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I send you a specimen of metal, also from California, very small in quantity, marked platina, which I request you to test and report the result.
As much curiosity exists as to the character, quality, &c., of this newly discovered mineral, I respectfully request that your final report may be such as will furnish the fullest information on the subject.
I also send by Col. Cooper a quantity of cinnabar, obtained not far from the place where the gold was found, in the hope that you have at the mint the means of ascertaining the per centage of quicksilver it contains. Your report on this ore will also be highly interesting to the public. I hope to be favored with the result of your examination of this specimen as soon as it can be conveniently prepared. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. L. MARCY, Secretary of War. R. M. Patterson, Superintendent United States Mint, Philadelphia.
United States Mint, Philadelphia, December 12, 1848. Sir:- have the honor to enclose to you a statement showing the weight, fineness, and value of the California gold, brought by Colonel Cooper to the mint, pursuant to your instructions. One pound (troy) of the grains, as requested by you, was sent to Washington by Colonel Cooper. The amount deposited at the mint it was deemed proper should be entered as an ordinary deposite in your name, and subject to the usual routine of the mint. It will be paid on your order, and the return of the bullion receipt given to Colonel Cooper. As intimated by you in your letter to the director of the mint, a portion of the amount can be reserved for medals, and the balance paid in coin to such person as you may direct. Whatever co-operation may be required on my part to carry out your excellent suggestions will be promptly given. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
James Ross Snowden, Treasurer United States Mint. Hon. W. L MARCY, Secretary of War.
Memorandum of Gold Bullion, deposited the 11th day of December, 1818, at the
Mint of the United States, at Philadelphia, by William L. Marcy, Secretary
1000ths. from California, grains, 216 00 211 46 894 $3,910 10 None Three thousand vine hundred and ten dollars and ten cents.
Geo. W. Edelman, for the Treasurer of the Mint.
Mint of the United States, Philadelphia, Dec. 12, 1848. Sir:- I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 8th instant, brought by Lieut. Col. Cooper, with specimens of gold, platina, and cinnabar, from California.
Colonel Cooper has returned to you with all the information immediately required as to the parcels of gold which you sent. Our operations on a still larger deposite from the same region have led to the following results, which I have reported to the Secretary of the Treasury.
The fineness of the California gold varied from 892 to 897 thousandths; the average of the whole being 894. This is nearly equal to the standard of our coins, which is 900. The average value per ounce troy of the bullion before melting is $18 05}; that of the same in bars after melting is $18 48.
Your instructions with regard to the gold shall be carefully attended to.
The grains which you sent, marked platina, are proved to be of this useful metal, by their having the specific gravity of 18; which is high for the metal in this form.
An analysis of the cinnabar brought by Col. Cooper is undertaken by our assayer, Mr. Eckfeldt; and also by Professor Booth. The results shall be made known to you as soon as they are ascertained. Very respectfully, your faithful servant,
R. M. PATTERSON, Director. To Hon. W. L. MARCY, Secretary of War.
STATE FINANCES.- VIRGINIA.
Extracts from the Annual Message of Governor Smith to the Legislature of Virginia,
December, 1848. To the General Assembly of Virginia :
Gentlemen :-In my last annual message I informed you that the balance in the treasury on the 30th of September, 1847, available for the uses of the then existing fiscal year, was $127,114 02, and that there would be probably in the treasury, on the first day of October, 1848, the sum of $145,000; but, as will be seen from the treasurer's report, the actual balance is only $104,251 37. This apparent deficiency, however, does not actually exist, there being in the hands of the various State agencies connected with our internal improvements about $30,000; while the payments from the treasury to roads authorized by the last assembly are larger than in the year preceding. In fact, our State is steadily improving in population and wealth, our revenue having been increased about five per cent. within the past year, not by an increase in the rate of taxation, but by an increase in the number of subjects upon which it has been assessed. I herewith communicate a table prepared in the first auditor's office, illustrating this pleasant and agreeable fact, in which the number of almost every subject of taxation, and the amounts collected on each, for the three last years, will appear. In further illustration of these conclusions, I herewith communicate the first auditor's annual report, together with a tabular statement of population, &c.; and also the treasurer's annual report.
