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have a good deal of filver who have no gold CHA P. plate, which, even with those who have it, is generally confined to watch-cafes, fnuff-boxes, and fuch like trinkets, of which the whole amount is feldom of great value. In the British coin, indeed, the value of the gold preponderates greatly, but it is not fo in that of all countries. In the coin of fome countries the value of the two metals is nearly equal. In the Scotch coin, before the union with England, the gold preponderated very little, though it did somewhat* it appears by the accounts of the mint. In the coin of many countries the filver preponderates. In France, the largeft fums are commonly paid in that metal, and it is there difficult to get more gold than what is neceffary to carry about in your pocket. The fuperior value, however, of the filver plate above that of the gold, which takes place in all countries, will much more than compenfate the preponderancy of the gold coin above the filver, which takes place only in fome countries.
Though, in one fenfe of the word, filver always has been, and probably always will be, much cheaper than gold; yet in another fenfe, gold may, perhaps, in the prefent state of the Spanish market, be faid to be fomewhat cheaper than filver. A commodity may be faid to be dear or cheap, not only according to the abfolute greatness or smallness of its ufual price, but
* See Ruddiman's Preface to Anderfon's Diplomata, &c.
BOOK according as that price is more or less above the I. lowest for which it is poffible to bring it to mar
ket for any confiderable time together. This lowest price is that which barely replaces, with a moderate profit, the ftock which must be employed in bringing the commodity thither. It is the price which affords nothing to the landlord, of which rent makes not any component part, but which refolves itself altogether into wages and profit. But, in the present state of the Spanish market, gold is certainly fomewhat nearer to this lowest price than filver. The tax of the King of Spain upon gold is only onetwentieth part of the ftandard metal, or five per cent.; whereas his tax upon filver amounts to one-tenth part of it, or to ten per cent. In these taxes too, it has already been obferved, confifts the whole rent of the greater part of the gold and filver mines of Spanish America; and that upon gold is still worse paid than that upon filver. The profits of the undertakers of gold mines too, as they more rarely make a fortune, must, in general, be ftill more moderate than thofe of the undertakers of filver mines. The price of Spanish gold, therefore, as it affords both lefs rent and lefs profit, muft, in the Spanish market, be fomewhat dearer to the lowest price for which it is poffible to bring it thither, than the price of Spanish filver. When all expences are computed, the whole quantity of the one metal, it would feem, cannot, in the Spanish market, be difpofed of fo advantageously as the whole quantity of the other. The tax,
indeed, of the King of Portgual upon the gold CHAP. of the Brazils, is the fame with the ancient tax of the King of Spain upon the filver of Mexico and Peru; or one-fifth part of the standard metal. It may, therefore, be uncertain whether to the general market of Europe the whole mass of American gold comes at a price nearer to the lowest for which it is poffible to bring it thither, than the whole mafs of American filver.
The price of diamonds and other precious ftones may, perhaps, be ftill nearer to the lowest price at which it is poffible to bring them to market, than even the price of gold.
Though it is not very probable, that any part of a tax which is not only impofed upon one of the moft proper fubjects of taxation, a mere luxury and fuperfluity, but which affords fo very important a revenue, as the tax upon filver, will ever be given up as long as it is poffible to pay it; yet the fame impoffibility of paying it, which in 1736 made it neceffary to reduce it from onefifth to one-tenth, may in time make it neceffary to reduce it still further; in the fame manner as it made it neceffary to reduce the tax upon gold to one-twentieth. That the filver mines of Spanish America, like all other mines, become gradually more expenfive in the working, on account of the greater depths at which it is neceffary to carry on the works, and of the greater expence of drawing out the water and of fupplying them with fresh air at thofe depths, is acknowledged by every body who has enquired into the state of those mines.
Thefe caufes, which are equivalent to a growing fcarcity of filver (for a commodity may be faid to grow fcarcer when it becomes more difficult and expenfive to collect a certain quantity of it), muft, in time, produce one or other of the three following events. The increase of the expence must either, first be compensated altogether by a proportionable increase in the price of the metal; or, fecondly, it must be compensated altogether by a proportionable diminution of the tax upon filver; or, thirdly, it must be compenfated partly by the one, and partly by the other of those two expedients. This third event is very poffible. As gold rofe in its price in proportion to filver, notwithstanding a great diminution of the tax upon gold; fo filver might rife in its price in proportion to labour and commodities, notwithstanding an equal diminution of the tax upon filver.
Such fucceffive reductions of the tax, however, though they may not prevent altogether, must certainly retard, more or lefs, the rife of the value of filver in the European market. In confequence of fuch reductions, many mines may be wrought which could not be wrought before, because they could not afford to pay the old tax; and the quantity of filver annually brought to market must always be fomewhat greater, and, therefore, the value of any given quantity fomewhat lefs, than it otherwife would have been. In confequence of the reduction in 1736, the value of filver in the European market, though it may not at this day be lower than before that
reduction, is, probably, at least ten per cent. C HAP. lower than it would have been, had the Court of Spain continued to exact the old tax.
That, notwithstanding this reduction, the value of filver has, during the courfe of the prefent century, begun to rife fomewhat in the European market, the facts and arguments which have been alleged above, difpofe me to believe, or more properly to fufpect and conjecture; for the beft opinion which I can form upon this fubject fcarce, perhaps, deferves the name of belief. The rife, indeed, fuppofing there has been any, has hitherto been fo very small, that after all that has been faid, it may, perhaps, appear to many people uncertain, not only whether this event has actually taken place; but whether the contrary may not have taken place, or whether the value of filver may not ftill continue to fall in the European market.
It must be obferved, however, that whatever may be the supposed annual importation of gold and filver, there must be a certain period, at which the annual confumption of those metals will be equal to that annual importation. Their confumption muft increafe as their mafs increases, or rather in a much greater proportion. As their mass increases, their value diminishes. They are more ufed, and lefs cared for, and their confumption confequently increases in a greater proportion than their mafs. After a certain period, therefore, the annual confumption of thofe metals muft, in this manner, become equal to their annual importation, provided that im