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

The first of these is–that gold chains, etc., and a pompous display of rings have long ago been degraded in public estimation by the practice and opinions prevailing in aristocratic quarters. This tendency of public feeling at once amounts to a large deduction from what would otherwise be our demand.

The second of these corrections is–that, since our main action upon the gold market lies through the jewellers, and, consequently, through jewellers’ gold, therefore, on allowing for the way in which jewellers alloy their gold, our real means of operating upon the gold market may be estimated perhaps at not more than one-fourth part of our apparent means.

A third important correction is this–at first sight it might seem as though the purchaser of gold articles would benefit by the whole depreciation of gold, and that the depreciation might be taken to represent exactly the amount of stimulation applied to the sale, for instance, of gold plate. But this is not so. Taking the depreciation of gold at one-half, then upon any gold article, as suppose a salver, each ounce would have sunk from 77s. to 38s. 6d. Next, rate the workmanship at 40s. the ounce, and then the total cost upon each ounce will not be (77s. + 40)/2, or in other words 58s. 6d., as a hasty calculation might have fancied, but (77s./2) + 40, that is to say, 78s. 6d. Paying heretofore L5 17s., under the new price of gold you would pay L4 within a trifle. Consequently, when those who argue for the vast extension of the gold market, rely for its possibility upon a vast preliminary depreciation of gold, they are deceiving themselves as to the nature and compass of that depreciation. The main action of the public upon the gold market must always lie through wrought and not through unwrought gold, and in this there must always be two elements of price, viz., X, the metal, and Y, the workmanship; so that the depreciation will never be = (x + y)/2 but only x/2 + y; and y, which is a very costly element, will never be bound at all, not by the smallest fraction, through any possible change in the cost of x.

This is a most important consideration; for if the price of gold could fall to nothing at all, not the less the high price of the workmanship–this separately for itself–would for ever prevent the great bulk of society from purchasing gold plate. Yet, through what other channel than this of plate is it possible for any nation to reach the gold market by any effectual action upon the price? M. Chevalier, the most influential of French practical economists, supposes the case that California might reduce the price of gold by one-half. Let us say, by way of evading fractions, that gold may settle finally at the price of forty shillings the ounce. But to what purpose would the diggers raise enormous depots of gold for which they can have no commensurate demand? As yet the true difficulty has not reached them. The tendency was frightful; but, within the short period through which the new power has yet worked, there was not range enough to bring this tendency into full play. Now, however, when new powers of the same quality, viz., in Australia, in Queen Charlotte’s Island, in Owhyhee, and, lastly, on Lord Poltimore’s estate in South Moulton, are in working, it seems sensibly nearer. It is a literal fact that we have yet to ascertain whether this vaunted gold will even pay for the costs of working it. Coals lying at the very mouth of a pit will be thankfully carried off by the poor man, but dig a little deeper, and it requires the capital of a rich man to raise them; and after that it requires a good deal of experience, and the trial of much mechanic artifice, to ascertain whether after all it will be worth while to raise them. To leap from the conclusion–that, because a solitary prize of 25 lb. weight may largely remunerate an emigrant to California, therefore a whole generation of emigrants will find the average profits of gold-washing, golddigging, etc., beyond those of Russia or of Borneo, is an insanity quite on a level with all the other insanities of the case. But, says the writer in the Times, the fact has justified the speculation; the result is equal to the anticipation; in practice nobody has been disappointed; everybody has succeeded; nobody complains of any delusion. We beg his pardon. There have been very distinct complaints of that nature. These have proceeded not from individuals merely, but from associations of ten or twelve, who, after working for some time, have not reaped the ordinary profits on their expenses; whereas, they were also entitled to expect high wages for their labour, in addition to extravagant profits on their outlay. Yet, suppose this to have been otherwise, what shadow of an argument can be drawn from the case of those privileged few, who entered upon a virgin harvest, applicable to the multitudes who will succeed to an inheritance of ordinary labour, tried in all quarters of the globe, and seldom indeed found to terminate in any extra advantages?