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CHAPTER II.: diminished coinage of silver in france—gold is already at a discount in comparison with silver. - Michel Chevalier, On the Probable Fall in the Value of Gold: The Commercial and Social Consequences which may ensue, and the Measures which it invites 
On the Probable Fall in the Value of Gold: The Commercial and Social Consequences which may ensue, and the Measures which it invites. Translated from the French, with preface, by Richard Cobden, Esq. (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1859).
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diminished coinage of silver in france—gold is already at a discount in comparison with silver.
Whilst in France the coinage of gold takes this unexampled development, the like process with regard to silver is diminishing, and bids fair to cease altogether. In the period of forty-eight years, from the 18th Brumaire, year 8, to 1848, there had been coined 3,891,000,000 francs in silver (£155,640,000), or a yearly average of 81,065,000 francs (£3,242,600). During the eight years, terminating the 31st December, 1857, the coinage has only amounted to 323,660,000 francs, or a yearly average of 40,457,000 francs (£1,618,280).* It should, moreover, be observed that the coinage of silver during the latter years has only taken place in consequence of the great influence exerted in that respect by the government upon the directors of the mints. Left to themselves, they would not perhaps have struck a single five-franc piece since 1853.
Not only is much less silver money coined, but even that which the country possessed has been rapidly disappearing. The Custom House returns afford upon this subject only proximate indications, as the declarations are not always exact, though they nevertheless must be taken for authority. Formerly, France imported much more of silver commodities* than she exported. It appears from a report made in 1839 to a commission on the currency, over which M. Thénard presided, that during the period from the 1st January, 1816, to the 1st January, 1839, the excess of the importation of silver over the exportation amounted to 1,822,824,818 francs (£72,912,992). Nearly the same proportions were preserved until 1851, inclusively; but then commenced an inverse movement which gathered strength every year.
In 1852, the exportation surpassed the importation by 2,700,000 francs (£108,000). In 1853, the excess amounted to 117 millions (£4,680,000). It rose successively to 164 millions (£6,560,000) in 1854; to 197 millions (£7,880,000) in 1855; to 284 millions (£11,-360,000) in 1856; to 362 millions (£14,480,000) in 1857. From the 1st January, 1852, to the 1st January, 1858, the total excess of exportations over importations amounted to 1,127 millions (£45,080,000), which would be about two-fifths of the silver money possessed by France a few years since, according to the opinion of many persons.* There are not two ways, there is only one way of explaining these facts: gold is imported into France in masses, and takes the place in the circulation formerly filled by silver, which disappears, because it is profitable to come from abroad to barter gold for silver, on the footing of one kilogramme of the former for fifteen-and-a-half of the latter, the proportion established in the French currency,—for how long and under what qualifications, will be seen by referring to the law of 7 Germinal, year 11.
The merchant possessing ingots of gold has only to carry them to the Mint to obtain the same amount in pieces of ten francs or twenty francs, weight for weight, and fineness for fineness, save only the small charge to cover the expense of coining.* In this way every kilogramme of gold introduced into France, enters into the circulation on the footing, just described, of an equality with 15½ kilogrammes of silver. The creditor is obliged to take it in discharge of his claim on that basis.
From the very fact of the parallel circulation of gold and silver, on the footing of one of the former to fifteen-and-a-half of the latter, it is easy to withdraw the silver coins from circulation, and export them, giving gold in exchange. From the moment that numbers of persons devote their time and capital to the carrying out of this substitution, we must conclude that it is a profitable trade, for, if the relation of 1 to 15½ were not advantageous for the holders of gold, they would take good care not to carry on the operation upon the large scale on which they have proceeded.
To say that the exchange of a kilogramme of gold for 15½ kilogrammes of silver is a profitable transaction, is in other terms to prove that in the general market of Europe, or rather of the world, the relative value of gold and silver has undergone a change. Their relation is no longer that of 1 to 15½. Gold is no longer worth fifteen-and-a-half times its weight of the other metal. In the French market, silver is at this time at a premium; the bullion merchants will pay to those who bring them a certain quantity of coined silver, a certain sum beyond its legal equivalent in gold money, and the amount of the premium is the measure of the change which the relation of 1 to 15½ has undergone. This premium is a notorious fact; it is quoted every day; every morning the newspapers announce it. During the last two years, it has varied ordinarily between 20 and 30 francs per 1,000. Sometimes it has been lower, but it has also risen to 40 francs. 20, 30, and 40 per 1,000, is 2, 3, and 4 per cent.; such a difference, insignificant after all, has been sufficient to create the vast movement which has brought into France so much gold, and expelled by the reflux so great a mass of silver. It is a proof of the force with which the precious metals everywhere tend to find their level. The fact of gold being appreciated in France 2 per cent., or even less, is a sufficient reason why it should be precipitated upon the market of that country; on the contrary, let silver be depreciated to the same extent, and it will flow away with equal impetuosity.
Nor is there any ground for surprise at this kind of fluidity which characterises the two metals: the simple truth is they are commodities which in a small volume possess a great value, and which it is therefore easy to transport a great distance at very small expense.
[*]The following are the details, year by year:—
[*]That which here, and in the returns of the Customs, is named silver commodities, comprises both ingots and coins.
[*]The following is a table of the importations and exportations of silver since 1846.
[*]The charge is 6 francs, 70 centimes (5s. 7d.) per kilogramme of coined gold, making 3,100 francs (£124.)