A communication from the Secretary of State, accompanying the official report of the American delegates to the International Monetary Conference.

February 21, 1893. — Read, referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, and ordered to be printed.

To the Senate and House of Representatives :

I transmit herewith a communication of the Secretary of State, transmitting the official report of the American delegates to the International Monetary Conference, convened at Brussels on November 22, 1892, with its accompaniments.

Benj. Harrison

Executive mansion

Washington, February 21, 1893

To the President :

I have the honor to enclose herewith, for transmission to the Congress of the United States, the official report of the American delegates to the International Monetary Conference, convened at Brussels on November 22, 1892, together with the accompanying translation of the official record of the proceedings, and an appendix containing a series of papers presented from time to time by the members of the conference.  Respectfully submitted.

John W. Foster

Department of State,

Washington, February 21, 1893.



Washington, D.C., February 14, 1893.

Sir : The commissioners, William B. Allison, John P. Jones, James B. McCreary, Henry W. Cannon, E. Benjamin Andrews and Edwin H. Terrell, appointed by the President of the United States as delegates to represent the United States at the International Monetary Conference, held at Brussels, beginning on the 22nd day of November, 1892, have the honor to submit herewith an English translation of the official record of said Conference during its first series of meetings, ending on the 17th day of December, 1892.  It contains the minutes of the sessions, together with the text of the various proposals, reports and other papers directly relating to the proceedings.

Accompanying this record, in the form of an appendix, will be found a series of documents relating to the monetary laws and the monetary situation of the various countries; these documents having been presented from time to time by members of the Conference for its consideration and use.

The several delegates were furnished by the Department of State with the following letter of instructions, for their general guidance as respects the policy to be pursued by them at the Conference :

Department of State,

Washington, November 10, 1893.

Hon. William B. Allison, Hon. John P. Jones, Hon. James B. McCreary, Henry W. Cannon, Esq., President E. Benjamin Andrews, Edwin H. Terrell, Esq., Commissioners on the part of the Government of the United States to the International Monetary Conference to be convened at Brussels, Belgium.

Gentlemen : Reposing full confidence in your ability to properly represent the interests of the United States at the monetary conference, called at the instance of this Government, to meet at Brussels on November 22, 1892, to consider the present condition of silver and what measures, if any, can be taken to increase the use of that metal in the currency systems of the world, the President does not deem it necessary or desirable to cumber you with detailed instructions as to your duties.

Therefore, only general instructions will be given, leaving much to your own judgment and the developments of the conference itself.  The main purpose which this Government seeks to accomplish by this conference is to bring about a stable relation between gold and silver.

It is the opinion of the President, and, as he believes, of the people of the United States, with singular unanimity, that a full use of silver as a coined metal at a ratio to gold to be fixed by an agreement between the great commercial nations of the world, would very highly promote the prosperity of all the people of all the countries of the world.  For this reason your first and most important duty will be to secure, if possible, an agreement among the chief commercial countries of the world looking to international bimetallism — that is, the unlimited coinage of gold and silver into money of full debt-paying power at a fixed ratio in coinage common to all the agreeing powers.

You should not lose sight of the fact that no arrangement will be acceptable to the people or satisfactory to the Government of the United States which would by any possibility place this country on a silver basis while European countries maintain the single gold standard.

Failing to secure international bimetallism, the next important duty will be to secure, if possible, some action upon the part of European countries looking to a larger use of silver as currency, in order to put an end to the further depreciation of that metal.

To your wisdom, your wide experience, and your knowledge of this important subject, as well as your intimate acquaintance with the feelings and sentiments of our own people, the President commits the interests of this country, feeling assured that you will not fail to guard them well.

You will be expected to report from time to time the progress of the conference at Brussels, and you will be authorized to use the cable in case of urgency.

I am, gentlemen, your obedient servant,

John W. Foster.

The first meeting of the delegates of the United States was held at Brussels on the morning of the 22d of November, the Conference assembling at 2 o’clock that day.  At this meeting there was present :

Messrs. William B. Allison, chairman; John P. Jones, James B. McCreary, Henry W. Cannon, E. Benjamin Andrews and Edwin H. Terrell, the entire delegation of the United States, and Prof. Roland P. Falkner, the secretary of the delegation.

