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is called the moderate and reasonable, that is the CHA P. ordinary or average price of wheat. The quantity of filver, however, contained in that nominal fum was, during the course of this period, continually diminishing, in confequence of fome alterations which were made in the coin. But the increase of the value of filver had, it seems, fo far compenfated the diminution of the quantity of it contained in the fame nominal fum, that the legislature did not think it worth while to attend to this circumftance.
Thus in 1436 it was enacted, that wheat might be exported without a licence when the price was fo low as fix fhillings and eight-pence: And in 1463 it was enacted, that no wheat fhould be imported if the price was not above fix fhillings and eight-pence the quarter. The legislature had imagined, that when the price was fo low, there could be no inconveniency in exportation, but that when it ròfe higher, it became prudent to allow of importation. Six fhillings and eightpence, therefore, containing about the fame quantity of filver as thirteen fhillings and fourpence of our present money (one-third part lefs than the fame nominal fum contained in the time of Edward III.), had in those times been confidered as what is called the moderate and reafonable price of wheat.
In 1554, by the 1ft and 2d of Philip and Mary; and in 1558, by the 1ft of Elizabeth, the exportation of wheat was in the fame manner prohibited, whenever the price of the quarter fhould exceed fix fhillings and eight-pence,
BOOK which did not then contain two-penny worth more filver than the fame nominal fum does at prefent. But it had foon been found that to reftrain the exportation of wheat till the price was fo very low, was, in reality, to prohibit it altoge ther. In 1562, therefore, by the 5th of Elizabeth, the exportation of wheat was allowed from certain ports whenever the price of the quarter should not exceed ten fhillings, containing nearly the fame quantity of filver as the like nominal fum does at prefent. This price had at this time, therefore, been confidered as what is called the moderate and reasonable price of wheat. It agrees nearly with the estimation of the Northumberland book in 1512.
That in France the average price of grain was, in the fame manner,, much lower in the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the fixteenth century, than in the two centuries preceding, has been obferved both by Mr. Duprè de St. Maur, and by the elegant author of the Effay on the Police of Grain. Its price, during the fame period, had probably funk in the fame manner through the greater part of Europe.
This rife in the value of filver, in proportion to that of corn, may either have been owing altogether to the increafe of the demand for that metal, in confequence of increafing improvement and cultivation, the fupply in the mean time continuing the fame as before: Or, the demand continuing the fame as before, it may have been owing altogether to the gradual diminution of the fupply; the greater part of the mines
which were then known in the world, being CHA P. much exhaufted, and confequently the expence of working them much increased: Or it may have been owing partly to the one and partly to the other of thofe two circumftances. In the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the fixteenth centuries, the greater part of Europe was approaching towards a more fettled form of government than it had enjoyed for several ages before. The increase of fecurity would naturally increase induftry and improvement; and the demand for the precious metals, as well as for every other luxury and ornament, would naturally increase with the increase of riches. A greater annual produce would require a greater quantity of coin to circulate it; and a greater number of rich people would require a greater quantity of plate and other ornaments of filver. It is natural to fuppofe too, that the greater part of the mines which then fupplied the European market with filver, might be a good deal exhausted, and have become more expensive in the working. They had been wrought many of them from the time of the Romans.
It has been the opinion, however, of the greater part of those who have written upon the prices of commodities in ancient times, that, from the Conqueft, perhaps from the invasion of Julius Cæfar, till the discovery of the mines of America, the value of filver was continually diminishing. This opinion they feem to have been led into, partly by the obfervations which they had occafion to make upon the prices both
BOOK of corn and of fome other parts of the rude produce of land; and partly by the popular notion, that as the quantity of filver naturally increases in every country with the increase of wealth, sa its value diminishes as its quantity increases.
In their obfervations upon the prices of corn, three different circumftances feem frequently to have mifled them.
Firft, In ancient times almost all rents were paid in kind; in a certain quantity of corn, cattle, poultry, &c. It fometimes happened, however, that the landlord would stipulate, that he should be at liberty to demand of the tenant, either the annual payment in kind, or a certain fum of money inftead of it. The price at which the payment in kind was in this manner exchanged for a certain fum of money, is in Scot land called the converfion price. As the option is always in the landlord to take either the fubstance or the price, it is neceffary for the fafety of the tenant, that the converfion price fhould rather be below than above the average market price. In many places, accordingly, it is not much above one-half of this price. Through the greater part of Scotland this custom ftill continues with regard to poultry, and in fome places with regard to cattle. It might probably have continued to take place too with regard to corn, had not the institution of the public fiars put an end to it. Thefe are annual valuations, according to the judgment of an affize, of the average price of all the different forts of grain, and of all the different qualities of each, accord
ing to the actual market price in every different CHA P. county. This inftitution rendered it fufficiently fafe for the tenant, and much more convenient for the landlord, to convert, as they call it, the corn rent, rather at what fhould happen to be the price of the fiars of each year, than at any certain fixed price. But the writers who have collected the prices of corn in ancient times, feem frequently to have mistaken what is called in Scotland the converfion price for the actual market price. Fleetwood acknowledges, upon one occafion, that he had made this miftake. As he wrote his book, however, for a particular purpose, he does not think proper to make this acknowledgment till after transcribing this conversion price fifteen times. The price is eight fhillings the quarter of wheat. This fum in 1423, the year at which he begins with it, contained the fame quantity of filver as fixteen fhillings of our prefent money. But in 1562, the year at which he ends with it, it contained no more than the fame nominal fum does at prefent.
Secondly, They have been misled by the flovenly manner in which fome ancient ftatutes of affize had been fometimes tranfcribed by lazy copiers; and fometimes perhaps actually compofed by the legislature.
The ancient ftatutes of affize feem to have begun always with determining what ought to be the price of bread and ale when the price of wheat and barley were at the lowest, and to have. proceeded gradually to determine what it ought