View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.

Repeal of the Sherman Act*

S P E E C H
OF

HON. C H A R L E S M. COOPER,
OF F L O R I D A ,

I N THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Thursday, August

17,1893.

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. COOPER of Florida said:
Mr. SPEAKER: I should not intrude for a moment upon the
attention of this House, wearied already with the long- discussion of what may be called the same question, day after day,
if it were not for the fact that I stand here in a position of
my own and to some extent with views of my own. Standingas I do ea the Representative of a far Southern agricultural
district, being as I am a sincere friend of silver, but a sincere
believer in bimetallism as well, anxious as I am to vote for any
reasonable and practicable measure that would afford to the
people of this country ifrom time to time such sound and sufficient increase in currency as their necessities may require,
yet in the face of the present situation, exercising my judgment
on the facts as I see them, and voting in the interests of my
people as I see them, I shall vote for the repeal of the Sherman
law as proposed by the gentleman from W e s t Virginia [Mr.
WILSON], and shall vote against each and every one of the
propositions contained in the proposed amendments suggested
by the gentleman from Missouri., (Applause).
Mr. Speaker, I have sat here day after day and listened to abstract discussions of financial theories ; and all the time there
has been in my mind a question of which I could at no time divest myself; and yet men from my section do not seem to think
it worthy of consideration, much less of answer. That question
is where, in a few weeks from now, is the money to come from
to buy and to move the cotton crop and the other crops of this
country? I picked up a paper yesterday, and saw that the merchants and bankers of Savannah are trying to get authority to
33




issue scrip to pay for cotton. Savannah is the cotton market of
Florida; and am I to stand here and in the face of th e prospects
that the farmers of Florida will have to sell their cotton at a depreciated price and for due bills or for sc?*ip, with all that that
means to them, with all of inconvenience and all of loss in the
shaving- of such papers, and am I not even to give them the
chance of the only remedy that any one suggests as a means of
supplying immediate money?
Mr. Speaker, some gentlemen here have intimated that Southern members who voted for the Wilson bill, and did not votp for
any of the specified and limited methods to which they were
wedded, of supplying a substitute for the Sherman law, would
have an indignant constituency to answer. I say to them that
when that day comes I will not be afraid to stand up with them
and make my answer while they m ake theirs. [Applause.] I will
say to my people, " I voted to give you the only immediate relief
that was possible, at least the only thing which offered a prospect for immediate relief."
Those gentlemen may say to their constituents, what? They
may read them their long and more or less learned and more or
less eloquent disquisitions upon silver. Perhaps these will be
accepted as a sufficient answer, and perhaps those men who have
gone down into ruin through their inefficiency and delay will
say so them: 4 'We asked you for bread, and you gave us wind."
[Applause.]
Mr. Speaker, as I have sat here and looked out upon this House
my mind has unavoidably wandered to other scenes far distant.
I have seen the farmer coming into his country town to sell his
cotton, his money crop, and, unfortunately, too often his only
money crop, and finding no buyer, because there is no money to
buy it with, or having to sacrifice it at a depreciation because of
the inadequate supply of money. I have seen the country merchant who had to carry the farmers through the year, pressed
by his creditors, unable to make collections, unable to get accommodation from his local bank, the banks unable to make collections, deposits cut off, and all of those men going down into
one common vortex of ruin, while we discuss the views of various
financiers, modern and ancient, upon silver and gold and bimetallism, and so forth, and so on. [Applause.]
Now, my friends, what is the cause of this depression, and what
is to be the means of relief? As to its cause, in the first place,
we have the statements of nearly all the business men of this
country, that it is caused by the Sherman purchase law.
I am a lawyer, to some extent at least, and even in a court
room where we are limited to absolute proofs of facts, we at least
accept the opinions of experts, and we know that all the experts
of this country, except a few gentlemen who are immediately interested in the production of silver, agree that such is the cause,
and this goes far toward proving it.
Now, my friends, there has been a little suggestion upon the
Republican side of this Chamber that this depression is caused
chiefly by the prospect of tariff reform. I am not going to get
off into tariff reform, but I will say just this about it, that the
weakness of that statement is that it is not true. [Applause.] I
do not know the affairs of every mill, or every mercantile or




