been detained in the United States, did not reach Paris until the 15th.  Upon his arrival, Mr. Horton was presented to the Conference at its second session, and upon the request of the American Delegates, in accordance with instructions from the Department of State, was admitted to a seat in the Conference.

The Conference opened on the 10th of August, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Upon the nomination of the Delegation of the United States, M. Léon Say, the French minister of finance, was chosen president.  Mr. Fenton, chairman of the United States Delegation, was then made vice-president.  The secretaries were appointed from the regular staff of the French diplomatic service.  A list of the accredited members of the Conference will be found in the journal.

The Conference held seven sessions between the 10th and 29th of August.  The journal, which is annexed to and made a part of this report, shows the order of proceedings and the course of discussion, the propositions offered at the second session by the Delegation from the United States, the formal response by a majority of the European Delegates, and our reply thereto.

The early sessions of the Conference disclosed two facts : first, that political complications would combine with economic objections to prevent the accomplishment of the immediate object of the act under which your Commission was constituted, namely, the establishment, by international agreement, of a fixed ratio, in the Coinage, between Gold and Silver; second, that the views of the Delegates from the majority of the countries represented, and especially the more populous and territorially extensive countries, were favorable to the ultimate object of the act, namely, the restoration of Silver to its rank as Money of full power in Europe and America.

In the latter respect the Congress of 1878 presented a strong contrast to its sole precursor, the Monetary Conference held in Paris in 1867 [1].  That Conference, animated by a controlling desire to secure a uniformity of money pieces among the nations there represented, and deeming that it saw in Gold-mono-metallism the means of doing this, recommended that policy, with very little consideration of the sacrifices it would require from production and trade.  By an almost unanimous vote, that Conference pronounced in favor of Gold, Silver to be retained as Money of full power only during the period of transition to Gold, which might be longer or shorter in the case of different States.

Inasmuch as eleven years have been allowed for discussion and reflection since this memorable declaration was made; inasmuch as the rejection of Silver as Money of full power has in part been carried out; and inasmuch as great loss has already been entailed upon production and trade, as the initial cost of that movement, the scheme for the general demonetization of Silver throughout the civilized States, if indeed it were sound and judicious in 1867, ought to stand more firmly still in 1878.

Yet it was the unmistakable sentiment of this Conference, convoked by the United States, that the demonetization of Silver had proceeded farther than was compatible with the interests of Europe and America; and while diplomatic considerations prevented the formal declaration of any opinion which would have been offensive to the minority, the Conference did not hesitate to declare that the monetary functions of Silver ought to be maintained, as well as those of Gold.  Mono-metallism, in the sense of the Conference of 1867, was advocated in that of 1878 by only three Delegations, none of which represented populous States.

In this connection the position of England is worthy of special remark.  That nation had set the example of demonetizing Silver, and after the Conference of 1867 recommended the general adoption of Gold mono-metallism, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in Parliament, congratulated the country that Europe was preparing to follow in the same course.   The Conference of 1878 was attended on behalf of Great Britain by a Delegation eminent for experience and economical authority, whose chairman, the head of the parliamentary committee of 1876 on the Depreciation of Silver, declared that universal Gold mono-metallism was not only Utopian, but would prove a false Utopia; that the consequences of the German demonetization had been greatly to derange trade and disturb international exchanges; and that were the movement for the rejection of Silver as Money of full power to proceed from State to State; the results would not be less than disastrous [2].

It is as the greatest commercial nation of the world that England has had especial occasion to experience the necessary effects of the demonetization of Silver; and it is to the severity of that experience, even in the first stages of the movement, that the Conference of 1878 owed the earnest warnings against further progress in the same direction which were given by the English Commission.  Under the bi-metallic system which remained in force in France and the countries associated with her until suspended in consequence of the German demonetization, these countries acted as «equalizing machines», taking the metal which fell and selling the metal which rose, and thus kept the relative value of the two close to a given point, viz., one ounce of Gold for fifteen and a half ounces of Silver, the ratio fixed by the French Coinage law.  Thus it was, and thus only it could have been, that Silver came to have a so-called «normal price» [of nearly 61 d.  per ounce at the British Standard], from which it never departed widely prior to 1873.

