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industry, and agriculture; increase of the revenue and expenditures of the government; an increased demand for labor; a speculative spirit and luxury; a rise in the price of goods imported from gold-using countries; and a hindrance to the trade with gold-using countries. These consequences, it will be seen, were of a somewhat varied character, and the commission voted 10 to 5 that they were on the whole beneficial to Japan. Nevertheless, the commission also voted 8 to 7 that some change should be made in the standard, and six declared themselves for gold, while two voted for the double standard. Thus a minority of the whole commission favored the gold standard, though a still smaller minority favored bimetallism.
The report of the commission does not, therefore, seem to an outsider to have been sufficiently pronounced to fully explain the boldness of the step which has been taken and the remarkable speed with which it was passed by the Japanese Diet. This is one of the surprising features of the reform. The coinage bill was referred to a special committee of the lower House on the evening of March 3d. By the gth it had been returned to the House. On the rith it was passed in three readings with comparatively little opposition and sent up to the House of Peers, who passed it on the 23d. Some of the members spoke in opposition to the plan, but the accounts of the proceedings indicate that the opposition was not serious, and that no material changes were made in the bill as presented by Count Matsukata. These provisions themselves are of an extremely simple nature. Under the existing system gold is rated to silver as 16.17 to 1. Under the new system the gold coins which are to become the standard of value are to be just half the weight of the old coins, which will make the ratio 32.34 to 1. The silver yen are to be gradually withdrawn, and the law is to go into effect on the ist of October of this year.
There is obviously some doubt among observers on the spot as to the leading motives for this radical measure. The Yokohama correspondent of the London Economist says that the principal object is to encourage the investment of foreign capital in Japan. This view is, however, not borne
out by the utterances of Count Matsukata. In a very able speech delivered in the House March 2d [a part of which is reprinted on p. 84 of this number], he enumerates four advantages that he expects to accrue from the revision of the coinage. The last one in order is the attraction of foreign capital. The chief advantage, he states, is to avoid fluctuations in the prices of commodities; secondly, he expects to increase the exports, and thirdly, to avoid fluctuations in exchange with gold-using countries. Similarly in an interesting article contributed by him to the Kokuminno-tomo [The Far East], he lays especial stress upon the rise in the price of commodities which has taken place since the war, and which he says has put Japan into a position of disadvantage in its trade with foreign countries. He says, “In comparison with the year 1888 prices have risen 30 per cent., yes, they have risen even 26 per cent. since the war.” This he thinks is due not so much to an increase in the currency as to the depreciation of silver.
Many of the foreign residents of Japan think that the country is making a great mistake. This view is voiced by the Japan Mail, and is elaborated in a long and scholarly address given by Prof. Garrett Droppers, February 20th, 1897. Prof. Droppers, who is an outspoken bimetallist, thinks that the Japanese statesmen who favor the gold standard are under the influence of a delusion. “ This delusion may be defined as a species of mania for the yellow metal almost as inexplicable and as potent as the craze for tulip bulbs in Holland in the 17th century." This address was delivered prior to the speech of Count Matsukata, and Prof. Droppers may, therefore, be pardoned for not doing full justice to the arguments in favor of the change. To one who reads the speeches and debates on the subject, however, it would appear that Count Matsukata takes a more profound view of the subject than the delusion theory would imply. He certainly sees deeper than the bimetallists, and is not taken in by the popular argument that the silver standard is in itself of great advantage to the export trade of a country. This, like many other statements of the bimetallists, has been repeated, until it has come to be assumed by
many of them to be an axiom as little open to question as any axiom in Euclid. A sounder view is that whatever advantage exists is gained only during a period of transition. As long as the prices in the silver-using country have not risen in proportion to the fall in the gold value of silver, there is a great profit in importing goods of the silver country to a gold country and paying for them in the metal which has become cheap relatively to gold. As long as wages have not risen as rapidly as prices, there is likewise an advantage to the manufacturer. This advantage disappears as soon as prices and wages have adjusted themselves, and it would seem that, partly in consequence of the war with China, Japan has now reached the point of adjustment and has nothing further to gain from the low price of silver.
