Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

-the mines continue at st rate of production, not 688 Dan £40,000,000 of gold will bec poured into the markets the world. Now, we have no deso to speak dogmatically. No man who has studied the subject will be themed to do so. But we have a pian case to put to the reader. It ght be a great assistance in calelating the extent of the coming fall in the value of gold, to know (1) the total amount of gold already in the possession of mankind, and (2) the amount of it which exists in the form of money,-neither of which points can be accurately determined. But, fortunately, we can make the calculation in such a way as will dispense with a knowledge of these two unknown quantities, and yet approach the truth on tolerably reliable grounds. Upwards of three centuries and a half have elapsed since the discovery of America; and in that time 2000 millions sterling, or at the rate of 5 millions annually, have been added to the gold and silver of the world. We know also that the hectolitre of wheat, which, in the years previous to 1492, cost at Paris from 2s. 6d. to 28. 9d., has cost on an average during the last half-century about 16s. 8d. Thus measured by the price of grain (the usual test appealed to in such cases), the value of money during the last three and a half centuries has fallen to only one-sixth of what it was. If, then, the addition of 2000 millions sterling of the precious metals, spread over 350 years, cause a fall of five-sixths in the value of money, what will be the effect of more than 500 millions of gold and silver (400 of gold and 100 of silver*) poured into the market during the next eleven years? £500,000,000 is only one-fourth of the amount added between 1492 and 1848; but then it will be poured into circulation in one thirtieth part of the time, or thirty times more rapidly;-a fact which necessarily implies that the increase of population, of commerce, and of luxury in Christendom, which must have done so much to neu

tralise the additions to the precious metals during the three and a half centuries subsequent to A.D. 1500, will be comparatively impotent to neutralise the effect of £500,000,000 thrown into the market during the next eleven years,-all the more so as the saturating process has already been going on to a considerable extent for some years past. In these remarks we have taken gold and silver together; but as the increase of silver since the end of the fifteenth century was four times greater than that of gold, it may be well to take the case of gold separately. The total increase of gold since that period was £400,000,000, and its decrease in value has been three-fourths. If, then, the addition of 400 millions of gold in 350 years cause that metal to fall to only one-fourth part of its value, what will be the effect of the same amount of gold poured into the market in less than eleven years? We need not attempt to predict what will be the extent of this fall in the value of moneywhether one - fourth, one-half, or what else; it suffices simply to state the case in order to convince every one that a fall in the value of money is at hand, and that the fall will be a serious one. Moreover, be it borne in mind, that as the standard of the British currency is gold, and gold alone, the coming plethora of that metal will tell upon our affairs with undivided force, and with results even more patent than in other countries.

Every one knows the extraordinary productiveness of the gold-mines at present. We have confined our views to a continuance of the present state of matters for barely eleven years, and have reasoned as if, after that date, the produce of the mines would fall to their old level. And on that very limited supposition we have indicated how great will be the effect produced on the currency. But what will be the consequence if, as M. Chevalier thinks, the Californian and Australian mines continue at their present rate of productiveness for a

The present annual produce of the silver-mines is £9,000,000, having increased about £1,000,000 since the beginning of the century.

hundred years to come? In the Ural Mountains they wash with success sands which contain only one ounce of gold in 450,000 ounces of earth; and in the valley of the Rhine, the most favoured spots yield only one part of gold in 7 million parts of earth. On the other hand, the yield of the rich gold-fields of Siberia is 1 in 100,000; and, according to various accounts, the yield of the good soils of California and Australia is often as much. Supposing, then, says M. Chevalier, that the soils which can be most advantageously worked in California and Australia produce at this rate, and that the auriferous beds are on an average 39 inches in thickness, 1500 acres would yield £16,000,000 -more than an ordinary year's produce; and a hundred times this space would be sufficient to continue the present yield for a century. Now, this extent of auriferous soil, requisite for a century's production at the present rate, is less than the area of Middlesex-a very small space in comparison with the total superficies of countries so vast as Australia and California; and M. Chevalier thinks it is not a very sanguine view to suppose that in each of these countries alluvial ground of this extent and richness will be found.* Again the auriferous deposits of Siberia are in richness second to none, and in extent appear to be the largest in the world. "From Kamtschatka and the Ouskoi mountains, the base of which is washed by the Pacific Ocean, as far as the latitude of Perm, to the west of the Ural chain-over a distance which embraces half the circuit of the globe in those latitudes -the auriferous deposits are distributed in numerous groups and over a large surface, spreading over a zone averaging 550 miles in breadth." Humboldt, who, at the request of the late Czar, visited those regions

in 1829, in company with some distinguished savans, has testified that the presence of gold over this immense surface is one of the most remarkable phenomena of the kind in the world. What a vast field is here for future production! The Siberian mines, although very productive, are as yet very imperfectly worked. Labour cannot be got to develop their riches. But every year their yield is slowly increasing; the Chinese, undeterred by a tax, have already begun, under the new treaty, to flock to the auriferous region; and thus in a few years the labour-market of Siberia will be supplied, and a great increase may be looked for in the produce of the mines. Let us add but one word more on this point. A few months ago the President of the United States proposed to annex Sonora as a security for Mexico's discharge of her obligations to the Union; and it cannot be doubted that in a few years the Americans will take possession of that province, with its rich mines of the precious metals, and by-and-by obtain virtual possession of Mexico itself. The mines of that region of Central America are known to be exceedingly rich; and what will be the consequence of their coming into the possession of the energetic and skilful Anglo-Americans but a still further increase in the production of the precious metals, and an augmented plethora of gold and silver in the markets of the world?

