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fo much degraded as to render even the mines of CHA P. Potofi not worth the working. Before the dif covery of the Spanish West Indies, the moft fertile mines in Europe may have afforded as great a rent to their proprietor as the richest mines in Peru do at prefent. Though the quantity of filver was much lefs, it might have exchanged for an equal quantity of other goods, and the proprietor's fhare might have enabled him to purchase or command an equal quantity either of labour or of commodities. The value both of the produce and of the rent, the real revenue which they afforded both to the public and to the proprietor, might have been the fame.
The most abundant mines either of the precious metals or of the precious ftones could add little to the wealth of the world. A produce of which the value is principally derived from its fcarcity, is neceffarily degraded by its abundance. A fervice of plate, and the other frivolous ornaments of drefs and furniture, could be purchased for a fmaller quantity of labour, or for a smaller quantity of commodities; and in this would confift the fole advantage which the world could derive from that abundance.
It is otherwife in eftates above ground. The value both of their produce and of their rent is in proportion to their abfolute, and not to their relative fertility. The land which produces a certain quantity of food, cloaths, and lodging, can always feed, cloath, and lodge a certain number of people; and whatever may be the proportion of the landlord, it will always give
BOOK him a proportionable command of the labour of I. thofe people, and of the commodities with which that labour can fupply him. The value of the moft barren lands is not diminished by the neighbourhood of the moft fertile. On the contrary, it is generally increased by it. The great number of people maintained by the fertile lands afford a market to many parts of the produce of the barren, which they could never have found among those whom their own produce could maintain.
Whatever increases the fertility of land in producing food, increases not only the value of the lands upon which the improvement is beftowed, but contributes likewife to increase that of many other lands, by creating a new demand for their produce. That abundance of food, of which, in confequence of the improvement of land, many people have the difpofal beyond what they themselves can confume, is the great caufe of the demand both for the precious metals and the precious ftones, as well as for every other conveniency and ornament of drefs, lodging, houfhold furniture, and equipage. Food not only conftitutes the principal part of the riches of the world, but it is the abundance of food which gives the principal part of their value to many other forts of riches. The poor inhabitants of Cuba and St. Domingo, when they were first discovered by the Spaniards, used to wear little bits of gold as ornaments in their hair and other parts of their drefs. They feemed to value them as we would do any little pebbles of fomewhat
fomewhat more than ordinary beauty, and to C HAP. confider them as juft worth the picking up, but not worth the refufing to any body who asked them. They gave them to their new guests at the first request, without feeming to think that they had made them any very valuable present. They were astonished to obferve the rage of the Spaniards to obtain them; and had no notion that there could any-where be a country in which many people had the difpofal of fo great a fuperfluity of food, fo fcanty always among themfelves, that for a very fmall quantity of those glittering baubles they would willingly give as much as might maintain a whole family for many years. Could they have been made to underftand this, the paffion of the Spaniards would not have surprised them.
Of the Variations in the Proportion between the respective Values of that Sort of Produce which always affords Rent, and of that which fometimes does and fometimes does not afford Rent.
THE increafing abundance of food, in confequence of increafing improvement and cultivation, must neceffarily increase the demand for every part of the produce of land which is not food, and which can be applied either to use or to ornament. In the whole progress of improvement, it might therefore be expected, there fhould be only one variation in the comparative
BOOK parative values of thofe two different forts of produce. The value of that fort which fometimes does and fometimes does not afford rent, should constantly rife in proportion to that which always affords fome rent. As art and industry advance, the materials of cloathing and lodg ing, the ufeful foffils and minerals of the earth, the precious metals and the precious ftones should gradually come to be more and more in demand, fhould gradually exchange for a greater and a greater quantity of food, or in other words, fhould gradually become dearer and dearer. This accordingly has been the cafe with most of these things upon moft occafions, and would have been the cafe with all of them upon all occafions, if particular accidents had not upon fome occafions increased the supply of fome of them in a ftill greater proportion than the demand.
The value of a free-ftone quarry, for example, will neceffarily increase with the increafing improvement and population of the country round about it; efpecially if it fhould be the only one in the neighbourhood. But the value of a filver mine, even though there fhould not be another within a thoufand miles of it, will not neceffarily increase with the improvement of the country in which it is fituated. The market for the produce of a free-ftone quarry can feldom extend more than a few miles round about it, and the demand muft generally be in proportion to the improvement and population of that finall diftrict. But the market for the produce of a
filver mine may extend over the whole known C HA P. world. Unless the world in general, therefore, be advancing in improvement and population, the demand for filver might not be at all increased by the improvement even of a large country in the neighbourhood of the mine. Even though the world in general were improv ing, yet if, in the course of its improvement, new mines fhould be difcovered, much more fertile than any which had been known before, though the demand for filver would neceffarily increase, yet the fupply might increase in fo much a greater proportion, that the real price of that metal might gradually fall; that is, any given quantity, a pound weight of it, for example, might gradually purchase or command a fmaller and a fmaller quantity of labour, or exchange for a smaller and a finaller quantity of corn, the principal part of the fubfiftence of the labourer.
The great market for filver is the commercial and civilized part of the world.
If, by the general progrefs of improvement, the demand of this market should increase, while at the fame time the fupply did not increase in the fame proportion, the value of filver would gradually rife in proportion to that of corn. Any given quantity of filver would exchange for a greater and a greater quantity of corn; or, in other words, the average money price of corn would gradually become cheaper and cheaper. If, on the contrary, the fupply, by fome accident should increafe for many years together in a greater