« 上一頁繼續 »
moollahs,) who explain to them such things as they do not comprehend, and set them new tasks. At other hours, they meet together in each other's apartments, and amuse themselves in dispute on subjects connected with their literary pursuits. There are always certain poor students who perform for the richer, or more advanced, a variety of little domestic offices; such as cleaning out their chamber, fetching wood, water, and articles of food from the bazar, and even cooking their food. For the maalims and superior moollahs such offices are usually performed by some of their scholars; but the rest help themselves, each bringing from the bazar such articles as he requires, and cooking independently in his own room.”
And thus much concerning the university of Mushed. We may add in conclusion, that few travellers have succeeded better than Mr. Fraser in making the reader acquainted with the countries through which their journey lay. When it is considered, what the line of Mr. Fraser's route was, its extent, and the obscurity, which hung over a considerable portion of it, it follows that few persons have travelled to better purpose.
PROCEEDINGS IN PARLIAMENT RELATIVE TO THE CURRENCY.
On the subject of currency, parliament has as usual demonstrated how much the conservative powers of such an assembly exceed in value the deliberative. It looks as if men of talent in their individual capacities met together to “know this only that they nothing knew.” The cause is easily traced to the imperfect knowledge with which men content themselves upon subjects where their individual responsibility is only to be fractional. Thus, when a celebrated advocate states, as if it was an ultimate fact, that all he knows is, that when paper and gold have existed together, the gold has always finally disappeared,-it is impossible to help believing, that if it had been alleged in a defence before a court of law, that all wines had run ont of all barrels, he would have run rapidly to the conclusions, that if they ran out it was because there were leaks; that leaks might have been found, and being found, might have been stopped ; and would never have rested in the assumption, that there was some abstract connexion between wine and leakage beyond which human penetration could make no advance.
One use of a deliberative assembly, even where it exists in the most imperfect form, is the constant evidence it holds forth, how much the knowledge of the community is a-head of that of the government, and consequently how much it would be for the benefit of all, that the government should represent the community to the greatest possible extent. Thus, in the British parliament, though far removed from the most imperfect of existing forms, it hardly yet appears to be recognised and understood, that the value of the circulating medium in any country must, for any period for which the wealth and business of the community may be considered as unaltered, be a constant quantity, which neither gods nor men can alter; and, therefore, if the volume or numerical amount be increased, the value of any given part must be diminished in the exact proportion of the increase of the whole. All the steps by which this effect takes place, may be subjected to mathematical demonstration, in addition to the evidence of experience as to the general truth. Men without doors have known this long, because it was forced upon them, and they had no interest not to know it; but there is a long and dreary interval, between its being known without, and its being wrought into such general and operative knowledge as shall be effectual within.
The great deficiency in the proceedings of parliament has been, that they have overlooked all that it was most important to bring to the test of examination. They have busied themselves with accessories; and they have been successful in obtaining no important results. Where is the amount of what has been received by the government in return for the public paper, and how has it been accounted for? Why have private individuals been allowed to coin paper money, and carry off the public profits; and why are they allowed to do so still ? Such are the questions which the public would gladly have seen examined ; and they have not been examined. When a government issues notes upon a promise to pay upon demand, it is manifest that for every one of these notes that is retained in circulation and not returned either in discharge of taxes or demand of payment, the government has received and possessed the full amount of what was given to it in return for such note at the time of issue; and is, or ought to be, accountable for the same in like manner, as for any other monies or things coming into its hands in the course of its operations as a government. For example: if a government had in circulation notes to the amount of fifty millions of pounds, it would be accountable for something received to the amount of fifty millions ; and two millions and a half (or whatever else may be the interest) ought to be deducted annually from the taxes levied on the community, or be otherwise accounted for to parliament on the same grounds and in the same manner as any other monies or things received. For to say that parliament has a right to inquire into other' receipts and expenditure, but has not a right to inquire into this, is like saying it has a right to inquire when the wind is northerly, but has no authority or jurisdiction north-north-west. Whatever diversities of opinion there may be, as to whether parliament is constituted in the best manner that is abstractedly possible, it is clear that as it is, it is all we have now; and, therefore, by it we must stand or fall, in all mattors connected with present expenditure.
