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PREFACE TO THE SECOND
The first edition of Joint-Metallism consisted largely of letters hurriedly written for the newspapers.
A second edition being called for now, I add, in Part II., commencing page 119, a more thorough presentation of the plan of joint-metallism, with some considerations intended to refute objections, and references to further weighty authorities on the science of money, whose opinions are entitled to especial attention.
On page 5 I suggested some details which might facilitate the establishment of the system here. But these details as to the coin to be selected as the gold standard, the times when and the official by whom the declaration of the Governs ment ratio shall be made, and the periods to be considered in fixing this ratio, are, of course, not essential.
In reading very many books on money and coinage, I find:
First. That some of the older writers on this subject far surpass almost all the modern ones in genius, reasoning, force, and clearness.
Second. That, as compared with other sciences, there appears a strange general ignorance of the history of monetary science.
Oresme, the great master of this science in the fourteenth century, was acquainted with the writings on this subject of Justin, Saint Augustine, Cassiodorus, etc.
But Copernicus, the great astronomer and economist of the sixteenth century, was ignorant of Oresme's work in this field, and Bacon, Locke, and Newton, in the seventeenth century, did not know of these writings of Oresme and Copernicus, and the English economic writers of the eighteenth century generally ignored the earlier continental monetary experiences.
Preface to the Second Edition. xiii
Roscher, Professor of Political Economy at Leipsic, when he found a copy of Oresme's work in 1862, supposed that "this diamond of the first water hidden in the dust" had been entirely unknown for many years. Its existence, was, however, known to several French writers, but its importance not appreciated. That this treatise had caused the reform of the French coinage in the fourteenth century was generally forgotten until the publication, in 1864, of Wolowski's1 Jitude sur le Traite de la Monnaie de Nicole Oresme, and most recent writers show little knowledge of any of these great authorities, and total ignorance of their most important works.
It appears that at a critical period when it became necessary to reform the coinage, in order to save the country from ruin, some philosopher would adequately study up the matter, and prepare a plan which met the emergency, and then his work was soon forgotten. Old vicious coinage plans would then again be resorted to in order to cheat the people. Again there
1 Read before the Institute of France August 14, 1862.
would be a crisis in affairs, then another philosopher would save society by monetary reform; and then his work would, in turn, soon be forgotten.
In Oresme's time the coin had been so debased that it contained only one eightysixth part of its nominal quantity of silver; the late King John, strangely called "The Good," having ordered the masters of the mint to exactly imitate the old coins in base metal, charging them under the most extreme penalty of treason to keep this fraud secret. Oresme discovered and explained why bad money drove out good money.1
One hundred and sixty years later Copernicus rediscovered how bad money was driving good money out of the great kingdom of Poland, which then embraced Prussia, etc.
Similar conditions of affairs were afterwards repeatedly discovered in England and elsewhere.
Some of the men who brought about great reforms of the coinage were the very greatest philosophers of their time.
1 See note, page 154.
Preface to the Second Edition. xv
But, although they convinced those then in authority, their work in monetary reform was not generally understood or appreciated. The hidden but momentous workings of changes in the basis of money are among the things no people have as yet shown an aptitude to understand.
Even to-day the importance of the following simple facts appears difficult of common comprehension, viz.: That general prosperity in our country depends largely on the prices obtainable abroad for our chief exportable staples; and that the fall in these is directly caused by the demonetization of silver, because for every pound sterling which a planter in India, etc., receives for cotton or wheat sold in England, he can now employ twice as many native laborers as he could a few years ago, for their wages remain the same in silver coin.
In a country where monetary questions must be decided finally by popular vote, the importance of a right understanding of the science of money cannot be overestimated; and its thorough study ought