Imágenes de páginas


BOOK impofed upon the coinage, and the French coin, when exported, is faid to return home again of its own accord.

The occafional fluctuations in the market price of gold and filver bullion arife from the fame caufes as the like fluctuations in that of all other commodities. The frequent lofs of thofe metals from various accidents by fea and by land, the continual waste of them in gilding and plating, in lace and embroidery, in the wear and tear of coin, and in that of plate; require, in all countries which poffefs no mines of their own, a continual importation, in order to repair this lofs and this waste. The merchant importers, like all other merchants, we may believe, endeavour, as well as they can, to fuit their occafional im portations to what, they judge, is likely to be the immediate demand. With all their attention, however, they fometimes over-do the business, and fometimes under-do it. When they import more bullion than is wanted, rather than incur the risk and trouble of exporting it again, they are fometimes willing to fell a part of it for fomething lefs than the ordinary or average price. When, on the other hand, they import lefs than is wanted, they get fomething more than this price. But when, under all thofe occafional fluctuations, the market price either of gold or filver bullion continues for feveral years together fteadily and conftantly, either more or lefs above, or more or less below the mint price: we may be affured that this steady and conftant, either fuperiority or inferiority of price, is the effect

effect of fomething in the ftate of the coin, CHA P. which, at that time, renders a certain quantity of V. coin either of more value or of lefs value than the precife quantity of bullion which it ought to contain. The conftancy and fteadiness of the effect, fuppofes a proportionable conftancy and fteadiness in the cause.

The money of any particular country is, at any particular time and place, more or less an accurate measure of value according as the current coin is more or lefs exactly agreeable to its ftandard, or contains more or lefs exactly the precife quantity of pure gold or pure filver which it ought to contain. If in England, for example, forty-four guineas and a half contained exactly a pound weight of ftandard gold, or eleven ounces of fine gold and one ounce of alloy, the gold coin of England would be as accurate a measure of the actual value of goods at any particular time and place as the nature of the thing would admit. But if, by rubbing and wearing, forty-four guineas and a half generally contain lefs than a pound weight of standard gold; the diminution, however, being greater in fome pieces than in others; the measure of value comes to be liable to the fame fort of uncertainty to which all other weights and measures are com monly expofed. As it rarely happens that these are exactly agreeable to their ftandard, the mer chant adjufts the price of his goods, as well as he can, not to what those weights and measures ought to be, but to what, upon an average, he finds by experience they actually are. In confequence

F 3

BOOK quence of a like diforder in the coin, the price of I. goods comes, in the fame manner, to be adjusted, not to the quantity of pure gold or filver which the coin ought to contain, but to that which, upon an average, it is found by experience it actually does contain.

By the money-price of goods, it is to be obferved, I underftand always the quantity of pure gold or filver for which they are fold, without any regard to the denomination of the coin. Six fhillings and eight-pence, for example, in the time of Edward I., I confider as the fame money-price with a pound fterling in the prefent times; because it contained, as nearly as we can judge, the fame quantity of pure filver.



Of the component Parts of the Price of Commodities.


N that early and rude state of society which precedes both the accumulation of stock and the appropriation of land, the proportion between the quantities of labour neceffary for acquiring different objects feems to be the only circumftance which can afford any rule for exchanging them for one another. If among a nation of hunters, for example, it ufually cofts twice the labour to kill a beaver which it does to kill a deer, one beaver fhould naturally exchange


change for or be worth two deer. It is natural C H A P. that what is usually the produce of two days or two hours labour, fhould be worth double of what is ufually the produce of one day's or one hour's labour.

If the one fpecies of labour should be more fevere than the other, fome allowance will naturally be made for this fuperior hardship; and the produce of one hour's labour in the one way may frequently exchange for that of two hours labour in the other.

Or if the one fpecies of labour requires an uncommon degree of dexterity and ingenuity, the esteem which men have for fuch talents, will naturally give a value to their produce, fuperior to what would be due to the time employed about it. Such talents can feldom be acquired but in confequence of long application, and the fuperior value of their produce may frequently be no more than a reasonable compensation for the time and labour which must be spent in acquiring them. In the advanced state of society, allowances of this kind, for fuperior hardship and superior skill, are commonly made in the wages of labour; and fomething of the fame kind must probably have taken place in its earliest and rudeft period.

In this state of things, the whole produce of labour belongs to the labourer; and the quantity of labour commonly employed in acquiring or producing any commodity, is the only circumftance which can regulate the quantity of la,


F 4

BOOK bour which it ought commonly to purchase, com-
I. mand, or exchange for.

As foon as stock has accumulated in the hands
of particular perfons, fome of them will naturally
employ it in fetting to work induftrious people,
whom they will supply with materials and fub-
fiftence, in order to make a profit by the fale of
their work, or by what their labour adds to the
value of the materials. In exchanging the com-
plete manufacture either for money,"for labour,
or for other goods, over and above what may be
fufficient to pay the price of the materials, and
the wages
of the workmen, fomething must be
given for the profits of the undertaker of the
work who hazards his flock in this adventure.
The value which the workmen add to the mate-
rials, therefore, refolves itself in this cafe into
two parts, of which the one pays their wages, the
other the profits of their employer upon the
whole ftock of materials and wages which he
advanced. He could have no intereft to employ
them, unless he expected from the fale of their
work fomething more than what was fufficient to
replace his flock to him; and he could have no
intereft to employ a great ftock rather than a
fmall one, unless his profits were to bear fome
proportion to the extent of his stock.

The profits of flock, it may perhaps be
thought, are only a diferent name for the wages
of a particular fort of labour, the labour of in-
fpection and direction. They are, however, al-
together different, are regulated by quite differ-


[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »