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Whatever views may have been entertained prior to the acquisition of California as to the propriety of establishing a coinage department at the assay office, New York, the immense increase of the imports of gold to that city since that time is sufficient to remove all previous objections.
The tendency of the great movement of bullion towards New York from the most remote parts of the Union, is exhibited in the following summary of receipts at that port from California for the seven years elapsed since the assay office was established, in comparison with the total shipments from that State.
California shipments Total shipments from to New York.
1854.... 1855.. 1856. 1857.. 1858. 1859. 1860.
$46, 289, 000
$51, 328, 000 43,080,000 48, 887,000 48, 592, 000 47, 548, 000 47, 640,000 42, 325, 000
The following statement exhibits in contrast the amount of gold and silver bullion and foreign coin received from foreign countries at the several collection districts of the United States for the
ended June 30, 1859, in comparison with the amount received at New York from foreign countries and California :
Total imports of foreign coin and
7, 434, 789 00
Received at New York, as above stated.
Total received at New York in fiscal year 1859..... 50,000,000
In the fiscal year 1859-'60 the imports of gold and silver into the United States from foreign countries were $993, 130—those into New York from foreign countries and California, adding the same amount as in the previous year for passengers, were $44, 651,825, or more than forty-four times as much as from all foreign countries into the United States.
New York being the centre of domestic and foreign exchanges nearly all articles of merchandise are accumulated there, and bills are drawn against them from all parts of the country. No other article of ordinary commerce can be so cheaply carried as the precious metals. Hence they, more than any other representatives of value, seek the centre of commercial attraction. There is no part of the Union where, with temporary exceptions, a draft on New York will not command a premium.
The beneficial results arising from the establishment of an assay office at New York are proved by its having furnished to the public, during the seven years of its existence, fine bars to the value of $121,000,000, and received deposits amounting to more than $180,000,000. From its beginning, in October, 1854, to December 31, 1861, it sent to Philadelphia for coinage $113,972, 111. The annual average of gold alone thus forwarded has been $14, 229, 658. In comparison with this the coinage at the branch mints at Dahlonega and Charlotte is merely nominal. In 1860, the gold coinage at Dahlonega was only $69,085, and at Charlotte, $133,697. The whole amount of coinage of every kind at these two branch mints since their commencement in 1838 to 1861, is only $11,039,034, little more than two-thirds of the average amount sent from the assay office in New York for coinage, each year of its existence.
Great expense is incurred at New Orleans for a coinage having only an annual average of little more than $3,000,000, while at New York the assay office has furnished fine bars annually averaging $17,000,000, and forwarded elsewhere for coinage, yearly, $15, 301, 346. about five times the average of New Orleans. There is no reason why such privileges as are conferred by the accompanying bill should be denied to New York, where they are needed at least five times as much as in New Orleans, where they are granted. The cost of coinage to the people will be diminished in proportion as a larger amount of it is executed at one place.
During the seven years ended June 30, 1861, nearly twelve times as large an amount of gold of domestic production was received at the assay office in New York as at the mint in Philadelphia ; and in the six years ended June 30, 1860, more than ninety-eight times as large an amount of foreign bullion and coins was received at New York as at Philadelphia. This is shown by the following tables : Statement of gold of domestic production deposited at the mint, Philadelphia,
and at the assay office, New York, for the fiscal years 1855 to 1861, inclusively, showing whence it was received.
Statement of the foreign bullion and coins received at the ports of New York and Philadelphia from June 30, 1854, to June 30, 1860.
The public inconvenience and loss arising from coinage at so great a distance from the port into which bullion and coin are chiefly brought long ago attracted the notice of the mercantile community, and also of the government of this country. The attention of Congress was frequently directed to the subject by President Polk; and Mr. Walker, when Secretary of the Treasury, presented it to the consideration of the public on every suitable occasion.
