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Ancient Use Of Silver And Gold--custom And Law

Ancient Use Of Silver And Gold--custom And Law image
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We road in 23d Genesis that the Patriarch Abialuun paid for a burial place "400 shekels of silver, currtmt money with the merchant." This silvur must have been uncoiucd, tor it was weighed out, and yet it was called current money. Other chapters of Genesis speak of gold as well as silvur - showing that both silver aud gold were, at that day, nearly 1,900 years betore the Gbristian era, uiade iuto ornamenta, and used alao as money. They were both generally recognized as money, and were current auiong merchants as uioney, when tbey passed by weight, nearly 3,700 years ago. They both carne into general use as money, aud the medium of exchange, by coiumon con sent, without any law to regúlate their use or their valué. They were subsuquently coined tomakethem into pisóos aud shapes most convenient for usa, une mark their weights and fineuess. Since the raetals were coined, contracts have been mado in reference to the coinage - for io many pounds, livres, murks, dollars, or other coins iu use; and Ihe coins referrod to in oontracts became legal tender to satisfy such contraots, because such were the terms of the contracts. When both silver and gold were coined into pieces of the same nauii:, as livres, pounds, or dollars, contract would generally refor to both gold and silver com, makiug either recuivablo in paymeut, if the contract did not specify that it was payable in ono of them only; but it was competent for parties to make coutracts payable in gold coiu only, in silver coin only, or in wheat or auy other product. The law of legal tender was at first a matter of oommon law only, in acoordance with the customs aud usages of trade, and was such as to carry into effect the implied as well as the expressed contracts of the parties. Such was the case bofore the era of paper mouey, and the reduction of the weight of particular coins - whon legal tender statutes and ordinances were passed to make nuw aud lighter coins legal tender for debts coutracted when ouly the heavier and more valuable coins were iu use, and to make paper money, issued by the goveruuient, a legal tender for debts justly payable in coin only. The eviis upon the subjeot have grown out of stutute laws and ordinances interfering with contracts. Money is not only an instrument and agent of commerce, but also oue of the mainspriugs and stimulauts of indus trial employments. The ptices of property, products and labor, all depend largely upon the auiount of money in ciroulation or ready for use. Both silver and gold coin were in general use, as a circulating medium, amoug all uauons, until Great Britain, in 1810, passed an act to limit the coiuage of silver, and restrict its uso to small payiueuts. It ia that law, aud similar laws, passed by Germany and the United States, which havo restricted the coinage and use of silver, and lessened its commercial value. If that policy be adopted by all the uatious of Eurupe, aud the United States adhere to it, aud thus limit to a small amount the coinage of silver and its uso as money, and confine its use moatly to the arts, the inevitable effect must be to increase the value and the purchasing power of gold, and to depress the commercial value of silver and of property and products of all kinds, and of labor also. The effect will be, that gold per ounce will rise to twenty times the value of silver - theu to twonty-five times, and perhaps finally to thirty times the value of silver ; and property and products of most kinds, and labor also, will go down with silver. The teuduncy of such a policy lias been, and will be, to lessen the amount of the coined money of Europe and America ; to send the silver coin to Asia ; to depress the value of property, products and lahor; to enrich the crudtor class, and iuipoverish and crush the debtor classes of the period during which the change ia made; and to emjarrass business and industry, by lessenmg tho ainouut of coined money in circulation, ai well as the amounts in ;he vaults of the banks - which forin the necessary basis for the safe oirculation and redemptiou of bank notes. This is uot only the greatest fitiancial quostion of the ugo, but the greatest that has over been presented in any age; and, if the gold delusion cannot be arrested, it will be productivo of great einbarrassnient and wide spread ruin, upon the continent of Europo as well as n America. It will cripple the inining ndu8try, and uoarly destroy the value of the silver mines of Mexico and South America, as well as thoso of tho United Staten. In 1G96 Gregory Kiug, then a disinguishod public writer of Eugland, estimated the amount of coined mouey n Europe as follows: Sil ver coin - 110,000,000 pouiuls aterlin Gold coiu - - 28,000,000 " M. Humboldt,' the grent Germai aoientist aud savau, estiuiated the aver agu animal products of the gold ant 8ÍÍver mines oí Eurpe, northern Asia anc Anuirica, at the beginning of the pres ent century: Silver at - - 193,300,000 francs Gold at - - - 65,700,000 " ïotal - - 259,000,000 " Equal to nearly forty-nine milliou of dollars aimually. The production of the mines of th world is stuted in the Journal de l Societe de títatistitue de Paríais follows : from 1492 to 1818, silver, 29,452 mil lions of francs ; gold, 14,126 million of fmncs; and from 1849 to 1875 in clusive - silver, 8,106 millions of francs gold, 18,249 millions of francs - makin the production of silver, from 1492 t 1875, equal to 7,061 millions of dollars and the gold 6,087 millions of dollars of which the ainount exported to Asii used iu the arts, destroyed by wear ant loss, probably exceeds two-thirds of th whole próduots of the mines. There is at the present time, probably more silver thau gold coin in the world What must neoessarily be the effec upon the commercial value of silver aud also of property and prodncts, in dustry and business, if the coin age