The Silver Dollar by Edgar Wilson Nye

Story type: Essay

It would seem at this time, while so little is being said on the currency question, and especially by the men who really control the currency, that a word from me would not be out of place. Too much talking has been done by those only who have a theoretical knowledge of money and its eccentric habits. People with a mere smattering of knowledge regarding national currency have been loquacious, while those who have made the matter a study, have been kept in the background.

At this period in the history of our country, there seems to be a general stringency, and many are in the stringency business who were never that way before. Everything seems to be demonetized. The demonetization of groceries is doing as much toward the general wiggly palsy of trade as anything I know of.

But I may say, in alluding briefly to the silver dollar, that there are worse calamities than the silver dollar. Other things may occur in our lives, which, in the way of sadness and three-cornered gloom, make the large, robust dollar look like an old-fashioned half-dime.

I met a man the other day, who, two years ago, was running a small paper at Larrabie’s Slough. He was then in his meridian as a journalist, and his paper was frequently quoted by such widely-read publications as the Knight of Labor at Work, a humorous semi-monthly journal. He boldly assailed the silver dollar, and with his trenchant pen he wrote such burning words of denunciation that the printer had to set them on ice before he could use the copy.

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Last week I met him on a Milwaukee & St. Paul train. He was very thin in flesh, and the fire of defiance was no longer in his eye. I asked him how he came on with the paper at Larrabie’s Slough. He said it was no more.

“It started out,” said he, “in a fearless way, but it was not sustained.”

He then paused in a low tone of voice, gulped, and proceeded:

“Folks told me when I began that I ought to attack almost everything. Make the paper non-partisan, but aggressive, that was their idea. Sail into everything, and the paper would soon be a power in the land. So I aggressed.

“Friends came in very kindly and told me what to attack. They would neglect their own business in order to tell me of corruption in somebody else. I went on that way for some time in a defiant mood, attacking anything that happened to suggest itself.

“Finally I thought I would attack the silver dollar. I did so. I thought that friends would come to me and praise me for my manly words, and that I could afford to lose the friendship of the dollar provided I could win friends.

“In six months I took an unexpired annual pass over our Larrabie Slough Narrow-Gauge, or Orphan Road, and with nothing else but the clothes I wore, I told the plaintiff how to jerk the old Washington press and went away. The dear old Washington press that had more than once squatted my burning words into the pure white page. The dear old towel on which I had wiped my soiled hands for years, until it had almost become a part of myself, the dark blue Gordon press with its large fly wheel and intermittent chattel mortgage, a press, to which I had contributed the first joint of my front finger; the editor’s chair; the samples of large business cards printed in green with an inflamed red border, which showed that we could do colored work at Larrabie’s Slough just as well as they could in the large cities; the files of our paper; the large wilted potato that Mr. Alonzo G. Pinkham of Erin Corners kindly laid on our table-all, all had to go.

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“I fled out into the great, hollow, mocking world of people who had requested me to aggress. They were people who had called my attention to various things which I ought to attack. I had attacked those things. I had also attacked the Larrabie Slough Narrow-Gauge Railroad, but the manager did not see the attack, and so my pass was good.

“What could I do?

“I had attacked everything, and more especially the silver dollar, and now I was homeless. For fourteen weeks I rode up the narrow-gauge road one day and back the next, subsisting solely on the sample of nice pecan meat that the newsboy puts in each passenger’s lap.

“You look incredulous, I see, but it is true.

“I feel differently toward the currency now, and I wish I could undo what I have done. Were I called up again to jerk the Archimedean lever, I would not be so aggressive, especially as regards the currency. Whether it is inflated or not, silver dollars, paper certificates of deposit or silver bullion, it does not matter to me.

“I yearn for two or three adult doughnuts and one of those thick, dappled slabs of gingerbread, or slat of pie with gooseberries in it. I presume that I could write a scathing editorial on the abuses of our currency yet, but I am not so much in the scathe business as I used to be.

“I wish you would state, if you will, through some great metropolitan journal, that my views in relation to the silver coinage and the currency question have undergone a radical change, and that any plan whatever, by which to make the American dollar less skittish, will meet with my hearty approval.

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“If I have done anything at all through my paper to injure or repress the flow of our currency, and I fear I have, I now take this occasion to cheerfully regret it.”

He then wrung my hand and passed from my sight.

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