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THE LEGAL-TENDER

LAWS.

SPEECH
OF

HON. JOHN T. M O R G A N ,
OF

ALABAMA,

IN T H E

SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES,

Saturday, July 9, 1892.




WASHINGTON.
1892.




S P E E C H
OF

HON". J O H N

T.

MORGAN.

The Senate, as In Committee of the Whole, having under consideration
the bill (H. R. 7520) making appropriations for sundry civil expenses of the
Government for thefiscalyear ending June 30,1893, and for other purposes-

Mr. MORGAN said:
Mr. PRESIEENT: The high source from which this Sabbath-day amendment comes will silence me from any observations at all, because I know that the Senator from Pennsylvania [Mr. QUAY] is the highest possible authority upon all
questions of that kind, and if I follow him I shall follow him in
silence. If I do not follow him he will have to excuse me, because I am not conscientiously convinced that the State of Illinois is not able to take care of the Sabbath question within her
own* jurisdiction.
This Exposition is not a Government establishment; it is not
a Government work; it has nothing but the aid and assistance of
the Government of the United States to the extent of certain
appropriations which have been made and certain appropriations now claimed. W e have no jurisdiction in Chicago in virtue of this appropriation, so far as I know, no exclusive right to
legislate there, no right to prescribe laws to the people of Illinois upon the Sabbath question, nor upon any other question
connected with their civil polity or administration.
So I expect that the Senator from Pennsylvania, after having
fully justified himself by the quotations he made from the Ten
Commandments here to-day, and which were entirely new to this
assemblage, will be able to furnish some law or precedent which
will authorize the Government of the United States to go into
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the State of Illinois and regulate the Sabbath. When he shall
have done that, I shall listen to what he has to say. In the meanwhile I will remind the Sanator of another quotation, and that
is that the " Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the
Sabbath." Perhaps he may use that also in support of his argument in favor of the proposed amendment.
Mr. President, passing by, therefore, that question, I come to
another very peculiar phase of this case, which I wish to discuss
very briefly. We are informed by the Committee on Appropriaiions, and that information seems to be correct, that there is
lying in the Treasury of the United States more than $5,000,000
of abraded coin, coin which has baen abraded below the standard
of circulation, and which therefore no officer of the Government
has the right to put into circulation.
The first question which is presented is, whether or not it is
useful to the people of the United States to take that dead coin
and recoin it and put it out amongst them as money. The Senator from Ohio [Mr. S H E R M A N ] says it will cost $100,000 to coin
this $10,000,000 of half-dollars or quarter-dollars, or whatever
they may be, which are in the Treasury, and are thus paralyzed
in their usefulness by a law which prevents the officers of the
Government from putting them into circulation. Well, sometime or other it will ccst $100,000 to recoin that metal, unless'we
shall reach that happy period in the estimation of. the Senator
from Ohio, when he can have the opportunity of putting it under
the hammer and selling it at auction. We have either to recoin
it or we have to sell it. I do not know which idea is the most
prominent in the mind of the Senator from Ohio, but I assume
from his argument to-day that he had rather see that coin put
up and sold under the hammer than to have it coined into halfdollars for the use of the people.
The Committee on Appropriations and the two Senators from
Illinois/both of whom voted recently against the racoinage of
silver, the remonetization and full legal-tender value of the silver dollar, are in favor of the scheme of taking this dead money
and recoining it and putting upon it some additional token besides the eagle and " E pluribusUnum," and" In God we trust,"
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and the like of that, in the hope that by putting these declarations upon it and using it as a souvenir of the great Columbian
•Exposition we shall be able to circulate it as money amongst the
people of Chicago, who work in building up this magnificent and
very-much-to-be-admired Columbian Exposition. They think by
decorating the silver half-dollar with a memento in respect of
its being coined for the uses and purposes of the Columbian Exposition that that will give it circulation. I have not any doubt
that it will; but, after all, there is nothing connected with the
-circulation of gold or the circulation of silver as money, or the
circulation of greenbacks and national banknotes except a sentiment, and if you can connect with 10,000,000 half-dollars a sentiment that will cause them to circulate it is very easy to connect
with three or four hundred million dollars a sentiment which
will cause them to circulate.
