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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/200

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

demnity[1] to adopt gold as the standard of her metallic coinage system—a policy which France would probably have adopted in 1870, had not war intervened—and that subsequently induced other countries to follow the example of Germany. But it can not be doubted that the motive in general which prompted the action of Germany in 1873, and which to-day enrolls so many of the best of the world's thinkers, financiers, and merchants, on the side of gold rather than that of silver in the pending and so-called bimetallic controversy, has been and is a conviction, that the movement in favor of a gold standard, by highly civilized and great commercial nations, is in consonance with the spirit of the age; that it was a necessity for the fullest development of production and traffic, and the same in kind which prompts to the substitution, regardless of cost, of new machinery for old, if even the minimum of gain can be thereby effected in the production and distribution of commodities. It may, however, be urged that granting all that may be claimed respecting the superiority of gold over silver as a standard of value and a medium of exchange, there is not a sufficiency of gold to supply the wants of all who may desire to avail themselves of its use for such purposes; and therefore, any attempt to effect innovations in former monetary conditions would be impolitic because likely to be generally injurious. But this would not be considered as an argument of any weight if pleaded in opposition to the whole or partial disuse of any other form of tool or machine in order that some better tool or machine might be substituted. That in such a case there would be an advantage to those who could afford to have and use the new, and a corresponding disadvantage to those who could not, may be admitted; but what would be the future of the world's progress, if the use of all improvements was to be delayed until all to whom such use would be advantageous could start on terms of equality?

If, therefore, the above premises are correct; if certain of the leading states of the world have given a preference to gold over silver in their trade, and have selected a single in place of a former double standard of value—not by reason of the adoption of any abstract theory or desire for experimentation, but rather through a determination to put themselves in accord with the new conditions of production and distribution that have been the outcome of inventions and discoveries during the last quarter of a century—then the inference is warranted, that all attempts to enforce, through any international conference or agreement, any different policy or practice, would be as futile as to attempt to displace through legislation railroads by stage coaches and steamships by sailing-vessels.

  1. "It was from this source that Germany proposed to help herself before it was too late, and thereby array herself in the rank of commercial states which, having large transactions, chose gold, not merely as the most stable in value of the two metals, but as the best medium of exchange for large payments."—Professor Laughlin, History of Bimetallism in the United Stales, p. 135.