The effect of the German demonetization, and of the closing of the mints of the Latin Union to Silver, has been to destroy the par of exchange between Europe and Asia; to introduce into the commercial dealings of two of the great divisions of the world a degree of uncertainty making trade highly speculative, the fluctuations in the price of Silver often far exceeding the usual rates of business profit.  The intercourse between Gold countries and Silver countries has thus been subjected to difficulties precisely the same in kind as those which beset the intercourse of specie-paying nations with those suffering from an irredeemable paper circulation.  These difficulties, it is manifest, must be perpetuated in time and aggravated in degree should the movement for the rejection of Silver continue.  We have here the explanation of the change in the attitude of England since 1867, and of the willingness of the Delegation of that country in 1878 to assist, so far as could be done without compromising the position of England as a Gold-using State, in promoting the use of Silver equally with that of Gold.

The States which had, in the past, performed this grand service to the world appeared in the Conference of 1878 with a divided opinion; audit is, we think, to the delicate relations, political and financial, of the Latin Union, that the failure of the Conference to adopt any positive measures is primarily to be referred.

Switzerland appeared as the uncompromising advocate of Gold monometallism for Europe [3].

The delegation from Belgium, also, was unfavorable.  The position of this State was a source of disappointment.  Of late years Belgium, as a member of the Latin Union, has supported the bi-metallic principle.  Into the causes which resulted in a Delegation at the present Conference openly favoring Gold-mono-metallism it would not be proper for your Commissioners to inquire; but whether these causes were economical or political, the defection of Belgium at this juncture proved a most serious obstacle to the accomplishment of the mission with which we were charged.  Not only did it substitute a hostile for a friendly vote; not only did it deprive the metallic cause of some of its ablest champions, but in view of the crisis in the affairs of the Latin Monetary Union, involved in the necessity imposed upon its members of deciding before January 1, 1879, whether the Union shall be dissolved the year after or shall be continued, the changed attitude of Belgium made the French Delegation solicitous that nothing should be done in the Conference which should drive any State into revolt.

While thus the two smaller Latin States appeared with views opposed to the object of the Conference [4], France, the leading State of the Union, declared through her finance minister, the president of the Conference, that, in suspending the Coinage of Silver, she did not incline to the Single Gold Standard, but, on the contrary, she occupied a position in which she might await the favorable moment to re-enter upon the system of the Double Standard [5].

Italy, the next State in population and wealth within the Union, occupied throughout the Conference the most advanced ground in defense of the bi-metallic system [6].

The Kingdom of Greece, which in 1868 became a member of this Union, announced its full accession to the views of France, as expressed by the president of the Conference.

Austria-Hungary was hardly less pronounced than Italy in asserting the importance of maintaining the monetary functions of Silver, and committed itself unreservedly to the principle of the concurrent circulation of the two metals by virtue of laws establishing a ratio between them [7].

The Government of Russia, through its Delegate, announced its intention to reserve its decision upon the questions before the Conference until such time as it should be prepared to resume specie payments.

A disposition was manifested by some of the advocates of Gold-monometallism to make it matter of disparagement that the advocacy of Silver came so largely from States laboring under financial embarrassments and suffering the circulation of irredeemable Paper Money.  The Delegation of the United States, however, refused to admit this as a valid objection.  That States heavily burdened with debts, representing the cost of wars, of vast military establishments, and extensive public improvements, should earnestly protest against a financial policy which, by diminishing the stock of Gold and Silver in which debts may be discharged, must greatly enhance the weight of those obligations, and make taxation more oppressive, certainly affords no justification for reproach.

