THE PROBLEM OF THE RUPEE:

ITS ORIGIN AND ITS SOLUTION

(HISTORY OF INDIAN CURRENCY & BANKING)

_________________________________________________________________________________________

 

CHAPTER VI Continued---

TABLE XLIII

 

issue oF currency notes Acts prescribing the Fiduciary Issue of Currency Notes

1. Limits to judiciary issues

Act

Act

Act

Act

Act

Act

Act

 

V of

IX of

XI of

XIX of

VI of

11 of

XXVI

 

1915

1916

1917

1917

1918

1919

1919

 

In Lakhs of Rupees :

(a) Permanent

14,00

14,00

14,00

14,00

14,00

14,00

14,00

(b) Temporary

6,00

12,00

36,00

48,00

72,00

86,00

106,00

Total limit

20,00

26,00

50,00

62,00

86,00

100,00

120,00

11. Total issues of currency notes

61.63

67.73

86,38

99,79

153,46

179,67*[f1] 

 

III. Reserve

Silver

32,34

23,57

19,22

10,79

37,39

47,44

 Gold

15,29

24,16

18,67

27,52

17,49

32,70

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Securities

14,00

20,00

48,49

61,48

98,58

99,53

 

But this facile procedure could not be carried on ad infinitum except by jeopardising the convertibility of the notes. Consequently the very increase of paper money, added to the increased demand for currency, compelled the Government to go in for the provision of metallic money for providing current means of purchase and also give a backing to the watered paper issues. The rising price of silver naturally made the Government go in for gold. An Ordinance was issued on June 29, 1917, requiring all gold imported into India to be sold to Government at a price based on the sterling exchange, and opened a gold Mint at Bombay for the coinage of it into mohurs[f2] . Frantic efforts    were made to acquire gold from various quarters. The removal of the embargo on the export of gold by the U.S.A. on June 9, 1917, and the freeing of the market for South African and Australian gold, enabled the Government to obtain some supply of that metal. From July 18, 1919, immediate telegraphic transfers on India were offered against deposit at the Ottawa Mint in Canada of gold coin or bullion at a rate corresponding to the prevailing exchange rate, and at New York at competitive tenders from August 22, 1919. Arrangements were also made for the direct purchase of gold in London and U.S.A. Finally, to encourage the private import of gold, the acquisition rate was altered from September 15, 1919, so as to make allowance for the depreciation of the sterling. But the gold thus obtained was a negligible quantity. Besides, the issue of gold did not serve the purpose the Government had in mind—namely its retention in circulation. In the nature of things it was impossible. The rupee was depreciated in terms of gold to an enormous extent, and consequently at the rate of exchange gold passed out of circulation as quickly as it was issued by the Government. What the Government could do was to make the use of gold and silver coins illegal for other than currency purposes and to prevent their exportation, which it did by the Notifications of June 29 and September 3, 1917. Realising that it could not rely upon gold the Government renewed its efforts to enlarge the rupee coinage. To facilitate the purchase of that metal the import of silver on private account into India was prohibited on September 3, 1917. This measure, however, removed only a few of the smaller competitors for the world's diminished supply of silver, and the world-demand remained so heavy that the Secretary of State was unable to obtain sufficient supply notwithstanding the great conservation effected in the use of silver by substituting nickel coinage for silver coins of subsidiary order, [f3]  and by the issue of notes of denominations as low as that of R. 1 [f4]  and of R. 2-8. [f5]  The Government of the United States was therefore approached on the subject of releasing a portion of the silver dollars held in their reserve. The American Government consented and passed the Pittman Act, under which the Government of India acquired a substantial volume at 101 1/2 cents per fine ounce. The total silver purchased during this period was as follows :

 

TABLE XLIV

rupee coinage, 1915—20

Year

Silver purchased in Open Market, Standard Ounces.

Silver purchased from U. S. A Standard Ounces.

Total Standard Ounces.

1915-16

8,636,000

 

 

1916-17

124,535,000

 

 

1917-18

70,923,000

 

 

1918-19

106,410,000

152,518,000

 

1919-20

14,108,000

60,875,000

 

Total

324,612,000

213,393,000

538,005,000

Now, recalling the fact that from 1900 to 1914 the Government had coined about 532 million standard ounces of silver, [f6]  it means that the coinage of silver by Government during these five years exceeded the amount coined in the fourteen preceding years by five million ounces.

Thus the fall in the gold value of the rupee is an inevitable consequence of the exercise of the power to issue inconvertible currency in unlimited quantities. This is the fate of all inconvertible currencies known to history. But it is said that an exception must be made in the case of the rupee currency, for if the Government has the liberty of issuing it in unlimited quantities it has also resources to counteract the effects of a fall when it does occur. We must therefore turn to an examination of these resources.

The basis of the reasoning is that the rupee is a token currency, and that if the value of a token currency is maintained at par with gold by applying to it the principle of redemption into gold[f7]  it should be possible to maintain the value of the rupee at par with gold by adopting a similar mechanism. What is wanted is an adequate gold fund, and so long as the Government has it, we are assured that we need have no anxiety on the score of a possible fall in the value of the rupee. Such a fund the Government of India has, and on all the three occasions when the gold value of the rupee fell below par that fund was operated upon. The process of redemption is carried on chiefly in three ways : (1) The sale of what are called reverse councils, by which the Government receives rupees in India in return for gold in London; (2) the release of gold internally in receipt for rupees in India ; and (3) the stoppage of the Secretary of State's council bills to prevent further rupees from going into circulation. The cumulative effect of these, it is said, is to contract the currency and raise its value to par. Although all the three may be employed, the first is by far the most important means adopted by the Government in carrying through this process of redemption. The extent of the redemption effected on the three occasions when it was employed may be seen from the three following tables :

1.Redemption of currency, 1907-8

 

TABLE XLV

Date

By the sale of  Reverse Councils

By Release of Gold-Diminution of Govt. Stock of Gold during the month.

Private Export of Gold Coin during the month

Drawings of the Secretary of State.

 

Amount

Amount

 

 

 

 

offered

sold

 

 

 

 

1907—

 

 

 

 

 

September

 

 

152,000

14

858,896

October

 

 

254,000

9,109

921,678

November

 

 

532,000

3

427.344

December

 

 

338,000

2,501

571,905

1908—

 

 

 

 

 

March 26

500,000

70,000

226,000

 

172,669

 

 

 

 

 

(for the whole

 

 

 

 

 

month)

April 2

500,000

449,000

 

 

 

April 9

500,000

340,000

 

 

 

April 16

500,000

441,000

461,000

 

66,834

April 23

500,000

329,000

 

 

 

April 30

500,000

205,000

 

 

 

May 7

May 14

 May 21

May 28

500,000 500,000 820,000 500,000

81,000  145,000  793,000  500,000

 

645,000

 

62,764

June 4

1,000,000

755,000

 

 

 

 

June 11

1,000,000

70,000

 

334,000

 

169,810

June 18

500,000

Nil

 

 

 

 

June 25

500,000

50,000

 

 

 

 

July 2

 July 9

July 16

July 23

July 30

500,000 500,000 500,000 1,000,000 1,000,000

470,000  304,000  500,000  968,000  860,000

 

 

16,000

 

186,847

August 6

1,000,000

418,000

 

 

 

August 13

500,000

310,000

354,000

 

262,217

August 20

500,000

Nil

 

 

 

August 27

500,000

Nil

 

 

 

Sept. 3

Sept.10

500,000 500,000

Nil 

Nil

502,000

 

1,431,012

Total

15,320,000

8,058,000

4,394,000

249,942

 

 

II. REDEMPTION IN 1914-16

TABLE XLVI

Date

Reverse Councils (in 000)

Drawings of the S. of S. (in Lakhs of Rs.)

