Samuel J. (Samuel Jones) Tilden.

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rency as may be presented for redemption, and such inconsider-
able portions of the legal tenders as individuals may, from
time to time, desire to convert for special use or in order to lay
by in coin their little stores of money.

To make the coin now in the Treasury available for the ob-
Resumption not J ects of this reserve, gradually to strengthen and

enlarge that reserve, and to provide for such
other exceptional demands for coin as may arise, does not seem
to me a work of difficulty. If wisely planned and discreetly
pursued, it ought not to cost any sacrifice to the business of
the country ; it should tend, on the contrary, to a revival of
hope and confidence. The coin in the Treasury on the 30th of
June, including what is held against coin certificates, amounted
to nearly seventy-four millions. The current of precious metals
which has flowed out of our country for the eleven years from
July 1, 1865, to June 30, 1876, averaging nearly seventy-six
millions a year, was eight hundred and thirty-two millions in
the whole period, of which six hundred and seventeen millions
were the product of our own mines. To amass the requisite
quantity by intercepting from the current flowing out of the
country, and by acquiring from the stocks which exist abroad,
without disturbing the equilibrium of foreign money markets,
is a result to be easily worked out by practical knowledge and

With respect to whatever surplus of legal tenders the wants
of business may fail to keep in use, which, in order to save


interest, will be returned for redemption, they can either be
paid or they can be funded. Whether they continue as cur-
rency, or be absorbed into the vast mass of securities held as
investments, is merely a question of the rate of interest they
draw. Even if they were to remain in their present form, and
the Government were to agree to pay on them a rate of interest
making them desirable as investments, they would cease to
circulate, and would take their place with Government, State,
municipal, and other corporate and private bonds, of which
thousands of millions exist among us. In the perfect ease with
which they can be changed from currency into investments lies
the only danger to be guarded against in the adoption of gen-
eral measures intended to remove a clearly ascertained surplus ;
that is, the withdrawal of any which are not a permanent excess
beyond the wants of business. Even more mischievous would
be any measure which affects the public imagination with the
fear of an apprehended scarcity. In a community where credit
is so much used, fluctuations of values and vicissitudes in busi-
ness are largely caused by the temporary beliefs of men even
before those beliefs can conform to ascertained realities.

The amount of the necessary currency at a given time can-
not be determined arbitrarily, and should not be Amount of neces _
assumed on conjecture. That amount is subject sary currenc >'-
to both permanent and temporary changes. An enlargement
of it, which seemed to be durable, happened at the beginning
of the civil war by a substituted use of currency in place of
individual credits. It varies with certain states of business.
It fluctuates, with considerable regularity, at different seasons
of the year. In the autumn, for instance, when buyers of
grain and other agricultural products begin their operations,
they usually need to borrow capital or circulating credits by
which to make their purchases, and want these funds in cur-
rency capable of being distributed in small sums among numer-
ous sellers. The additional need of currency at such times is
5 or more per cent of the whole volume ; and if a surplus
beyond what is required for ordinary use does not happen to


have been on hand at the money centres, a scarcity of currency
ensues, and also a stringency in the loan market.

It was in reference to such experiences that, in a discussion
of this subject in my Annual Message to the New York Legis-
lature of Jan. 5, 1875, the suggestion was made that " the
Federal Government is bound to redeem every portion of its
issues which the public do not wish to use. Having assumed
to monopolize the supply of currency and enacted exclusions
against everybody else, it is bound to furnish all which the
wants of business require. . . . The system should passively
allow the volume of circulating credits to ebb and flow accord-
ing to the ever-changing wants of business. It should imitate
as closely as possible the natural laws of trade, which it has
superseded by artificial contrivances." And in a similar dis-
cussion in my Message of Jan. 4, 1876, it was said that re-
sumption should be effected " by such measures as would keep
the aggregate amount of the currency self-adjusting during all
the process, without creating at any time an artificial scarcity,
and without exciting the public imagination with alarms which
impair confidence, contract the whole large machinery of credit,
and disturb the natural operations of business."

" Public economies, official retrenchments, and wise finance '

Means of resump- are ^ ne means which the St. Louis Convention

indicates as provision for reserves and redemp-
tions. The best resource is a reduction of the expenses of the
Government below its income ; for that imposes no new charge
on the people. If, however, the improvidence and waste which
have conducted us to a period of falling revenues oblige us to
supplement the results of economies and retrenchments by
some resort to loans, we should not hesitate. The Government
ought not to speculate on its own dishonor in order to save
interest on its broken promises, promises which it still com-
pels private dealers to accept at a fictitious par. The highest
national honor is not only right, but would prove profitable.
Of the public debt nine hundred and eighty-five millions bear
interest at 6 per cent in gold, and seven hundred and twelve


millions at 5 per cent in gold. The average interest is 5.58
per cent.