Meetings of the delegates of the United States were held daily from that time till the recess of the Conference.  These meetings were in the nature of consultations as to the matters entrusted to them.  They were informal.  As a rule, there were no differences among the delegates as to the policy to be pursued in the Conference, and therefore no detailed minutes of these various consultations were kept.

Prior to our arrival at Brussels, our Minister to Belgium, as has been the custom in like conferences, arranged with the Government of Belgium for the preliminary organization of the Conference, which arrangements were quite complete and most satisfactory.  The authorities of Belgium provided a convenient place of meeting in the Palace of the Academies, and arranged for the opening of the Conference by the Prime Minister of Belgium, and for the selection of Mr. Montefiore Levi, a distinguished Belgian senator, as the President of the Conference.

Without exception the nations invited by the President were represented at the first session.  During the sessions this fact was frequently alluded to as an evidence of the interest felt in the object for which the Conference was convoked.

The Prime Minister of Belgium, in his opening address, called attention to the importance of the subject to be considered in the following terms :

«The Conference in which you are called upon to take part has for its object the consideration of one of the most serious, complex, and arduous problems which is presented to modern society.

It (money) touches all economic and social interests; it affects the commerce of the world, and is the real reason of more than one unexplained crisis.

Currents of capital are always in a certain measure metallic currents.  The decreased cost of transportation and the more highly developed spirit of association which permits the formation of companies for enterprises in remote countries only increase these currents.  And thus, while it has changed, the international function of money has greatly increased.

At the same time the evil results of every monetary crisis are more and more acute, and it is, it seems, to an international agreement that we must look for the means of preventing them or moderating them.»

Similar sentiments were expressed by the President of the Conference, who, in his address on taking the chair, strongly emphasized the gravity of the situation and the interest which it had for all the nations of the earth.

Among other things, he said :

«The depreciation of silver, so far as it serves as a monetary standard, finds an echo throughout the social organism.

But the principal evil of the present situation lies in the instability that results from it.  How would it be possible for the merchant or manufacturer to make with safety contracts extending over a long period, as important business transactions generally do, if the shrewdest judgments and the best-founded calculations might at any moment be upset by a sudden movement of the money market ?  There is no need, we believe, to look elsewhere for the cause of the noticeable falling off which has taken place in international transactions.  The hesitation which checks all great enterprises and which paralyzes many markets is the direct consequence of the instability in the price of silver as compared with gold.

Conscious of these difficulties, the Government of the United States has taken the initiative in inviting the principal Powers to send delegates to a new International Conference for the purpose of investigating together whether there be any means of mitigating, by a more general use of silver in the monetary circulation, the serious inconveniences from which all civilized nations suffer in various degrees.  Impressed by the gravity of the situation, all of the governments hastened to accept the invitation which was sent to them, and we are now met together, gentlemen, to commence the investigation of this arduous problem.

Whatever may be the result of your deliberations it may surely be affirmed that, convinced of the considerable influence which the solution of a question so complex as that submitted to you may have upon the progress of universal civilization, you will have it at heart to investigate the possibility of remedying a condition of affairs of which none mistake the gravity.  You will endeavor to lay aside any consideration of narrow or egotistical interest, to place yourselves upon the standpoint of the higher interests of the great human family, and, should the possibility of a remedy be recognized, you will desire to unite your efforts to give substance to the solutions resulting from your debates by the adoption of a scheme stated in practical form.»

The first session was devoted mainly to the organization of the Conference.  After the election of Mr. Montefiore Levi as President, Mr. Edwin H. Terrell, a delegate of the United States, was elected vice-President, and Mr. Georges de Laveleye, general secretary.

At this session of the Conference it seemed to be generally expected, as will be seen by reference to the minutes, that the United States having invited the nations to the Conference would present, through its delegates, a plan for the consideration of the Conference, looking to the enlarged use of silver as money by the nations represented.

