John Mosby on the silver issue, 1895

A primary source by John S. Mosby

John S. Mosby to Sam Chapman, July 25, 1897 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)In the late nineteenth century, Democrats and Republicans fought over whether the gold standard ought to be retained or if the United States should switch to a free silver system.

In 1890, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was passed, increasing the amount of silver purchased by the government. In 1893, Democratic President Grover Cleveland successfully pushed for the act’s repeal. Cleveland’s anti-silver measures split the Democratic Party, however, as many Democrats were silver supporters. By the election year of 1896, the Democratic Party had been taken over by silverites.

In July 1897, former Virginia Confederate commander John S. Mosby wrote to his friend Sam Chapman about the nation’s monetary plan and its impact on politics. After the Civil War, Mosby had become a Republican, supporting Ulysses S. Grant and earning the ire of his fellow Southerners. Mosby’s views were aligned with the Republican Party, supporting the gold standard and repudiating a switch to free silver. To Chapman, Mosby writes, “You know that I have always been opposed to full coinage of silver.” He points to Republican concerns about inflation, asserting that “You can’t make people richer by debasing the currency. If the people want cheap money give them old Confederate notes.” Mosby also takes some satisfaction from the effects of Cleveland’s anti-silver measures on the Democratic Party, writing, “Cleveland has certainly done two good things - he has sat down the silver craze, & he has broken up the Democratic party - I wd. not be surprised if Kentucky goes Republican this fall.”

A full transcript is available.

Excerpt

I sent you two of Carlisle’s speeches on the silver question - You know that I have always been opposed to free coinage of silver. It is simply a new phase of the old greenback lunacy - If you had one barrel of sugar & were to put enough sand in it to fill two barrels wd. you have any more sugar? You can’t make people richer by debasing the currency. If the people want cheap money give them old Confederate notes - If the mere fiat of Government can create money why not make it out of iron, & decree that pound of gold shall be equal to a pound of iron - after the iron is coined. Cleveland has certainly done two good things - he has sat down on the silver craze, & he has broken up the Democratic party - I wd. not be surprised if Kentucky goes Republican this fall.

Questions for Discussion

Full content is available to our community and Affiliate School members only. To view it, please apply for your school to be an Affiliate School, sign up to be a community member, or log in.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to edit your profile and indicate this, giving you free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments