صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

“My mother bore me mortal; the free sky
Gave me its common boon of light and air,
And the first breath I uttered was a cry.

Kings are as helpless at their birth as I."* In short, no intelligent reader who undertakes to examine the works of De Vega will refuse to assign him a high rank among modern authors, especially among dramatists. He does not, indeed, belong to the first class; but in the second he has no superior. If originality, or dependence exclusively on the resources of one's own mind, fecundity of invention, and facility of versification could be regarded as the true test of poetic merit, no one would occupy a higher rank than the author of the twenty-six yolumes above alluded to. But certain other qualities are required in which he has been surpassed by several others. At the same time, we are bound to remember that to this day he is without a rival in his own country, among those who understand him best. Cervantes is held to be more happy in his Don Quixote than Lope has been in any one work; a similar remark applies both to Calderon and Quevedo; but it is the opinion of the Spanish critics, that no one author of any age has afforded his countrymen such an immense variety of pleasure and instruction as Lope. This has been the estimate of all classes at all times. During his life, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, regarded him as a prodigy of nature, and actually followed him in the streets to wonder at him. Those desiring to convey the highest idea of the excellence of anything they saw or possessed, applied to it the epithet Lope, as “a Lope hat," "a Lope watch," &c., &c. When he died in 1635, in the seventy-third year of his age, his remains were exposed in state for nine days, so that all classes might have an opportunity to give expression to their veneration and respect for one who had so largely contributed to their happiness. Three bishops officiated at his funeral, the proudest and greatest of the Spanish nobility, with the Duke de Sessa at their head, acted as chief mourners ; and the people followed the cortege in hurdreds of thousands. We have already spoken of his daughter Marcela, whose only request, after fourteen years of uninterrupted convent life, was that she might be permitted to see his face before the grave closed upon it.

[blocks in formation]

The thoughtless and idle may sneer as they will at Lope de Vega ; but it is not the less true that it required genius of a high order to maintain himself for more than half a century as the intellectual idol of his countrymen, while their greatest authors were his contemporaries and rivals.

ART. V.-Acts of Congress and other Public Documents. 1861–1864.

The state of our currency, the action of Congress, and much that we meet with in leading journals, forbid us to take for granted a general recognition, even by educated men, of the principles which govern exchange, and its chief instrument, money. Our practice, and our opinions, publicly and privately expressed, evince but little confidence in the wis. dom and authority of the conclusions of political economy. The correctness which belongs to them seems to be regarded as one of theory-of interior, logical connections, rather than of practice, of daily guidance and government in the exigencies of national life. Thus we go on to repeat mistakes many times made,-mistakes in the light of which these principles, opening the way to safer action, arose. The best results of patient, scientific thought go for nothing, and we blunder along the old empirical road, surprised by results we ought to have anticipated, and looking for remedies, not to the laws we have neglected, but to some new stroke of cunning evasion. We regard political economy much as we regard ethics. We presume a knowledge of its principles with no thorough study of them; we think them much modified by the exigencies of the moment, as we annul them at the last instant by a want of faith in their actual, their governing authority. A science so used can only render conspicuous and unexcusable the failures it has not been permitted to prevent.

The most immediate, pressing question of economy is that of currency. The well-being of individuals, the just rewards of labor, the security of business, the prosperity and integrity of the nation, are largely dependent on it.

To understand the requisites of a good currency, we must distinctly see the offices it discharges. We shall speak of it chiefly as a medium of just exchange between individuals. Much the greater part of labor is expended, not in reference to the direct immediate consumption of the products secured, but for the purchasing-power which these confer. Purchasing-power, commanding a wide range of gratifications, is the great aim of industrial pursuits, and this we wish to possess in its most free, full, and serviceable form, to bear it easily and securely with us everywhere, in amounts wholly optional and perfectly divisible. A sound, well-devised currency enables us to reach this most desirable object. We abstract from every object its purchasingpower, condense it in money, and now find it completely pliant, and everywhere available. The product of our labor may be cumbersome, bound down to a single place; by a simple sale its purchasing-power is separated, drops its material load, and, with easy transfer, has the command of all places; it may be perishable, serviceable for an hour, it now becomes as endurable as the most endurable of metals; it may be indivisible, it is now ready to fall at option with all amounts; as an unexchanged product, it may command but a single market or a single sale; as money, it ranges through all markets, and searches out all persons. We have thus abstracted from our labor, in a permanent and perfect form, the only quality we sought, its purchasing-power.