The condition of our revenue, highly gratifying as it must be to every Virginian, will not enable us, without some new provisions of law, to meet the heavy liabilities which have been authorized by the general assembly at their two last sessions. The general assembly at its session of 1846–7, authorized liabilities to the amount of $2,887,800; of which, up to the first day of October last, $819,453 59 cents was paid. Of the remainder, it is highly probable that about $261,600 will not be required; $744,000 of the loan to the James River Company is provided for; leaving $1,032,766 41 of those appropriations for which provision must be made at an early day. At your last session various acts were passed authorizing liabilities to the amount of $1,908,830. Of this, about $149,000 has been paid, and upwards of $400,000 will certainly be required. Of the residue, amounting to about $1,300,000, it is highly probable nothing will be called for except the appropriations to the New Shenandoah Company, and the Alexandria and Orange Railroad Company, two improvements of great importance to the country through which they pass, and to one of our principal towns. So that the almost certain demands upon the treasury, under the various laws of your two last sessions, will amount to not less than $2,000,000, exclusive of the loan to the James River and Kanawha Company; of which large sum about $1,500,000 will be required in the years 1849 and 1850.
How is this very considerable amount to be obtained? The law now directs it to be raised by loans; but I am satisfied that we cannot rely upon that means alone punctually to meet our engagements. It is to be remembered that State bonds, to the amount of about $800,000, have been sold in this market during the two years preceding the 1st day of October last; that the James River and Kanawha and other companies, now hold sor sale bonds to the amount of $228,000; and that the James River and Kanawha Company have now a right to demand, and will have at different periods on or before the first day of January, 1849, State bonds to the aggregate amount of $744,000; all of which will seek a market. In the face of this early demand upon the surplus capital of our citizens by companies actively engaged in prosecuting their works, can it be prudent to rely upon loans only to meet our State engagements ? To do so, and actively press the sale of our Slate bonds, might not only impair our unsullied credit, but seriously injure companies we have undertaken to aid. Much the larger portion of our State bonds is held by our own citizens, and nearly all the recent investe ments therein have been made by them; and it is of great importance to our prosperity that this policy should be encouraged, which in no way can be so effectually done as by keeping the supply short of the demand; thus giving an assurance to those who invest in our stock, that it will not depreciate. I do not think that we can safely rely upon loans for more than $400,000 per annum—the treasury can spare, for the uses of the next year, about $200,000, and I can see no other resource but taxation, or the sale of bank stock, when it can be made at par, for the residue, amounting to about $150,000. Our bank stocks are now in fine credit, and producing handsome dividends; and I deem it indispensable to the proper support of our State credit, that the second auditor should be clothed with the power of disposing of them, when necessary, to meet any public exigency. If the companies in which the State has embarked, and the works that she has undertaken on her own account, proceed with the spirit with which they have commenced, I am confident that $1,500,000 is the least sum that will suffice to meet the public engagements up to the end of the year 1850. And to prevent an enlargement of this sum, you will have to pass an act similar to the one passed on the 7th of March, 1840, entitled “ an act directing the suspension of surveys and subscriptions on the part of the State,” which I earnestly recommend.
In my former annual communications, I presented to the general assembly the importance of digesting a system of internal improvements which should be confined to two great railroads,-the indispensable necessity of deferring all secondary works until those should be completed—the certainty when that period arrived of realizing an income sufficient rapidly to complete every work in which private capital would engage—and I appealed to the pride, patriotism and wisdom of your predecessors for the adoption of this policy, but I appealed in vain. County roads, sectional schemes, improvements that properly belonged to the past or the future, found favor with the general assembly, thereby absorbing, to a great extent, the resources of the State, without contributing essentially to her improvement, or advancing in but slight degree, if at all, to the completion of the great works indispensable to the attainment of that high destiny to which she is properly entitled.
