PEECIOUS METAL INDUSTRY IN THE UNITED STATES. 91
Its destruction would therefore constitute a serious loss to the nation's industry. It may fairly be doubted, however, whether the course followed by the friends of this industry lias been the wisest that could have been pursued, and it seems probable that if no attempt had been made to sustain the price of the metal by legislation, but it had been left to follow the natural course of trade, under the laws of supply and demand which govern the production of other commodities, it would to-day be in a more healthy condition. While its growth and increase of product would have been less rapid, those engaged in it would have been better able to forecast the future course of the i>rice of silver, and would have regulated their investments accordingly.
In regard to the question of a gold or silver standard of value for coinage, it may be argued that a double standard is theoretically impossible, especially for metals whose relative production varies so greatly as has that of silver and gold, both of which have other and varying uses in the arts besides those of coinage. From a purely theoretical point of view the ideal standard would be a metal which is useless for any other'purpose than for coinage. The world's experience has, however, failed to find such a metal, though some have been tried.
It is about thirty years since the sudden increase in the world's supply of gold so disturbed monetary conditions as to lead to the advocacy by some wise and long-sighted men 'of the establishment of silver as the sole standard of value for coinage. That sudden increase was, however, due to a cause that is not likely to occur again in the world's history, viz., the simultaneous discovery in virgin territories on two continents of enormously rich-placer deposits.
The recent overproduction of silver, relatively to that of gold, which lias led to an attempt to establish the world's coinage on a purely gold standard, is, however, the result of a normal and, for the most part, healthy development of industrial conditions over a long series of years.
That these conditions are at present abnormally disturbed, and that those engaged in the silver industry find themselves in danger of great pecuniary loss, is apparently due, in large measure, to effects produced upon the price of the metal by legislative action. If the natural law of supply and demand be allowed to act freely, and if no attempt be made to control by legislative enactment the ratio between gold and silver, the variations will be less violent and less injurious to the industrial interests based upon silver mining.
If we examine the broader field of the world's production of the precious metals during the period under consideration, bearing in mind the necessary imperfection of statistics, since returns from many countries, such as China and some of the South American States, are at times entirely wanting, we find the annual output of gold fairly > regular from 1880 to 1887 at a little over $100,000,000. From 1887 to 1892 (full returns for the latter not being obtainable) there has been a gradual increase to $125,000,000. The greater part of this product