A financial policy which should secure the highest credit,
wisely availed of, ought gradually to obtain a reduction of 1 per
cent in the interest on most of the loans. A saving of 1 per
cent on the average would be seventeen millions a year in gold.
That saving, regularly invested at 4^- per cent, would in less
than thirty-eight years extinguish the principal. The whole
seventeen hundred millions of funded debt might be paid by
this saving alone, without cost to the people.

The proper time for resumption is the time when wise
preparations shall have ripened into a perfect Proper time for
ability to accomplish the object with a certainty resum P tlon -
and ease that will inspire confidence and encourage the reviv-
ing of business. The earliest time in which such a result can
be brought about is the best. Even when the preparations
shall have been matured, the exact date would have to be chosen
with reference to the then existing state of trade and credit
operations in our own country, the course of foreign commerce,
and the condition of the exchanges with other nations. The
specific measures and the actual date are matters of detail hav-
ing reference to ever-changing conditions ; they belong to the
domain of practical administrative statesmanship. The cap-
tain of a steamer, about starting from Xew York to Liverpool,
does not assemble a council over his ocean chart and fix an
angle by which to lash the rudder for the whole voyage. A
human intelligence must be at the helm to discern the shifting
forces of the waters and the winds ; a human hand must be on
the helm to feel the elements day by day, and guide to a inas-
terv over them.


Such preparations are everything. Without them a legisla-
tive command fixing a day, an official promise p reparat ions for
fixing a day, are shams. They are worse ; they resumption.
are a snare and a delusion to all who trust them. They destroy
all confidence among thoughtful men, whose judgment will
at last sway public opinion. An attempt to act on such a


command or such a promise without preparation would end
in a new suspension. It would be a fresh calamity, prolific
of confusion, distrust, and distress.

The Act of Congress of the 14th of January, 1875, enacted
The \et of Jan. that on anc ^ a fter the 1st of January, 1879, the

Secretary of the Treasury shall redeem in coin
the legal-tender notes of the United States on presentation at
the office of the Assistant-Treasurer in the citv of New York.


It authorized the Secretary " to prepare and provide for" such
resumption of specie payments by the use of any surplus
revenues not otherwise appropriated, and by issuing in his
discretion certain classes of bonds.

More than one and a half of the four years have passed.
Congress and the President have continued ever since to unite
in acts which have legislated out of existence every possible
surplus applicable to this purpose. The coin in the Treasury
claimed to belong to the Government had on the 30th of
June fallen to less than forty-five millions of dollars, as
against fifty-nine millions on the 1st of January, 1875 ; and
the availability of a part of that sum is said to be question-
able. The revenues are falling faster than appropriations
and expenditures arc reduced, leaving the Treasury with
diminishing resources. The Secretary has done nothing under
his power to issue bonds.

The legislative command, the official promise fixing a day for
resumption have thus far been barren. No practical prepara-
tions toward resumption have been made. There has been no
progress ; there have been steps backward.

There is no necromancy in the operations of government ;
the homely maxims of every-day life are the best standards for
its conduct. A debtor who should promise to pay a loan out of
surplus income, yet be seen every day spending all he could lay
his hands on in riotous living, would lose all character for
honesty and veracity. His offer of a new promise or his pro-
fession as to the value of the old promise, would alike provoke


The St. Louis platform denounces the failure for eleven years
to make a'ood the promise of the legal-tender Resumption plan

of the St. Louis

notes. It denounces the omission to accumulate platform.
" any reserve for their redemption." It denounces the conduct
" which during eleven years of peace has made no advances
toward resumption, no preparations for resumption, but in-
stead has obstructed resumption by wasting our resources and
exhausting all our surplus income ; and while professing to
intend a speedy return to specie payments, has annually enacted
fresh hindrances thereto." And having first denounced the
barrenness of the promise of a day of resumption, it next
denounces that barren promise as " a hindrance " to resumption.
It then demands its repeal, and also demands the establishment
of " a judicious system of preparation ' for resumption. It
cannot be doubted that the substitution of " a system of
preparation" without the promise of a day, for the worthless
promise of a day without " a system of preparation " would be
the gain of the substance of resumption in exchange for its

Nor is the denunciation unmerited of that improvidence
which, in the eleven years since the peace, has consumed
forty-five hundred millions of dollars, and yet could not
afford to give the people a sound and stable currency. Two
and a half per cent on the expenditures of these eleven years,
or even less, would have provided all the additional coin
needful to resumption.