What is that sentiment? The faith of the Government and of
the people of the United States that it is good money, equal to
gold, or equal to any other money. Why do these Senators desire to put this decorati6n on this half-dollar? It can not be for
-any other purpose than to give it currency.
But the Senator from Ohio sees two supreme difficulties in his
way in voting for this bill in the shape in which it now is. The
first is that it takes idle, dead money out of the Treasury and
puts it into circulation amongst the people and relieves their distresses; and the second is that the Senator very justly fears that
these half-dollars will go to a premium over other half-dollars,
and that they will go to a premium over gold dollars all ou account of a sentiment. This Exposition expects to sell these souvenirs when it gets hold of them from 25 to 35 cents profit on
every half-dollar, and I have not a doubt they will do it. When
they do it they will not sell the half-dollar for the number of
grains of silver in it or the fact that it is a legal tender in the
amount of 310, but they will sell it on a sentiment; they will sell
it because the people want it; they will make that amount of
money out of it; and then all of the theory of the Senator from
Ohio, this newly discovered and wonderful bimetallism will be
turned down and utterly overthrown, because he wip. find that
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silver, when it has any chance at all, even a forced market such
as you are making for it in this bill, will go to par, and sometimes to even a premium over gold.
There is a lesson in this legislation here this afternoon which
the people of the United States will read. It will not be concealed from their close inspection, because the people are getting to understand this matter now. That lesson is that by furnishing a market for silver, for $5,000,000 worth of half-dollars,
making ten million pieces, you can put it into circulation and
you may keep it there if you choose to do it, for it is expected,
notwithstanding there are ten million of these souvenirs that
every one of them will be in demand, every one of them will be
kept in consequence simply, as I repeat, of a sentiment that is
connected with them.
Mr. President, I should cheerfully go with the Senator from
Ohio in putting out five million silver dollars in the hands
of this corporation for the purposes of the bill if I expected to
vote or intended to vote for the appropriation at all, but the
Senator from Ohio would never go with me for that. The Senator from Ohio prefers the French scheme of bond making; he
prefers to run this Government in debt at any time, and issue
bonds bearing interest, rather than coin the silver which is in
the Treasury.
The Senator from Ohio knows that there is not to-day a legaltender piece of money in the United States except gold. He
knows that under the law, if it is the law—it is so written in the
statute books—that when you may make a contract with another
man payable in gold that supplants and destroys utterly his right
to pay in anything else. That is the Senator's position; that is
what he is fighting for; that is the ground he wants to bring us
to. He has brought us to that ground and he wants to hold us
there. He wants to make every promise in the United States,
public and private, redeemable at last and only in gold coin; and
with not exceeding $137,000,000 in the Treasury of the United
States, he expects to redeem the entire mass of our public debt,
including the bonds and also the circulating paper, for we are
obliged to redeem it when we do redeem it in that way, there
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being no other legal-tender money in the United States but gold
coin.
Now, I take occasion here to state—and I do it deliberately,
and I do it after full and mature reflection, and I do it because I
know it can not be answered—that a legal-tender law which permits a man to get rid of its effects by a contract is no legal-tender law at all; it is not a leg-al-tender law within the contemplation of the Constitution, and it is not that which every civilized
government in the world has guaranteed to its debtor classes.
Contracture being made in the United States in myriads payable in gold. There is scarcely a corporation in the United
States to-day which will receive an engagement of any other
kind, unless it may be a check upon a bank; but every promissory note, every bond, every obligation which is being issued
to-day by the great corporations of this country, by the great
bankers, and by the small ones, is worded so as to read that the
contract shall be payable in gold.
England provides legal-tender laws for her people; so do Germany, and France, and Austria, and Denmark, and the Netherlands, and in fact all civilized mankind. Even China provides
a legal-tender by weight, through which her peeple can discharge
the obligations of their contracts. Why is the world so wide
awake upon this subject? Why is it that air mankind provide
legal-tender laws? Why not do what Mr. Atkinson, the great
headlight of finance in the Northeast, recommends, abolish all