1914. April

 

Nil

270

May

 

Nil

61

June

 

Nil

68

July

 

Nil

66

August

 

2,778

72

September

 

1,515

25

October

 

1,895

41

November

 

1,044

32

December

 

1,250

30

1915. January

 

225

29

February

 

Nil

181

March 1915.

 

Nil

287

 

Total

8,707

1,162

April

 

Nil

1,53

May

 

Nil

1,03

June

 

651

17

July

 

3,377

8

August

 

815

23

September

 

50

2,17

October

 

Nil

2,25

November

 

Nil

2,02

December

 

Nil

3,28

1916 January

 

Nil

5,26

February

 

Nil

6,02

March

 

Nil

6,33

 

Total

4,893

30,37

 

III. redemption In 1920

TABLE XLVII

Sale of Reverse Councils (figures in thousands of Pounds)

Date of sale.

Amount offered at each Sale.

Amount applied for at each Sale.

Amount sold at each Sale.

Progressive Total of Amount sold.

1920. January 2

1,000

770

770

770

8

1,000

8,499

990

1,760

15

2,000

300

300

2,060

22

2,000

4,890

2,000

4,060

29

2,000

1,334

5,000

5,394

February 5

2,000

32,390

2,000

7,394

12

2,000

41,312

2,000

12,394

19

2,000

122,335

2,000

14,394

26

2,000

78,417

2,000

16,394

March 3

2,000

64,931

2,000

18,394

11

2,000

117,185

2,000

20,394

18

2,000

153,559

2,000

22,394

25

2,000

56,295

2,000

24,394

31

2,000

35,050

1,988

26,382

April 1

 

 

 

 

8

2,000

16,721

2,000

28,382

15

2,000

48,270

2,000

30,382

22

2,000

59,020

2,000

32,382

29

1,000

53,210

1,000

33,382

May 6

1,000

89,514

1,000

34,382

13

1,000

101,625

1,000

35,382

20

1,000

122,279

1,000

36,382

26

1,000

85,620

1,000

37,382

June 3

1,000

101,821

1,000

38,382

10

1,000

109,245

1,000

39,382

15

1,000

122,991

1,000

40,382

24

1,000

73,391

1,000

41,382

July 1

1,000

106,751

1,000

42,382

8

1,000

63,690

1,000

43,382

15

1,000

101,830

1,000

44,382

22

1,000

103,960

1,000

45,382

29

1,000

75,486

1,000

46,382

August 5

1,000

101,260

1,000

47,382

12

1,000

112,230

1,000

48,382

19

1,000

114,767

1,000

49,382

26

1,000

117,390

1,000

50,382

Sept. 2

1,000

126,425

1,000

51,382

7

1,000

117,200

1,000

52,382

13

1,000

115,095

1,000

53,382

21

1,000

122,590

1,000

54,382

28

1,000

120,050

1,000

55,382

 

Not only did the Government sell reverse councils on a large scale, but it also sold gold for rupees for internal circulation, a thing which it seldom did before.

 

Ill. Redemption in 1920

TABLE XLVIII

Sale of gold

No. of Sate

Date of Sale

Minimum Rate of accepted Tenders

Average Rate of accepted Tenders

Quantity sold (in Tolas)

Price of Country Bar Gold in the Bombay Bazaar

 

 

Rs. a. p.

Rs. a. p.

 

Rs. a. p.

1

1919. September 3

25 8 0

26 12 1

3,29,130

28 10 0

2

17

24 8 0

24 10 0

3,96,640

26 1 0

3

October 6

25 8 0

25 9 8

3,26,000

27 0 0

4

20

26 15 3

27 0 2

3,34,000

28 0 0

5

November 3

27 14 6

27 15 6

3,25,000

28 5 0

6

17

26 15 0

27 0 11

5,18,500

28 2 0

7

December 8

26 0 6

26 4 6

10,00,650

27 10 0

8

1920. January 5

26 4 3

26 7 9

7,63,300

27 3 0

9

19

26 13 3

26 14 7

8,00,000

27 5 0

10

February 5

25 2 3

25 9 7

7,56,450

25 6 0

11

19

16 2 3

21 9 1

9,60,590

23 4 0

12

March 3

18 8 0

18 12 4

12,96,125

21 7 0

13

17

21 6 0

21 7 7

12,53,325

22 13 0

14

April 7

22 7 3

22 9 4

12,46,200

24 0 0

15

21

23 7 4

23 8 6

10,68,175

24 4 0

16

May 5

20 13 3

21 3 2

11,96,750

21 8 0

17

.. 19

21 0 3

21 1 7

12,46,050

21 12 0

18

June 9

21 8 9

21 9 8

11,32,350

22 2 6

19

23

20 14 10

21 0 5

12,25,250

21 8 0

20

July 7

21 1 4

22 2 2

12,81,500

21 6 0

21

21

22 0 1

22 0 11

12,42,000

22 5 0

22

August 4

22 5 6

22 6 3

12,78,950

22 7 0

23

19

23 9 4

23 10 2

5,54,500

23 7 0

24

September 1

22 8 3

22 10 8

8,27,700

23 1 6

25

14

23 9 4

23 12 11

2,30,500

23 8 0

 

Total

 

 

2,15,89,635

 

During 1920 no council bills were drawn by the Secretary of State on the Government of India.

