Proceedings of the Legislature upon the subject of the currency.
--There is no more pithy and beautiful saying than that of Lord Bolingbroke. "History is philosophy teaching by example." There is none falser or less applicable to the nature of man. No man ever learned anything but by his own experience, and nations are but assemblages of men.
Our Legislature have before their eyes the example of the most stupendous financial failure that the world ever be held.
We mean, of course, that of the French Revolution
They are deliberately adopting, one after the other, all the expedients resorted to by the philosophers of the Constituent Assembly, of the National Assembly, and of the Convention
— expedients which aggravated to an inconceivable degree the evils they were proposed to remedy.
In the first place, they are about to place a maximum
The Convention tried that.
They first put a maximum
upon bread and butchers' meat.
The first consequence was to ruin the butchers and bakers, to fill the stalls with carrion and the bakers' shops with black bread, which the near prospect of starvation alone could induce any man to eat. In a little time even this bread became so scarce that the crowds assembled at the bakers' shops fought for it as dogs fight for a bone, and, much bloodshed having been the consequence, the wisdom of the Convention
could devise no better remedy than to fix a rope to the door of each shop, and to decree that whoever could get hold of it first should be first served, and that nobody should be served who did not have it in his hand.
As it cannot be expected of political philosophers and talking legislators that they should be gifted with so vulgar a quality as common sense, they overlooked the very striking probability that men would fight for the rope as frequently and as hard as they had hitherto fought for the first turn at the bread.
It so happened, however, and their ingenuity not being sufficient to carry them farther, they disturbed the mob no farther, but suffered them to go on and fight in peace.
To improve the quality of the bread, however, and to remedy the deficiency in the supply of that somewhat necessary article, they put a maximum
also upon the products of the earth.
This had an effect the contrary to that which was anticipated, for the farmers refused to produce, and the scarcity grew into famine.
The guillotine, though sufficiently active, could only bring the horse to the water.
It could not make him drink.
The farmers would not continue their operations, simply because they were ruined by arbitrary requisitions, and could not. So the Convention
took matters into their own hands, and themselves undertook to feed 630,000 people — that being the population of Paris
Our legislators propose to adopt this system most vigorously. --If they will only enact a few hundred portable guillotines into existence, and send them around to enforce the maximum, they will, no doubt, bring Richmond
into the same condition that Paris
was in 1793.
It takes time,
however, to ruin a country.
We doubt whether this can be done before the winter.
The Convention took all the pensions
(boarding houses) into their own hands and put a maximum
This example is sedulously followed by our Legislature.
They have determined that board shall not exceed a certain sum per month.
This is all right, all patriotic, all just.
One hundred dollars in the Memminger assignats will bring just ten dollars in specie or sterling bills.
It is perfectly fair to allow no boarding-house keeper to receive a larger sum per month.
This is an excellent rule, and its beauties become more and more apparent every month.
is ripping away at the rate of twelve millions a week — his labors in bringing the currency down to the exact value of the very indifferent paper which expresses it are truly Herculean.
In a few months he will bring down the dollar in assignats to one-twentieth, and then the boarding-house keeper will get exactly five dollars for feeding a hungry month a whole month.
Many of them are respectable ladies, laboring to support large families.
Let them suffer.
In the revolutionary war of '76'82 the Legislature of Virginia abolished all auction sales
by a solemn act. In twelve months after it reinstated them.
They found that if producers were not allowed to sell by auction they would not produce, or would not sell at all.--But our legislators spurn examples.
stopped all auctions, shut up all retail stores, abolished all corporations, stopped all industry, and took the whole business of the country into their own hands.
Let our Legislature try the same thing.
The result in France
was very encouraging.--Famine, pestilence, bloodshed, and every other evil that was let out of the fabled box of Pandora
pervaded the land.
Lastly, the Convention
broke up all the banks and all the brokers.
They guillotined every man who was convicted of selling assignats for less than their nominal value in gold.
This example our Legislature could not overlook.
They are devising high penalties for selling gold at a higher price than Memminger
Penalties for traffic in gold have heretofore been prescribed by nearly every civilized country under the sun, and they have invariably operated as premia
for the exportation of gold.
All this time the "infernal machine" is operating with the most inexorable energy.
Our legislators do not reflect at all that the depreciation of the currency is the main cause of the nominal
high prices, and that inflation is the cause of the depreciation.
P. S.--The foregoing article was written several days since.
Its appearance has been delayed by the heavy pressure upon our limited space.
The leader in yesterday's Enquirer
was of similar purport to this; yet neither was written with any knowledge of the existence of the other.
The simple facts of history leading to irresistible conclusions, readily explain the coincidence.