We conceive that there can hardly be dissent from the proposition that it would be both a political wrong and an economic injury of the gravest character to adopt a monetary policy which should increase the pressure of debts by diminishing the amount of the precious metals in which they may be paid.  With the enormous public debts of Europe and America, amounting to not less than twenty thousand millions of dollars, contracted at a time when Silver formed an important part of the monetary circulation, the project to reduce that metal to the rank of Token Money, allowing it to remain in Europe and America only as the small change of retail trade, and banishing the residue of the accumulated stock to India and the East, is one which might well arouse the liveliest apprehensions of public disaster.  So far from accepting it as a reproach that the States referred to gave a cordial support to the proposition of the United States, your Commissioners hold it to be a legitimate argument that the retention of Silver would greatly facilitate the resumption of specie payments [8] by all countries having a forced circulation of paper, a result primarily of great importance to themselves, and to be desired by the commonwealth of nations.

The position of Holland at the Conference was one of great interest.  The senior member of the delegation, Mr. Vrolik, president of the Netherlands Society for the Promotion of Industry, was unavoidably absent; but at the last session he by telegraph authorized the presentation to the Conference of his address of July, 1876, to the King of Holland, recommending an International Monetary Conference, for the purpose of establishing the bi-metallic system throughout the civilized States [9].

The remaining member of the Delegation, Mr. Mees, president of the Netherlands Bank, is a well-known economist, who in 1872 advocated the adoption of a Monetary Union between the nations of Western Europe, establishing the ratio between Gold and Silver of 1 to 15 ½.  In consequence, however, of the action of Germany in rejecting the use of Silver and precipitating a large stock of it upon the mints of the neighboring States, Mr. Mees appeared at the Conference in opposition to Free Coinage, declaring that while England and Germany adhered to Gold-mono-metallism, Holland, standing between them, both geographically and financially, must conform to their action.

Under the explanation of the terms of the invitation given by the United States minister at London, Delegates had been appointed by the Government of Sweden and Norway, with instructions to refrain from participating in measures which might compromise in any way the mono-metallic position of those States.

The foregoing enumeration comprises all the States from which Delegates appeared at the Conference.  The Empire of Germany was not represented.  At the second session, the Conference, at the instance of the Italian Delegation, invited that government to participate in its deliberations.  This invitation, having been communicated to the ambassador of Germany, was declined in terms which will appear in the accompanying documents.

The United States appeared at the Conference at a disadvantage by reason of the belief, quite commonly entertained in Europe, that the action of Congress had been mainly determined by the consideration that the United States are largely producers of Silver.  This opinion exhibited not a little vitality, and your Commissioners found it necessary to combat it.  They showed that not only has the Government of the United States no royalty on the production of the mines of the precious metals, but that, through the absence of any accumulated stock, it has in fact far less of a special interest in the question under consideration than many or even most of the States represented in the Conference; that the effect of a given decline in Silver had been, and would continue to be, a more serious loss to the accumulated wealth of France, Belgium, Holland, and especially Great Britain, through its Indian dominions, than to the United States; that as a branch of industry the production of Silver is but one of many occupations to which our available labor and capital have hitherto been inadequate; and that even as a debtor, the United States, a country of vast undeveloped resources, could better bear the weight which would be added to its debts by a diminution of the Money supply of the world, than could other States with less recuperative power and a narrower margin for future growth.

Your Commissioners have reason to think that these views, during the course of the Conference, prevailed over the opinion referred to respecting the motives which had actuated the United States in the recent legislation respecting Silver.  They believe that the European Delegates came to fully recognize the preponderating motive of that legislation as springing from a general interest in an undiminished Money supply, and not from the wish to support a particular branch of American industry.  We are glad to report that the allegation so erroneously made that the act of February 28, 1878, was passed as a measure of partial repudiation, and with the object of paying the debts of the United States in Money of inferior value, had made very little impression on the public mind of Europe, so far as could be judged from the tone of the Conference.