The success of this mechanism on the two previous occasions had strengthened the belief that it had the virtue of restoring the value of the rupee. But the failure of this mechanism in the crisis of 1920 compels one to adopt an attitude of reserve towards its general efficacy. It cannot be said that exchange gave way because this mechanism was not brought into operation. On the other hand, the view of the Government regarding the sale of reverse councils in 1920 had undergone a profound modification as compared with the view it held during the crisis of 1907-8. In that crisis the Government behaved like a miser, sitting tight on its gold reserve and refusing to use it for the very purpose which it was designed to serve. An Accountant-General had " to go on his knees " to persuade the Government of India to release its gold. [f8]  It was probably because it was rebuked by the Chamberlain Commission for failing to make use of its gold reserve in 1907 that in the crisis of 1920 the policy of selling reverse councils was so boldly conceived. There was a great deal of ignorant criticism of that policy from the general public that it was an " organised loot." But the Finance Minister was undaunted, and argued[f9] :

"It is an essential feature of our exchange policy... that we should not only provide for remittances from London to India through council bills at approximately gold point, but from India to London in time of exchange weakness also at gold point, through the sale of sterling remittance known as reverse councils. It is simply an alternative to the export of gold. This is no new matter—we have been selling reverse councils for years...... and unless we do so the exchange policy does not become effective...... This is the reason, and the only reason, why we have sold reverse councils... It is an effort in fact to maintain exchange as near as possible to the gold point.... What would be the consequence if we yielded to the pressure placed on us and ceased to sell reverse councils at all ? I can understand a demand that reverse councils should be sold by some different method, or at rates different from those at present in force, but I must confess that I cannot understand the demand that the facilities for the exchange of rupees into external currency should be entirely withdrawn. I see that in Bombay it is urged that we should let exchange find its ' natural level.' That is a catchword which does not impress me. Used in the sense in which that phrase has been recently used, there is no such thing as a ' natural level ' in exchange, for, when one translates the internal currency into another currency, there must be some sort of common denominator to which both currencies can be brought; it may be gold, it may be silver, it may be sterling or it may be Spanish pesetas, which we take as our basis. The rupee must be linked on to something[f10]  and if it is so linked, then it must be at some definite rate, and this necessarily involves that we must sometimes be prepared to sell reverse councils in order to maintain that rate. If reverse councils be withdrawn entirely, then we should have neither a gold standard, nor a gold-exchange standard, nor any kind of standard at all."

But that only raises the question: If the sale of reverse councils is efficacious in righting the exchange, why was its effect such a disastrous failure ? The Finance Minister answered the point tersely and cogently when he said:

" If we have failed in narrowing the gap between the market price and the theoretical gold part of the rupee...... it is not because we have sold too many reverse councils; it is because we have sold too few. I put it to any member of the commercial community here, and I put it without fear of contradiction, that if our resources had enabled us...... to sell straight away 20, 30, or 40 millions of reverse councils, we should probably have had no gap between the market price of the rupee and the theoretical gold price of the rupee at all. One of our difficulties has been, not that we have sold too many reverse councils, but that we have been obliged to sell too few." [f11]                      

There would have been some force in this argument if the smount of reverse bills sold were " too few." Not 20, 30, or 40 millions, but 55 1/2 millions of reverse councils were sold, besides the large issue of gold internally, and the complete stoppage of council bills, and yet the rupee did not rise above 1s. 4d. sterling, let alone reaching 2s. gold. Why did not the sale of reverse councils suffice to rectify the exchange ? This leads us to examine the whole question of the efficacy of this redemption.

It is necessary to premise at the outset that redemption may result in mere substitution of one form of currency by another, or it may result in the retirement of currency. In so far as it results in substitution it is of no consequence at all, for substitution of currency is not a shrinkage of currency. [f12] To the restoration of the value of a currency what is essential is its shrinkage, i.e. its retirement, cancellation. The important question with regard to this mechanism is not to what extent the currency can be redeemed, but to what extent it can be retired. In the prevalent view of this question it seems to be accepted without question that this extent is determined by the magnitude of the gold resources of the Government of India and the Secretary of State. Let us first make it clear how these gold resources are located and distributed. It will be recalled that these gold resources are distributed between (1) the paper-currency reserve, (2) the gold-standard reserve, and (3) the cash balances of the Secretary of State. It has been the habit to speak of these resources as being three " lines of defence " on which the Government can safely rely when an exchange crisis takes place. But are they ? They can be, for the purposes of retirement, only if they were all " free " resources; in other words, if they were not appropriated resources. To what extent are they unappropriated ? Can the Secretary of State take gold from the paper-currency reserve ? He can, but then he must replace it by something else, or must cancel notes to that extent. Can the Secretary of State take gold out of his cash balances ? He can, but then he must either borrow to fill his Treasury or draw upon the Government of India if there is anyone to buy his bills, which is tantamount to issuing rupee currency. The gold in the paper-currency reserve and that in the cash balances is of no use at all, for it does not permit of the cancellation of the rupee currency, which is what is wanted in restoring its value when it suffers a fall. It is therefore sheer nonsense to speak of the effectiveness of redemption as being commensurate with the gold resources of the Secretary of State. The matter is important, and an illustration may not be out of place. Suppose A, a holder of rupees, wants to get gold for them. He can go to three counters; (1) that of the controller in charge of cash balances ; (2) that of the controller of currency in charge of the paper-currency reserve ; or (3) that of the custodian of the gold-standard reserve. If A goes to the first, what is the result ? The cash balance is pro tanto reduced. On the assumption that the cash balance is at its minimum, as it should be, the controller must reimburse himself immediately to maintain his solvency by drawing a bill on India and thereby releasing rupees received for gold again in circulation, so that in this case there is no shrinkage of currency. If A goes to the controller of currency, what happens ? The controller gives him gold, but on the assumption that the paper-currency account is a separate statutory account he must put the rupees received from A in place of the gold issued from his reserve, so that here again what happens is that the composition of the reserve undergoes a change, but the total paper currency remains the same. It must therefore be borne in mind that to the extent the gold in the paper-currency reserve and the cash balances are operated upon the result is not a retirement of currency. To speak of them as " lines of defences," as is so often done, is to overlook the fact that these two are not free resources but are appropriated resources.

What is, then, the resource left to the Government to retire the rupee currency ? Only the gold-standard reserve. That is the only reserve the amount of which is unappropriated for any particular use. It is free cash, and only to that extent is it possible for the Government to restore the rupee currency when a fall in its gold value eventuates. Of course it is important to bear in mind that this is the extent to which it can retire the currency. Not that it will, for it may not, and there is no want of cases in which it has not. Two instances will suffice. During the first period of the Mint closure, 1893-98, it will be recalled how a large number of rupees had accumulated in the hands of the Government, and in the interest of raising the value of the rupee they should have been locked away. Instead the Government of India released that money in circulation in extending railways and other public works, as though the spending of rupees by itself produced an effect different to what would have been produced had they been spent by the public. Similarly irresponsible conduct marked the sale of reverse councils in 1920. To meet these reverse councils the Secretary of State took the gold from the paper-currency reserve. But instead of cancelling notes to the extent of the gold that was taken out of the reserve, the Government took powers under an Act XXI of 1920 to fill the gap by manufacturing securities ad hoc, so that although there was redemption there was no retirement, and so much gold was merely wasted, for it produced no effect on prices or the exchange. This Act, passed in March, 1920, was of temporary duration, and would have obliged the Government to retire the currency by October, 1920, when it was to expire. Rather than do this the Government altered the paper-currency law, not temporarily but permanently (Act XLV of 1920), changing the provisions in such a manner as to require the Government to cancel the currency to the smallest degree possible by retiring their " created securities." Even this was not done, owing to deficits in the Government Budget.

