OF THE TIME WHEN MONEY WAS "EASY."
IT seems a remarkable fact that during the late Congressional travail with the currency question, no one of the people in or out of Congress, who were concerned lest there should not be enough money in the country to "move the crops," ever took upon himself the pleasing task of rehearsing the late Confederacy's financial story, for the purpose of showing by example how simple and easy a thing it is to create wealth out of nothing by magic revolutions of the printing-press, and to make rich, by act of Congress, everybody not too lazy to gather free dollars into a pile. The story has all the flavor of the Princess Scheherezade's romances, with the additional merit of being historically true. For once a whole people was rich. Money was "easy" enough to satisfy everybody, and everybody had it in unstinted measure. This money was not, it is true, of a quality to please the believers in a gold or other arbitrary standard of value, but that is a matter of little consequence, now that senators and representatives of high repute have shown that the best currency possible is that which exists only by the will of the government, and the volume of which is regulated by the cravings of the people alone. That so apt an illustration of the financial views of the majority in Congress should have been wholly neglected, during the discussions, seems therefore unaccountable.
The financial system adopted by the Confederate government was singularly simple and free from technicalities. It consisted chiefly in the issue of treasury notes enough to meet all the expenses of the government, and in the present advanced state of the art of printing there was but one difficulty incident to this process; namely, the impossibility of having the notes signed in the Treasury Department, as fast as they were needed. There happened, however, to be several thousand young ladies in Richmond willing to accept light and remunerative employment at their homes, and as it was really a matter of small moment whose name the notes bore, they were given out in sheets to these young ladies, who signed and returned them for a consideration. I shall not undertake to guess how many Confederate treasury notes were issued. Indeed, I am credibly informed by a gentleman who was high in office in the Treasury Department, that even the secretary himself did not certainly know. The acts of Congress authorizing issues of currency were the hastily formulated thought of a not very wise body of men, and my informant tells me they were frequently susceptible of widely different construction by different officials. However that may be, it was clearly out of the power of the government ever to redeem the notes, and whatever may have been the state of affairs within the treasury, nobody outside its precincts ever cared to muddle his head in an attempt to get at exact figures.