If the cart only is thought of and not the goods contained in it, people must not be surprised if every kind of charge is made for cartage. What is happening to the two principals of every banker, whether the depositor has much or little remaining of what he has sold compared with what he has bought, and whether the borrower of the purchasing power which the bank derived from the depositor and transferred to him has preserved or consumed the wealth he bought with it, alone contain the secret of the money market, alone explain the events of the banking world.
Hence, as a rule, the banking market is governed by the universal law of supply and demand. Each of these forces may vary, with corresponding results on the price of the article dealt in, purchasing power. Trade may be steady for a long period, with regular movements and uniform growth; the rate of discount at such times will be moderate and little given to fluctuations. Or new and profitable fields for the application of capital, such as the rapid development of colonies, and the demand for capital, may increase much faster than capital itself; a high rate will be the consequence, and it will not be felt to be oppressive. Again, particular trades may have fallen under disturbing influences; a cotton famine may suddenly overtake Lancashire, or commotions in the labour market may interfere grievously with the condition of the iron and coal trades, or costly mining adventures may come to an abrupt end. In such cases, capital will tend to be thrown out of employment; its field of action will be narrowed, and the charge for discount will look downward. Such are the general forces which rule the rate of interest at banks; but trade and its fluctuations, the action of political and social influences on the development of wealth, the likelihood of the increase or the diminution of profits, the probabilities of deposits becoming larger or smaller, in a word the whole field of capital, its employment, and the returns it promises to yield, are matters far too wide and too elaborate for the powers in the money market to study. It is easier, more ready at hand, to look at money, at gold, at the stock of it in banking vaults, at the amount of the circulation moving about the country, at the machinery which moves wealth, instead of wealth itself. Under the influence of such ideas fanciful and arbitrary rates of discount may be ever springing up. It is true these arbitrary dogmas about quantities of circulation, rising or falling reserves, exports or imports of gold, ratios of bullion to liabilities, are everlastingly refuted by the facts of the rate of discounts; but what matters it to bankers? they find a profit in such delusions. But that the great body of traders should tamely consent to be the victims of such empirical assertions, and of such unen-quiring, unscientific literature - that they should run as greedily as bankers into these doctrines about gold, never dreaming of looking whether these dicta about gold correspond with fact - that they should be so profoundly averse to study the nature and laws of trade, and be content to accept every kind of quack assertion of monetary oracles about the magical effects of gold being in one place instead of another, to their own infinite perplexity and the grievous injury of their fortunes, is indeed surprising. It is the intellectual mystery of the nineteenth century. - Populus vult decipi: - it must take the consequences.
In conclusion I desire to say a few words on the great problem as well as the great duty which lie on the people of the United States. They are suffering from an evil of enormous magnitude, which is entirely of their own creation, and which it lies perfectly within their own power to remove. A permanently inconvertible currency, science pronounces to be utterly destitute of justification. The continuance of such an indefensible practice in one of the most important branches of social administration would place that great nation on a level below the intellectual standard which it has won in the world, Were it to go on, their descendants hereafter would speak of the want of intelligence it would imply as the wonderful spot on the great reputation they had inherited. The suffering, moreover, which it inflicts on the people, the wanton corruption of one of the most important instruments of civilisation, the disorder which it thrusts upon all trade, the low level at which it tends to keep the knowledge of political economy throughout the country, the gambling spirit which it introduces into commercial dealings, constitute motives of commanding force which summon the legislature of the United States to wipe away such a disgrace and such a misfortune.
The one vital condition for the successful carrying out of this operation is a genuine and resolute determination of the American people to have a currency worthy of themselves, and to resume specie payments in earnest. Unfortunately it cannot yet be said that this resolution of the national will has been unmistakeably declared. The law orders the resumption of specie payments on the 1st of January 1879; but by providing no machinery for accomplishing its purpose it has rendered further appeal to Congress necessary, and till the measure has finally left the political arena, its success cannot be said to have been secured. It was otherwise with the return to cash payments in England. The Bank of England had been forbidden by Parliament to pay gold for its notes on presentation. The repeal of the prohibition left the Bank subject to its old obligation to pay in specie, which had thus revived. A refusal to give gold for a single note would then have plunged the bank into insolvency. But in the United States the Legislature not only prescribes what the currency shall be, but is itself the issuer of the currency; and if it does not make the necessary regulations to give effect to its own command, there is no law of insolvency which would enable a note holder not paid in metal to seize the property of the American Government.