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it has already been obferved, is, in all the dif- c HA P. ferent ftages of wealth and improvement, a more accurate measure of value than any other commodity or fet of commodities. In all thofe different stages, therefore, we can judge better of the real value of filver, by comparing it with corn, than by comparing it with any other commodity, or fet of commodities.
Corn, befides, or whatever elfe is the common and favourite vegetable food of the people, constitutes, in every civilized country, the principal part of the fubfiftence of the labourer. In confequence of the extenfion of agriculture, the land of every country produces a much greater quantity of vegetable than of animal food, and the labourer every-where lives chiefly upon the wholefome food that is cheapest and most abun. dant. Butcher's meat, except in the most thriving countries, or where labour is most highly rewarded, makes but an infignificant part of his fubfiftence; poultry makes a still smaller part of it, and game no part of it. In France, and even in Scotland, where labour is fomewhat better rewarded than in France, the labouring poor feldom eat butcher's-meat, except upon holidays, and other extraordinary occafions. The money price of labour, therefore, depends much more upon the average money price of corn, the fubfiftence of the labourer, than upon that of but cher's meat, or of any other part of the rude produce of land. The real value of gold and filver, therefore, the real quantity of labour which they can purchase or command, depends much more upon the quantity of corn which they can U 3 purchase
BOOK purchase or command, than upon that of butcher's-meat, or any other part of the rude produce of land.
Such flight obfervations, however, upon the prices either of corn or of other commodities, would not probably have mifled fo many intelligent authors, had they not been influenced, at the fame time, by the popular notion, that as the quantity of filver naturally increases in every country with the increafe of wealth, fo its value diminishes as its quantity increafes, This notion, however, feems to be altogether groundless.
The quantity of the precious metals may increase in any country from two different causes: either, firft, from the increafed abundance of the mines which fupply it; or, fecondly, from the increased wealth of the people, from the increafed produce of their annual labour. The firft of thefe caufes is no doubt neceffarily connected with the diminution of the value of the precious metals; but the fecond is not,
When more abundant mines are difcovered, a greater quantity of the precious metals is brought to market, and the quantity of the neceffaries and conveniencies of life for which they must be exchanged being the fame as before, equal quantities of the metals must be exchanged for fmaller quantities of commodities. So far, therefore, as the incrcafe of the quantity of the precious metals in any country arifes from the increased abundance of the mines, it is neceffarily connected with fome diminution of their value.
When, on the contrary, the wealth of any country increafes, when the annual produce of
its labour becomes gradually greater and greater, CHA P. a greater quantity of coin becomes neceffary in order to circulate a greater quantity of commodities and the people, as they can afford it, as they have more commodities to give for it, will naturally purchase a greater and a greater quantity of plate. The quantity of their coin will increase from neceffity; the quantity of their plate from vanity and oftentation, or from the fame reason that the quantity of fine statues, pictures, and of every other luxury and curiofity, is likely to increase among them. But as ftatuaries and painters are not likely to be worfe rewarded in times of wealth and prosperity, than in times of poverty and depreffion, fo gold and filver are not likely to be worfe paid for.
The price of gold and filver, when the accidental discovery of more abundant mines does not keep it down, as it naturally rifes with the wealth of every country, fo, whatever be the state of the mines, it is at all times naturally higher in a rich than in a poor country. Gold and filver, like all other commodities, naturally feek the market where the beft price is given for them, and the best price is commonly given for every thing in the country which can beft afford it. Labour, it must be remembered, is the ultimate price which is paid for every thing, and in countries where labour is equally well rewarded, the money price of labour will be in proportion to that of the fubfiftence of the labourer. But gold and filver will naturally exchange for a greater quantity of fubfiftence in a rich than in a poor
BOOK poor country, in a country which abounds with fubfiftence, than in one which is but indiffer, ently supplied with it. If the two countries are at a great diftance, the difference may be very great; becaufe though the metals naturally fly from the worse to the better market, yet it may be difficult to transport them in fuch quantities as to bring their price nearly to a level in both. If the countries are near, the difference will be fmaller, and may fometimes be fcarce perceptible; because in this cafe the tranfportation will be eafy. China is a much richer country than any part of Europe, and the difference be tween the price of fubfiftence in China and in Europe is very great. Rice in China is much cheaper than wheat is any-where in Europe. England is a much richer country than Scotland; but the difference between the moneyprice of corn in thofe two countries is much fmaller, and is but just perceptible. In propor tion to the quantity or measure, Scotch corn generally appears to be a good deal cheaper than English; but in proportion to its quality, it is certainly fomewhat dearer. Scotland receives almost every year very large fupplies from England, and every commodity muft commonly be fomewhat dearer in the country to which it is brought than in that from which it comes. Englifh corn, therefore, muft be dearer in Scotland than in England, and yet in proportion to its quality, or to the quantity and goodness of the flour or meal which can be made from it, it cannot commonly be fold higher there than the
Scotch corn, which comes to market in compe- C H A P. tition with it.
The difference between the money price of labour in China and in Europe, is still greater than that between the money price of fubfift ence; because the real recompence of labour is higher in Europe than in China, the greater part of Europe being in an improving ftate, while China feems to be ftanding ftill. The money price of labour is lower in Scotland than in England, because the real recompence of labour is much lower; Scotland, though advancing to greater wealth, advancing much more flowly than England. The frequency of emigration from Scotland, and the rarity of it from England, fufficiently prove that the demand for labour is very different in the two countries. The proportion between the real recompence of labour in different countries, it must be remembered, is naturally regulated, not by their actual wealth or poverty, but by their advancing, ftationary, or declining condition.
Gold and filver, as they are naturally of the greatest value among the richeft, fo they are naturally of the least value among the pooreft nations. Among favages, the poorest of all nations, they are of fcarce any value.
In great towns corn is always dearer than in remote parts of the country. This, however, is the effect, not of the real cheapnefs of filver, but of the real dearnefs of corn. It does not coft lefs labour to bring filver to the great town than to the remote parts of the country; but it cofts a great deal more to bring corn.