Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

6

being a permanent one. A great increase of the Home • Charges '— that is, of the indebtedness of the Indian Government to England has taken place since 1855 or thereabouts ; but for many years the effects of that increase were masked by the large investments of English money in the construction of the Indian railways. Mr. R. W. Crawford states that upwards of 93,000,0001. have been so expended, of which sum 40 per cent. was spent in this country, and 54,000,0001. were sent in successive payments to India. So long as this money was due and was being paid to India, the Indian Government was pro tanto relieved from the payment of its · Home

Charges; ' so much so that in the four years 1858-61 the Home payments (represented by the Council drafts) averaged only 660,0001. per annum. But when the railway-payments from this country came to an end, the Indian Government had to resume payment of the full amount of the Home • Charges, plus the guaranteed interest on the capital invested in the Indian railways. Hence the recent and comparatively sudden increase in the amount of Home bills drawn upon India. As regards the future, no considerable diminution in the amount of these bills is likely to occur except from an increased expenditure of British money in India-such as might speedily take place if England had to contribute to the cost of the Afghan War. This expenditure, while it lasts, is certain to lessen the existing depreciation of silver.

Nevertheless, taking all the above-mentioned operating influences together, the fall in the value of silver relatively to gold is greater than these influences can be held adequate to produce. Considering the wide field for the employment of silver even in the Western world-considering that some of the largest countries of Europe (such as Russia, Austria, and Italy), and also the United States of America, have to provide themselves with a metallic currency, and that in Russia and Austria this currency must, owing to the condition of these countries, be mainly silver, it will probably be found ere long that the present redundancy, or fall in value, of silver is partly owing to transient causes. At the same time it must be said that, irrespective of the greatness of the recent fall in the value of silver, and looking back over many years, a great change has been steadily in progress in connexion with the relative requirements for gold and silver. Wealth is accumulating; the exchanges of property are increasing in number and value; and as this increase of wealth goes on, gold naturally gains upon silver, both as currency and as a means of storing wealth, in ornaments and otherwise. Some broad facts are available to show the vast change in this respect which has come over Europe, especially during the present century. In the sixteenth century the supply of silver became at least four times larger than that of gold, and between 1492 and 1848 no less than 1,600 millions of silver were poured into the world, and only 400 millions of gold. Nevertheless, the effect of this enormous excess of silver only lowered the value of that metal relatively to gold from 1:111 to 1:15]. At this relative value the two metals stood at the beginning of the present century, although the annual supply of silver

was then threefold that of gold. Down to that time at least, silver was the standard money and general currency of the world. The pound in every European country was originally a pound of silver. In fact, silver was then the superior, or indeed the only suitable, metal for currency; the low range of prices, and the comparatively small amount of exchanges of property in commerce, and in the ordinary operations of buying and selling, rendering silver a far more convenient currency than gold. But these circumstances have been changing; and apart from the general knowledge of the fact that wealth has been accumulating, and that prices have greatly risen in modern Europe, we find a plain proof of the superiority which gold is acquiring over silver as money ever since 1840, or indeed since 1810, as indicated by the statistics of the annual supply of gold and silver respectively. In 1800, as already said, the annual supply of silver, relatively to that of gold, was as 3 to 1; between 1810 and 1830 it fell to little more than as 2 to 1; but in 1848 the supply of the two metals, according to our estimate, had become about equal, while according to Chevalier's estimate (accepted by the Select Committee of 1866) the supply of silver as compared with that of gold was then only as 0.68 to 1. Thus, according to our estimate, the annual supply of the two metals in relation to one another in 1848 had been altered to the extent of 300 per cent. since the beginning of the century; and, according to M. Chevalier's estimate, the alteration amounted to upwards of 400 per cent. And yet the relative value of the two metals throughout all this period of change remained substantially the same-namely, as 151 to 1. This was a very remarkable fact, and it is still more remarkable that the significance of this fact remained entirely unobserved. It showed in the most striking manner that since the beginning of the century some new and potent influence was at work, which sustained the value of gold, although the annual supply of that metal had in 1848 increased threefold while the silver-supply had remained stationary. It is only now, after thirty years of the most remarkable revolution in the supplies of the precious metals that the world has ever beheld, that the new influence which supports the value of gold relatively to silver has come to be recognised. This new influence cannot be too clearly appreciated in making calculations as to the future, or even in explaining the present decline in the value of silver. There is no absolute superiority of any metal as currency; all depends upon the condition of the country where it is to be so employed. Barbarous countries are too poor even to have a copper currency, and cowrie-shells are still in use as currency in some parts of India. But in proportion as the wealth of a country increases, it requires a currency of higher value. It will be a long time before all the countries even of Europe take to a gold currency, but all countries, without exception, will do this as they progress in wealth. Taking the civilised world as a whole (i.e. including India and China), silver still holds its old place as the superior metal for currency; but in the wealthier countries of Europe and America gold is steadily gaining upon the cheaper metal; and this ever-growing preference for the more valuable metal as currency will continue to maintain its value relatively to silver to a degree no longer justified by the amount of the supply of the two metals.