But even if such indiscretions were not repeated the fact remains that Government cannot effect a greater retirement than is permitted by the gold-standard reserve. If that reserve fails Government has only two resources left: (1) to melt down the rupees and sell them as bullion for gold and to go on further contracting the currency, in this way till its value is restored: or (2) to borrow gold. Both these are evidently costly methods. To sell rupees as bullion is bound to result in loss unless the bullion in the rupee fetched more at the time of sale than what it cost when it was purchased for manufacturing it into bullion. The second process, that of borrowing, cannot be lightly resorted to for the purpose of creating a reserve fund to retire the currency. Indeed, so costly are such methods, and so complete would be the proof they would afford of the instability of the exchange standard if they were resorted to, that Government has never contemplated them as possible lines of defence in an exchange crisis. It seems certain, however, that Government does recognise that the gold-standard reserve by itself cannot suffice for the maintenance of exchange. For we find that from the year 1907-8 dates a complete change in the distribution of Government balances between London and India. Up to that period it was the policy of the Secretary of State to draw only as much as necessary to finance his Home Treasury. After that date the practice was originated of drawing as much as the Government of India could provide, and as the Government of India has been supreme in financial matters it provided large sums for council drawings by increased taxation and budgeting for surpluses. The effect of this was to swell the cash balances of the Secretary of State. [f13]  No official explanation of a satisfactory character has ever been given for this novel way of financing the Home Treasury[f14] but we shall not be very far wrong if we say that the object in accumulating these balances is to provide a second gold reserve to supplement the true gold-standard reserve. Whatever strength the Government may derive for the time being from this adventitious resource, it is obvious that it cannot be permanent. Under a more popular control of Government finances the cash balances will have to be kept down to a minimum necessary to work the Treasury, and the gold-standard reserve will be the only reserve on which the Government will have to depend.

The gold-standard reserve is to the rupee what the paper-currency reserve is to the notes. The purport of both is to prevent the respective currencies they support from falling or going to discount. But the treatment accorded by the Government to the rupee and the paper in respect of reserve shows a remarkable degree of contrast. In the case of the paper, as has been previously noted, the reserve is a statutory reserve, and even when the whole basis of Indian paper currency has been changed the provisions as to reserve are none the less strict and cannot be disregarded by the Government without infringing the law. Now, the rupee is nothing but a note printed on silver.[f15]  As such, the provisions as to reserve should be analogous to those governing the paper currency. Strange as it may seem, any regulation is conspicuous by its absence in regard to the gold-standard reserve. [f16]  Not only is it not obligatory on the Government to redeem the rupee, but it does not seem that the Government is even bound to maintain the reserve. And that it has maintained such a reserve is no guarantee that it will replace it supposing that the reserve was dissipated. [f17]  Such differences apart, is the gold-standard reserve an adequate reserve ? Figures of the magnitude of the gold-standard reserve, as usually given in official publications, are a meaningless array. What is the use of displaying assets without at the same time exhibiting the liabilities ? To be able to judge of the adequacy of that reserve we must know what is the total circulation of rupees. When, however, we compare the circulation of the rupees with the reserve, the proportion between the two is not sufficiently large so as to inspire confidence in the stability of the system (see Table XLIX).

How can a reserve so small as this carry through the process of retirement to any sufficient extent ? That it will not always do it the crisis of 1920 gives abundant proof. But the supporters of the exchange standard maintain that the smallness of the reserve is a matter of no consequence, for the reserve is kept only for the purpose of foreign remittances. That being the case, it is said the reserve need not be large. Granting that it is so, what must govern the magnitude of the reserve in order that it may prove adequate in any and every case ? The only attempt made to enunciate a rule of guidance is that by Prof. Keynes. That rule he finds[f18] in the possible variations in the balance of trade of India.. Now, does this make the problem of regulating the reserve more definite ? As has been explained previously, the adverse balance of trade would be due to the depreciation of the currency, so that Mr. Keynes's statement amounts to this, that the reserve should vary with the depth of the depreciation. But how is a Government to do this ? Only by adverting to the movement of the price level.

 

TABLE XLIX

Distribution of the Gold Standard of the Gold Standard Reserve and its Proportion to Rupee Circulation (in thousands of Pounds Sterling)

 

In England.

In India.

TOTAL

 

% of

March 31 in each Year.

Purchase Value of Sterling Securities

Cash at Short Notice.

Temporary Loan to the Home

Gold deposited at the Bank of

Total.

Coined Rupees in India.

Out. standing Debt from

Temporary Loan to Treasury

Gold.

Total.

 Volume  Reserve Reserve, of England Circulation in India.

Rs.in crores

(15)*[f19] 

 

 

 

Treasury.

England.

 

 

Treasury balances.

Balances.

 

 

 

 

 

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

(5)

(6)

(7)

(8)

(9)

(10)

(11)

(12)

(13)

(14)

1901

 

 

 

 

 

 

1,831

 

1,200

3,031

3,031

143

3.1

02

3,454

3,454

3,454

138

3.7

03

3,810

3,810

1

1

3,811

136

3.4

04

6,377

6,377

167

167

6,544

144

6.8

06

8,377

•—

8,377

152

152

8,529

152

8.4

06

12,165

12,165

287

287

12,452

164

10-7

07

12,519

12,519

4,000

301

22

4,323

16,842

178

10.8

08

13,187

1,131

14,318

4,000

4,000

18,318

191

11-2

09

7,414

470

7,884

10,587

10,587

18,471

187

7-1

10

13,219

3,011

16,230

2,534

2,534

18,764

186

13-8

11

15,849

1,477

17,326

1,934

1,934

19,260

184

14-8

12

16,748

1,074

17,822

1,934

1,934

19,956

182

14-9

13

15,946

1,006

1,620

18,572

4,000

35

4,035

22,607

191

14-8

14

17,165

25

4,320

21,510

4,000

22

4,022

25,532

187

17-2

15

12,149

8

1,250

13,407

70

7,000

5,238

13.308

25,715

204

18-9

16

16,219

5,792

22,011

1

4,000

239

4,240

26,251

212

15-7

17

25,406

6,001

31,407

103

103

31,510

227

20-8

18

28,453

6,000

34,453

34,453

219

23.6

19

29,729

6,016

 

35,745

35,745

228

23-5

 

But in all its currency management the Government of India never pays any attention to the price problem. Indeed, as was pointed out above, its conception of the underlying causes of the fall of exchange is totally at variance with the only true conception, nothing but a firm grasp of which can enable it to avert a crisis. Being ignorant of the true conception it blindly goes on issuing currency until there occurs what is called an adverse balance of trade. All it aims at is to maintain a gold reserve, and so long as it has that reserve it does not stop to think how much currency it issues. The proportion of the issues and the reserve not being correlated the stability of the exchange standard, in so far as it depends upon the reserve, must always remain in the region of vagueness, far too problematical to inspire confidence of the system. Nay, the liability of redemption for foreign remittances, small as it appears, may become so indefinite as entirely to jeopardize the restoration of stability to the exchange standard.