The instructions to the delegates of the United States outlined the general policy which they should pursue, but did not include a specific plan for the monetary use of silver to be presented as an official programme of the United States.

In accordance with the wish expressed by the Conference, the delegates of the United States, after full consultation, prepared a declaration and programme which is published at large in the record.  This programme was presented at the second session by Senator Allison, the chairman of the delegation, who outlined the considerations which led the President of the United States to invite the nations to a conference and briefly indicated the policy of the United States with respect to silver and its monetary use.

The programme embodied the following resolution :

That in the opinion of this conference it is desirable that some measure should be found for increasing the use of silver in the currency systems of the nations.

This resolution was presented to the Conference at the second session.  On that occasion Sir Rivers Wilson, speaking in the name of the entire delegation of Great Britain, said :

«We accept the resolution of the delegates of the United States as it stands, adding only this reservation and this explanation, that we consider it as being in fact a recapitulation of the substance of the invitation which has been addressed to the different governments and which has been accepted by them.»

Similar declarations were made by France, Spain, the Netherlands, and other nations.

The programme of the United States was discussed in all its phases by the Conference substantially in the order presented.  Conformably to the suggestions of the programme, several projects, having in view the enlarged use of silver without contemplating its complete rehabilitation, were presented to the Conference.  These plans, together with the subordinate projects mentioned in the programme, were referred in the third session of the Conference to a committee of twelve.  This committee made two reports, which are published in full in the record and to which attention is called.  The committee reported affirmatively upon one proposition, namely, that it was wise to withdraw from monetary circulation all the gold coins, and all paper money redeemable in gold of a less denomination than £1, 20 francs or 20 marks, and substitute silver money for them.  As to the other plans, though some of them were favored in principle, they were not reported upon affirmatively, because they were not broad enough nor presented in sufficient detail to justify a favorable report upon them.

In the discussion of these various proposals and plans in the full meetings of the Conference the attitudes of all, or nearly all, the governments were disclosed.  The utterances of the delegates indicated, however, what measures the governments were unwilling to adopt rather than how far they were willing to go to secure the enlarged use of silver as proposed by the President in his invitation.

Our instructions favoring the unrestricted use of silver as well as gold on a ratio to be fixed, justified us in presenting, as a part of our programme for discussion, this main question of the unrestricted coinage of both silver and gold internationally by means of a common ratio.  Although it appeared in the course of the debates that the governments of Europe were not ready to adopt this plan as a solution of the question, there was a general desire on the part of the Conference that there should be a discussion of this question before a recess should be taken.  Therefore, as will be seen by a reference to the minutes, this subject was discussed at considerable length in the Conference.

The attitudes of the various governments relative to the proposals presented were somewhat reserved, as will appear from citations which follow.

On the other hand, it is important to observe that with comparatively few exceptions the recognition was general in the Conference of a monetary evil requiring a remedy.  This feeling pervaded the proceedings of the Conference and was forcibly expressed by more than one of the leading delegates.

Conspicuous in this regard was the statement of Mr. de Rothschild, one of the delegates of Great Britain, who, in submitting his proposal, said :

«The stock of silver in the world is estimated at some thousands of millions, and if this Conference were to break up without arriving at any definite result there would be a depreciation in the value of that commodity which it would be frightful to contemplate, and out of which a monetary panic would ensue, the far-spreading effects of which it would be impossible to foretell.»

Sir Rivers Wilson, another delegate of Great Britain, said :

«There can be no question, in our opinion, that all the governments who have sent representatives to this Conference, even those who have instructed their delegates to act with the greatest reserve, recognized the presence of danger; otherwise there would be no justification for our presence here.

The instructions which we have received from our Government require us, before concluding that matters must be left as they are, to examine with the greatest care any plan which may be submitted for the purpose of extending the monetary use of silver.»

Mr. Tirard, speaking for France, the leading nation of the Latin Union, said :

«It is certain that a greater stability in the ratio would result in facilitating commercial relations, in binding the nations closer together, and permitting them to exchange their products as it suited them, to the satisfaction of all governments and to the greater profit of all individuals.

