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EDITORIAL ARTICLE IN THE AEvening Aost, OF APRIL 5TH, 1894.
THE GODDESS ARGENTUM.
We print elsewhere a letter from Mr. Anson Phelps Stokes on his system of “joint-metallism,” in reply to some remarks of ours the other day.
Far be it from us to accuse Mr. Stokes of sympathy with dishonesty or anarchism, or of any desire or intention to aid or abet them, Of course it would be silly to do so. But a strict regard for truth compels us to express, as often as the opportunity offers, our solemn conviction that all attempts, whether made in Boston or New York, to persuade the world that the use of silver as full money of account, whether jointly with gold or not, is in any sense a duty of the Government, or is called for as a protection for the poor man against “gold-bugs” or “Wall Street sharks,” promote populism, communism, anarchism, greenbackism, and simple silverism, and do threaten this country with unnumbered woes. Nearly all the trouble has arisen out of the personification of silver as a moral being which began in 1877-1878, and of which we find a trace in Mr. Stokes's letter where he speaks of the “historical and just position” of silver." This, if it means anything, means that there is some position in the currency or financial arrangements of the nation, which is due to silver as a matter of right and by prescription, that it can, as an individual or a corporation can, claim a place in our medium of exchange, of which we cannot deprive it without a breach of the moral law. To our minds there has been nothing more extraordinary than this since Moses, on coming down from the mountain, found the Israelities, in spite of the most patent proofs of divine sovereignty, worshipping * See Appendix, page 80.
Pszstorica/and Constitutional Aosition. 47
a golden calf of their own making. It illustrates admirably what to many people now seems incomprehensible, the tendency of the whole ancient world to mythological explanations of the universe. The notion that silver has rights and virtues, that it is courageous and faithful to its friends, and loves the poor, and has made itself an historical place, and is entitled to justice—all of which propositions have been maintained during the last fifteen years by American orators and writers— shows how near we are, in spite of Christianity and science, to the state of mind in which men deified the moon and sun, the mountains, the streams, and even wild beasts and oxen. To us silver has the same historical position, and has the same rights under the moral law and the United States Constitution," as wheat or leather, wanpum or cowries, or coal. There was a time when wheat was twice as dear as it is now, but did it acquire an historic right to be kept at that price, and do we insult it by * See Appendix, page 80.
selling it at 64 to 66 cents a bushel ? It has played a more prominent part in the world's history by far than either silver or gold, and ought to have a far higher place in our affections than either. And yet it is bought and sold on margins by Chicago and other speculators, with an indifference to its peace and comfort which is well calculated to excite the indignation of an honest worshipper. Most other commodities which have played a prominent part in the growth of our civilization have the same story to tell. The march of science has cheapened them, by lessening their value to mankind, but if they are to be worshipped as silver is— that is, treated as moral beings instead of simply brute instruments of human comfort and convenience, we must go back to barbarism. All who know India acknowledge that the sanctity of the cow is in that region a serious hindrance to progress. It cuts the Hindu population off from both beef and a good quality of leather. It sometimes leads, as the other day in Bombay, to riots and murders. It
- - - What is the Remedy? 49
is, of course, difficult for those who look on the cow as simply an animal which furnishes milk and hides, to avoid occasional displays of irreverence or levity in her presence, and this wounds the Hindu, as our silver-men are wounded by want of respect for silver, in their tenderest part. But what is the remedy? None that we know of except the growth of knowledge and more scientific conceptions of the universe. Silver is a metal which mankind has found useful as currency in times past, when its value, like the value of nearly all commodities, was pretty steady." Various circumstances, concerning which there is more or less dispute, have deprived it of a good deal of its usefulness as currency, and there is a general disposition among the nations which can afford gold, to discard it. The one way to meet this tendency is to show that the value of silver is likely to be again steady. To claim for it divine honors or moral rights is simple paganism
* See Appendix, pages 94, IIo.