Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XIV.: Of raising, depressing, or embasing of Money. - The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1
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CHAP. XIV.: Of raising, depressing, or embasing of Money. - Sir William Petty, The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1 
The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, together with The Observations upon Bills of Mortality, more probably by Captain John Graunt, ed. Charles Henry Hull (Cambridge University Press, 1899), 2 vols.
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Of raising, depressing, or embasing of Money.
SOmetimes it hath hapned, that States (I know not by what raw advice) have raised or embased their money, hoping thereby, as it were, to multiply it, and make it pass for more then it did before; that is, to purchase more commodity or labour with it: All which indeed and in truth, amounts to no more then a Tax, upon such People unto whom the State is indebted, or a defalkation of what is due; as also the like burthen upon all that live upon Pensions, established Rents, Annuities, Fees, Gratuities, &c.
2. To explain this fully, one might lanch out into the deep Ocean of all the Mysteries concerning Money, which is done for other ends elsewhere; nevertheless I shall do it the best I can, by expounding the reasons pro & contrà for embasing and raising of Money: and first of embassing.
3. Copper or Tin Money made ad valorem in its matter, is no embasing; the same being onely cumbersom and baser then silver money, onely because less convenient and portable.
And Copper money ad valorem in workmanship and matter both together; (such as on which the Effigies and Scutcheon are so curiously graven and impressed, as the moneys seem rather a Medal† ) is not embasing, unless the numbers of such pieces be excessive, (the measures whereof I shall not set down, until I shall hereafter propound the fittest Sections of the abstracted pound into which I would have money coyned, and determine how many pieces of each Section should be in an hundred pound) for in case of such excess, the workmanship being of no other use but to look upon, becomes base by its being too common.
4. Nor are such Tokens base as are coyned for Exchange in retailing by particular men, (if such men be responsible and able to take them back, and give Silver for them.) ‖
5. But that Gold I count to be embased, which hath more allay either of Copper or Silver in it, then serves to correct its too great natural softness and flexibility, whereby it wears too fast in Money: And that Silver I reckon also embased, wherein is commixed more Copper then will sufficiently toughen it, and save it from cracking under the Hammer, Press, or Mill that must coin it, or the like.
6. Base Money is therefore such as Dutch Shillings, Stivers, French Soulz, Irish Bon-galls, &c. and for the most part consisting‡ great pieces, though of small value. To answer the first reason or pretence of making them, which is, that the said Pieces might be more bulky, handleable, and the silver in them less apt to be lost or worn away.
7. The other reason (besides that of allay which we must allow in the Measures abovementioned) is to save it from being melted down by Goldsmiths and Bullioners, or exported by strangers; neither of which can happen but to their loss: for suppose a Stiver of two pence had a penny of pure silver, if the Bullioner melts it for the sake of the silver onely, in the separation he shall lose the Copper and charge of refining the Silver; nor will strangers export it into places where the local value of the Piece perisheth, the intrinsick leaving him to loss.
7.1 . Now the reasons against this kinde of Money are, first the greater danger of falsification, because the colour, sound, and weight by which men (without the test) guess at the goodness of the material of Money is too much confounded, for the vulgar (whom it concerns) to make use of them for their marks and guides in the business.
8. Secondly, In case small pieces of this Money, viz. pieces of two pence should happen to be raised or depressed twelve, fifteen, or sixteen per cent. then there will be a certain loss by reason of the fractions, which the vulgar cannot reckon. As for example, if such Money were depressed but ten, eleven or twelve per cent. then the two pence piece would be worth but three half pence, which is twenty five per cent. and so of other proportions. ‖
9. Thirdly, In case the Inconvenience of this Money should be so great as to necessitate a new Coinage of it, then will happen all the losses we mentioned before in melting it down by Bullioners.
10. Fourthly, If the two pence piece contained but ⅛th part of the Silver usually in a shilling, then Dealers would have fifteen pence paid in this money for the same Commodity, for which they would take a shilling in Standard Silver.
11. Raising of Money is either the cutting the pound Troy of Standard Silver into more pieces then formerly, as into above sixty, whereas heretofore the same was made but into twenty, and yet both sorts called shillings, or else calling the money already made by higher names: The reasons or pretences given for such raising are these, viz. That the raising of Money will bring it in, and the material thereof more plentifully; for trial whereof suppose one shilling were proclaimed to be worth two, what other effect could this have, then the raising of all Commodities unto a double price? Now if it were proclaimed, That Labourers Wages, &c. should not rise at all upon this raising of Money, then would this Act be as onely a Tax upon the said Labourers, as forcing them to lose half their wages, which would not be onely unjust but impossible, unless they could live with the said half, (which is not to be supposed) for then the Law that appoints such Wages were ill made, which should allow the Labourer but just wherewithall to live; for if you allow double, then he works but half so much as he could have done, and otherwise would; which is a loss to the Publick of the fruit of so much labour.
12. But suppose the Quart d’ Esen† of France commonly esteemed worth eighteen pence were raised to three shillings, then ‘tis true, that all the Moneys of England would be indeed Quart d’ Esens pieces; but as true, that all the English Money would be carried away, and that our Quart d’ Esens would contain but half so much Bullion as our own Money did; so that raising of Money may indeed change the species, but with so much loss as the Forreign Pieces were raised unto, above their intrinsick value. ‖
13. But for remedy of this, suppose we raised the Quart d'Esen double, and prohibited the Exportation of our own money in Exchange thereof. I answer, that such a Prohibition is nugatory, and impossible to be executed; and if it were not, yet the raising of the said species would but make us sell the Commodities bought with raised Quart d’ Escens, in effect but at half the usual rate, which unto them that want such commodities will as well yield the full; so that abating our prices, will as well allure strangers to buy extraordinary proportions of our Commodities, as raising their money will do: But neither that, nor abating the price will make strangers use more of our Commodities then they want; for although the first year they should carry away an unuseful and superfluous proportion, yet afterwards they would take so much the less.
