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Special circumstances account for deviations from the ordinary state of things in a few particular years. An excess of exports, during the latter portion of the same period, took place in the commerce of Russia through the ports of the Euxine, which became still more strikingly developed subsequently to her possession of the Crimea, which was long an object of ambition to her rulers, and was most insidiously sought to be achieved. During the years 1776 to 1780 she had exported from the ports of that sea to the value of 903,818 roubles against an import of 276.504 roubles only. From this point d'appui, it is not concealed by Russian historians, she aimed at grasping a share in the valuable commerce between India and Europe, and established a considerable traffic with the former country, Persia, and other Eastern nations, the central seat of which was established at Astrakan.
It is clear that, up to the close of the eighteenth century, before the yield of her mines of the precious metals had been so enormously increased by their discovery in the Eastern Siberian range, the aggressive career of Russia was mainly supported by the influx of gold and silver to balance her transactions with foreign countries. The only exceptions to this general course of Russian commerce occurred in her transactions overland with Prussia on the European frontier, and with Persia. There was a slight excess of imports over exports in her commerce with these countries; and, with respect to China, the exports about balanced the imports.
During the fifty-four years which have passed of the present century the same principle has pervaded her commercial transactions with every country, and has been carried out with very great success. Great Britain, in particular, has been constantly
22,964,618 23,019,175 19,290,779
her debtor for large balances, to be satisfied in the precious metals.
We need scarcely be at a loss to account for the amazing strides in substantial power made by Russia during the present century, and especially within the past few years, or at her being able to withstand the lavish war-expenditure incurred by the present Czar and his predecessor. During twenty-six successive years, a war has been waged with the Circassians, which is said to have involved a sacrifice of life to the awful amount of about 600,000 Russians. The war with the Turks in 1828 and 1829 was accompanied by a similarly awful sacrifice of life, 50,000 Russians having perished by the plague, in addition to the number of lives lost on various battle-fields. Yet leaving out of consideration the increased yield of her mines, which is the unchallenged property of the Crown, we have never heard of any deficiency of the precious metals in that country. Personally, the present Czar especially has always been rich in their possession; and he has occasionally manifested his monetary power by financial operations upon the various exchanges in Europe, aud always with an ulterior motive rather than that of mere gain. One of his favourite weapons of offence has been the effort to bring about monetary crises in countries which showed a disposition to thwart his ambitious designs. The resources of his empire must have been prodigiously increased by the vast demand which recent legislation in this country, and the circumstances of European nations during the past twelve months especially, have created for one of its great staples-grain.
What is the lesson which the present position of Russia ought to teach mankind? Obviously this- and it is only a confirmation of the lesson which had been previously taught us
by the decline, in power and prosperity, of Spain and her South American colonies that the possession of the precious metals in the soil of a country, or however obtained, may be a curse instead of a blessing, when those metals are hoarded in a few hands, or absorbed by the Government, instead of being permitted to circulate freely to promote the growth of the arts and of commerce, and the employment of industry. The gold and silver of Russia have been directed to promote only the territorial aggrandisement and the ambition of her successive rulers; whilst the monopolies possessed by her nobility and great landowners have served mainly to feed their passion for profuse expenditure and ostentatious display. Externally imposing as a power amongst nations, internally she is full of rottenness. Her system is a grinding tyranny, encircling a nation of abject slaves, scarcely a degree removed by intellect and mental culture from barbarism. Such a country contains within itself the seeds of its own decline, or rather the combustible materials which must some day shatter the fabric of its imagined power into fragments; for Russia is not destined to sink gradually from the position which she has assumed in the world. Her breakup will be one of violence, and is probably not far distant, unless the advent to power of some wiser dynasty of sovereigns, and more honest and patriotic statesmen, interfere to prevent the catastrophe, by allowing their full development to the vast resources of her soil and position, and by alleviating the condition, both physical and mental, of the masses of her population.