legal-tender laws and leave everything to contract?
Why not do that? Because the sentiment and experience of
mankind is against it; because the sentiment and experience of
mankind has taught every government in this World that it is
necessary to have an absolute, unequivocal legal-tender law for
the protection of personal liberty and property rights. Strike
the legal-tender feature out of any law or out of all laws, and the
man who happens to have the property to sell or 'the money to
loan or the credit to bestow upon his^friend has him entirely in
his power. He may say, " I demand of you that you shall make
your contract payable in gold." The law comes in and says, "Yes,
we sustain that demand. If you make that contract payable in
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gfoHl you shall pay it in gold." With $137,000,000 in the Treasury of the United States, you have got billions upon billions of
debt to discharge.
Mr. GEORGE. Gold of the present weight and fineness?
Mr. MORGAN. Yes; gold of the present weight and fineness.
Mr. President, that is a category in which we are placed by
the laws of the United States at this very moment, and no Senator can deny it or disprove it, which above all things else threatens to destroy the people of the United States. You may pass
your remonetization laws or any other kind of law that you
please, you may fill up every cranny of traffic and trade in the
United States with superabundant money and currency, and yet
it all amounts to nothing if the legal-tender law of the United
States is so formed as that gold, and gold alone, may be required
out of the debtor by the man who makes the contract.
W e are in that shape, and the Senator from Ohio has brought
us tKere. He is responsible for every bit of it. To-day he is
following up the same idea and interposing the objection, so that
when these Senators think they have a chance to make an impression upon the silver men in this body and in the House of
Representatives by ottering these little inducements for putting
$5,000,000 of money into circulation, that it will be coined out of
the dead coin in the Treasury and put to work amongst the
people—when these Senators come forward and we are willing
to forego our opposition to the support of this appropriation in
order that the people may have even $5,000,000 worth of relief;
the Senator from Ohio comes in and says, " N o ; issue bonds; put
out some other contrivance; do not put the lottery on it like the
Frenchman did, but make bonds, bonds with coupons and certificates of indebtedness on behalf of Ihe United States Government, or else pay out the greenbacks straight from the Treasury, or the national-bank notes, or the gold, or anything but
silver." He does not intend that one dollar of silver shall go
into circulation.
Here is a chance to circulate $5,000,000, and the very moment
the Senator from Ohio discovers that open door of relief to the
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people, instantly, with his great powers, he throws himself into
the breach and closes it and tries to close it forever', and says he
will vote against the World's Fair, to which he has been so
deeply wedded and of which he has been such an advocate, rather
than that he would see the people of the United States handling
a part of the $5,000,000 of dead money which lies there to-day, of
no more use than the iron bars which cage it in and keep the
thieves from attacking it.
That is the situation. It is time this country had waked up;
it is time tliat reason had some sway; it is time that the people
had some voice in this Government. Men are here willing to
support this appropriation when even their states have refused
to do it, because they see that after all there is a chance to give
some relief to the people, and th^re is a chance, Mr. President,
to lay before the people of the United States an object-lesson in
respect of the connection of a sentiment with the recoinage of
silver. When you put that little superscription upon that coin,
and you find that it circulates because of that fact or in connection with that fact, then the argument is undeniable in its
strength and in its weight that when you put the silver dollar
of the United States as a full legal tender for all debts, public
and private, the people of the United States will eagerly seize
upon that opportunity to prevent their creditors from destroying
them under execution.
What is to become of us when the whole debt of the people of
the United States, public and private, is to be resolved only in
gold coin? Who will own the property of this country? The
men who own gold coin will own it. The Senator from Ohio a
moment ago said that if you make coin scarce you make it valuable, you increase its power of purchase. Who does not know
that? And yet in striking out silver from the legal-tender currency of this country, you make legal-tender money scarce when
you put it in the power of the creditor to plant his foot upon the
neck of the debtor, and you enable him to destroy his debtor
without remedy. I maintain that there was never a more unfortunate condition in which any people were found in all his617