3
banking concern in this country, but I have inquired far and
near, and as far as I could obtain information, the concerns that
are shutting up in this country and throwing men out of employment are not closing up for lack or orders. They are not closing
up because they can not get orders for future delivery, or arrive
at any basis of contract with th ose who desire to purchase. They
are not closing up because they are insolvent concerns, but they
are closing up for two reasons—one that they can not get the
actual cash to run their business and to pay their men, and the
other that on account of this financial stringency they fear to
fill future orders, lest their customers will not be able to pay for
them. That is it.
Now, my friends, these things demonstrate that the immediate
cause at least of this depression is a lack of money, and we have
a general agreement that this lack of confidence was brought
about by this law. Why, no less eminent an authority on the
silver side of this question than Senator JONES of Nevada stated,
in a magazine article only the other day that you could maintain government money at par so long as the people believed
that the Government could redeem it, or did not apprehend that
the Government would be unable to redeem it. Therefore, he
said, you can not base money upon gold alone, because the people will soon learn that there is not gold enough in the world to
redeem outstanding obligations, and they will go below par.
It has been said that the Sherman law was not an adequate
ca-use for this depression; but we all know, who know anything
about it, that the business men of this country, and the business
men and most of the financiers of every other country, had anticipated and expected this depression; th it they have believed that
the country can not continue to carry the accumulation of silver
under the Sherman law; and, upon even the authority of Senator JONES, that makes the Sherman law an adequate cause for
the present depress] sn. Applause.]
Mr. LIVINGSTON. Will the gentleman allow me to make a
suggestion to him?
Mr. COOPER of Florida. I will, with pleasure.
Mr. LIVINGSTON. If the certificates issued under the purchasing clause of the Sherman act have created a burden upon
the Treasury, will you explain why it is that these certificates
are at a premium in New York and all over the country?
Mr. COOPER of Florida. I think I can. In the first place I
never said that the certificates were a burden upon the people.
I said that the want of confidence in the business men originated
in a belief that the country would not be able to go on continuously accumulating silver and issuing Sherman notes. I believe
that the purchase of silver and the issuing of these notes had
broken down the public confidence. [ Applause. ] Breaking do wn
public confidence caused the people to run upon the banks, caused
the b inks to lock up their currency, and brought about this present stringency. I am going to answer the gentleman's question
further. I say to him that the reason that the currency has gone
to a premium is that on account of this lack of confidence money
has been locked up: and the very measure, therefore, that was
expected to make an abundance of money has created a panic,
and stringency has driven out gold and locked up the currency,
33




4

has brought on the contraction and panic and demoralized all the
business interests. [Applause.]
Mr. LIVINGSTON. Is the gentleman aware that these certificates are at par in London? You have not answered my question.
Mr. COOPER of Florida. I think I have.
Mr. LIVINGSTON. These certificates are issued under the
operation of the very law you are complaining of, and under
which you say the confidence of the business interests has been
broken down. Now, so long as these certificates are at par in
London and are at a premium in New York, will you explain
how it has brought depression upon the country?
Mr. COOPER of Florida. In the first place, as I have said before, I have made my statement and not the statement of the
gentleman from Georgia; and he can not put his words in my
mouth. In the second place, I have already explained that this
money is at a premium because of the panic. The stringency
locks it up, and it is locked up because of the lack of confidence
in financial operations under the Sherman act ; and I say to him
further, that the reason it is at par in London is because you can
draw gold for it in America. [Applause.]
Now, Mr. Speaker, I had almost gotten involved in the tariff
when my friend from Georgia happily rescued me. [Laughter.]
I do not want to get into any partisan discussion of this affair
either, but I can not refrain, with my naturally combative disposition, from saying to my Republican friends—because I have
sat down here for a number of days silently while once in a while
they gave the Democratic party a prod and suggested that this
was the result of turning the country over to the Democratic
party—I can not resist s tying this: That when the Democratic
party had had this country for four years, at the end of Mr.
Cleveland's last term we turned this Government over to you
with the people prosperous and the Treasury full to overflowing.
You gave it back to us in this condition of depression, in this
condition of suffering, with a depleted Treasury and with the
country already going over the precipice into this financial abyss;
and that is all of politics I am going to bring into this speech.
A REPUBLICAN MEMBER. That is enough; you are doing
well.
*
Mr. COOPER of Florida. Now, Mr. Speaker, I said that was
all of politics; but I can not go further in my speech without
making some reference, at least—to be in the fashion—to the
Democratic platform at Chicago. Gentlemen have stood up
here and told us that the man who did not vote for each of their
particular fads upon the subject of currency was a traitor to the
Democratic platform at Chicago. The Democratic platform of
Chicago, in the only sentence where it mentions the coining of
money, declares for the coining of gold and silver at equal intrinsic and exchangeable values; and the man who comes in
here and undertakes to force me, or to limit me, to vote for the
coining of silver at certain ratios, each one of which and the
greatest of which is far below the market price, undertakes to
drive me off the Democratic platform; and he can not do it.
[Applause.]
Now, Mr. Speaker, passing from this question of coining at
33




