« AnteriorContinuar »
the luxury which accompanies it increase, the CHA P. demand for thefe is likely to increase with them, and no effort of human industry may be able to increase the fupply much beyond what it was before this increase of the demand. The quantity of fuch commodities, therefore, remaining the fame, or nearly the fame, while the competi tion to purchase them is continually increafing, their price may rife to any degree of extravagance, and feems not to be limited by any certain boundary. If woodcocks fhould become fo fashionable as to fell for twenty guineas a-piece, no effort of human industry could increase the number of those brought to market, much beyond what it is at prefent. The high price paid by the Romans, in the time of their greatest grandeur, for rare birds and fishes, may in this manner eafily be accounted for. Thefe prices were not the effects of the low value of filver in thofe times, but of the high value of fuch rarities and curiofities as human industry could not multiply at pleasure. The real value of filver was higher at Rome, for fome time before and after the fall of the republic, than it is through the greater part of Europe at prefent. Three feftertii, equal to about fixpence fterling, was the price which the republic paid for the modius or peck of the tithe wheat of Sicily. This price, however, was probably below the average market price, the obligation to deliver their wheat at this rate being confidered as a tax upon the Sicilian farmers. When the Romans, therefore, had occafion to order more corn than the tithe of
BOOK wheat amounted to, they were bound by capi tulation to pay for the furplus at the rate of four feftertii, or eight-pence fterling, the peck; and this had probably been reckoned the moderate and reafonable, that is, the ordinary or average contract price of thofe times; it is equal to about one-and-twenty fhillings the quarter. Eight. and-twenty fhillings the quarter was, before the late years of fcarcity, the ordinary contract price of English wheat, which in quality is inferior to the Sicilian, and generally fells for a lower price in the European market. The value of filver, therefore, in those ancient times, must have been to its value in the prefent, as three to four inverfely; that is, three ounces of filver would then have purchased the fame quantity of labour and commodities which four ounces will do at prefent, When we read in Pliny, therefore, that Seius bought a white nightingale, as a prefent for the Empress Agrippina, at the price of fix thousand feftertii, equal to about fifty pounds of our prefent money; and that Afinius Celert purchased a furmullet at the price of eight thoufand feftertii, equal to about fixty-fix pounds thirteen fhillings and four-pence of our prefent money; the extravagance of thofe prices, how much foever it may furprife us, is apt, not. withstanding, to appear to us about one-third lefs than it really was. Their real price, the quantity of labour and fubfiftence which was given away for them, was about one-third more than their nominal price is apt to exprefs to us † Lib.ix. c. 17、
* Lib. x. c. 29.
in the present times. Seius gave for the nightin- CHA P. gale the command of a quantity of labour and fubfiftence equal to what 667. 13s. 4d. would purchase in the prefent times; and Afinius Celer gave for the furmullet the command of a quantity equal to what 881. 178. 9 d., would purchase. What occafioned the extravagance of thofe high prices was, not fo much the abundance of filver, as the abundance of labour and fubfiftence, of which thofe Romans had the difpofal, beyond what was neceffary for their own ufe. The quantity of filver, of which they had the difpofal, was a good deal lefs than what the command of the fame quantity of labour and fubfiftence would have procured to them in the prefent times.
The fecond fort of rude produce of which the price rifes in the progrefs of improvement, is that which human induftry can multiply in proportion to the demand. It confifts in thofe ufeful plants and animals, which, in uncultivated countries, nature produces with fuch profufe abundance, that they are of little or no value, and which, as cultivation advances, are therefore forced to give place to fome more profitable produce. During a long period in the progrefs of improvement, the quantity of thefe is continually diminishing, while at the fame time the demand for them is continually increasing. Their real value, therefore, the real quantity of labour which they will purchafe or command, gradually rifes, till at laft it gets fo high
BOOK high as to render them as profitable a produce as any thing else which human industry can raise upon the most fertile and beft cultivated land. When it has got fo high it cannot well go higher. If it did, more land and more industry would foon be employed to increase their quantity.
When the price of cattle, for example, rifes fo high that it is as profitable to cultivate land in order to raife food for them, as in order to raife food for man, it cannot well go higher. If it did, more corn land would foon be turned into pafture. The extenfion of tillage, by dimi nifhing the quantity of wild pafture, diminishes the quantity of butcher's-meat which the country naturally produces without labour or cultivation, and by increafing the number of thofe who have either corn, or, what comes to the fame thing, the price of corn, to give in exchange for it, increases the demand. The price of butcher's-meat, therefore, and confequently of cattle, must gradually rise till it gets so high, that it becomes as profitable to employ the most fertile and beft cultivated lands in raifing food for them as in raifing corn. But it must always be late in the progrefs of improvement before tillage can be fo far extended as to raife the price of cattle to this height; and till it has got to this height, if the country is advancing at all, their price must be continually rifing. There are, perhaps, fome parts of Europe in which the price of cattle has not yet got to this height. It had not got to this height in any part of Scotland before the union, Had the Scotch cattle
been always confined to the market of Scotland, C HA P. in a country in which the quantity of land, which can be applied to no other purpose but the feeding of cattle, is fo great in proportion to what can be applied to other purposes, it is fcarce poffible, perhaps, that their price could ever have rifen fo high as to render it profitable to cultivate land for the fake of feeding them. In England, the price of cattle, it has already been obferved, feems, in the neighbourhood of London, to have got to this height about the beginning of the laft century; but it was much later probably before it got to it through the greater part of the remoter counties; in fome of which, perhaps, it may fcarce yet have got to it. Of all the different fubftances, however, which compose this second fort of rude produce, cattle is, perhaps, that of which the price, in the progrefs of improvement, first rises to this height.
Till the price of cattle, indeed, has got to this height, it feems fcarce poffible that the greater part, even of thofe lands which are capable of the highest cultivation, can be completely cultivated. In all farms too distant from any town to carry manure from it, that is, in the far greater part of those of every extenfive country, the quantity of well-cultivated land must be in proportion to the quantity of manure which the farm itself produces; and this again must be in proportion to the flock of cattle which are maintained upon it. The land is manured either by pafturing the cattle upon it, or by feeding them in the ftable, and from thence