Sarah Emery



" I procured to be inserted a provision making the duties on imports payable in gold." ---Thaddeus Stevens,
December 19, 1862

To the busy world there was nothing remarkable in the calling of a convention at Washington.  But why a bankers’ convention ?  And why called immediately upon the passage of the legal tender act ?  What had been done that necessitated such a speedy gathering of the money mongers ?  Why, Congress had made the money of the government full legal tender for all debts, and Shylock and his gold had been ignored.  The bankers must have a consultation, and have it at once.  They must get control of Congress and devise some means by which the demand for their gold would become imperative.  There is left no room to doubt but that the conspiracy perfected at that convention resulted in that infamous exception clause on the greenback, and was consummated by act of Congress, February 25,1862, wherein it was stipulated that the greenback should be legal tender for all debts, public and private, except duties on imports and interest on the public debt, which from that time forward should be paid in coin.  Shylock rejoiced ;  he had accomplished his purpose, he had created a demand for his gold.  Henceforth government should bow to him, and none should question his right to wield the golden scepter of money king.  He had not conquered by bayonet or bowie knife, neither army nor navy had been at his command, but he had subjugated this people more effectually than ever Alexander or Napoleon had conquered.

For Congress to stipulate that only a certain article should be used in payment of certain government debts was simply to create a demand for that article.  Had the act read that only white pigeons should be used in payment of interest and import duties, do you not see how a demand for white pigeons would have been created ?  And if one hundred men had secured a corner on the pigeon business it would have been equivalent to a corner on the government.  This is precisely what Congress did for Shylock—it gave him a corner on this government.

But I am asked what harm if Congress did create a demand for Shylock’s hoarded gold ?  The wage worker says it did not affect me, as I was working by the day, month or year.  The manufacturer says it did not affect me, as I did not use imported material.  The consumer says it made no difference with me, for I did not pay duties on imports, neitber did I pay interest on bonds.  Well, if none of these individuals were affected by this measure I am certainly in the wrong and most humbly beg your pardon, unless an investigation reveals a different state of affairs.

First we will see who paid the premium which Congress offered on Shylock’s gold, and secondly how much Shylock was benefited thereby.  You remember that during the war our cotton and sugar crops were cut off in the south and we were obliged to import these articles from foreign countries.  At one time the duty on sugar was 76 per cent, about the same time the premium on gold was 185 per cent.  That is, it took two hundred and eighty-five cents in greenbacks to buy one hundred cents in gold.  Had it not been for the exception clause on the greenback the importer would have held his sugar at $1.76, but besides the import duty he must also pay the premium on the gold.  One hundred cents in gold cost him two hundred and eighty-five cents in greenbacks.  At the same rate, seventy-six (the import duty), cost him two hundred and sixteen cents in greenbacks, so that instead of paying 76 per cent duty he actually paid 216 per cent, or 140 per cent more than he would have paid had there been no exception clause on the greenback.  This $1,40, which went directly into Shylock’s coffers, was added to the price of the sugar and paid by the wage-worker, the manufacturer, and every other consumer of imported sugar.  In the same way we were compelled to pay enormous prices for tea, coffee and several hundred imported articles.  In the year 1864 the American people paid, in consequence of the exception clause, nearly four hundred million dollars, or about eighty-seven dollars to each family.  With wages at $2.00 per day the head of each family worked forty-three and one-half days during the year, or nearly one day in each week for the gold gamblers of Wall Street.  The government never received one farthing of that enormous sum, and the masses of the people never understood why they paid such exorbitant prices.  Shylock did not go to them with bayonet and bowie-knife and demand their money, but in every pound of imported sugar, in every yard of imported clothing they paid him tribute just the same.  The weapons with which he conquered were statutory laws enacted solely for his benefit.  Think of the situation.  The soldier facing death on the battle field for $16 per month, sends that money to his sorrow stricken family to be used in supplying them with the necessaries of life ;  and in the purchase of their food and clothing with this blood-bought treasure, they pay indirectly to the gold gamblers of Wall Street from 25 to 50 per cent.  Where is the man or the woman whose cheek does not burn with indignation and shame as he contemplates this robbery of the soldier and his family.

