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THE PRESENT STATE OF THE SILVER QUESTION.

S P E E C H

OP

HON. JONATHAN P. DOLLIVER,
OF

I O W A .

IN THE

H O U S E OF




REPRESENTATIVES,

FRIDAY, AUGUST 25, 1893.

WASHINGTON.

1893-

S P E E C H
QP

HOK JONATHAN P. DOLLIVER.
The House haying under consideration the bill (H. R. 1) to repeal a part of
an act, approved July 14,1890, entitled "An act directing the purchase of silver bullion and the issue of Treasury notes thereon, and for other purposes"—
Mr. DOLLIVER said:
Mr. SPEAKER: I am sorry that at the end of this long debate
I am sot able to bring to the consideration of the question the
same enthusiasm that I had* at the opening of the discussion.
The current of the debate has at least given to those of us who
are not trying to play the rdle of financial teachers or of evangelists, dealing with the emotions that is to say, the prejudices
of men, an excellent leisure for reflection and an excellent reason
forsilence. It is to be regretted also that the debate, now nearly
a fortnight old, has not gone very far in bringing us out of the
chaos that originally surrounded us.
On the side of the free coinage of silver there is one central
problem that includes the whole field of the controversy, and
that is: Can a nation situated like ours, under circumstances
such as obtain now, invite to its mints the whole silver product
and the whole silver stock of the world without creating a coin
that shall partake of the fluctuating and depreciated character
of silver bullion? That question has not been answered.
W e have had it said that the act of 1873 was a gigantic fraud
and a gigantic crime; but that is not the question. W e have had
it said that the price of cotton and the price of wheat have gone
down with the price of silver bullion; but that is not the question. W e have had it said that celebrated students of this question, both here and in Europe, have given their judgment in
favor of bimetallic coinage on an international field; but that is
not the question.
The question is whether a single country situated like ours
is able, under conditions that now prevail, to ignore at its mints
the quotations of the bullion market without establishing for its
commerce a basis of silver, excluding all other coinage and
swamping American business under the burden of a currency
both changeable and debased. That question has not been answered; and while we have enjoyed the eloquence that has been
aroused by this subject, I trust we have not forgotten that this
is a question that must be decided in the arena of judgment and
reason, and not in the atmosphere of mere oratory. I confess
that I have followed the silver voice of my friend from Nebraska
[Mr. BRYAN] from the third Punic war down past the glorious
2
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victory of Charles Martel to the joint debate between Napoleon
and the extraordinary drummer boy of Marengo, without getting
light enough on this question to guide me from one figure of
speech to another, and while I am not without admimtlon for
the oratorical skill that can so attractively exhume the fallacies
of fifteen years ago and give such persuasive shape and color to
the vagaries of the Nebraska Populist of to-day, I will not conceal the disappointment with which a plain and perplexed mtin,
anxious to be right and seeking to know the practical effect of
the theory of free coinage on our monetary system, has sought
in vain for that grain of wheat in the midst of so vast and entertaining? a display of chaff. [Laughter.]
If it oe true that a single nation by its own laws can abolish
the bullion market and make its mints the undisturbed arbiter
of the silver situation throughout the world, it seems to me that
there ought to be some enlightened and faithful student of this
problem, in some language of the earth, to express that opinion,
even if it was not thought necessary to introduce some evidence
to prove it. In a matter like this no prudent man can let go the
hand of experience, unless he sees something to take hold of
more tangible thandogm itic theories and incoherent predictions.
But what writer, what student in any language, including even
the faithful friends of silver who made the Brussels Conference
of 1892 famous; what American, politician, not directly influenced
by his own interests or by the clamor of local politics, has given that
opinion? On the contrary, having been cast off by every government in Europe, including those that have most faithfully tried
to practice it, it has found a final refuge in the silver-bearing
mountains of our own country, and an intermittent shelter, good
only between Presidential elections, in Missouri and Arkansas.
[Laughter and applause.]
Now, Mr. Speaker, I shall not be suspected of caring very
much what happens to the Democratic party of Missouri, but 1
can not forbear to point out that the leaders of that party do not
seem to be disturbed very much by the u parting of the ways,"
in which my friend from the Eighth district of Missouri has so
often stood. [Laughter.] Because everybody knows that when
the Democratic party took Mr. Cleveland a second time for their
leader, they took him with the absolute knowledge of his disposition to combat the prevailing views of the State of Missouri in