If the government, instead of issuing this paper itself, and placing the proceeds to the credit of the community, allows private individuals to issue it for their own advantage, it then gives away to those individuals the property of the community; and it becomes a question, why the government does this, in the same manner as it would if the government were seen giving away the public lands or forests. And here men have had too long experience of the natural history of governments, to be at a loss for an answer. All governments have a propensity to giving, where influence can be procured in return, and they see a probability of having their wants supplied after all from the purses of the community; and if they cannot direct the stream of their bounty with all the precision that might be desired, they will do it with less. A government which lets a certain number of millions run out annually will have just so many millions worth of influence at its command of a better kind or of a worse. It may not be of quite so good a kind as if the government had the opportunity of selecting its own bargains in the market ; but it will be of a kind far too good to throw away, if there is an opportunity for getting this and not the other.
The essential point is to prove the reality of the wrong done by allowing the profit arising from the substitution of paper to be taken by individuals; for those individuals will maintain they do nothing but what they have a right to do. Where coins have been issued, (which under a sensible government takes place without any expence to the community,) every man who possesses one has given value for it. It is therefore his in the most unlimited sense of the word; and if a discovery should be thereafter made by which paper can be caused to perform the offices of coins, it is he, and he only, who has a right to the gain arising from substituting paper and restoring the coin to the common uses of metal. His right is as precise and clear, as that which a man who substitutes glass vessels for his silver ones has to pocket the difference of price. If the thing were practicable, every man who has a guinea ought to have a note for the same amount put into his pocket for nothing, and be told to go and sell his guinea to a goldsmith, or dispose of it in any other way he chooses. This, if it were practicable, would be the fair and just thing; and anything which produces the same effect is just, and anything which does not produce it is not just. But since it is not practicable in kind, the object must be to produce the same effect, or as vear to it as possible. And this will be done, if the government, by issuing paper, takes to itself all the benefit of the substitution in the first instance, and then gives every man credit for a share, by reducing the taxes of the community by the amount. The paper will be gradually substituted without loss, the gold will quietly run out and return to its original uses for the benefit of the holders, and there will be an after credit given to the holders in the taxes besides. The effect on each individual may not be the same with complete exactness; but it will be very nearly the same, and so nearly that every man will be very glad to have it in preference to having nothing. It will be as near to exactness as the nature of things will permit; and it will at all events be perfectly clear that there is no designed wrong. But if, instead of this, private individuals are allowed to issue paper, the proceeds are taken by themselves, and no diminution of taxes nor other credit is given in consequence to the community. The community, therefore, loses precisely the sum taken ; which is just what it would do in a case of forcible entry of the mint. There is no use in the private issuers alleging that what they do is with the consent of individuals. This may be quite true; but then the community is robbed in the result. The only shadow of criminality that can be attached to robbing the mint consists in the property of the community being taken away and applied to the benefit of individuals who are not the community. It would be useless to urge that ladders, crow-bars, and dark-lanterns are harmless commodities, and were procured in the market with the perfect consent of the parties concerned. It is not there that the fault lies; it is in the result. So in the coining of paper-money by individuals, the question is not of that part of the act which consists in exchanging this paper-money against the gold of such as voluntarily give it, but of that other part which consists in taking away from the community what it ought to have received. It is not that the man's guinea, which he voluntarily gives for the private note, is taken away from him, but it is that the community loses that other guinea, or the value of the same, which indirectly, if not directly, should have been returned to them in the deduction made from the sums levied for the public service. It is necessary to be very precise in making out this part of the case ; because the persons interested will be sure to throw all manner of delusion about the point.