We need not pursue the theme any further. The momentous consequences, alike commercial and social, certain to follow from so vast a revolution in the monetary arrangements of the world, lie beyond the scope of this article. For the present we leave them unportrayed, although not unsuggested. The most pressing need is to apply the striking facts we have

* To this estimate M. Chevalier adds - "There are several ways in which such a field of operations may be arrived at, for it must be borne in mind that frequently these auriferous banks are much more than 39 inches in thickness; nor must it be forgotten that their richness may greatly exceed that of 1 to 100,000. In fact, this return is not the minimum below which the extraction would necessarily cease to be profitable; it is very far from it. There have been worked, and are now being worked, in all the auriferous regions, some banks, the produce of which is not onefifth or one-sixth as much as the above."

[ocr errors]

gradual rise in rents operates like an actual extension of the franchiseconverting £8 or £9 rents into £10, although neither the house nor the man is, relatively to the other houses and classes of the community, a whit better than before. Some of the large towns, such as Glasgow, show this in a most striking manner—the registered electors of that city having increased in number from 6994 in 1832, to 15,502 in 1851, while the population during the same period 329,097. only increased from 202,426 to

mamming to the controversy at came on in regard to ParSer For ourselves, The reduction of the has steady gone as far as the country any good. our own opinion aside, the question as it is now od in Parliament-namely, so be fr the franchise should A lowered-it does appear to as very height of madness that ay man of the smallest statesmanespacity should be found to advocate the views of the Opposition. Lord John Russell never yet made Aimself master of any one subject be has been a Jack-of-all-trades, and * continue so to the end. His present coadjutor, Mr Bright, also, a few months ago, when appealed to by the Currency Reformers, confessed that he does not understand the question. Therefore, if this dissertation were in any degree abstruse it might be unreasonable to expect at intelligent comprehension of it, from either of these reckless innoBut the case which we lave set forth is so simple, that he who runs may read. Nature herself is at present lowering the franchise every year. What need, then, for any further reduction by Act of Parlament Indeed, it is a fact too muh overlooked that, by that progressive rise in prices (or, which is the Same thing, that fall in the value of money natural to old and prosperous communities, the Parliamentary franchise has for years been undergoing an extension, altogether independer of the present extraordinary Total Population, 13,091,005 16,819,017 Sapplies of gold. If the reader will tui to any collection of electoral

[ocr errors]

a

In other words, in the population had increased little more course of twenty years, while the than one-half, the number of voters had more than doubled! And since 1851, when the new gold-supplies began to come in, the increase of voters in proportion to the population has been still more rapid-the former having in 1857 risen to 18,118, . e. one-fifth, while the latter must have been nearly what it was. Other large towns also might be adduced in illustration; but we do not think it right to rely upon picked instances, and prefer to take England as a whole. We find from Dod's Electoral Facts, that between 1832 and 1851 the registered electors for burghs have increased one-half, and those for counties more than one-third, while the total population has increased less than one-third. The figures are as follows: :

Registered Electors
(for both burghs
and counties),

[ocr errors]

1832.

619,213

1851.

874,191

Thus while the population of England has only increased at the rate of

scles, he will find that this silent weg and extension of the fran-, has been going on, and with perceptible results, ever since Raise was attached to value by the first Reform Bill. is our country growing wear more democratic, in conse 40 or the mhan de commercial que acturing population being wie od den forral, and thereby Poax at a faster rate than the Koka, or of the wounties; but in Yap Cage Navage themselves, the

or between a third and a fourth part, the electors have increased 5-12ths, or nearly one-half! The electors have thus in twenty years increased fully one-sixth faster than the population. Ireland we are willing to throw out of account, owing to the extraordinary changes produced by the great famine and emigration; but the returns show that, between 1832 and 1851, while the population had decreased about one-seventh, the total registered electors of that country

had more than doubled. Scotland is in many respects a safer test than either England or Ireland, as there has been no disturbance as regards its population, and also inasmuch as it has no forty-shilling freehold franchise by which factitious additions can so easily be made to the constituencies. What, then, do the statistics for Scotland show but this, that whereas the population in the nineteen years subsequent to 1832 increased less than one-fourth, the electors increased more than onehalf? The following are the figures:

[ocr errors]

1832.

1851.