regard to silver; and when we find him getting more votes in
the State of Missouri than these silver Congressmen themselves,
we can easily imagine that this periodical epilepsy of that State
on the money question is not likely to-very seriously disturb the
comfort of the Democratic party. [Laughter and applause.]
Mr. Speaker, I come from a constituency employed mainly in
farming. It is a constituency that understands perfectly well
that without a safe, a uniform, and a stable system of money
there can be no prosperity either in the field, in the factory, or
in the market place; a constituency that fifteen years ago, as my
friend Gen. HENDERSON, who sits before me, recollects very
well—for we both were in thatfight—heardevery argument that
has been heard at this session of Congress, weisrhed the cheap
philosophy of cheap money in the balances of a sober judgment
and of an upright conscience and found it wanting in both
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[laughter and applause]; a constituency whose debts stand for
its enterprise and its investments, and not for its poverty and
its misfortunes, and whose purpose is to pay what it owes in the
legal currency of the country, without clipping a coin or depreciating a note or debasing a dollar. [Applause.]
Our people are a clear-thinking and a hard-working people,
and they ask not one of their representatives, Democratic or
Republican, to come here and urge legislation that shall disturb
either the volume or the value of the currency of the United
States. [Applause.] Both political parties are now agreed upon
this, fori can not forbear to recall the fact that the Democrats of
our State have suffered in the past few days an almost instantaneous conversion upon the silver question. [Laughter.] They
stand now where the Republican party has always stood, and we
hope that there will never be a Democratic relapse in this generation in the State of Iowa. [Laughter.] If there are those
who think that we ought to show our disapproval of their conversion by ourselves backsliding, I can not agree with them.
I stand where I have always stood, for a national currency every
dollar of which shall be equal in value to every other dollar issued by the Government. So that if a man works for a day he
may know what he earns; if a man has a crop for sale he may
know exactly what he receives for it; if a man has a little property he may know exactly what it is worth: if a man is receiving a
little pension that has escaped the malice of this Administration,
he may know exactly what the pittance amounts to; if a man has a
little money laid up in the bank for a rainy day. he may know
exactly what his balance is; if a man has insured his life he may
die without having his last hours embittered by the prospect of
his family being swindled by the depreciation of his little estate;
and if a man, like myself, has spent nearly all his lifetime bearing the burden of debt, he may know exactly what he owes
[laughter], and make up his mind before God and man to pay it
if he can, as our fathers did, without inviting a relief expedition
from Bedlam. [Great laughter.]
Mr. Speaker, representing such a people I would not dare to
cast a vote here which might have the effect of destroying the
prosperity of American business by an experiment which, for
all that has been said, presents itself to my mind in the form of
an unlimited manufacture of short-weight dollars. [Laughter
and applause.]
The view which I now have is the product of many years of
conscientious study of this subject. It may be wrong. I do not
hold it as a final and unalterable statement of faith. I hold it
subject to revision in the light of every new fact, every new experience of the world, every new discovery of political science.
It is a disinterested opinion, for it violates not only original
prejudice on the subject, but alsp the judgment of many whose
opinions I respect, and .above all it violates my sympathy and
goodwill toward that portion of our common country whose
chief occupation has been injuriously affected by the decline of
silver.
I am aware also that , especially now in these times of depression
and gloom, we are likely to see a resurrection of all the miserable quibbles that fifteen years ago almost carried the country
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over to an organized system of depreciated currency. W e are
beginning to hear the old arguments, that those of us who had
a hand in the fight before the resumption of specie payments
remember perfectly well. I recall that last winter I was sitting
over there by the side of the gentleman from Maine [Mr. DINGL E J when some one asked my friend from Missouri [Mr. BLAND]
OY
whether the free coinage which he proposed was not likely to
put a premium on gold. " A premium on gold," said Mr. BLAND,
" W h y , that is all right: that means a premium on wheat, a premium on cotton—a universal blessing and benefit to the country."
I represent a constituency which knows by experience that a
premium on gold is the fatal exposure of every legitimate business of the American people to the speculation of the street and
the jobbery of the gold table; and while I am not very old in
the experience of the business world, I recollect the time when
the legitimate business of the American people escaped from the