I again respectfully ask your attention to our usury laws. From much experience in the business affairs of men, I am satisfied they ought to be repealed; for, undoubtedly, they increase the price of money by increasing the hazard of losing it, and frequently cripple business by preventing conscientious men from lending at current rates, who, socner than violate the law, will keep their money by them, idle and unproductive.
Usury, as originally understood, was taking of any increase for the loan of money. The Israelites were forbidden to lend money at usury to their brethren. Says Moses, “ thou shall not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals upon increase.”
This ordinance of the Great Lawgiver was adopted by the Christian church, and for centuries its violation was denounced as a mortal sin, and enforced with such severity as to throw the business of lending money into the hands of the Jews and Lombards. At length the error of this policy became so apparent, and its injurious effects so serious, that the political power of the State was compelled to interfere, and about four hundred years ago it was made lawful to lend money upon increase. But wedded to ancient error, and yielding to the religious prejudices of the day, our ancestors, established a rate of interest which all persons were forbidden to exceed under heavy penalties. And such has remained the policy of the most enlightened nations until the reign of her present majesty the Queen of England, during which the laws of usury have been repealed in her dominions except in relation to loans on mortgages; and they have also been extensively modified in many of the States of our Federal Union. During this whole period, under the Mosaic dispensation, the canons of the Christian church, and the acts and rescripts of political power, it may be safely affirmed that the practice of usury has never ceased. This long experience of the utter inability of laws, sacred and profane, to prevent loans on usury, ought to satisfy every statesman that the policy is radically wrong, and contrary to some great principle of public necessity, and ought therefore to be abandoned.
The true definition of interest is the price paid for the use of money, which price is wholly dependent upon demand and supply. It is manifestly impossible for laws to regulate such price, depending as it does upon the various operations and wants of men. Our ancestors attempted in vain to regulate the price of labor and commodities; the remnants of which policy still remain to us in the offences of forestalling, regrating and engrossing, and combinations among workmen to raise wages. These laws are practically obsolete, but are not more distinguished for folly than the policy which still maintains the usury laws.
The great argument in favor of these laws is that they will protect the borrower against the rapacity of the money lender. But is that the fact? Do we not know it to be otherwise? The hazard of losing any commodity, not money, however, more than anything else, always enters into the price demanded for its use. If you leave men to regulate this element, the borrower to reduce the hazard by increasing the certainty of his security, the rate will necessarily be much diminished. This is not only known to be true from the conclusions of all writers upon political economy, but from the highest evidence of our own reason and experience. But when the law steps in, and disregarding the security which the borrower may have given, confers on him the power of paying or not at his will, the hazard becomes obviously so imminent, that no lender will incur it without the only indemnity at his command, a premium sufficiently large to cover the losses occasionally to be expected from the dishonest borrower.
It is in vain for the law to attempt to regulate the dealings of men in money. It may corrupt them, it may continue to sacrifice thousands, as it has heretofore done, but the practice of usury will continue so long as it is interdicted by law. No man will pay 6 per cent. for money when he can obtain it for five per cent.; nor will he lend money at 6 when it is worth 7 in the market; and the inevitable consequence of legal restraints upon money dealing is to diminish the supply, and of course to enhance the price. By repealing the usury laws, and allowing every man to be his own chapman, competition would prevent the making of extraordinary profits, just as certainly as it now does in every other department of capital and industry. The Bank of England is, I believe, now taking three per cent. on loans of money; while about two years ago il discounted at the rate of eight per cent. with immense advantages, no doubt, to the business interests of that kingdom.
Had the bank been prohibited from discounting at that rate, and had therefore wholly declined affording such facilities, many a commercial house would have been declared bankrupt at once, or have fallen into the hands of usurers, ultimately for a similar destiny, which are now in high credit and prosperous condition. Thoroughly satisfied that the usury laws are immoral in their tendencies, pernicious in their effects, and destructive of those they undertake to befriend, I urgently recommend their unconditional repeal.