Please note: this text may be incomplete. For more information about this OCR, view About OCR text.
August 3, 1884"
The Record and Guide
THE RECORD AND GUIDE.
Published every Saturday,
.191 Broadway, N. Y.
ONE YEAR, iu advance, SIX DOLLARS.
Commimications should be addressed to
C. W. SWEET, 191 Broadway.
J. T. LINDSEY, Business Manager.
AUGUST 3, 1884.
The Cause of the Trouble.
Nine of the seventeen rail works in this country have gone out of
buaineas, and the remaining firms are selling steel rails at $28 per
ton, about $1 below the cost of the cheapest method of production.
One-half the cotton mills of New England are to close for thirty
days during the months of August and September, and all our
large manufactories are known to be in trouble from lack of orders
and low prices. But thia is not all—the writer of "Mid-week
Echoed " in the Sun prints the following:
Tbe general complaint of the depression in all branches of business iu
this country would not have been so loud if the majority of people had
been better posted upon tbe condition of affairs iu other countries. Tbe
depression is universal, and ita causes are everywhere the same—over-pro¬
duction and want of confidence. We had only the additional factor of
stealing and fraudulent bank aud railroad directors, hat in all other re¬
spects Europe is not a bit better oS than we are. The reduction of tbe
bank rate iu London to a per cent, makea loanable capital as cheap as it is
here, and shows that an immense aurplus of it is imemployed. Even in
Calcutta and Bombay, where 15 per cent, par annum waa till recently con¬
sidered a natural rate, money has fallen down to 5 per cent.
The Herald thinks that the difficulty is with the tariff and that
there has been over-production, but thia will not account for the
depression of trade in Great Britain, where there is no tariff. The
Sun writer thinks the difficulty is want of confidence, due to the
dishonesty of the financial classes, but this will not account for the
bad timea in Europe where, the Sun writer admits, cheating bank¬
ers are sternly punished,
Tbe depression cannot be attributed to war or famine, for we have
bad no great international conflict for several yeara and the har-
vea'a have been abundant the world over. The earth haa yielded
not only largely but in many nations prodigiously, yet the
trade of the world labors apparently under a distressing burden.
There is no profit in business aod the prices of all commodities are
being constantly marked lower and lower,
"What, then, is the matter ?
The cause is evidently one which affects the commerce of the
whole world, for the aame phenomenon is observable in every
quarter of the globe, especially in the active commercial nations.
The solution of the problem is to be found in the attempt of
the financial world to substitute the gold unit of value for
the bi-metallic basis, which was the measure of prices
for fifty years and up to the spring of 1873, when G-ermany
and the United States demonetized silver. It is known to the
merest tyro in finance that every discovery of gold or silver in
large quantities has stimulated healthfully the trade of the world.
The splendors of the courts of Charles the Fifth of Spain and of
Elizabeth of England and the vast development of commerce at
that time was due to the hundreds of millions of gilver which
came from the Spanish American mines. The greater part of the
marvelous activity of trade in these latter days is traceable lo the
gold diacoveriea in California, Australia and New Zealand. But
the production of gold and silver has since fallen off, while their
consumption in the arts and for coinage has largely increased
within the last fifteen years. Legislation has been conspiring with
nature to reduce the atoak of precious metals available for com¬
merce by rejecting silver and making gold the aole unit of value,
in face of the fact that silver is the most useful metal of the two,
and is the money which the mass of mankind use in their daily
There is no hope of a great revival of trade unless the nations
readopt bi-metallism, unless, indeed, nature or accident should
come to our aid and furnish another gold field as productive as
those that changed the face of the business world in 1849 and the
years immediately following.
They who ought to know say that "Jake" Sharpe and his friends
will secure the franchise for the horse-car road on Broadway. The
cable company people have plenty of money and have the most
comprehensive plan, but Sharpe and his friends understand the
busineas of manipulating legislative bodies, and they will come out
ahead. The cable people are veiy weak in dealing either with the
public or with the business features of their enterprise. The com¬
pany that will probably be successful in securing the franchise will
use horses, which will prove a real misfortune, for in addition to
getting rid of the omnibuses, it would he desirable to have fewer
draught animals on our main thoroughfare. A power which, like
the cable, would draw three or more cars would he a great relief
to Broadway travel. Perhaps, however, there is something still
better in store for us. The electric motor in Cleveland propelled
fifteen street cars, and had an advantage over the cable system
that the cars could be pushed back as well as shoved forward.
