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what had been requifite for fupplying the narrow CHAP. A market which, from re
and confined one.
Though the fuccefs of a particular day's fishing may be a very uncertain matter, yet, the local fituation of the country being supposed, the general efficacy of induftry in bringing a certain quantity of fish to market, taking the course of a year, or of several years together, it may perhaps be thought, is certain enough; and it, no doubt, is fo. As it depends more, however, upon the local fituation of the country, than upon the state of its wealth and industry; as upon this account it may in different countries be the fame in very different periods of improvement, and very different in the fame period; its connection with the state of improvement is uncertain, and it is of this fort of uncertainty that I am here fpeaking.
In increasing the quantity of the different minerals and metals which are drawn from the bowels of the earth, that of the more precious
BOOK ones particularly, the efficacy of human industry feems not to be limited, but to be altogether certain.
The quantity of the precious metals which is to be found in any country is not limited by any thing in its local fituation, fuch as the fertility or barrennefs of its own mines. Thofe metals frequently abound in countries which poffefs no mines. Their quantity in every particular coun. try feems to depend upon two different circumftances; first, upon its power of purchafing, upon the state of its industry, upon the annual produce of its land and labour, in confequence of which it can afford to employ a greater or a smaller quan. tity of labour and fubfiftence in bringing or pur chafing such fuperfluities as gold and filver, either from its own mines or from thofe of other coun. tries; and, fecondly, upon the fertility or bar renness of the mines which may happen at any particular time to fupply the commercial world with those metals. The quantity of those metals in the countries moft remote from the mines, must be more or lefs affected by this fertility or barrennefs, on account of the eafy and cheap transportation of thofe metals, of their small bulk and great value. Their quantity in China and Indoftan must have been more or lefs affected by the abundance of the mines of America.
So far as their quantity in any particular coun try depends upon the former of thofe two cir cumstances (the power of purchafing), their real price, like that of all other luxuries and fuperAuities, is likely to rife with the wealth and im
provement of the country, and to fall with its CHA P. poverty and depreffion. Countries which have a great quantity of labour and fubfiftence to spare, can afford to purchase any particular quantity of those metals at the expence of a greater quantity of labour and fubfiftence, than countries which have less to spare.
So far as their quantity in any particular country depends upon the latter of those two circumftances (the fertility or barrenness of the mines which happen to fupply the commercial world), their real price, the real quantity of labour and fubfiftence which they will purchase or exchange for, will, no doubt, fink more or lefs in proportion to the fertility, and rife in proportion to the barrenness, of those mines.
The fertility or barrennefs of the mines, however, which may happen at any particular time to fupply the commercial world, is a circumstance which, it is evident, may have no fort of connection with the ftate of industry in a particular country. It seems even to have no very neceffary connection with that of the world in general. As arts and commerce, indeed, gradually spread themselves over a greater and a greater part of the earth, the fearch for new mines, being extended over a wider furface, may have fomewhat a better chance for being fuccefsful, than when confined within narrower bounds. The discovery of new mines, however, as the old ones come to be gradually exhaufted, is a matter of the greatest uncertainty, and fuch as no human skill or industry can enfure. All indi.
BOOK indications, it is acknowledged, are doubtful, and the actual discovery and fuccefsful working of a new mine can alone afcertain the reality of its value, or even of its exiftence. In this fearch there feem to be no certain limits either to the poffible fuccefs, or to the poffible disappoint. ment of human induftry. In the courfe of a century or two, it is poffible that new mines may be discovered more fertile than any that have ever yet been known; and it is just equally pos. fible that the most fertile mine then known may be more barren than any that was wrought before the discovery of the mines of America. Whether the one or the other of those two events may happen to take place, is of very little im portance to the real wealth and profperity of the world, to the real value of the annual produce of the land and labour of mankind. Its nominal value, the quantity of gold and filver by which this annual produce could be expreffed or reprefented, would, no doubt, be very different; but its real value, the real quantity of labour which it could purchase or command, would be precisely the fame. A fhilling might in the one cafe reprefent no more labour than a penny does at prefent; and a penny in the other might re prefent as much as a fhilling does now. But in the one cafe he who had a fhilling in his pocket, would be no richer than he who has a penny at prefent; and in the other, he who had a penny would be just as rich as he who has a fhilling The cheapnefs and abundance of gold and filver plate, would be the fole advantage
which the world could derive from the one event, C H A P. and the dearness and fcarcity of those trifling fuperfluities the only inconveniency it could fuffer from the other.
Conclufion of the Digreffion concerning the Variations in the
HE greater part of the writers who have collected the money prices of things in ancient times, feem to have confidered the low money price of corn, and of goods in general, or, in other words, the high value of gold and filver, as a proof, not only of the fcarcity of thofe metals, but of the poverty and barbarifm of the country at the time when it took place. This notion is connected with the fyftem of political œconomy which reprefents national wealth as confifting in the abundance, and national poverty in the fcarcity, of gold and filver; a fyftem which I fhall endeavour to explain and examine at great length in the fourth book of this enquiry. I fhall only observe at present, that the high value of the precious metals can be no proof of the poverty or barbarifim of any particular country at the time when it took place. It is a proof only of the barrennefs of the mines which happened at that time to fupply the commercial world. A poor country, as it cannot afford to buy more, fo it can as little afford to pay dearer for gold and filver than a rich one; and the value of thofe metals, therefore, is not likely to be higher in the former than in the latter. In China, a coun