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CHAPTER III
It can hardly be necessary to state that any plan which would protect from immediate withdrawal the gold we might add to our reserve could not fail to be of extreme value. Such of these withdrawals as were made for hoarding gold could be prevented only by a restoration of confidence among those of our people who had grown suspicious of the Government’s financial ability; but the considerable drain from the reserve for the purchase of the very bonds to be sold for its reinforcement, and the much larger drain made by those who profited by the shipment of gold abroad, could be, measurably at least, directly arrested. Thus to the extent that foreign gold might be brought here and used for the purchase of bonds, the use for that purpose of such as was held by our own people or as was already in the reserve subject to their withdrawal would not only be decreased, but the current of the passage of gold would be changed and would flow toward us instead of away from us, making the prospect of 152 profit in gold exportation less alluring. An influx of gold from abroad would also have a tendency to decrease the sentimental estimate of its desirability which its unrelieved scarcity was apt to create in timid minds. It was especially plain that so far as withdrawals from our reserve for speculative shipment abroad were concerned, they could be discouraged by the efforts of those whose financial connections in other countries enabled them to sell gold exchange on foreign money centers at a price which would make the actual transportation of the coin itself unprofitable.

The position of Mr. Morgan and the other parties in interest whom he represented was such in the business world that they were abundantly able, not only to furnish the gold we needed, but to protect us in the manner indicated against its immediate loss. Their willingness to undertake both these services was developed during the discussion of the plan proposed; and after careful consideration of every detail until a late hour of the night, an agreement was made by which J. P. Morgan & Co. of New York, for themselves and for J. S. Morgan & Co. of London; and August Belmont & Co. of New York, for themselves and for N. M. Rothschild & Son of London, were to sell and 153 deliver to the Government 3,500,000 ounces of standard gold coin of the United States, to be paid for in bonds bearing annual interest at the rate of four per cent. per annum, and payable at the pleasure of the Government after thirty years from their date, such bonds to be issued and delivered from time to time as the gold coin to be furnished was deposited by said parties in the subtreasuries or other legal depositories of the United States. At least one half of the coin so delivered was to be obtained in Europe, and shipped from there in amounts not less than 300,000 ounces per month, at the expense and risk of the parties furnishing the same; and so far as it was in their power they were to “exert all financial influence and make all legitimate efforts to protect the Treasury of the United States against the withdrawals of gold pending the complete performance of the contract.”

Four per cent. bonds were selected for use in this transaction instead of ten-year bonds bearing five per cent. interest, because their maturity was extended to thirty years, thus offering a more permanent and inviting investment, and for the further reason that $100,000,000 of shorter five per cent. bonds had already been issued, and it was, therefore, deemed desirable 154 to postpone these further bond obligations of the Government to a later date. The price agreed upon for the gold coin to be delivered was such that the bonds given in payment therefor would yield to the investor an annual income of three and three fourths per cent.

It has already been stated that the only bonds which could be utilized in our efforts to maintain our gold reserve were those described in a law passed as early as 1870, and made available for our uses by an act passed in 1875. The terms of these bonds were ill suited to later ideas of investment, and they were made payable in coin and not specifically in gold. Nothing at any time induced the exchange of gold for these coin bonds, except a reliance upon such a measure of good faith on the part of the Government, and honesty on the part of the people, as would assure their payment in gold coin and not in depreciated silver.

It was exceedingly fortunate that, at the time this agreement was under consideration, certain political movements calculated to undermine this reliance upon the Government’s continued financial integrity were not in sight; but it was, nevertheless, very apparent that the difficulties of the situation would be greatly lessened if, in safeguarding our reserve, bonds could be used 155 payable by their terms in gold, and bearing a rate of interest not exceeding three per cent. Accordingly, at the instance of Secretary Carlisle, a bill had been introduced in the House of Representatives, some time before the Morgan-Belmont agreement was entered upon, which authorized the issue of bonds of that description. A few hours before the agreement was consummated this sane and sensible legislation was brought to a vote in the House and rejected.