The distress now felt by the people in all their business and
industries, though it has its principal cause in the Relief to business
enormous waste of capital occasioned by the false
policies of our Government, has been greatly aggravated by
the mismanagement of the currency. Uncertainty is the pro-
lific parent of mischiefs in all business. Never were its evils
more felt than now. Men do nothing, because they are unable
to make any calculations on which they can safely rely ; they
undertake nothing, because they fear a loss in everything they
would attempt: they stop and wait. The merchant dares

VOL. II. 24


not buy for the future consumption of his customers. The
manufacturer dares not make fabrics which may not refund
his outlay. He shuts his factory and discharges his workmen.
Capitalists cannot lend on security they consider safe, and
their funds lie almost without interest. Men of enterprise
who have credit, or securities to pledge, will not borrow.
Consumption has fallen below the natural limits of a reason-
able economy. Prices of many things are under their range
in frugal specie-paying times before the civil war. Vast masses
of currency lie in the banks unused. A year and a half ago
the legal tenders were at their largest volume, and the twelve
millions since retired have been replaced by fresh issues of
fifteen millions of bank-notes. In the mean time the banks
have been surrendering about four millions a month, because
they cannot find a profitable use for so many of their notes.

The public mind will no longer accept shams ; it has suf-
fered enough from illusions. An insincere policy increases
distrust ; an unstable policy increases uncertainty. The
people need to know that the Government is moving in the
direction of ultimate safety and prosperity, and that it is doing
so through prudent, safe, and conservative methods, which will
be sure to inflict no new sacrifice on the business of the coun-
try. Then the inspiration of new hope and well-founded
confidence will hasten the restoring processes of nature, and
prosperity will begin to return.

The St. Louis Convention concludes its expression in regard
to the currency by a declaration of its convictions as to the
practical results of the system of preparations it demands.
It says : " We believe such a system, well devised, and above
all intrusted to competent hands for execution, creating at no
time an artificial scarcity of currency, and at no time alarming
the public mind into a withdrawal of that vaster machinery of
credit by which 95 per cent of all business transactions are
performed, a system open, public, and inspiring general con-
fidence, would, from the day of its adoption, bring healing
on its wings to all our harassed industries, set in motion the


wheels of commerce, manufactures, and the mechanic arts,
restore employment to labor, and renew in all its natural
sources the prosperity of the people."

The Government of the United States, in my opinion, can
advance to a resumption of specie payments on its legal-tender
notes by gradual and safe processes tending to relieve the
present business distress. If charged by the people with
the administration of the executive office, I should deem it a
duty so to exercise the powers with which it has been or may
be invested by Congress as best and soonest to conduct the
country to that beneficent result.

The Convention justly affirms that reform is necessary in the
civil service, necessary to its purification, neces- Civil service re _
sary to its economy and its efficiency, necessary
in order that the ordinary employment of the public business
may not be " a prize fought for at the ballot-box, a brief re-
ward of party zeal, instead of posts of honor assigned for proved
competency and held for fidelity in the public employ." The
Convention wisely added that " reform is necessary even more
in the higher grades of the public service. President, Vice-
President, judges, senators, representatives, Cabinet officers,
these and all others in authority are the people's servants ;
their offices are not a private perquisite, they are a public

Two evils infest the official service of the Federal Govern-
ment. One is the prevalent and demoralizing notion that the
public service exists not for the business and benefit of the
whole people, but for the interest of the office-holders, who
are in truth but the servants of the people. Under the in-
fluence of this pernicious error public employments have been
multiplied, the numbers of those gathered into the ranks of
office-holders have been steadily increased beyond any possible
requirement of the public business, while inefficiency, pecula-
tion, fraud, and malversation of the public funds, from the
highest places of power to the lowest, have overspread the
whole service like a leprosy.


The other evil is the organization of the official class into a
body of political mercenaries governing the caucuses and dic-
tating the nominations of their own party, and attempting to
carry the elections of the people by undue influence and by
immense corruption-funds systematically collected from the
salaries or fees of office-holders. The official class in other
countries, sometimes by its own weight, and sometimes in alli-
ance with the army, has been able to rule the unorganized
masses, even under universal suffrage. Here it has already
grown into a gigantic power, capable of stifling the inspirations
of a sound public opinion and of resisting an easy change of
administration, until misgovernment becomes intolerable, and
public spirit has been stung to the pitch of a civic revolution.

The first step in reform is the elevation of the standard by
which the appointing power selects agents to execute official
trusts. Next in importance is a conscientious fidelity in the
exercise of the authority to hold to account and displace un-
trustworthy or incapable subordinates. The public interest
in an honest, skilful performance of official trust must not be
sacrificed to the usufruct of the incumbents.

After these immediate steps, which will insure the exhibition
of better examples, we may wisely go on to the abolition of un-
necessary offices ; and, finally, to the patient, careful organiza-
tion of a better civil service system under the tests, wherever
practicable, of proved competency and fidelity.