The questions then with respect to private bank notes separate themselves into two :—Whether the community is to be injured by the existence of private notes at all;—and whether it is to be further injured by the want of security for their payment; which, to some persons, may appear like asking-whether a government should allow its subjects to be robbed, and whether it should further allow them to be murdered afterwards. That the first question should ever be satisfactorily got rid of, can only be expected to happen under circumstances which shall create a peculiar connexion between the representative and the constituents. But the other might be disposed of at any time, when the government should be inclined to take the same measures for preserving the property of the community that it does for its own. When the government allows its own money to be lodged in the hands of a private banker, it demands that he shall find security for the amount; and if it felt equally for the money of the community, it would take the same precaution. But it ought still to be borne in mind, that all this is only preventing the murder in addition to the robbery—is only stopping the adventitious and accumulated evil, while the primary one, which is the source of all, goes unrestrained.
If it is urged that the issuing of paper is a trade, and government ought not to trade, the answer is, that the coining of paper-money is not an act of trade, but of that power which, consistently with the good of the community, can only be exercised by the government. It might as well be urged that the receiving taxes was an act of trade, and individuals
request to open private excise-offices and pocket the excise. The objection in both cases is the same ; namely, that what ought to go to the credit of the community is taken by individuals. The just and proper trade of a banker is something quite distinct from the coining of paper-money; and consists in collecting the money of such persons as find it convenient to make deposits, and lending it to such as wish to borrow. Bills also the bankers may discount; but they should do it with their own money, and not with money taken from the public. Within their proper limits, they act as a most useful engine of communication between different parts of the community. But if we inquire what their right is to go further and issue paper-money as the means of lending, their right is none at all. Let them lend all the money they can of their own, and all that her people choose trust them with ; but let not the millions of the public be given them to lend.
Since the value of any given part of the currency depends upon the quantity of the whole, it is clear, that, whenever the quantity is increased beyond a certain limit, whether the increase takes place in one species of currency or another, depreciation will ensue. But, as soon as the coin will purchase less gold than is contained in itself, coins will begin to run out or disappear; and the attendant demand for coins for the purposes of reduction or exportation will be a check to further issues, either of public or private paper, and, in fact, will cause the issuers to withdraw, or pay off, some portion of what they have already issued. And since there is no check to the issues till depreciation has taken place,–or, in other words, since nothing but an actual running out of coins will check the issues of paper, it follows, that if the issues are to be kept in continual check, there must be a continual running out of coins to do it; so that there can be no wonder the coins should disappear. As long, therefore, as there is no other check on the issue of paper than the demand for payment in coins, coins must disappear; but it ought always to be borne in mind, that it is because there is no other check. What portion of the paper retained in circulation under such a system, will be public, and what private, appears to depend on the momentary convenience of individuals. The coiners of private paper will call this a fair and honourable competition, and say it is just as it ought to be ; while there is just i he same distinction, in reality, that there would be between two shops selling in the same market and at the same prices, with the difference that one was selling for the benefit of those who were the rightful owners, and the other for those who were not. To a simple customer it might make no difference whether he went to one shop or to the other; but there would be all the difference in the world to those who were wronged by the result.
A payment in gold was the cure for the last great fraud inflicted on the community through the medium of its currency, which was the fraud of over-issues ; and therefore men are naturally attached to it. But if hank-paper could be made to keep its value without it, and the expence of finding gold be saved to the community, no man need complain; and the question is only whether it can.
And whether it can or not, light will be thrown on the nature of paper currency, by the discussion of the question. Strong reasons may be urged for the assertion, that the way to secure the community the greatest advantages of which the subject is capable would be by means of an inconvertible public paper, the proceeds of which should be faithfully placed to the credit of the public, and of which no new issues should take place but by consent of Parliament upon proof produced that the bank-note would purchase in the market a certain standard quantity of gold (as for instance, the quantity in what is called a sovereign), and something more ; from which excess, the whole number in circulation being known, the quantity to be issued may be collected by simple proportion. The real measure of the value of a note or coin, is what it will buy, expressed in some kind of commudities that is least liable to great fluctuations; and that gold is a convenient commodity for measuring value has been agreed upon by all mankind. If it is asked why this would be better than a gold circulation, it is, because it saves the ex. pense, as it may be two millions and a half annually to the public. If MARCH, 1826.