Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- June 10, 1867Our Financial Legislators
"Every evil [has] its good," says an old proverb. The truth of the adage is again evident with respect to the heavy debt which we incurred through the great War of the Rebellion. Of course, now that the first great joy caused by our glorious victory has passed, and the immense increase in business brought about by post-war demands has given place to a strong reaction, and taxes are becoming burdensome, hardly anybody will join in the old reckless cry of sanguine Americans--that our debts are a benefit, even though the benefit is disguised. Yet no one will deny that our debt has some good, some "redeeming" features. Necessity teaches us to pray; but necessity also teaches us that we must work. The bitter but salutary lesson of necessity was required to persuade the proud South, which had sunk into idleness, to be more energetic, and to recognize its appalling lack of knowledge and industrial ambition. And the results will be very beneficial for the South. Similarly, a great and perpetually active force like the tax burden which was placed upon the people was needed to put an end 2to the whole Union's thoughtless squandering of public property and neglect of the vast resources which are at our disposal. Of course, the evil of squandering public property is too deeply rooted in all our legislative and administrative branches to be removed immediately. Politicians of all classes and parties, public officials, and the people themselves, are so accustomed to having ample means and regarding the wealth and the resources of the United States as inexhaustible, that much time will elapse and many bitter experiences will have to be borne, before our legislators and administrators will be guided and governed by strict rules of economy. However, the time will come when we will be forced to examine our resources, and then at least an attempt will be made to use them in the interest of the public. Also, and what is more important, the people will finally understand that only those men are fit to serve them as legislators who, besides being honest and loyal, also have a thorough knowledge of and experience in the administration of finances and political economy.
The experiences of the United States financial administrators during the past 3few years cannot fail to serve as a lesson to the people of the United States and to our legislators in Congress. It is true that Americans pay little attention to the opinions of Europeans, unless the latter flatter their national vanity. However, though Americans continue to pay ever so dearly for their indifference toward the good advice which comes from abroad now and then, the day will finally come when they will begin to heed that advice.
If the gentlemen who make our laws would ask themselves why American bonds that pay six per cent interest are sold in London at seventy-two, while English bonds that pay three per cent interest are sold there at ninety, and the same American bonds are sold in Paris at seventy-eight, while an issue of French bonds paying three and one-half per cent are sold at sixty-eight, they would find that the credit of the United States, that is, faith in their ability and willingness to pay their debts, is much lower than the credit of England, and that even France, which is ever threatened by a terrible social revolution, has a better credit standing than the great, wealthy, powerful, Union. And yet, all Europe acknowledges not only the great riches of the United States and the stability and solidity 4which the Republic attained and displayed during the recent war, but also the American people's honesty and willingness to sacrifice. An article entitled "The National Debt of America" which appeared May 25, in the London Times makes the following assertion:
"In the face of urgent necessity, the American Congress did not hesitate to levy heavy taxes, and the American people submitted to them with a willingness that surprised even America's own statesmen. For several years America has been the most highly taxed nation of the world. Not even the English or Dutch are so constantly and variously taxed as the citizens of this Republic."
However, the London Times also calls attention to the truly foolish extravagance of American legislatures, not only of Congress, but also of the state legislatures. Wherever the burden of taxes has been increased by maladministration, or, if the rumor be true, by something worse, as is the case in New York and other large cities, the burden thus imposed upon individuals must be very great indeed. And now we are told that despite all sacrifices the debt of the United States is not 5decreasing. The Times finds a cause for this situation in extravagance and financial maladministration. It makes a comparison between the American Congress and the English Parliament.
"The former," it says, "consists of people who hail from all parts of the country, neither know one another nor have any experience in political economy, and therefore are not fit persons to administer the finances of the country, while Parliament has always been 'the watchdog' of the National Treasury of England and a close observer of the actions of English ministers."
These are bitter truths, yet nobody can refute them. Of course, it can at least be said to the credit of the American people that the political character of their representatives, and the stand of the latter on the burning issues of the day, on the Rebellion and subsequent reconstruction, heretofore so engrossed the attention of the electorate, that a discussion of the financial ability and experience of political candidates was very limited, and, in most cases, entirely ignored. In 6addition, it must be said that in previous periods of legislation political and financial issues were not nearly as important as those which are now before Congress, and that the American people are not yet accustomed to demanding from their public officials a knowledge of public finances.
But necessity will prove to be an excellent teacher for the American nation and for its lawmakers. The people will make different demands upon their representatives, and the latter will be obliged to pay more attention to the will of the people. The people will live up to the reputation of being eminently practical. They will surely be able to elect men who are the equal of the members of England's Parliament, as far as knowledge of financial matters is concerned--men who have the interest of the entire nation at heart, which cannot be said of the English "money barons" who are supposed to guide the "good ship Albion".
After the great work of political reconstruction has been accomplished, our nation will devote itself to financial, industrial, and economical reconstruction, and then we shall be recipients of one of the greatest benefits that can 7be bestowed upon a nation, and which we will not esteem and appreciate less, because it will be one of the good results of the Rebellion and of our great national debt.
I F 6, I G, I J
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