It is for this task that we are met together.  I do not know yet what will come out of the Conference and to what practical result it may lead, but this much is certain, our labors will not in any case be fruitless.»

Gen. Strachey, one of the delegates of British India, said :

«The government of India during this period (the lust two decades) has made many ineffectual attempts to protect itself against the effects on its currency of this continued fall in the value of silver in relation to gold, and, notwithstanding the heavy burdens thereby entailed upon the country, has maintained the silver standard in the hope that circumstances might at length bring it some relief from the ever increasing difficulties of its position.  But no such relief has come, and, on the contrary, the difficulties have become constantly greater until they are becoming, if they have not already become, real dangers.»

Sir Guilford L. Molesworth, the other delegate of the Indian government, said :

«Our predecessors in the Paris monetary conferences of 1878 and 1881 were almost unanimous in the opinion that silver must be rehabilitated.  They only disagreed on the method of rehabilitation.  Some were of the opinion that matters would right themselves, whilst others considered that the remedy could only come by reestablishing the link that had existed between gold and silver prior to 1873.

The opinion of the latter was undoubtedly correct.  Matters have gone from bad to worse.»

The proposal of the United States for the unrestricted coinage of silver concurrently with gold by an international agreement was advocated by a number of the delegates.

Sir William Houldsworth, a delegate of Great Britain, said :

«A further fall (in the level of prices) would he a disaster.  I frankly admit that, in my opinion, there will never be a permanent solution of this difficulty until we have an international bimetallic agreement.»

Mr. Van den Berg, a delegate of the Netherlands, said :

«Our ideal is an international bimetallic agreement.  Such an agreement we firmly believe to be possible and desirable both from the theoretical and also from the practical point of view.»

In this view the speaker just named was supported by his colleague, Mr. Boissevain, who said :

«I believe that international bimetallism is the only monetary system which is thoroughly good from the theoretical point of view, and the only system which in practice can satisfy all needs.  I believe also that it is perfectly admissible for England.»

Mr. Alph. Allard, a Delegate of Belgium, said :

«The crisis which oppresses us is no birth of yesterday.  It dates from 1873, the moment when free coinage of silver was suspended in Europe.  The true remedy, which would be at the same time efficacious and thorough, would be the reestablishment of free coinage, but it appears to me that for the moment this solution has no chance of being adopted.»

The quotations which follow indicate the attitude of the leading nations towards the practical application of the proposal of the United States for the concurrent mintage of silver and gold by an international agreement.

Sir Rivers Wilson, immediately after his words which have been quoted in the foregoing, said :

«Her Majesty’s Government did not find it possible to accept an invitation conveyed in terms which might give rise to a misunderstanding by implying that the Government had some doubt as to the maintenance of the monetary system which had been in force in Great Britain since 1816.»

Speaking for Sir Charles Fremantle and himself, he said :

«Our faith is that of the school of monometallism pure and simple.  We do not admit that any other than the single gold standard would be applicable to our country.»

Replying to the supposition that France might resume the free coinage of silver, Mr. Tirard said :

«But why should France permit the free coinage of silver when she is already amply provided with it ?  I believe that she alone possesses as much as all the states of Europe put together.  In spite of that she would consent perhaps to do what is asked of her, if there was any reciprocity, if those powers also which are wedded to monometallism should decide to adopt the free coinage of silver.

If other European powers, such as England, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Scandinavian states, and others would consent to open their mints to the free coinage of silver, then the aspect of the question would be changed.»

While the delegates from France frequently disclaimed the right to speak in the name of the Latin Union, it is worthy of note that, on many occasions, the representatives of the different countries of the Union declared that these states followed a common policy.

Early in the session the leading delegate of Germany declared :

«Germany being satisfied with its monetary system has no intention of modifying its basis.  In view of the satisfactory monetary situation of the Empire, the Imperial Government has prescribed the most strict reserve for its delegates, who in consequence can not take part either in the discussion or in the vote upon the resolution presented by the delegates of the United States.»

Austria-Hungary, although represented at the Conference, instructed their delegate to take no part in any discussion or vote.

