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(Dedication of a MS. Poem, entitled "A Visit to a Tropical Island.")
Oh, lovely Blanche-I give to thee
My thoughts at morning, noon, and night!
Thy tender glances fall on me,
Thy form floats softly in my sight,
And, to my bowers of calm delight,
A creature, wove of morning beams,
Of fancy, an imagined wight,
Whose charms I would but cannot write;
My beautiful abstraction, brought
That in this long-forsaken lyre
That falls from leaf and blossom there. Would thou and I, my Blanche, had plumes, That we might seek those forest glooms, Where undecaying verdure blooms!
Oh, then how swiftly would we fly,
THE SPECIE CLAUSE.
Let us but look this much dreaded monster, "the Specie Clause," boldly and straight-forward in the face, and like many of the other bugbears by which children of all ages allow themselves to be frightened out of their senses, its lineaments will not perhaps appear so very terrible after all. A great many honest people have actually been deluded into the belief-if so vague and undefined a notion is entitled to the name of a belief that this same atrocious "Specie Clause" is to prove another Pandora's box of every imaginable evil to be let loose upon the country, without even the compensation of a hope remaining at the bottom. That under its operation credit is to perish, commerce is to perish; that a Spartan régime of iron money and black broth is to return, with a system of helotage of the great mass of the nation, under the oppressive sway of a few rapacious office-holders, through their monopoly of the "better currency" of gold and silver, while all the rest of the people must fain content themselves with filthy slips of lamp-blacked rag.
This is scarcely an exaggerated picture of the idea which a great many well meaning persons have been made to entertain of this much abused" Specie Clause," in the bills which have been introduced by the friends of the Administration in Congress, for the future collection, custody and disbursement of the public revenue. We regard it as one of the most striking instances of the effect of that reckless and thoughtless party spirit which we see daily proceeding to such insane excesses, that because a great financial question, involving a few and very simple principles of political economy, has happened unfortunately to become mixed up with our party politics, rational people can allow themselves to be deluded to such a degree by notions so ridiculously preposterous and absurd. A few pages only will suffice to present the whole subject in a very plain and popular way, to such readers as are honestly disposed to pursue the truth, in such a light as to dissipate all these empty and vapory clouds of mystification with which it has for years been the unresting vocation of a countless host of writers and speakers to envelope a perfectly simple and easy question.
The main question now agitating this great community is this, whether or not paper-money shall continue to be exclusively the currency of the country. An enormous interest has grown up in the midst of us-connecting itself in the most intimate alliance,
offensive and defensive, with a great political party-which insists that it shall. This omnipresent, and almost omnipotent, interest has contrived to get the whole business of the country, its producing industry and its commerce, domestic and foreign, within the control of its grasp. It has possessed itself of upwards of threefourths of the newspaper press-a swarm of book-makers-public orators absolutely innumerable-and in private life, wherever two or three are gathered together, a vast majority of all the smaller Sir-Oracles who from the prominence whether of their proper position or of their pretensions, are accustomed to lay down the law to the little local spheres, or rather globules, of society that cluster naturally about them. An universal credit system of business having gradually established itself, ramified out into the pettiest details of the humblest traffic, and the institutions through whose agency the whole is administered having combined, with that function of lending money, the coordinate one of manufacturing a paper currency, the influence over the actions and opinions of men derived from the former function is made naturally to extend itself to the maintainance of the latter. There exists indeed no necessary or even natural connexion between these two functions, that of lending money and that of issuing paper currency; and their combination in the same hands is one of the most fatal evils with which a country can be afflicted-each perpetually stimulating the other to excess and abuse. But here is the actual state of things in full operation over the whole length and breadth of the country; and it is in this union, and in the power which the one function gives to maintain the other, that we can find the only explanation of the singular hold upon the public mind which this strange infatuation of paper-money has acquired, and despite the severest lessons of experience, seems still to retain.
This vast interest is by far the most powerful of all the elements of opposition against which the Democratic party is now engaged in so desperate a struggle. But for this, the numerical forces of the two parties, under the great principles which form the political creed of the present Administration, would be in the ratio of ten to one, instead of being so much nearer to an equality as we now witness them. Its partisans insist, and for the most part no doubt honestly believe, that a "convertible" paper-money is a better currency than specie. They therefore set their faces in utter hostility against the precious metals. They are in favor of the removal of all restrictions upon the circulation of paper. They denounce any attempt on the part of any great dealer in money to conduct his transactions in the precious metals, and will not permit any exception to be made to the universal use of paper, even in the smaller channels of circulation, and for all the minor purposes
daily life, as the only medium which is to constitute practically the money and the currency of the country.
