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Silver Question.

SPEECH
OF

HON.

E.

N.

FUNSTON,

OP K A N S A S ,

I n t h e H o t js e o f R e p r e s e n t a t i v e s ,
Saturday, June 7, 1890.

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The House having under consideration the bill (H. R. 5381) authorizing the
issue of Treasury notes on deposits of silver bullion—

Mr. FUNSTON said:
Mr. S p e a k e r : In my opinion no question of greater importance
than this one has been before this Hotfse since the great questions
growing out of the war were settled. Along by the side ot the princi­
ples of human rights and the maintenance of the Government, lies its
financial system. Our fathers believed this and ingrafted into the Con­
stitution a clause conferring upon the General Government the right
to coin money and regulate the value thereof.
The importance of the exercise of this constitutional power at this
time seems to have impressed itself on the mind of every gentleman in
this House. I know of no one who' thinks nothing should be done.
I can not regard it as a party qu estien, nor do I regard this bill as a
caucus measure of the Republican party, for at the meeting of the
Republicans of the House to consider this bill it was understood and
so expressed that the meeting was*nothing more than a conference, and
was not intended to bind any one.
The bill evidently is a compromise between the East and the West,
and, following the rule of all other compromises, is unsatisfactory to very
many. And in fact, Mr. Speaker, alter listening to this discussion for
two days, I have come to the conclusion that were all who have apolo­
gized for the bill in favor of recommitting it to the committee with in­
structions to bring in a free-coinage bill, we would have a free-coinage
measure passed by this House before another week. I, for one, am




