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BOOK the low money price of fome particular forts of goods, fuch as cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, &c. in proportion to that of corn, is a moft decifive one. It clearly demonftrates, firft, their great abundance in proportion to that of corn, and confequently the great extent of the land which they occupied in proportion to what was occupied by corn; and, fecondly, the low value of this land in proportion to that of corn land, and confequently the uncultivated and unimproved state of the far greater part of the lands of the country. It clearly demonftrates that the ftock and population of the country did not bear the fame proportion to the extent of its territory, which they commonly do in civilized countries, and that fociety was at that time, and in that country, but in its infancy. From the high or low money price either of goods in general, or of corn in particular, we can infer only that the mines which at that time happened to fupply the commercial world with gold and filver, were fertile or barren, not that the country was rich or poor. But from the high or low money price of fome forts of goods in proportion to that of others, we can infer, with a degree of probability that approaches almoft to certainty, that it was rich or poor, that the greater part of its lands were improved or unimproved, and that it was either in a more or less barbarous ftate, or in a more or lefs civilized one.
Any rife in the money price of goods which proceeded altogether from the degradation of the value of filver, would affect all forts of goods
equally, and raise their price univerfally a third, CHA P. or a fourth, or a fifth part higher, according as filver happened to lose a third, or a fourth, or a fifth part of its former value. But the rife in the price of provifions, which has been the subject of fo much reasoning and conversation, does not affect all forts of provifions equally. Taking the course of the prefent century at an average, the price of corn, it is acknowledged, even by thofe who account for this rife by the degradation of the value of filver, has rifen much less than that of fome other forts of provifions. The rife in the price of those other forts of provifions, therefore, cannot be owing altogether to the degradation of the value of filver. Some other causes must be taken into the account, and those which have been above affigned, will, perhaps, without having recourfe to the fuppofed degradation of the value of filver, fufficiently explain this rife in those particular forts of provifions of which the price has actually rifen in proportion to that of corn.
As to the price of corn itself, it has, during the fixty-four firft years of the prefent century, and before the late extraordinary courfe of bad feafons, been fomewhat lower than it was during the fixty-four last years of the preceding century. This fact is attested, not only by the accounts of Windfor market, but by the public fiars of all the different counties of Scotland, and by the accounts of feveral different markets in France, which have been collected with great diligence and fidelity by Mr. Meffance, and by Mr. Duprè
BOOK de St. Maur. The evidence is more complete
than could well have been expected in a matter which is naturally fo very difficult to be afcertained.
As to the high price of corn during these last ten or twelve years, it can be fufficiently accounted for from the badness of the feafons, without supposing any degradation in the value of filver.
The opinion, therefore, that filver is continually finking in its value, feems not to be founded upon any good obfervations, either upon the prices of corn, or upon thofe of other provifions.
The fame quantity of filver, it may, perhaps, be faid, will in the prefent times, even according to the account which has been here given, purchase a much finaller quantity of feveral forts of provifions than it would have done during fome part of the last century; and to ascertain whether this change be owing to a rife in the value of thofe goods, or to a fall in the value of filver, is only to establish a vain and ufelefs diftinction, which can be of no fort of service to the man who has only a certain quantity of filver to go to market with, or a certain fixed revenue in money. I certainly do not pretend that the knowledge of this diftinction will enable him to buy cheaper. It may not, however, upon that account be altogether useless.
It may be of fome ufe to the public by affording an eafy proof of the profperous condition of the country. If the rife in the price of fome
forts of provifions be owing altogether to a fall CHAP, in the value of filver, it is owing to a circumstance from which nothing can be inferred but the fertility of the American mines. The real wealth of the country, the annual produce of its land and labour, may, notwithstanding this circumftance, be either gradually declining, as in Portugal and Poland; or gradually advancing, as in most other parts of Europe. But if this rife
in the price of fome forts of provifions be owing to a rife in the real value of the land which produces them, to its increafed fertility; or, in confequence of more extended improvement and good cultivation, to its having been rendered fit for producing corn; it is owing to a circumftance which indicates in the cleareft manner the profperous and advancing state of the country. The land constitutes by far the greatest, the most important, and the moft durable part of the wealth of every extenfive country. It may furely be of fome ufe, or, at least, it may give fome fatisfaction to the Public, to have fo decifive a proof of the increafing value of by far the greateft, the most important, and the most durable part of its wealth.
It may too be of fome ufe to the Public in regulating the pecuniary reward of fome of its inferior fervants. If this rife in the price of fome forts of provifions be owing to a fall in the value of filver, their pecuniary reward, provided it was not too large before, ought certainly to be augmented in proportion to the extent of this fall. If it is not augmented, their real recompence
BOOK Compence will evidently be fo much diminished. But if this rife of price is owing to the increased value, in confequence of the improved fertility of the land which produces fuch provifions, it becomes a much nicer matter to judge either in what proportion any pecuniary reward ought to be augmented, or whether it ought to be augmented at all. The extenfion of improvement and cultivation, as it neceffarily raises more or less, in proportion to the price of corn, that of every fort of animal food, fo it as neceffarily lowers that of, I believe, every fort of vegetable food. It raifes the price of animal food; becaufe a great part of the land which produces it, being rendered fit for producing corn, must afford to the landlord and farmer the rent and profit of corn land. It lowers the price of vegetable food; because, by increafing the fertility of the land, it increafes its abundance. The improvements of agriculture too introduce many forts of vegetable food, which, requiring lefs land and not more labour than corn, come much cheaper to market. Such are potatoes and maize, or what is called Indian corn, the two most important improvements which the agriculture of Europe, perhaps, which Europe itself, has received from the great extenfion of its commerce and navigation. Many forts of vegetable food, befides, which in the rude ftate of agriculture are confined to the kitchen-garden, and raised only by the fpade, come in its improved ftate to be introduced into common fields, and to be raised by the plough: fuch as turnips, carrots, cabbages,