What was the silver question
The Silver Question; How the Measure of Value Is Changed: An Address at the Annual Interstate Meeting of Farmers, at Williams Grove, Pa., August 29, 1890 by Adoniram Judson WarnerExcerpt from The Silver Question; How the Measure of Value Is Changed: An Address at the Annual Interstate Meeting of Farmers, at Williams Grove, Pa., August 29, 1890
The importance of precision and accuracy in weights and measures is so well understood by all that the least variation in any standard would not be tolerated hence no pains have been spared to secure the utmost precision and certainty in units of length, of volume, of weight, time and force.
Years were consumed by a learned commission in measuring a. Quadrant of the earths meridian to establish for all time a standard unit of length.
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Efforts to induce inflation into the American economy, the panacea of debtors, had been present from earliest times. Some of this enthusiasm was devoted to paper money schemes, such as the land bank ideas of colonial times and the greenback agitation of the post- Civil War era. Others hoped to lessen debtors' burdens by enacting programs dealing with the nation's coinage. In , Congress established a relationship between silver and gold at the ratio of 16 to 1 meaning that 16 ounces of silver were to be equal in value to one ounce of gold. During the war years of the s, little silver was mined and the open market price rose sharply. Miners stopped selling their silver to the government and instead found buyers from the ranks of jewelers and other users of the product. In , reacting to market realities, the Grant administration demonetized silver, leaving gold as the sole standard of the nation's currency.
The bitter controversy surrounding the issues of "free silver" and "sound money," so central to the campaign, has proved difficult for historians to explain. Partisans on both sides made exaggerated claims of the impact monetary policy could have on the nation's economic health. They implied that coinage of silver on Bryan's side or adherence to the gold standard on the Republican side was the single key to prosperity--and sometimes to the nation's honor. Oddly, before both McKinley and Bryan had focused more attention on the tariff than on currency issues. Despite his party's platform, McKinley sought to emphasize the tariff and to avoid being labelled a "monometallist" or "bimetallist," leading to accusations of waffling. While he was a Congressman, Bryan allegedly once said that "the people of Nebraska are for free silver, so I am for free silver. I will look up the arguments later.
Free Silver Movement , in late 19th-century American history, advocacy of unlimited coinage of silver. Supporters of free silver included owners of silver mines in the West, farmers who believed that an expanded currency would increase the price of their crops, and debtors who hoped it would enable them to pay their debts more easily. For true believers, silver became the symbol of economic justice for the mass of the American people. The Free Silver Movement gained added political strength at the outset because of the sharp economic depression of the mids. Its first significant success was the enactment of the Bland-Allison Act in , which restored the silver dollar as legal tender and required the U. When farm prices improved in the early s, pressure for new monetary legislation declined, but the collapse of land and farm prices beginning in revived the demand by farmers for the unlimited coinage of silver.
Free silver was a major economic policy issue in lateth-century America. Its advocates were in favor of an expansionary monetary policy featuring the unlimited coinage of silver into money on demand, as opposed to strict adherence to the more carefully fixed money supply implicit in the gold standard. Supporters of an important place for silver in a bimetallic money system making use of both silver and gold , called " Silverites ", sought coinage of silver dollars at a fixed weight ratio of to-1 against dollar coins made of gold. Because the actual price ratio of the two metals was substantially higher in favor of gold at the time, most economists warned that the less valuable silver coinage would drive the more valuable gold out of circulation. While all agreed that an expanded money supply would inevitably raise prices, at issue was whether or not this inflationary tendency would be beneficial. The issue peaked from to , when the economy was wracked by a severe depression—remembered as the Panic of —characterized by falling prices deflation , high unemployment in industrial areas, and severe distress for farmers. The "free silver" debate pitted the pro-gold financial establishment of the Northeast, along with railroads, factories, and businessmen, who were creditors deriving benefit from deflation and repayment of loans with valuable gold dollars, against farmers who would benefit from higher prices for their crops and an easing of credit burdens.
Bryan, Religion, and the Silver Question by Pam Epstein, Vassar '99 The prevailing issue of the campaign between Bryan and McKinley was, without a doubt, the question of the gold standard versus free silver. Both the Republican and the Democratic platforms were based on their respective views of how currency should be managed in the future. The Republicans stood by the gold standard; they were for the "honest dollar. While this hotly contested issue was without question an entirely economic one, both Republicans and Democrats turned free silver into a moral and religious crusade as well. In many of his speeches, most notably the famous "Cross of Gold Speech" from the Democratic National Convention, Bryan used very strong religious imagery and analogy to push bimetallism. This can be attributed to more than just the simple fact that Bryan himself was an extremely religious man, who had originally planned to become a minister. The Democratic campaign rested on his ability to rouse small farmers and laborers alike to rally to their platform.