Such being the attitude of the nations represented at the Conference, so general the consent that Silver should not cease to be Money of full power in Europe and America, so almost universal the abandonment of the propaganda of Gold-mono-metallism, it seemed to the American Delegates, as it had to Congress in the enactment of the law under which the Conference was invited, that measures should be adopted to restore Silver to its rank as a Money Metal.  An object of so much importance would justify some sacrifice, should it be found necessary, and the encountering of some risks, in a movement out of the false position into which the civilized world had been brought by the hasty political action of Germany.  Your Commissioners did not fail to urge the adoption of a policy of courageous action.  But this policy was not accepted, and whatever the causes which disinclined some of the countries most firmly adhering to the principle of a bi-metallic circulation to accept it, it was apparent that the two following were especially influential in preventing action at the present time.  The first was the existence of the German stock of Silver still remaining, and now estimated by high authority at about $75,000,000.   Mr. Feer-Herzog, the distinguished Delegate from Switzerland, was disposed to deny to the German stock any considerable influence upon the general market of Silver; but the Delegations from England and France were agreed in attributing to it great importance in its bearing on the price of Silver, and on the practicability of a resumption of free Coinage by the bi-metallic States.  Mr. Gibbs, former governor of the Bank of England, declared the influence of the German stock upon the Silver market to be very serious [10].  In his view, in which the French Delegates substantially concurred, this body of Silver hung like an avalanche over the market, and exerted a permanently depressing influence upon the price of that metal.  The existence of this large accumulation in a single hand, subject to instantaneous control, would also, in the opinion of the same authorities, render exceedingly dangerous the resumption of Silver Coinage, inasmuch as the whole mass of it might be precipitated upon the mints of the bi-metallic countries, with the probable result of breaking down their system at an early date, and also of enabling Germany to dispose of its stock upon advantageous terms – a feature which did not seem to be contemplated with satisfaction by any considerable portion of the Conference.

The second cause which was largely influential in producing the conviction that present action for resuming the general use of Silver was inexpedient was found in the wide divergence between the market rate of Silver and the mint rate generally prevailing in countries having a bi-metallic system.  With Gold ruling at 17.50 to 17.75 in terms of Silver, it was held by the majority of the Conference to be unsafe to coin Silver at 1 to 15.5, or any other ratio near to that.  In view of a divergence so wide, it was thought impossible to bring the market ratio up to the legal ratio merely by opening the mints to Silver.  It was indeed admitted, as expressed by Mr. Goschen, that the position involved a «vicious circle, States being afraid of employing Silver on account of the depreciation, and the depreciation continuing because States refused to employ it» (Remarks of Mr. Goschen, third session).  But from the joint effect of these two causes, it was the disposition of the European Delegates, even of those most favorable to the restoration of Silver to its proper monetary function, to observe events and await the melting away of the mass of German Silver [11], and a fortunate turn in the quotations of Silver, due to a diminution of the supply, or to the continued effect of the East Indian demand.

In answer to these views, presented by men to whose judgment great respect was due, the Delegates of the United States urged, first, that a policy of expectancy is in danger of passing into a policy of endurance; secondly, that in the present situation there was a temptation to individual States like Belgium, Holland, or France, having considerable supplies of Silver, to anticipate each other’s action and dispose of their stock, more or less suddenly or surreptitiously, which course, should it be resorted to by a single State, might inaugurate a panic and depress Silver to a point which would involve incalculable disasters [12].

The interests involved in the retention of this metal being, then, so great, and the danger from delay so manifest, it was urged that something should be done at once, and that the necessary cost and risk of an effort to restore it to the rank of which it has been deprived by the political action of Germany and the closing of the mints of the Latin Union should be unhesitatingly incurred by the nations interested.  If, according to the views previously expressed, the German stock were, indeed, so important a factor in the financial problem, the provisional accumulation of Silver bullion in public treasuries, in definite proportions as should be agreed upon among the States consenting, might be made the means of absorbing this mass, without encountering the risks apprehended from Coinage.  This would involve a certain definite expense and a temporary loss of interest on the amount so held, but these should be regarded as trivial in comparison with the advantages which might be expected to result, or with the possible mischief of a failure of the attempt to carry on Coinage.  When it is considered into how vast a body of commercial transactions disorder has been introduced by the destruction of what is termed the «normal price» of Silver, and consequently of a par of exchange between the Gold countries and the Silver countries, the neutralization of the German stock [13], which otherwise might appear formidable, would be seen to be the part of common prudence.

