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to appeal to those who have the necessary time and training.
As most of the present depression in trade, agriculture, and other industries is clearly traceable to legislative ignorance of the history of money, and to attempts to retry unscientific experiments, the duty of the hour is to encourage and to facilitate real study of the money problem, which is again about to be discussed in Congress and in the newspapers, and ought not to be decided by ignorance, party spirit, and ad captandum appeals.
Anarcharsis criticised the constitution of Athens because the Athenians had wise men to debate and fools to decide.
O happy Athenians ! if you had always wise men to debate !
I do not claim to be learned or wise ; I desire, like Oresme, “to submit what I have written to the correction of wise and prudent men, for, as Aristotle says, the civil needs are often doubtful and uncertain.” But I do claim to have made some little study of the currency question, and I desire to study it more, and to see Preface to the Second Edition.
more general and scientific study of it in our colleges, newspapers, and legislatures, among those who are called upon to lead public opinion. I am sure I will not disoblige these by expressing my humble judgment that the best and most important foundation for this study is Oresme's treatise on the “ Origin, Nature, Law, and Mutations of Money.'
Professor Roscher well says of this great work:
“In order to rightly comprehend the present state of all science and from this to grasp its future, it is indispensable to know the past, so when we come to climb higher near the unseen sources of some truth, we experience a satisfaction, etc.”
His expression loses something in my feeble translation.
In Part III., in this edition, I give some account of Oresme and his work written about 1366, and some notice of the treatise on money written by Copernicus in 1526.
The opening sentence of this latter work I beg permission to translate here :
“ However innumerable are the ills
which lead to the fall of kingdoms, principalities, and republics, these four, in my judgment, are the most formidable : discord, mortality, sterility of land, and badness of money. For the first three, the evidence is so apparent that no one can be ignorant of it. But the fourth, concerning money, excepting some men of great ability, very few persons consider or understand it, because it is not by a single blow, but little by little, in an occult manner, that it overthrows the state.”
Our country does not suffer from the first three of the above named causes. We are a united people, our death rate is comparatively low, and our land fertile, but we are in danger of bad money.
Of all bad money fiat paper money is the worst.
In our legislation we have forgotten the maxims of our Constitution, which made gold and silver the legal tender. We have forgotten the teachings of Oresme, Copernicus, Bacon, Locke, Newton, and a host of other philosophers, that the only honest measure of the value of money is
the value of the bullion in the coin. We
shown that the only way to keep our government currency always safe and good is to permit none to be issued that does not have an equal amount of coin behind it, and that this coin must be always convertible into bullion at a trifling cost.
In the old times the bad money was usually money fraudulently alloyed, because that was the easiest way to take advantage of the popular ignorance of the hidden effects of the money-stamping power. But at times when the governments had large sums to receive, they would cheat by suddenly increasing the amount of silver in the coins, and insisting on being paid in the new coinage. As Macleod expresses it : “When they had debts to pay they cried the coin up. When they had debts to receive they cried the coin down.” The mint rates in France were often changed more than a dozen times in a year.
In our times it has been found easier
and more profitable to take advantage of this popular ignorance by reducing the total metallic basis of the currency.
Both these schemes produce bad and dangerous money and cause great injustice and loss to the people.
Five-cent cotton, fifty-cent wheat, low and diminishing gold reserve, the issuing of Government bonds in time of peace, falling wages and decreased employment, these things are making the people think on the currency question. Now is the time for enlightened discussion to find the principles upon which monetary science is bottomed, and to establish our currency on the best and most solid, safe, honest, and permanent basis.
Believing that joint-metallism conveniently provides this basis, I ask for it the candid consideration of competent critics.
: A. P. S.
STOKES BUILDING, NEW YORK.
23 November, 1894.