Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/607

This page has been validated.
589
THE DEBASEMENT OF COINAGES.

had a rational conception of what national credit is, this consideration alone would give the agitators pause. When nearly two hundred years ago England was struggling to restore order to her finances, William III. pressed upon the House of Commons the importance of taking care of the public credit, and assured them that it could only be preserved by keeping sacred the maxim that "they shall never be losers who trust to a parliamentary security." Our national credit has rapidly advanced to the very first rank, and with upright dealing can easily be maintained there. It would not be necessary to perfect a great deal of the kind of legislation that is now being urged to put it on a level with the credit of Spain, or the defaulting states of South America.

There is a prevailing misconception as to where the gains and losses arising from the proposed change will fall.

A depreciated coinage will diminish the revenue of the Government by a far greater amount than will be saved in the payment of the bonds, so that the burden of taxes cannot be lightened in that way. It will cripple all institutions of learning and of charity that are maintained by endowments; it will tithe the assets of all the savings-banks and life-insurance companies; it will curtail the trust funds of widows and orphans, no matter in what form they may be held; it will defraud the frugal and prudent wholesale, for the benefit of the improvident and reckless. Relatively, the loss will fall heaviest on those who are too poor to get in debt, who work for wages or a salary. Those of the bond-holders to whom the now familiar term of "money-sharks" will in any degree apply will be found quite competent to take care of themselves. They live in the money-centres of the world; their finger is on the arteries of commerce, and they can watch the pulsations and guard against the perturbations; in the unsettled condition of things which would attend such a change, they will be best able, because in the best position, to hedge against their losses. Prices will, of course, adjust themselves to the new standard, but the adjustment will not be so sharp and rapid or exact as to cause the loss to fall just where it is intended it shall fall. The "sharks," we may be sure, will get from under, and the brunt of the suffering will strike just where it does in most cases—upon the poor, the ill-informed, the unready.

Of the ability of this nation to pay its debts in full, there is not the slightest question, and it is essentially dishonest for a debtor to compound at 90 cents when he can pay 100; but, if it be determined that it is necessary and right for the Government and other debtors to make such a composition—if it can be shown that it is a step dictated by a sincere desire to execute fair and impartial justice—we shall still be as much entitled as ever to object to its being done by reducing the standard of money. It is an attempt to accomplish by mean and paltry subterfuge that which, if done at all, should be done in a manly