Your Commissioners trust that an examination of the journal of the Conference will show that they urged the adoption of a policy of action, and proposed, on behalf of the United States, liberal contribution and co-operation in the work of re-establishing Silver in its function as Money.

The causes which have been referred to, however, proved sufficient to prevent concurrent action at this time.

An unfortunate feature of the situation was found in the existence of irredeemable Paper Money in three of the countries seemingly most deeply interested in maintaining the monetary rôle of Silver.  This fact, if it did not diminish the moral authority with which the Delegations of those countries could enter into such a Conference, would at least greatly impair the practical value of any co-operation they might proffer.

In speaking of the obstacles which prevented an agreement as to the resumption of Silver Coinage, or the establishment of a legal ratio in the Coinage between Gold and Silver, your Commissioners do not desire to be understood that all the Delegates who have been mentioned as showing themselves favorable to the continued use of Silver as Money admitted the practicability of a concurrent circulation of the two metals in the same country, or professed a willingness to recommend to their governments action to that end.  The English Delegation, while strongly deprecating the crusade against Silver, nevertheless declared that England would not recede from the monetary legislation of 1816 establishing the Single Gold Standard.  At the same time they claimed that England had done more for Silver than any other power [14] by refusing to limit the Rupee Coinage in India, and submitting to all the losses, both to trade and to government revenue, resulting from the depreciation of Silver.  The remarks we have made above refer, therefore, only to those countries which stood committed, more or less fully, to the concurrent use of the two metals, but deemed themselves precluded by the considerations detailed from undertaking at the present juncture any practical measures for the full restoration of Silver.

As it was, early in the course of the proceedings, shown to be impossible, under the complications existing, to secure an agreement for giving circulation to Silver as Money of full power, your Commissioners assented to the views of leading members, afterward embodied in the response made to the propositions of the American Delegates, that it was useless to discuss the particular ratio – whether 1 to 15.5, 1 to 16, or some other – which should be adopted were a Monetary Union to be formed.  Your Commissioners were unanimous in believing that any particular ratio, without provision for actual Coinage thereupon, would be futile; while with provision for Coinage, creating a demand for the metal, any one of many ratios within reasonable limits of choice might be upheld, to the benefit of the industrial and commercial world.

With these references to the positions of the several States represented, and to the views expressed by individual Delegates, we proceed to recite the formal action of the Conference upon the questions before it.

At the second session, on the 16th of August, the Commissioners of the United States submitted the two following propositions :

I.

It is the opinion of this Assembly that it is not to be desired, that Silver should be excluded from Free Coinage in Europe and the United States of America.  On the contrary, the Assembly believes that it is desirable that the Unrestricted Coinage of Silver, and its use as Money of Unlimited Legal Tender, should be retained where they exist, and, as far as practicable, restored where they have ceased to exist.

II.

The use of both Gold and Silver as Unlimited Legal-Tender Money may be safely adopted :

First.  By equalizing them at a relation to be fixed by international agreement; and

Secondly.  By granting to each metal, at the relation fixed, equal terms of Coinage, making no discrimination between them.

 

The following third proposition was prepared, and held in reserve, awaiting the development of the views of the Conference :

III.

The Delegations here present agree to recommend, to their respective governments, that, by the Free Coinage of Silver at a relation to be agreed upon, or, provisionally, through extended Coinage upon government account and the accumulation of Silver bullion in public treasuries, they make a concerted effort to restore Silver to its function as Money of full power.

