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in a few months, and without any pressing necessity for a course so retrogressive, and inimical to the resumption of specie payments.
Plain greenbacks, which now represent more than one-half of the circulating medium of the country, the rest being National Bank notes, were largely supplemented during the war by interest-bearing legal tender notes. Thus on the ist of September 1865, the date when the circulation reached its highest degree of inflation, the greenbacks and fractional currency outstanding amounted to $459,505,311, the three years six per cent. compound interest legal-tender notes to more than two hundred and seventeen millions, and the one and two years five per cent. legal-tender notes to nearly thirty-four millions, making a total of $710,482,801 directly issued by the Treasury. In addition there were a hundred and seven millions of Temporary Loan Certificates outstanding, which being payable after ten days' notice, were treated by the banks as the equivalent of greenbacks, and largely held by them as a portion of their reserve, while 'the remainder were more or less actively used as currency, and practically increased the paper money of the country. There were also in circulation a hundred and seventy-seven millions of National Bank notes, and more than seventy millions of State Bank notes, which last were soon afterwards taxed out of existence, making, say two hundred and fifty millions. This added to the eight hundred and seventeen millions just enumerated, made an aggregate circulating medium of ten hundred and sixty-seven millions. On the ist of September 1873, the amount of legal-tender notes and fractional currency in circulation was $400,969,529, and of National Bank notes nearly the whole of the authorised total of three hundred and fifty-four millions, making in all less than seven hundred and fifty-five millions, showing a contraction in the interval of three hundred and twelve millions. Moreover, at the date named in 1865 there were eighty-five millions of one-year certificates of indebtedness afloat, and eight hundred and thirty millions of seven-thirty notes, which were extensively employed as the equivalent of money, and so tended to stimulate the inflation of prices, the volume of the currency being virtually much larger than it was nominally, so much so that it would not be exaggerating to say that we had from two-thirds to seventy-five per cent. more currency then than we had at the time of the crisis.
The following table of the amount of legal-tender notes, including those bearing interest, namely compound interest, and one and two years five per cent, notes, but excluding fractional currency – outstanding at different periods, will serve to show at a glance the varying volume of this part of the circulation :1865 1866.
1873. June 1.........$659,160, 569 August 1.... 566,873,868 September 1 356,079,937 September i 684,138,059 September I 555,115,732
October 1 ... 356,079,742 October 1 ... 678, 126,948 October 1 ...
554,677,432 November 1 361,031,948 December 1. 626,290,438 November 1 538,707,925
December 1. 367,001,685 1866. December 1. 532,823,989
1874. January 1 ... $614,780,430
January 1.... 378,481,339 February 1.. 612,451,264 January 1 .. $525,398,682 July 1......... 382,000,000 March 1...... 605,984,414 April 1....... 514,445,879 April 1....... 603,298,298 May 1........ 509,022,197 May 1....... 568,213,359 June 1........ 503,239,977 June 1........ 564,140,458
The subjoined statement exhibits the amount of National Bank notes outstanding at various dates during the corresponding period : 1865.
1867. June 10......$137,772,705 January 7 ... $240,094,565 April 1...... $298,866,834 July 10....... 149,003,665 February 4.. 251,360,050 August 13... 169,598,960 March 4...... 258,432,790
September i 289,915,829
November 1 295,354,854 At the understated intervals the Federal debt varied in amount as the figures appended show, without deducting the amount of coin and currency in the Treasury before 1873, following which the amount in the Treasury, averaging a little over a hundred millions, including twenty millions of United States notes held as a special deposit for the redemption of the same amount of non-interest-bearing certificates of deposit, issued to and used by the banks as the equivalent of legal tenders, in which they are redeemable on demand-has been deducted in order to make the totals correspond with the altered form of the official statements :1861.
1867. June 30..
.$ 88,409,587 January 1 .............. $2,67 5,062,505 1862.
March I............... 2,690,537,289 June 30........... 514,211,371 June 1 ......... 2,687,040,519 1863.
1868. June 30..
June 30...... 2,636, 320,965 1864.