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ready and willing and shall at the proper time vote to recommit this
bill, with instructions to bring in a free-coinage measure; and if gentle­
men on this side of the House who have been apologizing for this bill
will vote with me we will have free coinage. [Applause on the Demo­
cratic side.]
Gentlemen on that side of the House need not applaud, for I recollect
when you had an opportunity to pass a free-coinage bill your master,
Mr. Cleveland, stood over you with a club and dared you to do it, and
you did not. [Applause on the Republican side. ]
Now, Mr. Speaker, the alarming condition of the business of the
country, arising not by reason of the tariff nor overproduction, as has
been claimed on this floor, but by reason of an insufficiency of currency,
demands that the mints be thrown open and every ounce of available
silver be coined into standard dollars. The people are expecting this;
they are demanding this; and mark my word, the man from the West
who stands out against it will forever have hung his political 4 harp
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on the willow tree.”
The people of the West and South and Northwest have taken up
this question in earnest and they mean that evecy man in this body
from these sections who opposes free coinage shall be made to feel their
power at the polls. Mr. Speaker, I am opposed to this bill and shall
accept it only when I have found it impossible to get anything better.
The principles of it are wrong. It reduces silvef from the rank it holds
as a coin and stores it away as a commodity on which money is to be
issued at its value in gold.
Could anything be more humiliating to the friends of the silver dol­
lar than to see it divested of all its functions as money, and then stored
away in the basement of the Treasury, dishonored 'and disgraced ?
That we are to have $4,500,000 in paper putin circulation monthly
is the pay we are to receive for accepting these humilitating terms.
But why this bill at all ? I am confident the people would be bet­
ter satisfied with the present law if the full amount of four millions,
as provided for by that law, were put in circulation. Why not revoke
altogether the sentence of condemnation against silver and lift it out
of its disgrace, place it upon the same footing with gold, and send it out
among the people as currency measured by its own value, instead of
being measured by gold? Gentlemen talk about it being a dishonest
dollar, a 72-cent dollar, and so forth.
By what authority does any one make these charges ? One dollar in
silver may not contain 100 cents in gold, but it does contain 100 cents
in silver. One dollar in silver will purchase as much of the necessaries
of life as a dollar in gold, and as much as it would at any other time
during the last hundred years. One dollar in silver to-day contains as
much pure silver as it did in 1794, when it was made the coin of the
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country. It has never varied in its weight of silver, while gold in 1834
was changed in weight to make it conform to the value of the silver
dollar, and thus, if precedent be law, showing that silver should be
the measure of value.
Much of the time during the life of the Government the silver dol­
lar^has possessed a greater intrinsic value than the gold dollar, and it
was only when legislated against and deprived of its functions as money
that it and gold parted in value to any great degree. And why should
not silver go down under such circumstances? If by an act of Con­
gress its use as tableware could be prohibited its value would go still
lower, and if its use for all purposes could be destroyed it would have
no value whatever.
Things are valuable only for the purposes they serve. Restore silver
to its normal condition as a currency by the side of gold and gold will
have less value because of its reduced purposes, and silver will become
more valuable because of its additional purposes, and thus the two
coins approach each other so nearly in value that there would be no
observable difference.
And now, Mr. Speaker, if the charge be true that the silver dollar
is worth only 72 cents, I am puzzled to know how the gentlemen who
make that charge are to explain to their constituents the justice of
forcing the borrower to pay 100 cents for every 72 cents borrowed.
Either these gentlemen do not believe what they say about the lack
of value in the silver dollar or else they are deliberately, and with a
full knowledge of the facts before them, deciding that every man who
has borrowed a hundred dollars shall pay for the same *$138. Gentle­
men who are so concerned about the 72-cent dollar can take either horn
of this dilemma and it will leave them in a very uncomfortable posi­
tion before their constituents. As for myself, while I admit there is a
difference in the intrinsic value of the two coins, I deny there is any
difference in their purchasing power.
Therefore, should I be compelled to vo te for this bill as the only
thing I can get, I will have no such ugly inconsistencies to account
for. And now, Mr. Speaker, granting, for the sake of argument, that
the gold dollar is more valuable than the silver dollar, can any one
point out the justice or law for demanding of the debtor that he shall
pay his debts in the most valuable coin. Should he not have the same
right to say which dollar he may pay in as the man from whom he
has borrowed?
And are we constantly to go on fitting up the less valuable coin to
correspond with the more valuable one or should we not here and now
declare that the dollar of our fathers is good enough for us ? And if there
is to be any change in either to correspond with the other let us fol­
low precedent and make the change in the gold.
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But we are gravely told that we must have the world’s money; that
England and Germany have a gold standard.
Why should we follow England and Germany in preference to co­
operating with the balance of the world in the use of sil ver ? With
England especially we have no special interests. She is free trade; we
are protection. The world owes her five thousand million dollars, and
we owe the world vast sums. Her interests lead her to demand payment
in the dearest money; our interests lead us to pay in the cheapest. She
buys but little of the products of our farms and nothing of our factories.
She is our competitor and rival in every part of the world, and, in
fact, if she were sunk into the sea America would be but little worse
off. Our interests lie with the bimetallic countries of Central and
South America and Mexico. Their trade will be worth millions to us
when developed, and our medium of exchange wit h them, if that is of
any importance, should be the same as theirs. When we have capt­
ured their trade we need bother ourselves but very little about whether
or not our currency is the same as England’s.
And after all, Mr. Speaker, it is but little differe nee to us what may
be the currency of the balance of the world.
Their money ceixses to
be money when it reaches our shores, and the same is the case with
ours when taken abroad. All foreign money the world over is bullion
and is so treated, and it makes no difference w hat stamp or weight it
has, it is traded in as bullion.
Therefore, the weight or value of our coin can have nothing to do
with our trade with foreign countries. It is of far greater importance
to us that we.adopt the most convenient medium of exchange among
ourselves, and in q uantity sufficient to transact the business of the
country.
Our first duty is to look after our own people in their relation to
each other. When we have done that it will be time enough to take
our bearings to the balance of the world. Let us build up and foster
our own industries, cherish and love our own institutions, coin our
own dollars of fine American silver, and we will have but little occa­
sion to bother ourselves about what the balance of the world is doing.
And now, Mr. Speaker, in closing, I desire to say I shall vote to re­
commit this bill with instructions to bring in a bill for the free coinage
of silver, and should I be defeated in that I shall do whatever I may
judge to be the next best thing for my constituents.
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