5
either of the ratios, is there anything in the Damocratic platform that declares we shall repeal the Sherman bill and enact
another silver-purchase bill? I believe that the Bland bill in its
day was a good measure. I believe it did this country no harm,
but did it good, because it enlarged our currency at a time when
we needed it; but since that bill was repealed we have had more
than $150,000,000 of Sherman money added to our currency.
In dealing with these matters we can only look at the facts as
each of us sees them. Now, the question of how much of a certain kind of currency a country can successfully carry is a question of fact.
Gentlemen have been fond of referring here to France as the
great authority upon coinage and finance. Do they not know
that at the late Brussels conference France, through her delegates, declared that she would coin no more silver; that she
would not open her mints to free coinage; and further declared
when it was proposed to her that France, the United States,
India, and the other countries of the Latin Union should enter
into an agreement for the free coinage of silver—that she declared, when that proposition was made, that so many countries
could not do it? She said, " You have got to include England
and Germany, or else it will be impracticable." Do they not
know that the representative of France said, " We have got all
the silver coin that we can successfully carry, and we can not
agree to coin any more, because the attempt to do so would be
disastrous?" Mr. Speaker, that is the pronouncement of the
highest authority of the gentlemen on the other side.
Just before I was leaving Florida an old friend of mine who
had lived for years on the Pacific slope came to me and said,
4
'I do not know how you stand on silver; I have got one advantage over you with reference to it; I have dug silver and I have
dug potatoes, and they are each worth what they will sell for."
[Laughter.]
Now, Mr. Speaker, if I am to be called upon to give value to
any article by legislation, if that, indeed, is demanded of me by
the Democratic platform, or any other controlling agency, I
want to get some of the benefits of it. [Laughter.] We all
know the story of the old darkey down South who was very
much taken with the reports which came to his ears concerning
the civil rights bill. He heard a great deal about the 4'provisions" of the bill, and he got an idea that it was something
which would be very beneficial to him. So upon a certain day
he went to his county town to draw his share of the ''provisions," but when he found that there was no hog and hominy in
the bill he took no more interest in it. [Laughter.]
Now, Mr. Speaker, if I am to vote for a bill to give an artificial
value to things, if I am to vote for this measure, I want an amendment adopted by which it shall be enacted that my people shall
receive a dollar for every 57 cents' worth of their cotton, and tobacco, and oranges, and pineapples, and vegetables, and logs, and
lumber, and turpentine. If our friends will put that into their
proposition perhaps—I do not say that 1 will, but I say perhaps—
I will manage to hold my conscience in abeyance. [Laughter.]
An acquaintance of mine was cow attorney for a certain railroad. [Laughter.] His duties consisted in going around and
33




6
resisting claims for cattle that were killed on the track, and he
did it very artfully. He resorted to all the arts that were known,
the usual delays and everything else, and he continued in that
service for about three years, when the railroad company discharged him, whereupon he became a very active and [zealous
promoter of like claims upon the other side.
One day, as he was addressing the jury in a justice's court, he
became very severe, not only upon the company, but upon the
attorney on the other side representing the company. Finally
the other counsel could not stand it any longer, and he got up
and threw his record at him—as sometimes happens to lawyers
and to statesmen. [Laughter.] He said: " Didn't you for three
years represent this railroad company and resist just such claims
as this, doing what I am doing now, only a good deal more so?"
Whereupon the indignant cow attorney replied: "Sir, for three
long years I held my conscience in abeyance, but now it has broke
loose!" [Laughter.]
I have not held my conscience in abeyance, sir, but if I am to
do it, I want to see some direct, immediate, palpable, tangible
benefit for my people in this legislation. [Laughter.]
Mr. Speaker, we may theorize as we please as to the future far
distant, but we know in fact that this fall, within the next few
weeks, the continuance of the present state of affairs means a
lower price for every pound of cotton in the South. If it goes
on it means a lower price for every box of oranges in Florida; it
means a greater diminution of that great stream of tourist travel
which to us is not entirely what the overflow of the Nile is to
Egypt—because we deny the charge that we live wholly on fish
in the summer and Yankees in the winter [laughter]—but we do
admit the fact that it is a very material factor, and if there are
hard times at the North and a money stringency, if all the money
is locked up so that nobody can get any for business, much less
for pleasure, shall the corridors of our hotels (which are palaces),
shall the beautiful resorts of Florida, shall the lovely walks on
the banks of the St. John and the Indian Rivers remain vacant,
and shall all the channels of trade be deprived of that necessary
supply of nutriment? The hotels, the transportation lines, the
farmer who sells them his products, the merchant who sells them
his goods, all will suffer. It is right upon us, and if there is not
relief, and that speedily, we are going to have a hard winter in
Florida, and if my vote can prevent it it is not going to occur.
[Laughter and applause.]
Mr. Speaker, it has been said to us, " Are you going to be
dictated to by England?" That brings up before us one of the
most momentous events in the history of finance, or perhaps in
the history of the world, during recent years; I refer to the demonetization of silver, or at least the stoppage of its free coinage,
in India. When I say I am a friend of silver I am sincere, but I
am not ready to vote in this emergency for the free coinage of a
short dollar. And I am pinned right down to that or to another
silver-purchase bill. I have no other choice or option. I am
somewhat in the position of one of those steers that is shipped
from Florida; it is put in a kind of runway; one man hohfc up
the bars on one side and another man holds them up on the other,
and it must run right along; there is no escape on either side.
33