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tory than that, and that is exactly the condition at this present
moment of time.
Greenbacks come nearer to being a legal tender than any other
money we have except gold, but they are not a full legal tender.
You can not pay customs dues with them to-day. * Go to a custom-house, and if the officers do their duty they will refuse to
take them. The Senator from Ohio has time and again refused
to make them receivable for customs. He has opposed it always. A national-bank note is not a legal tender for anything,
not even for $5. A coin certificate under the aci of 1890 is a
fraud as a legal tender, because a provision is contained in the
tody of the act that where the contract otherwise expressly
stipulates it shall not be a legal tender.
Then what have we got? Silver certificates are not a full
legal tender, and never were.
Mr. COCKRELL. Silver certificates not a legal tender?
Mr. MORGAN. Not a full legal tender.
Mr. COCKRELL. Oh!
Mr. MORGAN. The Senator says " O h ! " I ask the Senator
fronrMissouri to define what is a legal tender. I will define it
for the Senator and then he will not say u O h ! " any more. A
legal tender is a tender which will pay any debt public or private
without respect to the contract,'and nothing else is a legal tender.
When the Government stops its power to enforce a legal-tender
law in deference to any contract which parties may make, then
there is no legal-tender law, for the courts are not bound to enforce it, and it puts all other classes of the people in the power
of the money classes, the laboring classes, the industrial classes,
and every kind of men who are trying to build up their fortunes
through buying property with a view of its increasing value, it
makes no difference what. The lawyer who goes into court to
defend a man for his life may say, " I will defend you; you shall
have the benefit of my talents and my learning in this case; your
life is in peril; give me a gold note." He may save him from the
gallows, and yet he would be able, if there were not laws against
imprisonment for debt, to incarcerate him for life under his contract
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We ought not to deceive ourselves about matters as plain as
this; we ought not to let the Government of the United States
go along with these sixty-five million people and these enormous
industries, and this va$t and unexampled growth, and this demand for power on the part of the debtor classes to be relieved
against any unnecessary stringency on the part of the creditor
classes, when we can relieve it by the issue of silver coin under
the Constitution and in strict conformity therewith, and make
it a full legal tender in the hands of the people. It is not so now.
There is not a dollar of legal-tender silver coin in the United States
to-day except the half-dollars and the quarter-dollars, and they
are a legal tender, notwithstanding what the contract may stipulate, for $10. That is the whole story; that is the situation.
Mr. H A W L E Y . May I ask the Senator a question? I have
been thinking of what the Senator said about the act of 1890,'
providing that where it was so agreed between the parties, contracts should be payable in gold, but that otherwise they should
be payable in silver, etc.
Mr. MORGAN. Oh, no.
Mr. H A W L E Y . It legalizes contracts in silver, does it not?
Mr. MORGAN. It does not say anything about gold and silver in the contract. Silver dollars coined in obedience to the
act of 1890 are a full legal tender for all debts public and private,
except where it is otherwise stipulated in the contract. That
puts it in the power of the njian who has the money to say to the
man to whom he lends it, or the man who has got something to
sell to say to the man to whom he sells it, " P u t it expressly in
this contract that it is payable in gold." Then you can not pay
it with silver or greenbacks or anything but gold, and you thereby simply enable the moneyed classes of the United States to
set at defiance the legal-tender laws other than those which require the payment in gold, and you put the whole mass of debts
in the country upon a gold basis. Only those men can escape
from that who have not got the wit or the cruelty to impose
those conditions upon their debtors.
If I do a day's work for a man. he owes me a dollar for it at
night, and I am compelled to take any legal-tender money, a
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silver dollar or anything else for it; but if I say to hirn in the
morning, " Y o u must pay me in gold at night," then he is bound
to pay me in gold or I can withhold my labor from him. If I
sell a man a horse for $50,1 can stipulate with him that this $50
shall be paid in gpld. If I do not, if I have not the wit or the
cruelty to put in that stipulation, then I am compelled to take
fifty silver dollars for it, or any other legal-tender money.
But does not this Senate or do?s not the country see that the
present attitude of our coinage laws and our legal-tender laws
puts it in the power of the creditor classes to compel every man
in the United States to come to a gold standard in his payments
and deprive him of the right to pay in anything else?
I do not believe, Mr. President, that the Supreme Court of the
United States would ever hold that to be a constitutional legaltender law, but they have squinted so nearly to it in the Trebilcock case, in 12 Wallace, that it is very dangerous ground to
stand upon. The honorable Senator from Ohio has had that
case in his mind all this time, and has been fortifying the obiter
dictum which was presented in that case by positive provisions
of law.
Mr. President, that is cruel legislation; that is legislation
against the common mass of the common people, as they are
called; that is legislation against personal liberty; it is legislation against property; it is legislation which subordinates absolutely the debtor classes to the creditor classes. If I have money
to lend, and my neighbor wants it to pay his taxes, or to pay for a
coffin in which to bury his wife, or anything else, any necessary
of life, and comes to meand says, " Have you got some money? "
" Yes, here is a lot of greenbacks; here is a lot of national-bank
notes; here is a lot of silver certificates; here is a lot of coin certificates; have any you please of this paper money." He takes
what he wants, but I say to him, " You must pay me in gold."
