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BOOK portation is not continually increafing; which in the present times, is not supposed to be the cafe.
If, when the annual confumption has become equal to the annual importation, the annual importation fhould gradually diminish, the annual confumption may, for fome time, exceed the annual importation. The mafs of thofe metals may gradually and infenfibly diminish, and their value gradually and infenfibly rife, till the annual importation becoming again stationary, the annual confumption will gradually and infenfibly accommodate itself to what that annual importation can maintain.
Grounds of the Sufpicion that the Value of Silver ftill continues to decrease.
HE increase of the wealth of and
Tthe popular notion that, as the quantity of
the precious metals naturally increases with the increase of wealth, fo their value diminishes as their quantity increases, may, perhaps, difpofe many people to believe that their value ftill continues to fall in the European market; and the still gradually increasing price of many parts of the rude produce of land may confirm them ftill further in this opinion.
That that increafe in the quantity of the precious metals, which arifes in any country from the increase of wealth, has no tendency to diminish their value, I have endeavoured to show already. Gold and filver naturally refort to a
rich country, for the fame reason that all forts of C H A P. luxuries and curiofities refort to it; not because they are cheaper there than in poorer countries, but because they are dearer, or because a better price is given for them. It is the fuperiority of price which attracts them, and as foon as that fuperiority ceafes, they neceffarily ceafe to go thither.
If you except corn and fuch other vegetables as are raised altogether by human industry, that all other forts of rude produce, cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, the ufeful foffils and minerals of the earth, &c. naturally grow dearer as the fociety advances in wealth and improvement, I have endeavoured to fhow already. Though fuch commodities, therefore, come to exchange for a greater quantity of filver than before, it will not from thence follow that filver has become really cheaper, or will purchafe lefs labour than before, but that fuch commodities have become really dearer, or will purchase more labour than before. It is not their nominal price only, but their real price which rifes in the progrefs of improvement. The rife of their nominal price is the effect, not of any degradation of the value of filver, but of the rife in their real price.
Different Effects of the Progress of Improvement upon three different Sorts of rude Produce.
HESE different forts of rude produce may be divided into three claffes. The firft comprehends thofe which it is fcarce in the
BOOK power of human industry to multiply at all. The I. fecond, thofe which it can multiply in propor tion to the demand. The third, thofe in which the efficacy of industry is either limited or uncertain. In the progrefs of wealth and improve. ment, the real price of the firft may rife to any degree of extravagance, and feems not to be limited by any certain boundary. That of the fecond, though it may rife greatly, has, however, a certain boundary beyond which it cannot well pafs for any confiderable time together. That of the third, though its natural tendency is to rife in the progrefs of improvement, yet in the fame degree of improvement it may fome. times happen even to fall, fometimes to continue the fame, and fometimes to rife more or lefs, according as different accidents render the efforts of human industry, in multiplying this fort of rude produce, more or lefs fuccefsful.
The first fort of rude produce of which the price rifes in the progrefs of improvement, is that which it is fcarce in the power of human industry to multiply at all. It confifts in thofe things which nature produces only in certain quantities, and which being of a very perishable nature, it is impoffible to accumulate together the produce of many different feafons. Such are the greater part of rare and fingular birds and fifhes, many different forts of game, almost all wild fowl, all birds of paffage in particular, as well as many other things. When wealth and
the luxury which accompanies it increase, the CHA P. demand for these is likely to increase with them, and no effort of human induftry may be able to increafe the fupply much beyond what it was before this increase of the demand. The quan. tity of fuch commodities, therefore, remaining the fame, or nearly the fame, while the competition to purchase them is continually increafing, their price may rife to any degree of extrava gance, and feems not to be limited by any certain boundary. If woodcocks fhould become fo fafhionable as to fell for twenty guineas a-piece, no effort of human industry could increase the number of thofe brought to market, much beyond what it is at present. The high price paid by the Romans, in the time of their greatest grandeur, for rare birds and fishes, may in this manner eafily be accounted for. Thefe prices were not the effects of the low value of filver in those times, but of the high value of such rarities and curiofities as human industry could not multiply at pleasure. The real value of filver was higher at Rome, for fome time before and after the fall of the republic, than it is through the greater part of Europe at prefent. Three feftertii, equal to about fixpence fterling, was the price which the republic paid for the modius or peck of the tithe wheat of Sicily. This price, however, was probably below the average market price, the obligation to deliver their wheat at this rate being confidered as a tax upon the Sicilian farmers. When the Romans, therefore, had occafion to order more corn than the tithe of wheat
BOOK wheat amounted to, they were bound by capi tulation to pay for the furplus at the rate of four feftertii, or eight-pence fterling, the peck; and this had probably been reckoned the moderate and reasonable, that is, the ordinary or average contract price of thofe times; it is equal to about one-and-twenty fhillings the quarter. Eight and-twenty fhillings the quarter was, before the late years of fcarcity, the ordinary contract price of English wheat, which in quality is inferior to the Sicilian, and generally fells for a lower price in the European market. The value of filver, therefore, in thofe ancient times, must have been to its value in the present, as three to four inverfely; that is, three ounces of filver would then have purchased the fame quantity of labour and commodities which four ounces will do at prefent. When we read in Pliny, therefore, that Seius* bought a white nightingale, as a present for the Empress Agrippina, at the price of fix thousand feftertii, equal to about fifty pounds of our prefent money; and that Afinius Celer t purchased a furmullet at the price of eight thoufand feftertii, equal to about fixty-fix pounds thirteen shillings and four-pence of our prefent money; the extravagance of those prices, how much foever it may furprise us, is apt, notwithstanding, to appear to us about one-third lefs than it really was. Their real price, the quantity of labour and fubfiftence which was given away for them, was about one-third more than their nominal price is apt to exprefs to us
* Lib. x. c. 29,
+ Lib.ix. c. 17.