o silver be stopped, and nine-tenths of th silver coin now in existence, be thrown out of use as rnoney ? The exporionce ot all peoples anc nations, during a period of nearly 4,000 years, shows that the use of silver a inuney and the medium of trade, sup plius a natural want of man and o society, in all stages of civilization. T supply that natural want may proper!; be regarded as a natural right. It is a much a natural right, as the right to trade and make contracta. Shall a law of recent origin - a purely experimenta law inaugurating a new policy, whicl disregarda that want aud violates tha right - be oontiuued in forcé? Th people of the wost very generally say uo, aud they are beginning to speak ou so loudly, that the advocates of an exclusivo gold coinage will soon bo able to hear thew. Business men, as well as debtors generally, realize the truth that a species of money which ha been useful and in circulation among tho peoples of all nations, more than 3,000 years iu the past, cannot fail to bo usuful in the future, Shall the indus tries and the business interests of the country, as well as all the debtor ulasues be sttcriiiciid to carrv out an experimen iu nuance, and gratify the mere wbim of theoiists 'i THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION. A coinmittee of the Americau Associ atiou tor the Advanceruent of Science made a report at tho meeting of the Asauciatiou in August 1876, upoi weights, nieasures and coinage, in which the committee adopted the British view of the quustion, and took stroug grouuc in snpport of the action of Congress, to demouetizü silver. The committee say " that the notion of a doublé standard in coinage is a fallacy which experience ruost iuevitably conlradiota ; that practically at any given time, a single Standard of value is only possible." Again this c uiiuittee say, " that the principie of a doublé standa d of value in uionotary systems is objectionabie, both becmisi! it ia practically fallacious, aud beoause its inevitable tendenuy is to degrade the value of the coinage in the couutries in which it prevails." Again ibis comniittee say : "Nu quality is mote absolutely indispensable in astandard, than stability oí valué. It is to thu possossion of this quality in an eminent oegree duriug the past centuries, ailvol has owed the place it haa so long ocoupled in tho uionetary system of the world With tho loss of this quality, it bas ost its claim any longer to hold that place." Such statements are not consistent with the history of the Commeice aud the monetary aystems oí the world, down to the time when the British goveriuueut coinmencud the effort to demonetize silver aud depress its value. I uiay say with propriety that the reasoning of the comnuttee is based iargely upon fallacies, false assuinptions, aud detective premises. lst. They do not take ïntocousideration the iuiluence upou the commercial valuo ot silver, of the lawa of Great Britain, Germany aud the United States, iu disuontiuuing the coinage of silver except iu siuall amouuts, and making gold the ouly legal tender for large payments. 2ad; They overlook the effect upon business, and upon industry and the debtor classes, of lpssening the volume of coin - of legal tender money in tha commercial world, by throwing silver coiu uuarly out of use. 3rd. They falsely assurue that the present depreciation of silver, compared with goid, has ariseu entiroly i'rum the lluctuating nature of silver, and its uutituess for a cireulatiug medium ; when in tact ita depreciation has been produced by the effoits to degrade it as money. 4th. They faLsoly assuiue that there can be and is a standard of values, and assert that there can be only oue such Standard ; that gold is a real standard of values aud that silver by reasou of the fluctuations of its commercial vulue, ia not such a standard. Tho truth is, the commercial value of gold is as changeable and uncartain as that of silver ; and there is no auch thing as a Standard, or exact ineasuro of values, in the strict seuse that a yard or a metre is au accurate measure of length, or a pound is a measure of weight. The nature of thiags and of trade does not adiuit of a cuttain or mathematica! standard, or measure of values. The word standard applies to the subject only in a figurativo sense; and when we say gold and silver coins are usud as staudards of value, we nioau merely that they approximate the nearest of any thing to uieasures of value which the nature of the subject admits of. Thore is no change in the proporties and the ïntrinsio value for uso of eithur silver or gold, wheat or ryo, bread or meat, wool or woolon cloths, iron or cutlery; but the prioo or commercial value of each, fluotuates with the deuiand and the atipply, and is different at the same time, in different countries, nd even in different placea of the same sountry. As there is and can be no sertain standard or unitormity of commercial value (neither gold nor silver 3oustitutiiig such a standard), the ivorago prioe of any five or ten leading products during a seriea of yeura, approximates to uinformity more nearly thau any one of thein; and the average price of gold and silvor ooin, hoth being kept in use for large payments, would for a aeries of vears in succession. muiiM liii a ncüiriT approxiumtion to uuiformity ot' valué, than gold alone can. Our circulating medium has been for nearly a bundred years past, almost exclusively paper money; and it will probably continue to be so. The principal use of gold and ailver coin will be in futuro aa it has beun in the aast, to be kept in the vaults of the ;reasury and the banks, with whioh to redeem treusury and bank notes; and if creditors are alloweil the right to require half the amouut of large debts due to them, to be pitd ia gold and ïiilf in silver, both gold and silver coin will be kopt in use, in nearly equal juantities, tne volume of coin will be anlarged and kept full, business and industry promotod, and oqual juatico will be done to both debtor and creditor. ö.


Old News
Michigan Argus