Another important lesson may be derived from a glance at the whole career and policy of Russia since the time of Peter the Great. That policy has been directed towards acquiring and retaining the possession of as large an amount of the precious metals as possible, in addition to the produce of the mines, wherewith to carry on vast schemes of aggrandisement, and bring about extensions of her empire, so astutely conducted that the bulk of mankind, and even men reputed as far-seeing amongst
statesmen, have rarely discovered the objects which she was seeking to attain, until her prey was firmly clutched, or powerless at her feet. With the tortuous crawl of the serpent, she has made her slow approaches towards the accomplishment of those objects, progressing almost imperceptibly, yet still drawing nearer and nearer, always prepared for the final spring, until, in some hour of weakness on the part of her doomed victim, she has suddenly brought forth her hoarded millions, and swept him from her path. A full comprehension of the policy of Russia, and the genius of her political system, would have been especially valuable during the past twelve months. The secret of her power is also the secret of her weakness. We have committed a suicidal mistake in permitting her to enjoy the indirect facilities afforded by Prussia and other states of carrying on an export trade little diminished from its former amount, whilst we have been making a show of crippling it by an ostentatious blockade of her seaports. To some extent, indeed, we may have limited the amount, and diminished the profits of that trade. But this was not enough. Such a feeble half-and-half policy was not calculated to meet the emergency in which the Western Powers of Europe were placed by her insolent attack upon an unoffending ally, and her outrage upon international law. Moreover, she has the power of protecting herself from any material deficit being created in her financial resources, by the very simple step of limiting the amount of her imports, and thus maintaining her ability of drawing largely upon the stocks of the precious metals in Europe. We know that she is doing so at the present moment; and, as the result of our weakness and folly, it is well-nigh certain that she will be enabled, after all the reverses which she has sustained, to enter upon a new campaign in the ensuing spring, with resources little impaired, and probably with a still wilder desperation. It should be ever borne in mind that the loss of an army, or of half-a-dozen armies, or the destruction of fleets and fortresses, are lightly regarded by such a power as
Russia, swayed as her destinies are by a sovereign whom wounded pride and thwarted ambition have driven to the very verge of insanity. Let his empire, however, be once effectually cut off from commercial intercourse with the rest of the world; seal up the produce of its mines, its agricultural produce, and its manufactures, and thereby destroy the incomes of its nobles, its landowners, and its merchants; close stringently the avenues through which gold and silver, the basis of its monetary system, flow into the empire more abundantly than from the mines of the Czar, large as their produce is, and the voice of the Russian people will probably, before many months elapse, assume a potency which even that obstinate and fanatical man will find himself powerless to resist.
There is one source, indeed, from which the Czar, as a last hope, might draw largely, if permitted. It is well known that the Church, and the religious houses in Russia, are rich in the possession of the precious metals, as well as in revenues. The former, however, would be the most valuable, because the most easily available for his purposes. But history has shown us that religious establishments, however wealthy, have rarely yielded up, or even lent, their plate to sovereigns, except in exchange for some great boon to be conferred upon them. Within the memory of the present generation, Spain experienced how little the Romish Church within her borders would contribute, from its known wealth, even for the preservation of their country's liberties menaced by an invading foe. The effect of an application of Nicholas for a loan even of the church plate would most probably dissipate at once the pretence that his aggression upon Turkey was a religious movement, entered into from a consideration for the condition of the Christian subjects of the Sultan, and not, what all the world considers it, a wanton attempt to achieve, by the combined agency of fraud, hypocrisy, and violence, a long-contemplated object of ambition.
We shall not pursue further the inquiry as to the acquisition made to the stock of the precious metals in the world up to the period of the dis
covery of the resources of Australia and California. It is enough to know that they barely sufficed to maintain the value of the representative currency issued by the solvent and honourable nations of Europe. Our task is rather to glance backwards, and trace the effects of the various accessions to our stock of gold upon the various countries from which it has been supplied. Spain, it is clear, has supplied the bulk of the gold and silver at present circulating in Europe. And that country has fallen from its once proud position to that of a bankrupt nation, whose promises to pay are no longer trusted by the most reckless of the usurious community. Her commerce is as limited as her credit, and is in fact carried on principally by British capital. She is at the present moment indebted to foreign aid for the little liberty which her people enjoy. The increase of the precious metals of Russia during the past half-century has only enabled her to constitute herself a nuisance to the civilised world. Her own civilisation it has not advanced an iota. claws of the barbarian have been strengthened, and are being wetted in the blood of the nations, whom folly has driven to worship a metal, which the poor Peruvian Indian only regarded as affording the nearest approach to the ocular effulgence of the god which he blindly worshipped. Peru and Mexico, from which we received in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries such a vast amount of mineral wealth, are thriving countries, and have assumed a high position amongst the commercial peoples of the world; but far less through the instrumentality of their mineral wealth, which is still large, than from the proceeds of the industry engaged in the cultivation of their fertile soils, and the freedom of action which ameliorated laws and institutions have secured for their populations. We are still receiving from them, it is true, large occasional remittances of the precious metals; but these are being distributed amongst the industrious classes of Europe, instead of being absorbed by unprincipled adventurers as the proceeds of the fee-simple of millions of human beings held in abject slavery. These countries are supplying to
Europe most valuable raw materials; -wool, that beautiful llama wool especially, which the ignorant Spanish conquerors of Peru destroyed as beneath their consideration; - hides, tallow, and other products;-and are, moroever, carrying on a highly profitable commerce with those very Eastern countries which the Spaniards neglected whilst so intensely eager in the gratification of their greed for gold. The main sources of the strength of Russia, we have already shown, are not the rich yield of her mines of gold and silver. Eastern nations furnish us with the products of their soil, or of their industry and art, instead of mineral wealth, diffusing blessings amongst their own populations, whilst supplying us with most grateful comforts and aids to our mercantile and manufacturing supremacy.