The war has doubtless hastened the adoption of the gold standard in other ways. The political position which it has given her has made Japan feel the necessity of having the currency which other first-class nations have, and the war indemnity has made it possible to carry this change into effect. It is, however, hardly likely that so radical a step would be taken, if there were not more substantial reasons such as those mentioned above.
While Japan was adopting the bold and clean-cut policy described above, the President of the United States appointed three gentlemen to visit Europe in search of the ignis fatuus of international bimetallism, which suggests the thought that, if the Japanese have learned their principles of finance from the progressive nations of the Western world, those nations might very properly return the compliment and send some of their statesmen to school to their former pupils.
LIMITS OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW.
HE repudiation of the Chicago platform was undoubt
edly due in part to its attack upon the Supreme Court. The most important function of that Court being to construe and enforce the Constitution, this was felt to be, in effect, an attack upon the Constitution itself. Many who, failing to appreciate the dishonor and disaster involved in the free coinage of silver as proposed, were ready to fall in line with Bryan and his followers, drew back when they realized that the programme included an assault upon the “bulwark of the Constitution” or an attempt to still its “living voice.”
Mr. Pomeroy, in his work on Constitutional Law, says: “There can be no doubt that the people are strongly convinced of the excellence of their organic law; that they will not yield their convictions to the demands of any theorizers; and that they will suffer no amendments except those which shall more completely carry out the ideas upon which the whole is based, which shall supply some omission or correct some inadvertency. I repeat, the Constitution as a whole must stand.” Evidence in support of this opinion is furnished by the campaign of 1896. At the same time, there are signs enough of willingness in many quarters to do away with the restraints of the Constitution ; and it is clear that appreciation of its benefits needs to be stimulated. The discussions of the late campaign did much to this end. But the education thus begun must go farther to be adequate to the needs of the times. The functions of the courts as guardians of the Constitution have been much considered. And this is well. But to stop here is to invite the thought, believed to be already too common, that the courts are allsufficient for its enforcement, without active interest on the part of the people and their legislative representatives.
The people cannot too often be made to feel the truth expressed by Daniel Webster when he said: “No conviction is stronger than that the maintenance of the judicial power is essential and indispensable to the very being of this gov
ernment. The Constitution without it, would be no constitution—the Government, no government”; to which Mr. E. J. Phelps testified in these words : “ American experience has made it an axiom in political science, that no written constitution of government can hope to stand, without a paramount and independent tribunal to determine its construction and enforce its precepts, in the last resort. This is the great and foremost duty cast by the Constitution, for the sake of the Constitution, upon the Supreme Court of the United States ;” and to which Mr. Dicey referred when he said: “The glory of the founders of the United States is to have devised and adopted arrangements under which the Constitution became in reality as well as name the supreme law of the land."
But it is equally important that it be understood and appreciated that there are limits to the operation of Constitutional law; that the courts alone cannot fully enforce the Constitution ; that its successful working largely depends upon the faithful performance of duties imposed upon the people and their representatives other than the judges, duties which are beyond the reach of the law, and have no other sanction than conscience and public opinion.
And, moreover, it is important that the limitations of the Constitution itself be appreciated; that it be generally realized that civil liberty is not secure simply because the Constitution is respected and obeyed. Congress and the State legislatures may legislate in violation of the principles of civil liberty, even while paying strict regard to the restraints both of the Constitution of the United States and of the several State Constitutions.
It is an interesting academic question whether the Eng. lish system of constitutional government or the American is the better. It is not a practical question with us, because the system we have is here to stay. No fundamental change is possible, save through revolution. But it is well to study the two together. The contrasts make clear the characteristics of each. And the same elements of civil life, the same forces are required for the successful working of the one as of the other.