He is obliged to have it; there is no let-up in his necessities;
there is no abatement of his wants; the cruelties of life compel
that man to yield to his creditor, and the law puts it in his power
to compel the blood and flesh, both nearest the heart.
The debtor classes of the United States to-day and all who are
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to become such, are in absolute bondage to the power of gold—
not silver, not paper legal-tender money, but to the power of
gold; and the Senator from Ohio is determined to keep them
there, and never will he relax his efforts. You can not start
a bill in this body which looks to the dispensation of silver
amongst the people in any form of money, that the Senator from
Ohio does not bring his great talents and his great reputation
to bear for its destruction; and even so desperate is he in that
matter, that he refuses to vote for the World's Fair-bill because
these other gentlemen desire to have token coins of half dollars
issued out of silver dead in the Treasury, and which can never
be of any service on this earth until the Senator puts it unde^
the hammer and sells it to the jewelers.
Mr. President, the people of the United States earned that
money which is in the Treasury. It was half dollars and quarter dollars when they earned it, and thay paid it in in the way
of taxes. They did not pay it in to be destroyed; they did not
pay it in there to have it locked, up, and to oxidize and to canker
and to remain there forever until an auction should be held
and that $5,000,000 or $10,000,000, or whatever it is, of money,
should be sold under the hammer of the auctioneer. They put
it there for the purposes of the Government, and if it had teen
abraded below the ordinary legal standard of circulation, it was
their right to demand that Congress should recoin it and reissue it to them, to enable them to pay their taxes out of the earnings of their labor. They have a right to it.
It is the money of the people, and not the money of Congress,
and they have a right to have it issued. Whether they can get
it done to-day or not, they will do it. Though thsy have to
overturn political parties and political candidates, no matter
what they have to do, they will strike for their rights under the
Constitution, and th£y will have full legal-tender money of
silver. They and their posterity will not be subordinated absolutely to the gold power of this country, and placed where
there is no hope for the nonmoneyed classes. They will not allow these kings of money to rule them with scepters, which their
fathers never placed in their hands. They have a right to be
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free from this odious tyranny, and they will break the bonds of
any party in order to get free. Sooner or later this must come.
The Senator from Ohio sees it. He is fighting now the fragments of the battle. He met the great hosts in the Senate the
other day and was overthrown, not by a political party, Or a political combination, but by Senators who turned their eyes
away from partisanship and political conventions to the wants of,
the people and their constitutional rights, and they simply
voted for them.
Much was done to defer, much was done to disparage, much
was done to obstruct, bat the Senate of the United States, it appears, standing nearest to the people after all,' voted they should
have full, legal-tender money made of silver dollars, and that
they should use them in all of their transactions; that when they
made a contract to pay money it should be a contract that they
could discharge in silver as well as in gold, and that out of
$100,000,000 of annual production they could have sixty millions
of silver with which to pay their,debts and $30,000,000 if needed
to redeem the silver.
Mr. President, I could not permit this opportunity to pass without bringing these subjects to the attention of the Senate* My
Legislature in Alabama voted against taxing its people one dollar for the World's Fair. Following their example, I should vote
the same way, but I can go home and I can justify myself to those
people by saying to them in their poverty and in tjielr distress,
' 4 1 voted for that bill because it brought$o,0^0,000 of silver money
into circulation, and because on the word of the Senator from
Iowa [Mr. ALLISON] it was a full legal-tender coin." I will justify
myself in contravening what I know to be their wishes in respect
of the voting of money out of the United States Treasury.br the
treasury of the State, because I could bring in my hands some
comfort and some relief to them, and I could tell them that in this
bill there was a harbinger of a future which promises to be extremely bright; I could tell them that the Senator from Ohio
would see in this object lesson within less than four months' time
the utter overthrow ot his entire view in respect of silver reclaiming its par value with gold in the markets of our country.
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The fact is that it is at par now, and has been all the time. There
is not a man in the United States to-day who can make a cent of
money or the hundredth part of a cent of money out of the exchange of silver for gold or gold for silver.
The Senator from Ohio himsslf, while he was Secretary of the
Treasury, wanted to borrow $100,000,000 of gold to put it back of
the greenbacks and to keep it there, I suppose, to look at, for it
has never done any good since that time—not a stiver. It has
never done any good. When he wanted to borrow this hundred
millions of gold he issued $80,000,000 of silver certificates—certificates payable only in silver. He went into the market with
them and he found no difficulty in exchanging the $80,000,000 of
silver certificates for $80,000,000 of gold.
Here will b3 two object lessons; one wrought by the hands of
the Senator from Ohio himself, the other wrought in this bill;
and perhaps the purblind in this country who refuse to see the
truth, after we have passed this bill and they have discoveredthat
these silver half-dollars command even a premium in the market,
will be willing to come around to their senses and to forget the
leadership of the Senator from Ohio, which commenced in Paris
by advising the world to demonetize silver, and then he came
home and enforced it, and has inflicted more damage upon this
country than the civil war.
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