Bimetallism[a] is the economic term for a monetary standard in which the value of the monetary unit is defined as equivalent to certain quantities of two metals, typically gold and silver, creating a fixed rate of exchange between them.[3]

For scholarly purposes, "proper" bimetallism is sometimes distinguished as permitting that both gold and silver money are legal tender in unlimited amounts and that gold and silver may be taken to be coined by the government mints in unlimited quantities.[4] This distinguishes it from "limping standard" bimetallism, where both gold and silver are legal tender but only one is freely coined (e.g. the moneys of France, Germany, and the United States after 1873), and from "trade" bimetallism, where both metals are freely coined but only one is legal tender and the other is used as "trade money" (e.g. most moneys in western Europe from the 13th to 18th centuries). Economists also distinguish legal bimetallism, where the law guarantees these conditions, and de facto bimetallism, where gold and silver coins circulate at a fixed rate.

In the 19th century, there was a great deal of scholarly debate and political controversy regarding the use of bimetallism in place of a gold or silver standard (monometallism). Bimetallism was intended to increase the supply of money, stabilize prices, and facilitate setting exchange rates.[5] Some scholars argued that bimetallism was inherently unstable owing to Gresham's law, and that its replacement by a monometallic standard was inevitable. Other scholars claimed that in practice bimetallism had a stabilizing effect on economies. The controversy became largely moot after technological progress and the South African and Klondike Gold Rushes increased the supply of gold in circulation at the end of the century, ending most of the political pressure for greater use of silver. It became completely academic after the 1971 Nixon shock, since when all of the world's currencies have operated as more or less freely floating fiat money, unconnected to the value of silver or gold. Nonetheless, academics continue to inconclusively debate the relative use of the metallic standards.[b]

Kroisos. Circa 564-53-550-39 BC. AV Stater (16mm, 10.76 g). Heavy series. Sardes mint
Gold Croeseid, minted by King Croesus circa 561-546 BCE. (10.76 grams, Sardis mint)
KINGS of LYDIA. Kroisos. Circa 560-546 BC. AR Stater
Silver Croeseid, minted by King Croesus circa 560-546 BCE. (10.59 grams, Sardis mint)

Historical creation

From the 7th century BCE, Asia Minor, especially in the areas of Lydia and Ionia, is known to have created a coinage based on electrum, a natural occurring material called electrum, a variable mix of gold and silver (with about 54% gold and 44% silver). Before Croesus, his father Alyattes had already started to mint various types of non-standardized electrum coins. They were in use in Lydia and surrounding areas for about 80 years.[1] The unpredictability of its composition implied that it had a variable value which was very hard to determine, which greatly hampered its development.[1]


Croeseid equivalence
Croeseid bimetallic equivalence: 1 gold Croeseid of 8.1 grams was equivalent in value to 10 silver Croeseids of 10.8 grams.[10]

Croesus (Reigned c.560–c.546 BC), king of Lydia, who became associated with great wealth. Croesus is credited with issuing the Croeseid, the first true gold coins with a standardised purity for general circulation,[1]

Herodotus mentioned the innovation made by the Lydians:[1]

"So far as we have any knowledge, they [the Lydians] were the first people to introduce the use of gold and silver coins, and the first who sold goods by retail"

— Herodotus, I94[1]

Achaemenid coinage

Achaemenid bimetallic equivalence
Achaemenid bimetallic equivalence: 1 gold Daric was equivalent in value to 20 silver Sigloi. Under the Achaemenids the exchange rate in weight between gold and silver was 1 to 13.[11]

Many ancient bimetallic systems would follow, starting with Achaemenid coinage. From around 515 BCE under Darius I, the minting of Croesids in Sardis was replaced by the minting of Darics and Sigloi. The earliest gold coin of the Achaemenid Empire, the Daric, followed the weight standard of the Croeseid, and is therefore considered to be later and derived from the Croeseid.[12] The weight of the Daric would then be modified through a metrological reform, probably under Darius I.[12]

Sardis remained the central mint for the Persian Darics and Sigloi of Achaemenid coinage, and there is no evidence of other mints for the new Achaemenid coins during the whole time of the Achaemenid Empire.[13] Although the gold Daric became an international currency which was found throughout the Ancient world, the circulation of the Sigloi remained very much limited to Asia Minor: important hoards of Sigloi are only found in these areas, and finds of Sigloi beyond are always very limited and marginal compared to Greek coins, even in Achaemenid territories.[13]


In 1881, a currency reform in Argentina introduced a bimetallic standard, which went into effect in July 1883.[14] Units of gold and silver pesos would be exchanged with paper peso notes at given par values, and fixed exchange rates against key international currencies would thus be established.[14] Unlike many metallic standards, the system was very decentralized: no national monetary authority existed, and all control over convertibility rested with the five banks of issue.[14] This convertibility lasted only 17 months: from December 1884 the banks of issue refused to exchange gold at par for notes.[14] The suspension of convertibility was soon accommodated by the Argentine government, since, having no institutional power over the monetary system, there was little they could do to prevent it.[14]


A French law of 1803 granted anyone who brought gold or silver to its mint the right to have it coined at a nominal charge in addition to the official rates of 5 grams of 90% silver per franc or 3100 francs per kilogram of 90% fine gold.[15] This effectively established a bimetallic standard at the rate which had been used for French coinage since 1785, i.e. a relative valuation of gold to silver of 15.5 to 1. In 1803 this ratio was close to the market rate, but for most of the next half century the market rate was above 15.5 to 1.[15] As a consequence, silver powered the French economy and gold was exported. Then the Forty-Niners went to California and the resulting supply of gold reduced its value relative to silver. The market rate fell below 15.5 to 1, and remained below until 1866. Frenchmen responded by exporting silver to India and importing nearly two-fifths of the world's production of gold in the period from 1848 to 1870.[16] Napoleon III introduced five franc gold coins which provided a substitute for the silver five franc coins which were hoarded,[17] but still maintained the formal bimetallism implicit in the 1803 law.