By paper-money, in the sense in which here used, we wish our readers to bear clearly in mind that we mean credit-money, such as the bank-note currency now in use amongst us-such paper as rests wholly or in part on the basis of confidence on the part of the community, being stamped with a promise to pay, which, by universal understanding, is meant to signify a promise to pay on condition of not being required to do so. A paper currency in the form of certificates of deposite, actually and bona-fide representing so much specie, dollar for dollar, would be a very different thing, combining as it would every convenience of form possessed by paper, with every advantage of substance and solidity inherent in the precious metals themselves. But, according to its commoù acceptation, we here use the term paper-money in the sense of credit-money, or confidence-money.
The theory of money is a very simple matter after all, and easily intelligible to every comprehension, notwithstanding the mystification with which the advocates of paper-money have sought to envelope it. The use of money is to serve as a medium of exchange, for which purpose it must also be a measure of value. This is its primary, essential attribute, indispensable to the performance of the function which it is created to discharge, that of a medium of exchange. Whatever is designed to serve as a measure of value must possess an intrinsic and certain value in itself, as measures of dimension or of weight must possess themselves the dimension or the weight for the measurement of which they are to serve as the units or standards. Value is derived primarily from labor, which is itself induced by the capacity of the object upon which it exerts itself to subserve the gratification of human wants or desires. Now the precious metals do possess the value derived from labor, the process of their extraction from the mines being a difficult, slow, and very expensive one; and in addition to the demand for them created by the fact of their universal use as the money of the world, they are used in a thousand modes to minister to human comfort and luxury through the arts. They unite moreover in a remarkable manner all the properties requisite to adapt them to the purpose of a measure of value and medium of exchange. The supply of them existing in the world approximates so nearly to perfect stability, that for practical purposes it may be assumed as absolutely fixed and uniform, the annual production being entirely insignificant in comparison with the stock permanently on hand, while the large proportion of the whole amount used in the arts serves as a perpetual corrective to fluctuation in that portion which is used for the purposes of money; since the slightest depreciation of their value from excess of supply would remedy itself by the conversion VOL. V. NO. XIV.-FEBRUARY, 1839. P
of a larger amount into articles of luxury and display; while on the other hand, an appreciation of value arising from deficiency could not fail speedily to transfer a portion of the latter back into the shape of coin. When in addition to this property of stability of supply, manifestly the first requisite for a measure of value, we consider their uniformity of quality-their hardness and durability— and their capability of division into forms of the most convenient dimension, for the purposes of use from hand to hand, and of receiving a stamp to attest at a glance their purity and genuineness, with the immediate facility of detecting any spurious alloy or counterfeit-we shall not be surprised that the universal experience and intelligence of the world have selected them as the most suitable materials for this all-important purpose. A brief consideration of this train of reflection will also suffice, we imagine, to awaken some slight distrust of the soundness of the notion recently promulgated by high authorities, that the world has heretofore, until within comparatively a few years past, been under a total delusion on this subject, that the precious metals are entirely unsuited to the purposes of money, the supply of them being entirely inadequate to the demand—and that the cheaper material of paper is much better, when invested with an imaginary value by the consent of the community to use it as a medium of exchange, and by their confidence that the promise to pay on demand with which it is stamped will be realized, provided that no more than one-fifth or one-fiftieth, as the case may be, of the amount of these promises shall ever be required to be performed.
Nothing can in fact be more absurd than this notion, to which the profound ignorance that seems to prevail among most of our mercantile classes upon the first principles of political economy, has given vogue amongst them,-namely that there is not enough of gold and silver in the world to serve the function which these metals have heretofore been accustomed to perform, that of the common measure of value and medium of exchange. It might with as much reason be objected to the yard-stick that there are not enough of them, for the purposes of measurement, or that it does not stretch with the increase of the amount of commodities to which it is to be applied. It is plain that half of the existing quantity would answer very nearly, if not quite, as well, the nominal scale of prices of all commodities simply graduating itself accordingly, and other metals being more extensively used for the smaller subdivisions of silver which might then become inconveniently minute in size. And at any rate so long as such enormous quantities of these metals continue locked up uselessly in the form of massive articles of luxury and display, from which the urgency of demand created by deficiency of supply would soon call them forth into activity in the shape of money, it is indeed amazing that any person pretending to