International Monetary Conferences

A series of International Monetary Conferences were held in Paris in 1867, 1878, and 1881 and in Brussels in 1892 to discuss international monetary coordination. Emperor Louis Napoleon of France invited 20 nations to the first conference in 1867, where he hoped to build on the momentum of the recently inaugurated Latin Monetary Union (LMU) between France, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland. At the 1867 conference, France invited all other major powers (including the United States) to join the LMU and adopt a franc-based monetary union. The conferees concluded that they would petition their governments to form a union founded on a gold standard. This effort failed because the Bank of France refused to participate and because the governments of several of the conferees were not interested in the proposal. The strongest resistance from other governments emerged in Prussia (which had no desire to give up its silver standard), Britain (which was on a gold standard but did not want to be a member of a franc-based union), and the United States (which had substantial silver interests).

A coalition of indebted farmers and western silver miners pushed for the remonetization of silver after 1873, succeeding with the Bland-Allison Act of 1878, which required Congress to purchase and mint between $2 and $4 million of silver per month. In 1878, the United States also called the second international monetary conference, this time to establish a stable bimetallic international monetary system. This conference was not successful in garnering international support for bimetallism. Britain remained defensive of its gold standard, while many other European powers were suspicious that the United States had inflationary intentions. The two subsequent conferences in 1881 and 1892 also failed. After the progold Cleveland administration took office in 1893, the earlier prosilver acts were repealed and the United States returned to a gold standard. Cleveland's abandonment of silver set the stage for the unsuccessful Populist attempt at the presidency in 1896 and marked the end of the international monetary conferences.

Daniel Kuehn

See also: Bland, Richard P. (1835–1899) ; Cleveland, Grover (1837–1908) ; Crime of ’73 ; Gilded Age ; Gold Standard/Free Silver ; People's Party


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Reti, Steven P. Silver and Gold: The Political Economy of International Monetary Conferences, 1867–1892. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Velde, Francois R. “Following the Yellow Brick Road: How the United States Adopted the Gold Standard.” Economic Perspectives 26 (2): 42–58.