Latin Monetary Union

The national coinages introduced in Belgium (1832), Switzerland (1850), and Italy (1861) were based on France's bimetallic currency. These countries joined France in a treaty signed on 23 December 1865 which established the Latin Monetary Union(LMU).[16] Greece joined the LMU in 1868 and about twenty other countries adhered to its standards.[18] The LMU effectively adopted bimetallism by allowing unlimited free coinage of gold and silver at the 15.5 to 1 rate used in France, but also began to back away from bimetallism by allowing limited issues of low denomination silver coins struck to a lower standard for government accounts.[19] A surplus of silver led the LMU to limit free coinage of silver in 1874 and to end it in 1878, effectively abandoning bimetallism for the gold standard.[19]

United Kingdom

Medieval and early modern England used both gold and silver, at fixed rates, to provide the necessary range of coin denominations; but silver coinage began to be restricted in the 18th century, first informally, and then by an Act of Parliament in 1774.[20] After the suspension of metal convertibility from 1797 to 1819, Peel's Bill set the country on the gold standard for the remainder of the century; however advocates of a return to bimetallism did not cease to appear. After the crash of 1825, William Huskisson argued strongly within the Government for bimetallism, as a way to increase credit (as well as to ease trade with South America).[21] Similarly, after the banking crisis of 1847, Alexander Baring headed an external bimetallist movement hoping to prevent the undue restriction of the currency.[22] It was, however, only in the last quarter of the century that the movement for bimetallism gathered real strength, drawing on Manchester cotton merchants and City financiers with Far East interests to offer a serious (if ultimately unsuccessful) challenge to the gold standard.[23]

United States

In 1787, the United States Constitution established gold and silver as the legal tender of the United States[24] at a floating exchange rate. Then in 1792, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton proposed fixing the silver to gold exchange rate at 15:1, as well as establishing the mint for the public services of free coinage and currency regulation "in order not to abridge the quantity of circulating medium.".[25] With its acceptance, Sec.11 of the Coinage Act of 1792 established: "That the proportional value of gold to silver in all coins which shall by law be current as money within the United States, shall be as fifteen to one, according to quantity in weight, of pure gold or pure silver;" the proportion had slipped by 1834 to sixteen to one. Silver took a further hit with the Coinage Act of 1853, when nearly all silver coin denominations were debased, effectively turning silver coinage into a fiduciary currency based on its face value rather than its weighted value. Bimetallism was effectively abandoned by the Coinage Act of 1873, but not formally outlawed as legal currency until the early 20th century. The merits of the system were the subject of debate in the late 19th century. If the market forces of supply and demand for either metal caused its bullion value to exceed its nominal currency value, it tends to disappear from circulation by hoarding or melting down.

Political debate

In the United States, bimetallism became a center of political conflict toward the end of the 19th century. During the Civil War, to finance the war the U.S. switched from bimetallism to a fiat money currency. After the war, in 1873, the government passed the Fourth Coinage Act and soon resumption of specie payments began (without the free and unlimited coinage of silver, thus putting the U.S. on a mono-metallic gold standard.) Farmers, debtors, Westerners and others who felt they had benefited from wartime paper money formed the short-lived Greenback Party to press for cheap paper money backed by silver.[26] The latter element – "free silver" – came increasingly to the fore as the answer to the same interest groups' concerns, and was taken up as a central plank by the Populist movement.[27] Proponents of monetary silver, known as the silverites, referred back to the Fourth Coinage Act as "The Crime of '73," as it was judged to have inhibited inflation, and favoured creditors over debtors. Some reformers, however, like Henry Demarest Lloyd, saw bimetallism as a red herring and feared that free silver was "the cowbird of the reform movement, likely to push the other eggs out of the nest.[28] Nevertheless the Panic of 1893, a severe nationwide depression, brought the money issue strongly to the fore again. The "silverites" argued that using silver would inflate the money supply and mean more cash for everyone, which they equated with prosperity. The gold advocates said silver would permanently depress the economy, but that sound money produced by a gold standard would restore prosperity.

1896 Republican poster warns against free silver.

Bimetallism and "Free Silver" were demanded by William Jennings Bryan who took over leadership of the Democratic Party in 1896, as well as by the Populists, and a faction of Republicans from silver mining regions in the West known as the Silver Republicans who also endorsed Bryan.[29] The Republican Party itself nominated William McKinley on a platform supporting the gold standard which was favored by financial interests on the East Coast.