When, in our interview with Mr. Morgan, the price for the gold to be furnished was considered, he gave reasons which we could not well answer in support of the terms finally agreed upon; but he said that the parties offering to furnish the gold would be glad to accept at par three per cent. bonds, payable by their terms in gold instead of in coin, in case their issue could be authorized. He expressed not only a willingness but a strong desire that a substitution might be made of such bonds in lieu of those already selected, and readily agreed to allow us time to procure the necessary legislation for that purpose. He explained, however, that only a short time could be stipulated for such a substitution, because in order to carry out successfully the agreement contemplated, the bonds 156 must be offered in advance to investors both here and abroad, and that after numerous subscriptions had been received from outside parties the form and condition of the securities could not be changed; and he added that, but for this, there would be no objection to the concession of all the time desired. It was finally agreed that ten days should be allowed us to secure from Congress the legislation necessary to permit the desired substitution of bonds. A simple calculation demonstrated that by such a substitution the Government would save on account of interest more than $16,000,000 before the maturity of the bonds. It was further stipulated on the part of the Government that if the Secretary of the Treasury should desire to sell any further bonds on or before October 1, 1895, they should first be offered to the parties then represented by Mr. Morgan. This stipulation did not become operative.

When our conference terminated it was understood that Secretary Carlisle and Attorney-General Olney should act for the Government at a meeting between the parties early the following day, at which the agreement we had made was to be reduced to writing; and thereupon I prepared a message which was submitted to the Congress at the opening of its session on the 157 following day, in which the details of our agreement were set forth and the amount which would be saved to the Government by the substitution of three per cent. gold bonds was plainly stated; but having no memorandum of the agreement before me, in my haste I carelessly omitted to mention the efforts agreed on by Mr. Morgan and his associates to prevent gold shipments. The next morning a contract embodying our agreement was drawn and signed, and a copy at once given to the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the House, so that the delay of a demand for its inspection might be avoided. A bill was also immediately introduced again giving authority to issue three per cent. bonds, payable by their terms in gold, to be substituted in place of the four per cent. bonds as provided in the contract—to the end that $16,000,000 might be saved to the Government, and the public welfare in every way subserved.

The object of this message was twofold. It was deemed important, considering the critical condition of our gold reserve, that the public should be speedily informed of the steps taken for its protection; and in addition, though previous efforts to obtain helpful legislation had resulted in discouragement, it was hoped that 158 when the saving by the Government of $16,000,000 was seen to depend on the action of Congress there might be a response that would accord with patriotic public duty.

Quite in keeping with the congressional habit prevailing at that time, the needed legislation was refused, and this money was not saved.

The contract was thereupon carried out as originally made. In its execution four per cent. bonds were delivered amounting to $62,315,400, and the sum of $65,116,244.62 in gold received as their price. The last deposit in completion of the contract was made in June, 1895, but additional gold was obtained from the contracting parties in exchange for United States notes and Treasury notes until in September, 1895, when the entire amount of gold received from them under the contract and through such exchanges had amounted to more than $81,000,000. The terms of the agreement were so well carried out, not only in the matter of furnishing gold, but in procuring it from abroad and protecting the reserve from withdrawals, that during its continuance the operation of the “endless chain” which had theretofore drained our gold was interrupted. No gold was, during that period, taken from the Treasury to be used in the purchase of bonds, as had previously 159 been the case, nor was any withdrawn for shipment abroad.

It became manifest, however, soon after this contract was fully performed, that our financial ailments had reached a stage so nearly chronic that their cure by any treatment within Executive reach might well be considered a matter of anxious doubt. In the latter months of the year 1895 a scarcity of foreign exchange and its high rate, the termination of the safeguards of the Morgan-Belmont contract, and, as a result, the renewal of opportunity profitably to withdraw gold for export with a newly stimulated popular apprehension, and perhaps other disturbing incidents, brought about a recurrence of serious depletions of gold from the reserve.

In the annual Executive message sent to Congress on the second day of December, 1895, the situation of our finances and currency was set forth in detail, and another earnest plea was made for remedial legislative action. After mentioning the immediately satisfactory results of the contract for the purchase of gold, the message continued:

    Though the contract mentioned stayed for a time the tide of gold withdrawals, its good results could not be permanent. Recent withdrawals have reduced the reserve from $107,571,230 on the eighth 160 day of July, 1895, to $79,333,966. How long it will remain large enough to render its increase unnecessary is only a matter of conjecture, though quite large withdrawals for shipment in the immediate future are predicted in well-informed quarters. About $16,000,000 has been withdrawn during the month of November.

The prediction of further withdrawals mentioned in this message was so fully verified that eighteen days after its transmission, and on the twentieth day of December, 1895, another Executive communication was sent to Congress, in contemplation of its holiday recess, in which, after referring to the details contained in the former message, it was stated:

    The contingency then feared has reached us, and the withdrawals of gold since the communication referred to, and others that appear inevitable, threaten such a depletion in our Government’s gold reserve as brings us face to face with the necessity of further action for its protection. This condition is intensified by the prevalence in certain quarters of sudden and unusual apprehension and timidity in business circles.

    The real............
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