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Withdrawal of Fourpenny Pieces.
deficiency of precious metal in the light coin to be withdrawn and re-coined must be reckoned at nearly 650,0001., a sum which does not include the expenses of re-coinage.
It will be seen that the question is not only one of urgency, but of considerable magnitude, and as it may be hoped that the Mint will before the close of the current year be in a position to undertake a long and continuous gold coinage, their Lordships will doubtless proceed to consider and decide what steps should be taken to meet the existing difficulty and prevent its recurrence.
With the results of the investigations by Professor Jevons, and, more lately, by Mr. John B. Martin, thus officially accepted, and, brought so prominently under the attention of the Government, and with a reconstituted mint, capable, with new machinery, of undertaking "a long and continuous gold coinage," there are grounds for hoping that the time for a settlement of this very serious question may be drawing near.
WITHDRAWAL OF FOURPENNY PIECES.
With reference to these pieces, which, according to the foregoing Report, were withdrawn last year to the nominal value of £1,000, the following circular was sent by the Association of English Country Bankers, on the 23rd of last May, to every country bank in the three kingdoms. It will, no doubt, have the effect of stimulating the withdrawal of these coins from circulation :
"At the General Meeting of the Association held at the Charing Cross Hotel on the 18th inst., a resolution was passed recommend. ing that all fourpenny pieces coming into the hands of bankers should be withdrawn by them from circulation and sent to the Bank of England.
" You are no doubt aware that the Mint has ceased to issue these coins, and we have ascertained that the Bank of England will receive them at their full nominal value and send them to the Mint for the purpose of being withdrawn from circulation.
“If this suggestion is adopted generally by the banks, the inconvenience occasioned by the circulation in continually decreasing numbers of worn coins will be prevented, and it was the unanimous opinion of those present at the Meeting that this would be a con. venience both to bankers and to the public.
“If you approve the suggestion you will perhaps be good enough to give the necessary directions to the cashiers at your various branches."
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY CONFERENCE, 1881.
The following report by the Hon. C. W. Fremantle, C.B., the delegate appointed to represent Her Majesty's Government at the International Monetary Conference held in Paris, 1881, gives so clear and concise a history, not only of this particular Conference, but also of the previous conferences and of the steps which led to it, that the text is given here in extenso, though some may be inclined to question certain statements at the close of it, where Mr. Fremantle departs for a while from the strict letter of history. There will be no hesitation, however, to accept the conclusion that, under all the circu mstances, “it would seem only reasonable that, before being called upon to abandon her present monetary policy, the English Government should be put in possession of the views deliberately adopted by a consensus of important states, and should be able to consider them in the light of England's own experience and interests :
MY LORD,-I have already had the honour to report that the International Monetary Conference, which assembled in Paris in April last, was adjourned on the 8th July until the 12th April, 1882.
The second volume of the Procès-verbaux, setting forth the proceedings of the conference during its session in June-July, having now been published, it would appear desirable that I should briefly recapitulate the circumstances under which the conference met, and should show what was the position assumed by the delegates of the Governments represented, and the result of their deliberations.
The circumstances which led to the meeting of the present conference are succinctly stated in the opening address delivered by its president, M. Magnin, French Minister of Finance, at its first sitting, on the 19th April.
Two international monetary conferences had already been held in Paris, the first in 1867 and the second in 1878. The object of the conference of 1867 was the establishment of monetary uniformity, by substituting for the various types of existing monetary systems á coinage struck on a uniform principle, and the fundamental question for decision was that of the metallic standard to be recomiended for universal adoption. The result, in the language of M. de Parien, vice-president of the conference, was that, although in two only out of twenty States represented, was the single gold standard in force, that standard was adopted by the conference with a unanimity as remarkable as it was unexpected.
The system thus recommended was, in 1871, established by law throughout the German Empire, and the example of Germany was followed by the Scandinavian States. A large amount of silver money having thus been withdrawn from circulation and sold, and the price of silver having materially fallen, the States forming the Latin Monetary Union, and Holland, closed their mints against the free coinage of that metal.