Bryan, the eloquent champion of the cause, gave the famous "Cross of Gold" speech at the National Democratic Convention on July 9, 1896 asserting that "The gold standard has slain tens of thousands." He referred to "a struggle between 'the idle holders of idle capital’ and 'the struggling masses, who produce the wealth and pay the taxes of the country;’ and, my friends, the question we are to decide is: Upon which side will the Democratic party fight?" At the peroration, he said "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold." [30] However, his presidential campaign was ultimately unsuccessful; this can be partially attributed to the discovery of the cyanide process by which gold could be extracted from low grade ore. This process and the discoveries of large gold deposits in South Africa (Witwatersrand Gold Rush of 1887 - with large-scale production starting in 1898) and the Klondike Gold Rush (1896) increased the world gold supply and the subsequent increase in money supply that free coinage of silver was supposed to bring. The McKinley campaign was effective at persuading voters in the business East that poor economic progress and unemployment would be exacerbated by adoption of the Bryan platform.[31] 1896 saw the election of McKinley. The direct link to gold was abandoned in 1934 in FDR’s New Deal program and later the link was broken by Nixon when he closed the gold window.

Economic analysis

In 1992, economist Milton Friedman concluded that abandonment of the bimetallic standard in 1873 led to greater price instability than would have occurred otherwise, and thus resulted in long-term harm to the US economy. His retrospective analysis led him to write that the act of 1873 "... was a mistake that had highly adverse consequences."[32]

See also


  1. ^ Formerly also written bi-metallism.[2]
  2. ^ For example, Kindleberger[6] and Redish[7] have argued against and Friedman[8] and Flandreau[9] for the inherent stability and usefulness of bimetallic standards.



  1. ^ a b c d e f Metcalf, William E. (2016). The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press. p. 49-50. ISBN 9780199372188.
  2. ^ Wilson, Alexander Johnstone (1880), Reciprocity, Bi-metallism, and Land-Tenure Reform, London: Macmillan & Co..
  3. ^ "bimetallism, n.", Oxford English Dictionary.
  4. ^ Velde; et al., A Model of Bimetallism, Minneapolis: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Research Department.
  5. ^ "Bimetallism", Encyclopædia Britannica.
  6. ^ Kindleberger, Charles (1984), A Financial History of Western Europe, London: Allen & Unwin.
  7. ^ Redish, Angela (1995), "The Persistence of Bimetallism in Nineteenth Century France", Economic History Review, pp. 717–736.
  8. ^ Friedman, Milton (1990), "Bimetallism Revisited", Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 4 (No. 4), American Economic Association, pp. 85–104.
  9. ^ Flandreau, Marc (1996), "The French Crime of 1873: An Essay on the Emergence of the International Gold Standard, 1870–1880", The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 56 (No. 4), pp. 862–897.
  10. ^ Fisher, William Bayne; Gershevitch, I.; Boyle, John Andrew; Yarshater, Ehsan; Frye, Richard Nelson (1968). The Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge University Press. pp. 616–617. ISBN 9780521200912.
  11. ^ DARIC – Encyclopaedia Iranica.
  12. ^ a b Fisher, William Bayne; Gershevitch, I.; Boyle, John Andrew; Yarshater, Ehsan; Frye, Richard Nelson (1968). The Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge University Press. p. 617. ISBN 9780521200912.
  13. ^ a b Fisher, William Bayne; Gershevitch, I.; Boyle, John Andrew; Yarshater, Ehsan; Frye, Richard Nelson (1968). The Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge University Press. p. 619. ISBN 9780521200912.
  14. ^ a b c d e della Paolera, Gerardo; Taylor, Alan M. (2001). "The Argentine Currency Board and the Search for Macroeconomic Stability, 1880–1935" (PDF). University of Chicago Press. pp. 46–48. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-12-30.
  15. ^ a b Dickson Leavens, Silver Money, Chapter IV Bimetallism in France and the Latin Monetary Union, page 25
  16. ^ a b Dickson Leavens, op. cit. page 26
  17. ^ John Porteous, Coins in History, page 238
  18. ^ Robert Friedberg, Gold Coins of the World, fourth edition, page 11
  19. ^ a b John Porteous, op. cit. page 241
  20. ^ A. Redish, Bimetallism (2006) p. 67 and p. 205
  21. ^ B. Hilton, A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? (Oxford, 2008) p. 303
  22. ^ É. Halévy, Victorian Years (London: Ernest Benn, 1961) p. 201
  23. ^ P. J. Cain, British Imperialism (2016) pp. 155-6 and p. 695
  24. ^ U.S. Constitution
  25. ^ 2 Annals of Cong. 2115 (1789–1791), cited in Arthur Nussbaum, The Law of the Dollar, Columbia Law Review, Vol. 37, No. 7 (Nov., 1937), pp. 1057–1091
  26. ^ R. B. Nye, the Growth of the United States (Penguin 1955) p. 599-603
  27. ^ H. G, Nicholas, The American Union (Penguin 1950) p. 220
  28. ^ Quoted in R. B. Nye, the Growth of the United States (Penguin 1955) p. 603
  29. ^ R. B. Nye, the Growth of the United States (Penguin 1955) p. 603
  30. ^ R. B. Nye, the Growth of the United States (Penguin 1955) p. 604
  31. ^ H. G, Nicholas, The American Union (Penguin 1950) p. 222
  32. ^ Milton Friedman, Money Mischief (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992) 78.


