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provement of the country, and to fall with its CHA P. poverty and depreflion. Countries which have a great quantity of labour and fubfiftence to spare, can afford to purchase any particular quantity of those metals at the expence of a greater quantity of labour and fubfiftence, than countries which have lefs to fpare.
So far as their quantity in any particular country depends upon the latter of thofe two circumstances (the fertility or barrennefs of the mines which happen to supply the commercial world), their real price, the real quantity of labour and fubfiftence which they will purchase or exchange for, will, no doubt, fink more or lefs in proportion to the fertility, and rife in proportion to the barrennefs, of thofe mines.
The fertility or barrennefs of the mines, however, which may happen at any particular time to fupply the commercial world, is a circumftance which, it is evident, may have no fort of connection with the ftate of industry in a particular country. It feems even to have no very neceffary connection with that of the world in general. As arts and commerce, indeed, gradually fpread themselves over a greater and a greater part of the earth, the fearch for new mines, being extended over a wider furface, may have somewhat a better chance for being fuccefsful, than when confined within narrower bounds. The difcovery of new mines, however, as the old ones come to be gradually exhaufted, is a matter of the greatest uncertainty, and fuch as no human skill or industry can enfure. All indi
BOOK indications, it is acknowledged, are doubtful, and the actual discovery and fuccefsful working of a new mine can alone afcertain the reality of its value, or even of its existence. In this fearch there feem to be no certain limits either to the poffible fuccefs, or to the poffible disappointment of human industry. In the course of a century or two, it is poffible that new mines may be discovered more fertile than any that have ever yet been known; and it is just equally poffible that the most fertile mine then known may be more barren than any that was wrought before the discovery of the mines of America. Whether the one or the other of those two events may happen to take place, is of very little importance to the real wealth and profperity of the world, to the real value of the annual produce of the land and labour of mankind. Its nominal value, the quantity of gold and filver by which this annual produce could be expreffed or reprefented, would, no doubt, be very different; but its real value, the real quantity of labour which it could purchase or command, would be precifely the fame. A fhilling might in the one case represent no more labour than a penny does at prefent; and a penny in the other might reprefent as much as a fhilling does now. But in the one cafe he who had a fhilling in his pocket, would be no richer than he who has a penny at prefent; and in the other, he who had a penny would be just as rich as he who has a fhilling The cheapnefs and abundance of gold and filver plate, would be the fole advantage
which the world could derive from the one event, C HA P. and the dearness and fcarcity of those trifling fuperfluities the only inconveniency it could fuffer from the other.
Conclufion of the Digreffion concerning the Variations in the
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 increased greatly fince the discovery of the mines of America, so 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 discovery 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 arisen from very different causes, and have fcarce 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 difcovery 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
the fame proportion to the annual produce of its C HA P. land and labour. This increase of the quantity of those 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, must be lower in Spain and Portugal than in any other part of Europe; as they come from thofe countries to all other parts of Europe, loaded, not only with a freight and an insurance, but with the expence of fmuggling, 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 those countries than in any other part of Europe: Those 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 barbarism of the times,