But is a gold reserve such an important thing for the maintenance of the value of a currency ? All supporters of the exchange standard must be said to be believers in that theory. But the view cannot stand a moment's criticism. To look upon a gold reserve as an efficient cause why all kinds of money remain at par with gold is a gross fallacy. [f20]  To take such a view is to invert the casual order. It is not the gold reserve which maintains the value of the circulating medium, but it is the limitation on its volume which not only suffices to maintain its own value, but also makes possible the accumulation and retention of whatever gold reserve there is in the country. Remove the limit on the volume of currency, and not only will it fail to maintain its value, but will prevent the accumulation  of any gold reserve whatever. So little indeed is the importance of a gold reserve to the cause of the preservation of the value of currency that provided there is a rigid limit on its issue the gold reserve may be entirely done away with without impairing in the least the value of the currency. The Chamberlain Commission recommended that the Government of India should accumulate a reserve to maintain the value of the rupee because it was by means of their reserves that European banks maintained the value of their currencies. Nothing can be a greater perversion of the truth. What the European banks did was just the opposite of what the Commission recommended. Whenever their gold tended to disappear they reduced their currencies not only relatively but absolutely. It was by limitation of their currencies that they protected the value of the currencies and also their gold reserves.

The existence of a reserve, therefore cannot lend any strength to the gold-exchange standard. On the other hand, if we inquire into the genesis of the reserve, its existence is an enormous source of weakness to that standard. For how does the Government obtain its gold-standard reserve ? Does it increase its reserve in the same way as the banks do, by reducing their issues ? Quite the contrary. So peculiar is the constitution of the Indian gold-standard reserve that in it the assets, i.e., the reserve, and the liabilities, i.e., the rupee, are dangerously concomitant. In other words, the reserve cannot increase without an increase in the rupee currency. This ominous situation arises from the fact that the reserve is built out of the profits of rupee coinage. That being its origin, it is obvious that the fund can grow only as a consequence of increased rupee coinage. What profit the rupee coinage yields depends upon how great is the difference between the cost price of the rupee and its exchange value. Barring the minting charges, which are more or less fixed, the most important factor in the situation is the price of silver. Whether there shall be any profit to be credited to the reserve depends upon the price paid for the silver to be manufactured into rupees.[f21] 

Not only is the reserve an evil by the nature of its origin, but having regard to its documentary character the reserve cannot be said to be absolutely dependable in a time of crisis. There is no doubt that the intention of the Government in investing the reserve is to promote its increase by adding to it the interest accruing from the securities in which it is invested. The critics of the Government want a large and at the same time a metallic reserve. But they do not realise that having regard to the origin of the reserve the two demands are incompatible. If the reserve needs to be large then it must be invested. Indeed, if the reserve had not been invested it would have remained distressingly meagre. [f22] But is there no danger in a reserve of this kind ?

 

[f23]  Statement showing the average cost of silver purchased by the—

Year.

Royal Mint Average Cost for Standard Ounce.

India Office Average Cost for Standard Ounce.

Financial Year.

 

d.

d.

 

1893

36 5/16

No purchase

1893-94

94

29 1/4

,,.

1894-95

95

30 3/3

,. .

1895-96

96

30 5/16

,,

1898-97

97

27 7/8

..

1897-98

98

27 1/4

1898-99

99

27 1/2

28

1899-1900

1900

28  1/4

29

1900-01

01

?7  15/16

No purchase

1901-02

02

24 5/16

22.80

1902-03

03

23 11/16

27.19

1903-04

04

26 1/2

27.14

1904-05

05

27 7/16

29.74

1905-06

06

31 1/16

31.59

1906-07

07

30 9/16

31.27

1907-08

08

24 7/16

No purchase

1908-09

09

23 11/16

,,

1909-10

.10

24 7/8

.,

1910-11

11

24 13/16

1911-12

12

27 15/16

28.71

1912-13

13

 28 1/16

28.71

1913-14

14

24 5/16

No purchase

1914-15

15

24 1/4

33.98

1915-16

16

30 5/8

33.96

1916-17

17

39 15/16

42.78

1917-18

18

47 15/16

43.20

1918-19

19

49 5/8

52.04

1919-20

20

50 7/8

Silver purchased at special rates from the Baldwin mines and the Perth mint.

1920-21

 

The source of a danger in a reserve such as this was well pointed out by Jevons when he said[f24] :

"...... good government funds and good bills can always be sold at some price so that a banking firm with a strong reserve of this kind might always maintain their solvency. But the remedy might be worse for the community than the disease, and the forced sale of the reserve might create such a disturbance in the money market as would do more harm than the suspension of payment,....." in the same manner, who can say that all the increase of reserve from interest will not be wiped out by a slump in the value of the securities if put upon the market for conversion into gold at a time when there takes place an exchange crisis ? Supposing, however, the full value of the securities, is realised, the number of rupees the reserve will "sink" when occasion for redemption arrives depends upon what is the price at which the rupees are bought back. If the fall of the rupee is small, it may help to retire a large volume of currency and thus restore its value. On the other hand, if the fall is great, it will suffice to retire only a small part of the currency and may fail to restore its value as it did in 1920, so that what may appear to be a big reserve may turn out to be very inadequate. But, apart from considerations of the relative magnitude of the reserve that can be buiit up, the point that seems to have been entirely overlooked is that the process of building up the reserves directly involves the process of augmenting the currency. The Chamberlain Commission was cognisant of the fact that the gold-standard reserve could not be built up except by coining rupees. Indeed, it cautioned those desirous of a gold currency to remember that if gold took the place of " new rupees which it would be necessary otherwise to mint, the effect is to diminish the strength of the gold-standard reserve by the amount of the profit which would have been made from new coinage.'' [f25] Rather than recommend a policy which "would bring to an end the natural growth of the gold-standard reserve," the Committee permitted the Government to coin rupees. But is there no danger involved in such a reserve ? What is the use of a reserve which creates the very evil which it is supposed afterwards to mitigate ? Indeed, those who have been agitating for an increase in the Indian gold-standard reserve cannot be said to have been alive to the dangers involved in the existence of such a reserve.

The smaller the gold-standard reserve the better it would be, for there would be no inflation, no fall in the purchasing power of the rupee, and no necessity for its retirement.