Primary sources

Secondary sources

  • Epstein, David A. (2012). Left, Right, Out: The History of Third Parties in America. Arts and Letters Imperium Publications. ISBN 978-0-578-10654-0.
  • James A. Barnes, "Myths of the Bryan Campaign," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 34 (December 1947) online in JSTOR
  • David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, "Gold Democrats and the Decline of Classical Liberalism, 1896-1900," Independent Review 4 (Spring 2000), 555-75.
  • Bordo, Michael D. "Bimetallism." in The New Palgrave Encyclopedia of Money and Finance edited by Peter K. Newman, Murray Milgate and John Eatwell. 1992.
  • Dighe, Ranjit S. ed. The Historian's Wizard of Oz: Reading L. Frank Baum's Classic as a Political and Monetary Allegory (2002)
  • Flandreau, Marc, 2004, The Glitter of Gold. France, Bimetallism and the Emergence of the International Gold Standard, 1848–1873, Oxford, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 343 p.
  • Friedman, Milton, 1990a, "The crime of 1873," Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 98, No. 6, December, pp. 1159–1194 in JSTOR
  • Friedman, Milton, 1990b, "Bimetallism revisited," Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 4, No. 4, Fall, pp. 85–104. in JSTOR
  • Friedman, Milton, and Anna J. Schwartz, 1963, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960 Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00354-8.
  • Jeansonne, Glen. "Goldbugs, Silverites, and Satirists: Caricature and Humor in the Presidential Election of 1896." Journal of American Culture 1988 11(2): 1–8. ISSN 0191-1813
  • Jensen, Richard J. (1971). The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict 1888–1896.
  • Jones, Stanley L. (1964). The Presidential Election of 1896.
  • Littlefield, Henry M., 1964, "The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism," American quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring, pp. 47–58.
  • Angela Redish, "Bimetallism"
  • Rockoff, Hugh, 1990, "The Wizard of Oz as a monetary allegory," Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 98, No. 4, August, pp. 739–760. in JSTOR
  • Velde, Francois R. "Following the Yellow Brick Road: How the United States Adopted the Gold Standard" Economic Perspectives. Volume: 26. Issue: 2. 2002.
  • Richard Hofstadter (1996). "Free Silver and the Mind of "Coin" Harvey". The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays. Harvard University Press. Harvard. ISBN 0-674-65461-7.

External links

1894 United States elections

The 1894 United States elections was held on November 6, and elected the members of the 54th United States Congress. These were mid-term elections during Democratic President Grover Cleveland's second term. The Republican landslide of 1894 marked a realigning election In American politics as the nation moved from the Third Party System that had focused on issues of civil war and reconstruction, and entered the Fourth Party System, known as the Progressive Era, which focused on middle class reforms.The Democrats suffered a landslide defeat in the House losing over 100 seats to the Republicans in the single largest swing in the history of the House. The Democrats also lost four seats in the Senate, thus resulting in the President's party completely losing control of both houses of Congress, the first time this ever happened in a midterm election.

The Democratic Party losses can be traced largely to the Panic of 1893 and the ineffective party leadership of Cleveland. Republicans effectively used the issues of the tariff, bimetallism, and the Cuban War of Independence against Cleveland. The Democrats suffered huge defeats outside the South (almost ninety percent of Northeastern and Midwestern House Democrats lost re-election), and the Democratic Party underwent a major turnover in party leadership. With the defeat of many Bourbon Democrats, William Jennings Bryan took the party in a more populist direction starting with the 1896 elections.

1896 United States elections

The 1896 United States elections elected the 55th United States Congress. Republicans won control of the Presidency and maintained control of both houses of Congress. The election marked the end of the Third Party System and the start of the Fourth Party System, as Republicans would generally dominate politics until the 1930 elections. Political scientists such as V.O. Key, Jr. argue that this election was a realigning election, while James Reichley argues against this idea on the basis that the Republican victory in this election merely continued the party's post-Civil War dominance. The election took place in the aftermath of the Panic of 1893, and featured a fierce debate between advocates of bimetallism ("free silver") and supporters of the gold standard.In the Presidential election, Republican former Governor William McKinley of Ohio defeated Democratic former Representative William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska. McKinley took the Republican nomination on the first ballot, while Bryan took the Democratic nomination on the fifth ballot (at age 36, he became youngest presidential nominee of a major party), defeating former Missouri Representative Richard P. Bland and several other candidates. Bryan's Cross of Gold speech, in which he advocated for "free silver," helped deliver him the Democratic nomination, and also attracted the support of the Populist Party and the Silver Republican Party. Though Bryan carried most of the South and the West, McKinley won a comfortable margin in both the electoral college and the popular vote by carrying the Northeast and the Great Lakes region.

Democrats won major gains in the House, but Republicans continued to command a large majority in the chamber. The Populists also won several seats, holding more seats in the House than any third party since the Civil War.In the Senate, the Republicans maintained their plurality, keeping control of the same number of seats. The Democrats lost several seats, while the Silver Republicans established themselves for the first time with five seats. Republican William P. Frye won election as President pro tempore.

Bland–Allison Act

The Bland–Allison Act, also referred to as the Grand Bland Plan of 1878, was an act of United States Congress requiring the U.S. Treasury to buy a certain amount of silver and put it into circulation as silver dollars. Though the bill was vetoed by President Rutherford B. Hayes, the Congress overrode Hayes's veto on February 28, 1878 to enact the law.

Bourbon Democrat

Bourbon Democrat was a term used in the United States in the later 19th century (1872–1904) to refer to members of the Democratic Party who were ideologically aligned with conservatism or classical liberalism, especially those who supported presidential candidates Charles O'Conor in 1872, Samuel J. Tilden in 1876, President Grover Cleveland in 1884–1888/1892–1896 and Alton B. Parker in 1904.