He justly regarded coinage in New York as of great importance to the financial operations of the treasury, as well as highly advantageous to the national commerce. In his communication to Congress, dated December, 1848, he used the following words :
I renew the recommendations contained in all my annual reports for the establishment of a branch of the mint of the United States in the city of New York. That city, our great commercial metropolis, is advancing to its ultimate position, so important to the whole country as the emporium of universal commerce, the centre of international exchanges, and the storehouse of the products of the world. To attain this result we must secure for our great emporium, in competition with foreign cities, the command of her due proportion of coin and bullion. Now it is clear that where bullion cannot be coined, and the recoinage can take place, this cannot be accomplished. America is the great continent of the precious metals; they are now found in extraordinary quantities in our own Union, and to a vast extent in countries adjacent; yet nearly all this coin and bullion are diverted to other countries, and especially to Great Britain, being one of the chief instruments in aiding that country to maintain her command of the business of the world. By steamships and by exports of her own products and fabrics, she accumulates coin and bullion in London, and provides for their coinage and recoinage in the least time and without expense; and yet in our own commercial emporium we have no mint, or even a branch mint, for the important process of coinage or recoinage. If we would command the commerce of all nations, it must be through some one American empo. rium, the great centre of our own trade and business. The history of trade demonstrates that some such great point is indispensable to enable any nation to command universal commerce, and that such concentration at some one city, instead of injuring other cities, or parts of the same countries, is of immense benefit to all. There cannot be two or more financial centres of the foreign commerce of any one nation, any more than there can be two or more centres of a circle. The same principle of the centre of the trade of a nation applies to the trade of the world. There can be but one such centre for the world, and but one for each nation, which, in this country. from natural causes, must be at New York, where the competition must soon commence with foreign cities for the control of international commerce. Now, as the command of the specie of the world is of immense benefit to our whole country, and cau only be secured by making one of our own cities the centre of universal coinmerce, it is indispensable to success in this great American enterprise that specie and bullion should be invited from all the world to New York,
not by any unjust advantages, but by giving to it equal facilities with our other cities for coinage and recoinage.
"It is not for New York inerely, or for its commerce, that this mint is desired, but for the benefit of the whole Union. The storehouse of the goods and products of the Union must become the storehouse of its specie. Where the commerce and goods are, there the representatives of their value must be also, and there also should be every facility which a mint would give for increasing those circulating values, and for bringing them into immediate and active use in any form which might be desired. It is in vain to say that the specie or bullion brought by our commerce to New York can be sent to a distant point where there is a mint with but little delay, risk, or expense. It is clear there must be some risk, delay, and expense operating as a tax on the business of our commercial emporium, and to that extent rendering unequal her contest with European cities for. universal commerce. Coinage and recoinage should be immediate, without any risk, expense, or delay; and it might be said as regards merchandise, with nearly the same truth as is urged in relation to specie, that it would be no injury to the commerce of the Union if light and costly articles should be sent at but trifling expense, risk, or delay, from New York to some distant city, there be stamped, marked, or labelled, and then returned to New York for sale and distribution in the general markets of our own country or of the world.
"It seems to be forgotten by those who present such arguments, that in a great coinmercial capital where business to the amount of millions of dollars is transacted from ten to three o'clock, how important time is, where the delay of a day, vay, often an hour, may be most disastrous, and change the balance of profit to loss. Merchants and men of business should be permitted to change their bullion or foreign coin for American in a few hours or moments, as could be done at a mint, or receive at once mint certificates of deposit, which often might be to them of the greatest importance. The trade in bullion and specie, in itself one great branch of commerce indispensable in the transaction of business, and especially of international exchange, already exists to a great extent in New York, but is limited in diffusing its benefits to American commerce and exchanges by the want of a mint. Now it is subject to expense, risk, and delay to put it in a form for circulating values, that delay being itself a great loss of capital, while the foreign coin, consisting of denominations almost unknown to the great body of our people, is almost useless for the purpose of general circulation. It is the rapidity of the circulation of coin that
gives it its chief value, and accumulates capital by the speedy realization of profits ; and the American eagle, or half eagle, and other decimal coinage, might, in a few months, perform more of the functions of money and pass more rapidly through a greater variety of hands, than if it were in some foreign and unknown coin which would not circulate among the people. Hence it is that a mint at New York, to give activity to our specie-circulating capital by converting it at once into American coin, would be of vast importance to the whole Union.