In 1876 a Committee of the House of Commons was appointed " to consider and report upon the causes of the depreciation of the price of silver, and the effects of such depreciation upon the exchange between India and England ;” and in 1877 a commission nominated by Congress of the United States reported that the fall in the price of silver relatively
to gold was entirely due to legislative action in European countries, and that the true remedy for the evils of the existing state of things was to be found in the establishment, by international agreement, of a uniform relative value between coins of the two metals.
By Act of Congress the gold dollar had, in 1873, been declared to be the unit of value in the United States, but in February, 1878, a Bill was passed by both Houses, over the veto of the President of the United States, restoring to the silver dollar its position as a standard coin, and directing that three commissioners should be appointed to confer with European Powers with the view of “establishing internationally the use of bi-metallic money and securing fixity of relative value” between gold and silver in coinage. In compliance with the provisions of this Act the Government of the United States proposed a second conference, which was held in August, 1878.
In reply to the invitation of the United States to this conference, Her Majesty's Government caused it to be intimated that, as gold had been for more than sixty years the standard of value in the United Kingdom, and the system of the single standard had approved itself both to successive Governments and to the people by long experience, the question was not an open one, and that it would hardly be consistent with the respect due to a friendly Government if this country were to enter the conference on the conditions proposed. As, however, the Secretary of State for India in Council subsequently expressed a wish that, considering the important bearing of the question upon the interests of India, the Government should consent to take part in the conference, it was decided that Great Britain should be represented, provided that the subject of the standards of currency used in various countries, and the relations between them, should be freely discussed ; and the Government of the United States having accepted these conditions, Mr. Goschen, Mr. Gibbs, late Governor of the Bank of England, and Sir Thomas Seccombe, Financial Secretary of the India Office, were appointed to represent Her Majesty's Government at the conference.
The result of the conference of 1878 may be shown in a few worde.
The following propositions were in the first instance put forward, after some hesitation by the United States Commissioners :
"1. It is the opinion of this assembly that it is not to be desired that silver should be excluded from free coinage in Europe and the United States of America. On the contrary, the assembly believe that it is desirable that the unrestricted coinage of silver, and its use as money of unlimited legal tender, should be retained where they exist, and, as far as practicable, restored where they have ceased to exist.
“2. The use of both gold and silver as unlimited legal tender money may be safely adopted S
“(1.) By equalising them at a relation to be fixed by international agreement.
“ (2.) By granting to each metal, at the relation fixed, equal terms of coinage, making no discrimination between them." In answer to these propositions the following resolutions were drawn up by the French and English delegates, and presented to the conference by the President, Mr. Léon Say :
" The Conference wish to express their sincere thanks to the
Government of the United States of America for having procured an international exchange of opinion upon a subject of so much importance as the monetary question.
" Having maturely considered the proposals of the delegates of the United States, the Conference recognises :
"1. That it is necessary to maintain in the world the monetary functions of silver, as well as those of gold, but that the selection for use of one or the other of these two metals, or of both simultaneously, should be governed by the special situation of each state or group of states.
"2. That the question of the restriction of the mintage of silver should equally be left to the discretion of each state or group of states, according to the particular position in which they may be placed ; and the more, in that the disturbance which in recent years has been produced in the silver market has variously affected the monetary situation of the several countries.
"3. That the differences of opinion which have appeared, and the fact that even the States in which the double standard exists find it impossible to enter into any engagement with regard to the unlimited coinage of silver, preclude the discussion of the question of establish
ing an international relation of value between the two metals." After considerable opposition on the part of the Italian delegates, who were anxious to place upon record their opinions in favour of the double standard, and of the adoption of an international ratio between gold and silver, these resolutions were agreed to by a large majority, and at the same time Mr. Goschen made a declaration that he and his colleagues, “while not in favour of the universal adoption of a single gold standard, considered that the establishment of a fixed ratio of gold and silver was utterly impracticable, and that they were opposed to a system of currency based upon a double standard."