Such, then, are some of the more notable facts resulting from the memorable gold-discoveries thirty years ago; and they furnish a striking proof of the difficulty, even on the part of really eminent men, in forecasting the issue of novel circumstances. There remains to be considered the most important point of all-namely, the effect of the vast new supplies of the precious metals upon trade and the general condition of mankind—a subject which we must reserve for treatment in a separate article.

ART. II.--Francesco Cenci e la sua famiglia. Notizie e docu

menti raccolti per A. BERTOLOTTi. Firenze: 1877. AT T last we have a conscientious attempt to narrate with his

torical accuracy the famous story of Beatrice Cenci, her wrongs and her crimes ; and it would seem that the attempt is a successful one. This really is the first time that the true story has been offered to the world, though few passages of mediæval guilt have been related so often, or treated by so multifarious a band of writers. Some, the poets and romancers, have excusably enough made no pretence to bistorical investigation. Nobody will blame Shelley for taking the tale as the voice of popular tradition gave it to him, and using it as the dreadful plot of the finest modern tragedy in our language. One might say the same, perhaps, for Guerrazzi, were it not that his wellknown novel claims to be founded on a new examination of the documentary evidence and a genuine historical appreciation of it—which is absolutely unfounded.* On other grounds also his book is objectionable. It is not like the work of an Italian. It is written in the very worst French taste and style. The author was attracted to the subject merely as it afforded an opportunity for a succès de scandale, and he has used it accordingly. Several other writers might be mentioned, some of them quite recent, who have published fresh renderings of the celebrated old tragedy, most of them professing to be based on new and exhaustive investigation of documents throwing light on the circumstances of the case. But none of them have done what they profess to do. They merely follow one another, telling the story as it has so often been told, with more or less of detail, evolved for the most part from the inner consciousness of the writer. The first enquirer who has really consulted all the available records bearing on the subject is Signor Bertolotti; and the result is, as we purpose showing our readers, a very different story indeed from that which so many generations have accepted. Murray's Handbook for · Southern Italy,' p. 45, says: “The story has been told by

Keppel Craven in his Travels through the Abruzzi, and 6

more accurately still, as derived from a cotemporary MS., in • an article of the “ Quarterly Review,” April, 1858.' This pretended cotemporary MS. has deceived sundry other enquirers. It is preserved in the Minerva Library at Rome, and, it is true, calls itself a contemporaneous account. But it is full of blunders; and Signor Bertolotti shows that it has no title to the character it claims. His own version of the history is most carefully based throughout on documentary evidence of an unimpeachable character, partly drawn from the Papal public offices, but in a much greater measure from the archives still existing in the offices of old-established notaries who have, in one way or another, inherited the business and the records of former generations of notarial predecessors. Those who have

Signor Bertolotti mentions as within his own knowledge that a Roman notary, knowing that Guerrazzi was engaged on the Cenci history, wrote to him to say that several curious documents throwing light on various parts of the story were to be found in the archives of his office, to which Guerrazzi replied that he had no need of any such information!

ever had occasion to enter such offices may have seen long shelves filled with huge thick volumes, each with its date on the back, running into the seventeenth and sixteenth centuries, and in some cases even further back. Think of the mass of absolutely certain facts, and curious details, and longhidden secrets that might be hunted out from those repositories by anyone who would endure the improbus labor Signor Bertolotti has gone through

Signor Bertolotti does not possess much literary power, nor does he make any pretence or attempt in that direction. Still less has he any regard for the preconceived ideas and sympathies of story-tellers and their readers. His object is simple historical truth, and he is evidently well fitted for the discovery of it. It is clear that he is a practised hand in the examination of archives; and those who have ever attempted work of this kind know the value and the necessity of this qualification. He has the true archivist's flair, sure as the scent of a bloodhound, and, absolutely regardless as to when and where he may run down his game, he is only eager to follow the trail accurately and surely through every doubling and baffling covert. This in the present case he has been able to do with very

remarkable success. But perhaps the reader does not care for dry truth at the cost of disturbing his cherished Cenci legend. Perhaps he may consider it one of the cases in which ignorance is bliss and it is folly to be wise.' Perhaps he-or more probably she-may declare that no evidence is wanted in the matter beyond the expression of those wonderfully sad eyes which look out from the canvas hanging on the wall in the Barberini Gallery across the intervening three centuries. Look in her face, it may be said—that face whose exquisitely plaintive beauty has caused it to become throughout the civilised world one of the best known faces of all the generations of men and women from that time to this—and you will need no documentary evidence of the truth of one of the saddest tales the world has ever heard. Well, it may at once be said that those who do not choose to have their cherished romancelore disturbed may as well leave the following pages unread; for we are going, with much regret, to be terribly iconoclastic. Signor Bertolotti has no regret whatsoever in the matter. He is absolutely ruthless.

We will begin our thankless task with the celebrated picture in question. This is not beginning with the beginning, it is true. But the supposed portrait has done so much to popularise the story, and the emotions with which many persons approach

« AnteriorContinuar »