Front Page Titles (by Subject) PREFACE. - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 6 (Lombard Street, Essays on Guizot & Cairnes, The Depreciation of Silver)
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PREFACE. - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 6 (Lombard Street, Essays on Guizot & Cairnes, The Depreciation of Silver) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 6.
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I venture to bring together these articles on the recent Depreciation of Silver, and on the recent Exchanges with India, though I am well aware how incomplete a view they give of the complex subjects to which they relate, and how disagreeable to read a collection of such papers almost necessarily is. If I could, I would have rewritten the whole of them in a more systematic form. But I have no time or strength at my disposal for such a task, and I am obliged, therefore, to use this substitute. To elucidate some parts of the chain of reasoning, I have added the evidence which I gave on one or two points before Mr. Goschen’s Committee on the Depreciation of Silver, last spring. But even so, there is much I should wish to say in addition, both in exposition and in defence of the opinions which I hold.
So far as the short experience which we have had goes, I think it confirms the view taken in these articles.
First, I consider that the rise in the price of silver from 47d. last summer to 55¼d. now, shows the preceding great fall from 54⅞d. last February to be only a momentary accident in a new and weak market, and not the permanent effect of lasting causes.
Secondly, it has been proved that the demand for the countries which use silver as a currency is stimulated by its cheapness here and in America, and that this has carried off the late supply. China has taken the lead in so doing, mainly because she has had a better and readier means of export; but sooner or later, all other silver-moneyed countries will do so, according to their magnitude and opportunities.
And these are the two main propositions which I wish to establish.
If these are proved, the practical conclusion follows that it would be absurd to make any permanent changes in our Indian currency or taxation, while all the facts upon which such changes would be founded are changing so much and so rapidly. And though this conclusion does not need support, it is supported by our uncertainty as to the effect of the increased Home charges of our Indian Government—sometimes, for shortness, called the Indian “tribute”—which, in a way which I have tried to explain, complicates the whole subject.
The fertility of the new silver mines in America is not very elaborately examined in these articles, for even yet there are no sure data for us. But everything tends to show that the yield of these mines is likely to be far less than what was once thought, and the difficulty of obtaining exact data is an additional reason for being very slow to make any changes founded on an hypothesis as to the future price of silver. As yet no one can prove that the permanent value of silver—whether in relation to gold or in relation to commodities at large—will change so much as to render any alterations necessary.
[The Preface, as above written, was sent to the printers about the beginning of March. It is believed that Mr. Bagehot at one time contemplated making additions to it, but no memoranda have been left explanatory of his last intentions.
Economist Office,April, 1877.]