At no time during the further proceedings did the interests of our mission appear to require the presentation of this proposition.

At the seventh and concluding session, on the 29th of August, the following reply to the propositions submitted by the Delegates of the United States was offered on behalf of the majority of the European Delegates :

The Delegates of the European States represented in the Conference wish to express their sincere thanks to the Government of the United States of America for having procured an international exchange of opinion upon a subject of so much importance as the Monetary Question.

Having maturely considered the proposals of the representatives of the United States, they recognize :

I.

That it is necessary to maintain in the world the monetary functions of Silver as well as those of Gold, but that the selection for use of one or the other of the two metals, or of both, simultaneously, should, be governed by the special position of each State or group of States.

II.

That the question of the restriction of the Coinage of Silver should equally be left to the discretion of each State or group of States, according to the particular circumstances in which they may find themselves placed, and the more so, in that the disturbance produced during the recent years in the Silver market has variously affected the monetary situation of the several countries.

III.

That the differences of opinion which have appeared, and the fact that even some of the States which have the Double Standard find it impossible to enter into a mutual engagement with regard to the free Coinage of Silver, exclude the discussion of the adoption of a common ratio between the two metals.

Contemporaneously with the presentation of this paper, individual expressions of opinion were offered by several of the Delegations, which may be seen in the journal accompanying this report [15].

To this declaration of the European Delegates, the Delegates of the United States rejoined with the following statement of their views, with which the formal proceedings of the Conference terminated :

In response to the address of the representatives of the European States, the representatives of the United States desire, on their part, to express their thanks to the European States for accepting their invitation and consulting with them upon a subject of so much importance.

The representatives of the United States regret that they cannot entirely concur in all that has been submitted to them by a majority of the representatives of the European States.

They fully concur in a part of the first proposition, viz., that «it is necessary to maintain in the world the monetary functions of Silver as well as those of Gold», and they desire that ere long there may be adequate co-operation to obtain that result.

They cannot object to the statement that «the selection for use of one or the other of these two metals, or of both simultaneously, should be governed by the special position of each State»; but if it be necessary to maintain the monetary functions of the two metals as previously declared, they respectfully submit that special positions of States may become of secondary importance.

From so much of the second proposition as assigns as a special reason for at present restricting the Coinage of Silver «that the disturbance produced during the recent years in the Silver market has differently affected the monetary situation of the several countries», they respectfully dissent, believing that a policy of action would remove the disturbance that produced these inequalities.

In regard to the third and last proposition, they admit that «some of the States which have the Double Standard», or, as they prefer to say, use both metals, «find it impossible to enter into a mutual engagement for the free Coinage of Silver».

They, as representatives of the United States, have come here expressly to enter into such an engagement.  The difficulty is not with them, and, wherever it may be, they trust it may be soon removed.  They entirely concur in the conclusion drawn from this state of the case that it «excludes the discussion of the adoption of a common ratio between the two metals if the nations are not ready to adopt a policy to uphold it.  We remain upon ours; the European States upon theirs».

R. E. Fenton.

W. S. Groesbeck.

Francis A. Walker.

S. Dana Horton.

 

In closing this Report it may be proper to add that your Commissioners have been subjected to considerable delay since the adjournment of the Conference, from causes beyond their control.  Although we have given daily attention, the work in the hands of the Secretaries is not yet fully perfected, owing to the double translations, and the correction and printing of the remarks of Delegates after the final adjournment, together with the enlargement of the numerous exhibits.  Such progress has been made, however, as to enable us to consult the records for all practical purposes in the preparation of our Report.  It will not be understood that we complain of the causes of delay, but refer to them as showing the deliberation incident to duties of this nature.

Very respectfully,

R. E. Fenton.

W. S. Groesbeck.

Francis A. Walker.

S. Dana Horton, Secretary.

Paris, October 17, 1878.



