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BOOK greater proportion than the demand, that metal would gradually become cheaper and cheaper; or, in other words, the average money price of corn would, in fpite of all improvements, gra dually become dearer and dearer.
But if, on the other hand, the supply of the metal fhould increase nearly in the fame proportion as the demand, it would continue to pur. chafe or exchange for nearly the fame quantity of corn, and the average money price of corn would, in spite of all improvements, continue very nearly the fame.
These three feem to exhauft all the poffible combinations of events which can happen in the progrefs of improvement; and during the courfe of the four centuries preceding the prefent, if we may judge by what has happened both in France and Great Britain, each of those three different combinations feem to have taken place in the European market, and nearly in the fame order too in which I have here fet them down.
Digreffion concerning the Variations in the Value of Silver during the Courfe of the Four laft Centuries.
IN 1350, and for fome time before, the aver age price of the quarter of wheat in England feems not to have been estimated lower than four ounces of filver, Tower-weight, equal to about twenty fhillings of our present money. From
this price it feems to have fallen gradually to CHA P. two ounces of filver, equal to about ten fhillings of our prefent money, the price at which we find it estimated in the beginning of the fixteenth century, and at which it feems to have continued to be estimated till about i
In 135 1350, being the 25th of Edward III.,was enacted what is called, The Statute of Labourers. In the preamble it complains much of the info lence of fervants, who endeavoured to raise their wages upon their mafters. It therefore ordains, that all fervants and labourers fhould for the future be contented with the fame wages and liveries (liveries in those times fignified, not only cloaths, but provifions) which they had been accustomed to receive in the 20th year of the King, and the four preceding years; that upon this account their livery wheat fhould no-where be eftimated higher than ten-pence a bufhel, and that it fhould always be in the option of the mafter to deliver them either the wheat or the money. Ten-pence a bufhel, therefore, had, in the 25th of Edward III., been reckoned a very moderate price of wheat, fince it required a particular statute to oblige fervants to accept of it in exchange for their ufual livery of provifions; and it had been reckoned a reasonable price ten years before that, or in the 16th year of the King, the term to which the ftatute refers. But in the 16th year of Edward III., ten-pence contained about half an ounce of filver, Tower-weight, and was nearly equal to half a crown of our present money. Four ounces of filver, Tower-weight,
BOOK therefore, equal to fix fhillings and eight-pence
of the money of thofe times, and to near twenty fhillings of that of the prefent, must have been reckoned a moderate price for the quarter of eight bushels.
This ftatute is furely a better evidence of what was reckoned in thofe times a moderate price of grain, than the prices of fome particular years which have generally been recorded by hiftorians and other writers on account of their extraordinary dearnefs or cheapnefs, and from which, therefore, it is difficult to form any judg ment concerning what may have been the ordinary price. There are, befides, other reafons for believing that in the beginning of the fourteenth century, and for fome time before, the common price of wheat was not lefs than four ounces of filver the quarter, and that of other grain in proportion.
In 1309, Ralph de Born, Prior of St. Auguf. tine's, Canterbury, gave a feast upon his inftallation-day, of which William Thorn has preferved, not only the bill of fare, but the prices of many particulars. In that feast were confumed, ift, Fifty-three quarters of wheat, which cost nineteen pounds, or feven fhillings and two-pence a quarter, equal to about one-and-twenty fhillings and fix-pence of our prefent money; 2dly, Fifty-eight quarters of malt, which coft feventeen pounds ten fhillings, or fix fhillings a quarter, equal to about eighteen fhillings of our prefent money; 3dly, Twenty quarters of oats, which coft four pounds, or four fhillings a quar
ter, equal to about twelve fhillings of our prefent C HA P money. The prices of malt and oats feem here to be higher than their ordinary proportion to the price of wheat.
These prices are not recorded on account of their extraordinary dearness or cheapnefs, but are mentioned accidentally as the prices actually paid for large quantities of grain confumed at a feaft which was famous for its magnificence.
In 1262, being the 51ft of Henry III, was revived an ancient ftatute called, The Affize of Bread and Ale, which, the King fays in the preamble, had been made in the times of his progenitors, fometime kings of England. It is probably, therefore, as old at least as the time of his grandfather Henry II., and may have been as old as the conqueft. It regulates the price of bread according as the prices of wheat may happen to be, from one fhilling to twenty fhillings the quarter of the money of thofe times. But ftatutes of this kind are generally prefumed to provide with equal care for all deviations from the middle price, for those below it as well as for those above it. Ten fhillings, therefore, containing fix ounces of filver, Tower-weight, and equal to about thirty fhillings of our present money, muft, upon this fuppofition, have been reckoned the middle price of the quarter of wheat when this ftatute was firft enacted, and must have continued to be fo in the 51ft of Henry III. We cannot therefore be very wrong in fuppofing that the middle price was not lefs than one-third of the higheft price at which this ftatute
BOOK ftatute regulates the price of bread, or than fix I. fhillings and eight-pence of the money of those times, containing four ounces of filver, Tower. weight.
From thefe different facts, therefore, we feem to have some reason to conclude, that about the middle of the fourteenth century, and for a confiderable time before, the average or ordinary price of the quarter of wheat was not fuppofed to be lefs than four ounces of filver, Tower-weight.
From about the middle of the fourteenth to the beginning of the fixteenth century, what was reckoned the reasonable and moderate, that is, the ordinary or average price of wheat, feems to have funk gradually to about one-half of this price; fo as at laft to have fallen to about two ounces of filver, Tower-weight, equal to about ten fhillings of our prefent money. It continued to be estimated at this price till about 1570.
In the houshold book of Henry, the fifth Earl of Northumberland, drawn up in 1512, there are two different eftimations of wheat. In one of them it is computed at fix fhillings and eightpence the quarter, in the other at five fhillings and eight-pence only. In 1512, fix fhillings and eight-pence contained only two ounces of filver, Tower-weight, and were equal to about ten fhillings of our prefent money.
From the 25th of Edward III. to the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, during the fpace of more than two hundred years, fix fhillings and eight-pence, it appears from feveral different ftatutes, had continued to be confidered as what