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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/196

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184
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

It is not alleged that the Indian Government has violated any contract or stipulation; but that they "have proved ungenerous employés."[1] Important, however, as this matter doubtless is to those especially interested, it is one in which the world at large can not be expected to take much interest.

In Holland the disturbances assumed to have been occasioned by the decline in the value of silver have attracted public attention to an even greater degree than in England. But even here the disturbances have been mainly restricted to the commercial and financial relations of Holland with her East Indian colonies, Java, Sumatra, and other islands, and have been specially occasioned by the extraordinary fall in recent years in the prices of the principal exports of these islands, namely sugar and coffee. But no commercial fact is capable of more complete demonstration than that the fall in the price of these great staples has been in no way contingent upon any change in the value of silver.[2]

Finally, the idea of disturbance in connection with the decline in the value of silver has been and is pre-eminently connected with an annunciation and belief in two propositions: First, that the almost universal decline in the prices of the world's staple commodities since 1873 has been occasioned by the fall in the price of silver; and, second, that a decline of prices is an evil. The first of these propositions rests upon an assumption which can not be verified by any conclusive evidence whatever; and, as for the second, if the fall of prices has been mainly due, as has been demonstrated, to natural and permanent causes, namely, the increased power of mankind in the work of production and distribution; then the result, by creating a greater abundance of all good things, and bringing a larger amount of the same within the reach of the masses for consumption and enjoyment, has been one of the greatest of blessings.

  1. It is curious to note that when the rules regulating the pensions of the Indian Civil Service were established in 1863, the Indian Government stipulated that the rupee should not count for more than two shillings, which had been about its equivalent in sterling from time immemorial, even if at any time exchange on England rose to a higher point (as it actually did at one time, in 1861); but, not expecting that the rupee would ever fall in value to any great extent below 2s., or below that par of exchange, they omitted to provide against it.
  2. "During the last five years Java has been subject to the most fearful natural calamities. They have had a cattle-plague which destroyed almost the whole cattle in parts of the island; they have had cholera; they have had earthquakes of an unprecedented character, and they have had further an extraordinary fall in the values of their principal exports, which are sugar and coffee, owing, in the first place, to the competition of beet-root sugar in Europe; and, in the second place, to the fact that South America has been able to export coffee more favorably than Java; and to this extent we can trace a loss of £5,000,000 annually in these two articles. That has been the result in the last five years of natural causes, without any question of currency at all."—Testimony of Mr. Paul F. Tidman, East India merchant. First Report of the British Gold and Silver Commission, p. 142.