[1]   The first general International Monetary Conference was convened by the French Government in pursuance of the policy which had achieved the quadruple Monetary Treaty of 1865, the so-called Latin Union.  This treaty contained special provisions looking to the accession to it of other States.  Upon its ratification in 1866 by the legislatures of the contracting powers, invitations were issued by France to a general Conference in the following year.  Twenty States, comprising all the important nations of Europe, and the United States of America, were represented; the Conference held eight sessions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris, between June 17 and July 6, 1867.

[2]   «I have spoken against the theory of those economists who argue that the Gold Standard should be everywhere introduced; I have stated that I saw in it great inconvenience, great danger, and even great disaster.  To that opinion I decidedly adhere.  I believe it would be a misfortune for the world if a propaganda for a sole Gold Standard should succeed» (Remarks of Mr. Goschen, seventh session).

[3]   «Silver is a metal of an inferior order, ill adapted to the needs of civilization, inconvenient for individuals, fit only for backward nations; a metal the value of which has been constantly depreciating for four centuries, and which, when it is maintained among civilized people in the rank of Legal Money, causes, in a certain degree, the emission of Paper Money.  If in certain countries there were not already an unwarrantable circulation of Silver, the circulation of paper would not be so considerable» (Remarks of Mr. Feer-Herzog, third session).

[4]   «While France anticipates her return in practice to the Double Standard, in Switzerland and Belgium the hope is entertained that Silver, after a period of transition, during which it will have the force of Legal Tender for small sums only, will finally be reduced to the mere office of divisionary money» (Remarks of Mr. Feer-Herzog, third session).

[5]   «In the French Chambers, at the time of the suspension of Silver Coinage, there were long and earnest debates concerning the meaning and effect of this measure.  Was it a movement toward the Gold Standard or was it a provisional condition which would permit France to await the favorable moment for re-entering upon the Double Standard ?  The government made a full explanation on this point.  It declared very categorically that we were not proceeding towards the Single Standard of Gold.  We are, in its view, in a situation of expectancy, a situation which we shall not abandon, except for good reasons, when they present themselves, and then probably to return to the system of the Double Standard» (Remarks of Mr. Léon Say, third session).

[6]   «That as long as the French law was in operation only unimportant fluctuations arose in the relations of the two metals, whatever the production of the mines of the one or the other. […] That if the French law alone attained this result it becomes evident, a fortiori, that when there is a bi-metallic treaty between France, England, and the United States, the relation would be fixed with such solidity that it would become unshakable» (Resolutions offered by Count Rusconi, in behalf of the Italian Delegation, seventh session).

[7]   «In the opinion of this government, the depreciation of Silver is a fact eminently to be regretted; a calamity which it would wish, on its own account, it were possible to remove, because it is attached upon principle to the system of the Double Standard, and in theory can but subscribe to the proposition of the United States» (Remarks of Mr. Hengelmüller, third session).

[8]   «Would it not be more difficult for Paper-Money countries to return to a metallic circulation if the single Gold Standard, were adopted everywhere ?  It would be necessary for them to have recourse to the stock of Gold, already so greatly diminished, in order to undertake their payments in specie. Are we sure that the quantity of Gold actually in existence would suffice for the needs of circulation ?» (Remarks of Mr. Goschen, third, session).

[9]   «The changes which have taken place in the monetary legislation of various countries appear to us the principal cause of the depreciation of Silver, and at the same time this cause appears to be a permanent one.  The cause of the evil being recognized, the remedy does not seem very difficult to find.  If all the civilized States opened their mints to Silver, the same result would be observed which formerly was reached with reference to Gold, and the value of Silver would again enter upon an ascending course.  It is, nevertheless, manifest that no isolated State would be willing to expose itself to the emergency of exporting Coins of higher value to be replaced by others more or less depreciated.  This danger disappears the moment that all States, or at least a majority of States, come to an understanding to adopt the Double Standard, with a uniform relation between Gold and Silver; that of 1 to 15 ½ being in our view the most practicable ratio.»