After 1904, the Bourbons faded away. Woodrow Wilson, who had been a Bourbon, made a deal in 1912 with the leading opponent of the Bourbons, William Jennings Bryan, who endorsed Wilson for the Democratic nomination and Wilson named Bryan Secretary of State. Bourbon Democrats were promoters of a form of laissez-faire capitalism which included opposition to the high-tariff protectionism that the Republicans were then advocating as well as fiscal discipline. They represented business interests, generally supporting the goals of banking and railroads, but opposed to subsidies for them and were unwilling to protect them from competition. They opposed American imperialism and overseas expansion, fought for the gold standard against bimetallism and promoted hard and sound money. Strong supporters of states' rights and reform movements such as the Civil Service Reform and opponents of the corrupt city bosses, Bourbons led the fight against the Tweed Ring. The anti-corruption theme earned the votes of many Republican Mugwumps in 1884.The term "Bourbon Democrats" was never used by the Bourbon Democrats themselves. It was not the name of any specific or formal group and no one running for office ever ran on a Bourbon Democrat ticket. The term "Bourbon" was mostly used disparagingly by critics complaining of viewpoints they saw as old-fashioned. A number of splinter Democratic parties, such as the Straight-Out Democratic Party (1872) and the National Democratic Party (1896), that actually ran candidates, fall under the more general label of Bourbon Democrats.

Coinage Act of 1853

The Coinage Act of 1853, 10 Stat. 160, was a piece of legislation passed by the United States Congress which lowered the silver content of the silver half dime, dime, quarter dollar, and half dollar. Although intending to stabilize the country's silver shortage, it, in effect, pushed the United States closer to abandoning bimetallism entirely and adopting the gold standard.

Smaller silver denominations in the United States were disappearing as the bullion value of silver far exceeded the face value of U.S. silver coinage. In response, Congress debated a bill which would overvalue most forms of silver coinage and authorize the U.S. Mint to purchase bullion for the new coins. The legislation lowered the silver content of most silver coins by seven percent and was signed into law on February 21, 1853.

The 1853 act increased the circulation of small coinage, ending the United States' silver shortage crisis, and provided an adequate supply of silver coinage for the first time in the nation's history. However, by the time of the outbreak of the Civil War, most metallic coinage became hoarded and the country largely switched to Greenbacks. It would be in 1873 when the debate between silver and gold was finally resolved, with all pretenses of bimetallism replaced in favor of the gold standard.

Coinage Act of 1873

The Coinage Act of 1873 or Mint Act of 1873, 17 Stat. 424, was a general revision of the laws relating to the Mint of the United States. In abolishing the right of holders of silver bullion to have their metal struck into fully legal tender dollar coins, it ended bimetallism in the United States, placing the nation firmly on the gold standard. Because of this, the act became contentious in later years, and was denounced by some as the "Crime of '73".

By 1869, the Mint Act of 1837 was deemed outdated, and Treasury Secretary George Boutwell had Deputy Comptroller of the Currency John Jay Knox undertake a draft of a revised law, which was introduced into Congress by Ohio Senator John Sherman. Due to the high price of silver, little of that metal was presented at the Mint, but Knox and others foresaw that development of the Comstock Lode and other rich silver-mining areas would lower the price, causing large quantities of silver dollars to be struck and the gold standard to be endangered. During the almost three years the bill was pending before Congress, it was rarely mentioned that it would end bimetallism, though this was not concealed. Congressmen instead debated other provisions. The legislation, in addition to ending the production of the silver dollar, abolished three low-denomination coins. The bill became the Act of February 12, 1873, with the signature of President Ulysses S. Grant.

When silver prices dropped in 1876, producers sought to have their bullion struck at the Mint, only to learn that this was no longer possible. The matter became a major political controversy that lasted the remainder of the century, pitting those who valued the deflationary gold standard against those who believed free coinage of silver to be necessary for economic prosperity. Accusations were made that the passage of the act had been secured through corruption, though there is little evidence of this. The gold standard was explicitly enacted into law in 1900, and was completely abandoned by the U.S. in 1971.

Cross of Gold speech

The Cross of Gold speech was delivered by William Jennings Bryan, a former United States Representative from Nebraska, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on July 9, 1896. In the address, Bryan supported bimetallism or "free silver", which he believed would bring the nation prosperity. He decried the gold standard, concluding the speech, "you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold". Bryan's address helped catapult him to the Democratic Party's presidential nomination; it is considered one of the greatest political speeches in American history.

For twenty years, Americans had been bitterly divided over the nation's monetary standard. The gold standard, which the United States had effectively been on since 1873, limited the money supply but eased trade with other nations, such as the United Kingdom, whose currency was also based on gold. Many Americans, however, believed that bimetallism (making both gold and silver legal tender) was necessary for the nation's economic health. The financial Panic of 1893 intensified the debates, and when Democratic President Grover Cleveland continued to support the gold standard against the will of much of his party, activists became determined to take over the Democratic Party organization and nominate a silver-supporting candidate in 1896.

Bryan had been a dark horse candidate with little support in the convention. His speech, delivered at the close of the debate on the party platform, electrified the convention and is generally credited with getting him the nomination for president. However, he lost the general election to William McKinley and the United States formally adopted the gold standard in 1900.

Francis Amasa Walker

Francis Amasa Walker (July 2, 1840 – January 5, 1897) was an American economist, statistician, journalist, educator, academic administrator, and military officer in the Union Army.