Having regard to its origin, the gold-standard reserve, instead of acting as a brake upon reckless issue of rupee currency, is the direct cause of it and tends to aggravate the effects of an inconvertible currency rather than counteract them. Perversity cannot go further. If the fact that a mechanism like that of the gold-standard reserve, set up for the purpose of limiting the currency, cannot be made to function without adding to the currency, does not render the system an unsound currency, one begins to wonder what would. Great names have been invoked in support of the exchange standard. After trying hard to find authoritative precedents for his plan, [f26]  Mr. Lindsay claimed before the Fowler Committee that it was founded upon the Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Irish Exchange. [f27]  There he was on firm ground. Among other things, the Committee did recommend that for stabilising the exchange between England and Ireland the Bank of Ireland should open credit at the Bank of England and sell drafts on London at a fixed price. In so far as the exchange standard rests on gold reserve in London, Lindsay must be said to have faithfully copied the plan of the Irish Committee on exchange. But he totally neglected to give prominence to another and the most vital recommendation of the Committee, in which it is observed : [f28]  " But all the benefits proposed by this Mode of Remedies would be of little Avail and very limited Duration if it (i.e. Bank of Ireland) did not promise at the same time to cure the Depreciation of Paper in Ireland by diminishing its over issue." Indeed, so great was the stress laid on the limitation of issue that when Parnell, in his resolution in the House of Commons on the reform of the Irish currency, regretted the non-adoption of the recommendations of the Committee, [f29]  Thornton in his reply pointed out that nothing would help to stabilise Irish exchange so long as the vital condition laid down by the Committee was disregarded. The recent experience in pegging the exchanges well illustrates the importance of that vital condition. Pegging the exchange is primarily a device to prevent the external value of the currency falling along with its internal value. The way in which pegging effects this divorce is important to note. [f30]  The primary effect of the peg is to permit the purchases of foreign goods by procuring foreign currency for home currency at a fixed price, which is higher than would be the case if it were determined by the general purchasing power parity of the two currencies. By enabling people to buy foreign goods with foreign currency obtained at a cheaper price the peg virtually raises foreign prices more to the level of the home prices, so that if the exchange is stable it is not because there is a peg, but because the price-levels in the two countries have reached a new equilibrium. Essentially the exchange is stable because it is an artificial purchasing-power parity. Whether it will continue to be so depends upon the movements in the home prices. If the home prices rise more than the rise brought about by the peg in the foreign prices the mechanism must break. It is from this point of view that the condition laid down by the Irish Committee on exchange regarding the limitation on issue must be held as one of vital character. In omitting to advert to that condition the Indian currency contradicts what is best in that Report of the Irish Committee.

The reason why Mr. Lindsay paid no attention to the question of limitation in setting up his exchange standard is largely that, notwithstanding the great reputation he has achieved as an author of a new system, he was profoundly ignorant of the true doctrine regarding the value of a currency. Neither he nor the hosts of currency-mongers who during the nineties exercised their ingenuity to devise plans for remedying Indian exchange troubles,[f31]  understood that to stabilise the exchange was essentially a problem of stabilising the purchasing power of currency by controlling its volume.[f32]  The gold-exchange standard ignores the fact that in the long run it is the general purchasing power of a currency that will ultimately govern its exchange value. Its aim is to stabilise exchange and allow the problem of purchasing power to go hang. The true policy should be to stabilise the purchasing power of the currency and let exchange take care of itself. Had the Chamberlain Commission considered the exchange standard from this point of view it could not have called it a sound standard when in its fundamentals it was the very reverse of it.

Now any one who remains unconvinced of this weakness of the exchange standard may say that in examining its stability we have taken only those occasions on which the standard has broken down. Thinking such a treatment to be unfair, he might say: How about the years during which stability was maintained ? Is there nothing to be said in favour of a system that maintained the gold value of the rupee from 1901 to 1907, or from 1909 to 1914? The question is a pertinent one, and the position that underlies it is supposed to be so strong that those who hold it have asked the opponents of the exchange standard either to admit that it is a stable standard or to show that under that standard the rupee has invariably failed to maintain its gold value. [f33] 

The validity of this position depends upon assumptions so plausible and so widespread that the argument urged so far against the exchange standard will not be of full effect until their futility is fully demonstrated. The first assumption is that there cannot be a depreciation of a currency unless it has depreciated in terms of gold. In other words, if the excess has not produced a fall in the value of a currency in terms of a particular commodity such as gold, then there has been no excess at all in terms of commodities in general. Now there was a time, particularly during the discussion on the Bullion Report, when the conception of a change in the value of the currency in relation to things in general was not quite clear even to the most informed minds,[f34]  and was even pronounced invalid by high authorities. [f35]  In view of the absence of the system of index numbers, this simple faith in the summary method of ascertaining depreciation by some one typical article, gold for instance, as a measure of value, was excusable. But the same view is without any foundation today. No one now requires to be shown that the price of each commodity has varied to the same extent and in the same direction as prices of commodities in general before admitting that there has been a change in the value of a currency. Why assume a single commodity like gold as a measure of depreciation ? It would be allowable, although it is short-sighted to do so, if the depreciation of gold was an accurate measure of the depreciation of a currency in terms of all other commodities. But such is not the case. Commenting upon the experience of the United States with the greenbacks during the Civil War, Prof. W. C, Mitchell observes[f36] 

"The fluctuations in the price of gold which attracted so much attention were much more moderate than the extreme fluctuations in the prices of commodities. The gold quotations lay all the time well within the outer limits of the field covered by the variations of commodity prices...... During the war gold moved up or down in price more quickly than the mass of commodities...... When gold was rising in price the majority of the commodities followed, but more slowly...... When gold was failing in price the majority of commodities stood still or followed more slowly...... This more sluggish movement of commodity prices appears still more clearly after the war. Rapid as was the fall of prices it was not so rapid as the fall in gold. A more curious fact is that the price-level for commodities continued for ten years to be higher than the price-level for gold."

This shows that the test sought to be applied by the adherents of the exchange standard is a false one and gives an inaccurate reading of the value of a currency. There can be no doubt that people who have urged its application to that standard would not have pressed for it so much as they have done if they had taken proper care to distinguish between specific depreciation of a currency in terms of gold and its general depreciation in terms of commodities. [f37]  The experience of the Bank of England during the suspension period is a capital instance of the phenomenon where a currency is generally depreciated, although it showed no sign of specific depreciation:

 

 

TABLE L

 

depreciation oF THE notes oF THE bank oF

england[f38] 

 

Percentage Values of Bank Notes in Terms of

 

(1) Gold

(2) Commodities

1797

100.0

110

1798

100.0

118

1799

 

130

1800

107.0

141

1801

109.0

153

1802

 

119

1803

 

128

1804

103.0

122

1805

103.0

136

1806

 

133

1807

 

132

1808

 

149

1809

 

161

1810

 

164

1811

123.9

147

1812

130.2

148

1813

136.4

149

1814

124.4

153

1815

118.7

132

1816

102.9

109

1817

102.2

120

1818

104.6

135

 

Which kind of depreciation is the greater evil we will discuss in the next chapter. Dealing for the present with this experience of the Bank of England, we have the fact that there can be a general depreciation without a specific depreciation. In view of this, the upholders of the exchange standard have no reason to be proud of the fact that the rupee has not shown signs of specific depreciation over periods of long duration. That a bank note absolutely inconvertible and unregulated as to issue should have maintained its par for very nearly thirteen years may speak far more in favour of the suspension system than the experience of the rupee can in favour of the exchange standard. There is a greater wonder in the former than there is in the latter, for the value of the rupee is sustained, apart from the fact that gold in terms of which it was measured was itself undergoing a depreciation, as is evident from the foregoing figures of general prices in England, and by a hope in some kind of convertibility, however slight or however remote but which had no place in the case of the Bank of England notes. Yet no one is known to have admired or justified the currency system of the suspension period, although it had not given rise to a specific depreciation for a long time.

