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Chrysomania; Or, The Gold-Frenzy In Its Present Stage
by [?]

There is, however, notoriously, a natural propensity amongst men to confide in their luck; and, as this is a wholesome propensity in the main, it may seem too harsh to describe by the name of mania even a morbid excess of it, though it ought to strike the most sanguine man, that in order to account for the possibility of any failures at all, we must suppose the main harvest of favourable chances to decay with the first month or so of occupation by any commensurate body of settlers; so that in proportion to the strength and reality of the promises to the earliest settlers, will have been the rapid exhaustion of such promises. Exactly because the district was really a choice one for those who came first, it must often be ruined for him who succeeds him.

Here, then, is a world of disappointments prepared and preparing for future emigrants. The favourite sports and chief lands of promise will by the very excess of their attractiveness have converged upon themselves the great strength of the reapers; and in very many cases the main harvest will have been housed before the new race of adventurers from Great Britain can have reached the ground. In most cases, therefore, ruin would be the instant solution of the disappointment. But in a country so teeming with promise as Australia, ruin is hardly a possible event. A hope lost is but a hope transfigured. And one is reminded of a short colloquy that took place on the field of Marengo. ‘Is this battle lost?’ demanded Napoleon of Desaix. ‘It is,’ replied Desaix; ‘but, before the sun sets, there is plenty of time to win it back.’ In like manner the new comers, on reaching the appointed grounds, will often have cause to say, ‘Are we ruined this morning?’ To which the answer will not unfrequently be, ‘Yes; but this is the best place for being ruined that has yet been discovered. You have trusted to the guidance of a will-of-the-wisp; but a will-of-the-wisp has been known to lead a man by accident to a better path than that which he had lost.’ There is no use, therefore, in wasting our pity upon those who may happen to suffer by the first of the two delusions which I noticed, viz., the conceit that either Australia or California offers a lottery without blanks. Blanks too probably they will draw; but what matters it, when this disappointment cannot reach them until they find themselves amidst a wilderness of supplementary hopes? One prize has been lost, but twenty others have been laid open that had never been anticipated.

Far different, on the other hand, is the second delusion–the delusion of those who mistake a transitional for a permanent prosperity, and many of whom go so far in their frenzy as to see only matter of congratulation in the very extremity of changes, which (if realized) would carry desperate ruin into our social economy. For these people there is no indemnification. I begin with this proposition–that no material extension can be given to the use of gold after great national wants are provided for, without an enormous lowering of its price: which lowering, if once effected, and exactly in proportion as it is effected, takes away from the gold-diggers all motive for producing it. The dilemma is this, and seems to me inevitable: Given a certain depreciation of gold, as, for instance, by 80 per cent., then the profits of the miners falling in that same proportion[2] (viz., by four-fifths) will leave no temptation whatever to pursue the trade of digging. But, on the other hand, such a depreciation not being given–gold being supposed to range at anything approaching to its old price–in that case no considerable extension as to the uses of gold is possible. In either case alike the motive for producing gold rapidly decays. To keep up any steady encouragement to the miners, the market for gold must be prodigiously extended. That the market may be extended, new applications of gold must be devised: the old applications would not absorb more than a very limited increase. That new applications may be devised, a prodigious lowering of the price is required. But precisely as that result is approached the extra encouragement to the miners vanishes. That drooping, the production will droop, even if nature should continue the extra supplies; and the old state of prices must restore itself.