Judge Sturges' Speech
Hard Money Advocated -- The Duty of Democrats
|New York Times|
Syracuse, Sept. 16. -- Following is the speech of Judge Sturges, at the Syracuse Convention last evening:
Gentleman of the Convention: I accept the position to which you have designated me, as the permanent presiding officer of the body, with profound gratitude for the marked expressions of your high regards. [Applause.] And yet my total inexperience in presiding over deliberative assemblies necessitates me to rely upon your kindness to aid me in the proper discharge of the responsible duties of that position. We are convened, gentlemen, as the representatives of the Democratic organization of the great State of New York -- [applause]-- an organization that is the component part of one that encircles our Union -- an organization that had its origin when the foundations of our temple of constitutional liberty were being laid. There is not a brace in that vast edifice contributing to its strength but what our organization has been foremost in placing there. [Applause.]
Assembled as we are under these circumstances, it behooves us to act worthy the high vocation wherewith we are called, that we so conduct this convention, that we enunciate such a platform, that we nominate such a ticket that even he who holds himself aloof from political organizations for the reason that he thereby thinks he may better discharge his duty as a patriotic citizen will say when he reads the account of the country in no better way than by adopting the platform and supporting the candidates nominated at the Democratic Convention held in Syracuse in 1875. [Great applause.]
I know, gentlemen, that it is said that the Democratic Party in these days are tender-footed on the currency question, but it was no Democratic Congress that authorized the issue of greenbacks and called them money, [applause,] and it was no court with Democratic proclivities that decided that the words in the Constitution giving power to Congress to coin money and regulate the value thereof authorized the issuing of paper and calling it money. [Great applause.] It was no court of Democratic proclivities that turned a somersault on this question. [Applause and laughter.] Gentlemen, on this question the history of the Democratic Party is written. The past is secure, and when the party shall take up that question, at a proper time, no man need fear that we shall falsify our record. [Applause.]
So far as this question is concerned it seems to me that it is a self-evident proposition that the party now in power at the helm of the General Government are entirely incompetent to take care and discharge their duties in that behalf, for the reason that now after more than ten years since the close of the war, the promises of our Government are ten, twelve, and fifteen per cent. below par. [Applause.] And say that with any proper administration of the affairs of this Government during that time, that there is no reason why the promises of the Government, considering its vast revenue, its still greater resources, should not be worth as much in the exchange of New York or in the City of London today as the gold dollar or eagle. [Applause.]
What is to be done on that question is this -- you are to bring your Government promises up to par, and you cannot do it by legislative enactment. You can no more make paper and gold of equal value, or bring paper to par with gold by legislative enactment, than you can convert the article of paper itself into gold by legislation. [Applause.] That must be done, gentlemen, by husbanding the resources of the Government curtailing its expenses and creating confidence in the Government. [Applause.] During all these years our Government, under the idea that they have grown rich in the war instead of growing poor, have been making appropriations, many of them perhaps entirely proper if the coffers had been full of money, but under such circumstances entirely improper, in my judgment. And still more, the extravagance in every department of the General Government has run riot all that period. The States have caught up that extravagant feeling, and the people have followed, until now we are overwhelmed with national, State, and municipal debts, and these debts are the sources of the hard times that are now upon us. [Applause.]
Now, gentlemen, it seems to me, although I am not much accustomed to governmental affairs -- [but I have had occasion before now to take the paper of some of my friends to a money-lender, and to tell him I desired to raise the money on it. "Why," said he, "your friend bought a pair of horses worth $1,000 the other day, I understand." "Yes." "He has bought a carriage worth $750!" "Yes." "He is going to build a new mansion to live in, I understand?" "Yes." "Well, I don't want his paper unless I have it fifteen to twenty per cent. below par at a discount." -- [applause] -- it seems to me at all times that the Government, State, National, municipal, or the individual, has among the money-lenders and money-changers, a very poor prospect unless there is a good showing of economy.
Then what is our duty? Our duty is to put men at the helm of the National and State Governments who will curtail these expenses and lop off all that are unnecessary until their promises are up to par, [great applause,] and then repeal your legal-tender act. That is resumption, and not by legislative enactment. When you have created confidence in the people that men can pay, that is all you desire. It is an axiom older than any Government on this continent or in Europe, "They are able because they seem to be able," and when the Government has the confidence of the people that it can pay when they want their money, the promises at your Government are at par; but they think that the Democratic Party propose to pay our national debt in greenbacks, while the Republican Party proposes to pay it in gold. Well, we have about three hundred and fifty million dollars of gold in this country, and I have not seen the problem solved how our friends over the way are going to pay $2,000,000,000 with $350,000,000.
The truth is, gentlemen, that that debt is a mortgage upon the agricultural, the mechanical, the commercial interests of the country; that debt has got to be paid as the farmer pays the mortgage upon his farm, and the mechanic pays the mortgage upon his house, by the product of his labor. What grows out of the earth and what is manufactured therefrom is what our creditors are to rely on to pay their debt, and the use of the currency is to equalize exchanges in the business of the commercial world. [Applause.]
And hence it is entirely impossible for us to do a safe business with a fluctuating medium. Why, to me, gentlemen, it is a humiliating spectacle to see our Government, once a month, yea, twice a month, gambling on Wall street with our own money. [Applause.] Hence it is the duty of the democratic Party to see to it that the proper course is entered upon. Aye, gentlemen, so far as we are concerned in this State, we have entered upon it. We entered upon it by the result of the election last Fall, [great applause,] and he who now holds the helm of government in this State has entered upon that stern duty of reducing the expenses of our State, and the people within a very few months will feel the benefit of it; [applause,] and this revolution is to go on. The people are aroused to this question.
We shall celebrate, I trust, the great centennial year of our independence by putting leagues, or the domination of leagues, of demagogues in abeyance, [applause,] by putting at the helm of government men of experience, men of ability, men of integrity, to quote as the father of the Democratic Party, men "honest, faithful, and capable." [Great applause.] I again, gentlemen, return my thanks to you for placing me here. I will not detain you any longer, except to ask your pleasure.