[10]  «The German stock was not like Silver in the bowels of the earth, to be extracted at the cost of certain labor and capital, but was a definite quantity held by the sellers, who could sell whenever they chose.  It was a weight thrown into the balance, necessarily deranging the equilibrium between Gold and Silver.  An abnormal quantity, whether large or small, beyond ordinary production and consumption, must always depress the market.  The portion of German Silver already sold had lowered the price, and the portion unsold was the cause of the continued fall.  It could not be compared with the total production of the world, but only with the surplus which each State had to sell after satisfying its own wants, and the German stock was very large in proportion to this.  Until that stock was exhausted it would be impossible to predict what the value of Silver would be» (Remarks of Mr. Gibbs, fourth session).

«From a commercial point of view the existence of this mass of coined Silver, which is there all ready, of which man is already master, which he holds under his hand, and can let go or hold back as he wishes, according to the course of events, exercises an influence far more decisive than that of a mass of Silver which is not produced, and which does not arrive in the Money-market except gradually, a little at a time» (Remarks of Mr. Léon Say, third session).

[11]   «The attitude of the French Government is an expectant one, and it must remain so long as the cause of the fall of Silver shall not have been accurately recognized and measured, and, notably, until Germany shall have ceased to dispose of its stock of that metal. […] Perhaps this will have taken place within two or three years from now, but still it is the dark side of the question, which, at the present moment, deprives France of her freedom of movement» (Remarks of Mr. Léon Say, third session).

[12]   «If other States were to carry on a propaganda in favor of a Gold Standard and the demonetization of Silver, the Indian Government would be obliged to reconsider its position, and might be forced by events to take measures similar to those taken elsewhere.  In that case a scramble to get rid of Silver might provoke one of the greatest crises ever undergone by commerce» (Mr. Goschen’s remarks, third session).

[13]   «If this same sum were in the United States Treasury, in place of an equal amount of Gold, the aggregate stock of Silver would be unaltered, but this £15,000,000 would no longer weigh upon the market, and Silver might be restored to a normal position» (Remarks of Mr. Goschen, 3d session).

[14]   «Though England had a Gold Standard, she had great interest in the maintenance of Silver as Currency.  She had, moreover, a more definite and less compromised position for the discussion of this question than other countries, for she had borne the depreciation of Silver in India without trying to shut her doors upon it.  She had done more than any other country to maintain Silver.  The Latin Union had shut their doors against Silver.  Holland had half shut hers; but while others, afraid of a further depreciation, had taken definite and restrictive measures, England had allowed Silver to take its natural course, and for five years had borne the burdens resulting therefrom.  The Indian government had suffered a great loss; the merchants had suffered from fluctuations in value, and public functionaries had suffered from the depreciation, but England had given proof of her faith in regard to Silver by waiting to see whether it would not recover its former value» (Remarks of Mr. Goschen, third session).

[15]   1.  The view taken by the Austrian Delegation of the true sense and purport of the declaration was thus stated by the chairman, Count Kuefstein :

«In consequence of the divergences of opinion which have appeared in the course of this discussion, this formula can be nothing but a compromise embodying the last concessions which the partisans of the Single Gold Standard have been able to make, and at the same time permitting those who desire to see the American propositions succeed not to abandon their own point of view. […] In presence of the explanations which have been given, from which it might be inferred that the declaration implied a recognition of the impossibility of an international agreement, Count Kuefstein feels obliged to declare, on his part, that if he adheres to the formula proposed, it is precisely because, in his view, it does not exclude the possibility of such an arrangement.»

2.  The Italian Delegation offered the following :

«In adopting the formula proposed, the Conference does not reply to the questions which have been proposed to it, and, avoiding systematically to make a clear utterance upon the possibility or impossibility of a fixed relation to be established by international convention between Gold and Silver, it leaves its task unfinished.»

 

 

 

Fermer Sluiten Close
 

©  KBGN-SRNB, 2008-2021