1869. June 28..
1,740,036,689 June 30.......... 2,642,508,365 September 30......... 1,955,973,716
1873. May 31
2,635,205,753 January 1 ............. 2,162,252,238 August 31
2,149,963,873 October 31
2,809,210,336 September 1.......... 2,140,695,365 November 30......... 2,806,444,835
October 1.. ............
November 1........... 2,141,833,476
1874. June 30..... 2,783,425,879 January 1..
2,159,315,326 August 1 ................ 2,770,416,608 September 1 .......... 2,728,314,835 October 1.............. 2,701,550,709 December 1........... 2,684,995,875 These figures represent a larger total of debt than any other Government labors under, except that of England, and France since the payment of the German indemnity ; and owing to nearly two-thirds of the funded portion of it still bearing interest at the rate of six per cent. in coin, it is twice as costly in proportion to its amount as that of Great Britain, which is in the form of three per cent. interminable annuities called consols, the name having been derived from the consolidation of the debt into this uniform security; and in this connection I may quote the following statistics, published by the British Government, giving the amount in pounds sterling of the principal
national debts of the world, with the year to which each of these is made up, and the amount per capita of the respective nations' indebtedness:
14 7 Russia
3 II Austria
6 14 10 Italy.......
7 19 5
10,370, 1 59 Greece.
915 3 Peru..
2 14 10 Chile
I 15 Notwithstanding its present prodigious amount, our National debt at the beginning of July 1860 aggregated only sixty-four millions, in 1857 was less than twenty-nine millions, and on the ist of January, 1835, amounted merely to the trilling sum of thirty-seven thousand five hundred and thirteen dollars! To diminish the public debt of this country ought to be a national study, and the object of every member of Congress and the Administration, and to this end economy and judicious taxation should go hand in hand. The debt as well as the circulation reached its maximum on the ist of September, 1865, when the aggregate, without deducting the cash in the Treasury, was $2,845,907,626 (excluding $114,115 of old funded and unfunded debt, incurred before 1815 and not included in the official monthly statements), or $2,757,689,571 after deducting the amount in the Treasury. Eight years later, that is to say on the ist of September 1873, the total, less the balance in the Treasury, was $2,140,695,365, showing a reduction in the interval of more than six hundred and seventeen millions.
The duration of the war was, until within a short time of its final termination, a matter of great uncertainty, while its ultimate issue was long the subject of gloomy or doubtful forebodings among many. Meanwhile the paper-money presses were kept constantly at work, and the history of the old Continental money of the Revolution, as well as that of the French assignats, admonished us that the more currency we issued the more we should require to issue in the event of our national expenditures remaining long undiminished, and that the greater and more rapid would be its depreciation. But with the end of the war a new era opened in our history.
Our currency, previously entirely shut out of the Southern States, became free to circulate there, and this of itself was equivalent to contraction upon a large scale.
The Confederate States currency had proved worthless, and the circulation which had been confined to one section of the country was suddenly required to meet the wants of both sections, and for some months the drain of currency to the South was so heavy that it produced semi-stringency at the North. The United States were financially like a sick man accustomed to and dependent upon stimulants, to withdraw which suddenly would have been perilous. There were many in Congress who had penetration enough to see this, and it was a noticeable feature of the debates on this question that many of those who were strongly opposed to our excessive issues of currency during the war, and who warned the country of the danger attending them, were now among those who took so conservative a view of the financial situation that they were assailed as inflationists by the radical contractionists, who refused to see that the arguments which would have applied to the currency while the war lasted and there was constant danger of further inflation, failed to apply with equal force in the subsequent condition of affairs. Hence schemes of violent contraction which, if put in practice, would have led to commercial disaster, were rejected; but even the moderate measure of contraction that was adopted proved, as we have seen, too much for the country to endure with equanimity, so hard and painful is the process of shrinkage, whereas the path of inflation is always easy.