Population, 2,365,114 2,870,784 Electors, 64,444 97,777* These facts speak volumes. They prove that an extension of the franchise, far beyond the proportion accordant with the increase of population, is going on at all times, and especially in the large towns, where democracy most prevails, and which are always the most clamorous for further reductions of the franchise. If this, then, be the case in ordinary times, what is to be expected in the extraordinary period upon which we are entering? The Radical chiefs cry for the lowering of the Constitution, and never reflect that an agency is already at work by which the fabric is gradually sinking and broadening towards the shapeless monotony of universal suffrage. They are like passengers on board ship descending a river, who get angry at the captain and crew for not crowding all sail and getting up more steam, when, unknown to them, the vessel has already entered on a rapid that will bear them swiftly and irresistibly

onward to the depths of a Niagara. And when we see Lord John feeding the flame of democratic innovation, as if there were a danger of it growing too faint, he seems to us as absurdly employed as if he were supplying coals to a volcano, or were with superfluous fire a feeding lava - stream that will soon be crackling amidst the trees and pilThat the lars of his own villa. present £10 franchise, ten years hence, may have sunk into what a £5 one would be now, is saying the least that can be said. When the tide of democracy, then, is setting in upon us so strongly, can it be the act of sane men to level the way for the advancing flood? Are we to open the gates and throw down the barriers, that Universal Suffrage may enter in more rapidly? Are we to begin dismantling the bulwarks of the Constitution-of our mixed and well-balanced Government of Queen, Lords, and Commons-when, without any such act on our part at all, in a few years those bulwarks will be tottering under the attacks and steadily-increasing pressure of Faran omnipotent democracy? sightedness is not a quality for which British statesmen have been much distinguished; but surely even an ass might see the danger in their path which our prophets of Reform so blindly overlook. We wish we could think that the blindness of some of them, especially of Lord John Russell, was not akin to that of Balaam the son of Bosor, who, from motives of sordid self-interest, made Israel to sin, by enticing the people through their own foolish and inebriate lusts.

* The statistics above quoted (except, of course, the number of electors in Glasgow in 1857) are taken from Dod's Electoral Facts, published in 1852.

21

VOL. LXXXV.-NO. DXXII.

66

ADAM BEDE.

A NOVEL of which the heroine is a Methodist female preacher, with "pale-red hair!" Shades of Wesley and Whitefield! When Rowland Hill rescued a few sprightly bars of popular music from the Evil Onesaying that it was "a shame he should have all the good tunes"-he could scarcely have looked forward to the day when this principle should be so extended as to wrest from that Power a large slice of his hereditary and lawful dominions, as they were then considered, novels and romance. Had Adam Bede made its appearance as a tale of the day" in the year 1800, the date fixed for the story, one hardly knows which would have been most scandalised, the Wesleyans at being thus made to figure in the triumph of the enemy, or the old-fashioned novel-readers at having such anti-romantic and commonplace people forced upon them in the place of their old favourites Bellamont and Rosa Matilda. In our own degenerate age, Qucechy and the Hills of the Shatemuc have already reconciled us to the introduction of a little picturesque Puritanism into the love-story, which was found none the less piquant for the novelty of the flavour. In novels of the Tremaine school, young ladies had already been allowed to turn preachers but to their intended husbands only. But a young woman who actually mounts a cart, and addresses a mixed crowd on a village green, and concludes with leading a hymn, who is, in short, neither more nor less than a publicly-recognised Wesleyan field-preacher, acting "under direction," and in private life working in a cotton-mill-that our steady church-going country families, or our highly-fashionable and intellectual London young ladies, should find this young person's sayings and doings, and her relations with a couple of village carpenters, distributed into the regulation three volumes octavo, and be expected to take

an interest in them as "the last new novel "-sounds at first like an audacious attempt to impose upon the patience and long-suffering of library subscribers; and, to look at it in the most favourable light, gives token, on the author's part, of a bold spirit of adventure in quest of the original.

We are told, by those who have gone into the statistics of our cheap popular literature, that the fiction which comes most home to the costermonger's bosom is that which has the least to do with his business. If you wish him to weep, it must be over the sorrows of a baroness at the very least: he hears of his neighbour the dustman hammering his wifea creature of ordinary clay-without any particular excitement of his sensibilities. But as the distinguished writers, who contribute to the Penny Novelist, can hardly be supposed to have a very intimate acquaintance with the manners and customs of that exclusive society which they undertake to paint-unless they should be so fortunate as to hold "situations" in a titled family-it follows that these cheap tales of fashionable life are sometimes more graphic than truthful. But however highly coloured, these scenes have for their readers, the same sort of charm which the Arabian Nights and the Tales of the Genii have for children-and in how many respects do the rough workingclasses resemble children! - they open to the imagination the secrets of a world beyond themselves. It is probably to a similar feeling among the higher classes that some modern writers have successfully appealed, when they have chosen for their subject the romance of humble life, instead of what Mr Eliot calls, "heroes on fiery horses, and heroines in satin boots and crinoline.” In the same principle may be traced one of the reasons for the remarkable popularity of Tom Brown's School Days. Though containing far more truth than most biographies, to

Adam Bede. By GEORGE ELIOT, Author of "Scenes of Clerical Life." In Three Volumes.

« AnteriorContinua »