Walker was born into a prominent Boston family, the son of the economist and politician Amasa Walker, and he graduated from Amherst College at the age of 20. He received a commission to join the 15th Massachusetts Infantry and quickly rose through the ranks as an assistant adjutant general. Walker fought in the Peninsula Campaign and was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville but subsequently participated in the Bristoe, Overland, and Richmond-Petersburg Campaigns before being captured by Confederate forces and held at the infamous Libby Prison. In July 1866, he was nominated by President Andrew Johnson and confirmed by the United States Senate for the award of the honorary grade of brevet brigadier general United States Volunteers, to rank from March 13, 1865, when he was age 24.Following the war, Walker served on the editorial staff of the Springfield Republican before using his family and military connections to gain appointment as the Chief of the Bureau of Statistics from 1869 to 1870 and Superintendent of the 1870 census where he published an award-winning Statistical Atlas visualizing the data for the first time. He joined Yale University's Sheffield Scientific School as a professor of political economy in 1872 and rose to international prominence serving as a chief member of the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition, American representative to the 1878 International Monetary Conference, President of the American Statistical Association in 1882, and inaugural President of the American Economic Association in 1886, and vice president of the National Academy of Sciences in 1890. Walker also led the 1880 census which resulted in a twenty-two volume census, cementing Walker's reputation as the nation's preeminent statistician.

As an economist, Walker debunked the wage-fund doctrine and engaged in a prominent scholarly debate with Henry George on land, rent, and taxes. Walker argued in support of bimetallism and although he was an opponent of the nascent socialist movement, he argued that obligations existed between the employer and the employed. He published his International Bimetallism at the height of the 1896 presidential election campaign in which economic issues were prominent. Walker was a prolific writer, authoring ten books on political economy and military history. In recognition of his contributions to economic theory, beginning in 1947, the American Economic Association recognized the lifetime achievement of an individual economist with a "Francis A. Walker Medal".

Walker accepted the presidency of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1881, a position he held for fifteen years until his death. During his tenure, he placed the institution on more stable financial footing by aggressively fund-raising and securing grants from the Massachusetts government, implemented many curricular reforms, oversaw the launch of new academic programs, and expanded the size of the Boston campus, faculty, and student enrollments. MIT's Walker Memorial Hall, a former students' clubhouse and one of the original buildings on the Charles River campus, was dedicated to him in 1916.

Georgy Butmi de Katzman

Georgy Butmi de Katzman (Russian: Георгий Васильевич Бутми-де-Кацман, 1856–1919) — Russian journalist, writer and economist (author of books and papers on economy), member of the Union of the Russian People.

Butmi opposed introduction of gold standard and supported bimetallism in his writings.

Butmi edited and/or published the Russian language editions of the Protocols of the wise men of Zion, in 1906, and 1907, respectively, after the Pavel Krushevan 1903 and Sergei Nilus 1905 editions. The first edition was published by Pavel A. Krushevan in Znamya in 1903; it has come to be known as the "shorter version." The second version was published by Sergei Nilus as chapter twelve in the 1905 second edition of his book, Velikoe v malom... (The Great within the Minuscule...), on the coming of the anti-Christ. Butmi's, therefore, is essentially the third major edition in any language.

Gold Standard Act

The Gold Standard Act of the United States was passed in 1900 (approved on March 14) and established gold as the only standard for redeeming paper money, stopping bimetallism (which had allowed silver in exchange for gold). It was signed by President William McKinley.

The Act made the de facto gold standard in place since the Coinage Act of 1873 (whereby debt holders could demand reimbursement in whatever metal was preferred—usually gold) a de jure gold standard alongside other major European powers at the time.

The Act fixed the value of the dollar at ​25 8⁄10 grains of gold at "nine-tenths fine" (90% purity), equivalent to 23.22 grains (1.5046 grams) of pure gold.

The Gold Standard Act confirmed the United States' commitment to the gold standard by assigning gold a specific dollar value (just over $20.67 per Troy ounce). This took place after McKinley sent a team to Europe to try to make a silver agreement with France and Great Britain.

On April 19, 1933, the United States domestically abandoned the gold standard, whereafter independent states would remain assured of their US dollar holdings by an implied guarantee on their convertibility on demand: the Bretton Woods system formalized this international arrangement at the conclusion of World War II, before the Nixon shock unilaterally cancelled direct international convertibility of the US dollar to gold in 1971.

Index of international trade topics

This is a list of international trade topics.

Absolute advantage

Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)


Balance of trade


Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT)


Branch plant economy

Bretton Woods conference

Bretton Woods system

British timber trade

Cash crop

Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA)

Comparative advantage

Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF)

Council of Arab Economic Unity


Customs broking

Customs union

David Ricardo

Doha Development Round (Of World Trade Organization)

Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA)

Enabling clause

Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Assistance for the Least Developed Countries

European Union (EU)

Export documentsATA Carnet

ATR.1 certificate

Certificate of origin

EUR.1 movement certificate

Form A

Form B

TIR CarnetEuropean Free Trade Association (EFTA)

Exchange rate

Factor price equalization

Fair trade

Foreign direct investment (FDI)

Foreign exchange option

Foreign Sales Corporations (FSCs)


Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)

Free On Board (FOB)

Free trade

Free trade area

Free trade zone (FTZ)

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)

Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)

Genetically modified food controversies

Geographical pricing

Giant sucking sound (a colorful phrase by Ross Perot)