A leading part in the discussion was taken by the delegates of the Netherlands, and in a speech of the senior delegate the following important declaration was made as to the point in question :

«The declaration that Holland would not enter into a bimetallic union without the full and complete participation of England is a part of the formal instructions furnished us by our Government.»

From this it will be seen that England is not prepared to open her mints to the free coinage of silver, and that Germany expresses satisfaction with her present monetary system, while France and other nations expressed a willingness to unite with England and Germany in forming a monetary union.  While England is not prepared to adopt free coinage of silver at a fixed ratio, in common with gold, it appears not unwilling to accept a policy, in conjunction with other nations, which would secure a stable value to silver and sustain its price, by some practical method short of free mintage looking to its enlarged monetary use.

Various plans were presented to the Conference looking to the enlarged use of silver, but falling short of the opening of European mints to its free coinage on an agreed ratio.  The plans presented are printed in full in the record.  The suggestions and proposals made by delegates from important nations looking to an enlarged use of silver as money by purchase or deposit of silver bullion to be held as a reserve against the issue of paper money or certificates indicate a strong disposition to increase the monetary use of silver.

Each of the plans had its advocates in the Conference, but it was found impossible within the short time allotted to the Conference before a recess was inevitable to discuss the plans at large or to suggest modifications or changes so as to secure for them general approval.  The sessions were limited to the time between the 22nd of November and the 20th of December, when all agreed that the Conference must adjourn for the holidays.  Accordingly, after the plans were presented and examined, there seemed to be a general sentiment in favor of a long recess, to enable the delegates to the Conference to submit the record and plans to their respective Governments for further instructions and suggestions.  This sentiment was particularly emphasized in the last two sessions of the Conference.

At the ninth session of the Conference the discussion on bimetallism was closed.  The general feeling at this juncture was admirably voiced in the remarks of Mr. de Osma, who, summing up the results of the Conference, stated in substance that there was practically a unanimous desire to reach a tangible result for the remedy of the evils which were felt by all.  He said :

«There has always been in our discussions a certain dominant and unmistakable character which is supported by the evidence of attitude more eloquently than by words, viz : the presence of a general good will inspired by the existence of a crisis generally felt, but with different degrees of intensity.  Whatever profound sympathies we may feel, we must admit that very few of us have been able to agree with the stoic opinion which denies the existence of a crisis and concludes very logically that there is no need of looking for a remedy.  That opinion is too strongly contrasted with the attitude of some of our colleagues who are moreover themselves thoroughly convinced and perfectly impenitent monometallists.  It disappears before the reiterated and recent declarations of statesmen who have described the evils which are ruining the agriculture, and destroying the industries of their countries, with a precision whose significance it is impossible to mistake.»

At the tenth session a motion was presented for a recess until the 30th of May, 1893.  The President reviewed the work of the Conference, and commented upon the resolution and the necessity of a recess at this stage of the proceedings in order to insure the best results from the Conference.  He said :

«The various Governments which we have the honor to represent will be able on their part to examine and judge the ideas put forward, and the general situation, whose conditions seem to be faithfully reflected in our discussions.  At the moment when we suspend our labors we carry with us, I regret to say, the very general impression of an uneasiness which calls for a remedy, but we cherish at the same time the hope that palliatives, or possibly a combination of palliatives, may perhaps be found to conjure the evil by the aid of an international agreement or understanding.  We have finally, I venture to assert, a lively and sincere desire to come together again, with the conviction that we shall be better equipped to reach a fortunate result than we were in beginning our labors.»

The motion was presented by His Excellency Baron de Renzis, the minister of Italy, who, in urging it upon the Conference, spoke of the work which had been accomplished, and the prospects of future action, as follows :

«The public, perhaps even some of us in commenting upon our work, and seeing how short a road we have traveled, might think that this Conference could result only in failure like all the monetary conferences which have preceded it.

Permit me to say frankly that such is not my opinion.  Our sessions have been numerous, the investigations made have been long and serious, and if no solution has crowned our work, that is no reason why we should doubt the final result.  There is in the assembly a sincere desire to reach a tangible result.