We shall have occasion to rejoice when the once-familiar clink of the precious metals is again heard among us, and greenbacks are, dollar for dollar, as good as gold. What amount of coin is now in the country beyond the ninety-one and a-half millions which the Treasury held on the ist of January 1874, it is impossible to say exactly, but the statistics of the Treasury Department show that the exports of coin and bullion from the United States during the twelve fiscal years extending from the 30th of June 1860 to the corresponding date in 1872, aggregated $838,035,336, the largest in any one year — that of 1864 - having exceeded a hundred and five millions; while the deposits, less the re-deposits of bullion in the Philadelphia Mint and its branches for coinage, during the same time amounted to $433,211,227, and the imports of foreign coin to $223,464,155.
In 1861 there were, in addition to the two hundred millions of bank-notes, between two hundred and two hundred and fifty millions of coin in circulation. Taking two hundred and twenty-five millions as the sum, and adding this to the imports, and the product as represented by the Mint deposits, and then deducting the exports from the total, less than forty-five millions remain to indicate the residue in the country, which is fár below the actual figures, as the amount in the Treasury proves ; but so far as these statistics have any value in leading to a correct estimate, they are to be accepted as favoring the inference that the amount of coin in the country, hoarded and otherwise, held outside of the Treasury is not large, although nearly twenty millions were added to it by foreign importations during and immediately following the crisis of 1873. On the 3d of January 1874, the New York City banks nominally held more than twenty-eight millions of gold ; but this was true only to the extent of about a million, the remainder being in Treasury coin-certificates representing coin in the Treasury, of which certificates thirty-seven millions and a half were outstanding at the end of 1873. Probably a hundred and thirty millions would more than cover the whole amount of gold and silver coin in the
United States at the present time, excluding California, which has never swerved from the specie basis. My object in quoting these figures is not, however, to discuss the question of resumption, but to convey an idea of the specie movement since the suspension, which movement has of course exerted considerable influence over the gold market, the exports, in particular, during the war, and whenever they were larger than usual afterwards, having been watched from week to week with great interest, and heavy gold shipments never failed to advance the premium and give a “bullish” tone to speculation in the Gold Room.
The following tabular statement will show at a glance the extreme monthly fluctations in the price of gold from the beginning of 1862 to the end of 1867, after which time the range of the market for each year is given :
January ...... par. 1037 134 1603 1511 160, 1973 2341 136 144
132 1373 February .102 1043 153 172 1572 1603 1964 2160 135 140% 1357 1401 March........101% 102] 139 1710 159 169 148 201 125 1361 1335 1405 April 101) 1021 146 159 1664 187
125 1292 132 1413 May. .102$ 1043 1431 155.
128 & 1451 12551415 134 1381 June .1031 109 140 1487 189 251 135* 147 1373 1674 1363 138 July...... .109 1201 123) 145 222 285 138 146 147 155 138 1400 August....... 112} 1164 1228 129 2313 262 145 1485 1461 152 1393 142 September ..116 124 127. 143 185 285 142g 145 1433 147} 141 1463 October ...... 122 137 1403 1564 189 229 144 149 1457 1494 1401 145 November... 129 1335 143 154,
1457 1484 1373 1488 138 1413 December ... 130 134
147 1528 211 244 1447 1468 1313 1413 1331 1373 1868 1869
1331473 1194 162 110 1231 1087 1158 1087 1158 1061 1143 1091 114
Although more than twelve years have elapsed since the suspension of specie payments, such is the condition of the national finances that their continued suspension for some years longer is a matter of certainty, during which time gold will be dealt in like any other commodity known to trade, and though it remains in reality the standard, while the paper currency fluctuates, yet the habit of giving the quotations of gold in currency-figures (instead of the reverse) makes the gold appear to fluctuate. The gold market will therefore only disappear with the resumption of specie payments, by which the paper currency will be made convertible into coin, on demand, by the Government and the banks issuing it. In Great Britain, during the long suspension from 1797 to 1821, the premium on gold never rose above forty-one per cent., namely in 1814, the year before the termination of the war, and then only spasmodically ; and in 1818 it had declined to five per cent. This was due to the policy of William Pitt and his successors in the management of the finances, in raising all the money