Imágenes de páginas



The inconveniency perhaps would be lefs if filver was rated in the coin as much above its proper proportion to gold as it is at prefent rated below it; provided it was at the fame time enacted that filver fhould not be a legal tender for more than the change of a guinea; in the fame manner as copper is not a legal tender for more than the change of a fhilling. No creditor could in this cafe be cheated in confequence of the high valuation of filver in coin; as no creditor can at prefent be cheated in confequence of the high valuation of copper. The bankers only would fuffer by this regulation. When a run comes upon them they fometimes endeavour to gain time by paying in fixpences, and they would. be precluded by this regulation from this difcreditable method of evading immediate payment. They would be obliged in confequence to keep at all times in their coffers a greater quantity of cash than at prefent; and though this might no doubt be a confiderable inconveniency to them, it would at the fame time be a confiderable fecurity to their creditors.

Three pounds feventeen fhillings and tenpence halfpenny (the mint price of gold) certainly does not contain, even in our present excellent gold coin, more than an ounce of ftandard gold, and it may be thought, therefore, fhould not purchase more ftandard bullion. But gold in coin is more convenient than gold in bullion, and though, in England, the coinage is free, yet the gold which is carried in bullion to the mint, can feldom be returned in coin to the



owner till after a delay of feveral weeks. In the CHA P. prefent hurry of the mint, it could not be returned till after a delay of feveral months. This delay is equivalent to a small duty, and renders gold in coin fomewhat more valuable than an equal quantity of gold in bullion. If in the English coin filver was rated according to its proper proportion to gold, the price of filver bullion would probably fall below the mint price even without any reformation of the filver coin; the value even of the prefent worn and defaced filver coin being regulated by the value of the excellent gold coin for which it can be changed.

A finall feignorage or duty upon the coinage of both gold and filver would probably increase ftill more the fuperiority of those metals in coin above an equal quantity of either of them in bullion. The coinage would in this cafe increase the value of the metal coined in proportion to the extent of this finall duty; for the fame reafon that the fashion increases the value of plate in proportion to the price of that fashion. The fuperiority of coin above bullion would prevent the melting down of the coin, and would difcou rage its exportation. If upon any public exigency it fhould become neceffary to export the coin, the greater part of it would foon return again of its own accord. Abroad it could fell only for its weight in bullion. At home it would buy more than that weight. There would be a profit, therefore, in bringing it home again. In France a feignorage of about eight per cent. is impofed

F 2

BOOK impofed upon the coinage, and the French coin,


when exported, is faid to return home again of its own accord.

The occafional fluctuations in the market price of gold and filver bullion arife from the fame caufes as the like fluctuations in that of all other commodities. The frequent lofs of thofe metals from various accidents by fea and by land, the continual wafte of them in gilding and plating, in lace and embroidery, in the wear and tear of coin, and in that of plate; require, in all countries which poffefs no mines of their own, a continual importation, in order to repair this lofs and this wafte. The merchant importers, like all other merchants, we may believe, endeavour, as well as they can, to fuit their occafional importations to what, they judge, is likely to be the immediate demand. With all their attention, however, they fometimes over-do the business, and fometimes under-do it. When they import more bullion than is wanted, rather than incur the risk and trouble of exporting it again, they are fometimes willing to fell a part of it for fomething lefs than the ordinary or average price. When, on the other hand, they import lefs than is wanted, they get fomething more than this price. But when, under all thofe occafional fluctuations, the market price either of gold or filver bullion continues for feveral years together steadily and conftantly, either more or lefs above, or more or lefs below the mint price: we may be affured that this steady and conftant, either fuperiority or inferiority of price, is the




effect of fomething in the ftate of the coin, CHAP.
which, at that time, renders a certain quantity of
coin either of more value or of lefs value than
the precife quantity of bullion which it ought to
contain. The conftancy and fteadiness of the
effect, fuppofes a proportionable conftancy and
fteadiness in the caufe.

The money of any particular country is, at any particular time and place, more or lefs an accurate measure of value according as the current coin is more or lefs exactly agreeable to its ftandard, or contains more or lefs exactly the precife quantity of pure gold or pure filver which it ought to contain. If in England, for example, forty-four guineas and a half contained exactly a pound weight of ftandard gold, or eleven ounces of fine gold and one ounce of alloy, the gold coin of England would be as accurate a measure of the actual value of goods at any particular time and place as the nature of the thing would admit. But if, by rubbing and wearing, forty-four guineas and a half generally contain lefs than a pound weight of standard gold; the diminution, however, being greater in fome pieces than in others; the measure of value comes to be liable to the fame fort of uncertainty to which all other weights and measures are com monly expofed. As it rarely happens that these are exactly agreeable to their standard, the merchant adjusts the price of his goods, as well as he can, not to what thofe weights and meafures ought to be, but to what, upon an average, he finds by experience they actually are. In confequence

F 3

BOOK quence of a like diforder in the coin, the price of I. goods comes, in the fame manner, to be ad

jufted, not to the quantity of pure gold or filver which the coin ought to contain, but to that which, upon an average, it is found by expe rience it actually does contain.

By the money-price of goods, it is to be ob ferved, I understand always the quantity of pure gold or filver for which they are fold, without any regard to the denomination of the coin. Six fhillings and eight-pence, for example, in the time of Edward I., I confider as the fame mo ney-price with a pound fterling in the present times; because it contained, as nearly as we can judge, the fame quantity of pure filver.




Of the component Parts of the Price of Commodities.


N that early and rude ftate of fociety which precedes both the accumulation of stock and the appropriation of land, the proportion between the quantities of labour neceffary for acquiring different objects feems to be the only circumftance which can afford any rule for ex, changing them for one another. If among a nation of hunters, for example, it ufually cofts twice the labour to kill a beaver which it does to kill a deer, one beaver fhould naturally ex


« AnteriorContinuar »