Global financial system (GFS)


Gold standard

Gravity model of trade

Gresham's law

Heckscher-Ohlin model (H-O model)

Horizontal integration


Import substitution industrialization (ISI)

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)

International factor movements

International law

International Monetary Market (IMM)

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

International Trade Organization (ITO)


Internationalization and localization (G11n)

ISO 4217 (international standard for currency codes)

Leontief paradox

Linder hypothesis

List of tariffs and trade legislation



Merchant bank

Money market

Most favoured nation (MFN)


New Trade Theory (NTT)

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

Offshore outsourcing


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)


Purchasing power parity (PPP)

Rules of origin


South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA)

Special drawing rights (SDRs)

Special Economic Zone (SEZ)


Tax, tariff and trade

Terms of trade (TOT)

Tobin tax


Trade barrier

Trade bloc

Trade facilitation

Trade Facilitation and Development

Trade finance

Trade pact

Trade sanctions

Trade war

Transfer pricing

Transfer problem

United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference

Uruguay Round (Of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade)

Wage insurance

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty (WIPO Copyright Treaty)

World Trade Organization (WTO)

John P. Young

John Philip Young (August 9, 1849 – April 23, 1921) was an American newsman and writer. He was managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle for 44 years, and wrote variously on history, economics, and journalism. His books include the two-volume San Francisco: A History of the Pacific Coast Metropolis (1913), and Journalism in California (1915). He was also a founding member and treasurer of the Commonwealth Club of California.Young was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and at age 16 ran away from home and enlisted in the Navy. His parents organized his release while he was on his first cruise, and he then spent four years working in a Philadelphia store. He then moved out west, first to Arizona, then San Diego, where he became business manager and later an editor of the San Diego Union. In 1873 he went to Washington, D.C. for four years, where he was city editor of the Washington Chronicle. He moved back to California in 1877, joining the Chronicle in April of that year. After covering the 1877–78 session of the California legislature for the Chronicle, he was appointed managing editor.He authored several books and articles on economics, history, and journalism. He was an ardent supporter of American protectionism, which he explored in his 1899 book Protection and Progress, and in 1904 was elected an honorary member of the American Protective Tariff League. Other works include a two-volume history of San Francisco, and The Growth of Modern Trusts, the latter praised by president Theodore Roosevelt as performing a genuine service to the country. He was also an advocate of bimetallism in the debate against monometallism, and in 1895 published in the pages of the Chronicle his "Bimetallism and Monometallism" , a 25-chapter, 63-column exploration of the issue, an amount of space noted by a British magazine as "probably unprecedented in newspaper literature."In 1884 he married Georgina M. Brown of St. Louis. He died at the age of 71 on April 23, 1921, at his home in San Francisco, after suffering a stroke of paralysis 10 days earlier.

Limping bimetallism

Limping bimetallism was a monetary system in the United States that was partially dependent on silver but primarily dependent on gold. It was developed after the abandonment of bimetallism and the adoption of the gold standard in 1873. The Bland–Allison Act of 1878 allowed the coining of new silver dollars, thus creating this system. Contrary to popular belief, the limping standard was not abandoned upon enactment of the Gold Standard Act of 1900.


Metallism is the economic principle that the value of money derives from the purchasing power of the commodity upon which it is based. The currency in a metallist monetary system may be made from the commodity itself (commodity money) or use tokens such as national banknotes redeemable in that commodity. The term was coined by Georg Friedrich Knapp to describe monetary systems using coin minted in silver, gold or other metals.In metallist economic theory, the value of the currency derives from the market value of the commodity upon which it is based independent of its monetary role. Carl Menger theorized money came about when buyers and sellers in a market agreed on a common commodity as a medium of exchange in order to reduce the costs of barter. The intrinsic value of that commodity must be sufficient to make it highly “saleable”, or readily accepted as payment. In this system, buyers and sellers of real goods and services establish the medium of exchange, not a sovereign state. Metallists view the state's role in the minting or official stamping of coins as one of authenticating the quality and quantity of metal used in making the coin. Knapp distinguished metallism from chartalism (or antimetallism), a monetary system in which the state has monopoly power over its own currency and creates a unique market and demand for that currency by imposing taxes or other such legally enforceable debts upon its people which can only be paid in that currency.

Joseph Schumpeter distinguished between "theoretical" and "practical" metallism. Schumpeter categorized the Menger position, that a commodity link is essential to understanding the origins and nature of money, as "theoretical metallism". He defined "practical metallism" as the theory that although a sovereign state has unfettered power to create non-backed currencies, money with no intrinsic or redeemable commodity value, it is more prudent to adopt a backed currency system.

People's Party (United States)

The People's Party (also known as the Populist Party or the Populists) was a left-wing, agrarian political party in the United States. The Populist Party emerged in the early 1890s as an important force in the Southern United States and the Western United States, but the party collapsed after it nominated Democrat William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 United States presidential election. A rump faction of the party continued to operate into the first decade of the 20th century, but never matched the popularity of the party in the early 1890s.

