to Mr. Evarts.
Vienna , January 3, 1879. (Received January 20.)
Sir: In acknowledging your dispatch No. 74, advising the adoption by the Treasury Department at Washington of the 8-florin gold piece of Austria as the standard of value for the certification of invoices by the United States consuls in this empire, I wish to express my conviction of the wisdom of the rule thus established by the Secretary of the Treasury.
The daily quotations in the journals of the fluctuating values of silver and paper, shown especially in the irregular price of exchange on London, indicate the inequality to which importers of the same goods, purchased at different times, would be subjected by a fluctuating invoice value, and the embarrassments it might create at the custom-house. Besides this practical inconvenience and possible injustice, which will now be avoided, there is the advantage of equality in value between the 8-florin and the 20-franc and the 20-lira gold pieces, also equal to 20 Spanish pesetas and 8 Dutch florins, and so would facilitate the judgment [Page 40] of the appraisers at the various ports of the United States when ascertaining the correctness of invoice values, not only when the articles are imported from the same country, but when they are imported from competing countries. This advantage will be appreciated if you imagine the existence of a single international coin universally adopted in which all values should be expressed for international use. I hope the day is not distant when such a coin will be adopted by common consent of civilized nations as recommended by the Committee on “Coinage, Weights and Measures “of the House of Representatives in their report of 1866.
In this connection I venture to ask the attention of the Treasury Department and of the government to the propriety of seeking such a standard, or of adopting an existing one, in which all invoice values should be expressed in a single denomination and its decimals. The most convenient, because the most universal, existing coin would, perhaps, be one of the same value with the standard above mentioned. The United States have no coin closely approximating the value of the 20-franc piece. If a new gold coin were authorized by Congress, to be of the exact value of this gold piece, already better known throughout Europe and the East than any other single coin, and this to be issued in substitution for the three-dollar gold pieces, which should be withdrawn, we should have a standard of money in which not only all custom-house accounts might be accurately kept, but which might gradually become the standard for all international commercial transactions, and even for the settlement of values of our home commerce in articles which are largely exported.
One important effect would be to constantly enlighten our producers of grain, tobacco, cotton, petroleum, &c., upon the fluctuations of the foreign market, which are now so much obscured by unknown values of foreign denominations.
Knowing the enlightened interest of the Secretary of the Treasury in this question of a common international standard, I take the liberty to submit these views to the government.
I have, &c.,