Well, gentlemen, why have we arrived at no result thus far ?  Because, frankly, no proposition was ripe; they were improvised, so to speak, for the needs of our discussion.  What could we have done without preparation, without precise instructions from our governments ?

In these conditions an adjournment is desirable.  Let us leave in the first instance the governments time to gain a knowledge of our discussions and of the speeches of the eminent delegates from all countries of the world.  In six months it is possible that in returning here we shall find ourselves face to face with more mature and more practical proposals.

We have planted a fertile germ; give it time to develop and grow.»

The text of the resolution in regard to the recess is reproduced here :

The International Monetary Conference, recognizing the great value of the arguments which have been developed in the reports presented and in the discussions of the sessions; 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 new study of the present condition of the white metal.

The Conference suspends its labors and decides, should the governments approve, to meet again on the 30th of 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 basis for an agreement which shall not infringe in any way the fundamental principles of the monetary policy of the different countries.

Some question having arisen as to the steps necessary to reconvene the Conference, it was agreed, upon the motion of the President, that the officers should continue to perform their functions during the recess.

«His proposal to the Conference was in the following terms :

The Bureau of the Conference will exist, but it may exist in fact or in form only.  You will without doubt be of the opinion that it is useful to have it exist in fact; that is, to be, if necessary, a means of communication between the delegates.

I will take an example.  Suppose a delegate formulates a proposal which he deems might be accepted by the Conference, and he sends it to the President.  It will be communicated to the Bureau, translated if necessary, printed, and distributed to the delegates.  In this way the Bureau will fulfill a useful function.»  (Agreed.)

From these proceedings it will be seen that the Conference is to reconvene at Brussels on the 30th day of May, 1893.  In the meantime, it is expected that the propositions and plans already submitted and such others as may be submitted to the President of the Conference and by him transmitted to the several governments, through their delegates, will be considered.  It is anticipated that the delegates, upon the reassembling of the Conference, will be able to state definitely the views of their respective governments as to what plans are practicable to secure the greater use of silver as a part of the metallic money of the world.

The delegates of the United States express the hope that the Conference at the next session will be able to adopt some practical method to secure this end.  They are encouraged in this hope by the fact that in the later sessions of the Conference the general consensus of opinion was distinctly more favorable to the objects which the Conference had in view than in the early sessions.

This Count Alvensleben, a delegate of Germany, said in the tenth session :

«The Imperial Government takes a most lively interest in the labors of the Conference.  We have made it our duty to follow them with the most serious attention in order to report them conscientiously, and I do not hesitate to express the conviction that the Imperial Government will submit the propositions which have been made in the course of our deliberations to a most careful examination.»

Count Khevenhuller Metsch, delegate of Austria-Hungary, said in the eighth session :

«I am authorized to state, in the name of the two governments which I have the honor to represent here, that they take a very active interest in the debates of the Conference.  They are animated by a sincere desire that the labors of the Conference may reach a tangible result).

The governments of Austria-Hungary will be ready to examine, with scrupulous attention, propositions which may issue by common consent as the final results of the Monetary Conference at Brussels.»

The attitude revealed in the last two citations was borne out by the remarks of other delegates at the tenth session.  The delegates of the United States, in concluding their report, are glad to bear testimony to the earnest wish of the Conference that a plan for the enlarged use of silver as money, acceptable to the nations and adequate to the monetary situation, may result from its deliberations.

The delegates of the United States can not close this brief statement of the result of the first sessions of the Conference without expressing the indebtedness of the United States to the Government of Belgium for the cordiality of its reception to the Conference, for its uniform courtesy to all the members of the Conference, and for its liberal provision for their comfort and convenience.

We have the honor to be, Sir, your obedient servants,

W. B. Allison,


John P. Jones, James B. McCreary, Henry W. Cannon, E. Benj. Andrews,


Hon. John W. Foster,

Secretary of State, Washington, D.C.

Note : The name of Mr. Edwin H. Terrell is not attached to the report, as he was unable to be in Washington when it was prepared.



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