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POWER TO COIN MONEY.
This is always recognized as a right which belongs necessarily to every independent sovereignty. A coin is a piece of metal on which some sovereign, prince, or State has placed its symbol, and thereby declared that the piece of metal contains a certain quantity of a certain purity. Coins are the money of the world.
ney of the world. They rest upon the faith and honesty of the State which issues them. Paper money, so called, is not money; it is only the promise to pay money. It is comparatively a modern invention. While it is convertible at pleasure into coins, and is received as coined money because so convertible, it is then the representative of money, but itself is never money.
Formerly, before the invention of paper money and national indebtedness, governments in great straits resorted to the device of “debasing the coin," as it was called. That is, a king would make a coin of gold or silver, with the mark that declared it to contain, we will say, an ounce of silver, and he would put one-fourth of an ounce of lead into it, making it contain only three-fourths of an ounce of silver. This seemed to give him a quarter part of all his coinage for the price of lead!
Sometimes this debasement would take place secretly, the king hoping that it would not be discovered. Sometimes it was avowed, and the king would make a law that the new coins should be taken as of the same value with the old ones. Equally foolish was he to hope that his secret would not be found out, or that his law could make lead worth as much as silver. Debasement of the coin is never practised now, because the use of national paper money has taken place, and answers the same purpose. All States now use this. Perhaps they will find out that they are equally foolish with the king above mentioned. As time goes on, and the world becomes wiser, it may perhaps discover that the legal substitution of promises to pay, instead of paying, while it may give immediate relief, and even a flush of prosperity, is necessarily followed, sooner or later, by a period of equal, if not greater, depression and disaster.
When the exigencies of the late war pressed with almost crushing weight upon our government, they yielded to the necessity. Up to that time, only money could legally satisfy a debt or promise to pay money; in other words, only money was a legal tender. But the government, by law, made their own promises to pay money a legal tender in the stead of money; and thus paper money came into universal use, and actual money disappeared.
There was some effort to give this measure a constitutional sanc. tion, under the power given to Congress "to coin money and regulate the value thereof.” But it was vain and meaningless. The measure rested simply upon overpowering necessity; and on that ground it might be defended as a thing that was done because it was impossible to create and use the means necessary for the preservation of our national existence without doing it. That is to say, it may be defended on the ground of an overruling necessity, and on no other. It was a case of national life or death.
At the time, many sensible men thought it would be better to go on without making paper money legal, and raise whatever sums were necessary by loans. But these sums were so enormous, that public credit would have gradually sunk so low (if it did not wholly perish) that the national bonds would have brought a very low price, and the debt would have exceeded all possibility of payment; and the interest payable thereon required a taxation which could not have been endured, and would have ended in repudiation; that is, in national bankruptcy and dishonor. Our experience in the comparatively trifling war with Great Britain in 1812 may give us some instruction. Then our bonds were sold at from 15 to 25 per cent discount, the government receiving their payments in bills of banks that did not pay specie; and, in fact, the government borrowed money at enormous rates. Had we tried the same thing in the civil war, the banks throughout the country must have suspended, and the government have carried on the war with their paper, and not with gold and silver; and when things were at their worst, and money was needed most, our bonds would not have brought half their nominal amount. As it was, very skilful financiering was required to carry us along. And, on the whole, it may be believed that our condition at this time, bad as it is, is certainly no worso than it would have been had the government attempted to struggle through our difficulties on a hard money basis.
It is certain, however, that they who concluded to resort to paper money as the best thing they could do, accepting it as a necessity forced upon them by the war, had no thought of its continuing much beyond the war. They supposed, and the nation supposed, that as soon as peace was established, the necessity of paper money would pass away, and the law making it a legal tender would be repealed.
So it has not been. At this day, after nine years of peace, we have only paper money in use, and as much of it as ever; and no settled and definite plan has yet been adopted to relieve us from this heavy burden. It is undoubtedly a principal cause of the low
credit of the United States in the markets of the world, in comparison with that of nations some of which have not one-tenth of our resources. This costs us much, in many ways. What it costs us in one way may be learned from a comparison of our debt and interest with the debt and interest of Great Britain. We may call our debt, in round numbers, two thousand millions. It is, as already stated, a little more. It costs us annually about one hundred millions, or 5 per cent. The debt of Great Britain is but little less than four thousand millions (exactly $3,924,860,000), and it costs thein annually about one hundred and twenty millions, or 3 per cent.
At this moment there is no question more interesting to the people than when and how we can be done with paper money as a legal tender, and take our place among the nations whose business rests upon a gold and silver basis. Everybody admits the expediency, and indeed the necessity, of doing this. Everybody knows that when it takes place there must be a universal shrinking of values, and, may be, a universal distress. Everybody is therefore seeking for a plan which will do away with irredeemable paper money as soon as may be, and with the least possible disturbance and distress in the community.
