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BOOK try much richer than any part of Europe, the value of the precious metals is much higher than in any part of Europe. As the wealth of Europe, indeed, has increafed greatly fince the discovery of the mines of America, fo the value of gold and filver has gradually diminished. This diminution of their value, however, has not been owing to the increase of the real wealth of Europe, of the annual produce of its land and labour, but to the accidental difcovery of more abundant mines than any that were known before. The increase of the quantity of gold and filver in Europe, and the increase of its manufactures and agriculture, are two events which, though they have happened nearly about the fame time, yet have arifen from very different causes, and have scarce any natural connection with one another. The one has arifen from a mere accident, in which neither prudence nor policy either had or could have any share: The other from the fall of the feudal fyftem, and from the establishment of a government which afforded to industry the only encouragement which it requires, fome tolerable fecurity that it fhall enjoy the fruits of its own labour. Poland, where the feudal fyftem ftill continues to take place, is at this day as beggarly a country as it was before the discovery of America. The money price of corn, however, has rifen; the real value of the precious metals has fallen in Poland, in the fame manner as in other parts of Europe. Their quantity, therefore, must have increased there as in other places, and nearly in
the fame proportion to the annual produce of its CHA P. land and labour. This increase of the quantity of thofe metals, however, has not, it feems, increased that annual produce, has neither improved the manufactures and agriculture of the country, nor mended the circumftances of its inhabitants. Spain and Portugal, the countries which poffefs the mines, are, after Poland, perhaps, the two moft beggarly countries in Europe. The value of the precious metals, however, muft be lower in Spain and Portugal than in any other part of Europe; as they come from those countries to all other parts of Europe, loaded, not only with a freight and an insurance, but with the expence of fimuggling, their exportation being either prohibited, or fubjected to a duty. In proportion to the annual produce of the land and labour, therefore, their quantity must be greater in thofe countries than in any other part of Europe: Thofe countries, however, are poorer than the greater part of Europe. Though the feudal fyftem has been abolished in Spain and Portugal, it has not been fucceeded by a much better.
As the low value of gold and filver, therefore, is no proof of the wealth and flourishing state of the country where it takes place; fo neither is their high value, or the low money price either of goods in general, or of corn in particular, any proof of its poverty and barbarifm.
But though the low money price either of goods in general, or of corn in particular, be no proof of the poverty or barbarifm of the times,
BOOK the low money price of fome particular forts of goods, fuch as cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, &c. in proportion to that of corn, is a most decifive one. It clearly demonftrates, firft, their great abundance in proportion to that of corn, and confequently the great extent of the land which they occupied in proportion to what was occupied by corn; and, fecondly, the low value of this land in proportion to that of corn land, and confequently the uncultivated and unimproved state of the far greater part of the lands of the country. It clearly demonstrates that the ftock and population of the country did not bear the fame proportion to the extent of its territory, which they commonly do in civilized countries, and that fociety was at that time, and in that country, but in its infancy. From the high or low money price either of goods in general, or of corn in particular, we can infer only that the mines which at that time happened to supply the commercial world with gold and filver, were fertile or barren, not that the country was rich or poor. But from the high or low money price of fome forts of goods in proportion to that of others, we can infer, with a degree of probability that approaches almoft to certainty, that it was rich or poor, that the greater part of its lands were improved or unimproved, and that it was either in a more or lefs barbarous ftate, or in a more or lefs civilized one.
Any rise in the money price of goods which proceeded altogether from the degradation of the value of filver, would affect all forts of goods
equally, and raise their price univerfally a third, CHA P. or a fourth, or a fifth part higher, according as filver happened to lose a third, or a fourth, or a fifth part of its former value. But the rife in the price of provifions, which has been the fubject of fo much reasoning and converfation, does not affect all forts of provifions equally. Taking
the course of the prefent century at an average, the price of corn, it is acknowledged, even by thofe who account for this rife by the degradation of the value of filver, has rifen much less than that of fome other forts of provifions. The rife in the price of thofe other forts of provifions, therefore, cannot be owing altogether to the degradation of the value of filver. Some other caufes must be taken into the account, and those which have been above affigned, will, perhaps, without having recourfe to the fuppofed degradation of the value of filver, fufficiently explain this rife in thofe particular forts of provifions of which the price has actually rifen in proportion to that of corn.
As to the price of corn itself, it has, during the fixty-four first years of the present century, and before the late extraordinary course of bad feafons, been fomewhat lower than it was during the fixty-four last years of the preceding century. This fact is attested, not only by the accounts of Windfor market, but by the public fiars of all the different counties of Scotland, and by the accounts of feveral different markets in France, which have been collected with great diligence and fidelity by Mr. Meffance, and by Mr. Duprè
BOOK de St. Maur. The evidence is more complete I. than could well have been expected in a matter which is naturally fo very difficult to be afcertained.
As to the high price of corn during these last ten or twelve years, it can be fufficiently ac counted for from the badnefs of the feafons, without fuppofing any degradation in the value of filver.
The opinion, therefore, that filver is continually finking in its value, feems not to be founded upon any good obfervations, either upon the prices of corn, or upon those of other provifions.
The fame quantity of filver, it may, perhaps, be faid, will in the prefent times, even according to the account which has been here given, purchase a much fmaller quantity of feveral forts of provifions than it would have done during fome part of the last century; and to ascertain whether this change be owing to a rife in the value of those goods, or to a fall in the value of filver, is only to establish a vain and ufelefs diftinction, which can be of no fort of service to the man who has only a certain quantity of filver to go to market with, or a certain fixed revenue in money. I certainly do not pretend that the knowledge of this diftinction will enable him to buy cheaper. It may not, however, upon that account be altogether useless.
It may be of fome ufe to the public by affording an eafy proof of the profperous condition of the country. If the rife in the price of fome