last premium that we had on gold in the United States. And if
I thought the judgment of the people in the midst of whom I
live were not with me, I would resign my seat in this House
very cheerfully before I would vote to bring American business
back to the chaos out of which we escaped in 1879 [applause],
because I believe that the people of the United States will in
the long run respect a man who refuses to betray them even for
the sake or their applause. [Applause.]
When I hear this Chamber filled with threats and long-winded
declamations about what is going to happen to people who in the
discharge of a high responsibility exercise their own judgment
and obey their own convictions on this question, I very often recall the fiery words of old Thomas Carlyle, preserved in the memoirs of the'late Lord Houghton. Carlyle wanted Edward Milne,
afterward Lord Houghton, to obtain a pension for a struggling
young poet, Alfred Tennyson. Mr. Milne presented the subject
to Lord Palmerston, then prime minister, who told him that he
had never heard of Tennyson, and advised him to let the matter
drop for fear his constituents might think he was trying to load
some relative onto the bounty of the government. Mr. Milne
went to Carlyle and told him the situation, and Carlyle answered
him thus:
Edward Milne, it may be all right for you to excuse your failure by a reference to your constituents; but Itell you that there is coming a day when the
question will be asked of you: u Edward Milne, why did you not get the pension for Alfred Tennyson?" and in that day it is you who will be damned and
not your constituents.
[Laughter and applause.]
I wish now by the kindness of the House to say a few words
about the repeal of the Sherman act. I have heard all that has
baen said on this subject, and have heard it with attention.
Everybody will testify thit I have taken a front seat and have
endeavored to profit by every day of this discussion. Isny 4 o
you that I am not convined by anything I have heard or . * l
4
that the Sherman act is the sole ciuse of the troubles that no .v
afflict us.
I agree with the eloquent remarks of my friend from Michigan
[Mr. BURROWS], who this morning attributed our troubles to the
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dread now lodged in the minds of those engaged in the great
productive industries of the United States that an industrial revolution is at hand. And I desire to say to my Democratic friends
who laughed with derision when that subject wasfirstmentioned
in this debate, that there could be no change in the tariff system
of the United States, even for the better, without paralyzing for
a time the prosperity of all the industries involved. How much
greater is likely to be the disturbance of prosperity when the
changes proposed are radical and revolutionary, and have already
thric$ in the history of the United States resulted in the total
prostration of the prosperity of the American people?
It is recognized, however, that for better or for worse, the
whole business community seems to believe that the silver act
of 1890 is one cause of distrust. Nor can it be questioned that
the daily purchase of 6 tons of silver may have given rise to a
feeling that the time was approaching when the Treasury might
be stripped of its reserves and the whole fabric of the national
credit be exposed to suspicion.
Notwithstanding the strong hope .we have had that the act of
1890 would aid in the solution of the silver question by arresting
the degradation of the metal, we do not hesitate to admit that the
act has failed to meet the expectation of those who framed it.
It now stands, in the judgment of millions, as a threat in the
way of restoring confidence, and I will not interpose my vote
against the only remedy in which the business world seems to
see a solution, or at least a mitigation, of the difficulties in the
midst of which every American enterprise is now struggling
for its life. [Applause.]
Either the repeal of this law will help us or it will not. If it
does, we shall all rejoice. If it does not, we shall all be nearer
knowing what the matter is, and the Democratic party will be
brought face to face with the omens of the disaster that must
follow their tariff policy, with no cover to hide them and no subterfuge of explanation to keep them from an open responsibilit y . Therefore, as a partisan, I am in favor of clearing this issue so that every man may know that whatever follows the tariff
act of this Congress comes from that act, and not from imaginary sources in another field of legislation.
Again, those of us who favor the use of both gold and silver
in our coinage, but are convinced that the question is an international one, look forward, not without reasonable hope, to the
future efforts of the Brussels conference to restore the monetary
status of silver. No man in public life in the United States
knows more about this question than Mr. ALLISON, who was a
member of the conference of 1892. No one can question his
qualifications to speak with authority on this matter, and fortunately no man can dispute the fidelity with which his life has been
devoted to the interests of the Mississippi Valley. Therefore,
