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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/22

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of bullion and specie. The same authority refers to an eminent English firm doing business with the East, as stating that "their business could now be conducted with one fifth of the capital formerly employed," which would seem to warrant the inference that the reduction in the necessity for using so much of their capital as was represented by money had also been proportionate.

For the settlement of international balances—a large function of gold—it is certain that every ounce of this metal—through the great reduction in the time of ocean-transits—is at the present time capable of performing far more service than at any former period; the time for the transmission of coin and bullion having been reduced in recent years between Australia and England from ninety to forty days, and from New York to Liverpool from twelve or fifteen to eight or nine days. Such an increase of rapidity in doing work is certainly equivalent to increase in quantity.

The statistics of clearing-houses, which are everywhere multiplying, also show a continued tendency for the settlement of financial obligations without the intervention of either notes or coin; while in every country which has adopted the "postal money-order" system the rapidity with which the public resort to that method of effecting exchanges is most surprising.[1]

In estimating the influence of the diminished production of gold in recent years, it is important to bear in mind a point to which attention has been often heretofore called, and that is, that gold and silver are not like other commodities, of which the greater part of the annual production is annually consumed; but that their use for the purpose of effecting exchanges does not involve consumption, except by loss and wear; that the work they have once done they are equally ready to do over and over again, and that every addition to their stock "is an addition to the fund available for exchanges." The aggregate sum by which the yearly average amount of gold available for coining fell off during the period from 1861-'70 as compared with that from 1852-'60,[2] when the mines of California and Australia were most productive, was (adopting Mr. Pixley's estimates) less than £100,000,000 ($500,000,000), a sum absolutely great, but most inconsiderable—less than one sixth of one per cent—in comparison with the amount of gold believed to have been in existence in civilized countries in 1885;[3]

  1. The number of "postal"-orders issued by the British Post-Office in 1886 was 18,831,164, representing £7,883,347 (639,226,735); while money-orders, domestic and foreign, were issued during the same year to the amount of £25,012,337 (8125,061,685). In the countries comprising the Postal Union of Europe, the issue of domestic money-orders had risen in 1885 to the large amount of $1,821,000,000.
  2. It is interesting to note that the yearly average amount of gold available for coinage was greater, according to Mr. Pixley's estimates, from 1871-'80 than from 1861-70.
  3. M. Sauerbeck estimates the total amount of gold in the form of coin and bullion in Europe (excluding the Balkan Peninsula), the United States, and Australia, at the end of 1884, to have been £645,000,000 ($3,225,000,000).