There is an electric road at Brighton, Englaud, running along the
seashore, which is said to be highly profitable. But the question
of the cost of electric motors is not yet determined. So far elec¬
tricity, either for lighting or other purposes, haa not proved a
cheap power to use.
The Problem of Wages.
Editor Kecord anu Goidk.
In your comoients upon the building strike you seem to take the view
that a demand for higher wages in dull times has the effect of checking
what little remaining activity tbere may be, and rendering the dullness
even greater. This is tbe usual view, and I grant that tbe reasoning is
upon the face of it quite sound. A little reflection, however, will show that
an opposite opinion is not so absurd aa would appear at flrst glance.
Suppose for a moment that every member of the community, by tbe
exercise of much lauded frugality and self-denial, living on oatmeal,
lodging ou boards and the rest of it, were to reduce their income to a dollar
a day alike for each and all. would the community then be in a flourish¬
ing condition 3 Evidently not. But if each one received ten dollars a day
and enjoyed the health, tbe books, the relaxations, the sermons, that are
■obtainable only by wealth, the whole community would be, I think you
will admit, in a very flourishing condition, a state of civilization far
surpassing anything we have so far attained.
Tbe proposition that we started with, that to lower wages is to increase
general prosperity, thus tested, does not seem to be as self-evident as it did
before. We must look for the explanation in the fact that all producers
are consumers as well. The men that build houses are the men that
live in them, not individually, of course; but taking the whole community
as a great co-operative society, each works, not for others, but for himself.
You yourself in speaking of land-holders frequently allude to tbe stiffuesa
with which they adhere to their already prohibitory prices or even
advance them in the face of general depression as an evidence of an under¬
current of strength in the nation's industry. By the same reasoning the
success of the striking bricklayers should be considered by fair-minded
persons as a success of workers in general, including employers as well as
workmen, including indeed everybody in the community who gives in
return for what he receives.
The condemnation that is lavished by the well-to-do upon " the working
classes" is based upon a misapprehension of their own truest interests.
The prosperity of one cannot be separated from the prosperity of all.
Least of all can tbat nation be eensidered prosperous where robbery is
held to be property, where our brothers are gradually being reduced,
aod reduced, aud reduced, to tenement dwellers, to paupers, to tramps,
to forgers and thieves; while bank presidents steal millions unpunished,
and bribing corporations gobble the rest. Rienzi.
Remaees,—The above communication from an architect merits
a candid reply. We quite agree with "Eienzi" that employers
who advocate "Chinese cheap labor," or any cheap labor, are
extremely ahortsighted. The highest civilization and the greatest
prosperity is in those quarters of the globe where the working
classes are beat remunerated. India, China, Egypt, agricultural
Russia, and all half-civilized nations have an abundance of the
very cheapest labor; but every interest of the State suffers
because of the poor pay of their working clasaea. It is very evi¬
dent that were all the toilers of this country to receive from $30 to
$50 per week, all our industries would be vastly benefited. There
would be a demand for books, pictures and newspapers, all the
comforts of life and many of the luxuries, to an extent that we can
now scarcely comprehend. Builders and real estate owners would
be benefited by the demand for better and finer houses and supe¬
So much is obvious. But the strike of the bricklayers and
laborers for a reduction in the hours of work ia not a movement to
elevate the whole working clasa. Their success would be a real
detriment to other working people, for were they to succeed in
getting the same money for less work than they now perform it
would increase the cost of houses and raise rentals, and thus
become burdensome to their fellow workmen in other employ¬
ments. Nor would we oppose the strike very earnestly if we
thought it could be permanently obtained, for it really
makes little difference to buildera in the long run. They
could charge the additional cost to their customers, and
there would be an end to the matter. But it ia clear as
the daylight that one class of workmen cannot permanently
get the advantage of every other class. Liquidation is the order of
the day. There has been an immense shrinkage in prices, in
stocks, grains, cotton, wool and all manufactured articles. It has
not yet reached laud or labor, because these were the last to feel the
speculative afflatus of the boom started by the passing of the
silver bill in 1873 and the resumption of specie payments in 1879.