That currency may discharge its offices well, that values may be correctly transferred to it and securely repose in it, it must evidently itself be of unchangeable value. A currency deficient in this respect will be unable to preserve the purchasing-power entrusted to it. Labor secures a certain value in products ; wishing to retain this in a safe and available form, it transfers it to money. But this, itself of unstable value, begins at once, like a leaky vessel, to waste what has been cominitted to it, reducing the returns of labor to its own accidental and depreciated state. Thus value, deposited in a poor currency, becomes less safe than when left to rest in almost any article the product of labor. This operates very unfavorably on incomes arising from interest, the earnings of money. These depreciate often rapidly, to the great and unreasonable loss of those dependent on them. We say rapidly, for the moment the foundations of currency become insecure, the same motives which operated to induce the evil usually push it quickly towards a final catastrophe. If this result follows from legislation, from a currency made to rest on law rather than on intrinsic value, it involves obvious dishonesty towards those who have

call who strip The currere past, and their supplies and char

entrusted their resources to it, under the virtual pledge of its stability.

The parties on whom these losses fall are, of necessity, those least prepared to endure them. Widows, minors, persons retired from active life, institutions of learning and charity, benevolent organizations, find their supplies cut short, without redress for the past, and often with no escape for the future. The currency has lost its retentive powers, and all who strive to treasure the results of labor in it, do so at their peril. A single year may see their income reduced by half, or made a mere fraction of its former self. However unproductive one's property may be, he may thus be compelled to retain it, rather than to meet the depreciation following a sale. A great office of money fails to be discharged, and those whose incomes are already involved in it suffer severe, unnecessary, and unjust loss.

An unstable currency is unable to discharge another important function, that of correctly measuring value. This, with its loss of retentive power, renders it a constant embarrassment and snare to business. A great office of money is this of measuring value-an office which, in its best form, it discharges not with absolute, but with proximate and sufficient correctness. No article retains perfectly, in all places and times, the same purchasing-power; most vacillate greatly in this respect. They thereby lose the ability of measuring the purchasing-power of other commodities, since their own power is not a stable unit. If my foot-rule varies in length every time I apply it, I cannot thereby effect a comparison between different lengths. For reasons we cannot pause to render, gold and silver are among the most stable of products, and are, therefore, especially fitted to measure values, and become the medium of their just transfer. Grains, fruits, cotton, wool, all the produce of agriculture, and products of manufacture, are varying in different directions and degrees from day to day and month to month, under the diverse circumstances of production and states of the market; but this fact, in a sound currency, is correctly registered in the price, and they still exchange for each other with sufficient justice. It is a simple process of comparative accuracy, to express the purchasing-power of any product in price, and thus put it on the scale of measurement with all other products.

If, however, the price itself has no stable value, the whole work of settling the standard of correct exchange is immediately undone. Some products, lively and sensitive,

quickly feel this double law of change imposed upon them by their own variable value and that of the currency, and register the fact, day by day, in altered prices; more products are sluggish to feel the forces about them. Like a poor thermometer, they long remain at the old mark though the temperature has greatly changed. The exchange of these commodities thus diversely affected must go on, one for the other, with no correct standard of value, and no justice in the results. The one party must suffer unreasonable loss, and the other secure as unreasonable gains. We cannot look in any direction without seeing illustrations of this statement. The profits of some branches of manufacture, as of woollen goods, are very large, since the price of cloths has risen more rapidly than that of wool. The one, in more open and lively market, has felt at once and to the full extent the advance of prices; while the other, lingering behind, bas left a large balance in favor of the manufacturer.

The wages of some classes of laborers, aided by an increased demand, has nearly kept pace with the enhanced prices, while those of other classes have experienced no, or very inadequate change. Salaries have rarely so advanced as to meet the exigency. Business is everywhere disturbed by a sudden shock, and called on for an immediate readjustment of prices. Many cannot at once raise the price of their products, and suffer corresponding loss, while others, more fortunately situated, reap extravagant rewards.

Again, those engaged in branches of business which interpose considerable time between the purchase of the raw material and the sale of the completed product, make unusual profits. They buy at lower and sell at higher prices, and therefore find a constant balance in their favor. On the other hand, contractors, whose sales run as it were before their purchases, who agree to erect a building, construct a bridge or a ship for a given sum, find themselves unable to meet their obligations without great losses. These relations will be reversed, and business deranged in an opposite form, when prices shall begin to decline, returning to a specie basis.

The period of advancing prices is one of apparent, but not of substantial prosperity. Many, and these often in the more demonstrative branches of business, are making money rapidly, and give to manufacture and commerce a coloring of success. The losses corresponding to these gains are obscurely divided up among a large class of consumers, from whom the result is in part concealed by the enhanced price

« السابقةمتابعة »