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BOOK first Punic war*, when they firft began to coin
filver. Copper, therefore, appears to have continued always the measure of value in that republic. At Rome all accounts appear to have been kept, and the value of all eftates to have been computed, either in Asses or in Seftertii. The As was always the denomination of a copper coin. The word Seftertius fignifies two Affes and a half. Though the Seftertius, therefore, was originally a filver coin, its value was estimated in copper. At Rome, one who owed a great deal of money, was faid to have a great deal of other people's copper.
The northern nations who eftablished themfelves upon the ruins of the Roman empire, feem to have had filver money from the first beginning of their fettlements, and not to have known either gold or copper coins for feveral ages thereafter. There were filver coins in England in the time of the Saxons; but there was little gold coined till the time of Edward III. nor any copper till that of James I. of Great Britain. In England, therefore, and for the fame reafon, I believe, in all other modern nations of Europe, all accounts are kept, and the value of all goods and of all eftates is generally computed in filver: and when we mean to exprefs the amount of a perfon's fortune, we feldom mention the number of guineas, but the number of pounds fterling which we fuppofe would be given for it.
Pliny, lib. xxxiii. c. 3.
Originally, in all countries, I believe, a legal CHA P. tender of payment could be made only in the coin of that metal, which was peculiarly confidered as the standard or measure of value. In England, gold was not confidered as a legal tender for a long time after it was coined into money. The proportion between the values of gold and filver money was not fixed by any public law or proclamation; but was left to be fettled by the market. If a debtor offered payment in gold, the creditor might either reject fuch payment altogether, or accept of it at fuch a valuation of the gold as he and his debtor could agree upon. Copper is not at present a legal tender, except in the change of the fmaller filver coins. In this ftate of things the distinction between the metal which was the ftandard, and that which was not the standard, was fomething more than a nominal diftinction.
In process of time, and as people became gradually more familiar with the ufe of the dif ferent metals in coin, and confequently better acquainted with the proportion between their respective values, it has in most countries, I believe, been found convenient to afcertain this proportion, and to declare by a public law that a guinea, for example, of fuch a weight and fineness, should exchange for one-and-twenty fhillings, or be a legal tender for a debt of that amount. In this state of things, and during the continuance of any one regulated proportion of this kind, the diftinction between the metal which is the ftandard, and that which is not the ftandard
BOOK ftandard, becomes little more than a nominal
In confequence of any change, however, in this regulated proportion, this diftinction becomes, or at least feems to become, fomething more than nominal again. If the regulated value of a guinea, for example, was either reduced to twenty, or raised to two-and-twenty fhillings, all accounts being kept and almost all obligations for debt being expreffed in filver money, the greater part of payments could in either case be made with the fame quantity of filver money as before; but would require very different quantities of gold money; a greater in the one cafe, and a fmaller in the other. Silver would appear to be more invariable in its value than gold. Silver would appear to measure the value of gold, and gold would not appear to measure the value of filver. The value of gold would feem to depend upon the quantity of filver which it would exchange for; and the value of filver would not feem to depend upon the quantity of gold which it would exchange for. This difference, however, would be altogether owing to the custom of keeping accounts, and of expreffing the amount of all great and fmall fums rather in filver than in gold money. One of Mr. Drummond's notes for five-and-twenty or fifty guineas would, after an alteration of this kind, be ftill payable with five-and-twenty or fifty guineas in the fame manner as before. It would, after fuch an alteration, be payable with the fame quantity of gold as before, but with
very different quantities of filver. In the pay. CHA P. ment of fuch a note, gold would appear to be more invariable in its value than filver. Gold would appear to measure the value of filver, and filver would not appear to measure the value of gold. If the custom of keeping accounts, and of expreffing promiffory notes and other obligations for money in this manner, fhould ever become general, gold, and not filver, would be confidered as the metal which was peculiarly the ftandard or measure of value.
In reality, during the continuance of any one regulated proportion between the refpective values of the different metals in coin, the value of the most precious metal regulates the value of the whole coin. Twelve copper pence contain half a pound, avoirdupois, of copper, of not the best quality, which, before it is coined, is feldom worth feven-pence in filver. But as by the regulation twelve fuch pence are ordered to exchange for a fhilling, they are in the market confidered as worth a fhilling, and a fhilling can at any time be had for them. Even before the late reformation of the gold coin of Great Britain, the gold, that part of it at leaft which cir culated in London and its neighbourhood, was in general lefs degraded below its ftandard weight than the greater part of the filver. One and twenty worn and defaced fhillings, however, were confidered as equivalent to a guinea, which perhaps, indeed, was worn and defaced too, but feldom fo much fo. The late regulations have brought the gold coin as near perhaps to its ftandard weight as it is poffible to bring the cur
BOOK rent coin of any nation; and the order, to receive
no gold at the public offices but by weight, is likely to preferve it fo, as long as that order is enforced. The filver coin ftill continues in the fame worn and degraded ftate as before the reformation of the gold coin. In the market, however, one-and-twenty fhillings of this degraded filver coin are ftill confidered as worth a guinea of this excellent gold coin.
The reformation of the gold coin has evidently raised the value of the filver coin which can be exchanged for it.
In the English mint a pound weight of gold is coined into forty-four guineas and a half, which, at one-and-twenty fhillings the guinea, is equal to forty-fix pounds fourteen fhillings and fixpence. An ounce of fuch gold coin, therefore, is worth 37. 178. 10d. in filver. In England no duty or feignorage is paid upon the coinage, and he who carries a pound weight or an ounce weight of standard gold bullion to the mint, gets back a pound weight or an ounce weight of gold in coin, without any deduction. Three pounds feventeen fhillings and ten-pence halfpenny an ounce, therefore, is faid to be the mint price of gold in England, or the quantity of gold coin which the mint gives in return for ftandard gold bullion.
Before the reformation of the gold coin, the price of standard gold bullion in the market had for many years been upwards of 3l. 18s. fometimes 37. 19s. and very frequently 41. an ounce; that fum, it is probable, in the worn and de