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BOOK therefore, equal to fix fhillings and eight-pence
of the money of those times, and to near twenty fhillings of that of the prefent, muft have been reckoned a moderate price for the quarter of eight bufhels.
This ftatute is furely a better evidence of what was reckoned in those 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 reafons 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 feaft were confumed, ift, 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 prefent 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, equal to about twelve fhillings of our prefent CHAP. 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 dearness or cheapnefs, 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 thofe 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 firft enacted, and must have continued to be fo in the 51ft 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 ftatute
BOOK ftatute regulates the price of bread, or than fix I. fhillings and eight-pence of the money of thofe times, containing four ounces of filver, Towerweight.
From thefe different facts, therefore, we seem to have fome reafon to conclude, that about the middle of the fourteenth century, and for a confiderable time before, the average or ordinary price of the quarter of wheat was not fuppofed to be lefs than four ounces of filver, Tower-weight.
From about the middle of the fourteenth to the beginning of the fixteenth century, what was reckoned the reasonable and moderate, that is, the ordinary or average price of wheat, feems to have funk gradually to about one-half of this price; fo as at laft to have fallen to about two ounces of filver, Tower-weight, equal to about ten fhillings of our prefent money. It continued to be estimated at this price till about 1570.
In the houshold book of Henry, the fifth Earl of Northumberland, drawn up in 1512, there are two different eftimations of wheat. In one of them it is computed at fix fhillings and eightpence the quarter, in the other at five fhillings and eight-pence only. In 1512, fix fhillings and eight-pence contained only two ounces of filver, Tower-weight, and were equal to about ten fhillings of our prefent money.
From the 25th of Edward III. to the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, during the fpace of more than two hundred years, fix fhillings and eight-pence, it appears from feveral different ftatutes, had continued to be confidered as what
is called the moderate and reasonable, that is the CHA P. ordinary or average price of wheat. The quantity of filver, however, contained in that nominal fum was, during the courfe of this period, continually diminishing, in confequence of fome alterations which were made in the coin. But the increase of the value of filver had, it feems, fo far compensated the diminution of the quantity of it contained in the fame nominal fum, that the legiflature did not think it worth while to attend to this circumstance.
Thus in 1436 it was enacted, that wheat might be exported without a licence when the price was fo low as fix fhillings and eight-pence: And in 1463 it was enacted, that no wheat fhould be imported if the price was not above fix fhillings and eight-pence the quarter. The legislature had imagined, that when the price was fo low, there could be no inconveniency in exportation, but that when it rofe higher, it became prudent to allow of importation. Six fhillings and eight. pence, therefore, containing about the fame quantity of filver as thirteen fhillings and fourpence of our prefent money (one-third part lefs than the fame nominal fum contained in the time of Edward III.), had in thofe times been confidered as what is called the moderate and reafonable price of wheat.
In 1554, by the 1ft and 2d of Philip and Mary; and in 1558, by the 1ft of Elizabeth, the exportation of wheat was in the fame manner prohibited, whenever the price of the quarter fhould exceed fix fhillings and eight-pence,
BOOK which did not then contain two-penny worth more filver than the fame nominal fum does at prefent. But it had foon been found that to reftrain the exportation of wheat till the price was fo very low, was, in reality, to prohibit it altogether. In 1562, therefore, by the 5th of Elizabeth, the exportation of wheat was allowed from certain ports whenever the price of the quarter fhould not exceed ten fhillings, containing nearly. the fame quantity of filver as the like nominal fum does at prefent. This price had at this time, therefore, been confidered as what is called the moderate and reasonable price of wheat. It agrees nearly with the estimation of the Northumberland book in 1512.
That in France the average price of grain was, in the fame manner, much lower in the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the fixteenth century, than in the two centuries preceding, has been obferved both by Mr. Duprè de St. Maur, and by the elegant author of the Effay on the Police of Grain. Its price, during the fame period, had probably funk in the fame manner through the greater part of Europe.
This rife in the value of filver, in proportion to that of corn, may either have been owing altogether to the increase of the demand for that metal, in confequence of increafing improvement and cultivation, the fupply in the mean time continuing the fame as before: Or, the demand continuing the fame as before, it may have been owing altogether to the gradual diminution of the fupply; the greater part of the mines