This mode of measuring depreciation in terms of gold would be, relatively speaking, a harmless idea if it was not made the basis of another assumption on which the exchange standard is made to rest, that the general and specific depreciations of a currency are unrelated phenomena. As against this it is necessary to urge that the chief lesson to be drawn from this experience of the Bank of England for the benefit of the upholders of the exchange standard consists in demonstrating that although their movements are not perfectly harmonious, yet they are essentially inter-related. That lesson may be summed up in the statement that when the general depreciation of currency has taken place the occurrence of a specific depreciation, other things being equal, is only a matter of time, if the general depreciation proceeds beyond a certain limit. What will be the interval before specific depreciation will supervene upon general depreciation depends upon a variety of circumstances. Like the surface of a rising lake, general depreciation touches different commodities at different times according as they are located in the general scheme of things as determined by the relative strength of demand for them. If there is no demand for gold for currency purposes or for industrial purposes, the depreciation of the currency in terms of gold may be delayed. It is only to make foreign remittances that the demand for gold first makes itself felt, and it is there that specific depreciation primarily arises. But there again it need not, for everything depends upon whether other commodities equally good, which the foreigner would take as readily as gold, are forthcoming or not. Now, in the case of India all these three factors tending to postpone specific depreciation are more or less operative. The rupee is a full legal-tender currency and can effectively discharge debts without compelling resort to gold. The industrial demand for gold in a poor country like India cannot be very great. [f39]  Consequently, the generally depreciated rupee does not show immediate signs of depreciation in the internal trade of the country. As for foreign payments, the position of India is equally strong, not because, as is absurdly supposed, she has a favourable balance of trade, but because she has certain essential commodities which a foreigner is obliged to

 

 

[f40] consumption oF gold (MILLIONS OF POUNDS STERLING AT 85s.

PER FINE OUNCE)

 

1915

1916

1917

1918

1919

1920

Industrial Arts (Europe and America)

17.0

18.0

16.0

17.0

22.0

22.0

India (year to March 31 following

1.4

5.1

19.6

—3.3

27.7

5.1

China

—1.7

2.6

2.6

0.04

11.5

—3.7

Egypt

—0.8

—0.2

—0.1

—0.0

—0.0

 

Balance available as money (difference).

80.5

68.0

48.2

64.9

13.8

46.6

World

96.4

93.5

86.3

79.0

75.0

70.0

 

Accept [f41] in place of gold. Specific depreciation of the rupee will occur chiefly when the general depreciation has overtaken the commodities that enter into India's foreign trade. That the depreciation should extend to them is inevitable, for, as is well said. [f42] 

"in a modern community the prices of different goods constitute a completely organised system, in which the various parts are continually being adjusted to each other by intricate business process. Any marked change in the price of important goods disturbs the equilibrium of this system, and business processes at once set going a series of readjustments in the prices of other goods to restore it." It is true that in the case of India the interconnection between production for internal trade and production for external trade is not so closely knit as in the case of other countries. The only difference that this can make in the situation is to moderate the pace of general depreciation so that it does not affect foreign trade commodities too soon. But it cannot prevent its effect from ultimately raising their price, and once their price is risen the foreigner will not accept them, however essential. A demand for gold must arise, resulting in the specific depreciation of the currency. This statement of the case agrees closely with the experience of the Bank of England and that of India as well. In the case of the Bank of England the "great evil," i.e. the specific depreciation of the bank notes, of which Homer complained so much, made its appearance in 1809, some thirteen years after the suspension was declared. Similarly, we find in the case of India specific depreciation tends to appeear at different intervals, thereby completely demonstrating that, even for the purpose of avoiding specific depreciation, it is necessary to pay attention to the genera! depreciation of a currency.

Having regard to these facts, supported as they are by theory as well as history, the incident that the rupee has maintained its gold value over periods of some duration need not frighten anyone into an admission that the exchange standard is therefore a stable standard. Indeed, a recognition of that fact cannot in the least discredit what has been said above. For our position is that in the long run general depreciation of a currency will bring about its specific depreciation in terms of gold. That being our position, even if we are confronted with the absence of specific depreciation of the rupee, we are not driven to retract from the opinion that the best currency system is one which provides a brake on the general depreciation of the unit of account. The exchange standard provides no such controlling influence; indeed, its gold rescue, the instrument which controls the depreciation, is the direct cause of such depreciation. The absence of specific depreciation for the time being is not more than a noteworthy and an interesting incident. To read into it an evidence of the security of the exchange standard is to expose oneself, sooner a later, to the consequences that befall all those who choose to live in a fool's paradise.

 

Contents                                                                          Chapter VII


 [f1] On November 30, 1919. The rest of the figures are for March 31.

 [f2] Act XIV of 1918.

 [f3] Act IV of 1918 and XXI of 1919.

 [f4] First issued on December 1, 1917

 [f5] First put into circulation on January 2, 1918.

 [f6] Cf. the figures given by L. Abrahms in his evidence to the Currency Committee of 1919—Mit. of Evid., Q. 37-41.

 [f7]See the very interesting discussion by Laughlin of the laws of token money in his       Principles of Money, Chap. XV. It may be said in passing that Laughlin is an opponent of the quantity theory of money, but in his discussion of token money he virtually admits it..

 [f8] Evidence of Mr. F. C. Harrison before the Chamberlain Commission, Q. 10,209.

 [f9] Speech on the resolution re " Reverse Councils," March 10, 1920. S.L.C.P. Vol. LVIII p. 1291.

 [f10] By Ordinance III of June 21, 1920, the gold coins referred to in Section 11 of the Indian Coinage Act (III of 1906) ceased to be legal tender in payment or on account, but provision was made for their acceptance by Government at the ratio of Rs. 15 during a moratorium of twenty-one days. This Ordinance continued till September 9, 1920, when by Act XXXVI of 1920 the sovereign was again made legal tender. During this period gold had no legal status in India.

 [f11] Ibid.. p. 1301.

 [f12] The most notable example is that of Americal greenbacks. Under the law of 1875 they were by 1879 retired in sufficient numbers to restore parity with gold. But by a counter-law of 1878, 347,000,000 of them have been kept in circulation. As soon as redeemed, they must be reissued : they cannot be retired.

 [f13] For figures, see Chap. VII.

 [f14] Cf. Memorandum on India Office Balances, Cd. 6619 of 1913.

 [f15]" We have virtually relegated our rupee currency to the position of a token currency, and we are now practically in the position of bankers who have issued a certain amount of fiduciary currency (whether paper or metal is immaterial), and to maintain the value of this fiduciary currency we are bound to be in a position to exchange it for gold when presented to meet legitimate trade requirements," said the Financial Statement for 1903-4, p. 14.

