3. The demonetization of silver, which has taken place in various countries. In 1865 Italy adopted unconvertible paper-money, its previous metallic currency, nearly all silver, having been about $90,000,000, Doubtless, nearly all this amount was thrown upon the markets of the world. But this produced no appreciable effect upon the price of silver, which remained as formerly (62 3-4d.) until 1872; after which it fell rapidly, reaching its lowest point in 1876, when it stood at 46 3-4d. During the same period $30,000,000 were also thrown upon the markets of the world by Germany, and $10,000,000 more by the Scandinavian kingdoms. These direct effects of the demonetization of silver down to 1876 did not of themselves, produce any appreciable effect upon its price, as undoubtedly its very low price in 1876 was greatly due to panic. In resuming specie payments in 1879 the United States adopted a gold standard; Italy resumed specie payments in gold on the twelfth day of April, 1883; and in Europe, the previous annual absorption of silver in the leading countries has entirely ceased. The Occident, led by England, is abandoning silver as money, thereby reducing it to a mere metal; and thus depriving it of the chief source of that value, which it has possessed since the beginning of civilized society. Germany has discarded silver, and adopted a single gold standard; so have the Scandinavian kingdoms; and France has closed her mint, since 1877, against silver, to avoid being deluged with the metal, discarded by her neighbors.
Silver, owing to the lesser amount in existence, and its less convenient portability, is fast being superseded by gold in monetary circles. Of the amount of the precious metals in existence, $8,166,000,000 are furnished by gold; and of their annual product $98,000,000 are furnished by it. The ratio of silver to gold has risen from fifteen and one-half, which it has maintained since 1700, to nineteen and one-half, at the present time, and with a still rising tendency. Owing to the great loss by abrasion of coin the amount of silver in existence has gained but little within the last forty-two years, it having increased but nine per cent, while that of gold has increased three hundred and thirteen per-cent. The price of the precious metals follow the great politico-economic law of supply and demand. Gold, owing to its great demand for international exchanges, has maintained its present price for the last one hundred and sixty years, while silver has declined twenty-two per cent. within thirteen. The prestige enjoyed for centuries, as the instrument and measure of commerce in all the civilized and trading parts of the world, and its normal currency, has been gradually lost since 1843, and will probably never be recovered by silver.
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By Atherton P. Mason, M.D.