« AnteriorContinuar »
fomewhat more than ordinary beauty, and to c H A P. confider them as juft worth the picking up, but not worth the refusing to any body who asked them. They gave them to their new guests at the first request, without feeming to think that they had made them any very valuable present. They were astonished to obferve the rage of the Spaniards to obtain them; and had no notion that there could any-where be a country in which many people had the difpofal of fo great a fuperfluity of food, fo fcanty always among them. felves, that for a very finall quantity of those glittering baubles they would willingly give as much as might maintain a whole family for many years. Could they have been made to underftand this, the paffion of the Spaniards would not have furprised them.
Of the Variations in the Proportion between the refpective Values of that Sort of Produce which always affords Rent, and of that which fometimes does and fometimes does not afford Rent.
HE increafing abundance of food, in con fequence of increafing improvement and cultivation, muft neceffarily increase the demand for every part of the produce of land which is not food, and which can be applied either to use or to ornament. In the whole progrefs of im, provement, it might therefore be expected, there fhould be only one variation in the com. parative
BOOK greater proportion than the demand, that metal would gradually become cheaper and cheaper; or, in other words, the average money price of corn would, in fpite of all improvements, gradually become dearer and dearer.
But if, on the other hand, the fupply of the metal fhould increase nearly in the fame proportion as the demand, it would continue to purchafe or exchange for nearly the fame quantity of corn, and the average money price of corn would, in fpite of all improvements, continue very nearly the fame.
Thefe three feem to exhauft all the poffible combinations of events which can happen in the progrefs of improvement; and during the course of the four centuries preceding the present, if we may judge by what has happened both in France and Great Britain, each of thofe three different combinations feem to have taken place in the European market, and nearly in the fame order too in which I have here fet them down.
Digreffion concerning the Variations in the Value of Silver during the Course of the Four last Centuries.
IN 1350, and for fome time before, the average price of the quarter of wheat in England feems not to have been estimated lower than four ounces of filver, Tower-weight, equal to about twenty fhillings of our prefent money. From
this price it feems to have fallen gradually to c HAP two ounces of filver, equal to about ten fhillings of our prefent money, the price at which we find it estimated in the beginning of the fixteenth century, and at which it feems to have conti nued to be estimated till about 1570.
In 1350, being the 25th of Edward III.,was enacted what is called, The Statute of Labourers. In the preamble it complains much of the infolence of fervants, who endeavoured to raise their wages upon their mafters. It therefore ordains, that all fervants and labourers should for the future be contented with the fame wages and liveries (liveries in thofe times fignified, not only cloaths, but provifions) which they had been accustomed to receive in the 20th year of the King, and the four preceding years; that upon this
account their livery wheat fhould no-where be estimated higher than ten-pence a bufhel, and that it should always be in the option of the mafter to deliver them either the wheat or the money. Ten-pence a bufhel, therefore, had, in the 25th of Edward III., been reckoned a very moderate price of wheat, fince it required a par. ticular statute to oblige fèrvants to accept of it in exchange for their ufual livery of provifions; and it had been reckoned a reasonable price ten years before that, or in the 16th year of the King, the term to which the ftatute refers. But in the 16th year of Edward III., ten-pence contained about half an ounce of filver, Tower-weight, and was nearly equal to half a crown of our prefent money. Four ounces of filver, Tower-weight, therefore,
BOOK therefore, equal to fix fhillings and eight-pence of the money of thofe times, and to near twenty fhillings of that of the prefent, must have been reckoned a moderate price for the quarter of eight bufhels.
This ftatute is furely a better evidence of what was reckoned in thofe times a moderate price of grain, than the prices of fome particular years which have generally been recorded by hiftorians and other writers on account of their extraordinary dearnefs or cheapnefs, and from which, therefore, it is difficult to form any judgment concerning what may have been the ordinary price. There are, befides, other reasons for believing that in the beginning of the fourteenth century, and for fome time before, the common price of wheat was not lefs than four ounces of filver the quarter, and that of other grain in proportion,
In 1309, Ralph de Born, Prior of St. Auguf tine's, Canterbury, gave a feast upon his inftallation-day, of which William Thorn has preserved, not only the bill of fare, but the prices of many particulars. In that feast were confumed, 1ft, Fifty-three quarters of wheat, which coft nineteen pounds, or feven fhillings and two-pence a quarter, equal to about one-and-twenty fhillings and fix-pence of our present money; 2dly, Fifty-eight quarters of malt, which coft feventeen pounds ten fhillings, or fix fhillings a quarter, equal to about eighteen fhillings of our prefent money; 3dly, Twenty quarters of oats, which coft four pounds, or four fhillings a quar ter,
ter, equal to about twelve shillings of our prefent C HA P. money. The prices of malt and oats feem here to be higher than their ordinary proportion to the price of wheat.
These prices are not recorded on account of their extraordinary dearnefs or cheapness, but are mentioned accidentally as the prices actually paid for large quantities of grain confumed at a feaft which was famous for its magnificence.
In 1262, being the 51ft of Henry III, was revived an ancient ftatute called, The Affize of Bread and Ale, which, the King fays in the preamble, had been made in the times of his progenitors, fometime kings of England. It is probably, therefore, as old at least as the time of his grandfather Henry II., and may have been as old as the conqueft. It regulates the price of bread according as the prices of wheat may happen to be, from one fhilling to twenty fhillings the quarter of the money of thofe times. But ftatutes of this kind are generally prefumed to provide with equal care for all deviations from the middle price, for those below it as well as for those above it. Ten fhillings, therefore, containing fix ounces of filver, Tower-weight, and equal to about thirty fhillings of our prefent money, muft, upon this fuppofition, have been reckoned the middle price of the quarter of wheat when this ftatute was first enacted, and must have continued to be fo in the 51st of Henry III. We cannot therefore be very wrong in fuppofing that the middle price was not lefs than one-third of the highest price at which this Ꭲ 4 statute