14. If this be true, as in substance it is, why then have so many wise States in several ancient, as well as modern times frequently practised this Artifice, as a means to draw in money into their respective Dominions.
I answer, that something is to be attributed to the stupidity and ignorance of the people, who cannot of a sudden understand this matter: for I finde many men wise enough, who though they be well informed that raising of money signifies little, yet cannot suddenly digest it. As for example, an unengaged person who had money in his purse in England, and should hear that a shilling was made fourteen pence in Ireland, would more readily run thither to buy Land then before; not suddenly apprehending, that for the same Land which he might have bought before for six years Purchase, he shall now pay seven. Nor will Sellers in Ireland of a sudden apprehend cause to raise their Land proportionally, but will at least be contented to compound the business, viz. to sell at six and an half; and if the difference be a more ragged fraction, men under a long time will not apprehend it, nor ever be able exactly to govern their practice according to it.
15. Secondly, Although I apprehend no little real difference between raising Forreign Money to double, and abasing† half in the price of our own Commodities, yet to sell them on a ‖ tacite condition to be paid in Forreign present Money, shall increase our money; forasmuch as between raising the money, and abasing the price, is the same difference as between selling for money and in barter, which latter is the dearer; or between selling for present money, and for time; barter resolving into the nature of uncertain time.
16. I say, suppose English Cloth were sold at six shillings a Yard, and French Canvas at eighteen pence the ell, the question is, whether it were all one in order to increase Money in England to raise the French Money double, or to abate half of the price of our Cloth? I think the former† , because that former way or proposition carries with it a condition of having Forreign Money in specie, and not Canvas in barter, between which two wayes the world generally agrees there is a difference. Wherefore if we can afford to abate half our price, but will not do it but for our neighbours money, then we gain so much as the said difference between Money and Barter amounts unto, by such raising of our Neighbours Money.
17. But the fundamental solution of this Question depends upon a real and not an imaginary way of computing the prices of Commodities; in order to which real way I premise these suppositions: First then, suppose there be in a Territory a thousand people, let these people be supposed sufficient to Till this whole Territory as to the Husbandry of Corn, which we will suppose to contain all necessaries for life, as in the Lords Prayer we suppose the word Bread doth; and let the production of a Bushel of this Corn be supposed of equal labour to that of producing an ounce of Silver. Suppose again that a tenth part of this Land, and tenth of the people, viz. an hundred of them, can produce Corn enough for the whole; suppose that the Rent of Land (found out as above-mentioned) be a fourth part of the whole product, (about which proportion it really is, as we may perceive by paying a fourth Sheaf instead of Rent in some places) suppose also that whereas but an hundred are necessary for this Husbandry, yet that two hundred have taken up the Trade; and suppose ‖ that where a Bushel of Corn would suffice, yet men out of delicacy will use two, making use of the Flower onely of both. Now the Inferences from hence are;
First, That the goodness or badness, or the value of Land depends upon the greater or lesser share of the product given for it in proportion to the simple labour bestowed to raise the said Product.
Secondly, That the proportions between Corn and Silver signifie onely an artificial value, not a natural; because the comparison is between a thing naturally useful, and a thing in it self unnecessary, which (by the way) is part of the reason why there are not so great changes and leaps in the proceed† of Silver as of other Commodities.
Thirdly, That natural dearness and cheapness depends upon the few or more hands requisite to necessaries of Nature: As Corn is cheaper where one man produces Corn for ten, then where he can do the like but for six; and withall, according as the Climate disposes men to a necessity of spending more or less. But Political Cheapness depends upon the paucity of Supernumerary Interlopers into any Trade over and above all that are necessary, viz. Corn will be twice as dear where are two hundred Husbandmen to do the same work which an hundred could perform: the proportion thereof being compounded with the proportion of superfluous expence, (viz. if to the cause of dearness abovementioned be added to the double Expence to what is necessary) then the natural price will appear quadrupled; and this quadruple Price is the true Political Price computed upon naturall grounds.
And this again proportioned to the common artificiall Standard Silver gives what was sought; that is, the true Price Currant.
18. But forasmuch as almost all Commodities have their Substitutes or Succedanea, and that almost all uses may be answered several wayes; and for that novelty, surprize, example of Superiours, and opinion of unexaminable effects do adde or take away from the price of things, we must adde ‖ these contingent Causes to the permanent Causes abovementioned, in the judicious foresight and computation whereof lies the excellency of a Merchant.
Now to apply this Digression, I say, that to encrease Money, it is as well necessary to know how to abate the† raise, the price of Commodities, and that of Money, which was the scope of the said Digression.
19. To conclude this whole Chapter, we say, that raising or embasing of Moneys is a very pittiful and unequal way of Taxing the people; and ‘tis a sign that the State sinketh, which catcheth hold on such Weeds as are accompanied with the dishonour of impressing a Princes Effigies to justifie Adulterate Commodities, and the breach of Publick Faith, such as is the calling a thing what it really is not.
[†]read [medalls] instead of [a medall]
[‡]between [consisting and great] interline [of]
The error whereby two consecutive paragraphs are numbered “7” occurs in all editions.
[†]read [d’ Escu] instead of [d’ Esens]
[†]read [abating] for [abasing]
[†]after [former] interline [better]
[†]read [prices] for [proceed]
[†]read [as] for [the]