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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/188

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176
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sion by the states of the Latin Union of the free coinage of the silver five-franc pieces, also unquestionably favored and intensified the decline in the price of silver thus inaugurated, by creating an apprehension (or scare) among the bullion-dealers as to what might further happen.

The continued decline in the value of silver in more recent years—i, e., from an annual average of 511/4d. in 1879 to 453/8d. in 1886—may also be rationally referred to a continuance of the same influences. The annual product of silver has continued to increase—i. e., from $96,000,000 in 1879 to $124,900,000 in 1886, or $762,000,000 in the aggregate for this period. No one knows what is to be the product of silver in the future; but it is reasonable to believe that, if the price of silver were to advance materially, its product would be largely augmented. Recent reports made under the auspices of the Mexican Secretary of the Interior, and published in the "Mexican Economist" (1886), claim that the cost of working the argentiferous lead-ores of Mexico, which "exist in prodigious abundance," has been greatly reduced within recent years, and that under a better system of taxation and with an adequate supply of capital the annual product of the silver-mines of Mexico could be quickly doubled and even trebled. Furthermore, an average decrease of at least thirty per cent in the prices of the commodities that represent the great bulk of the world's production and consumption (comparing the data of 1885-'86 with those of 1867-'77) has in itself been equivalent to largely or entirely supplementing any increased demand for the use of silver and gold as money, consequent upon any increase in the volume of the world's business during the same period. The constantly-increasing tendency of civilized countries to use less and less of coin in the transaction of business, and the continued invention and successful application of numerous and unprecedented devices for economizing the use of metallic money, must at the same time have been equivalent to a constant comparative increase in the supply of precious metals for coinage purposes. Still another factor exercising a disturbing influence on the price of silver, and preventing its price recovery, undoubtedly grows out of the fiscal relations of Great Britain with India. The regular annual sales at London of India Council bills—the character of which has been heretofore explained (see page 173)—are in the nature of forced sales of silver, and at present average about $45,000,000 per annum. How much effect these sales, at the point where the silver-bullion trade of the world centers, have had in depressing the market price of silver, is undetermined; but that it has not been unimportant can not well be doubted.

Attention is next asked to the character of the economic disturbances which have resulted from the change since 1873 in the relative values of gold and silver. Omitting from consideration the extreme views on this subject, in which silver seems to be regarded in the sense of a personality that has been unjustly and designedly "outlawed"