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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/185

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CHANGES IN VALUES OF PRECIOUS METALS.

acted any tendency then existing to a surplus in the European markets. In 1867 an International Monetary Conference at Paris voted almost unanimously in favor of the adoption of a single gold standard by the chief commercial nations. As far back as 1860, the late Professor Cairnes, who is recognized as a far-seeing economist, ventured the prediction that silver was in the process of depreciation. Another influence tending to powerfully affect the status of silver in 1873 was due to the circumstance that, subsequent to 1868-'69, the India Council greatly increased the sale of their bills (i. e., drawn on India and payable in silver) on the London market, and so virtually increased the stock of marketable silver at that point to the extent of from $20,000,000 to $30,000,000 annually, in excess of what it had been for the years immediately previous.[1]

The German "sales" theory being thus untenable, another hypothesis has found wide acceptation—namely, that, notwithstanding any absolute or comparative increase in the supply of silver during recent years, its decline in price and the economic disturbances which are alleged to have followed, would not have occurred, had it not been for the "demonetization" or the general discrediting of this metal for use as money; which has been contingent on the adoption of gold as the sole monetary standard and as a larger instrumentality of exchange by several of the most important commercial countries—notably Germany and the United States; or, as a leading American statesman has expressed it, "but for the striking down of one half of the world's coinage," and "compelling gold to do the work of both gold and silver." But here, also, the evidence in confirmation of this hypothesis is exceedingly unsatisfactory or wholly lacking. If by demonetization is meant that there has been less of silver in use and circulation as money, absolutely or comparatively, throughout the world since 1873 than formerly; or that the people of any country have been inhibited to their disadvantage in its use; or that, in consequence of any restrictions on its use for coinage, production and trade have decreased, and the prices of commodities and wages have fallen—the assumptions are not warranted, and the term demonetization is meaningless. The world's average annual production of silver since 1873 has been greater than ever before. Between 1873 and 1887, inclusive, the aggregate

  1. The Government of India is under obligation to pay annually in England certain fixed charges in gold, the same being in the nature of reimbursements—principal or interest—to England for loans on account of public works in India, receipts from railroads belonging to the British Government, pensions chargeable to India, etc. India being exclusively a silver-using country, pays its taxes and railroad freights and fares, etc., exclusively in silver; and in liquidation of its foreign monetary obligations, silver is remitted to London in the form of bills (exchange) payable in the silver currency of India, namely, rupees, which are drawn by the India Council, or the Government of India residing in London. It must be obvious that to just the amount of such council bills or drafts as are sold in London, to just that same extent the exportation of silver for business purposes is supplemented or made unnecessary.