The roots of the Populist Party lay in Farmers' Alliance, an agrarian movement that promoted collective economic action by farmers, as well as the Greenback Party, an earlier third party that had advocated for fiat money. The success of Farmers' Alliance candidates in the 1890 United States elections, along with the conservatism of both major parties, encouraged leaders of the Farmers' Alliance to establish a full-fledged third party prior to the 1892 United States elections. The Ocala Demands laid out the Populist platform, calling for collective bargaining, federal regulation of railroad rates, an expansionary monetary policy, and a Sub-Treasury Plan that required the establishment of federally-controlled warehouses to aid farmers. Other Populist-endorsed measures included bimetallism, a graduated income tax, direct election of Senators, a shorter workweek, and the establishment of a postal savings system. These measures were collectively designed to curb the influence of corporate and financial interests and empower small farmers and laborers.

In the 1892 presidential election, the Populist ticket of James B. Weaver and James G. Field won 8.5 percent of the national popular vote and carried four Western states, becoming the first third party since the end of the American Civil War to win electoral votes. Despite the support of labor organizers like Eugene V. Debs and Terence V. Powderly, the party largely failed to win the vote of urban laborers in the Midwest and the Northeast. Over the next four years, the party continued to run state and federal candidates, building up powerful organizations in several Southern and Western states. Prior to the 1896 presidential election, the Populists became increasingly polarized between "fusionists," who wanted to nominate a joint presidential ticket with the Democratic Party, and "mid-roaders," who favored the continuation of the Populists as an independent third party. After the 1896 Democratic National Convention nominated Bryan, a prominent bimetallist, the Populists nominated Bryan but rejected the Democratic vice presidential nominee in favor of party leader Thomas E. Watson. In the 1896 election, Bryan won much of the South and West, but was defeated by Republican William McKinley.

After the 1896 presidential election, the Populist Party suffered a nationwide collapse. The party nominated presidential candidates in the three presidential elections following 1896, but none of those candidates came close to matching Weaver's performance in the 1892 election. Former Populist voters joined the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Socialist Party, but other than Debs and Bryan, few politicians associated with the Populists retained national prominence. Historians see the Populists as a reaction to the power of corporate interests in the Gilded Age, but they debate the degree to which the Populists were anti-modern and nativist. Scholars also continue to debate the influence of the Populists on later organizations and movements such as the progressives of the early 20th century, New Deal liberals, and right-wing Republicans like Joseph McCarthy. In the United States, the term "populist" was originally associated with the Populist Party and related left-wing movements, but in the 1950s it began to take on a more generic meaning that describes any anti-establishment movement regardless of its position on the left–right political spectrum.

Richard P. Bland

Richard Parks Bland (August 19, 1835 – June 15, 1899) was an American politician, lawyer, and educator from Missouri. A Democrat, Bland served in the United States House of Representatives from 1873 to 1895 and from 1897 to 1899,

representing at various times the Missouri 5th, 8th and 11th congressional districts. Nicknamed "Silver Dick" for his efforts to promote bimetallism, Bland is best known for the Bland–Allison Act.

Born in Kentucky, he established a legal practice in Utah Territory after working as a miner and schoolteacher. He served as the treasurer of Carson County from 1860 to 1864 during the peak years of the Comstock Lode mining rush. He settled in Missouri in 1865 and established a legal practice in Lebanon, Missouri. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1872 and quickly established himself as a leading advocate of the free silver movement. He sponsored the Bland-Allison Act, which required the United States Department of the Treasury to buy a certain amount of silver and put it into circulation as silver dollars. He also established himself as an anti-imperialist. Bland lost re-election in the 1894 election but won his seat back in 1896.

Bland was a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1896, though he expressed reluctance about running for president. His marriage to a Catholic woman engendered opposition from the anti-Catholic elements of the party. Bland received the most votes on the first three ballots of the 1896 Democratic National Convention, but not enough to win the necessary majority. William Jennings Bryan, who also favored bimetallism, won the Democratic nomination on the fifth ballot and went on to lose to Republican William McKinley in the 1896 presidential election. After the convention, Bland served in the House from 1897 to his death in 1899.

Silver Party

The Silver Party was a political party in the United States active from 1892 until 1911 and most successful in Nevada which supported a platform of bimetallism and free silver.In 1892, the several Silver Party candidates were elected to Nevada public offices. The party's success continued throughout the decade, culminating in the election of Governors John E. Jones and Reinhold Sadler. Nevada was the only state to elect both Senators and Congressional representatives from the Silver Party.Nationally, the Silver Party aligned with the Populist Party and to a lesser extent with the Silver Republican Party. By 1902, most pro-silver factions in Nevada had been absorbed by the state Democratic Party organization.

Silver Republican Party

The Silver Republican Party was a United States political party in the 1890s. It was so named because it split from the Republican Party over the issues of free silver (effectively, expansionary monetary policy) and bimetallism. The main Republican Party supported the gold standard. Silver Republican strength was concentrated in the Western states where mining, particularly silver mining, was an important industry. Silver Republicans were elected to the Congress from several Western states. In 1896, Silver Republicans supported Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan over William McKinley. After 1900, the Silver Republican Party was on the decline and most of its members rejoined the Republican Party. However, some such as Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho and former Secretary of the Interior Henry M. Teller of Colorado joined the Democratic Party.

William Hope Harvey

William Hope "Coin" Harvey (August 16, 1851 – February 11, 1936) was an American lawyer, author, politician, and health resort owner best remembered as a prominent public intellectual advancing the idea of monetary bimetallism. His enthusiasm for the use of silver as legal tender was later incorporated into the platforms of both the People's Party and the Democratic Party in the early 1890s. Harvey was also the founder of the short-lived Liberty Party and that party's nominee for President of the United States in 1932.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.