 [f16] The Chamberlain Commission said :" There are disadvantages in restricting the freedom of the Government in a crisis, and it is undesirable that the disposition and amount of the reserve should be stereotyped...... We therefore do not regard that the gold-standard reserve should be regulated by statute."—Report, Sec. 101.

 [f17] In the course of his speech on the Indian Paper Currency (Temporary Amendment) Bill, dated March 17, 1920, the Finance Minister observed :"......from a practical point of view, it is desirable to leave the gold-standard reserve until the paper-currency reserve has been re-transferred, in case... the Secretary of State finds it impossible to keep himself in funds by Councils for his heavy home liabilities. He will then be able to use the gold-standard reserve, and we can Credit the gold-standard reserve out here. There is a third point, and I think a conclusive one. When you operate against the paper-currency reserve you have to operate within the paper-currency reserve ; when you operate against the gold-standard reserve it disappears : it melts, and we are under no obligation to replace it ; whereas we are under a statutory obligation to replace the paper-currency reserve."—S.L.C.P. Vol. LVIII, p. 1416

 [f18]Op. cit.,pp. 166-7.

 [f19] In striking the proportion the rupee portion of the reserve has been omitted.

 [f20] Cf. in this connection the brilliant paper by F. A. Fetter, " The Gold Reserve: its Function and its Maintenance," in the Political Science Quarterly, 1896, Vol. XI, No. 2.

 [f21] See footnote * page 552.

 [f22] From 1900-1 to 1920-21 the profits on coinage credited to the gold-standard reserve amounted to 28,573,606 only ; while during the same period Interest and Discount gave 13,306,847 or nearly one-half the profits on coinage, Cf. East India: Accounts and Estimates, 1921-22, Cmd, 1517 of 1921, p. 20.

 [f23]Legislative Assembly Debates, Vol. II, No. 3 September, 10, 1921, p. 181. In the absence of information whether the price is F.O.B. or C.I.F. it is difficult to say that the Secretary of State has had to pay higher prices for silver than were paid by the Master of the Royal Mint.

 [f24] Money, p. 227

 [f25] Report, par. 63.

 [f26] In 1876, when Mr. Lindsay first set out his scheme in the pages of his Calcutta Review, he mentions no parallel at all. In 1892, in his Ricardo's Exchange Remedy, he uttered the name of Ricardo as an authority for his plan, but in 1898 he shifted his ground, so much so that he blamed (Economic journal, supra) Probyn for taking Ricardo's gold bar plan as a basis. The reason why he disavowed Ricardo as his authority most probably lies in the fact that Ricardo's general views of currency were rather damaging to his position. In view of the fact that there are so many people who assert, no doubt, from the title of his Proposals for an Economical and Secure Currency, that Ricardo wrote against a metallic standard, it is worth while recording the following passage from his Proposals, in which he says : " During the late discussion on the bullion questions, it was almost justly contended that a currency, to be perfect, should be absolutely invariable in value. But it was said, too, that ours had become such a currency, by the Bank Restriction Bill ; for by that bill we had wisely discarded gold and silver as the standard of our money...... Those who supported this opinion did not see that such a currency, instead of being variable, was subject to the greatest variations— that the only use of a standard is to regulate the quantity, and by the quantity the value of the currency—and that without a standard it would be exposed to all the fluctuations to which the ignorance or the interests of the issuers might subject it."

 [f27] The Report, which is a masterly document, was eclipsed by the Bullion Report, though both contain the same doctrine, by reason of its not being printed till 1826. See Lords Paper 48 of 1826.

 [f28]Report, p. 16. Italics not in the original.

 [f29] See Hansard Parliamentary Debates, Vol. XIV, pp. 75-91.

 [f30] Cf. the succinct statement by T. E. Gregory, Foreign Exchanges, p. 85.

 [f31] See Chap. IV.

 [f32] Cf. evidence of Mr. Lindsay before the Fowler Committee, Q. 4,190-95, where he asserted that exchange had nothing to do with the quantity of money in circulation.

 [f33] Dodwell, "A Gold Currency for lndia " Economic Journal, 1911 .Report on the Enquiry into the Rise of Prices in India, 1914, p. 94.

 [f34] Canning's castigation of Lord Castlereagh's definition of standard as " a sense of value " during the Bullion debates must be attributed to his ignorance on this matter.

 [f35] Ricardo, in his Proposals for an Economical and Secure Currency says : "It has indeed been said that we might judge of the value of a currency by its relation not to one but to the mass of the commodities....... Such a test would be of no use whatever...... To determine the value of a currency by the test proposed...... is evidently impossible.

 [f36] Gold Prices and Wages under the Greenback Standard, 1908, pp. 39-41.

 [f37]Cf. Prof. Nicholson's Principles of Political Economy (1897), Vol. II. Chap, XV, 4 ;and Walker, F. A., Money. 1878, pp. 387-91.

 [f38]From Hawtrey's Credit and Currency, p. 269. On the values of the notes in terms of gold Prof. Foxwell says : " it is admitted by the severest critics of the bank that there is no substantial ground for complaint as to its conduct during the restriction until 1808-9. There does not seem, indeed, to have been any real depreciation of its paper until that date. The price of 4 per ounce, which figures monotonously for the years 1803-9, was really an arbitrary price, fixed by the bank itself as one at which it would purchase foreign gold." Preface to Andreades, p. xvi. Some people seem to doubt that there was no specific depreciation of the inconvertible notes of the Bank of England till 1810. Unfortunately data are not available to give direct evidence of the fact. But circumstantial evidence there is. It is to be remembered that the premium on gold was the only method then known of measuring depreciation and that Homer, Ricardo and others were open enemies of the Bank of England. That being the case, it does not seem probable that Homer would have waited to introduce his Resolution in the House of Commons till 1810 if the bank notes had shown signs of specific depreciation before that time.

 [f39] The following table regarding the consumption of gold in different countries is interesting.

 [f40] The figures are those of Mr. Joseph Kitchin in The Review of Economic Statistics, Preliminary volume 3, No. 8 for August, 1921, p. 257. If figures previous to 1914 are desired, see table ibid., p. 258).

Omitting the abnormal years of 1917 and 1919 and reducing the figures to per capita basis the consumption of gold by India must be said to be remarkably small. Besides, it is to be noted that figures for India include industrial as well as monetary consumption. Further, in making comparison account must be taken of the difference in the period taken as unit in the case of India and other countries. Of course in these days when gold is so very greatly depreciated in terms of commodities in general, neither is there any necessity to shed tears if its production were to fall off, nor can it be anything but a welcome event if its use were to be extended. It would therefore be unwise to resent an increase, if it were to take place, in the importation and use of gold by India. The greater the use of gold and the less the production of it, the better for the world as it is circumstanced to-day. Cf. in this connection the remarks of Prof. Cannan on Mr. Shirras's Paper in the J.R.S.S. for July, 1920, pp. 623-24.

 [f41]Evidence of Prof. Marshall, I.C.C. 1898, Q. 11,793.

 [f42] Mitchell ibid., p. 258.