Perhaps the most romantically interesting thing that has lately happened, if not in the world of politics, at least in a world very much affected by politics, is the fall of gold to 109. The history of the precious metals is evidently yet to he written. The ablest financiers in this country have been for a long time agreed that the natural price of gold is about 150. The ablest financiers have been also agreed that it could never go down to par without contraction on the part of the government. It is easy to see that with four hundred millions of irredeemable paper afloat, gold must remain permanently depreciated in value. The government has not contracted the currency since the war, except to an infinitesimal extent during Mr. McCullough's administration of the Treasury. Gold therefore must remain at about 150. But it will not remain at 150; on the contrary, it is going down steadily and surely as if all these calculations had never been made; and some day, before very long apparently, the country will awake to find that its irredeemable currency is not irredeemable any longer, and that gold is at par. Mr. Sumncr's much-derided and certainly heretical maxim that "the way to resume is to resume," seems, after all, to have been quite a valuable contribution to the science of political economy as the most orthodox calculations made by his antagonists. The explanation of the continued fall of gold now current is that it is due to the material progress of the country in wealth and population, and this certainly seems a very good theory. But for ourselves, we prefer to regard gold as a mystery. It is a consoling thought that after making a fetish to ourselves for so many years of the almighty dollar, we should find the ways of our divinity, though beyond our comprehension, still only paths of pleasantness and peace. It is certainly a benevolent god.
There are, in fine, few clouds on the political horizon; and the happiness of the hour is only marred by the sad and solitary debate still maintained by the Governor of Illinois on the usurpation of authority by the President in Chicago. There is only one difficulty with it as a constitutional discussion, - it is carried on entirety by one side. Governor Painter thinks that the stationing of four companies of Regulars in the city after the fire was a high-handed act, which indicates a desire on the part of some one to break down the bulwarks erected by the Constitution, and open the floodgates to license and tyranny. The President says, in reply, that whatever other persons' aims may be, he, at least, has no intention of this revolutionary character and under such circumstances, what can Governor Palmer do? It is absolutely necessary in affairs of this kind to have an antagonist, or at least to have an audience. Governor Palmer has neither. What constitutional objection there is to the presence of four military companies in Chicago it is hard to see. On Governor Palmer's principles, the presence of the President himself at Long Branch would seem to be an invasion of the merest rights of the State of New Jersey. One commander-in-chief, in the eye of the law, is just as unconstitutional as four hundred privates.
The duty of calling a Constitutional convention devolves this winter on the Ohio Legislature, and one of the most important subjects which will come before that body will be minority representation. The chief objections urged against this system are that it is new, and that it requires more honesty and intelligence of government officials than can be fairly expected of them. The charge that the system is a new one is not strictly correct, as the Andrae" system has been in operation in Denmark for fifteen years; the cumulative vote has been adopted in Illinois; the "three-cornered" constituencies exist in England, and minority representation has been applied in New York to the election of judges. It must be remembered that representation itself is a comparatively modern invention. As to the other objection, it can be made, indeed has been made, against almost every improvement in the political or social art. It can be easily proved a priori that the management of railroads requires a high degree of fidelity and intelligence that no one will ever dare to trust himself inside a railroad-car. On the same grounds it can be shown that no one will ever send an important message by telegraph. A priori the money-order system is out of time question, and the registration of land-titles a dream. The administration of justice and the government of parliamentary law are just as impracticable a priori as Hare system of the liste lubre. It may be taken as an axiom that in discussions of this kind there is honesty and intelligence in the world to make any improvement that is worth having. It is not the business of those who arc interested in minority representation to make all the inspectors in the country honest before they have the right to introduce their scheme. It is enough for them to show that the scheme is better than the present plan. It is the business of society to provide means for carrying it into effect.
One curious fact has been brought to light by the experience gained by those engaged in the minority representation experiment at Harvard College. It has always been supposed that counting the votes under the new system would take a great deal of time. An ingenious calculation was made that under the Hare system it mould take several years to count the voles for the Massachusetts Legislature. The Hare system has been in force in the nomination of Overseers at Cambridge for two or three years, and it has been found that less time is Occupied in counting the votes than under the old system.
One of the strongest arguments against a protective tariff is the impossibility of estimating what the indirect effects of it may be. No one--not even those in whose interest it in passed--can predict the result. Modern commercial relations are so intricate and multifarious, there are so many hidden and yet important connections between different occupations, that the wisest protectionist cannot foresee how a tax laid upon one import which he wishes to exclude from the domestic market may affect the production or consumption of some other which he has not the least desire to touch. We do not mean such indirect effects as that produced by the present tariff in Chicago, where it is calculated that the taxes on imports enhance the damage caused by the fire to the extent of thirty-one millions:-
On iron: $11,000,000 On lumber: 5,000,000
On window-glass, paint, putty, varnish, stoves, door-latches: 5,000,000 On carpeting: 2,500,000
On furniture: 3,000,000 On crockery and glassware: 1,633,000
On bedding and blankets: 1,500,000 On clothes and clothing: 1,666,000
Cases like this are beside our present purpose.
But it was certainty never the intentino of Congress to kill American ship-building. Yet it has done so by a tariff on materials necessary for the construction of ships. Nobody ever desired that the tariff should prevent the manufacture of American wallpaper. Yet a branch of this industry wais suddenly taxed out of existence by an impost which had no more apparent connection with wall-paper than the tariff on iron had with ships twenty-five years ago. The history of the Lake Superior copper-mines furnishes a curious illustration of the impossibility of predicting the effect a tariff. For years since the proprietors of these mines, which were producing coppcr under great disadvantages, determined to apply to Congress for a tariff of three cents on copper. This they thought would keep out foreign copper and yield them a profit. The tariff was passed; the lobby congratulated the miners and the miners thanked the lobby for its efficient assistance. There was little reason, however, far congratulations. The price of copper, instead of rising, fell; almost every mine in the Lake Superior country stopped work, and the Calumet and Jec;a mine, which had previously done nothing at all, now produces, two thirds of all the copper that is mined. The fluctuations in price have meanwhile closely followed those of the English market. The tariff had no effect whatever. We do not undertake to explain these facts. Protectionists may if they will. Perhaps they will say that the tariff was too small.