Innumerable are the plans proposed. All that can be said here is, that it may be hoped that some one will be selected, and then adhered to firmly. Whether it is the best plan, or the second best, or the third best, is not of so much consequence as that it is one which, in the end, will accomplish its purpose; and that it be carried out into full effect, steadily and constantly, in despite of the clamorons begging for relief which is sure to be heard in those troublous times which are sure to come. If
any such plan were adopted, and the conviction that it would be adhered to fixed in the public mind, this conviction would of itself accomplish half the purpose of the plan of recovery.
All that the constitution says upon the subject is, that Congress has among
its powers one“ to establish a uniform rule of naturalization."
There were wise men among the framers of the constitution; but the wisest of them could not have anticipated the vast immigration into this country which has taken place. The subject excited little attention; for we find in the journal of the convention that it gave rise to no debate. But of what immense importance it has been This country has offered a refuge and a home to the indigent subjects of old States; an opportunity for successful industry to those to whom the crowded countries beyond the seas refused the means of well-paid labor and comfortable subsistence; and safety and welcome to those whom oppressive laws threatened with the loss of liberty and life. If we add that it permitted an escape from punishment to some who deserved it for their crimes, we speak of a few only, who bear no proportion to multitudes who have come to us for other and better reasons.
By the census of 1870 the whole number of the population of this country was 38,558,371; of this number 5,567,229 were foreign bor or more than one-eighth of the whole. We read in history of the countless hordes who, in the fourth century of Christianity and afterwards, came down from the northern regions of Europe and overspread the whole of the Western Roman empire, conquerors everywhere, and founded the existing nations of southern and middle Europe. They were centuries in doing this work. And yet the whole of these invading hosts, from the beginning to the end, were probably a smaller number of persons than those who have come from abroad, and have died or are now living in the United States. And still our broad lands welcome them; and should the crowded millions of Asia, now separated from us only by the ocean, find their way across that highway of nations, for them also we can offer land enough, and a welcome, if only we can hope that they will leave behind them habits which must be a barrier between them and us, and bring with them no elements of character which must needs prevent their taking their place as citizens of our common country, free without license, and useful by their industry without being harmful by their lives.
By naturalization a foreigner becomes, to all intents and pur. poses, a citizen of the United States, with no disability attaching to him on account of his foreign birth, except that he cannot be President or Vice-President of the United States. Congress, in pursuance of the power given to it by the constitution, has, at sundry times, enacted laws of naturalization. Those in force at the present time are as follows:
LAWS OF NATURALIZATION.
An alien or foreign-born person may be naturalized, if he declares, on oath or affirmation, before the Supreme, Superior, District, or Circuit Court of some one of the States, or a Circuit or District Court of the United States, two years at least before his admission, that it was, bona fide, his intention to become a citizen of the United States, and to renounce all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, and particularly by name to the prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty whereof such alien is at the time a citizen or subject. He must, also, when applying to be admitted, declare, on oath or affirmation, that he has never borne any hereditary title or been of any order of nobility, or, if he has borne such title, that he renounces the same, and that he will support the constitution of the United States, and that he renounces and abjures for ever all allegiance, &c. (as before). He must also prove to the satisfaction of the court, and by other evidence than his own oath, that he has resided within the United States five years at least, and within the State or Territory where the court then is, one year at least, and has behaved during that time as a man of good moral character, attached to the prosperity of the constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same.
An alien who is a minor, and has resided in the United States three years next preceding his arriving at the age of twenty-one years, and has continued to reside therein until he made application to be admitted a citizen, may, after arriving at twenty-one years of age, and after residing in the United States five years, including the years of his minority, be admitted without having made the previous declaration stated above. But at the time of his admission he must declare, on oath or affirmation, and prove to the satisfaction of the court, that it had been his bona fide intention during the three years next preceding his admission to become a citizen of the United States. At the time of his admission he must declare, on oath or affirmation, and prove to the satisfaction of the court, bis residence and character, and renounce all allegiance, &c., in the same way as required in the preceding section at the admission of an alien not a minor.
In addition to these it is provided that a seaman who declares his intention as before provided, and thereafter serves three years in American vessels, may be admitted as a citizen. Also, that one who enlisted in the regular or volunteer service of the United States, and was honorably discharged therefrom, may be admitted, after proof of residence of one year within the United States, and of good character.
Every court of record in any State having common-law jurisdiction, and a seal and clerk or prothonotary, is a District Court within the meaning of these laws.