While much may be accomplished by these methods, it might
encourage delusive expectations if I withheld here the expres-
sion of my conviction that no reform of the civil service in this
country will be complete and permanent until its chief magis-
trate is constitutionally disqualified for re-election ; experience
having repeatedly exposed the futility of self-imposed restric-
tions by candidates or incumbents. Through this solemnitv onlv

v O t/ /

can he be effectually delivered from his greatest temptation
to misuse the power and patronage with which the Executive
is necessarily charged.

Educated in the belief that it is the first duty of a citizen of


the Republic to take his fair allotment of care and trouble in
public affairs, I have for forty years as a private
citizen fulfilled that duty. Though occupied in
an unusual degree during all that period with the concerns of
government, I have never acquired the habit of official life.
When, a year and a half ago, I entered upon my present trust,
it was in order to consummate reforms to which I had already
devoted several of the best years of my life. Knowing as I do,
therefore, from fresh experience how great the difference is
between gliding through an official routine and working out
a reform of systems and policies, it is impossible for me to
contemplate what needs to be done in the Federal administra-
tion without an anxious sense of the difficulties of the under-
taking. If summoned by the suffrages of my countrymen to
attempt this work, I shall endeavor, with God's help, to be the
efficient instrument of their will.




magistrate of the State of New York, it is my pleasing office to
welcome you to this charming and fashionable resort, which is
fast becoming the shrine of political, social, and scientific pil-
grimages. Two great conventions, forming an essential share
of the voluntary machinery by which the competitions of par-
ties are carried on, and elective government over a continent
is made possible, have recently held their sessions in this place ;
and to-day your Conference, connected with the Association
for the Advancement of Social Science, brings to this same
delightful retreat a class of men with very different objects, not
less important, more comprehensive in their scope, and more
permanent in their consequences. It brings here gentlemen
distinguished for their learning, for their accomplishments,
and for their benevolence. A conference of charities ! What
a noble rivalry is implied in these words. You are here, not
to further your own interests, not even to promote the material
well-being of those communities which you represent; but to
consider what can best be done to cure the wounds and mala-
dies of society. What has thus far been accomplished toward
removing the evils of pauperism, crime, and insanity will be
disclosed to you when the regular reports of the committees

1 Delivered in the Town Hall at Saratoga, Sept. 5, 1876.

1876.] ON CHARITY. 375

charged with these subjects shall come before you. I will not
anticipate them or trench upon their domain. My office is
simply to express to you the earnest sympathy, the strong
approval, and the spirit of co-operation of this great common-
wealth, which I represent to-day.

In the past three centuries the progress of science has been
something marvellous. In astronomy, geology, physics, and
chemistry, and in all of those departments of science which
in modern phrase are comprehended under the name of " bi-
ology," the achievements have been so vast that the earlier dis-
coverers in science would have to go through a fresh novitiate
to understand what are now ascertained facts. Kepler and
Newton would scarcely comprehend the revelations of the mod-
ern instruments that have been employed to discover the inte-
rior constitution of the heavenly bodies. While they could
merely watch and define the general movements and explore
the surfaces of these bodies, it is given to us to discern their
mysteries. Priestley, Lavoisier, and even Davy would have to
go through new training to enable them to be called chemists.
In other departments of science the achievements have been
equally surprising.

By what means, by what methods, have these great results
been accomplished ? Was it by patient study, by diligent expe-
riment, by researches persistently carried into the secret work-
ing-places of Nature ? You will answer, it was not by these
means alone. It was in a large degree by the application of
scientific analysis and scientific methods to these inquiries.
Now you propose, gentlemen, to extend the application of this
method still farther, and to apply the same implements and
modes of inquisition to the problems of human society. I
congratulate you that, in doing it, you do it under the auspices
of the Society for the Promotion of Social Science. I feel quite
sure that you must derive instruction and aid at least that
you will absorb much that is interesting and that is valuable
from intercourse with the intelligent, cultivated gentlemen
who belong to that Association. You assume that the complex


phenomena of society, its grand tides of movement, its succes-
sions of changes, growth and decay of populations, mortality,
pauperism, crime, are capable of being analyzed, studied, and
reduced to formulas. Now, gentlemen, it seems to me that no
more interesting, no more important object of investigation
could be presented to the human mind. I am quite sure that
the application of the same philosophy which has achieved such
grand results elsewhere will astonish you, will astonish every
one, by the results which it will attain in this new department
to which it will be applied. Even those most uncertain things
that depend on the human will are capable of being studied, of
being analyzed, of being classified, and their results stated.

Human life has been held forth in the sacred writings and
in all ages as the most uncertain thing possible ; and yet, if
you will take a large number of individual lives and group
them, you can compute within a fraction their average dura-
tion. In the great metropolis in which my home is, and its

Online LibrarySamuel J. (Samuel Jones) TildenThe writings and speeches (Volume 1) → online text (page 29 of 52)