Chang sent in a memorial to that effect, which was, however, referred to the Board of Revenue. Although he failed in his effort to introduce a national currency, he managed to procure a provincial silver mint for Canton. The following extract from his memorial is very interesting as well as instructive :
"The province of Kwangtung is the mart of China's trade with Europe, and the foreign dollar is the circulating medium not only there but in Kwangsi, Fukhien, Formosa, Shantung, Chihli, several of the interior provinces and the North Eastern frontier. Wherever there is an open port the Mexican dollar is taken as the common currency. In this way the advantages to our Government of having a national currency of our own are lost, while they are being reaped by other countries. The principles governing the coinage of cash and of silver are the same - that is they should both be made at our mints and by our own methods in order that we may maintain our national standing. In the province of Kwang-tung the system of our own coinage is especially necessary, as the currency there consists principally of old and mutilated dollars and broken pieces of silver, the use of which is a source of much loss to all concerned."
The Canton mint cost about $1,000,000 and was ready in the early part of 1890. The standard coin was the dollar valued at 72 tael-cents in weight - the value being based on the treasury tael - 900 fine. The object in this case was to compete with the Mexican dollar, the value of which fluctuated round about 73 treasury tael-cents. Of course, it was even more necessary to mint subsidiary coins; the fractional coins minted at Canton were of four denominations, namely, fifty-cent, twenty-cent, ten-cent, and five-cent pieces. The fifty-cent pieces were 860 fine, the twenty-cent and ten-cent pieces 820 fine and the five-cent pieces 800 fine. These subsidiary coins were in silver and one-cent copper pieces were also minted. At the close of the first year about $3,000,000 worth of coins were issued from the new mint; it is needless to say that only a fractional part of the total value was in dollar pieces. A report of the United States Mint says that an analysis of the available statistics shows that the output of the Canton mint during the first nine years of its existence was comprised of only about $3,000,000 in dollar pieces while the fractional coins - mostly twenty and ten-cent pieces - were to the total value of about $48,500,000, or nearly 95 per cent of the total output of $52,310,760.15. To one who has not a correct perspective of affairs in China, it should indeed be surprising that there should have been such a disproportionately large issue of subsidiary coins. There is, however, a doubt if the demand for fractional pieces was quite equal to the output. The people of China are extremely poor, judged from the Western standpoint, or even the standards of India or Japan. Away from the town, practically all transactions necessitated the use of coins of small denominations - cash or even fractions of cash - the cash being one-tenth of a cent. Compared with the farthing or the pfennig, the cash is very insignificant in value. The position in China was that while the silver tael and its decimal parts were not coined and the use of bullion was attended with great inconvenience, the dollar, even though coined, was altogether too large for ordinary use. The great majority of the population naturally took to the subsidiary coins - especially twenty and ten-cent pieces. Even these subsidiary coins generally commanded a premium in cash of from ten to twenty per cent. While the demand was sufficient inducement, mint authorities had the additional incentive of large coinage profits from these small pieces - for while the dollar piece was 900 fine, twenty- and ten-cent pieces were only 820 fine. However, neither the Government nor the people understood the significance of legal tender, and consequently there was no limit to the legal tender of these subsidiary coins. An idea of the profit from coinage may be judged from the fact that in Hongkong, out of the Colony's total revenue of $1,557,300 in 1888, $72,000 was the profit on subsidiary coinage - on an issue of coins worth $910,000.