The Latin Monetary Convention of 1865, which would have expired at the end of 1879, was renewed on the 5th November, 1878, and under its provisions, as renewed, the coinage of silver 5-franc pieces was entirely suspended throughout the contracting States. In 1879 further coinage of silver on private account was prohibited in Austria-Hungary. In the United States, where, as already shown, the coinage of the silver dollar was resumed in 1878, those coins can only be struck on account of the Government, and to a limited amount. India, therefore, is now the only country in which the coinage of silver remains free and unrestricted.
On the 26th February, 1881, the Governments of France and the United States addressed a note to Her Majesty's Government, stating that they had “exchanged views upon the subject of a conference between the Powers principally interested in the question of establishing internationally the use of gold and silver as bi-metallic money, and securing fixity of relative value between those metals," and inviting the appointment of delegates from this country to a conference to be held in Paris on the 19th April, " to consider and adopt for presentation to the Governments represented, for their acceptance, a plan and system for the establishment, by International Convention, of the use of gold and silver as bi-metallic money at a fixed relative value between those two metals."
To this invitation Her Majesty's Government, replied in terms substantially the same as those used in 1878, pointing out that the policy of the single gold standard, adopted more than 60 years ago, and accepted by the nation, had in this country never been seriously attacked, whereas the very words of the invitation appeared to pledge the Government beforehand to the principle of a double standard, and that there would thus appear to be no place for a representative of the United Kingdom at the approaching conference. The Minister of the United States in London having, however, received instructions from his Government to declare that, in the opinion of the Governments of France and the United States, the Powers to be represented at the conference reserved entire liberty of action after the discussion, Her Majesty's Government determined to send a delegate to the conference as a mark of their interest in an inquiry to which the inviting Governments attach so much importance. It was at the same time intimated that the delegate sent, while affording any information which the conference might require, would merely act as a medium of communication with his own Government, and would not have the power of voting on any propositions which might be submitted for discussion. Upon these conditions I was, on the 26th April, appointed to attend the conference as delegate of Great Britain. It was decided that India, should be represented by Sir Louis Mallet, Under Secretary of State, and Lörd Reay, and Canada by Sir Alexander Galt, High Commissioner for the Dominion in this country.
In his opening address the president of the conference stated that in his opinion the difficulties of the actual monetary situation could only be met by the conclusion of a bi-metallic and International Convention. His Excellency expressed the hope of his own Government and that of the United States that, although some of the Powers represented had entered the conference under certain reservations, its deliberations would show international bi-metallism to be, both theoretically and practically, the only system which could restore regularity to the monetary transactions of the world, and he added that the business of the Conference would not be to debate the conditions of a treaty by which one contracting party would be a gainer and the other a loser, but simply to adopt resolutions equally favourable to all.
At its second sitting, which was attended by representatives of all thọ Powers, the conference adopted the report of a commission which had been appointed to prepare a scheme of debate, and resolved that a general discussion should precede the discussion of this scheme, paragraph by paragraph. It also decided that before the opening of the debates the delegates who had declarations to make on behalf of their Governments shonld be given the opportunity of presenting them. Of the 18 Governments represented, reservations were made by the Delegates froin 12, namely: Germany, Great Britain, British India, Canada, Denmark, Portugal, Russia, Greece, Austria-Hungary, Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland.
The representatives of Germany and Great Britain, with those of Denmark, Portugal, and Greece, were instructed to declare at the outset that their Governments had definitively adopted the single gold standard, and must not be understood to contemplate any fundamental change in their monetary system. The delegates of Russia and Austria-Hungary, with those of Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland, and the representatives of British India and Canada, concurred in disclaiming any responsibility beyond that of reporting to their Governments the decisions of the conference. The Austro-Hungarian and Indian Governments declared themselves anxious that means should be found to re-establish the value of silver, while that of Switzerland pronounced itself satisfied with the Latin Monetary Convention of 1878, under which, as already shown, the coinage