« AnteriorContinuar »
BOOK half the pound Troy, amounts to 2,333,4461. 148. fterling. Both together amount to 5,746,8781. 48. fterling. The account of what was imported under register, he affures us is exact. He gives us the detail of the particular places from which the gold and filver were brought, and of the particular quantity of each metal, which, according to the regifter, each of them afforded. He makes an allowance too for the quantity of each metal which he fuppofes may have been fmuggled. The great experience of this judicious merchant renders his opinion of confiderable weight.
According to the eloquent and, fometimes, well-informed author of the Philofophical and Political Hiftory of the Establishment of the Europeans in the two Indies, the annual importation of registered gold and filver into Spain, at an average of eleven years; viz. from 1754 to 1764, both inclufive; amounted to 13,984,185 piaftres of ten reals. On account of what may have been smuggled, however, the whole annual importation, he supposes, may have amounted to feventeen millions of piaftres; which, at 4s. 6d. the piaftre, is equal to 3,825,000l. fterling. He gives the detail too of the particular places from which the gold and filver were brought, and of the particular quantities of each metal which, according to the regifter, each of them afforded. He informs us too, that if we were to judge of the quantity of gold annually imported from the Brazils into Lisbon by the amount of the tax paid to the
King of Portugal, which it seems is one-fifth of the standard metal, we might value it at eighteen millions of cruzadoes, or forty-five millions of French livres, equal to about two millions fterling. On account of what may have been smuggled, however, we may fafely, he fays, add to this fum an eighth more, or 250,000l. fterling, fo that the whole will amount to 2,250,000l. fterling. According to this account, therefore, the whole annual importation of the precious metals into both Spain and Portugal, amounts to about 6,075,000l. fterling.
Several other very well authenticated, though manufcript, accounts, I have been affured, agree, in making this whole annual importation amount at an average to about fix millions fterling; fometimes a little more, fometimes a little lefs.
The annual importation of the precious metals into Cadiz and Lifbon, indeed, is not equal to the whole annual produce of the mines of America. Some part is fent annually by the Acapulco fhips to Manilla; fome part is employed in the contraband trade which the Spanish colonies carry on with thofe of other European nations; and fome part, no doubt, remains in the country. The mines of America, befides, are by no means the only gold and filver mines in the world. They are, however, by far the most abundant. The produce of all the other mines which are known, is infignificant, it is acknowledged, in comparison with theirs; and the far greater part of their produce, it is likewife acknowledged, is annually imported into Cadiz
BOOK and Lisbon. But the confumption of BirmingI. ham alone, at the rate of fifty thoufand pounds a year, is equal to the hundred-and-twentieth part of this annual importation at the rate of fix millions a year. The whole annual confumption of gold and filver, therefore, in all the different countries of the world where thofe metals are ufed, may perhaps be nearly equal to the whole annual produce. The remainder may be no more than fufficient to fupply the increasing demand of all thriving countries. It may even have fallen fo far fhort of this demand as fomewhat to raife the price of thofe metals in the European market.
The quantity of brafs and iron annually brought from the mine to the market is out of all proportion greater than that of gold and filWe do not, however, upon this account, imagine that thofe coarfe metals are likely to multiply beyond the demand, or to become gradually cheaper and cheaper. Why should we imagine that the precious metals are likely to do fo? The coarfe metals, indeed, though harder, are put to much harder uses, and, as they are of lefs value, lefs care is employed in their preservation. The precious metals, however, are not neceffarily immortal any more than they, but are liable too to be loft, wafted, and confumed in a great variety of ways.
The price of all metals, though liable to flow and gradual variations, varies lefs from year to year than that of almost any other part of the rude produce of land; and the price of the pre
cious metals is even lefs liable to fudden vari- c HA P. ations than that of the coarfe ones. The durableness of metals is the foundation of this extraordinary steadiness of price. The corn which was brought to market laft year, will be all or almost all confumed long before the end of this year. But fome part of the iron which was brought from the mine two or three hundred years ago, may be ftill in ufe, and perhaps fome part of the gold which was brought from it two or three thousand years ago. The different maffes of corn which in different years must supply the confumption of the world, will always be nearly in proportion to the respective produce of those different years. But the proportion between the different maffes of iron which may be in ufe in two different years, will be very little affected by any accidental difference in the produce of the iron mines of thofe two years; and the proportion betwen the maffes of gold will be still lefs affected by any fuch difference in the produce of the gold mines. Though the produce of the greater part of metallic mines, therefore, varies, perhaps, ftill more from year to year than that of the greater part of corn-fields, thofe variations have not the fame effect upon the price of the one fpecies of commodities, as upon that of the other.
Variations in the Proportion between the refpective Values of
BEFORE the discovery of the mines of America, the value of fine gold to fine filver was regulated in the different mints of Europe, between the proportions of one to ten and one to twelve; that is, an ounce of fine gold was fuppofed to be worth from ten to twelve ounces of fine filver. About the middle of the last century it came to be regulated, between the proportions of one to fourteen and one to fifteen : that is, an ounce of fine gold came to be fuppofed worth between fourteen and fifteen ounces of fine filver. Gold rofe in its nominal value, or in the quantity of filver which was given for it. Both metals funk in their real value, or in the quantity of labour which they could purchase; but filver funk more than gold. Though both the gold and filver mines of America exceeded in fertility all those which had ever been known before, the fertility of the filver mines had, it feems, been proportionably still greater than that of the gold ones.
The great quantities of filver carried annually from Europe to India, have, in fome of the English fettlements, gradually reduced the value of that metal in proportion to gold. In the mint of Calcutta, an ounce of fine gold is fuppofed to be worth fifteen ounces of fine filver, in the fame manner as in Europe. It is in the mint perhaps rated too high for the value which it bears in the