when we find him agreeing with Governor MCCBEABY, of Kentucky, also a member of that conference and a lifelong friend of silver, that the suspension of the purchase of silver here will greatly
expedite the work of the Brussels conference, we feel sure that
the road to a larger use of silver in the coinage of the world lies
through the repeal of that part of the act of 1890 which now
oompels this Government to bear the burden of silver alone.
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The very moment the United States declares its purpose to lay
down the load, the commercial world will feel the pressure of
necessity to unite in taking it up on equitable terms.
Mr* Balfour said, in his remarkable speech in London on the
3d of this month, speaking for international bimetallism:
We have boasted, we have claimed for ourselves, that we lead the van of
commerce because we are the great upholders of the single gold standard.
If some of the gentlemen who have spoken in this debate had
been present they would have felt like interrupting the speaker
to say that the United States had declared their independence
of England and would not submit to having a conspiracy of London bankers force the gold standard on to us. But, unfortunately
for this branch of the rhetoric of the silver cause, the words 1
have read from the London Times's report of Mr* Balfour's
speech are only half of a sentence, which concludes as follows:
And yet there is not a man, I venture to say, In the city of London this
moment, not a single man who would not look with horror and with approhensionat every other nation following so good an example.
He goes on to say, " L e t the United States go in for a gold
standard and a tremor seizes every one Qf our commercial magnates," and finishes what I venture to say is the most significant
speech of the year by asking the distinguished audience which
crowded the Egyptian hall of the Mansion House " whether the
great, the preponderating, the overwhelming influence of the
city of London ought not to be thrown into the scale of those who
desire to see some international settlement of this vast problem
and the establishment of some system under which every great
commercial community throughout the world shall contribute
its share, at any rate, to maintaining the stability and the value
of silver."
So that it seems to me certain that the friends of silver in the
United States will enter the conference of 1893 with a more in*
fluential position if Congress authorizes them to say that the
United States, having refused to longer carry the whole burden
of maintaining the stability and value of silver, is ready to agree
with the commercial community throughout the world to con*
tribute its share.
It is to be remembered also that the bill proposed here, instead of destroying the present currency based on silver, preserves not only its volume unimpaired, but also secures by a
pledge of the national credit the value of every dollar on a parity
with all our coins and currency.
If anybody supposes that* our decision here ends the controversy about silver, he is mistaken. It only transfers the question
to the larger field, where it belongs. Ana if anybody thinks that /
our action in suspending the purchase of bullion is in any sense
the "doom of silver," it only shows that he does not comprehend
the movement of the mighty forces that are at work throughout
the world. It is perhaps unfortunate that we are called to deal
with this question in the midst of a financial convulsion almost
without example in its waste and ruin. W e have heard men try
to explain this sudden misfortune* There is no use to try to ex*
plain a panic. By its very definition it is a thing without rear
son and beyond explanation.
I have already pointed out the underlying cause of the accom865




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panying industrial depression, which in our own country has
evidently emphasized the general depression visible on all sides
in every country. For that the repeal of the silver act of 1890 is
no remedy. There is, however, in this world a very large area
for faith. A friendly correspondent, writing to me the other
day on the silver question, more than once repeats the precept
of the Scriptures, 4< We live by faith." And so we do, even in
the field of business and finance. In voting to repeal the section
of the act of 1890 requiring the monthly purchase of 180 tons of
silver bullion I frankly confess that I am guided in part by
what seems to be the prevailing belief of the business community. A friend in the city in which I live, in explaining to
me his new views on religion and medicine, somewhat perplexed
me by saying that a few months ago he "was caught in the
elbow by a belief of rheumatism" [laughter], and, if I understood him correctly, his idea was that the way to handle it was
to let the rheumatism go and pay attention entirely to the belief. [Laughter.]
I do not know how much there is in that idea, but I was not
prepared to argue the matter with him; and in this situation in
which we find ourselves, while we may not have the fullest confidence in the remedy suggested, I can not make up my mind
that we ought to deprive the business world of such consolation
as may come to it by a fair opportunity to try an application of
the faith cure, [Applause.]
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