But again, the enormity of the crime did not end with Shylock’s power to rob the people through import duties.  The exception clause had depreciated the greenback.  This was a part of Shylock’s scheme.  I know you have been told by the popular press and orators of every reason under heaven—except the right one—why the greenback was depreciated.  They have told you it was because the Democrats cried them down ;  and again, because so many were issued it was feared the government would not be able to redeem them.  Why, my friends, if the best man in Michigan were to give his notes and then refuse to receive them for debts due himself could it have any other effect than to depreciate them ?  I tell you it was a part of Shylock’s scheme, nothing but depreciation could follow the exception clause.  Now why did Shylock wish to depreciate the greenback ?  Simply to enable him to get more of them in his possession with which to buy government bonds.  Having purchased such legislation he could buy bonds with greenbacks at face value, and by means of the exception clause he could turn his gold into greenbacks at enormous advantage.  Let us take a view of the situation.

It is A. D. 1864.  The country is desolated by war.  Scarcely a family in which death has not entered.  Fathers, husbands, brothers and sons have been stricken down at the battle of Spottsylvania, or the Wilderness, and there is mourning throughout the land.  The wail of the widow and the cry of fatherless children are heard alike in the homes of affluence and poverty.  Mothers wring their hands and cry aloud in an agony of grief, an only son has been smitten down in the battle of the Wilderness, or perhaps a first-born, with shattered limbs, lies writhing and delirious in a distant hospital.  The pall of death is over the land.  But the clamor and clangor of business goes on.

A cargo of goods has entered one of our ports ;  government requires the duty to be paid in gold.  The importer proceeds at once to Wall Street, which, after the exception clause was placed on the greenback, became the great gold market of the earth, and as Judge Kelley justly said, “ It invited from all the money centers of the world their most voracious vampires to come here and fatten upon the life-blood of the American people.”  Thither our importer wends his way, and as it chanced to be the month of July, 1864, he found he must pay $285 in legal tender money for $100 in gold.  But there is no alternative, he pays the required sum, adds that much more to the price of his goods, and turns over the $100 in gold to the custom house officers, who duly deposit it in the United States Treasury.  There we leave our importer, who has been compelled to add to the price of his goods, not only the import duty but also the enormous premium on Shylock’s gold.  Let us now return to our Wall Street broker and see how he has been effected by the calamity of war.  The $285 in greenbacks, which the importer paid him for the $100 in gold, he immediately invests in government bonds at face value.  His next step is to draw interest on his bonds, for the act of February 25, 1862, stipulated that his interest should not only be paid in gold but in advance.  Having drawn his gold interest in advance he is prepared on the morrow to sell it to the next importer, and with each exchange he clears $185 on every $100 in gold.  Shall we ever cease to extol the patriotism of those Wall Street capitalists ?  But our picture is not complete until we take a look at the soldier.  Sixteen dollars per month seems a small compensation for one to stand before death in its multitude of forms.  But the soldier’s love of country overcame his fear of death, and he braved the terrors of the battle field that he might bequeath to his little ones the inheritance of liberty ;  and if not impelled by love of country, the government did not hesitate to use its prerogative of “ drafting into the service.”  But did it draft money ?  No.  It must not interfere with the “ sacred rights of property.”  Human life must be sacrificed for its protection, but property was inviolable.

During the latter part of the war the government paid the soldier $16 per month in greenbacks for risking his life on the battle field ;  with this he could purchase just $16 in government bonds.  But the government paid Shylock in gold for risking his credit, and for sixteen dollars in gold, during the month of July 1864, he could purchase $43.60 in government bonds.  The question now arises, how much did the government actually pay the soldier, and how much is still due him ?  Morally, and I believe legally, our government is today under greater financial obligations to the soldier than it is to the bond holder.  Who will dare to say that human life is less sacred than capital ?  Or that every greenback dollar paid the soldier was not redeemed by his service—perhaps his life ?  Is there a quality in redemption that asks a higher price than agony and blood ?

President Cleveland has been greatly censured for vetoing private pension bills, but how many of those who condemn him uphold the action of the government that perpetrated this wholesale robbery upon the soldier ?  And how many of them voted against General Weaver’s bill for making up to the soldiers the difference between gold and the depreciated currency in which they were paid ?  It is folly to claim that the war and business could not have been carried on without Shylock’s gold.  We have already shown that the government after issuing its own money—the greenback—had no need of gold, until, through strategy, the exception clause was placed on the greenback, and placed there for no other purpose than that of creating a demand for the gold hoarded by the money kings of the country.

During the past few years, several states have made large appropriations for the erection of soldiers’ homes.  Doubtless to many this seems a very beneficent act on the part of the government, but is it beneficence when the robber restores a part of his ill-gotten gains to the man he has victimized ?  Had the interests of the soldier been as carefully guarded during the war as were the interests of the money monger, there is no doubt but that many who today languish in these institutions would be comfortable and happy in homes of their own, independent of either public or private charity.