7
In this emergency I have made up my mind what I am going to
do, and I have declared it. I am not allowed the opportunity to
vote for the coinage of silver at its intrinsic value; it is not proposed to give me any such opportunity.
But, Mr. Speaker, I started to speak of the taunt which comes
to us as to our being dictated to by England. Why, sir, at the
end of the Franco-German war, when France—as proud a nation
as exists upon God s footstool—had been overthrown in war;
when every feeling of pride and resentment was aroused; in this
situation, when Germany demonetized silver, did France say,
" W e will not be dictated to by any set of Germans. No Kaiser,
nor Bismarck, nor any such set of gold bugs can dictate to us.
We have maintained the free coinage of silver always; it is the
traditionary policy of France, and we can stand alone? " No, sir;
France said nothing of the sort. It said, " When Germany has
demonetized silver a great fact has occurred which we must
recognize and to which we must conform our action; " and they
closed the mints of France to the coinage of silver.
So, when the India council demonetized silver, or at least
stopped its free coinage, in an empire of more than 250,000,000
of people and destroyed the greatest silver market of the world,
thereby depreciating the price of silver, that was a transaction
which we can not ignore—which must influence our action
whether we like it or whether we do not. For my part I deplore
it. If I had come here at any other time than in the presence
of this financial depression and in the presence of that action of
the Indian government I should be found voting with the men
who will now vote contrary to me when this question comes to
an issue. But, sir, I always endaavor to look at things as a
sensible, reasonable man. And when, so far from the United
States accomplishing anything at the Brussels conference, so
far from our country getting the aid of any other nation, India
demonetized silver, it was a blow that must be recognized;
and to say th it in the face of this action the U.nited States alone
shall undertake so hazardous an experiment as free coinage at
a short ratio seems to me neither wisdom nor courage, but foolhardiness.
Mr. Speaker, various gentlemen who have argued this question have referred us to the reports of the India commission.
It is a fact that that commission recommended a stoppage of the
free coinage of silver in India. It is also a fact that they recommended that, if limited coinage by the government should be
carried on, the ratio should be made 20 to 1. But already that is
regarded as a most hazardous experiment. Now, what we are here
for is not to try experiments, the effect of which would be that
while we are awaiting the result months or perhaps years must
elapse before confidence is restored. What we are to do is to
bring money out of its hoarding places, and then we can devote
such time as may be necessary to establishing the currency of
this country on a permanent basis.
I shall be ready, I am ready now, to support any measure which
to my mind affords a reasonable expectation of establishing our
currency upon a sound, safe, sufficient, flexible, expmsive basis.
But I do not believe that we can successfully establish the free
coinage of silver, even at a ratio of 20 to 1. And I do know that
33




8
such a measure will not restore confidence. I do know that the
only means of supplying the country with sufficient money in
time to do any good, in time to stop this stringency, in time to
market and move the crops, in time to give idle workmen employment, in time to enable the mills to resume their work of industry and their diffusion of values, in time to save the bankers
of this country who are struggling against ruin, and the merchants
who are fighting from day to day to keep out of bankruptcy, and
the farmers whose homes are mortgaged and who must raise the
money to meet their interest and their principal—the only measure to do this in time is a measure that will bring out the millions
and millions of money that we already have—that are hoarded,
locked up in banks or in old stockings—money which is kept out
of circulation by the general want of confidence.
Senator JONES of Nevada says that this condition of confidence
will return whenever the people believe that the Government
can maintain successfully a financial policy. That the great majority of the American people do now believe that the Government can not maintain the policy of the Sherman bill, I shall not
argue, because I believe every man in this House knows it.
Then, I say, what are we to do but that which at least the people believe is adequate; and if they believe it is adequate, it is
adequate. [Applause.]
83




O