Upon the world at large, however, the effect of the increase of the precious metals, from time to time, has exercised a most beneficent effect, by increasing the medium used for the exchange of commodities-in other words, money-and enhancing the reward of industry by holding out the prospect to the industrious classes of increased ability to consume, as the precious metals used as money became more abundant. In every age of the world prices have been enhanced by an increase of the medium of exchange. In ancient and medieval times this medium was entirely gold and silver. In more modern days representative money has occasionally exercised the same influence. Political economists preach to us of the evils of inflated currencies and depreciated representative money; but so long as an ample currency, be it composed of what it may, keeps industry employed, the result must be increasing capital, and its diffusion amongst the masses; whilst its opposite, a restricted circulation, and consequent cheapness, must be an accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, and the decline in the social scale of the many.
Vast as we have seen the addition made to the stores of the precious metals, and therefore of money, for which those metals formed the basis, during the eighteenth century, a review of the data which we have laid
before our readers must show that the commercial transactions of the world had materially exceeded them. Prices of most commodities retrograded daring the eighteenth century, and until recently, although we were compelled, during a portion of this period, to have recourse to a paper currency. This very resort, however, rendered compulsory by the disturbed state of the continent of Europe, served to prove the position for which we are contending-that more money means more reward for industry and art— more products and more created capital; whilst monetary restriction means industry neglected, its rewards confiscated, the few rolling in wealth, and the many sinking into poverty. We are not here about to enter into a currency discussion; but we may, without far transgressing the bounds of our subject, point to our position in 1847 and 1848, and ask what would have been our position had not nature's extension of the currency come to our aid, in maintaining a system of free imports, concurrently with a war against what has long been regarded, and with some truth, as the colossal country of Europe.
The doctrine that prices are affected by the increase or decrease of the precious metals, has been denied by what may be fitly called the matter-of-fact school of political economists, who, in one breath, contend that gold and silver are mere commodities, and in the next that their possession forms the only just basis of money, and profess a wish to see all money composed of them. The error of these men arises from their want of inclination to observe attentively the mode in which considerable accessions of the precious metals in any community act upon its social condition. If regarded merely as a commodity, or devoted mainly to the purposes of art and household or personal adornment, the effect of such increase would be undoubtedly small. But when converted into the form which enables it to afford additional employment to industry and enterprise, increased consumption by the masses begins to affect the prices of all other commodities, and enhancement goes on until production has overtaken the increase in the metals by which prices are
measured. We have been experiencing something very like this during the past two years. There is scarcely a commodity to be found the price of which is not higher at the present moment than on the average of the past quarter of a century, as measured in the precious metals. Their relation to each other, however, is little changed. This would not be the case, however, were the production of any particular commodity to be suddenly or largely increased in excess of the demand for it. Were the production of iron, for example, to be increased by 50 per cent, its relation to copper, the production of which had not creased, as well as its price, as measured in money, would be sensibly diminished.
additional five millions of gold in her commerce, would exercise an influence over the entire community greater than the discovery of another California or Australia.
And here a most important question suggests itself for consideration, and will most probably before long be discussed with great interest. A short while ago, in the pages of this Magazine, reference was made to the discovery of the precious metals in California and Australia, as "the currency extension act of nature." As such it was operating at the period when the article was published-January 1851 in--and for some time subsequently; but more recent experience must have shaken the confidence then felt by many parties, that the effect of continued large imports of gold and silver would suffice, without legislation, to rid us of the disastrous effects attendant upon the working of our existing monetary system. We are now in a better position to solve the question,
We have felt the effect upon prices of the recent accession to the supply of the precious metals, afforded us from California and Australia, much less sensibly than we should have done, for several very weighty reasons. In the first place, the supply from these countries has had to act upon a vastly increased stock existing in the world, as well as upon a commerce increasing at a rate equal to, if not exceeding, that of the precious metals. If an accession of eight millions sterling per annum, during the eighteenth century, kept pace with the monetary requirements of the world, forty millions sterling per annum, the produce, in round numbers, of California and Australia, is found little more adequate, if any, to keep pace with its increased requirements at the present time. In the next place, it must be borne in mind that the bulk of our large commercial transactions are carried on without requiring the presence of any large quantity of metallic money. It would probably excite the amazement of the sticklers for "hard money "—that god of some of our professing political economists-if they could see with what facility it is dispensed with in the Clearing-house in London, and on our Stock and Share Exchanges, and how little it enters into the vast import and export transactions of the country. At any given moment, in Great Britain at all events -such is the genius of her monetary laws-an assurance of the capability of the Bank of England to retain an
which we may put into the following form-Can we, by the aid of an increase of the world's stock of the precious metals merely, protect ourselves against those crises which periodically sweep away such vast masses of the capitalised industry of this country, and maintain for our merchants and manufacturers that ample, and, at the same time, elastic circulation of money throughout Great Britain which is required to enable them to compete effectively for their just share of the largely increased commerce of the world?
The answer, we think, must be in the negative; for, in the first place, there is no direct connection between the stock of the precious metals in the world, and the quantity of money permitted to be issued in Great Britain. We begin to find our currency expand, under our present money laws, only when those metals find their way into the coffers of the Bank of England, and compel the directors of that establishment to look round them for new channels, in which they, or their amount in representative paper, may be employed to advantage and with moderate safety. We have no security whatever how long such increased quantity of gold and silver may be permitted to remain in the